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Paula Cole, Amy Speace In The Spotlight On Finally Friday

lly Friday with Paula Cole, Amy Speace, and Whit Hill
lly Friday with Paula Cole, Amy Speace, and Whit Hill

Finally Friday is back in its happy place, which is to say live-in-person on a weekly basis at the tried and true venue 3rd & Lindsley with three artist bills playing noon to 2:00 for your mid-day getaway pleasure. The club has a bountiful menu of lunch options, and I’m not saying that because anybody asked me to, just because I’ve had plenty of satisfying meals there listening to great music over the last 20 years. I’m including that time years ago when I overheard Steve Earle order the fried chicken salad, thereby realizing that was a thing and following suit before a Richard Thompson performance. No chickens on our musical menu this week, as we welcome songwriter/memoirist Whit Hill, Nashville’s distinguished folk singer Amy Speace and Grammy-winning artist Paula Cole.

I heard “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?” at the grocery store the other day and recognized it in about two measures because of its distinct cadence and feel. Paula Cole just gets under your skin. That song and the follow-up “I Don’t Want To Wait” put the Massachusetts-raised singer on the map in the mid-late 90s, including marquis status during the Lilith Fair tours. After winning the Best New Artist Grammy in 1998, her third album Amen was excellent and sophisticated but a bit overlooked. She took some time away to raise a daughter and her projects since that era have returned to her early love of jazz and explored roots music, as on 2021’s American Quilt. Her newest endeavor is a pair of harmony rich songs created with Jason Isbell and John Paul White. “She’s an enigmatic performer, a brilliant wordsmith, a riveting singer - and an even better human being,” says White. The song “Mother, Son and Holy Ghost” is a moving portrait of grief. They’re calling the collaboration For The Birds.

Amy Speace seems to have the most reliable muse in Music City and an ear for sonic settings that help her carefully chosen words soar and drift. She got her start as an actor in New York focused on Shakespeare, but some encouragement to sing got her on open mic stages, where she thrived. She’s been a star at folk and roots events for years now thanks to her intimacy, her way with a story and the vibes she shares with icon Judy Collins, who mentored her. Just when we thought she couldn’t be any more vulnerable, she arrived this year with Tucson, an album written largely at a recovery center where Speace confronted some early life trauma and its long shadows. If a folk artist is supposed to share everything while teaching us something about ourselves, Speace is an exemplar.

The sets will wrap with Nashville-based, New York-raised Whit Hill, a creative who wears many guises. According to her bio, she’s been a choreographer and director of a dance company in Michigan, a recording and touring songwriter and a prose writer who’s written (and sung) about her mysterious mother and her own obsession with treasure hunting with a metal detector. Lucinda Williams is a fan.

Craig Havighurst is WMOT's editorial director and host of The String, a weekly interview show airing Mondays at 8 pm, repeating Sundays at 7 am. He also co-hosts The Old Fashioned on Saturdays at 9 am and Tuesdays at 8 pm. Threads and Instagram: @chavighurst. Email: craig@wmot.org