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Finally Friday This Week Is Categorically Country

Finally Friday 11.4

Listening to and learning about this week’s distinguished artists for our weekly Finally Friday series at 3rd & Lindsley brings to mind the phrase ‘old school.’ Whether torchy and traditional-leaning like west coaster Cassandra Lewis, literary/rural like JD Clayton or honky-tonk-hippie like Ben Chapman, there’s a through line of country music - not the industrial strength, focus-group music you’ll hear next week on the CMA Awards, but something more individual and true.

Ben Chapman (noon) is a friend and co-writer of fellow Georgian Brent Cobb, and that does offer a bit of insight into his recliner-ready twang. Chapman is the artist behind last year’s funny, funky “Hippie Speedball,” inspired by the namesake cocktail of coffee and cannabis. Super-songwriter Hillary Lindsay signed Chapman to her new publishing company and told Music Row magazine why she was excited: “I love real people, and real people are hard to find but without even meeting Ben, I was in because he’s so authentic with who he is as a person as well as with his artistry.” In March of this year, Chapman released his first album as a Nashvillain, Make The Night Better under his own Hippie Shack brand. You’ve heard him on the Local Brew. Now chill out with Chapman over lunch.

JD Clayton’s new EP opens with birdsong and an outdoorsy ambience that makes a fitting backdrop to simple songs well sung. “American Millionaire” follows, an aspirational song with a working man’s heartbeat. “Heartaches After Heartbreak” is a lonesome but hearty southern rocker. It adds up for a guy from Fort Smith, AR who got serious about songwriting and performing in college. He’s in Nashville now, but he carries a torch for his home. “Arkansas, where I’m from, is the Natural State. So I felt like I needed to get back to my roots and start making music that felt natural and organic,” Clayton says in his bio. “Production needed to be basic and simplistic with a focus on the story and the song. We would plug in a mic, set it in front of an amp, and let the player share their own story with their instrument. Now, that’s making music.” The EP is called Side A, implying more to come, and indeed he says there are songs in the can awaiting release. He’s on at 12:45

Cassandra is such a lovely name that it shouldn’t be baggaged by the old mythical character who’s always telling everyone that everything is going terribly wrong. Listening to Cassandra Lewis, one feels as if everything’s going to be okay, because her voice is so passionate and classically gorgeous. She’s left evidence of being based in Portland OR, the Bay Area and right here in Nashville, so we’ll have to ask her about her current HQ. But we do know her musical vision, because she articulated it to American Songwriter: “When people ask,” she said, “I just tell them [I create] Cosmic Americana. Dolly Parton on acid. Janis Joplin on Jesus. I’ve gone through a lot of phases musically, but I’ve always been deeply rooted in classic country western, the blues, soul, and psychedelic rock.” Her August release Always, All Ways is a superb country album with a timeless lushness that sounds to me in places like a fusion of Patsy Cline and Melody Gardot. Her set runs from 1:30 to 2 pm.

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