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Finally Friday Features Jason Carter, Emily Nenni and The Arcadian Wild

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I’ve started compiling my essential albums list for 2022, and it’s clear already what a fine year it’s been for traditional country and bluegrass music. From Molly Tuttle and Del McCoury to Charley Crockett and Kelsey Waldon, the timeless strains of our art form endure and live in subtle, personal iterations. Two very new albums from that lane arrived in recent weeks, and we’ll be hearing from their authors on the Finally Friday stage. Jason Carter is the Del McCoury Band’s fiddler. Emily Nenni is a fresh voice in honky tonk country. Progressive minded string band Arcadian Wild is on hand as well to close out the afternoon.

When Jason Carter was 15, he took up the fiddle in his native Kentucky with the vow in his heart that someday he’d play for his idols the Del McCoury Band. So there’s your life strategy right there, folks. Dream big. And then go up to your dream boss and ask for the job. Obviously, Jason is a great fiddler, indeed a five-time IBMA Fiddle Player of the Year and a multi-Grammy winner via his time with Del. For 30 years, he’s been the man shredding leads, gently backing up vocals and galvanizing the sound of the most influential bluegrass band of modern times. Now comes what I believe is Jason’s second gesture as a solo artist. His new album Lowdown Hoedown arrived early this month, and it’s mighty fine throughout, with more lead vocal from Jason than we’ve heard before, including the title(ish) track mingles fine boogie picking with a vocal duo featuring old friend Dierks Bentley. You’ll find exceptional cover tunes here as well, including by songwriters John and Jamie Hartford, Sean Camp and Paul Craft. We can only imagine who Jason will bring along to be in his band, because of the rarified company he keeps.

Bay Area native Emily Nenni moved to Nashville in 2014 to chase a sound and a feeling she didn’t fully understand. Now she is well known to denizens of Robert’s, East Nashville’s Honky Tonk Tuesday and other local sanctuaries for classic country music. But it was a sojourn to a ranch in Colorado that inspired her sophomore album (and her label debut with Normaltown/New West) called On The Ranch. Her sweet voice cuts like a whip-crack. She writes relatable scenarios and stories with that rural feminist moxy we cherished in Loretta. And she sings with a smile without looking like she’s trying (how do people DO that?). No Depression calls it a “barnburner.” The Nashville Scene praised it as “an irresistible vintage-country masterwork.” She’ll follow up her lunchtime play for us with a tour of Australia with Joshua Hedley, a country combo to sigh for.

Last at lunch but not in our hearts is acoustic group The Arcadian Wild from right here in Nashville. Founding songwriters Isaac Horn and Lincoln Mick put their own sophisticated twists and turns on the newgrass pop approach pioneered by Nickel Creek, Crooked Still and Punch Brothers. The musicianship is top tier, and their range of work since their 2015 debut album is impressive. Over the course of 2020, the quartet released Principium, “a four-movement song-cycle that explores human relationship, flourishing, degradation, and redemption.” That was followed by a series of covers, including a clever, smile-inducing string band take on “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” by Tears for Fears. And a new single just dropped in October called “Give It A Rest.” It doesn’t seem these folks rest much though.

Craig Havighurst is WMOT's music news producer and host of The String, a show featuring conversations on culture, media and American music. New episodes of The String air on WMOT 89.5 in Middle Tennessee on Mondays at 8 pm, repeating Sundays at 7 am. Twitter and Instagram: @chavighurst.