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Coming From All Directions For Finally Friday

Artists have come from the West, South, and East to make this week’s Finally Friday possible. We’ve set up a particularly interesting trio of musical concepts as we feature the hard swinging cowboy country of Wylie Gustafson, the blues-drenched slide guitar of Jeff Plankenhorn, and thoughtful commentary on Appalachia from native son Erik Vincent Huey.

I hadn’t thought about Wylie and the Wild West in quite some time, but back when the world was getting its head around “alternative country” in the 1990s and early 2000s, Wylie was a key guy carrying the torch for western flavored roots music. David Goodman’s 1999 encyclopedia Americana Modern Twang put it this way: “Looking like a combination of Elvis Costello, Buddy Holly, and Lyle Lovett, Wylie specializes in Bakersfield country and Marty Robbins influenced Western music. Blessed with a rich baritone, Wylie can handle honky tonk, country rock, and rockabilly but has a special talent for yodeling.” Wylie now has 24 albums to his credit, not to mention more than 50 Grand Ole Opry appearances, which is pretty stout considering he’s always lived in Montana on his family’s fourth generation ranch. His latest is called Bunchgrass.

In the years just before the pandemic, Jeff Plankenhorn shifted from sideman to spotlight. He’d become one of the most important players of guitar-shaped things in the Austin, TX scene, especially lap steel, dobro and the hybrid solid body guitar he came up with called The Plank. (See what he did there?) He’s been acclaimed for his work with Joe Ely, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Ruthie Foster, and the late great Jimmy LaFave. Lately he’s been hitting the road hard, sometimes solo and sometimes with his guitar-slinging friend Michael O’Connor. He’s also about to record his first new full-length album since 2018.

We’ll wrap the afternoon with Erik Vincent Huey, a fellow who barged right into my attention this winter through the force of one excellent album. Huey is the longtime frontman for cowpunk legends The Surreal McCoys, purveyors of a pile driving twang that some wag once called “Johnny Clash.” But now, Huey’s stepped out on his own for the first time with a powerful and meaningful album called Appalachian Gothic, a song cycle about his relationship to his home state of West Virginia and its struggles with dislocation, capitalism and social pathologies. Produced with Americana hero Eric “Roscoe” Ambel, the project is varied, attention-grabbing and heart-tugging. “It’s an album written while in exile, because like so many people I know from West Virginia, I had to, as they say, ‘get out to get ahead.’ But it felt great to come back home and rediscover a place that continues to define who I am, musically and personally,” Huey says in the bio. He’s playing a full show next Tuesday at City Winery and I plan to sit down with him just after that for a talk.

As always, the music starts at noon and everything is broadcast on the airwaves of 89.5 and the always-on web stream at wmot.org.

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