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Jill Andrews Brings A New ‘Modern Age’ To Finally Friday

Folks can debate about whether vinyl or streaming sounds better all they want, but I’ll maintain there’s no more emotionally impactful way to be introduced to an album than listening closely on an LP. I had the good fortune to get such an early listen to Modern Age, the newest offering from veteran songwriter Jill Andrews. She and her team came over with a test pressing some weeks ago and we let the project unfold in all its layered gorgeousness, with all the details worked out by Jill and producer Lucas Morton saturating the room. Jill brings an eye for detail and an unguarded candor to her music, and we’re fortunate that she’s part of a fine triple bill at this week’s Finally Friday at 3rd & Lindsley that includes funky string band Twisted Pine and country eclectic Erin Viancourt.

Jill, who performs in the final slot of our weekly series at 1:30 pm, became a sudden star of southeastern folk and Americana in the middle 00’s when she and Sam Quinn formed the Everybodyfields. Based around Knoxville, they were a roots band with a sound as striking as their name. But it was after three albums and a parting of ways that Andrews fully realized her depth and vision. Initially sounding like an East Tennessee Sandy Denny, her first full length album The Mirror brought forth effervescent pop colors, and she’d keep weaving with those threads over several wonderful projects, even as she negotiated launching life as a sometimes single mother of two.

When I caught up with her for her 2020 album Thirties, the world was teetering on the brink of its pandemic crisis, but Jill was in a great place, newly married and living with her family in a gorgeous home in the woods. The album processed that decade of transition, when adult cares make it a bit harder to lead the life of a footloose troubadour. Now, with Modern Age, Andrews allows herself some constructive and healthy nostalgia. In its opening song “80’s Baby” she pines for the textures of the analog life she briefly knew growing up. The bio says it nicely about the record at large: “In moments, the epitome of 90s pop perfection with airy synths and shimmering vocals and in others, pared down and heart wrenchingly intimate, Modern Age is dripping in reverence for a simpler time, when the world was as big as your high school, when love was waiting by the phone, when we wondered about the future instead of lived in it.”

Getting us started at noon is a band that always makes me smile, shake my head, and drop my jaw, including this past weekend at Earl Scruggs Fest. Twisted Pine emerged from the vibrant and modernist string band scene in Boston, fusing styles and instrumentation in a way no bluegrass-adjacent band had ever done. There’s no guitar, for one thing, but there is a mandolin, fiddle and, yes, a flute. Bolstered by a string bass, this quartet can head in any direction with the uncanny acceleration of a UAP. And Kathleen Parks brings a timeless cooing voice that overflows with personality. In a liminal musical space that’s been friendly to Leftover Salmon, Punch Brothers, and the Jonathan Scales Fourchestra, Twisted Pine has made its own undeniable and inimitable impact.

Erin Viancourt, a transplant from Cleveland, released her debut album Won’t Die This Way in July on a label founded by country banger Cody Jinks, so that’s a mighty fine endorsement. In its grooves, we hear an artist who’s extremely comfortable in a space between mainstream country music and Americana that’s not supposed to work. “If you want to call me crazy, I’ll bring crazy back in style,” she sings with sauce and spark. What a wonderfully alluring and bluesy voice. Good things seem to be happening for her.

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