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The String
Mondays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 a.m.

The String - conversations about culture, media and American music with WMOT host, Craig Havighurst. Find the complete archive of shows here. You can subscribe to The String on most podcast platforms, including Apple.

Tune in on Mondays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 a.m.

Latest Episodes
  • Emily Nenni didn't fall in love with country music and then move to Nashville. She did the reverse, using the city's honky tonks and local haunts like a country music college. And instead of chasing the allure of the CMA Awards, the Bay Area native dove fully into the traditional end of the pool. Her sparky voice and detail-rich songs grabbed the attention of New West Records, which released her breakout album On The Ranch late last year.
  • She sounds like she was born into a country music family, but Sunny Sweeney was actually a late and somewhat reluctant bloomer as an artist. Her friends had to beg her to record her first album when she was playing bars in Austin. Then that record got picked up by a Nashville label and got her to the Grand Ole Opry. The major label system was a bad fit, but Sunny has pursued an exemplary indie career in the years since. Her mix of smarts, sass and lonesome blues infuses her latest album Married Alone.
  • Since arriving in Nashville in 2007, cellist Larissa Maestro has built a rich and varied life as a studio and stage musician, with a long list of live and recorded credits that includes Margo Price, Brandi Carlile, Kyshona Armstrong, the Lone Bellow, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, and Eric Church. She’s been part of high profile recording sessions for John Legend, Mickey Guyton, Wanda Jackson, and Ms. Lauryn Hill. And in recent years she’s had a particularly strong bond working with Allison Russell, last year’s three-time Grammy nominee - who calls Maestro “one of the most extraordinary musicians it has ever been my privilege to know - and one of the best people.”
  • Ron Sexsmith's brilliant solo debut album of 1995 - the one with the song "Secret Heart" - was on the verge of being overlooked and forgotten when Elvis Costello endorsed it as one of his favorite projects in a major magazine. It changed the conversation about the young balladeer, and he was soon recognized as one of Canada's finest songwriters. Now a dozen great artists have covered "Secret Heart" and Ron is 17 albums in to a rewarding and esteemed career. We talk about those tenuous early days, about his move from Toronto to the country and the resulting album The Vivian Line.
  • If I were to praise Joe Henry’s resume, you’d be justified in asking which one? On one hand he’s an acclaimed recording artist with more than 15 albums to his credit, including collaborations with folk icon Billy Bragg and jazz genius Ornette Coleman. At the same time, his life as a record producer has been at least as extraordinary, having steered albums by Bonnie Raitt, the Carolina Chocolate Drops and the historic pairing of Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint. It’s hard to think of any musician in American roots music who’s been as prolific on both sides of the studio glass as he has. He’s also a writer and thinker of great depth, as we find out in Episode 239 of The String.
  • ACME Feed & Seed is something of a refuge from the party scrum on Lower Broadway. The four-level restaurant, bar and venue is at the very end of the strip, overlooking the Cumberland River in a 130-year-old building with timber beams and vast old arched brick windows. It’s a space with soul, especially on Saturdays around noon when Nashville icon Charles “Wigg” Walker takes the stage to sing for excited crowds at his Soul Brunch.
  • Nashville can’t claim many national-scale, native-born musical stars. Second generation music legends don’t count. I’m talking about townies like Kitty Wells or Bobby Hebb. Yet with a move back to Tennessee during the pandemic, Sunny War joins the list. She’s back in the city where she was born and spent more than a decade with a huge story to tell and a new album that’s being celebrated nationally and in Europe. Anarchist Gospel is a one-of-a-kind record with the most imaginative textures and potently delivered lyrics of this new year in roots music. It’s a rock and roll record drawn from California punk and pop, mixed with a girlhood fascination with Chet Atkins and the blues.
  • Madison Cunningham blasted on to the modern folk scene in 2019 with a debut album so thoughtful and original that it landed on the prestigious Verve Forecast label and was nominated for a Grammy Americana Album award. After the pandemic interrupted her career momentum, she picked right back up in 2022 with a fast-growing audience and a brilliant sophomore album called Revealer. Just home from her final overseas tour of last year, Madison joined me by Zoom for a conversation about her acclaimed guitar playing, writing an album in stasis and her less-than ideal categorization as a folk singer.
  • Folk singer Willi Carlisle is one of the most compelling and disarming young troubadours in the country. On his superb 2022 album Peculiar, Missouri, he’s empathetic, insightful, poignant and a little profane. On stage, he’s boisterous and whimsical and tender, a songster and raconteur in the lineage of Steve Goodman and Utah Phillips and Woody Guthrie.
  • In today’s bluegrass and string band scene, John Hartford is a patron saint. With his honor for his elders, his hippie humor, and his relentless quest for new refinements and ideas, the late singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, archivist and raconteur may be the single greatest influence on pickers under 50 years old working in traditional Americana. For Sam Bush, himself a hero of modern bluegrass, Hartford was all that and more - a friend and picking buddy and sometimes a touring partner or boss in the studio. So there’s a feeling of inevitability about Bush’s new tribute Radio John.