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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
  • Episode 275 of The String begins with an ode to the studio and stage musicians who come up with parts and make the singers and stars sound great, while being relegated to the sexist, ungenerous title of “sidemen.” I’ve always had my eyes and ears on them as a music fan, and as a journalist, I know they are often untapped wells of stories and insights. Recently, I got to thinking about a musician - a bass player - who’s been on more big sessions and done time with more impactful artists than most in roots/Americana music over the past 35 years. So I invited Byron House on to the program.
  • Beyond his skills as a guitarist and singer, Clay Ross is what I like to call a Musical Instigator. Since heading to his current base in New York 20 years ago from his home town of Charleston, SC, he’s conceived and organized three brilliant groups that bring a new global consciousness to American roots music. First it was Matuto with its infusion of Brazilian melodies and rhythms. Then with old college-era friends from South Carolina he launched Ranky Tanky, a Grammy-winning outfit that reimagines African-American Gullah music for a world stage. His latest project is the American Patchwork Quartet, with members from three continents and a completely original way of updating classic folk songs. We go deep on his background and his approach to making creative space for diverse people to truly collaborate.
  • Thirty years ago, legendary R&B singer Delbert McClinton proved he was ahead of his time by launching his Sandy Beaches Cruise, a January festival at sea that featured his friends and associated artists from the bluesy side of Americana. Since then, the music cruise business has flourished across many genres. A company called Star Vista Live bought Sandy Beaches from Delbert a few years ago and now does the management while Delbert himself acts as host. I got a fortunate invitation to act as artist interviewer on this year’s cruise, and they let me report my own account of this luxurious but accessible experience. In this hour you’ll hear from Delbert himself, Mavericks lead singer Raul Malo, cruise lifer Marcia Ball, emerging artist Yates McKendree, singer Etta Britt, gospel great Anne McCrary, and more.
  • Lola Kirke got on America’s cultural radar as an actress - starring in the Amazon series Mozart in the Jungle, along with roles in Gone Girl and Mistress America alongside Greta Gerwig. But during those years, she was also quietly nurturing her passion for songwriting and music - specifically country music. The pandemic brought her to Nashville where her album Lady for Sale was released by Third Man Records to great acclaim. Now she’s about to release the new EP Country Curious and make her debut on the Grand Ole Opry. She’s a bold, dynamic personality and this was a really fun conversation that bridges New York, Nashville and Hollywood.
  • In just five years, including the pandemic shut-down, Nashville native Gabe Lee has grown from an unknown “hometown kid,” as one of his titles proclaims, to a debut last year on the Grand Ole Opry. Working independently with boutique Torrez Music Group, Lee has released four albums, earning the admiration of critics and a grassroots fan base that’s adding up to something special and sustainable. The most recent opus is Drink The River, which Lee took in a more acoustic and nuanced direction than his prior release, and which might be emerging as his career record.
  • In an episode that revisits the netherworld between Americana and jazz, I speak with two extraordinary female drummer/composers who are at the peak of their creative powers. My featured guest is Allison Miller, a renowned New York artist who's led her own band Boom Tic Boom and joined in with the supergroup Artemis. For her newest album Rivers In Our Veins, she studied rivers and their ecosystems to inspire a 12-song cycle for jazz ensemble and tap dancers. It's utterly original and enthralling. Also with water on her mind is Sofia Goodman, a Nashville-based jazz leader whose growing by leaps and bounds as she explores contemporary sounds without limits. Secrets of the Shore uses aquatic sounds as a starting point, but it's the serene and complex harmonies she writes for her brass and wind instruments that really makes this collection sparkle.
  • Rosanne Cash says she’s a forward-looking artist and thinker, not prone to looking back. But when she regained control over the master recording of her 1993 album The Wheel, it prompted an idea. She’s launched the new label Rumble Strip Records with John Leventhal, the producer and guitarist she fell in love with while working on it with him. Cash, one of the most fascinating and sophisticated roots musicians and a founding figure of the Americana movement, calls The Wheel a “watershed” for her in many ways beyond her new life with Leventhal. She’d moved to New York where she’s lived ever since. And she branched away from the country mainstream. The re-issue of The Wheel, now out for the first time on vinyl, prompted a riveting conversation. Also in the hour, Colorado-reared newcomer Jobi Riccio.
  • The late John Prine’s team at Oh Boy Records in Nashville put the little-known west coast songwriter Tré Burt on the national Americana/folk radar by signing him to a deal and re-releasing his debut album Caught It From The Rye in 2019. He grew up between the Bay Area and Sacramento, where, after being exposed to the guitar by an older brother, music became a focal point. He grew as a songwriter through the open mic scene and self-booked tours and some adventurous travel around the world. His spare acoustic folk style gives way to more rhythmic neo-soul textures on his exciting third LP Traffic Fiction, giving his personal lyrics new ways to shine.
  • When Ben Wright, then 28 years old, saw a banjo for sale in the window at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music, he had no idea how far it would take him. Not just to gigs at the country’s best bluegrass festivals but to an improbable life of sharing American music with audiences young and old in more than 25 countries. Not only does Ben’s band, the Henhouse Prowlers, have a new record deal and a fine new album, the quartet has a track record of sharing bluegrass and good vibes with more non-Americans than probably any other band. And they’ve created a non-profit called Bluegrass Ambassadors to extend that mission into the future.
  • Lindsay Lou grew up surrounded by community folk music in Michigan, and when she connected with a scene and a band in East Lansing where she completed college, she set her plans for a career in medicine aside to hit the road and connect with her original dreams. But it’s pretty clear from her ravishing voice that she was born to sing, and she made quite an impression, especially in western newgrass circles, as the leader and songwriter of Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys. Living in Nashville since 2015 though, change was inevitable, and she processes some big life shifts and stylistic evolution on her new album Queen of Time. It’s the most ambitious and enthralling release of her career, and there’s a lot to talk about.