Arts and Entertainment

It’s been one of the most unusual yet entirely rational career trajectories in the history of popular music. Most artists do one thing, get hot for a while, crest and then resign themselves to nostalgia tours of their heyday. Ricky Skaggs rode bluegrass to one tier of fame, country to another and then returned to the music that launched him - music that allows him to stay fully alive and relevant.

895 Fest: Cordovas Are Closers

May 21, 2019
Val Hoeppner

  More than perhaps any time I can remember, Americana music is defined by songwriter/artists or duos, with fewer bands emerging as contenders for the headlining slots. That’s an observation not a criticism, but it’s worth noting that while artists like Jason Isbell and Margo Price have terrific bands, ensembles branded as bands with collective names tend to think a bit differently about music making and to offer a particular experience for the listener.


For the first time in its 18-year history, four women were nominated as the Americana Music Association's Artist of the Year on Tuesday afternoon. And that wasn't the only way past patterns were disrupted in anticipation of the 2019 Honors & Awards show this Fall. No Album of the Year nominees were among the prospects for Artist of the Year or Duo/Group of the Year. New acts turned up in the Album and Duo/Group category, giving hope for first-time winners.


In “Rock Billy Boogie,” a classic 1957 record by the Rock and Roll trio, Johnny Burnette name-checks a Memphis honky tonk.

Well, I know a little spot on the edge of town/Where you can really dig 'em up and set 'em down/It's a little place called, The Hideaway/You do the rockabilly till the break of day...

That little spot has gone by the name Hernando’s Hideaway for so many decades that nobody reliably remembers when it opened. But it re-opens this summer, with hard country singer/songwriter Dale Watson as the new proprietor.

Smithsonian Folkways

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival just wrapped its 50th edition. If you've never attended, there's no way to effectively convey the feeling of entering the grounds and hearing the energy surging at you from multiple stages. It's a roots music and American culture life goal. Those memories get a stir on a new silver anniversary box set, out today from Smithsonian Folkways. It's a trove of unreleased recordings drawn from the years 1974 to 2016.

Paul Schatzkin for Guitar Mash

  The talent lineup set for next Saturday afternoon at the City Winery, including Jason Isbell, Gretchen Peters and Buddy Miller, would be a can't miss Americana card in any event. But since it's the second annual Urban Campfire, you are on the bill as well. At least if you want to be.

The indispensable documentary Heartworn Highways is the closest thing you’ll find to a time machine capable of transporting at least part of you back to Nashville in 1975, when Music City had more great songwriters than construction cranes. In one particularly vivid sequence, it’s Christmas Eve at Guy Clark’s house, and some embryonic legends (including Rodney Crowell and Steve Young) are sitting around a kitchen table that’s jammed with with jug wine, Jack Daniels, snacks and cigarettes.


On a late March afternoon at Tulsa Strings Violin Shop, the tempo of life feels decidedly adagio, which in music speak means slow and easy-going. The curvaceous bodies of violins and violas hang in rows. A young woman is practicing Bach on a cello down a hall. In back, work benches hold the mysterious and intricate tools of violin repair. That’s Jacob Mehlhouse’s specialty.



Billy Strings and Molly Tuttle have propelled the bluegrass guitar style known as flatpicking back to the forefront of roots and jam band music, evoking a time when Doc Watson and Tony Rice were folk stars with significant mainstream fame. But both Billy and Molly would acknowledge a debt to a Nashville guitarist from the generation in between, the jovial, innovative and remarkable David Grier.


Not every hobby gets its own national holiday, especially one in the seductive days of Spring. If there’s a “Souvenir Spoon Collectors Day” sweeping the nation each year, we haven’t heard of it. But vinyl junkies and music lovers have grown accustomed, in the manner of youngsters and Christmas, to the arrival of Record Store Day every April. For a dozen years now, fans have lined up before the sun rises to invest (yes, that’s the word) in their passion.

Jacqueline Justice

Zoë Eve Nutt, child of Knoxville TN, lost hearing in her right ear – all of it - by the time she was eight years old. So she had time to assimilate that fact into life as an adult and as a musician, singing in choir, studying voice and pursuing a performance degree at Belmont University. Her left ear’s troubles came as more of an unnerving surprise.

“It was kind of a funny turn of events, where I found out what I really wanted to do, and at the same time, the universe seemed to be telling me NO,” Nutt said in a recent interview.

If you’re a devotee of WMOT, then it’s likely you’ve spent a good bit of your radio life tuning in around the left side of the FM dial. That’s because back in the mid 20th century, the Federal Communications Commission designated the lower frequencies between 88.1 and 91.9 as home to non-commercial and so-called “educational” stations. Public radio’s ways and means have evolved a lot since then, but its point is largely unchanged: to broadcast news, thoughtful talk and genres of music that commercial station won’t.


Spring brings with it a rush of music-themed events, and these jumped out at us as not-to-be missed shots of creativity, philanthropy and history.

On Thursday, April 11, Nashville’s Belcourt Theatre will host “An Evening of Stories and Songs” with southern novelists Lee Smith and Jill McCorkle holding down the literary side and songwriters Marshall Chapman and Matraca Berg anchoring the evening’s songwriting. Ticket proceeds benefit the Friends of Vanderbilt’s Libraries.


On a sunny late afternoon last September, the band Nefesh Mountain prepared to take a stage in front of the North Carolina state capitol. They could see a half mile down Fayetteville Street, where tens of thousands of people mingled and moved among eight different stages at Raleigh’s Wide Open Bluegrass festival. A good crowd was left over from the prior act. It seemed like an ideal setting, but singer Doni Zasloff suddenly got uncharacteristically anxious.

Lucinda Williams and Car Wheels after 20 Years

Mar 8, 2019
Val Hoeppner / WMOT

Lucinda Williams recently sat down with WMOT host and program director, Jessie Scott to talk about the 20th anniversary of her groundbreaking album 'Car Wheels On A Gravel Road'. Williams is touring with her band in celebration of the 20 years of songs like "Jackson" and "Drunken Angel" which she played and recorded for WMOT at Colin Linden's Nashville studio. 

Williams will bring the Car Wheels tour to the Ryman Auditorium April 2, 2019.

Bob Delevante

Getting an early jump on pursuing your dreams is important, and it would be hard to jump earlier than did Colin Linden at his destiny in blues and roots music.


On June 25, 2011 more than a dozen fire trucks sirened their way to a handsome brick and timber house on Nashville’s Belmont Boulevard, where a blaze was engulfing the second floor. It was a historic loss - The Cowboy Arms Hotel And Recording Spa, the fancifully named, fully-functioning studio (and home) of Cowboy Jack Clement, one of the few songwriters and record producers who could legitimately be called legendary.

Fairlight Hubbard

Songwriter Mindy Smith has announced her first tour dates in several years - a run of shows in May and June that will celebrate the release of her debut album on vinyl and ease her back into a relationship with her adoring, and patient, fans. An announcement says the tour will visit acoustic listening rooms such as Atlanta’s Eddie’s Attic and The Open Chord in Knoxville “so I could be as up close and personal as possible,” according to the artist.


Mac Wiseman came to a fork in the road of history where country music and bluegrass parted ways, and he took both. The singer known as “The Voice With A Heart” died Sunday at age 93, leaving a wide-ranging body of acclaimed recorded work and a legacy in the business as well, having been a co-founder of both the Country Music Association and the International Bluegrass Music Association. He sang with Bill Monroe, but he also landed on the country charts between 1959 and 1979. He joined the Bluegrass Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2014.

Jeff Fasano

Adam Wakefield has one of those voices that make some people think to themselves: “Lucky dude.” Or maybe a less polite word. His voice is envy-making, for those inclined to be envious. It’s got a velvet blue bottom end, a knife edge somewhere in the middle and rich overtones. It’s got strong shades of Chris Stapleton or Gary Nichols, and indeed Wakefield spent some time singing for the Grammy-winning bluegrass band that gave those guys a platform, the Steeldrivers. It sounds like a voice that must have come as a gift from on high. Not so, says its owner.

Grand Ole Opry

Backstage at the Grand Ole Opry is a convivial commotion of rehearsing and visiting, a friends-and-family ethos that infuses the show on stage with heart, even if the audience can’t see it directly. On February 13, that energy and affection was focused on a single performer, a gentleman with a beatific smile and a signature silver pompadour who slipped easily from conversation to the stage for multiple collaborations. A double-take birthday cake in the coffee lounge told the story.

A Tool For The Tour From Americana

Feb 15, 2019

On a January evening at Analog, the high tech venue in the Hutton Hotel on West End, Jed Hilly, executive director of the Americana Music Association, welcomed a full house. He talked about booking shows, routing tours, getting advance press and radio promotion.

“Those four components of the music business are critical when you’re out there on a tour,” he said. “It’s one thing to get a gig, but how are you going to get (people) to come to the gig? So we created this initiative.”


We’ve now been to the movie and we know how it ends. Two powerful women of country music, snubbed in recent years by the radio format their heroines helped build into America’s largest, showed the music industry – on that imperfect but necessary stage that is the Grammy Awards - that they are the voices and songwriters of now.  

David McClister


When Hayes Carll appeared on the roots music scene in the early 2000s, he was shaggy, slouchy, and blazingly smart and funny. He won over crowds with his droll drawl and his comic timing. He’d released his debut album on Compadre Records, out of his own hometown of Houston.

Rhiannon Giddens Spreads The Power Around

Jan 31, 2019

A photo taken for an album coming later in 2019 features Rhiannon Giddens and her collaborator Francesco Turrisi sitting on a red carpet, shot from above, with a global array of instruments around them. There are lutes, ouds, fiddles, various banjos, an accordion and drums from the Middle East fanned out in a circle like a mandala or a compass. Whether this makes you think of a voyage or an explosion, Rhiannon Giddens is certainly at the center of a lot of energy and movement these days.