Val Hoeppner for WMOT

Guitar and dobro pair well and play well together. Both instruments excel at harmony, rhythm and lead playing, and the sliding resonator guitar has an especially cutting and emotional voice. Usually one finds guitar and dobro nested inside a bluegrass band, not out front as the heart of a roots duo. It was a combination just waiting for the right musicians, and nobody could be better qualified than Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley.

Ed Rode

If you wish to feel seen, acknowledged and befriended, get yourself to a room where Jontavious Willis is performing the blues. There are no strangers there. At a recent show at the Franklin Theatre opening for Keb' Mo', Willis engaged, cajoled and loved on the crowd as if we were family.

"I'm about making memories," he says in an interview for WMOT's The String, which will premiere Sunday Oct. 20. "When I'm on stage and the audience is quiet, I encourage them to talk back to me and feel like we're all together."


"I'm from San Benito, TX down a dirty dusty road," sings Charley Crockett on the title track of his upcoming album The Valley. As he goes on, we learn of an absentee father, a hard-working mamma, dangerous gambles, gun barrels and "trouble everywhere I turned." There's not an untrue or embellished line in the song. Yet as literal as it is, the narrative sounds more like something from Woody Guthrie's time than 21st century America. Crockett's country blues is neither appropriated nor contrived.

Amy Richmond

There is said to be a tape recording, made by Lee Roy Parnell's mother listening on the radio at home in the early 60s, of her six-year-old son being invited on stage to sing by the King of Western Swing himself. Bob Wills says into the radio, "Let's bring little Lee Roy up here. He don't back down to nothin'." The 62-year-old Parnell, who performs at 9 pm this Friday night at 895 Fest, is happy to own that early branding.


Songwriter, guitarist and band leader Liz Brasher - who performs Saturday at 9 pm as part of 895 Fest - was WMOT’s first nominee to NPR’s national Slingshot talent discovery pipeline. When Brasher was selected in 2018’s inaugural class, it brought her debut EP Outcast to global attention and led to tour dates with Blondie, The Psychedelic Furs and The Mavericks.


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.

The String: Ruthie Foster's Joyful Blues

Jan 29, 2019

If Americana values all American roots forms and the fusion thereof, then nobody's more Americana than Austin singer/songwriter Ruthie Foster. She grew up singing in church in rural Texas, developed a variety of skills in bands while serving in the US Navy, then became a folk troubadour who slips from country to soul to blues to gospel with ease.



Anthony Scarlati

Like Lower Broadway in Nashville, Memphis’s world famous Beale Street has, as if by some process of natural commercial accretion, grown into an entertainment and tourist destination somewhat removed from its roots music origins. But those interested in enjoying Beale Street as a wall-to-wall blues experience can do so next week, from Jan. 22 to 26, when the International Blues Challenge rocks and rolls for the 35th time.