coronavirus

Marla Keown for Dee's

This Thursday night, Tommy Womack will have the chance to feel somewhat in his element for the first time in months. “It’s my first show not on a screen since February and my first band show since February,” he says. “I’m looking forward to being on stage with a band and feeling a rock and roll beat.” That stage is at Dee’s Country Cocktail Lounge in Madison, and the ticketed show is just one part of the tentative return of live music to Nashville.

Collage by Americana Music Association

Without ceremony or comment, the Americana Music Association announced the nominees for its 2020 Honors & Awards on Monday. Brandi Carlile, 2019's Artist of the Year, continues to be among the format’s most recognized figures, with an individual nomination for Artist, a production credit on Tanya Tucker’s Album and Song, and a shared Duo/Group nod for her super-group The Highwomen.

Every day, if you are even remotely near social media, you’re invited to tune into numerous live performances streamed on the internet, the only concert venue that’s open during the Covid crisis. But what if you’re the artist? How does every day sound to you? While most musicians are spacing out their appearances out of concern for over-taxing the audience, some have decided the daily stream has more upside than down. Songwriter and guitarist Josh Daniel of Charlotte, NC will go live today for his 60th day in a row.

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In the Covid-19 crisis of 2020 in the music world, the stages of grief all piled up like a chain reaction highway collision, with denial, anger, bargaining and depression all smashed together. Acceptance probably hasn’t fully arrived for most, but we’re now in a stage that’s more constructive and resolute. This edition of WMOT’s Covid Diaries talks with two business leaders and two artists to see how things looked to them as April gave way to May.

Rory Doyle

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, the 21-year-old phenom from the seminal blues town of Clarksdale, MS, had a career landmark evening Sunday as he celebrated winning five Blues Music Awards. Ingram’s eponymous debut recording was named Album of the Year overall, while also winning in the categories for Contemporary Blues Album and Emerging Artist Album. 

Grimey’s New & Preloved Music, now in its third location in 21 years of business, has come to symbolize what’s best about modern Music City. It’s a trend-setter, a hang-out and a venue where bands from in and out of town introduce new music to the world. So anything that threatens the record store’s well-being is taken gravely seriously by the music community, and the coronavirus shut-down is such a threat.

The trade associations that support roots music are putting a hopeful, constructive face on the year ahead, even as they grasp for information that could help them foresee a return of the concert and festival business. Reassurance is in short supply though. In a livestreamed panel discussion last Friday, the heads of the major folk, blues, bluegrass and Americana non-profits said they’re working together to identify new business models that could make the industry better for all involved on the other side of the Covid-19 crisis.

It’s been quite a month. Four weeks ago, musicians began to see the swirl of news reports and rumors about Covid-19 coalesce into a harsh new reality. It was as if the business had a stroke. Concerts and shows of all sizes were cancelled, and here four weeks later there’s still no clarity on when or how they will resume. To track this unprecedented event, I’ve been talking to a variety of people in the music scene about their experiences so far and how they’re adjusting. We’ll periodically present edited highlights from those interviews.

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Bonnaroo is postponed. Merlefest and, as of Tuesday, CMA Fest are canceled. The first third of the 2020 music festival season, with all its life and connectivity, has been wiped out by the Covid-19 virus. In this previously unimaginable void, artists have taken to the internet, but mostly as solo actors, gigging for tips. The creators of Shut In & Sing imagined how much festival dynamic they could bring to the crisis.

Grand Ole Opry

In the early days of radio, announcers and hosts would regularly offer special greetings to “the shut-ins” among their audience, those housebound with infirmities and illness for whom radio was a vital companion and mental health care. Thanks to Covid-19, we’re all shut-ins now, and over recent days, Nashville’s century-old tradition of broadcasting live music to reach the people where they are rose up out of calamity and went online. (This story has been updated.)

Author

In the space of about 48 hours last week, the music business as we know it ceased to function. A dangerous new coronavirus made its way around the world and at last to the heart of the United States, and as scary as it is for individuals, it’s already proving fatal to music’s number one need, which is crowds. With increasingly urgent calls from the US Centers For Disease Control to bar close-packed public gatherings, artists and promoters realized there was no choice but to cancel or postpone tours, shows and festivals.