Roots Radio News

After thirteen bluegrass albums and two International Bluegrass Entertainer of the Year Awards, The Gibson Brothers were ready for something different. The new album Mockingbird, released Nov. 9, exhibits a duo liberated and enthused by the experience of co-writing and recording in Nashville with veteran producer/engineer Dave Ferguson and Black Keys rock star Dan Auerbach.


Kacey Musgraves defied the odds and won Album of the Year at the 52nd CMA Awards Wednesday night. Typically, a recording as subtle and as overlooked by commercial radio as Golden Hour might have received a nod via nomination, while an artist with more hit singles would have taken the crystal trophy. But Musgraves won on what she said, with some disbelief, was the tenth anniversary of the day she moved to Nashville.


Kathy Mattea Rediscovers Her Voice And Sings Like A Bird

Nov 14, 2018
Reto Sterchi


A singer’s voice is her livelihood and her instrument. Kathy Mattea grew concerned about her instrument a few years ago.

“I’d go for some note that I’ve hit a million times and it would be kind of pinched or tight or flat and it just wouldn’t come out and I was like ‘okay, tomorrow night I’ll pay more attention.’ and maybe the same thing would happen or maybe not.”

Cameron Gott

In the earnest, truth-telling world of Americana music, stunts and deceptions are almost unheard of, so last week’s reveal that enigmatic new Texas duo The Stryker Brothers are actually Robert Earl Keen and Randy Rogers is a bit of a first.

  A WWI-era Jewish emigree from Poland named Moses Asch failed in his first attempt to form a record company in the US. But his second go, a 1948 partnership with his assistant Marian Distler, thrived. Folkways Records became a history-changing outlet for Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, The New Lost City Ramblers and a range of indigenous musicians from the US and the world at large. Its 1952 release of the Anthology of American Folk Music, compiled by Harry Smith, catalyzed the folk revival.

Raez Argulla


Knowing oneself is hard enough, so imagine growing up with the long winters and early sunsets of Toronto while half your roots are on a tropical spice island 12 degrees north of the Equator. That’s part of Kaia Kater’s complex story, but clearly deeper issues than climate are on the mind of the Canadian folk singer as she peers out from palmy greenery on the cover of Grenades, her third album in a fast-moving career.

Swamp Blues Master Tony Joe White Has Died At 75

Oct 25, 2018
Val Hoeppner WMOT

Tony Joe White, a songwriter and recording artist with the laid back but slightly dangerous demeanor of a well fed alligator, parlayed a unique take on swamp rock and country blues into an influential 50-year career. The Louisiana native died of a heart attack at home in Leiper’s Fork on Thursday at age 75. Only a month ago, White released a new album and made his debut on the Grand Ole Opry.

Lisa MacIntosh

Band members step out and go solo all the time. Amy Helm has done something more profound as an inheritor of the spirit of The Band, which made history at Big Pink, which partnered with Bob Dylan and which said farewell with The Last Waltz. Its drummer/singer Levon Helm left a vast roots music legacy, and daughter Amy has not just taken care of it, she’s inhabited and developed it into her own groove-laden gospel rock.



A New Shrine For Bluegrass Shines On The Banks Of The Ohio

Oct 23, 2018

A freak autumn wind storm didn’t blow out the fire of the fans and artists who gathered Saturday along the banks of the Ohio River to cap off a three-day grand opening of the new Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Owensboro KY.

Concentration has become one of life’s most elusive and precious commodities. So Nashville songwriter Rayland Baxter went looking for it. In late 2016, he booked himself into a unique writer’s retreat in an abandoned rubber band factory near Franklin, Kentucky. A friend of his was converting it into a recording studio. Not yet open for business, it was filled with an all-consuming quiet, save for the murmur of a television that more or less randomly let in traces of the outside world.



A decade-long legislative effort and an epic industry-wide negotiation came to a historic happy ending on Thursday as President Trump signed the Music Modernization Act. The omnibus legislative package, which passed both houses of Congress unanimously, reforms copyright law to work better for all key constituents in the age of streaming music.

Nine Innings With Nora Jane Struthers: A Radio Field Trip

Oct 11, 2018
Neilson Hubbard


This is the best and worst time of year for baseball fans. The playoffs bring the highest highs or their cosmic opposite. Along the way, October produces moments of exquisite and almost unbearable tension, the game at its concentrated best. Regular season baseball is far more relaxed, with a tempo and ambience that’s perfect for catching up with a friend. That’s the idea behind this radio feature with singer and songwriter Nora Jane Struthers.



Roots artists and songwriters are grappling with the state of the nation and what it means to be American more directly than they have in many years. Austin’s Band of Heathens, searching for the best way to add their voices to the chorus, took the tack of rediscovering and re-imagining a little known classic.

At the tail end of the tumultuous summer of 1968, The Byrds, flying high as America’s coolest psychedelic folk-rock band, released Sweetheart of the Rodeo, a radical and visionary homage to classic country music.

C Havighurst

While their musical terrain overlaps, there’s a foundational difference between the recently concluded AmericanaFest in Nashville and World of Bluegrass in Raleigh, NC, and that’s the picking. Picking is what ensues when musicians, professional or amateur, friends or strangers, encounter each other, hang out and jam on tunes they share as a common language. Americana people come to Nashville as either performers or listeners. They do not pick amongst themselves. Bluegrass people pick ubiquitously in a liminal overlap of performer and audience.

The accolades were distributed widely and evenly at the 29th International Bluegrass Music Association Awards, as a range of artists won the major categories in Raleigh, NC on Thursday night. North Carolina quintet Balsam Range was named Entertainer of the Year. It was their second, having won in 2014.

The vocal group of the year, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, had won that prize eight times prior, while the Travelin’ McCourys took their first-ever Instrumental Group of the Year prize.


On a mid September evening at the luxuriously appointed Analog showroom in midtown Nashville, five women took the stage for just the second time as a band. Yet because they are stars of bluegrass, each in her own right, there was abundant curiosity about what they’d play, how they’d sound, and what might be next for them.

C Havighurst


Before last weekend’s Pilgrimage Festival was wiped out by heavy rains, for a bustling six hours on Saturday, the Americana Music Triangle Experience told its story in a variety of ways under its own tent. Joanne Cash spoke about growing up with her older brother Johnny in rural Arkansas. Natchez, MS band Bishop Gunn offered an acoustic set. And booths around the perimiter, set up by music cities and towns across the deep south, beckoned music lovers to future travels.


As far as Nashville’s City Winery knew, their big room was supposed to be dark on Sunday night after a cancelation. About noon though, the team of Brandi Carlile and the venue got in touch with each other and mounted a ticketed show for nearly 700 fans on a few hours notice.

Jacqueline Justice

Americana is, by all indications, rocking. That applies in the metaphorical language of the street, because the community and format seem as popular as ever, but perhaps even more in the musical sense. The six days of shows I saw at AmericanaFest 2018 were, generally speaking, louder, harder and more fuzz-toned than the Americana I fell hard for decades ago.

Erika Goldring/Getty Images for Americana Music Association

Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale, the Milk Carton Kids, hosting the 17th Americana Honors and Awards at the Ryman Auditorium, made a joke early in the evening about Jason Isbell’s propensity to win the annual prizes of late, and indeed the Alabama-raised songwriter continued a strong streak with three trophies.

Val Hoeppner

It’s called The Local so it shouldn’t be a surprise that it felt like home straight away. Starting at noon today, the indoor/outdoor venue at 110 28th Ave. N. became AmericanaFest headquarters for WMOT Roots Radio along with broadcasting partners NPR Music and World Cafe for the duration of the event. Live music continues until Saturday at 6 pm.

Navigating AmericanaFest 2018: Our Top Special Events

Sep 10, 2018
Americana Music Association

Nineteen years ago, when the first Americana Music Association conference took place in Nashville, the format was a few years old and the musical movement and community around it was in a formative state. One independent record label owner said at the time, “There’s a certain cult, and now we’re finding each other. The groundswell is coming but I don’t think it’s happened quite yet.”

Photos by the author

Early this summer Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan, the duo The Milk Carton Kids, invited a few dozen guests to a live showcase of a new album in a most unusual building. The two story structure, stood alone as if spared by history at the corner of 3rd Ave. South and Chestnut St at the edge of the fast-developing Wedgewood Houston district. It had intricate brickwork, tall narrow windows and a front door on the corner, reminiscent of the neighborhood family pharmacy that it had been for 90 years.

IFC Films



Lucinda Williams recently announced a tour this Fall marking the 20th anniversary of her landmark album Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. One of its many exceptional songs was “Drunken Angel” about her friend the late and under-rated Austin songwriter Blaze Foley. Foley may be considerably less obscure after the coming national release of Blaze, an understated narrative film co-written and directed by Ethan Hawke.