Roots Radio News

Scott Willis

Tommy Womack is Nashville’s wittiest roots rock and roller, a songwriter who can compose with an acid dipped pen or a lovely set of watercolors. He’s also an author, a DJ for WXNA and a columnist for the East Nashvillian magazine, where he further refines his persona as a good guy gadfly. Tommy is on a lot of folks’ minds these days because he’s been through a rough patch. No sooner had he recovered from a serious auto accident, he was diagnosed with cancer.

In Nashville, arguably the greatest guitar town in the world, Guthrie Trapp is at the top of the mountain. He can range across every style, improvise with endless invention and subtlety. He can shred or twang or drift elegantly. And most of the time, he’s seen or heard as a sideman and studio player. Through the 2000s, he's been in demand for being able to serve and enhance a song and do no more than what’s called for. But he’s also a mind-bending solo artist. And his second LP as a leader and composer came out this spring.

Jamie Harmon

 

Songwriter John Paul Keith is a fixture in today’s Memphis scene - a roots rocker and a regular contributor to the Beale Street Caravan radio show. His new album, his fourth since a 2009 debut, is called Heart Shaped Shadow.

Keith is also part of Motel Mirrors, a four-piece he co-fronts with noted Americana bass player/ songwriter Amy LaVere. That band released its first full length album, In The Meantime, on the same day.

On a recent evening at Parnassus Books in Nashville, the music came from Robyn Hitchcock, Abigail Washburn and Rayna Gellert. The songs came from Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie. And the history and ideas came from award winning author Daniel Wolff, who spoke about his latest.

Grown Up Anger: The Connected Mysteries of Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and the Calumet Massacre of 1913 is part musicology, part social scholarship and part coming to terms with American progress and protest.

The new album Edgeland from Kim Richey is the eighth in a string of country/pop albums that are remarkable for their consistency in tone and quality. While she was initially inspired by the song poetry of Joni Mitchell and Karla Bonoff, her college forays with future power pop star Bill Lloyd lit the fire for what, years later, would become one of the freshest sounds coming from Music Row in the 1990s and beyond.

 

In late 2016, Penguin books published Forever Words, featuring previously unseen poetry by the late Johnny Cash. The icon’s son John Carter Cash, who read one of those poems in an interview with WMOT, indicated at the time that some artists had begun to set some of the poems to music.

This has now come to pass, and this being the Cash estate, it’s not been done half way.

A Quiet Giant of Roots Music, Randy Scruggs, Is Dead at 64

Apr 18, 2018

Randy Scruggs, a soft-spoken, multi-talented musician and artist from a great American music family, died on Tuesday at age 64, reportedly from an illness.

A Guitar Pull Of Greatness For A Merle Travis Centennial

Apr 16, 2018

As birthday parties go, this one’s a bit on the late side, but nobody, least of all the late great Merle Travis, will notice or care. He was born on Nov. 17, 1917 in Rosewood, Kentucky, so this week’s tribute show on April 18, 2018 at the City Winery is more of a centenary celebration, but there’s a lot to acknowledge and the lineup of musicians pulled together by the Grammy Museum and Travis’s son Thom Bresh is a guitar pull of the gods.

Kelly Christine Sutton

The critical reception to Golden Hour, the third major-label, non-holiday album from Kacey Musgraves, reminds me of a particle accelerator - an atom smasher they used to call them - where we learn about something invisible by observing where the sparks fly after a collision. The quantum system at issue involves a unique artistic vision colliding with the ways music writers tend to frame the music business.

Tim Easton's Modern Day Bristol Sessions

Apr 12, 2018
Michael Weintrob

 

Singer/songwriter Tim Easton this week self-releases Paco and the Melodic Polaroids, a ten song collection of spare solo acoustic folk music. Each performance was recorded in one unbroken, unedited take, for reasons that tie back to the origins of commercial country music in America and recording technology itself.

 

But let’s start with that title.

 

“Basically it’s a love letter to my guitar, which I’ve played for so many years,” Easton says.

 

Let’s be clear. When it comes to hangin’ out with Little Jimmy Dickens, the coolest cat who ever donned a rhinestone Nudie suit, unless you are Brad Paisley, you’ve got nothing to compare to our own Keith Bilbrey. Bilbrey was with WSM and/or the Grand Ole Opry for 35 years, and while it would be impolite for him to say that his dear friend Little Jimmy was his favorite star, we know Keith well enough to suspect it’s true.

Glenn Sweitzer

 

Becky Buller is as recognizable for her songwriting as she is for her mane of curly red hair and retro chic, cat-eye glasses. And the bluegrass multi-instrumentalist, singer and band leader is measurably more recognized by the music community today than she was just a few short years ago.

As a side musician for a relatively low profile band, Buller’s name was best known as composer of songs recorded by others, including Rhonda Vincent and Doyle Lawson. She’d made only one album under her own name way back in 2004 and she didn’t seem inclined to do so again.

The Rootsy Path Through Tin Pan South

Apr 2, 2018

The Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival, which returns for its 26th year this week, is mostly a showcase of country radio hits and commercial writers aspiring toward that goal. But the sprawling and popular event has diversified in recent years. Roots, Americana and bluegrass fans will find some strong shows if they know where to look.

 

erinraemusic.com/

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Ann Powers)  --  Mention Erin Rae's name in Nashville indie music circles and you'll get a certain reaction: people's eyes light up, they sigh, and use words like "angelic" and "mesmerizing." Rae's gentle voice and subtle, deeply insightful songwriting have made her a standout among the city's folk and Americana artists for years.

 

 

It’s a good time to be - or to become - a fan of the late Doug Sahm, an artist some place among the very greatest and most overlooked pioneers of modern roots music. Two new live recordings will be released in April by New West Records, and an award winning documentary is available now on Amazon Prime.

 

 

 

 

With the announcement of his induction to the Country Music Hall of Fame on Tuesday, Ricky Skaggs has become one of a small handful of artists so recognized who’ve made historic marks on both country and bluegrass music.

 

 

If you’re a fan of bluegrass or acoustic folk music, you’ve seen them proliferate on stages in recent years. With their brass fittings, selectively exposed wires and retro design, they look like a steampunk accessory in an early radio radio station. They are the unique looking and sounding microphones from Ear Trumpet Labs.

Ear Trumpet mics are made by hand in Portland, OR, where they were invented by company owner Philip Graham, almost a decade ago.

Since launching in 2009, the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, TN has become world renowned for its boundary blurring showcases of experimental, avant garde and progressive art music. This year’s festival, which runs Thursday through Sunday, will add a new suite of events dedicated to the folk culture of its East Tennessee locale.

But this being Big Ears, it won’t be strictly your grandpa and grandma’s bluegrass and old time music.

Liz Brasher Video from WMOT Studio A

Mar 12, 2018

Liz Brasher stopped by the WMOT studios for an on-air session with host Jessie Scott and the WMOT Video Crew. Brasher, an NPR Slingshot artist, has a new EP, Outcast that will drop April 27, 2018. The first single from the EP "Body of Mine" is one of four she recorded for WMOT.

Brasher and her band head to SXSW in Austin, Texas where she will perform for WMOT at El Mercado, and on the NPR Stage at Stubbs.

Julian Lage, Standing Astride Jazz and Roots

Mar 11, 2018

The world of roots music has been made wider and deeper through the contributions of some key instrumentalists who’ve drawn heavily on jazz to create a new American acoustic music we might call string band fusion. Among them: Béla Fleck, Sam Bush and David Grisman. Those names all came up prominently in my recent conversation with guitarist Julian Lage.

WMOT's SXSW 2018 Lineup

Mar 11, 2018

  

WMOT's Jessie Scott and Val Hoeppner will be broadcasting live from SXSW in Austin, Texas March 13-17. Program director, Jessie Scott has booked 30 bands you will hear live on the radio or, you can drop in and see them in person at The Backstage at El Mercado, 1302 S. 1st Street in Austin. 

WMOT at SXSW 2018 will be live from Noon to 6 p.m. each day on 89.5 FM in the Nashville/Middle Tennessee area, on the WMOT Roots Radio app, Tune-In app, WMOT.org or if you have Alexa, just ask her to play WMOT.

WMOT at SXSW 2018 Lineup:

If you love WMOT and want to support our WMOT student internship program you can purchase tickets to a special fundraising event with Dierks Bentley and Billy Strings. 

The show is March 26 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the City Winery in Nashville. Tickets are $100 each and listeners can purchase up to four tickets.

Dierks will perform songs from his upcoming album The Mountain in an intimate setting in the City Winery Lounge, which seats 110 people.

Streaming has become a huge force in music, and as Brave New Worlds go, it’s pretty cool. Yet even with the convenience and staggering choice of Spotify, Pandora, etc., these services play a growing role in shaping our national musical diet and taste, and that’s a concern. Discovery of new artists (contemporary or historic), terrain once guided largely by DJs, record stores and press, is becoming the purview of computer algorithms. What does that mean for fans on their Americana/roots journey, and how can they get the most out of the streaming experience?

 

Last November, Concord Music, the world’s largest independent music company, announced that musician turned attorney John Strohm would be the new president of Rounder Records and its associated Sugar Hill Records. For roots music fans and artists, this is a big deal because each label has a distinguished and influential history.

 

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