Roots Radio News


This Path Tonight, the most recent album from two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Graham Nash, had ten songs focused on changing seasons in his life and a new relationship. A deluxe edition of that album though included three bonus tracks, including some of the pointed social commentary for which Nash became so famous.

“Many a good soul lost their life and we were just three of them

Arm in arm we stood our ground for something to believe in.”

The 30th annual Folk Alliance International conference recently wrapped in Kansas City. It’s a confab like no other, with countless showcase performances large and small, with a deep ethos of human connection and artistic freedom. And it’s the subject of this week’s multi-artist edition of The String. Of the interviews I did on site, these emerged as the best cross section of this unique and intense event. Listen to the full show here.




Roots musicians Keiran Kane and Rayna Gellert visited MTSU and WMOT’s Wired In sessions to play songs from their new album The Ledges, a spare duo recording made by themselves last summer in a cabin in upstate New York.

In the new feature film American Folk, the character Joni (played by Amber Rubarth), on an unplanned cross-country road trip in the days after 9/11, makes a pact with her traveling companion and fellow musician Elliott (Joe Purdy), to “bring back the folk.” She shouts it out the window to a passing America - a cry for communication, unity and empathy invigorated through music.

Sierra Hull's Bluegrass Odyssey on The String

Feb 14, 2018
Jacqueline Justice

Sierra Hull resolved that bluegrass music would be her life’s work when she wasn’t even ten years old. Growing up in tiny Byrdstown, TN, the music was all around her, not at concert venues but in jams at the local cafe and at homes, including her own and her uncle’s next door. The precocious young talent was signed to Rounder Records and released her debut album at 16 years old. Less than ten years later, she was named the first female IBMA Mandolin Player of the Year, an honor she’s won twice in a row.





Chris and Oliver Wood built their singular sibling duo patiently, transitioning over several years from divergent and distant musical careers. Since moving from separate cities to Nashville and adding drummer Jano Rix about five years ago however, The Wood Brothers have enjoyed accelerating success.

Country music and national politics have overlapped awkwardly and combustibly for decades, and in the life of Kurt Bardella the juxtaposition is a daily matter. Bardella is a DC-based political operative, pundit and writer. Most of his career was as a conservative Republican. He worked for Rep. Darrell Issa of California and then for the profoundly controversial Breitbart News. Then, after the Trumpian revolution in the GOP and sparked by the party not separating itself from accused pedophile Alabama Senate Candidate Roy Moore, he changed parties and became a Democrat.


After years of inertia and frustration over low royalty rates and out-of-date rules in the streaming era, songwriters are finally hearing promising news out of Washington DC.

Unlike just about anything else on Capitol Hill, the Music Modernization Act has deep support from both parties and virtually all of the stakeholders in digital music, from songwriters and publishers to tech giants. It was introduced in the House in December and in the Senate last month by a bipartisan group, including Tennessee’s Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker.

John Oates In High Cotton On New 'Arkansas'

Feb 2, 2018


John Oates coming home to his teenage folk and roots influences is one of Nashville’s most interesting and emblematic stories of the past decade. Initially, it was hard for some to believe that the voice and pen behind 1980s radio staples “Maneater” and “Rich Girl” would find a style that would fit comfortably into an Americana field defined by the likes of Rodney Crowell and Jason Isbell.


Histories of American music and musicians, in their attention to sounds, influences and personal stories, often overlook the corporeal side of the story - the physical bodies and erotic souls moved by rhythm and pursuing sex lives influenced by the power of music. That’s very much the terrain however of Ann Powers’ late 2017 book Good Booty: Love and Sex, Black and White, Body and Soul in American Music.

Getty Images for NARAS

The 60th Grammy Awards leaned on Nashville for solemnity and substance on Sunday night, with prominent Music City country and roots artists anchoring the night’s in memoriam moments.

Jim Chapin Photography


Texas songwriter and roots rocker Alejandro Escovedo, an Americana Lifetime Achievement Award winner, arrives in Nashville this week with the dual mission of spreading cancer awareness and reviving a landmark album.

Songs of Consequence is a new Spotify playlist conceived and curated by Melody Walker, lead singer of the California-launched, Nashville-based progressive string band Front Country.



You hear the expression all the time: a “highly anticipated album.” But in the case of Mary Gauthier’s Rifles and Rosary Beads, there’s documentary evidence that the label applies.

Advance coverage by NPR, the Los Angeles Times, American Songwriter and many other outlets - not to mention the emotional subject matter of the concept album - suggests that when these story songs are released this Friday, Gauthier’s worldwide audience, and then some, will be paying close attention.

WMOT’s Wednesday night tent pole show Music City Roots breaks camp and routine this week, broadcasting on Saturday night from the City Winery Nashville. It’s the first time in its eight year history that MCR has been staged in downtown Nashville, launching a half year of Roots On The Road shows at a variety of venues, before moving mid-year into a new home at 6th Ave. South and Peabody St. adjacent to the Music City Center.


The grass roots music renaissance of Muscle Shoals Alabama brings a package show to Nashville this weekend as Single Lock Records presents two nights of bands and songwriters in two different venues.

To paraphrase Marty Stuart, Americana music is more about the art and the heart than the charts. That said, the Americana Music Association radio airplay chart has been an important part of the industry for 23 years. And this week, that chart gets its most significant overhaul in that time.

First, says AMA executive director Jed Hilly, is automating the way the roughly 80 panel stations report the songs they play.


“We’re moving from a manually input chart to a monitored chart.”



Old-school bluegrass super-group the Earls of Leicester will record its third album live at the CMA Theater in the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum over two nights, February 24 and 25.

In its short life, the band has earned a Grammy Award and been named Entertainers of the Year three consecutive times by the International Bluegrass Music Association. The new disc will follow on a self-titled 2014 release and 2016’s Rattle & Roar.

Photo by Jim Pankey

Editor’s Note: Chattanooga businessman, fiddler and music philanthropist Fletcher Bright died on Christmas day at the age of 86. (Full obituary here) He was a founder and funder of the free 3 Sisters Bluegrass Music Festival, which held its 11th edition last October. Bright was also a founding member of The Dismembered Tennesseans, a band that’s lasted across seven decades.

Magnolia Pictures

Rick Hall, who died on Monday at age 85 after battling prostate cancer, is being remembered as a stubborn visionary who could be as nurturing as he was exasperating. Yet all agree that he built one of America’s most successful and exceptional music production operations in a place where it shouldn’t have been possible, Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

Sometimes there’s a trade-off between quality and quantity. But sometimes there’s more than enough of both. Such was 2017 in roots and Americana music. Some icons and stars of the format released new music, and the waves of impressive newcomers with debut or sophomore projects never stopped coming.


Reviving Nashville's Jefferson Street R&B Scene in Museums Small and Large

Dec 18, 2017

It took about a decade of concerted story telling, media strategy, tourism success and breakout artists to correct the dominant narrative about Nashville that it was, first and last, a country music town, rather than a fully rounded Music City. One thread of the effort was the story of R&B music in Nashville.

Here’s a possible scene from the near future.

You think that renegade folk singer Robbie Fulks is tremendous, and you’d like to know about other artists on his label, Bloodshot Records. You visit and before the page loads, a splash screen appears. It’s an advertisement for the couch you lingered in front of last weekend at a local store.


WNCW is one of the most influential and important radio stations in traditional American music, a progressive roots station that’s been broadcasting from Isothermal Community College in Spindale, NC (just east of Asheville) since 1986. It reflects and shapes the culture of its region, one of the nation’s hubs for folk and bluegrass music. If you love roots music, it's as essential a part of driving around the Great Smoky Mountains as WWOZ is to hanging out in New Orleans.



The Secret Sisters Grammy Nod

Dec 4, 2017

Watch The Secret Sisters perform "He's Fine" and "Tennessee River Runs Low" at WMOT's Birthday Bash during AMERICANAFEST 2017. The Secret Sisters, Laura and Lydia Rogers, were nominated the Best Folk Album Grammy last week. The album was produced by Brandi Carlile and recorded at her Bear Creek Studio in Seattle.