Roots Radio News



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, 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.



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.