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The Old Fashioned

About This Section
The Old Fashioned is a weekly bluegrass and old-time program, hosted by Craig Havighurst and Amy Alvey. As they say on the air, The Old Fashioned (yes, named for the world-famous cocktail) stirs up strong spirits with a bit of sugar, a dash of bitters and a twist of zest, telling the ongoing story of traditional music in Americana. With commentary and context to bring their listeners along for the journey, Craig and Amy spin old-time bands, traditional bluegrass, regional folk styles, acoustic blues, and gospel.

  • This week’s opening number takes us way back with one of the more innovative bands in bluegrass, because the Infamous Stringdusters have released the classic “Down The Road” from their upcoming album-length tribute to Flatt & Scruggs. Due April 21, the album follows up on the band’s Grammy-nominated tribute to Bill Monroe. Also new in Episode 53 is a hard rolling take on Uncle Dave Macon’s “Railroadin’ and Gamblin’” from their sophomore album expected this summer and a new track from alt-country hero Robbie Fulks who has announced a full bluegrass album on Compass Records on April 7. What a year for new releases! We’re super fond of The Fly Birds cover of Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe” and we’ve got a block of train songs inspired by Thomm Jutz and Tim Stafford.
  • Some major bluegrass veterans are making moves this year. Members of Punch Brothers, Watchhouse, Leftover Salmon and the Billy Strings band have come together for a one-off supergroup project called Mighty Poplar. We’ve got their first single this week (plus older music from the various members), and boy are you going to love this full album when it drops on March 31. And we start the music this week with the first single from Missy Raines in anticipation of the album Highlander coming in the fall. Known for years as the leader of The New Hip, playing progressive string music, now the band is named Allegheny with a hard core bluegrass mission. Watch for both bands at festivals all over the country this year. Also this week, Bill and the Belles, Chatham Rabbits and the Price Sisters.
  • Michael Cleveland is finally getting the mainstream media attention he’s long deserved, with an NBC News feature and a New York Times profile among other things. The hook is his new album Lovin’ Of The Game with its mix of songs and tunes and special guests, including Billy Strings, Bela Fleck, Vince Gill and the Travelin’ McCourys. With 12 IBMA Fiddle Player of the Year awards, he’s the most celebrated fiddler of his generation and a deeply intuitive and fluid musician who can step into wildly different settings. We offer a set of Michael’s music framed by new songs. Also, a fun Steve Earle cover by The Cleverlys, a sharp new single from Sister Sadie, and some pristine fiddling from Natalie Padilla. Historic tracks come from David Davis and the Stanley Brothers.
  • The story of Black American Music is more deeply woven into bluegrass and string band music than many people appreciate, but it’s something we’ve been catching up on in a big way in the last few years. So we wanted to mark Black History Month with an hour of blues, old-time, Creole, and contemporary folk from a range of artists old and new. More than usual, we proceed chronologically from the foundational jug band music of the Mississippi Sheiks and the legendary “Last Kind Word Blues” by Geeshie Wiley through more modern expressions of traditional music. The show landed in tandem with Mardis Gras, so we hear some zydeco from Boozoo Chavis. And in Dom Flemons, Amythyst Kiah, Tui, and Tray Wellington, we hear the best from today’s African American trad music world.
  • Episode #47 arrived soon after the 2023 Grammy Awards, so it became yet another great excuse to play music from Nashville’s Molly Tuttle after her remarkable Crooked Tree was named Best Bluegrass Album of the year. But that wasn’t the only music getting us through sloggy February. We discovered the new all-star band known as Wood Box Heroes, featuring Josh Martin, Matt Menefee, Seth Taylor, Jenee Fleenor and Barry Bales. They’re all respected figures from the bluegrass circuit, so we’re anticipating their first album together later this year. Also new this week, tracks from Carly Arrowood and Jason Barrie. And we throw it back with the immortal duo of David Grisman and Doc Watson, plus our latest historic obsession, Red Smiley and the Bluegrass Cutups.
  • We love the thrill of discovery here at Roots Radio. Sometimes it’s an exciting new artist on the scene, but we’re just as ready for epiphanies about artists from the past who eluded us through our lives. This week’s case in point is the Whitstein Brothers. The name rang a tiny bell with me but I had no idea what I was in for when Amy sent some links over to their albums on Rounder Records in the 1980s. Robert (guitar) and Charles (mandolin) were from Colfax, LA and did some early work with Porter Wagoner. They brought their Louvin Brothers sound to Rounder for a strong body of work including this week’s “Seven Years Blues.” Also on the show, a great cover as Volume Five releases “Walk Beside Me” by Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott, as well as a new single by the Kody Norris Show. Old-time music comes from Allison De Groot and Tatiana Hargreaves, The Horsenecks, and Adam Hurt.
  • We go live again this week from Dee’s with highlights from a fine set of music from Minneapolis string band Steam Machine, represented by its core duo Rina Rossi on guitar and AJ Srubas on fiddle. We thought they’d be playing as a two-piece, but being the resourceful musical souls they are, they signed up three able Nashville ringers on bass, mandolin and banjo and brought the house down. Their music is a self-proclaimed hybrid of bluegrass and old-time, and they truly left us craving more. Also this week, new music from Darren Nicholson, newly indie after more than 15 years with western NC stars Balsam Range. And we are excited to bring you more from the women making acoustic roots music so rich these days with tracks by Anya Hinkle, Maddie Denton and Libby Weitenauer.
  • The last time Gary Nichols cut a studio album was in 2014 when he recorded a Grammy Award-winning project with The Steeldrivers in his native area of Muscle Shoals, AL. But he quietly stepped away from that fantastic group in 2017 without much explanation. Now he’s gone public to say he was confronting substance abuse issues and that he’s back with a clear vision for what’s next. So it’s gratifying to spin his first single for RBR Entertainment “Fire In The Dark” by Billy Droze, Eddie Wilson, and Chris Myers. Also this week, a new single for Chris Jones, who’s on a hot streak of #1 songs at bluegrass radio and one from Jaelee Roberts’s superb 2022 debut album. We throw back with Claire Lynch, the Wildwood Valley Boys and Charles Sawtelle.
  • Cory Walker is a widely traveled and appreciated banjo player, who I’ve been seeing a lot lately playing with East Nash Grass at Dee’s, our clubhouse in Madison TN. Of course his resume is much longer than that, including tours and sessions with Ricky Skaggs, Sierra Hull, Jim Lauderdale, Mountain Heart, and more. We open this week’s show with a new single from Cory, because he’s been taken in by Mountain Fever Records and there’s an album in the works. “Far Away Again” was written by Cory’s brother Jarrod with Christian Ward and sung by Tim O’Brien. Bodes well for the future. Also this hour, which I’m hosting alone while Amy traveled in Mexico, includes a new one from Tina Adair, a delicious recent track from AJ Lee & Blue Summit and classics from Bill Monroe and Norman Blake.
  • We’ve spun the Chattanooga Dogs before but this week we couldn’t decide between one of their fiery banjo/fiddle instrumentals and one of their irresistible honky tonk songs. So we played both. The band is anchored by guitarist Conner Vlietstra and banjo player Trevor Holder, and they are young fellows who sound like they stepped through a wormhole from the East Tennessee music scene of 1940. We heard them live in Nashville as they took part in a celebration of Ed Haley’s fiddle music recently and were struck again by their keening tone and their swing. Old-time acoustic country has no better friends right now. Also new music from rising stars Seth Mulder and Midnight Run, Nashville’s eclectic Charlie Treat, and the new star duo of Thomm Jutz and Tim Stafford.