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The String

The String

The String - conversations about culture, media and American music with WMOT host, Craig Havighurst.               

Tune in on Mondays at 8 pm and Sundays at 7 am.

  • Lola Kirke got on America’s cultural radar as an actress - starring in the Amazon series Mozart in the Jungle, along with roles in Gone Girl and Mistress America alongside Greta Gerwig. But during those years, she was also quietly nurturing her passion for songwriting and music - specifically country music. The pandemic brought her to Nashville where her album Lady for Sale was released by Third Man Records to great acclaim. Now she’s about to release the new EP Country Curious and make her debut on the Grand Ole Opry. She’s a bold, dynamic personality and this was a really fun conversation that bridges New York, Nashville and Hollywood.
  • In just five years, including the pandemic shut-down, Nashville native Gabe Lee has grown from an unknown “hometown kid,” as one of his titles proclaims, to a debut last year on the Grand Ole Opry. Working independently with boutique Torrez Music Group, Lee has released four albums, earning the admiration of critics and a grassroots fan base that’s adding up to something special and sustainable. The most recent opus is Drink The River, which Lee took in a more acoustic and nuanced direction than his prior release, and which might be emerging as his career record.
  • In an episode that revisits the netherworld between Americana and jazz, I speak with two extraordinary female drummer/composers who are at the peak of their creative powers. My featured guest is Allison Miller, a renowned New York artist who's led her own band Boom Tic Boom and joined in with the supergroup Artemis. For her newest album Rivers In Our Veins, she studied rivers and their ecosystems to inspire a 12-song cycle for jazz ensemble and tap dancers. It's utterly original and enthralling. Also with water on her mind is Sofia Goodman, a Nashville-based jazz leader whose growing by leaps and bounds as she explores contemporary sounds without limits. Secrets of the Shore uses aquatic sounds as a starting point, but it's the serene and complex harmonies she writes for her brass and wind instruments that really makes this collection sparkle.
  • When Ben Wright, then 28 years old, saw a banjo for sale in the window at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music, he had no idea how far it would take him. Not just to gigs at the country’s best bluegrass festivals but to an improbable life of sharing American music with audiences young and old in more than 25 countries. Not only does Ben’s band, the Henhouse Prowlers, have a new record deal and a fine new album, the quartet has a track record of sharing bluegrass and good vibes with more non-Americans than probably any other band. And they’ve created a non-profit called Bluegrass Ambassadors to extend that mission into the future.
  • Lindsay Lou grew up surrounded by community folk music in Michigan, and when she connected with a scene and a band in East Lansing where she completed college, she set her plans for a career in medicine aside to hit the road and connect with her original dreams. But it’s pretty clear from her ravishing voice that she was born to sing, and she made quite an impression, especially in western newgrass circles, as the leader and songwriter of Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys. Living in Nashville since 2015 though, change was inevitable, and she processes some big life shifts and stylistic evolution on her new album Queen of Time. It’s the most ambitious and enthralling release of her career, and there’s a lot to talk about.
  • One might imagine that after 17 years singing country music and releasing ten albums, an artist would have shared all of her secrets with her audience, but Eilen Jewell says only in the aftermath of 2020 and a bunch of disruptive change and loss well beyond the reach of the pandemic, that she was ready to get real in ways she never had before. "It's the most personal album I've ever made,” she says in Episode 284 of The String about her album Get Behind The Wheel.
  • There’s a lot of man between Robert Finley’s cowboy boots and the crown of his signature black cowboy hat almost seven feet above. When he gets in full swing on stage, his long legs and arms are in constant motion, gyrating amid a parade of greasy funk beats. He’s an absolutely magnetic figure, with a toothy smile and bright eyes despite the glaucoma blindness that ended one chapter of his life but in a way opened up a new one. He’s that rare delight - a great American roots musician - and a person living with a disability - who grabbed the world’s attention in his 60s.
  • Episode 262 of The String is Craig's annual survey of emerging talent showcasing at AmericanaFest 2023, which took place between Sept. 19-23. They’re (mostly) working out of markets other than Nashville. They span honky tonk to exotic southern pop to innovative old-time music. And while no three-artist sampler can truly convey the range of creativity in American roots music, these artists ought to make you feel good about Americana’s future.
  • She’s the hit Nashville songwriter who never moved to Nashville, staying instead in her hometown near Boston. She’s the power mom who wrote timeless country award winners like “Girl Crush” and “Humble and Kind” while raising five kids. Now she reflects on her own story more than ever before on her new album 1988. It’s the fourth in a row she’s made with producer Dave Cobb and a testament to the fact that while McKenna’s won three Grammy Awards, she’s the same humble and kind woman who got dragged to her first open mic back in the early 1990s.
  • Darrell Scott emerged in the late 1990s as one of Nashville’s most complete folk/roots artists. He had the butter of James Taylor and the grease of Lowell George in his voice. He could pick numerous instruments like a practiced master. And his songs were stunning from the get go, including his widely-recorded “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” and his crowd favorite “Great Day To Be Alive” on his debut project. Now, Scott lives mostly on a farm two hours from Nashville tending the land and playing 60-80 dates a year. Recently he issued Old Cane Back Rocker, his first studio album since 2016 and his most bluegrass leaning project ever. I road tripped to Darrell’s farm to record this week’s atmospheric conversation.