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Little known fact here, but Wednesday June 21 is Make Music Day. Of course we like to think of every day that way, but this event, launched in France 35 years ago and bolstered now in the US by the folks behind the NAMM instrument trade shows, is a global celebration that invites everyone who can and is inclined to perform in public. The official language captures it: “Every kind of musician — young and old, amateur and professional, of every musical persuasion — pours onto streets, parks, plazas, and porches to share their music with friends, neighbors, and strangers.” Naturally, Nashville gets in on the action in a big way, thanks to the organizing efforts of Matt Fox and Alan Fey. Find...

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One’s affection for music shifts over the years I think from a rapturous, new-romance phase as a young person to a kind of gratitude and spiritual solace in the second half of life. Now, I only turned 51 on this week’s Flag Day show day so hey, maybe I’m not halfway home yet, but I respect probabilities so, you know… For years I’ve mostly regarded my birthday as a sobering semi-event; I can think of several times each year I’m more inclined to happy dancing. But a lot of nice love and friendship does flow one’s way in the social media era, and one needs to be mindful of blessings at times like this, and I have many. That said, music is my anchor and my scripture, and while every week at Roots is a joy, this week’s hearty blues and passionate songwriting felt especially cathartic.

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I had hoped to be writing prose in praise of Rockabilly Queen Wanda Jackson at this point, but as we all know, some things are more important than music. So I begin this week by sending our team’s thoughts and prayers out to the rock and roll matriarch instead. Wendell Goodman, Jackson’s husband since 1961 and long time right hand man road manager, passed away unexpectedly in late May, just hours after she’d played gigs in Nashville and Birmingham. She’s thus in the midst of one of life’s most difficult trials and adjustments. We wish Wanda and her family well.

That said, we’ve got another senior roots music star on our lineup, along with a celebrated Rounder Records songwriter and a couple of acts that stepped up to the call when we needed to make some late breaking...

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Nashville is en fuego. The city’s filling up for the CMA Music Festival. The airport and highways are busily channeling music freaks out to Manchester for Bonnaroo. And everybody is flipping out about the Nashville Predators who will play for the Stanley Cup on Sunday night at home on Lower Broadway. It’s bigger, wilder, louder and richer than I ever imagined the city would be when I moved here twenty years ago. And it’s amazing. There’s just a glow and a wonder for most people, and if you want to avoid the whooping bridal parties on pedal taverns, there are plenty of places to hang out with good folks and good music that have nothing to do with that noise. Such as Music City Roots. On this week’s show, quite a few people found their way to the Factory for a bracing night of mostly...

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I recently got to work up a story for WMOT about songwriter Jon Byrd’s final shows at Charlie Bob’s, a Dickerson Pike diner in Nashville that’s being torn down, and my emphasis was on the special beauty of country music at “human scale,” when the singer is just a few feet from the audience and there’s a palpable connection that elevates the emotion and the stories. Country music is a chemical fusion of that ethos with sounds and genre signifiers that bond us with each other and with the past. The blue notes and the sonorous and plaintive voice, the twang and yearning of steel guitars are all signals to the heart and mind that all is well, that you’re in familiar territory, if not home. This week’s Roots looks stellar all...

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We love a crowd that hoots and hollers and we had a live one this week at the Factory. Part of the energy came from locals out to cheer their hometown bar band heroes the Natchez Tracers. And more came from overseas groups, one from Nashville’s sister city in Germany and one especially cheerful gang from Australia. That suits us perfectly. Pick locally and dream globally is our motto. Well, it’s not actually but it sounds good. Not only did the night have a particular chemistry, matching a solo fingerpicker with three very different bands, it featured a tent revival miracle wherein Jeff Austin found his lost voice.

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Back when I worked at The Tennessean with Peter Cooper (who hosts this week’s show by the way), I learned that he and I had diverging views on the whole jam band thing. Once he asked me about Phish: “does the good lyric fairy ever visit them?” As if I was prepared to or would ever argue that “Fluffhead” is in the same literary category as “Sunday Morning Coming Down.” Well no, it’s not and I wouldn’t. We just generally and temperamentally tap in to different aspects of music. He’s a song guy (as proven by the many excellent examples he’s written) and I’m a sound guy, wired for rhythm, dynamics, counterpoint, dissonance and other musical delights well before I think about the cerebral magic of a great story or message. Americana in general is more song-oriented and ambivalent about the...

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There have been multiple accounts of what Mipso means, including a Japanese phrase that suggests something familiar but with a hint of strangeness. That sure fits with not only their music but much of the progressive roots we seek out. And it could cover well the insightful music of this week’s MCR, which kicked off with the stellar North Carolina band bearing that weird name and cruised through country, Memphis blues and a classic Nashville songwriting duo.

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Wednesday night’s gathering of the Roots clan will be an opportunity to reflect on the life and legacy of Cowboy Jack Clement, the kindly and eccentric genius songwriter and producer who passed away in 2013. One of our guests, the songwriting entrepreneur Matt Urmy, was a great friend and protégé of Jack and arrives with an album Jack produced before his studio burned up in a bad fire. For a while, we explored the idea of a night formally paying tribute to Cowboy Jack but the right mix didn’t come together. That said, looking at this week’s lineup, with its variety and individuality, I feel sure Cowboy would have loved this week’s show. And I’m sure you will too.

The full story of Urmy’s new Out Of The Ashes album is quite something, the stuff of song....

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One way to spend an ideal night is to hop around to four music venues seeing one great band at each place, but really how often does that work out? Better to get one Music City Roots ticket and have four great bands parade by you, ending up with the grand marshal himself, a showman who leaves it all in the street. Wednesday 5.17 certainly kept the attention of one and all, as the route wended from Colorado newgrass to romantic folk to country rock and whatever it is David Mayfield does.

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As far as I know there’s only one figure in the contemporary roots music community who can pick “Blackberry Blossom” like a boss and also do a tumbling run that ends in a cheerleader split (not at the same time, but I wouldn’t put it past him). If David Mayfield came into your mind just now then you get an Americana cookie, because that’s who I was thinking about! It’s been too long since we saw and heard from the bearded weirdo, but he brings his always explosive sense of entertainment to the Factory this week along with a great roots rock band, a mod folky couple and a quintet from Colorado that split the bluegrass atom. Let’s take them in order of appearance.

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We know a classic when we see one, hear one, feel one. Forgive me for sounding like a Cadillac ad voice over or something, but seriously, sometimes there’s just an ineffable sense that something beautiful and meaningful is unfolding. And while we can’t pull that off every single week, we try to put the pieces in place for a chemical reaction. And this week it happened. There was combustion and satisfaction. We ranged across the country and across roots music terrain with acoustic grand master Tony Furtado from Portland, OR, Texas-raised songwriter Curtis McMurtry, Colorado polyethnic joyride Gipsy Moon and veteran John Jorgenson’s remarkable bluegrass band.


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