A Tale Of Two Music Cities

MUSIC CITY ROOTS HAS BEEN INVITED TO STAGE ITS SHOW AT THE TAMWORTH COUNTRY MUSIC FESTIVAL IN TAMWORTH, AUSTRALIA. IT’S THE BIGGEST ROOTS MUSIC EVENT IN THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE AND WE’RE GOING TO BE THERE ON THE NIGHT OF THURSDAY, JAN. 24 AT THE TAMWORTH TOWN HALL. HERE’S THE NOTE THAT WILL APPEAR IN OUR PROGRAM THAT NIGHT.

If all goes according to an unfolding plan, by the end of 2013, Tamworth and Nashville will officially be Sister Cities. Makes sense to us. We’re both small but proud river cities in very big countries. And we both love and nurture music. So hello, sisters (and brothers) of Tamworth! The entire cast and crew of Music City Roots is as excited and proud as we can be to take our show on the road. We’ve never staged Roots outside of our home venue The Loveless Cafe Barn, but here we are, 9,100 miles away from home. And we’re very pleased to be with you.

I know first-hand from researching how we became Music City USA that tuneful, rhythmic places like Nashville and Tamworth don’t just happen by accident. It takes effort and passion and attention over time. As I understand it, Tamworth’s journey includes the “Hoedown” radio show of the late 60s over 2TM, the birth of the Australian Country Music Awards (exactly forty years ago in this very auditorium!) and of course the festival that’s going on now, as it has since 1972. So from one music city to another, congratulations. Yours is truly a global destination for lovers of music that’s honest and plainspoken. Which explains in part why we find ourselves here.

Music City Roots traces its history to 2009 when a couple of guys with a love of music and a background in radio advertising decided Nashville needed a multi-media stage for roots music and what we call Americana, so that the world could get to know the breadth and depth of the talent living in and traveling through modern-day Music City. We launched in October of that year, and in our weekly broadcasts – live over radio and the web and in syndication – we’ve tried to cast an equally bright spotlight on country, bluegrass, folk, roots rock and any other sub-genre that has its roots in songwriting and honest performance. We’ve featured Marty Stuart, Connie Smith, Ricky Skaggs, Doyle Lawson and Gene Watson, as well as contemporary acts like Apache Relay, Pokey LaFarge and Della Mae. Our values include integrity and variety; our goal is community.

The show we share with you on this fine summer evening includes performances by artists from our side of the world and yours, which is how it should be. We’re most excited to be hearing from Felicity Urquhart, because we know first-hand how good she is. Felicity, who probably needs no introduction to Australian country fans, played Roots at the Loveless Barn last October on the same trip that saw her perform to numerous audiences at the Americana Music Association Conference and Festival. She grabbed us with her strong sense of melody and polished pearl of a voice. She is indeed a charismatic champion of Aussie country music.

We’ll match you blond chanteuse with blond chanteuse in the person of Elizabeth Cook. Raised in rural Florida in the deepest deep South, she was heading after college toward the kind of career in finance of which moms and dads tend to approve. Except then her songwriting and singing talents were discovered, and her dad’s an ex moonshine runner anyway, so it just worked out that she got a Nashville publishing deal and wound up repeatedly playing the Grand Ole Opry. In the decade since the Opry took her under its wing, Elizabeth has been the female voice of authentic country in a country that doesn’t play country on its country music stations. If you follow me. But she tours widely and she’s a favorite of our late night TV star host David Letterman who keeps having her back. She’s also as bright a talker as she is a singer so our interview should be a hoot.

There’s lots of lady power on the show, including another Aussie star. Kirsty Akers ran the table of country recognition, winning the songwriting leg of Telstra Road To Discovery talent search at 17, a Toyota Starmaker prize a year later and the 2008 Golden Guitar for Best New Talent. Crikey, as y’all might say. That’s impressive. We can’t wait to hear this young artist.

And on our own emerging artist frontier, we’re traveling to Australia with David Jacobs-Strain, a guy with three names and seemingly a few extra fingers as well, given his virtuosity on the acoustic guitar. His steel-string attack will remind you of Leo Kottke or John Fahey, and his superb songwriting and vocals are drawn from years of deep attention to the American rural blues tradition. He can do a mind-bending cover of Robert Johnson’s “Come On In My Kitchen” and then equal it with one of his smart, churning originals. I feel like DJS is a young male counterpart to the great Rory Block, perhaps not quite so loyal to the old school, but similar in his lusty attack. He’s a denizen of Portland, OR, our lovely artsy, beer-loving city of the West Coast. And yet he’s got Deep South in his veins.

Last but not least of course, we at Roots are so fortunate to enjoy the weekly hosting and musical skills of the great Jim Lauderdale. This North Carolina native fell for bluegrass music early on and it was a surprise to him when his songs began to find home on country radio with the likes of George Strait. But even as others interpreted his songs, Jim’s versions set the gold standard. He’s made an amazing run of albums – at least one per year – since the early 90s and he’s not slowing a bit. New projects include another stellar bluegrass album (Carolina Moonrise), a long-awaited duo album with Americana co-star Buddy Miller (Buddy & Jim) and an upcoming release with the North Mississippi All-Stars. He’s our anchor and our guiding star, and he’ll do a full set for you all tonight.

The show will go off almost exactly as it does during our weekly Wednesday night broadcasts, except that instead of our usual emcee Keith Bilbrey, we’ve brought along multi-talented Peter Cooper. This journalist and songwriter has been part of our show for years, playing every position in the hosting infield. Tonight he’ll call our event to order and he’ll play you a song as well. So enjoy! Come say hello. We’re very excited to be here and join in your massive celebration of country music, Australian style.

Craig H.

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