A Tall Tale

Our pal Peter Cooper – Tennessean music columnist, songwriter and frequent guest host of Roots – has added a lot to our musical life and knowledge over the years. But even before he landed the job that would bring him to Music City, he expanded my brain about American music with his too-little-known 1997 book Hub City Music Makers. It’s a survey of the surprising musical legacy of his home town, Spartanburg, SC. Before getting Cooper’s version of things, I had no idea that Spartanburg had birthed Walter Hyatt, the Marshall Tucker Band, Hank Garland and Marshall Chapman. And there are many more. But it’s Marshall Chapman who concerns us this week.

“James Chapman was not intending to foster an inclination towards unbridled willfulness when he presented his fourteen-year-old daughter with a Martin D-28 guitar,” Cooper wrote. But “within the instrument lay the rebellion, self-destruction and eventual redemption that would mark the daughter’s life as a rock and roller.”

Yes, Marshall Chapman has had a rock and roll life since those days as a Deep South debutante. From the time her family’s cook took her to see Elvis in 1956 from the colored balcony at the Carolina Theater, Marshall has chased a dream with grit and great humor. And while she never became Bonnie Raitt scale big to the public at large, she’s become an icon to her musical peers in myriad ways — as a songwriter, performer, author, actor and raconteur. She’s a tall lady who casts a long shadow, you might say. Most Music City veterans you meet think Marshall hung the moon, and she’s definitely hung with the stars. A photo in Cooper’s book shows Andy Warhol with a “who the hell IS this woman?” look on his face while glancing sidelong at an animated Chapman.

The most recent landmark for the artist and one plausible reason for the timing of her visit to Roots (besides it always being a good time for Marshall Chapman) is her thirteenth album Blaze of Glory, released at the end of May. It’s a glorious, spacious and extremely authentic recording that defines the roots/Americana ideal. It opens with a duet with Todd Snider sung to a Bo Diddley beat. She sings jazz classic “The Nearness of You” with wisdom and a country lilt. Scotty Moore, the guitar player on stage that night with Elvis, calls Blaze of Glory a “work of art,” especially praising the easy, honest mix and the skill of the band, which includes MCR alum Will Kimbrough. It will indeed be great to welcome Marshall back to the Roots stage.

And that’s just one of five superb artists we’ve got in store for you in our season-closing extravaganza. I’m particularly stoked about the Roots debut performance of a young banjo-wielding singer/songwriter who goes by the moniker Old Man Luedecke. Hailing from Chester, Nova Scotia, he’s a Juno Award winner in Canada. And his accessible but authentic folk music has the same eclectic appeal that’s distinguished your Doc Watsons and Tim O’Briens. In fact O’Brien has championed Luedecke and worked with him as producer on the wonderful new album Tender Is The Night.

Also from other lands, we’re going to welcome back the G2 Bluegrass Band, Sweden’s excellent and determined band of second generation ‘grassers (hence their name). Then we’ll experience new music from a new duo made of Cia Cherryholmes (you remember her world-shocking family bluegrass band no doubt) and her partner Stetson Adkisson. They’re called Songs Of The Fall, and with Cia’s track record of musicianship this should be fascinating. Finally, get your wows ready for The Amigos Band, a band whose members “revel in genre-crossing, messy history of American music.” And they have archtop guitars and accordions. So there.

You couldn’t ask for more. And remember we stream this all out to the world live thanks to our camera crew and our expert director Jim Yockey. So dang it, tell your friends. Assemble a viewing party. Chime in on the chat. And get involved. This music isn’t going to listen to itself.

Craig H.

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