Americana, Of Thee We Sing

Changes of season stir the blood and inspire. And all the more for nerds like me, because this is the season of musical gatherings, confabs, summits and camaraderie. Last week, the International Bluegrass Music Association held its World of Bluegrass, and Music City Roots was there, taking in the tunes and webcasting eclectic jams from our 20th floor suite. This week, I attended the Future of Music Coalition Policy Summit in Washington DC, where I got to tell the Music City Roots story to an audience of music industry progressives as part of a panel on local music scenes and the power of community. And next week, the Americana Music Association launches its 12th annual conference and music festival. And for the second year, we’re part of it. The Loveless Cafe Barn is an official AMA showcase venue on Wednesday night, and boy do we have a sweet lineup to kick off the four day blowout.

We’ll open the proceedings with a set from Americana star Grayson Capps. He’s been so interesting to follow over the past decade because he’s let himself evolve and followed his muse boldly. He’s remarkably consistent in his quality without being a predictable artist on record or on stage. The bedrock is soulful southern songwriting with equal appreciation for the electric juke-joint sound and acoustic country blues. He was disrupted and dislocated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but it only became food for more complex creativity. His new project, Grayson Capps & The Lost Cause Minstrels, is earning raves. So I know he’ll get us off to a roaring start.

Up next, the fast-rising Milk Carton Kids, a duo of Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan. Their debut project Prologue reminded me strongly of Simon & Garfunkel, but their friend the great artist Joe Henry put it more elegantly than I could in his official band bio: “I listen and, try as I might, forget to hear them as distinct collaborators in song and story. Instead, they move to become a single, shadowy persona – like young twins cast to tag-team one demanding role in a terse-but-tender film by Elia Kazan, haunted and hounded across a lonely landscape in search of the love that might provide their collective character a fleeting taste of both redemption and self-recognition.” Uh, wow. This should be good.

We’ll then hear two fresh updates of string band music, first from the urbane and moody Elephant Revival, then from the uproarious and intense Wilders. Elephant Revival is from Colorado, and their easy-going vibe combined with musical chops and intelligence fits right in with that state’s long progressive bluegrass/folk scene. I’ve had their new Break in the Clouds CD on a good bit over here and it casts a lovely spell. Meanwhile The Wilders will blow the roof off the place; their 15 year career has been built on their energy and intensity. The songs are top drawer too, so if you haven’t seen these Kansas City vets before, this is a great chance.

Wrapping the night will be a hotly anticipated set with Scott Miller and Mic Harrison of the beloved V-Roys, the legendary, erstwhile band from Knoxville, TN. A quick survey of the inter-webs suggest that A) The V-Roys have just released a compilation album called Sooner or Later that’s making folks happy with its released and unreleased material, B) Scott and Mic are collaborating often these days and C) the V-Roys are doing a reunion, New Year’s Eve show at Knoxville’s Bijou Theater that’s already sold out. It’s good to be country rock gods is it not? We’re not sure what to expect, except for wit, rock, twang, intelligence, fun and inspiration to toss back maybe one more Old Smoky Moonshine.

One more note about the show. Since this is the opening night of Season Number Nine for Music City Roots: Live From The Loveless Café, it means it’s our second birthday! We’ll try not to be a Terrible Two, but we might be a little obnoxious cheering our anniversary and our beloved association with WRLT, our awesome sponsors, the Loveless and our musical host Jim “Now That’s Americana” Lauderdale. Please continue to spread the word about our show and community. We’re all about elevating the music and the musicians, and all your help and good cheer could not mean more to us.

Craig H.

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