Big Love

You’d figure that having been married since the early 1990s and playing scores of dates each year, Ricky and Micol Davis have seen a lot of each other. But when they finished their high energy set at Music City Roots last night (getting the standing-est ovations of the night by the way), and they came over to the chat room, they scrunched up together and Ricky put his arm around Micol and it was so cute I had to describe this for the radio audience. I’d heard their duo/band Blue Mother Tupelo before and loved it in that Delbert McClinton roadhouse kind of way. But it was really special to connect with them as people and see first hand their dedication to the music and to each other.

So there was much love in the house, as the show returned for a new season on a perfect evening at the Loveless Barn. Jill Andrews was all aglow, both because she’s a new mom and a new solo act (her former band the everybodyfields has been adored for five years) and because her music just brims with warmth and beauty. Her voice reminded me of Sally Ellyson of Hem and another backstager of Mindy Smith. Her writing is really strong, and the tense, haunted harmonies of her final song “Sound of the Bells” were captivating. Pretty amazing for a young woman who only picked up the guitar and discovered roots music a few years ago.

And then from new mom love to Big Daddy Love, our Vietti emerging artist of the night. This five-piece from the Ashville area raised the energy level with big locomotive beats and aggressive but not abrasive vocals from Daniel Smith and edgy picking from the electric banjo of Brian Swenk. They were a hard act to follow, as they say, but Blue Mother Tupelo took the challenge. Their song “Tupelo” from their new album Heaven & Earth was a great split-part duet that really showcased Micol’s pipes. And the raving “Give It Away” with its huge groove on Ricky’s National bottleneck guitar was the major cause of the standing, whooping and hollering that highlighted their set.

It’s pretty clear that our final act Kingbilly has a lot of love for each other too, love of the brotherly kind, because they’ve been a band, and a darn good one, for six years, living always at the edge of a breakthrough or a deal, rolling with those punches only the music industry can deliver. I so hoped they were going to tell us their debut album was done and on sale at the merch table, but while it is done, it’s not found a home. Hello? Indie labels? These guys have a bass player with dreadlocks, a movie-star handsome lead singer and they play hundreds of hot, high-energy dates a year. “Damn This River” was driving. “Come Back As Her Beer” was funny and twangy. “Surrender” was anthemic. And they built to a ten minute super jam in which Josh Methenys’ lap steel went guitaro-a-guitaro with John Osborne’s Telecaster. They ripped it up.

Such was the night. We’re ready for about ten more like that before the coming of summer and we have to close the windows again. And speaking of loving musical couples, 18 South returns next week!

Craig H

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