We music scribes are writing about Dave Cobb a lot these days, but for good reason. The Geogia-raised musician moved from LA to Nashville in 2011 and quickly became the most admired and successful record producer in the city, steering projects that did brisk sales and topped the critics’ charts as well. MCR Alums who’ve been produced by Cobb include Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton, Honeyhoney, Christian Lopez, Lindi Ortega, Anderson East and Jamey Johnson. He’s old school in his approach, but helps today’s best artists achieve contemporary timelessness.
I bring Cobb up because this week’s MCR includes a sensational singer who arrives with a new lease on life and a new comeback album produced by the bearded guru. Bonnie Bishop holds nothing back in speaking (in her bio) about how transformative her connection (enabled by Thirty Tigers boss and music maven David Macias) to Cobb was. “It’s the record I always wanted to make and didn’t know how. And Dave did,” she says. “Without having ever seen me live, just hearing three acoustic demos, he pulled it out of me when I thought I was dead. It was such an incredible thing.”
How Bishop, a commanding singer and glowing personality who blew us away at Roots in the winter of 2013, could say that is a long story that we’ll get a glimpse of on Wednesday. Her bio says, “Bishop had thrown in the towel on her country-leaning career, too frustrated, beat-up and broke to go on after 13 years, five albums and one failed marriage. . . .After spending 200 nights a year on the road — loading her own gear, running her own sound and sleeping in her van — and still not earning enough to afford Christmas presents for her family, Bishop knew she’d hit a dead end.”
I’d recommend reading the whole thing because it’s candid and dramatic and cathartic, the story of an artist truly taking stock of herself and mustering courage to shift direction and take the next step. The album she made with Cobb, due out May 27, is Ain’t Who I Was, and she says the title is 100 percent truth. The project surges with emotion and Hammond organ. It’s intimate and raw like a folkier version of Dusty in Memphis. Find out why her biggest fans include Delbert McClinton and Bonnie Raitt (who’s recorded her music) and why we swooned over Bonnie.
Also on another one of our super eclectic Spring season bills is the return of cellist and sonic chemist Dave Eggar. One of the most flexible and rangy musicians I’ve ever met, Dave plays commanding classical and hard rock, often mashing the two up with a childlike enthusiasm. He also likes to assemble a mini spectacle (last year he featured kung fu break dancing) so he dropped a line to explain what he has in store for his show closing set, calling it “Taps, Southern Rock and Ravel!” He said: “We’re gonna start with a little duet of Bach cello suites accompanied by world renowned tap dancer, Andrew Nemr.” Then it’s duets with Nashville’s Cindy Morgan and a big band collaboration with singer/songwriter Amber Rubarth who left us dizzy and contemplative after delivering some of the most interesting and beguiling songs we’ve ever heard on Roots. They linger in the mind and grow with time.
A long hoped-for set is coming by the collective known as Session Americana, a super-group so super that one writer called the “Marvel’s Avengers of Boston’s burgeoning Americana scene”. They’ve been winning awards and stealing hearts of folk/rock fans for more than ten years. There’s a stirring naturalism in the way these guys approach a song. The instruments are old and full of tone. The effect evokes 1970s Neil Young, The Dead, The Band and more. The members all seem busy on many fronts with discographies that include names as diverse as Mary Black, The The, Aimee Mann, Patty Griffin and the Blood Oranges. They embraced the name Americana a good while back and it’s safe to say they embody the pure emphasis on songs and musicianship inherent in the format as well as anyone.
And completing the show we turn over seas for the Scandanavian folk duo of My Larsdotter and Bubba Tomasdottir. These chance roommates turned singing companions joined their names to form My Bubba, and their soft, stirring sound has engaged the indie folk world. NPR, which featured them in a Tiny Desk Concert said their “quirky, delicate, sweetly sung folk songs are a delight. The centerpiece of their tunes are the harmonies, but the backing instrumentation is equally intimate, from handclaps to an old table harp and acoustic guitar.”
So we’ve got country soul and soul from other countries, and we hope you’re there with us for every move.