On June 26, Music City Roots will stage a special one-off edition of the show at the Monteagle Assembly. The event is open to the public. Following are the program notes for the evening.
I was introduced to the concept of the Chautauqua in the novel Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig many years ago. He posed it as a philosophical dialogue and meeting of the minds about serious matters of how we structure and value reality. But he also alluded to the rich 19th century Chautauqua phenomenon of multi-day camp meetings devoted to learning, lectures and spiritual renewal. Theodore Roosevelt is supposed to have called Chautauqua “the most American thing in America.”
It’s exciting to see the concept alive and well and living in Middle Tennessee, and even more so to bring Music City Roots to Monteagle Sunday School Assembly to share our philosophy of music and community. We’ve built our show on more than four-artists-per-week and a good sound system. We pursue the best practices of the early music and radio business, when a few dreamers changed the world. We’ve embraced the idea that music is a life force, as necessary as oxygen, food and faith. Our lineup for this special edition is comforting and just a bit country.
Woody Pines typifies the modern movement in musical throwback-ism. Like Pokey LaFarge or Davina And The Vagabonds, Woody and his ensemble draw from old-time country, jug band blues and ragtime as they deliver a mix of original songs and well chosen gems from the likes of Mississippi John Hurt and Doc Boggs. And yet by virtue of his skills and way with audiences, he’s being produce by Mitch Dane, one of the hippest indie rock guys in Nashville. Woody is something of a vagabond, remaining rather coy about his home town or musical origins. But like his namesake Guthrie, his wanderings and encounters with regular Joes and Josephines around the country and the world have given his music a populist, welcoming tone.
More on the complex and urbane side of folk music we’ll enjoy a set from songwriter/cellist Ben Sollee. His instrument is only the most conspicuously different thing about him, though it’s pretty darn compelling to hear the variety of ways he plays it in support of his jazz-inflected soul songs. He plucks and strums it, bows and chops it. And he always brings along compelling, sophisticated side musicians. He’s a Kentucky native who’s earned major media love for his solo albums as well as his work with Bela Fleck’s Sparrow Quartet. He can hold an audience spellbound with both his music and his thoughtful dialogue.
I’ve not yet heard Ashleigh Cudill in person, but her musical collaborators include many Music City Roots alums and notable talents. She studied formally at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, which has become a surprising and game-changing wellspring of new acoustic music talent. Nashville’s lucky she transplanted from the high level, super refined Boston scene. She’s having her songs cut by major artists and finding her bass playing called on for recording sessions. Best of all, she’s been recognized as an original, exciting band leader who will shape bluegrass and newgrass music for years to come.
The Tattletale Saints are putting together quite a story. The duo of Cy Winstanley (guitar/vocal) and Vanessa McGowan (bass/vocal) hails from New Zealand by way of London. A couple of years ago they relocated to Nashville, chiefly to work on an album with their musical hero (and ours) Tim O’Brien. That project How Red Is The Blood won big prizes back in their homeland and has kicked off touring of the states. Their sound is delicate and moody with catchy melodies and lyrics that make you think. The press is catching on too. Americana journal No Depression noted their “timeless quality” and folk music banner waver Sing Out! magazine called them “Intelligent, entertaining and thoroughly captivating.”
Even as I write this I’m keenly anticipating this evening of well-matched artistry. We present a good amount of rock and roll and soul music and many other styles besides. But this intimate acoustic feel with the emphasis on voice, songs and truth is our core. It’ll sound lovely up on the Cumberland Plateau and we hope it adds something meaningful to your summer-long camp meeting.