Nashville remains special because if you look closely, you can see the veterans who built Music City living and working side by side with the young artists who are building on their legacy and pushing the town’s musical traditions forward. It’s what gives the place continuity and soul.
So on our next show, Music City Roots presents prime examples of that dichotomy, as our musical guests include one of Nashville’s senior senators and one of its most remarkable alt-country youngsters: Cowboy Jack Clement and Chris Scruggs.
The term gets overused, but Cowboy Jack is a genuine songwriting, record-producing, talent-making legend. He got his start in Memphis assisting the great Sam Phillips at none other than Sun Records, just after Elvis broke through and while Jonny Cash was a new star. Clement helped Jerry Lee Lewis get his record deal and recorded some of his biggest hits as an engineer. Then Jack went to Texas where he wrote songs recorded by a young George Jones, and he came to Nashville in the 1960s, where he helped newcomer Charley Pride get a record deal and become, against all odds, a massive country music star. He’s a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame on the strength of “Guess Things Happen That Way,” “She Thinks I Still Care” and many others. And he’s been a filmmaker, studio-owner, polka music aficionado and mentor.
Some years ago, this renaissance man started Cowboy Jack’s Ragtime Band, a rotating cast of free spirited friends who for a change, put Jack in the spotlight as a frontman. You never quite know who’s going to come along, but you know it’s going to be good. And you’re almost sure to hear a song that will make you say: “He wrote THAT?”
On the other end of the age/experience spectrum is Chris Scruggs, a singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist who is coming to be appreciated alongside Justin Townes Earle and Gillian Welch as a new generation vessel for classic country music. But with equal inspiration from indie rock and British pop, Scruggs has found himself called on for studio work with a huge range of artists, including M. Ward, Ray Price, Neko Case, George Jones, Andrew Bird, Charlie Louvin and Elvis Costello. On his solo disc Anthem, you’ll hear an eclectic and a purist, a traditionalist and an inventor. We’ll be privileged to have him at Roots.
Also on tap will be Gove Scrivenor, a folk musician who’s earned the respect and collaboration of a huge range of favorites, from Doc Watson and John Hartford to Jimmy Buffett and the Amazing Rhythm Aces. It should be fascinating to talk to him about his long Nashville-based career as a musician’s musician. Our “emerging artist” slot this week is Nathan Blake Lynn, who went solo after some years with old-time band Bawn In The Mash.
And our surprise bit of wild fun for the evening will be a set by the remarkable Tomi Fujiyama, the queen of Japanese country music. Inspired by Armed Forces radio in her native country, she began performing country music on American military bases and she’s since traveled the world charming audiences with her passion for our traditions. She’s being followed by a film crew making a documentary about her life, so be ready to make her feel welcome on the airwaves of WSM. It’s a dream come true for her, and it’ll be amazing to be there to see it happen.
Sayonara till Wednesday.