Music is a magic land where truly, one plus one equals more than two. When two great singers or players lock the right two melodic lines together, your brain and heart start making up more parts, filling in and forming a cosmic conversation between you and the music. We’ll get to hear that duo effect two times over at the May 26 Music City Roots, when we’re joined by one couple steeped in old-school country and another united by the blues.

Doug and Telisha Williams are one of the more exciting country music couples in the post Gillian Welch and David Rawlings era. Hailing from Martinsville, Virginia, they write about and sing about the land and place and people they know. And often that means hard characters and hard truths. The title track of their current and second album “Ghost of the Knoxville Girl,” is told from the point of view of the victim in one of the greatest murder ballads in country music. And in “Nashville” they get inside the aching heart of the Lower Broadway striver in all her lonesome pride. The Williams’ aching, honest voices will get to you.

Contemporaneously, we have a couple of friends and musical colleagues who forged a duo that merges the best qualities of two significant solo careers. Sue Foley has been a favorite of mine for years. She’s a ripping guitarist and a keen-eyed songwriter with a truly memorable voice. Peter Karp is newer to me, but he’s a celebrated roots/blues artist who folks compare to John Hiatt and John Prine. These two pursued an old fashioned correspondence of letters that began to suggest songs, and before long the “He Said – She Said” project was born. They released an album under that name last year and have been touring ever since. Blues Revue magazine calls the act “a unique, daring idea beautifully executed by two talented, inspired artists unafraid to express themselves outside of – but still influenced by – their respective genres.” Sounds right up our alley.

We’re also excited by the return to our stage of Roots alum Sam Bush. The mandolin master and recent AMA Instrumentalist of the Year will be sitting in with his pals, and our featured artist, Dread Clampitt. They are fusion-loving string benders who were inspired and influenced by Sam, very much in the tradition of New Grass Revival. These Florida boys are also pals with friend-of-the-show Guthrie Trapp, so the show’s jam factor is looking very promising.

Rounding out the show will be the return of the Black Lilies, the Knoxville band made of former members of the everybodyfields and the CC String Band. They seem to get more famous every time we turn around, so expect a cheering section for Cruz Contreras and Co. There are also everybodyfields alums playing with the abundantly talented and bearded Sam Quinn. His new album The Fake That Sunk A Thousand Ships just came out on the wonderful and trustworthy Ramseur Records.

And as if that’s not enough, we’re expecting a surprise guest you really won’t want to miss. It’s a show where you’ll get six for the price of four, where the whole will be greater than the sum, and where there will be no Square Roots.

Craig H


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