The Sunday after our next show is Father’s Day. In our family, this one will be low-key, because our patriarch – my Dad – just celebrated his 80th birthday, and our whole clan got together to toast and wine and dine him. Dad, a gentleman and a scholar if ever there was one, has been bountifully influential in my life, stimulating my love of words and music. And now I’m a father myself, trying to instill curiosity and wonder in a bright kid. It’s a Dad, Dad, Dad world.
So how appropriate that our show closers this week will be Sons of Fathers, a Texas duo-plus-band that I’m just nuts about. I’ve wanted them on our show since I saw them at SXSW last year, where they moved me with their passionate and emotional style. It’s a six-piece band with a duo at its core. Paul Cauthen plays guitar while David Beck plays standup bass, which he manhandles with punch and complex musicality. They inhabit each other’s space like brothers and they sing with fraternal connectedness as well. Not only tuneful, their vocal attack is extravagant and adventuresome. They soar and dive and swoop together with boldness and brains. Their influences may include the contemplative Texas songwriter tradition, but the songs on Sons’ new album Burning Days layer on many colors.
“Big ol’ drums and a ton of harmonies, that’s the main thing,” is how Beck described it to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently. “There are some very southern aspects to the music. It’s inherently country music, but not country songs. Because we’re from the South, it goes through this filter where it’s gonna sound country no matter what we do. But every song is written to groove.”
The very groovy Burning Days can be streamed at the band’s website. It’s one of my favorite albums so far of 2013. And I can absolutely vouch that when Paul and David throw down together on Wed night it will be special. They depart our show and head to Bonnaroo, where they make their Manchester debut the next day.
Let us also praise the father of Nora Jane Struthers. He took his daughter to fiddling conventions when she was growing up, and that’s at least part of the reason she’s now a winning, winsome Americana singer/songwriter and bandleader. Her new project Carnival, a crowd-sourced, independent project, came out on April 16, and it’s already showing signs of being her deserved career-breaker. Before this release, she won the Telluride band contest, made one solo album and did a brief turn with the band Barefoot. But Carnival (produced by acoustic wizard and SteelDriver Brent Truitt) is rising like the helium balloons on its cover. It quickly hit the Americana Top Ten, and NPR’s Ann Powers wrote last week that NJS and her band The Party Line “display an easy camaraderie that leaves room for virtuoso turns without ever letting their songs be consumed by showoff picking. What really makes Struthers special, however, is her songwriting.”
And I’d go farther by pointing to the voice that delivers those songs. Even a one-speed simple lyric like “Bike Ride” evokes the sunshine, breeze and emotion through Nora Jane’s intimate, sweet and sky blue vocal. Then a song like “1943” gets deep with a character study of a old man managing his memories. And the song “Party Line” plays off an arcane form of communication that nevertheless evokes our networked contemporary world. In a time very full of progressive power-folk lady singers, Nora Jane is an unadulterated country artist, and we’re all richer for it. Her return to Roots on Wednesday couldn’t be better timed or more welcome.
The rest of our lineup is pretty remarkable as well. Kenny Roby was a founder of vital Carolina alt-country band 6-String Drag. From his days in punk band The Lubricators to his very recent album Memories & Birds, Roby has been a searcher for and an integrator of new sounds. He asserts that his musical tastes and fascinations are “limitless.” You can stream Memories & Birds here, and its full of absorbing string passages and atmospherics that amplify the effect of Roby’s tactile lyrics and voice. We’ll also hear from The Chapin Sisters, a duo that’s been making records since the mid 2000s and whose latest project is a full length tribute to the Everly Brothers. The sisters and their album got on NPR too! And we’ll kick the night off with Gary Talley and The Road Home. Tally was a member of The Box Tops with Alex Chilton, so there’s great history here and he should be an interesting interview.
It’s the penultimate show of the Spring 2013 season, so mark your calendar and either come join us at the barn or tune in on the radio or web. And be sure to call your Dad.