Hi, I’m Larry Nager, your Music City Roots guest interviewer and blogger for the next couple weeks, while Craig Havighurst is off to China.
I’m a lifelong musician and music journalist, having started at 14 in jug bands playing washboard and washtub bass and going on to play upright and electric bass, mandolin and guitar in bluegrass bands with Red Allen, Harley Allen and now Tony Ellis, as well as blues with Big Joe Duskin. For the past 30 years, I’ve covered music for magazines and daily newspapers (remember those?), as well as written a book (Memphis Beat; St. Martin’s Press, 1998) and worked on several documentaries, most notably Bill Monroe: Father of Bluegrass Music. I also do the interviews for Bluegrass Underground at Cumberland Caverns.
I’ve been a big fan of Music City Roots from the first one, when Emmylou Harris packed the new Loveless Barn. Back when I wrote for The Memphis Commercial Appeal and The Cincinnati Enquirer, readers often asked where to find out about new music, but I never had an answer as good as Music City Roots. Just about every week I’ve gone, I’ve discovered a new artist or band that even a music geek like myself managed to miss.
If you’ve never come out and you’re reading this within driving distance, make plans now. This week’s show is a great place to start, reflecting MCR’s trademark eclecticism in a Folk Alliance-themed show. The Folk Alliance gathers in Memphis this week, and it’s even more musically diverse than Nashville’s Americana Music Conference. It reminds me of what some hippie friends in Maui used to say, that Hawaii was for people who thought California wasn’t weird enough. At Folk Alliance, you’ll find a lot of the same alt-country, bluegrass bands, singer-songwriters and blues musicians as the Americana conference, but there are also performance artists, poets, and players of a Noah’s Ark of instruments, from African Koras to Medieval hurdy gurdys.
However, this week’s Folk Alliance contingent at MCR doesn’t stray too far afield.
There’s Canada’s masterful singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith; the British bluegrass of the Coal Porters, led by native Kentuckian and former Long Ryder Sid Griffin, a certified roots rock legend; former Nashvillian and Americana pioneer Kevin Welch; contemporary Asheville, N.C. string band Dehlia Low; and, from Oregon, dynamic young blues-based singer-songwriter David Jacobs-Strain.
You probably haven’t seen many of these folks, and you may not even have heard of a few of them, but trust me, you’re about to add some new names to your list of favorites. It’s a Music City Roots tradition.