Start scanning down the list of artists on this week’s bill, and you can’t help but notice something out of the ordinary—they’re almost all women. Even the guest host, freewheeling force of nature Marshall Chapman, and the guest interviewer, yours truly. Females, the lot of us. That is, until the special final act—a veteran band of brothers from different mothers.
In a year and a half of wild and wooly, down-to-earth and down-home Wednesday night shows, Music City Roots has played host to almost every imaginable flavor of roots music, but never before to a lineup quite like this one.
There’s a story behind this group sharing the stage, and it goes like this. I wrote a book about some of the most fascinating songwriters in Americana. It just so happens that they’re women. It just so happens that some of them live in Nashville and know how to put on a damn-good show—a show MCR was generous, and brave, enough to host. And it just so happens that swinging through town this Wednesday night is a band whose good-time boogies dominated radio airwaves long before there was a Music City Roots or, for that matter, a genre formally dubbed Americana. We’re couldn’t be happier that they were willing to jump on board and help make the show even damn-better.
Each of these women have their own sound. You’d never mistake any of them for anybody else. Starting off the night will be Elizabeth Cook (see book chapter 7), who’s as country as any singer and songwriter out there today, and sharper, hipper and more irreverent than most. The way she put those qualities together on last year’s Welder won her notice everywhere from the Country Critic’s Poll to Rolling Stone.
Bailey Cooke—no relation to Elizabeth (that we know of)—comes on next. She’s a new-school old-timey balladeer on the rise, who can make songs about death and cocaine—both of which you’ll find on her new album Tennessee—go down smooth and sweet as ice tea.
Following her will be Mary Gauthier (the subject of chapter 5), a Louisiana-born folkie after Woody Guthrie’s own heart. And by that I mean, she’s got something to say about folks who don’t have it easy and seldom get talked about. When she released a song cycle about orphanhood last year—The Foundling—the emotions in the stories struck deep.
After her is Abigail Washburn (see book chapter 8), who is—it’s pretty safe to say—the only globally minded, Chinese fluent, old-time knowledgeable yet electronically hip clawhammer banjo player on the planet. She’s made music with all-girl string bands, classically trained virtuosos and deejays in the past, but on her latest—City of Refuge—she’s leaned toward modern pop with multi-talented local Kai Welch.
Supplying classic rock, Americana pioneering star power are the Doobie Brothers. You know, the guys who brought us “Listen to the Music”, “Black Water” and a whole bunch more soulful, hooky post-hippie pop hits throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s. Tom Johnston, Pat Simmons, John McFee and Michael Hossack are still going strong—last fall, they released their first album in a decade, World Gone Crazy. And that familiar-looking new guy on the road with them? It’s none other than John Cowan, who’s certainly no stranger in these rootsy parts. With him, the Doobies will be playing a special edition stripped-down set.
Oh, and one more thing: The big old Loveless Barn finale may or may not involve a certain down-home, high energy style of dancing. Consider yourself warned. It’s sure to be a night to remember.
Your friendly neighborhood author,