A few of our team had a literally groovy experience this week when we visited United Record Pressing, Nashville’s bustling, noisy and amazing LP factory. There we watched – and filmed – as a decades-old press clanked and hissed and steamed while spitting out new copies of our Season One compilation album on beautiful speckled brown vinyl – one every 30 seconds. That project, which came out on CD and download some weeks ago, was a nice chance to review and debate the best performances on the inaugural season of Roots back in the Fall of 2009. For me, at least one was blindingly obvious. I vividly remember watching Holy Ghost Tent Revival out of Greensboro, NC perform “Walking Over My Grave,” which isn’t nearly as sinister as the title suggests. It is lonesome lyrically, but musically it’s a bold and tuneful delight that should be in the collection of any Mumford & Sons fan. We all fell hard for HGTR that night, and we’re pleased they’re returning to Roots this week to open a show with no theme or stylistic center except maybe artists who have clearly found their own unique grooves.
Our fondness for the Asheville NC music scene continues to deepen as we welcome timeless sounding songwriter Kellin Watson. Since being turned on to her by a friend-in-common, I’ve come to think of her current album Halo of Blue as Appalachia’s answer to Shelby Lynne and Adele. I’ve certainly never heard the folk standard “Sitting On Top of the World” sung like a torch song over a slinky beat, and it’s great. And generally, the updated Stax-ish arrangements and vocals are so strong it’s easy to forget she wrote most of these shapely songs. Kellin is apparently a cousin of the dearly departed Doc Watson and hails from Black Mountain, the very musical little town outside of Asheville. She’s been recording and writing seriously since the mid 90s, and in that time she’s won the active support of such diverse major leaguers as Billy Corrigan and Sara Evans. Transcending country, pop and soul, Watson has recently begun taking her striking look and sound around the world, and maybe we’ll be seeing her on Roots at a breakout moment.
Genre bending and blending also comes easily to our show-closers, Nashville’s long-running Goose Creek Symphony. I’ve been hearing about these guys from a distance for years but never had the pleasure of a show. Their own account of their 1970s days when they recorded several albums for Capitol and Columbia – is that they were “a band that played a mixture of rock and roll, folk, jazz and country with an undeniable hillbilly influence, a hippie attitude and a reckless sense of instrumental daring. They used horns and fiddles as well as effects and blended it with psychedelic rock and roll. The true definition of ‘Cosmic American Music’.” That’ll work! They took 17 years off and re-banded in the 1990s. In recent years they’ve released new work and lost recordings from back in the day. Their free-wheeling, jammy ways should make a great capper to our night. I’m truly looking forward to learning about their career.
But we kick off with Holy Ghost Tent Revival, and they’re going to be a tough act to follow. While there are more than a few bands out there these days blending banjo, guitar, drums and voices, HGTR digs harder than most and their songs deliver. Hank WIdmer’s trombone and euphonium adds an awesome New Orleans brass band quality. Finally, we’ve announced a last-minute change this week after Matthew Mayfield had to cancel with some ailing vocal cords. In his place our team have found a fun and fascinating trio – also from Asheville – who’ve performed with Holy Ghost Tent Revival. So as always there will be fresh discoveries on tap. Come find some music that puts your needle in your groove. We’ll see you Wednesday.