Heart Breakers

Country music is about catharsis – a walk through the valley to get to the promised land – feeling good by singing about feeling bad. When someone’s so lonesome they could cry, or cryin’ over you or crying on the shoulder of the road, they need country music, the world’s cheapest therapy. And this week, Roots features a band that built cryin’ into its name and a singer whose voice alone could break your heart, while his songs will help reassemble the pieces.

From our own Nashville scene comes Thad Cockrell, a solid and serious looking guy with a plaintive cry in his elegant alto voice. He hailed from a sheltered family with a Baptist preacher dad in Florida. After studying some theology himself in North Carolina, he made his way to the Chapel Hill scene, where his musical endeavors led him into the company of Whiskeytown and Chris Stamey. The latter, one of my hometown heroes, produced Cockrell’s first recordings, which became the gorgeous Stack of Dreams, a pure, lonesome AM radio-friendly country album. His duet CD with former Whiskeytown fiddler and songstress Caitlin Cary entitled Begonias was stunning and remains so.

It was a little hard to track down Cockrell’s most recent doings. He released To Be Loved in 2010, with a sound that edged more into indie folk territory. But his website hadn’t been updated since then. But then I found Thad, making a fantastic noise with his new band Leagues. An EP released in 2011 has buzz and ambient energy, plus fetching melodies. Now they’re working on a full length opus. I’ve got a feeling that when Thad opens Roots on Wednesday he’ll be back with a strong country vibe, but hey he can do whatever he wants.

At the other end of the bill is Atlanta’s Drivin’ N Cryin’ fronted by Southeastern legend Kevin Kinney. They bill themselves a splice of country and heavy metal, but don’t picture teased hair and spandex. They’ve been keeping it organic and head bobbing since 1986, and they’ve earned their vaunted status among Southern Americana acts with tons of touring. They will bring some big distorted guitar riffs and volume to the Barn, but the great thing about this outfit is that they never lose sight of the cryin’ while they’re drivin’. They’re in the midst of a long-term recording adventure, releasing four EPs over a 12-months period. The first came just in June, entitled Songs From The Laundromat.

The rest of our lineup is fun and varied. The Carpenter Ants have been making “old style rhythm and blues, gospel soul and country funk” for more than twenty five YEARS, and that’s both an impressive description and longevity. They’re based in Charleston, WV where they’re regulars on the great radio show Mountain Stage. We’re glad to see them coming to our radio show. Other out of town visitors are the New Orleans band Dirty Bourbon River Show, which appears to be both soulful and theatrical. Phantom Farmer rounds out the set with folk and country from Joel J. Dahl of the erstwhile Nashville rock band De Novo Dahl.

So there you go. Come out and sing along. My own experience is that no matter how low down I feel when I arrive at Roots, I always head home drivin’ and smilin.

Craig H.

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