Hills, Mountains, Flatlands

Folks, I’ve got an early flight to catch so this is going to be brief, or lame, or both. But that doesn’t mean I have any less enthusiasm for tonight’s Roots, a journey that took us from the hills of Tennessee to the mountains of Colorado to the flatlands of Texas.

Out of the East came Cristabel and the Jons, a savvy quartet from Knoxville who added to this season’s tradition of vintage-toned swing and blues artists. Our friend and back-stage logistics queen Laurie Dashper said Crista DeCicco’s voice was like a musical bubble bath, and I’ll buy that. Crista told me in the chat room the band has been known to play Lawrence Welk-inspired shows, so they clearly know their bubbles.

The show kicked off with a solo acoustic set by the great Radney Foster. He’s known for ripping the roof off of joints like the Loveless Barn, but it was cold in their anyway, so we were glad to have the roof stay on and hear the songs of Radney’s new album straight up and from the heart. “Angel Flight” is a perfect song for the times. Check out the video; it’s a hit over at the YouTube.

The sweet but never saccharine Donna Ulisse filled our emerging artist slot, which is a bit of a stretch for a veteran who had a major label deal in the 90s and a career as a studio singer under her belt. I dearly love this woman’s voice and songs, so we’re going to be excited to have her back for a featured slot this spring. And after she sang her song “Wildest Dreams” she announced that her not so wild dream was to get on that Opry stage, and if she’s looking for endorsements for that gig, we’re there for her.

The whole last quarter of the show felt like a Loveless Jam because the Emmitt-Nershi band love to stretch it out on their bluegrass instruments, and they invited Nashville dobro master Rob Ickes out to join them for the whole set. I particularly loved Drew Emmitt’s keening vocal on “New Country Blues,” the title track to their most recent CD. Everyone it seemed got on stage at last to knock the tar out of “Whiskey River.”

That’s it. I’m already dreading the alarm clock. Gonna jet out for a work trip but I’ll be back next Wednesday for our final show of our inaugural season. Happy holidays. Shop til you drop.

Craig H

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