A virtuoso acoustic guitar shredder. A Knoxville chanteuse. A Californian who mastered bluegrass and jazz. And a former truck driver with a penchant for knife throwing. Isn’t this exactly the kind of horizon-opening, unpredictable experience you’ve been looking for? We thought so. Music City Roots on May 19 should be by turns jaw-dropping, serenity-inducing and wickedly funny. But hey, we’re a variety show in a barn, so that’s how we roll.
Let’s get a little more specific. Although I should no longer be surprised by producer Todd’s booking prowess, it was kind of a shocker to see Monte Montgomery show up on our schedule. I first encountered this Austin phenom more than a decade ago, when he was landing on magazine covers and blowing people away with his innovative techniques and muscular tone. Now he’s kind of an alternative rock star with his own signature guitar from Alvarez and a big time following. And it’s not just because of his guitar-punishing, wild technical fireworks that sound like nothing you’ve ever heard. He’s also a very fine singer and songwriter. So expect the complete package from Monte; you’ll leave a fan.
Rob Ickes has been out to play the barn as a guest of other artists, because everybody with a soul wants to play with Rob, perhaps the greatest dobro player of his generation. Raised in California, far from the Blue Grass State, he somehow got the bug and developed into such a player that he became the only non Southerner to be asked to join the band Blue Highway, which over the past 15 years has become one of the real standard-bearers of the music in the modern era. During that tenure, Rob has pursued all kinds of music and proved the diversity of his instrument. Besides making solo jazz and newgrass albums, he’s found a great vocal partner in the wonderful Robinella of Knoxville TN. She scored that rarest of opportunities for a true roots artist by landing a major label record deal with Columbia and touring around with the likes of Bob Dylan. Sounding a bit like a hillbilly Billie Holliday, she’s found a luxurious way to fuse jazz phrasing with country directness. You can obtain recordings of Rob with Robinella on his album Road Song, where she chimes in on several jazz standards. Or you can come hear this special duo live at the Barn.
And on the knife-throwing front, we’re pretty sure Phil Lee hasn’t made the flying blades a part of his act, but with this alt-country superstar one never should assume. We can assure you that his razor-sharp flying wit will be on display. As a solo artist, he was something of a late bloomer, but bloom he did on the three albums he’s released since 1999. They are hilarious and insightful and sometimes just the right kind of subversive. I’m sincerely looking forward to his performance and our conversation, because we grew up in the same home town so I’ve always wondered why I didn’t turn out as funny or outrageous as Phil.
Our Vietti artist this week should be full of energy and southern fried goodness. The Drunk Uncles have an endorsement on their site from the boss of Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson, and that means more than all the music press in the world. So come out and celebrate your inner knife-thrower, without threat of injury or mayhem.