When she visited Roots for the first time in 2012 at the Loveless Barn, the artist Leigh Nash told me on stage about moving to Music City when she was just 19 year old, having signed an exciting record deal in the Christian music world along with her musical partner Matt Slocum and their band Sixpence None The Richer. “We moved here and that same week our label shut its doors and closed down,” she said. “But we fell in love with the city and the people here. I’ve got friends that I consider family so it would be hard to leave even though I miss Texas.”
So on the obvious hand, things worked out pretty well for Sixpence with national crossover hits and a reputation as one of the deepest and craftiest bands in Christian pop. On the less obvious hand, Nash is from Texas!? Neither the sweet jangly strains of the Sixpence breakout side “There She Goes” nor their gorgeous, stylish Lost In Translation album of 2012 suggests the influence of Asleep at the Wheel or Guy Clark. But she is in fact from New Braunfels, home of famed Gruene Hall, and she grew up saturated by classic country music and loving Patsy Cline. At last that part of this excellent singer’s life has manifested itself on a solo album, and we’ll get to hear her perform some of those songs at this week’s Roots, where the emphasis will be on women bringing something fresh and personal to country and roots music.
But I’m getting just a little ahead of myself. Due to immense amounts of cooking and hanging with family on Thursday, I was unable to file a review of our Thanksgiving Eve show. So let me just quickly say here how delightful it was to have a refreshed lineup, a full house and loads of love in Liberty Hall. My family particularly loved Sam Lewis, with his charming ease and understated soul sound. My personal highlight was Jimmy Hall who simply shocked the room with his command as a singer, writer, harp player and bandleader. Our night’s curator Ms. Laurie says she’s seen Jimmy perform more than any other artist in her life and it was her dream to get him on the show. WAY too long in coming. He’ll be back. We basked in the cool retro-noir of Nashville’s Kim Logan and the throwback comfort of the Amazing Rhythm Aces as well. It was a magnificent evening, with Monell’s amazing pecan/pumpkin combo pie as the icing on the cake.
That ushered in our holiday season, with three December shows carrying us into the Christmas and New Year’s break. This week’s will be a discovery-heavy night with three first-time performances leading up to Leigh Nash’s showcase of songs off The State I’m In, a Thirty Tigers release that marries her cooing, acrobatic voice with a countrypolitan meets Tex-Mex sound. “I’ve been wanting to make this record since I was 14, but I needed the life experience to do it,” she says in the project bio. The long gestation period shows in the depth of the writing and production, which was helmed by Jack White colleague Brendan Benson. It has melancholy streaks and some wistful ruminations, but overall it’s a joyful and lush experience. With a bright green cover and Nash’s bright red hair, maybe it’s the perfect non-Christmas Christmas album.
I’ll be joining you all in forming first impressions of our other artists. Brooke Anniballe acknowledges influences from Kathleen Edwards and Brandi Carlile, and that means pronounced folk roots wrapped in up-to-date colors and textures. She’s a Pennsylvania native who spent most of a decade in Nashville before moving back to Pittsburgh last year. Stereogum called her new album The Simple Fear “cohesive and wise,” joining a chorus of praise from the likes of the Wall St. Journal, NPR’s World Café and American Songwriter.
Also from Pennsylvania and also a Belmont University music business graduate, Morgan Myles hews closer to mainstream country, with sparkle and sass. Her song “Whiskey Dreaming” helped her land a slot in the CMT Artist Discovery Program this Fall. She’s fully in the process of launching her career and we’ll be happy to be part of that.
It’ll be easy to spot our fourth act this week because they’ll be the dudes with the big beards. The Roosevelts are Jason Kloess and James Mason, “brothers in song” who met in Austin and who stepped away from nascent careers in medicine and technology to form this band they characterize as “rock, with mandolin.” Now based in Nashville they’ve earned the respect of our local bloggers and fans. And they’re coming at us off a run that featured Stubb’s in Austin and The Mucky Duck in Houston, and that’s pedigree as far as we’re concerned.
So sleep off that turkey and enjoy your football this weekend. But plan to be with us the next three Wednesday nights as we light up the season with music and the best of Nash, ‘ville and otherwise.