It’s something my generation and those after didn’t live through, so we can only see it on archival film. A preacher thunders against the evils of rock and roll, circa 1955. While some kids party to the sounds of Elvis and Carl Perkins, others protest those records as anathema to the righteous life. It all seems a bit quaint in retrospect (though I’ve felt at times like burning more than a few records being played on radio today). But part of the wonder of American music is that it’s not only had this long-running tension between the conservative and the libertine, but it’s been better for it.
This was what I got to thinking about as I pondered this week’s Music City Roots dichotomous lineup. On one hand, we’ve got one of the stalwarts of traditional bluegrass and good old Southern reverence, Doyle Lawson. On the other, you’ll hear the fire-breathing, piano-smashing rock and roll of Jason D. Williams. I’m not suggesting for a second that one doesn’t approve of the other or that one is better than the other. I just love it that two such wildly different performers can (and I believe will) sound great together in one night of music.
Doyle Lawson is simply a legend. He grew up in East Tennessee, inspired by Bill Monroe and other stars of the Grand Ole Opry. He taught himself a variety of instruments and went to work for the very great and very intense Jimmy Martin. Other stints with major acts (the Country Gentlemen, J.D. Crowe) followed, and then at the dawn of the 1980s, he formed his own band. His sound has been tight and sincere, and he developed a reputation of demanding a lot and inspiring the best out of his band members, many of whom have gone on to fame as leaders themselves. One of his most recent alums, Jamie Dailey, formed Dailey and Vincent and rocketed to the top of the bluegrass world.
Jason D. Williams seems to be on a roll well into a career that began in the 1970s when as a teenager from tinyville Arkansas was recruited on the road by the great Sleepy LaBeef. Williams, a dead ringer and sometimes near parody of Jerry Lee Lewis, has been making solo records and touring like crazy since the early 80s. But his new album Killer Instincts, produced by Todd Snider, is getting tons of notice and love. No Depression Jason Sheets just this week said “if, like me, you’re a rockabilly aficionado with an affinity for the strange and eccentric, this is some of the best fun you’ll have all year.”
Also on the bill are two new acts to my ears. The Ragbirds are a Celtic-influenced, earthy funky fiddle-driven band that appear to have some likeness to the Duhks. And The Woody Pines are an Asheville based old-timey group that’s drawn from deep wells all over the Deep South, including New Orleans where they lived for some time.
So come join us at the Barn. It’s gonna be Killer.