Rooting Down and Branching Out

Everything about Spring is early this year from the flowers on the trees to the warm temperatures to our own show’s Spring Break. Welcome friends, earlier than ususal, to our final Winter show of the year. Setting aside that gnawing climate change anxiety, let us meditate on the roots and branches across Middle Tennessee that are waking up and spreading their tendrils into new dirt and new sky. I think this show has that kind of feeling. In one early March evening, we’ll hear exceptional contemporary takes on: funky 1970s soul, Canadian folk music, romantic indie-pop and Fillmore-heyday rock and roll. There are worthy notes and news to pass on about all four of our guests this week so I’ll go in show order.

This week is an auspicious time for an visit from fiddler/singer/dancer April Verch because she’s just released a retrospective of her fascinating career simply called The April Verch Anthology. In its 18 tracks, we hear a girl from the Ottawa Valley in Canada growing into a commanding performer, a global touring artist and a preserver of her native traditions. She’s gone above and beyond the baseline for that career with an ethos of engagement and evangelism. “It’s all about touching people, about bringing them together in a community to celebrate music,” she said in one of her bios. “I’ve understood that better and better as time has passed: how to take this music that is at the center of my life, and make it live and breathe for other people.” Lately that’s included a touring duo with banjo player and singer Joe Newbury and teaching at the Folk Alliance music camp.

Roots music needs dash and panache sometimes and that seems to be the vibe of Nashville songwriter Reuben Bidez (at least that’s what a pencil think moustache and a great hat can do). He’s an Atlanta area native who formed bands while at Georgia Tech, but his songwriting penchant and desire to be stimulated by the best propelled him to Music City. On his debut EP Turning To Wine, the artist achieves passages of gossamer beauty and of orchestral power, while singing with Roy Orbison fluidity an intimate view of his own story and journey. The Family Wash blog profile on Bidez says he “has created his own avant-garde sound and has taken the time to nurture his music so that he can introduce its timeless nature to the city in a slow-burning manner.” We’ll be pleased to introduce him to you.

Batting third will be those wily youth of the explosive and exciting band The Broomestix, who first appeared at MCR in July 2015. I had this remark afterwords: “These KIDS in black sport coats arrayed themselves across the stage and blasted out a roar of fat jazz fusion and complex early 70s pop – an old school that deserves a comeback. They conjured Earth, Wind & Fire and Philly Soul and Chaka Khan. The arrangements could only be thought of or executed by schooled, skilled musicians. The horn section was spot on.” This week, Connor Broome, the namesake musical director of this sprawling effort, told me in a Facebook exchange that the band is committed to the long haul, and that “the core value and belief (driving that commitment) is that we all love the music we make and want to share it with as many people as we can so we can make an impression on our fans that our influences have made on us.” One does not hear many young bands indebted to the mindset of say Quincy Jones, so I am rooting for these folks in a big way. They’re gearing up for a big year of touring, including the mighty DelFest this May.

And closing out the night is a band I will be getting to know along with you, but they sound like a blast. Dead 27s hails from the musically rich city of Charleston, SC and pursues a timeless and funky rock and roll that’s earned them acclaim from the jam band press and No Depression, the bible of Americana. The quintet borrows Crosby, Stills & Nash harmonies here and thudding Southern Rock riffs there. They describe taking pride in listening closely – to each other’s influences and to one another’s musicianship in real time on stage. Their local City Paper was extolling them three to four years ago and now Jamsphere says “Anyone who claims that rock and soul ain’t what it used to be clearly hasn’t heard of these stunning musicians.” It might get loud folks but how better to end the winter season than with something hot?

Craig H.

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