Tradition, that loaded and lovely word, plays a big role in Music City Roots, from the roots of the music to our own ways of doing things. One tradition I enjoy is being regularly surprised by the resourcefulness of our booking team. I try to keep up with what’s up in Americana music of course, but so often names appear on our lineup that send me rummaging around the internet trying to learn something. And like our loyal fans who come very much expecting to experience the thrill of discovery, I’m almost always knocked out by the talent and originality of those who wind up on the Loveless stage.

This week will be a buffet of discovery for me. Of course I know Seth Walker. He’s our buddy and a veteran of the show and a long-time favorite. More on him later. But otherwise, it’ll be a fusillade of first impressions for your correspondent. I have at least been hearing about Rev. Payton’s Big Damn Band for a year or more, and they played the Americana conference in Nashville but I didn’t get to the gig. They are bigger in sound and spirit than in numbers, but lead singer/guitarist Josh Peyton is a big damn man with a big damn voice and guitar tone. They make rough and rowdy, good and greasy music that knows its way around the Mississippi Delta as well as urban mosh pits. With Josh’s wife Breezy on washboard and vocals and drummer Aaron Persinger, they shake it roadhouse style, as demonstrated with flair in their current video “Clap Your Hands.” It’s set in a barn full of uncorked dancing people. Sounds like a good premonition for Wednesday.

I also expect to be happily surprised by the Packway Handle Band. As I did the backgrounding on them, a few things stood out. They love to sing wild and loud – with four voices around one microphone. And they’re capable of refinement too, as they show on this BBC special singing classic gospel. They’re also a bluegrass band that covers The Pixies, which is cool in our book. And they seem to be pals with the divine Lera Lynn, an MCR alum. That last bit makes sense, because they are both products of the vibrant Athens, GA scene. Packway Handle has been at it for more than ten years and on the road since 2006. They’ve grazed the top of the hill at the Telluride Band contest and toured overseas. So there’s a lot to make us excited about their visit to Roots.

We’ve had a run of bands from or inspired by New Orleans of late, and another act with a fat horn section and a funky rhythm section is on its way toward Nashville from Charleston, SC. Sol Driven Train they are called, and not only do they bring the street shake and head-bobbing groove, their lyrics are smart and flowing. See here their recent On The Verge write-up in Relix, where they speak of their “port-town sound,” which is an apt way to embrace a fusion of deep South and Caribbean influences. They also claim “sonic schizophrenia” which might apply to our show as well.

With my long-standing interest in artists who can infuse pop and folk music with classical influence, I certainly am looking forward to hearing Dave Eggar and his partner Amber Rubarth. He was raised playing the cello at the highest levels, ultimately playing Carnegie Hall as a teen and studying with YoYo Ma. Then his muse led him toward song-based music of all kinds, and he’s been an in-demand collaborator with a BUNCH of acts you know and/or love, including Coldplay, Beyonce and Evanescence. How this will mesh with partner Rubarth, a Mountain Stage New Song Contest winner and a top New York indie artist remains to be seen. But the credentials are extremely enticing on both counts.

And yes, amid all this discovery will be the warm and invigorating voice of Seth Walker. And yet as well as we know him, there will be surprises here too, because he’s got a new album with some new directions. His penultimate project could have been called classic soul. Now, there are new colors but the same remarkable tone and touch.

Please do come to the Barn or tune in and be on the edge of your seat along with me.

Craig H.

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