When they said the word “snow” on TV we at Music City Roots cringed. We weren’t worried about putting on a great show, but you know how it is. The good people of middle Tennessee tend to batten down the hatches when anyone invokes the S word. But they came! And in droves. We had what felt like the biggest crowd yet for our winter season opener, a benefit for our friends/partners/sponsors The Nature Conservancy. And the performers, they were running at capacity too.
We bookended the show with funky, hip-swiveling rhythm. Not that Chuck Mead (who opened) and Donna the Buffalo (who closed) sound anything alike. But Chuck brings a whip-crack attack to his honky-tonk that makes you want to shake it, while D the B was born to make people boogie like they do in Louisiana. Chuck offered a few songs off his new Journeyman’s Wager album as well as some flashbacks to his Lower Broadway days with BR549. It was somehow spiritually cleansing to hear “Little Ramona (Gone Hillbilly Nuts)” and it made me realize that while we have a lot of music at MCR that takes cues from country, we haven’t had all that much COUNTRY music. And Carco Clave’s pedal steel got me swoony. As for Donna the Buffalo, they’ve become Loveless Barn favorites. They played a much talked-about set on New Year’s Eve and they were on our stage last night playing a short set of greatest hits while the first ever Music City Roots mosh pit formed and there was dancing in Nashville (which is about as rare as snow).
In between, we finally got to hear the Believers. The band-fronting couple of Craig Aspen and Cyd Frazzini have been regular scene-makers at Roots, but they certainly belong on the stage. Their stuff is gritty and passionate and it went over great. Much the same can be said about Kristi Rose and Fats Kaplin. Kristi’s huge personality and heartfelt voice won over a lot of folks last night.
And gee, there was also this guy named Tim O’Brien. Kind of modest. Real dry humor. Plays the bouzouki (holy cow I just spelled that right first try) and serves up stunning songs. We were so fortunate to have one of the icons of modern bluegrass and Americana on our stage. He’s testimony to the power that one talented, committed artist is capable of.
Everyone filled the stage to sing a rousing Loveless Jam of “Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down” by the great Merle Haggard. And I’m sure a few bottles were tipped back too, but more in joy than in sorrow, and nobody was let down one bit. So we’re back. And if they report a blizzard the next time you’re thinking about coming to the Loveless, take it as a sign that a great party awaits you.