One of the more enlightening and enlivening ways to start your week is dropping by Tommy Womack’s web world for his “Monday Morning Cup of Coffee” video series. It’s cathartic indeed to sip the black nectar along with our roots rock hero and join the emphatic “Ahhhhhhh” that follows.
This week, Tommy previewed the impending visit of his legendary rock band Government Cheese to Roots with some droll asides and some reminiscences about their glory days on the road: “We used to carry table lamps around with us and tape them to the top of our amplifiers to give the stage a sort of living room feel, but we found that lamps with all their glass appendages didn’t travel well. Lots of breakage.”
The Govt. Cheese band we encountered at their reunion show in 2015 didn’t strike us as the kind of band to trash hotel rooms or smash perfectly good guitars. Tommy Womack and company wear their former punkiness well with salt and pepper hair, and their youthful energy channels into blasting power pop songs with big melodies and quirky storytelling. When they played songs from their then-brand-new The Late Show album that summer, I had this to say about lead singer Scott Willis and co.: “He corkscrewed with verve, less fidgety than Michael Stipe and more athletic than Joey Ramone, but with hints of both. Guitarist Viva Las Vegas maintained a rocker’s low-slung stance and plunged downstrokes of power. Bass man William Hill took on lead vocals for “The Shrubbery’s Dead,” a sad but thrumming portrait of a stumble drunk. And Tommy Womack, who wore his top hat and glasses, because he’s a rocker and a scholar, sang too. My fave was “I Need Love” with its short, sharp couplets of strangely connected, evocative phrases.”
Govt. Cheese is historically associated with Nashville but its origins are in a small city in Kentucky that’s in the news this week. Yes, it will be somber, but I must ask the boys about where they were during the Bowling Green Massacre and how they managed to forge on with life in the aftermath.
The rock-de-fromage will be complimented with authentic twang from three diverse Nashville-based artists.
Our recent foray to Gatlinburg TN for the Mountain Tough fire victims benefit was joyful and musically rich in so many ways. One was getting to see Chuck Mead and his Grassy Knoll Boys play live for the first time in more than a year. Chuck returns this week to Liberty Hall having spent a good bit of his time in recent years working his incredibly involved side gig supervising music and talent for the sprawling empire that is Million Dollar Quartet. Now, the international, award-winning musical has been adapted for television under the title SUN Records, premiering on CMT in February. The whole Chuck Mead / BR549 story is well worn territory for us, so visit his web site if you need a refresher. Suffice it to say that Chuck has become not just a purveyor of authentic country music and an attention-grabbing entertainer, but an evangelist and a beacon of how to think about this thing we call Americana. What Would Chuck Mead Do? will make for a pretty good musical compass if you haven’t developed one of your own.
Speaking of country music as it ought to be, we are extremely ready to hear from Hailey Whitters. Even a cursory listen to her 2015 album debut Black Sheep reveals one of the most refreshing new voices and sensibilities in contemporary country. Repeated listening (recommended and compulsive) shows somebody who’s clever and sensitive, with those turns of phrase that make you smile for their insight and effortlessness. It’s also an album that rocks hard and sounds great loud. It’s now like a hilarious dare to country radio. You’re NOT going to play this? We’ll see, and in the meantime, we will. Whitters is part of the always fascinating Carnival Music team (Gretchen Peters, Brent Cobb) and she collaborated on her album with the super sharp Adam Wright. With a voice that’s at least as interesting and forceful as Miranda Lambert’s, Ms. Whitters is ready for her country close up.
And rounding out the week is the emerging artist Amelia Eisenhauer who also mines country but with a fiddle under her chin, so it comes out a bit more on the grassy side. She was a finalist in the last season of American Idol at only 16 years of age, and that wasn’t very long ago. She told an entertainment blogger about that time the following: “My music is really a blend of Americana, blues, jazz, alt. acoustic. This past year I have really gotten into recording my own music. I play violin, guitar, bass, viola, mandolin, cajon, and piano, so it’s really fun to lay my own tracks and be able to record what I’m hearing in my head. I have had so many people ask me if I write. The answer is finally yes. I use to tell people, I had not had enough life experience to really have anything to say. After a relationship or two, three years of high school, playing in multiple bands and being on the road with my mom and brother, now I do.” We’ll be there with open ears.
You’ll want to be able to tell people years from now you were at the Twang Cheese Incident of 2017.