We love and strive for variety on Music City Roots, but we probably haven’t had a show as rangy and eclectic as we did last night. From Dylanesque folk to hearty gospel to classic songcraft, it was a quite a ride.
We knew from the moment Mike Farris and the fabulous McCreary Sisters opened our second show back in October that we had to have them back. It’s one of the great vocal displays you’ll ever hear (embellished last night by an impromptu guest appearance by blues monster Jimmy Hall), and it’s extraordinary that Farris does not only standards but original songs that feel like standards.
The duo Sugarcane Jane visited us from their base in Alabama. Anthony Crawford and Savana Lee are a pure vocal duo who lock together in superlative lonesome harmony on just about every word of their engaging, original songs. They also nailed a beautiful cover of “There Is A Time,” astutely copped from The Darlings (the real life Dillards) of Andy Griffith Show fame.
Another smart and moving cover tune came from John McCauley, the singing/guitar playing force who launched the hot band Deer Tick. He closed his set of rough-hewn and raspy songs with Hank Williams’ “I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive.” In a word, enthralling.
It was both weird and wonderful to shift gears from that into the rollicking old-time country of the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band. Stars of the Grand Ole Opry and the Marty Stuart Show, they bring unbelievable energy and authenticity to any stage. Mike and Lester Armistead sing together beautifully, and Leroy Troy showed us how its done on a banjo AND a washboard.
That set the stage for a turn uptown and the sweet, smart, crafted pop of J.D. Souther. Once thought of as a virtual member of the Eagles and a songwriter extraordinaire from the high point of 1970s California country-rock, Souther is quite a character. He looks like a rascal and sings like a weary angel, and his songs, all drawn from his recent and remarkable If The World Was You album, mingled roots music with jazz. His band was top flight, and the set was memorable. It was amazing to have yet another legend in the house.
Next week the legends continue with Cowboy Jack Clement!