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When I think about Monteagle, my first association is fireflies. These past few years staging Music City Roots in the Assembly Hall have been special in so many ways, but I carry around a strong image of twilight and the abundant fireflies hovering over the grass as music floats out of the huge open shutters and into the humid June night. It’s a thing of beauty. We’ve grown quite attached to the feeling that only acoustic music at Monteagle can provide, and we’re honored to be asked back for another year. We have an evening planned mingling innovation and tradition in a cross section of what makes Nashville magic.

Some of my favorite band leaders are bass players, but they tend to come from the world of jazz, like Charles Mingus and Dave Holland. Bass player/songwriters in country/Americana are pretty rare, but they include the awesome Missy Raines and Amy LaVere. On our bill is the singing bass man Scott Mulvahill. I first knew him as a member of the league-leading Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder. Over time he gradually...

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Travelers and Ramblers

“I'm just a traveler on this earth

Sure as my heart's behind the pocket of my shirt

I'll just keep rolling till I'm in the dirt

'Cause I'm a traveler, oh, I'm a traveler”

Perhaps you can hear Chris Stapleton’s viscous, delicious voice singing these lines from his song “Traveler” of 2015. Even after a century of autos and airplanes and even at the dawn of virtual reality and for all we know teleportation where boundaries vanish and distance collapses, we still take sustenance from the archetype of the pilgrim, the wanderer and the explorer. We can’t claim such grand ambitions at MCR as we continue our Roots on the Road series. Heck, we’re just temporarily homeless and taking up shelter where the rooms are cool, the sound is hi-fi and the owners welcoming. But this journey has been rewarding. We had such a great time at the City Winery that we’re circling back (no we’re not lost) and putting up our sign on May 16 with a lineup featuring ramblers and travelers of the highest caliber....

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A Palace For Little Jimmy

The last time Tim O’Brien played Music City Roots, he was focusing on his album Where The River Meets The Road, something of a love letter to his home state of West Virginia. It mixes original songs with compositions by other natives, including Bill Withers and Billy Edd Wheeler. Tim told us on stage: “Being farther away from the state, which I have for these 40-some years, I’m nostalgic for it more than I used to be. I love going back to that music. And through the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame, I’ve learned more about it. I knew a lot about it before, but I had to dig deeper. And I’m always finding out new people I didn’t know were from the state who’ve made a mark.”

Recently, Tim and his fellow West Virginian Todd Burge came to us with the idea of a WV-focused tribute show for the late great Little Jimmy Dickens, we flipped out a little. They delivered a star-studded, edu-taining show to us virtually plug and play. And the venue will suit the subject matter...

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This road show idea was brilliant. Did I think of that? Alas, no, I can’t take credit. I just get to enjoy the energy and novelty of it along with my pals Jim Lauderdale and Keith Bilbrey. Last week the MCR team rolled up on the famous and venerable 3rd & Lindsley, tied into WMOT and sound checked just as easily as one could ask for. The team at the club was stellar. The big green room backstage became a gathering point for old friends and literal family on a buzzing, twanging, rocking evening. The stage looked great swathed in a bit of artificial smoke and the crowd was highly attuned. Kevin Gordon laid down some funky, literary grit with the help of drummer Bryan Owings. Katie Pruitt showed made new fans by showing us all what an exciting triple threat she is. Lillie Mae threw down with her thoughtful and youthful take on country music. And the night wrapped with the Nashville all-star team that is DADDY offering songs from a brand new album.

Similar delights and satisfactions await you at our next Roots on the Road as the caravan stops at the Basement East, the...

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Roots On The Road Returns March 1

Let us tip our hats and earplugs to the iconic, timeless 3rd & Lindsley, a musical crossroad named after a cross street. Wow, have I seen a lot of shows there, before and after its amazing expansion a couple of years ago. I saw Richard Thompson (my utmost songwriter/guitar hero) there, while seated behind Steve Earle. Jack Pearson, a guitarist of similar stature, warps time and space there regularly. The Irish folk band Altan took my breath away on a night that was frustratingly under-attended for such a badass visit from across the pond. The Time Jumpers hold court there every Monday night, representing Nashville at its very best. The Wooten Brothers became a Nashville institution there, helping the club generally developed a rep as arguably the city’s premiere spot for soul, blues and R&B.

So for our second Roots on the Road show, coming up March 1, we’re proud add a little part to their musical legacy with some live radio barn dance-itude. Once again, we’re keeping it...

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I expected that the second Wednesday of the New Year would make me a little bit blue. Under ordinary circumstances we’d be puttering away getting ready for another season premiere of Music City Roots. But as you probably know, we’ve entered a season of change - change that will require patience and fortitude for those of us who rely on our weekly mid-week dose of great live roots music and community.

As we announced in December, Roots is uprooting, fulfilling a long-held dream of moving to downtown Nashville. Some time this summer we’ll be taking up residence in the lovely new Yee Haw Brewing Co. tasting room and venue in the SoBro (South of Broadway) district, the hippest new zone of our rapidly changing city. Besides weekly MCRs, uur team will program live music most nights of the week there, and WMOT will have a studio built into the facility so our DJs can broadcast our recorded music programming and we can set up daytime acoustic performances as well. It will be Nashville’s new headquarters for Roots culture, and we couldn’t be more...

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What is it about Game 7? For the second year in a row, MCR and the final showdown of the year in Major League Baseball took place simultaneously, leading to a whole lot of phone checking as the results of Houston versus Los Angeles came in. Now, nothing could top last year when my long-beloved Cubs won in dramatic fashion. But it was heartening to see Houston win its first ever championship as a team in the wake of the destruction and trauma left behind by Hurricane Harvey. Houston also has numerous ties to our musical world, and it was fun seeing folks like Hayes Carll go bananas with joy on social media when the team got that final out. What does this have to do with Wednesday’s show? Oh, not much, but it was an excellent World Series and its final game will be woven into my memory of this show’s excellent series of artists, featuring bluegrass by Donna Ulisse, rock and roll from Hannah Fairlight, amiable pop folk from Guthrie Brown and tightly funky soul from Amy Black.

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Two years ago to the week, a fresh-faced, 20-year-old dude named Christian Lopez arrived to play the so-called emerging artist second slot on MCR. One notable fact about him was that he was on the bill the same night as fellow West Virginian Tim O’Brien. I figured maybe Christian was a protégé or something because Tim’s so great about bringing excellent young talent along. But no, Christian was as new to Tim as he was to us. And then that thing we all hope for happened. Christian Lopez took the stage with a three-piece band and blew us away.

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One of my very favorite parts of this crazy wonderful gig is the opportunity to meet and follow important and excellent artists who aren’t stars but who have given their lives to the music and who have solid long-term careers because of their commitment. They are the hard-working, resilient journeymen and journeywomen who reach audiences at a personal level, serve the legacy and who may, at any time, hit a wave and make a mark on the big mainstream culture. We never know. This week at Roots features two women who’ve made an impression on me as artists, writers, self-starters and people. One works in the idiom of bluegrass. The other has evolved from country/folk to a deep commitment to blues and soul.

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We don’t hear drum solos very often on MCR. Drummers in Americana are too often called on to sit in back and keep a competent beat. Drum solos, despite the bad rep they got during the arena rock era, are one magic and essential part of jazz and have always been of special interest to me. The difference between a knuckleheaded drum solo and a good one is subtle but important. A solo reveals the musicianship of the stick wielding human who usually doesn’t get attention unless they knock over a cymbal or something. I was admiring the musicianship of Michael Caskey and his smiling symbiosis with band leader and show closer Davy Knowles even before he got a minute to himself in the rippling “Tear Down The Walls.” The guy had panache and excellent time. And he was part of an overall excellent time that featured the stellar rock blues of Knowles, indie folk rock from Blank Range, mystifyingly mature country music from Emi Sunshine and the muscular songwriting of Hugh Masterson.

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