Beast Mode

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 youngest of the venues we have on our schedule (so far at least). The Basement on 8th Ave. South beneath Grimey’s New and Preloved Music is a classic music room, suitable for acoustic nuance or pile-driving rock and roll. But it is small. And the booking team have exquisite taste and connections so a full size music hall was sort of inevitable. The spacious and stylish BEast opened in 2015. And we’re ready for our friendly occupation with more stirring roots and rock talents from Music City.

We’ve known Allen Thompson since early in our Loveless Café days, and when he set up in April of 2011 with his loose-limbed band, I thought it was the closest thing to The Band or The Dead I’d seen out of East Nashville. And since then it’s been blue skies and good vibes, at least sonically. We all watched with concern as Allen and guitarist Clint Mayne suffered scary spinal fractures in separate accidents a month apart. We cheered their return to the stage and the release of the ironically named Brace Yourself album. With a sound that partakes freely of all the roots and branches and a timeless hippie shake, the ATB is AOK.

You may well have seen Alex Caress, leader of neo-countrypolitan band Little Bandit, in the news recently, because both his music and his advocacy are part of a long overdue reckoning of country music with the aspirations of LGBTQ artists and the fans who support them. Early last year he released the album Breakfast Alone and a music video that saw him step decisively and dramatically out of the closet. Then when the Kirt Webster scandal rocked Music Row, Caress was there, outspoken and laser sharp in his analysis of the myopic denial of gays and lesbians as full citizens in the music’s social and artistic spheres. But when he hits the stage on the 15th, it’ll be about the music, and that music is sweeping, cinematic and lush, fronted by Alex’s stylishly rococo voice. It’s been ages since he played MCR and that first time was an eye opener. He’s unique in the current scene.

Elise Davis was flagged by Rolling Stone as one of those emerging country artists to watch back in 2016, when they noted her as a candid diary-keeper of a songwriter. But hey, our booking team wa son the Davis train two years before that when she played the show for the first time and offered up her living-dangerously single “Make The Kill.” That song and a dozen others wound up on her 2016 debut LP Token, which was noticed by major media as a piercing country rock album. Noisey/Vice called it a best-of-the-year and Elmore magazine gave it a near perfect score. Davis has been on tour with Little Bandit so the transition here should be seamless.

And last in this catalog of goodness but not remotely least in our hearts is Darrin Bradbury, Nashville’s sardonic, verbose and funny yarn-spinner and certified folk singer. When he played MCR in June of 2016 I noted his “well traveled self-awareness.” And I wrote that “Darrin sang songs that were darkly comical and comically dark...The set could have been turned into a hot and dangerous new grown up series on HBO.” Has anybody gotten on that? Darrin’s exceptional album Elmington Park: A Slightly Melodic Audiobook is the most recent opus. But something’s coming soon, co-produced with recent collaborator Kenneth Pattengale of the Milk Carton Kids.

We’ll be on the air like we really do care. And we’ll enjoy the novelty of a new venue and a new view from the stage on March 15. Grab your tickets here.