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 stepped out as a solo artist with videos and singles, and now he’s released an EP debut. It’s crafty and fantastic. Scott’s gift for groove and his easy going, bluesy voice are universally appealing, and he’s got a strong gospel streak to his music too. He’s got a wide ranging tour coming up including some dates with veterans Carbon Leaf. So perhaps you’ll be part of the new army of fans he makes this year.
I’m personally a fan and friend of Doug and Telisha Williams, the lovely married couple who play as Wild Ponies. I’ve loved their edgy stuff, as on the exploratory mostly-electric album Radiant, and I’ve loved the music directly tapped from their upbringing around Galax, VA and its mountain music sound. In fact last year’s album titled Galax, recorded on Doug’s grandfather’s farm with a mix of Nashville and local VA musicians was among my top picks of the year. Doug and Telisha are unfailingly soulful and sharp as songwriters. Their personal chemistry caps the whole thing off.
Greg Hall surprised us with his fresh, innovative act in November of 2017. We’d never seen anybody quite like him. While we regularly hear folk singers with a comic rapport, Hall is a professional touring comedian who is also an excellent songwriter. In my review of the night, I wrote that he “was gracious, magnetic and very funny. You can’t quite tell if he’s doing a routine or just riffing, which is the sign of a true talent. The songs themselves mixed the lightweight and the inspirational, including the nice ‘Don’t Let Your Light Go Out.’” And Greg is just a bright light of a guy to be around, so we will welcome seeing him backstage as well as out front.
This summer enchanted evening will close with a set by The Grascals, one of the anchoring bluegrass bands of the last decade-plus. Formed in 2004 as a side project involving some respected sidemen, including some who were in the venerable Sidemen at the Station Inn, the house band at the greatest bluegrass bar on Earth. But the band took flight, and soon they were touring with Dolly Parton and winning big awards. The Grascals were named IBMA Entertainers of the Year in 2006 and ’07. In 2008, Kristin Scott Benson joined and became the most awarded female banjo player in IBMA history, winning the top prize three times. They remain stalwarts with great vocals and a long running association with Mountain Home Records. Their most recent album is Before Breakfast from last Fall.
We look forward to fellowship, authentic music and an all natural summertime light show.