Archive for March, 2009

Me & Billy the Kid

Posted in Joe Ely on March 27, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

Remember how excited I was about Kentucky basketball back in January? Jodie Meeks had just dropped 54 points on Tennessee here in Knoxville, and the Wildcats seemed poised to storm through the rest of the SEC with ease.

Well… things changed a bit since then.

The team hit the skids down the stretch and missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 18 years, and ended up playing in the NIT. Add to that a couple of ugly halftime interviews with Janine Edwards on ESPN, a famous stubborn streak, and rumoured behind the scenes clashes with University administrators… and Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie may be on his way out after just two seasons at UK. An announcement is expected sometime today in Lexington.

As for me, I seem to be the rare Kentucky fan who is actually on the fence on the issue. Our fanbase is a rabid and vocal one that tends to pick one side of an argument and back it to the extreme. Lots of people want Billy gone… others think he needs more time. Parts of me agree with both arguments.

Given the situation he inherited when he signed on two years ago, it’s hard to expect his team to be competing for Final Fours just two years later. He has a solid recruiting class coming next year with Daniel Orton and Jon Hood. If Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks decide to stay in school instead of testing the NBA, that’s a pretty good nucleus for year three. Firing him may be premature.

On the other hand… Billy has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way this season. His recent statement that he was just a coach and not an ambassador for the University may have been the last straw for UK President Lee Todd. He lost some fans along the way as well with his erratic substitution patterns, refusal to adjust his gameplans, and endless mind games with his players.

All of those things would probably be fine if the team was winning. But it wasn’t. It didn’t.

I’m not sure where we go from here. If this is the end of the Billy Clyde Gillispie era in Lexington, we’ll probably know today. The news will likely be everywhere once it breaks, but I suggest keeping your eyes on the Kentucky Sports Radio blog throughout the day for a slightly less reverent take on the proceedings.

Anyway… on to the music (I really didn’t mean for this post to go on this long).

It seems that an appropriate song for today is “Me and Billy the Kid” by Joe Ely. If Billy does get fired today, then it will be even more so… “Me and Billy the Kid/We never got along…”

Joe Ely: Me & Billy the Kid (Buy Album)

On a brighter note… My wife and I are scheduled to close on our new house today. We have a lot of work ahead of us. Please wish us luck.

WDVX (and other) Notes

Posted in John Hartford, Knoxville Music, Scott Miller, Tennessee Shines, WDVX on March 25, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

The WDVX Spring Fund Drive continues this week, and there are a few special fund drive events that I should probably tell you about…

***First off… the March installment of Tennessee Shines airs tonight (Wednesday) at 7:00 Eastern. The show is completely sold out. If you don’t have tickets already, then you’ll have to listen to WDVX tonight to hear the show. It ought to be a good one too. Jim Lauderdale is our host (as always) and will be joined by Theresa Anderson, Donna the Buffalo, The Gourds, and Knoxville’s own Scott Miller. You can listen live at

***Speaking of Scott Miller… he’ll also be playing the role of guest DJ Thursday afternoon at WDVX. Scott will be on the air with Tony Lawson beginning at 4:00, and there is probably no earthly way to know what sort of antics may ensue. I imagine Scott may share some tracks from his upcoming album For Crying Out Loud (more on that later), but he probably has some other tricks up his sleeve as well. Again… you can hear it live at

***On an unrelated note… I spent a great deal of time today listening to the music of the late John Hartford for no other reason than that I was simply struck to do so. It’s something I actually recommend that everyone do from time to time. Hartford was truly one of the giants of roots music and served (and still serves) as an inspiration to countless musicians who followed. I don’t proclaim to be an expert on the man or his music, but I know that his vast and expansive catalogue is well worth exploring… something I’m still doing. I may need to head over to Nashville to check out the Hartford exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame. The exhibit will remain at the museum through January 2010.

Here’s a track from my favorite Hartford album… 1971’s Aereo-Plain. The album is no longer in print. The “buy album” link will take you to the music store at

John Hartford: Back in the Goodle Days (Buy Album)

P.S. — If you’re a big-time John Hartford fan… there is a song called “The Flood of 1997” that appears on the WDVX Tenth Anniversary CD that we put out a couple of years ago. The song was recorded live at WDVX and is (as far as I know) the only official version of the song that exists anywhere. You can get a copy of the disc at the WDVX webstore with all proceeds going to support the station.

Neko Case: Video for "People Got a Lot of Nerve"

Posted in Neko Case, youtube on March 23, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

I’m still loving the new Neko Case album Middle Cyclone. Here is the video for the lead single, “People Got a Lot of Nerve.” It is important to remember that they are called Killer whales for a reason…

One other note while I’m here…

I may not be as active here as I would like in the next few weeks. My wife and I are very close to buying our first home, and there will be many, many, many things to keep me busy over the next month or so. I will try to keep updating over that time, but it will likely be just little posts like this one for a while. I honestly have no idea how much time I’ll be able to devote to this site during the cleaning/painting/moving process that is to come.

I am more than excited to get set up in our new house, and I’m sure I’ll be back to full speed soon. I already have some big things planned for April. Just keep checking back, and I’ll try not to let things get too stale around here.

Notes: 3/20/09

Posted in John Paul Keith, Tennessee Shines, WDVX on March 20, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

***The above image was taken backstage at last month’s Tennessee Shines and features the show’s host Jim Lauderdale with blues legend Pinetop Perkins. Perkins is just one of the amazing artists who has graced the stage of The Bijou Theatre for a Tennessee Shines performance. I’ve written about most of them here, but I haven’t come anywhere close to giving you the full lowdown on the still-new monthly concert series. The cover story of this week’s Metro Pulse goes in depth on the origins of the series as well as the intricate workings and lofty aspirations of the show. You can check out the full article at the Metro Pulse website. The above photo came from that site as well.

As for this month’s Tennessee Shines, the line up consists of Theresa Anderson, Scott Miller, Donna the Buffalo, and The Gourds. The show is completely sold out, but we will carry all of the festivities live on WDVX. The show kicks off Wednesday night at 7:00.

***Speaking of WDVX… it’s fundraising time again, and we could use the help. We are a listener supported Americana radio station serving the greater Knoxville area and streaming live 24 hours a day at Our single greatest funding source is our listeners, and this is one of the times of the year that we look to them the most. I know times are tough all around, and money is tight in places, but we sure would appreciate any support you may be able to throw our way. You can call 1-866-946-9389 or go to to pledge your support. If you want to donate while I’m on the air… you can do so tonight (Friday) from 6-9, next Wednesday from 6-10, or next Friday from 6-9 (all times Eastern). Thank you.

***Finally… most of you are probably aware that The South by Southwest Music Festival (SXSW) is taking place this week in Austin, TX. I am, unfortunately, still here in Knoxville this week, but I’ve been trying to follow some of the action in Texas anyway. NPR’s All Songs Considered has been providing daily updates and live performances on their website. Here’s a direct link to a concert by the Avett Brothers. You can also find performances by Blitzen Trapper, The Heartless Bastards, and more.

***For those of us who couldn’t make it to Austin this week… here’s a song from former Knoxville artist and former V-Roy, John Paul Keith. Keith wrote “The SXSW Song (Everybody’s in Austin)” a few years ago when he wasn’t able to attend. This year his new band, John Paul Keith and the One Four Fives, is playing no fewer than five showcases at SXSW. You can find a full list of his performances at his myspace page.

John Paul Keith and the One Four Fives: The SXSW Song (Everyone’s in Austin) (Buy Album)

Kathleen Edwards and Clare Burson Recap

Posted in Clare Burson, Kathleen Edwards, youtube on March 18, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

As I had predicted… Friday night was a great night for music in Knoxville with Kathleen Edwards headlining a show at my new favorite Knoxville music spot, The Square Room.

Kathleen was Kathleen… which is to say she had the audience in tears with her songs and in stitches with her between song banter. My wife and I brought a couple of friends to the show who had never heard much of Kathleen’s music before, and there were more than a few tears shed at some of the more tender songs such as “Asking for Flowers.” I guess the performance was just that powerful.

Kathleen was joined on stage by her husband and guitar player Colin Cripps, and it was great to watch the two of them interact with each other as they played. They seemed to know each other’s every move and stayed in perfect harmony the whole night. It didn’t matter if they were delicately maneuvering through a heartbreaking ballad like “Scared at Night,” blasting through an up-tempo rocker like “Back to Me,” or playfully fumbling through The Outfield’s 1985 hit “Your Love” …they held the audience in the palm of their hands.

The absolute highlight of the show came toward the end of the main set when Kathleen noticed that an audience member had dozed off during one of her songs. The carnage unfolds in this youtube clip…

Thanks to BirminghamSteve for the awesome video. More from the show can be found here.

An unexpected highlight came from opening act Clare Burson. Clare is a songwriter from Western Tennessee who now makes her home in Brooklyn.

I don’t really know much more than that other than she’s been touring with Kathleen lately and has a new CD called Silver and Ash that should be released in the near future. She was handing out samplers of the upcoming album after the show. Judging by how it sounds I’ll be greatly looking forward to hearing the full disc. I couldn’t find an official release date or a link to pre-order the album… but there is a link to buy Clare’s previous recordings at the end of this post.

The songs on the album are all loosely based on the story of Clare’s Great-Grandfather. When he was 14-years-old, his parents sent him to live in South Africa so he would not have to enlist in the Jewish army. He lived what sounds like quite an amazing life and eventually he wound up in Memphis and started a family. (I hope I remember all of these details correctly).

This song is called “Baby Boy” and seems to be written from the perspective of Clare’s Great-Great Grandmother after sending her son away. The song is atmospheric and filled with heartache. I’m very glad I had the opportunity to discover this new artist last Friday night.

Clare Burson: Baby Boy (Buy music from Clare Burson)

P.S.: This week is Spring Fund Drive week at WDVX. We are a listener supported radio station, and our single greatest source of financial support is our listeners. You can help us out by pledging online at


Notes & Links

Posted in Loretta Lynn, Rob McNurlin, The Monkees, Todd Snider, youtube on March 13, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

*** Todd Snider’s new CD, The Excitement Plan, will come your way this June from Yep Roc Records. The full scoop on the album is over at Twang Nation (scroll down), but here’s the biggest thing you need to know. The album will feature a duet with none other than Loretta Lynn. It’s safe to say that I’m excited to hear their collaboration.

*** The evolution of No Depression continues. The stalwart Americana and Alt-Country (whatever that is) magazine ceased publication in its print form a few months ago and moved to an online only format. Last week, ND launched a new, community based website that seems designed to get readers more involved in the proceedings. Users can create their own profile and use it to upload photos and videos, participate in the forums, and even contribute their own blog posts to the site. There’s also a facebook-like feature that allows you “make friends” with other users. It’s still a relatively new undertaking, but something worth keeping an eye on.

*** A bit of sad news here… Former Monkee Peter Tork was recently diagnosed with a rare form of head and neck cancer called Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma. Tork underwent successful surgery last week and is now resting at home and preparing to begin radiation treatments. You should know that I hold a special affection for the music of The Monkees. Here’s hoping for a full and speedy recovery.

*** Had a comment and a couple of e-mails concerning my post on Rob McNurlin earlier this week… so I thought I’d give you another little taste of his music in this space. Here’s a youtube video of Rob with Dave Prince on guitar doing a song called “Deep Deep is the Blue.”

*** Since I already mentioned Loretta Lynn once in this post… I think I should also go ahead and mention that Saturday is Miss Loretta’s birthday. She was born in a cabin on a hill in Butcher Hollow (Holler), KY on March 14, 1934. Loretta is a hometown girl (Butcher Hollow is just outside the city limits of Paintsville, KY where I grew up) who made good. She had a ton of hits and caused more than a few controversies with her outspoken feminist lyrics in the 60’s and 70’s. Her success helped blaze the trail for every female country artist who followed. She is a Country Music Hall of Famer and truly one of the greats. Happy Birthday Loretta.

Loretta Lynn: Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind) (Buy Album)
Loretta Lynn: You Ain’t Woman Enough (Buy Album)

Kathleen Edwards Live @ The Square Room

Posted in Kathleen Edwards, youtube on March 12, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

Friday is going to be a great night for live music in Knoxville as Kathleen Edwards rolls into town for a show at The Square Room.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoy a Kathleen Edwards show. Kathleen’s live set is irreverent, raucous, and just a helluva lot of fun. During her shows, she’s been known to have a few drinks, trade good natured profanities with audience members, and generally act like one of the guys. I don’t think I could recommend her performances any more highly.

I’ve seen Kathleen perform a handful of times now in a variety of venues and with a couple of different lineups. Each time, I come away impressed, and each show has offered its own unique story.

The first time I saw her was not long after the release of her 2003 debut album Failer. She was opening for Nickel Creek on the campus of Morehead State University (my alma mater and 2008 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament participants). Kathleen was still a very new artist and still relatively unknown at the time of the show. As I recall, the posters on campus and the radio spots on the commercial radio stations didn’t even list her as part of the bill. I took it upon myself to become her one-man street team in Morehead. I played Failer non-stop on the air in the weeks leading up to the show and urged my audience to show up early to catch the opening act.

After the show (sound wasn’t great, but Kathleen still rocked out), I got a chance to chat with Kathleen at her merch table where I told her of my promotion efforts. We talked for a little while about the show, her album, and Johnny Cash. In the end… I left that night with an autographed copy of Failer signed, “To Nelson, Thanks for supportin’. Kathleen.”

I didn’t see Kathleen perform again until early last year just before the release of her 2008 album Asking for Flowers. She played a quiet singer/songwriter set in Knoxville on the WDVX Blue Plate Special with her husband and guitar player Colin Cripps. She had to clean up the lyrics to “The Cheapest Key” a bit since the whole thing was broadcast live on the radio (“B is for bullsugar” …but F was still her favorite letter). The quiet, (mostly) acoustic side of Kathleen is not one that often comes out, but was great to see. That was also the show where she told me of her desire to keep her record label’s panties untwisted.

A couple of months after that, my wife and I took a weekend excursion to Nashville to see Kathleen and her band play a full show at The Mercy Lounge (one of my favorite clubs around). This was the first time I actually got to experience an extended set with the full band, and it was truly something to see. Kathleen showed off her full repertoire that night by switching from acoustic to electric guitar… she even played some fiddle in a few places. She and sideman Jim Bryson engaged the audience with stories from their Nashville shopping excursion from earlier that day (Kathleen bought a t-shirt that said “Nashville’s One Hot Chicken” which she modeled for everyone during the encore), drank some Tennessee Whiskey, and even entertained an audience request for “Westby” from Failer. Another winning performance.

Heck… I even have a story from the show I missed in Knoxville. After the release of her 2005 album Back to Me, Kathleen came to town with My Morning Jacket for a show in Knoxville’s Old City. I wasn’t able to go because I still lived in Kentucky and just couldn’t make it to Knoxville in time. My wife made it to the show, however, and I am now the proud owner of another autographed Kathleen Edwards CD. This one simply says, “Nelson, Where are you? Kathleen Edwards.”

That night, I was somewhere on I-75 headed for the Tennessee border. Friday night, I’ll be at The Square Room and no one will have to ask that question.

Here are a couple of live tracks from Kathleen to whet your appetite for the show… and a couple of live covers courtesy of Youtube.

Kathleen Edwards: Hockey Skates (Buy Album)
Kathleen Edwards: Money Talks (Buy Album)

Edit: Here is a picture of the “One Hot Chicken” t-shirt that I referenced earlier. I wanted to include this pic in the original post… but I couldn’t find it. Luckily, my wife did.

Rob McNurlin: Rhinestoned

Posted in Rob McNurlin on March 10, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

Back in September, I told you about Rob McNurlin, a friend of mine from Ashland, KY who plays a unique blend of folk, gospel, and classic country. When I saw him in the fall, Rob gave me a copy of his new CD Rhinestoned. I’ve been meaning to post a review of it ever since, but somehow always managed to get distracted.

Well, last Friday night, Rob just happened to be passing through Knoxville and stopped by the studios of WDVX to participate in a little hoe-down with a few of The Hackensaw Boys. After the show, Rob stuck around and hung out on the air with me for a bit to play a few songs and talk about his new record. After talking with Rob on the air, I realized that I never got around to writing that review I had promised him. I figure it’s about time that I do.

Rhinestoned is a tribute to a classic country sound that has all but disappeared these days. Rob has always been a student of the classic sounds and traditions and counts Hank Williams and Johnny Cash among his biggest idols and influences. This album draws on those influences and traditions and seeks to re-introduce them to a new generation. Despite numerous nods to the past, this is not a covers collection. All the songs on the project were written by Rob McNurlin with the exception of “99 Years,” a song he co-wrote with Tom T. and Dixie Hall.

The authenticity of the sound comes from connections just like that. Tom T. Hall is one of the seminal voices of country music’s past, and his involvement only strengthens the link to the era of music Rob is immortalizing here. In addition to Hall, steel guitar master Kayton Roberts also lends his skilled hands to the proceedings. Roberts played in Hank Snow’s band for thirty years, and plays throughout this record as well. Rob plays one guitar that was once played by Charlie Collins on The Grand Ole Opry. Another guitar was strung with a set of strings that came off of one of Johnny Cash’s old stage guitars… strummed with one of Johnny Cash’s picks. The link to, and the love for, the music of the past is authentic.

As with most of Rob’s recordings, there is also a strong gospel influence on this album. “Why’s the Church Fallin’ Down” is a lament for an empty house of worship, and the people who have let it fall into a state of disrepair. “The Only Bible” reminds us that actions can often speak louder than the written word, while “On the Rock and Roll” is an alter call in a song. Rob’s gospel isn’t preachy, but it does capture the sound and soul of the church house music that so many of us grew up with on Sunday mornings in the south.

I’m going to share two songs from the album with you here today. First is “Hillbilly Blues,” a country blues number that really features Kayton Roberts on the steel guitar. Second, “For a Song,” a sparsely arranged song that relies simply on Rob and his guitar. It recounts wonderfully the life, sacrifices, and struggles of a working musician who gives up nearly everything else for his music.

You can find out more about Rob McNurlin and order his CD’s at his website. Rhinestoned is available now on Buffalo Skinner Records.

Rob McNurlin: Hillbilly Blues (Buy Album)
Rob McNurlin: For a Song (Buy Album)