Archive for September, 2010

ReviewShine Wednesday: Natasha Borzilova

Posted in Uncategorized on September 29, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

Many of you may remember Bering Strait, the Russian bluegrass band that gained some notoriety in the early part of the decade when they were nominated for a “Best County Music Instrumental Performance” Grammy.  A few months ago, I told you about seeing former Bering Strait member Lydia Salnikova give a solo performance at 3rd & Lindsley’s in Nashville.  Now I’m here to tell you about a new project from another former Bering Strait member, vocalist and guitarist Natasha Borzilova.

Borzilova’s new CD Balancing Act is her second solo effort and finds her straying from her bluegrass roots.  The eleven tracks here find Borzilova in more of an acoustic singer/songwriter space typically inhabited by artists such as Vienna Teng or Rachel Yamagata… only with a guitar instead of a piano.  The ten originals (The closing track, “Retchka” is a traditional Russian folk song.) presented here are both moody and melodic with Borzilova’s voice adding a haunting quality to many of the tracks.  Speaking of haunting… Here is the album opening “Ghost.”

Natasha Borzilova: Ghost (Buy Album)



Posted in Patty Griffin on September 28, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

I was feeling pretty miserable when I was driving to work this morning.  It was cold.  It was dark.  It was hazy.  It was raining.  It was just an awful and miserable morning, and I didn’t much feel like being a part of it.

Then the live version of Patty Griffin’s “Rain” came on the radio, and I just felt better.  The song is pretty dark and depressing in its own right, but it was the perfect song at the perfect time.  That’s why I’m sharing it now.

“Rain” is also my wife’s favorite song, and today is her birthday.  So… here it is.

Patty Griffin: Rain (Buy Album)

Weekend YouTube: OK Go

Posted in OK Go on September 25, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

I should start by saying that I’m not exactly a huge fan of the music of OK Go.  Their songs are catchy enough, and they are always loaded with hooks.  They just trend a bit more into pop territory than I usually go.

That said… OK Go consistently pumps out some of the best videos you will ever see.  And they do it time and time again.  The new one for their song “White Knuckles” might just be my favorite yet.

…and a couple of their classic vids as well.

ReviewShine Wednesday: Magnolia Mountain & The Rubber Knife Gang

Posted in Magnolia Mountain, Rubber Knife Gang on September 22, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

Every Wednesday, I feature a brief review of at least one album that has been submitted to me through the ReviewShine website. I have cleverly titled this recurring segment “ReviewShine Wednesday.

Today, in honor of my Cincinnati Reds… a team on the verge of making the Major League playoffs for the first time since 1995… we’re featuring bands from the Queen City on the Ohio River.

We start with Magnolia Mountain, a band that blends a little bit of a classic country sound with traditional string band elements yet somehow spins the whole thing into something modern and slightly askew.  On their second album, Redbird Green, front man Mark Utley is joined by a full cast of seven other musicians (including Jordan Neff and Amber Nash from Shiny & The Spoon) rip and  stomp through 17 tracks in an eclectic blend of Americana influences that can include gospel, blues, and even zydeco on different tracks.  The song I’m featuring here, “Like Any Other,” is born more from alt-country than anything else and features some nice harmonies.

Magnolia Mountain: Like Any Other (Buy Album)

Our second band today is a three piece bluegrass/string band outfit called The Rubber Knife Gang.  Unlike their namesake novelty cutlery, this band brings a sharp edge to their sound that was honed through countless weekend jam sessions.  In fact, this album has the feel of one of those back porch picking sessions… even though it was recorded in the heart of downtown Cincy.  We’ve had some of The Rubber Knife Gang’s music in rotation at WDVX for a while now, and I just know we’ll have to add them again now that they have a song like “Tennessee Mountain Girl” in their catalogue.

The Rubber Knife Gang: Tennessee Mountain Girl (Buy Album)

Weekend YouTube: Kasey Chambers

Posted in Kasey Chambers on September 18, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

Kasey Chambers has a new CD out… in Australia.

Little Bird was released on Friday, but don’t look for it in The States any time soon. As she’s done with her previous albums, Chambers first releases her music in Australia so she can focus on tours and promotion in her homeland. Then, months later, she moves her focus to the U.S.

The difference this time is that, while it’s not available physically in stores, Little Bird is for sale on iTunes. I’ve already got my copy.
Here’s a video of the title track and lead single…

ReviewShine Wednesday: The Honey Dewdrops & Emma Hill

Posted in Emma Hill, The Honey Dewdrops on September 15, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

Every Wednesday, I feature a brief review of at least one album that has been submitted to me through the ReviewShine website. I have cleverly titled this recurring segment “ReviewShine Wednesday.”

Today marks a first for the ReviewShine Wednesday feature. This is the first time an artist has appeared for a second time in this space. I first featured The Honey Dewdrops back in March for their 2009 album If the Sun Will Shine. At that time, I compared the husband and wife duo to Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings.

Now Kagey Parrish and Laura Wortman are back with their new release These Old Roots. True to the album’s title, The Dewdrops once again find a sound that is heavily rooted in American folk and traditional Appalachian music with a modern ear for singer/songwriter melodies and harmonies. Nine of the ten songs in this collection are originals. The only exception is “Can’t Get a Letter from Home,” a traditional tune from the Appalachian foothills of Magoffin County, Kentucky (You might remember that song from Brett Ratliff’s 2008 CD Cold Icy Mountain under the title “Darlin’ Don’t You Know That’s Wrong”).
The Honey Dewdrops will play the WDVX Blue Plate Special September 21 at noon (Eastern).
The Honey Dewdrops: Amaranth (Buy Album)

We also have a bonus, second artist today in the form of Alaskan singer/songwriter Emma Hill. Hill’s sophomore offering Clumsy Seduction is a fine collection of laid back folk ballads that would make a perfect companion during those long, cold, Alaskan nights. Hill’s voice is just as soothing as her songs and blends as nicely with the cello on the title track as it does with the banjo and steel guitar on the more up-tempo “One Glass too Many.” NPR listeners may also recognize Hill’s name. She was recently featured in a Morning Edition story due to the unique nature of her current tour. Hill and her band bought, “All-You-Can-Fly” passes from JetBlue and are using them to fly to 22 shows in 13 states in 30 days.

Emma Hill: One Glass too Many (Buy Album)

Free Music Monday: Tift, Heathens, Ritter, Darlins…

Posted in Band of Heathens, Bill Monroe, Josh Ritter, Those Darlins, Tift Merritt on September 13, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

The sign Those Darlins are standing in front of says “SALE,” but today I’m here to offer you free music. Lately, my inbox has been full of announcements from big-time Americana artists telling of free downloads they are offering on their websites. Simply follow the links ahead and download (completely free) live tracks and new tunes from Those Darlins, The Band of Heathens, Tift Merritt, and Josh Ritter.

Those Darlins have been working on the follow up to their self-titled debut album and will soon release a 7″ vinyl single as a preview of the new project. You can listen to two songs from the 7″ and download the new song “Night Jogger” at their website.
As I learned recently from our friends The Gobbler’s Knob, The Band of Heathens have offered another free download on their site. This time, it’s their version of the Flying Burrito Brothers’ classic “Sin City.”
Tift Merritt’s record label is offering four songs for free download on their site. Go here for live versions of “Mixtape” and “Engine to Turn” from her new album and studio versions of “Broken” and “Feel of the World.”
Finally, Josh Ritter and his wife Dawn Landes are sharing their version of a Heady West tune called “500 Miles” (not The Proclaimers’ song) to commemorate the beginning of their European tour. Get it here.

To end the post on a completely unrelated note… Today is the birthday of the father of bluegrass music, Bill Monroe. Monroe was born Sept. 13, 1911 in the small Western Kentucky town of Rosine.

Today, Monroe is known for giving birth to a style of music that is distinctly American and Appalachian. He is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award Winner, and a National Medal of Arts recipient. He served as an undeniable influence on any number of musicians who came after him, and helped launch the careers of other bluegrass luminaries such as Earl Scruggs, Lester Flatt, Don Reno, Vassar Clements, Jimmy Martin, Del McCoury, and many others who served apprenticeships under him as members of his Bluegrass Boys.
Bill Monroe passed away in 1996, but his music and his influence continue to live on.
Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys: Blue Moon of Kentucky (Buy Album)

Weekend YouTube: Blue Plate Specials This Week

Posted in Frontier Ruckus, Great American Taxi, Sara Petite on September 11, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

This week is shaping up to be a pretty special week for Blue Plate Specials at WDVX. For those who don’t know, the BPS is a live, free concert that takes place every day at noon in downtown Knoxville and is broadcast live on WDVX and

The cool thing about this coming week is that the Americana Music Conference takes place this weekend in Nashville… and The Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion takes place next weekend in Bristol, TN and VA. What city lies directly between Nashville and Bristol? Yep… Knoxville.

You can find the full Blue Plate Special calendar at the WDVX website. Here’s a small sampling of the artists who will visit next week.

On Tuesday… it’s Great American Taxi.

Listen in to all the performances at

2010 Americana Music Awards Winners & Audio Archive

Posted in Americana Music Awards 2010 on September 11, 2010 by AmericanaPulse
In case you missed it, the Americana Music Awards were handed out Thursday night during an all-star studded show at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Since I spent the last couple of weeks handicapping and attempting to predict the winners… I thought I should share the results of the show with you as well.
The winners are:

Duo/Group of the Year: The Avett Brothers
New/Emerging Artist of the Year: Hayes Carll
Instrumentalist of the Year: Buddy Miller
Album of the Year: The List by Rosanne Cash
Song of the Year: “The Weary Kind” by Ryan Bingham
Artist of the Year: Ryan Bingham

The biggest awards of the night were also the two easiest categories to predict. Ryan Bingham had an amazing year and deserves every accolade that comes his way. He was Artist of the Year, and “The Weary Kind” was Song of the Year… no doubt.

Buddy Miller was also no surprise. He’s now been named Instrumentalist of the Year three of the past four years. The year he didn’t win… he was named Artist of the Year. He’s like John Larroquette in the Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy category at the Emmys in the 1980’s. Larroquette won four years in a row and then asked to no longer be considered for the award. Maybe it’s time to let someone else have a shot at this one.

There were mild upsets (in my opinion) in the Duo/Group and Album of the Year categories. I really thought the Dave Rawlings Machine would take home at least one of those awards. I probably shouldn’t have been surprised at Rosanne’s win due to her emotional connection to the music and the link back to her father. I do find, however, that I’m not as enamored with the kinder, gentler version of the Avett Brothers as everyone else seems to be.

The biggest puzzler of the night was Hayes Carll’s win for Best New/Emerging Artist. Let me say first… I love Hayes Carll. I love his music. I’ve met him twice and interviewed him once… he’s a nice guy. I’ve been a big fan for a long time. And that’s kind of the issue here isn’t it?

I first came in contact with Carll’s music in 2005 when he released Little Rock. That album went to #1 on the Americana Airplay Chart. His next album went to #1 on the chart. He won Song of the Year at last year’s AMA Awards. He’s toured with Dierks Bently and written with Ray Wylie Hubbard. He’s about as established as an artist can be. At least I thought he was. It’s just odd for me to see him win an award for a new artist. I’d love to see the nominating criteria for this award.

Anyway… By all accounts, last night was an amazing night for Americana Music, and I sorely wish I could have been there.

I remember my first AMA Awards show in 2004. It was held in a giant meeting room at the Nashville Conference Center on a makeshift stage in the corner of the room. The audience sat in folding chairs and sat in silence through numerous technical glitches and sound problems in between performances.

In 2010, the show was held at Country Music’s Mother Church, The Ryman Auditorium (as it has been since 2005). It was broadcast live on Sirius/XM Satelitte Radio and streamed live on The night’s big winner is also an Oscar winner, and the closing performance came from one of the greatest voices in Rock & Roll history, Robert Plant. Yeah. Robert Plant performed at the Americana Music Conference.

When I think of how far this genre of music has come in the last decade, it makes me proud to have been a part of it all in what ever small way I have been involved as a DJ and blogger. I can’t wait to see where it’s headed.

If you want to know where Americana Music is now and where it was last night, you can still listen to last night’s awards show over at the NPR Music website. They have the entire show archived and available for streaming.

2010 Americana Music Award Nominees: Song of the Year, and the Rest

Posted in Americana Music Awards 2010, Dave Rawlings Machine, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Ryan Bingham, The Avett Brothers on September 9, 2010 by AmericanaPulse

If you’ve been reading lately, then you know that the Americana Music Honors and Awards Show is taking place tonight at the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville, TN. I’ve covered the nominees in a few of the major awards so far. This post is just to wrap up every other category and give you an overview of the rest of the awards.

The award show will be broadcast live on Sirius/XM Radio’s Outlaw Country Channel and webcast live by NPR Music and Folk Alley beginning at 6:30 Central Time.

We’ll start with Song of the Year.

The nominated songs are “Drunken Poet’s Dream” by Ray Wylie Hubbard, “Ruby” by The Dave Rawlings Machine, “I and Love and You” by The Avett Brothers, and “The Weary Kind” by Ryan Bingham. I’m not going to go into detail about each nominee here since I’ve mentioned each artist in other posts already, but I do have a few general comments to go along with my prediction.

First of all, this is Bingham’s category to lose… just like every other award he’s nominated for. No song in recent memory has made as much noise outside of the Americana realm as “The Weary Kind.” That’s why he’ll win Artist and New/Emerging Artist as well… Golden Globes and Oscars bring a different level of recognition that this genre has been searching for some time now.

“Ruby” is a pleasant enough song, but not my favorite from that album by a far shot. “I and Love and You” does a good job of showcasing the Avett’s expanded melancholy, but I still prefer the rowdy version of that band. The song that intrigues me the most in this set is “Drunken Poet’s Dream” by Ray Wylie Hubbard.

This is the same song that appeared on Hayes Carll’s 2008 CD Trouble in Mind… except that it isn’t. Carll and Hubbard both have co-write credits for the song on each album, but Hubbard’s version is drastically different from Carll’s original. Aside from changing the song from a somewhat sunny piece into a fuzzy electric dirge, Hubbard added verses, left out others, re-arranged a few others, and omitted the bridge. He even changed the lyrics to the chorus. In the end, almost the only thing the two songs share is a title. Still, I’m not sure which one I like better… both hold up well.

Ray Wylie Hubbard: Drunken Poet’s Dream (Buy Album)
Dave Rawlings Machine: Ruby (Buy Album)
Avett Brothers: I and Love and You (Buy Album)
Ryan Bingham: Weary Kind (Buy Album)

My Prediction: Ryan Bingham
My Vote (If I had one): Ryan Bingham
The other two major categories are Artist of the Year and Instrumentalist of the Year.

Once again… we’ve already covered most of the nominees for Artist of the Year. Ryan Bingham, Patty Griffin, and Ray Wylie Hubbard are nominees in other categories. Only Steve Earle and Levon Helm are singularly nominated. For his part, Helm was the winner of the first ever Grammy for Best Americana Album. Earle, meanwhile, won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album. Both artists also continue to tour and serve as ambassadors for the genre. Still… they can’t trump Bingham.
My Prediction: Bingham
My Vote (If I had one): Bingham
The Instrumentalist of the Year category is loaded with perennial nominees like Buddy Miller, Will Kimbrough, and Sam Bush along with this year’s most nominated artist Dave Rawlings. It’s hard to imagine a year without Buddy Miller winning an award, but he’s done more producing than playing lately. This may be the year he’s shut out.
I don’t really have a prediction or vote here. This is the one category that stumps me every year.