Archive for the Robinella Category

Friday Top 5: East Tennessee’s Own

Posted in Brendon James Wright, Knoxville Music, R.B. Morris, Robinella, Scott Miller, the everybodyfields, Top 5 on November 21, 2008 by AmericanaPulse

Here at WDVX, we have a tagline that we add to most of our station ID’s and promo announcements. That tagline is “East Tennessee’s Own,” as in… “This is East Tennessee’s Own, WDVX.”

We use it a lot. It’s on our website. It’s on our t-shirts. It’s on our posters. It’s said roughly 2,147 times a day on the air. It’s a sort of branding that we use to distinguish ourselves from other stations and tell our listeners who we are and what we care about in three words or less.

It’s also a bit of a mission statement. Here in Knoxville, and East Tennessee, there is a thriving local music scene, and many of those local artists receive airplay on the station. Whether their CDs are in regular rotation or they pop up from time to time on one of our specialty shows or the Blue Plate Special (our daily live concert series)… local artists make up a large part of what we play.

It’s with that in mind that I bring you today’s Top 5… East Tennessee’s Own: My five favorite Knoxville artists.

Of course, anyone who’s read this blog for any time knows that I have to start with one of my favorite artists from any city, and the patron saint of A Fifty Cent Lighter & A Whiskey Buzz… Scott Miller. Scott is a Virginian by birth, but a Knoxvillian by choice. He’s lived here for the better part of the last two decades and claims Knoxville as his adopted home. Knoxville now claims him too. He brings a crowd anywhere he plays, and his annual New Year’s Eve shows are the stuff of legends.

I’ve written about Scott Miller several times in this space, and I will surely write more in the months ahead as Scott prepares to release his next studio album. The recording process is completed, and Scott says fans who bought one of his self-released Appalachian Refugee demo CD’s should have the chance to buy the new album before the end of the year.

Scott’s song, “I Made a Mess of This Town,” is the song this site took its name from, and you can hear the studio version by clicking the link to the right of the screen in the “About Me…” sidebar. A couple of months ago, I was lucky enough to interview Scott on the air here at WDVX when he was promoting the demos album and an upcoming show at The Bijou Theatre. He played “I Made a Mess of This Town” that day in the studio along with some other music that I’ve promised not to share until the new studio album is released. Here is that solo, acoustic version of this blog’s title track along with some of Scott’s candid thoughts about the city of Knoxville. The “Buy Album” link for this track points to Scott’s online merch store.

Scott Miller: I Made a Mess of This Town (Buy Album)

Any post about Knoxville’s music scene would be incomplete without a mention of our city’s unofficial poet laureate, R.B. Morris. Morris is one of Knoxville’s best kept secrets and an artist who Lucinda Williams once called the “greatest unknown songwriter in the country.” On top of his songwriting talents, Morris is also an author, poet, and playwright… a one man literary wrecking ball.

Recently, Morris served as an writer in residence at The University of Tennessee. As part of the gig, writers in residence are asked to host monthly discussions with local and national poets and authors so students and aspiring writers can get the chance to pick the brains of established professionals and get a better handle of their future trades. Morris brought in the typical array of published authors, but he also brought in songwriters like Steve Earle and Scott Miller to share their secrets. Morris believes that a well written song can be just as moving as any piece of prose, and it shows in his well crafted narratives. This song is from R.B.’s recent E.P., Empire.

R.B. Morris: City (Buy Album)

I first became aware of Jill Andrews and Sam Quinn, the songwriting duo behind the everybodyfields, a few years ago when I was still working at Morehead State Public Radio. Jill’s father had just become president of the university and was touring the campus to meet some of the students and staff. He asked me if I had ever heard of his daughter and this new bluegrass band she was playing in. I hadn’t. A few weeks later, a copy of their debut album Halfway There: Electricity and the South arrived at the station.

I’ll admit, I wasn’t expecting much the first time I listened to the album. Dr. Andrews had described them as bluegrass, and I thought this would just be another generic bluegrass album. I was a little off base to say the least. The sound that came out of the speakers was a beautiful melancholy with soaring bluegrass harmonies and a strong indie-folk aesthetic that immediately caught my attention. This was not “just another bluegrass band.”

The everybodyfields moved to Knoxville from Johnson City, TN last year and have become a strong presence in the local music community. In fact, they just played a show last night at the Bijou Theatre. The track I’m offering here is from their debut album. It was the winner of the prestigious Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at Merlefest in 2005.

the everybodyfields: T.V.A. (Buy Album)

Robinella is another local musical treasure who has been a fixture in Knoxville since her days as a student at The University of Tennessee. In 1997, Robinella co-founded a band called The Stringbeans along with fellow UT students Cruz Contreras and Jay Clark (Jay would be on this list himself, but he moved back to Alabama last year… he’ll probably pop up here soon). The group garnered some attention in and around town for the way they melded jazz, pop, country, and blues into a framework that relied heavily on bluegrass.

In 1999 the band’s lineup shifted, and The Stringbeans became Robinella and the CC Stringband. They released a couple of independent albums before catching the attention of Columbia Records in 2002. The group released an acclaimed self-titled album with Columbia in 2003. The follow up album (now billed simply as Robinella… but still featuring the band) Solace for the Lonely was released on Dualtone in 2006.

Sadly, Robinella no longer plays with the CC Stringband, but Cruz and the band can be found playing all over town. Cruz himself is one of the most sought after sidemen and session players in the region. Robinella can still be found every Sunday night at Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria in Knoxville’s Old City. Her Sunday night set has been the way to close out the Knoxville weekends for several years now. Here’s a track from Solace for the Lonely.

Robinella: Down the Mountain (Buy Album)

Brendon James Wright is a relative newcomer compared to some of the other names on this list, but that hasn’t stopped me from enjoying his self titled debut album with his band The Wrongs. I first heard Brendon’s music a few months ago as I was driving home from the radio station after my Wednesday night shift. I always listen to The Writer’s Block (a show here on WDVX that is dedicated to independent singer-songwriters) in the car on my way home, and on this particular night I heard a song called “This Old Town” from Brendon James Wright and The Wrongs.

The song was about a place called Pikeville, a relatively small mining town in Eastern Kentucky not far from my hometown of Paintsville. Brendon’s song perfectly captured some of the things I felt growing up in a town just like Pikeville. These Appalachian towns are full of hard working, God fearing people… coal mines and mud… and not much else. These are places where opportunities are sometimes few and you have to do what you can to get by. They are the types of places you’re proud to come from, but you know you have to leave even if a little part of you always wants to go back.

After hearing that song for the first time, I made it a point to find Brendon’s album and give the rest of it a listen. I was not disappointed. I got to hang out with Brendon earlier this week when he sat in as a studio guest for The Writer’s Block, and I was a bit surprised to learn that he didn’t grow up in Eastern Kentucky. He was born and bred in Knoxville and wrote “This Old Town” for a college buddy who had grown up Pikeville. The fact that Brendon could write a song that spoke to me as strongly as it did when he hadn’t even experienced what he was writing about should speak to his skills as a songwriter. Here is “This Old Town” from Brendon James Wright and The Wrongs.

Brendon James Wright and The Wrongs: This Old Town (Buy Album)

If you liked all of that… just remember that this is only a small sampling of Knoxville’s musical roster. I didn’t even mention Karen E. Reynolds, Hector Quirko, Medford’s Black Record Collection, Wade Hill, Alex Leach, Robert Lovett, The Maid Rite String Band, The Bearded, Mic Harrison, Christabel and the Johns, Brent Thompson’s Wandering Circus, or any number of other Knoxville artists.

Maybe another day…