Archive for the Tennessee Shines Category

Tennessee Shines October Edition: Dave Alvin, Sara Watkins, Tyler Ramsey, & Samantha Crain

Posted in Dave Alvin, Samantha Crain, Sara Watkins, Tennessee Shines, Tyler Ramsey on October 27, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

It’s that time once again…

Wednesday night at 7:00 (Eastern), WDVX and wdvx.com will broadcast this month’s edition of Tennessee Shines live from the Bijou Theatre in downtown Knoxville. This month’s lineup is a pretty solid one featuring Americana stalwart Dave Alvin, former Nickel Creek fiddler Sara Watkins, Band of Horses guitarist Tyler Ramsey, and up and coming Oklahoma songwriter Samantha Crain.

Obviously, the biggest name on this month’s bill is Dave Alvin, who will be appearing with a few members of his backing band, The Guilty Women. Dave has been around since the early 1980s when he fronted the pioneering roots-rock outfit The Blasters along with his brother Phil. For the last several years though Dave has become a highly respected solo artist known for his heartfelt songwriting and monstrous talent on the guitar.

I saw Dave play a show at the Mercy Lounge in Nashville a few years ago. Even as I felt my eardrums exploding due to sheer volume, I could not bring myself to step away from the front of the stage during his set. I had to be right up front so I wouldn’t miss a note. His playing is that captivating. Wednesday night, Dave will be playing selections from his latest project Dave Alvin & The Guilty Women.

Dave Alvin & The Guilty Women: Marie Marie (Buy Album)

Next, we move on to former Nickel Creek (it still pains me to write “former” in front of “Nickel Creek”) fiddler Sara Watkins. Sara is best known for her time with Nickel Creek but has also kept busy over the years with several side projects such as The Mutual Admiration Society, The Watkins Family Band, and her newest project The Works Progress Administration (with Sean Watkins, Luke Bulla, Glen Phillips, & others). Earlier this year, Sara Released her first solo project, a self-titled album on Nonesuch Records.

Sara never wrote as many songs as the other members of Nickel Creek (Sean Watkins & Chris Thile), which is probably why it took her this long to release her first solo record. Even though she did pen a few of the songs on this album herself, her strength (not unlike fellow fiddle playing songbird Alison Krauss) has always been finding the right song, and interpreting it to make it her own. A perfect example is her reading of John Hartford’s “Long Hot Summer Days.”

Sara Watkins: Long Hot Summer Days (Buy Album)

That brings us to Tyler Ramsey, a singer/songwriter/guitarist from Asheville, NC. Tyler made a name for himself in the musician laden town of Asheville by crafting his own intricate style of finger picked guitar. He marries his gentle melodies to dreamy vocals and arrangements to stirring effect. When he isn’t touring and recording on his own, Tyler is also a member of indie rock buzz act The Band of Horses. You can witness Tyler’s guitar skills on the title track to his solo album A Long Dream About Swimming Across the Sea.

Tyler Ramsey: A Long Dream (Buy Album)

Finally, we come to the artist I might be the most excited to hear on Wednesday night, Samantha Crain. I first became familiar with Samantha’s music by reading about her in several posts over at Payton’s site, This Mornin’ I Am Born Again. When I saw her debut full-length album Songs in the Night sitting in my program director’s office at WDVX, I immediately grabbed it, gave it a listen, and started playing it on the air.

To me, her music inhabits the same sonic territories as Brandi Carlile and Sarah Borges. She brings folk-flavored rock with a dangerous edge and just enough pop hooks to become ingrained in your brain. Her backing band, The Midnight Shivers, is responsible for helping to shape and hone that edge in her sound. They deserve a mention here even though they won’t be with Samantha on Wednesday night. Even without the band, I’ll be very excited to hear some of these songs stripped bare on their own. Here’s one (with the band) from Songs in the Night.
Samantha Crain & The Midnight Shivers: Devil’s in Boston (Buy Album)
As a special bonus… Samantha Crain will also be dropping by the WDVX studios before the show Wednesday night to chat with me about her album and her sound. Check it out around 5:30 (Eastern). You can listen at wdvx.com… and feel free to leave any questions you may have for Samantha in the comments.
Tennessee Shines will air live on WDVX and wdvx.com Wednesday night at 7:00.

A Little Knox Music: Black Lillies on Tennessee Shines

Posted in Knoxville Music, Tennessee Shines, The Black Lillies on June 23, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

Back again with another installment of “A Little Knox Music” …a brief look at new local music here in Knoxville. Today, we’ll focus on Cruz Contreras’ new project, The Black Lillies.

First, however, is an even briefer look at the artists the Black Lillies will share the stage with during Wednesday’s installment of Tennessee Shines.

Of course… our venerable host Jim Lauderdale will lead the festivities, as he does every month. And, as usual, Lauderdale will be joined by a strong collection of talent representing all corners of the Americana genre.

First up are The Grasscals… one of the hottest acts on the bluegrass scene today and winners of multiple Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music Association (SPBGMA) Awards. Songwriter Steve Forbert will also be there to share selections from his new album The Place and the Time. Forbert’s songwriting chops are so strong that he was hailed as “The Next Dylan” when his career started in the late ’70s. Rounding out the bill is veteran songwriter Chip Taylor (“Wild Thing,” “Angel of the Morning”) and his new collaborator Kendel Carson. It’s possibly one of the strongest Tennessee Shines Lineups so far.

The fourth act of the night is The Black Lillies, a recent addition to the Knoxville music scene, but one that is made up of several familiar faces. In addition to the aforementioned vocalist/multi-instrumentalist/songwriter Cruz Contreras (Robinella & the C.C. String Band), the Black Lilles are composed of vocalist Leah Gardner, drummer Jamie Cook, steel player Tom Pryor, and bassist Jeff Woods…. all veterans of the Knoxville music scene.

Musically, the Black Lillies draw influence from several styles of American roots music including folk, bluegrass, and blues… even rock and roll. The electric blues/rock of “There’s Only One” stands side by side on the debut album Whiskey Angel with the country weeper “Goodbye Mama Blues” and the string band sound of the title track. Woods told the local independent newspaper, The Metro Pulse, that the album “touches on everything that Americana is. I don’t think there’s a lot left out as far as the canons of what popular music’s been for the last 50 years.”

I’d be hard pressed to describe the album any better than that.

I’ll leave you with a couple of tracks from Whiskey Angel that highlight the wide range of influences that can be found on the album. You can hear the Black Lillies perform on Tennessee Shines beginning Wednesday night at 7:00 on WDVX. The whole show will be broadcast live from Knoxville’s historic Bijou Theatre.

The Black Lillies: Whiskey Angel (Buy Album)
The Black Lillies: There’s Only One (Buy Album)

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 www.wdvx.com.

***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 www.wdvx.com.

***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 www.johnhartford.com.

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.

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 http://www.wdvx.com/. 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 http://www.wdvx.com/ 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)

Notes and Last Week’s Live Music

Posted in Luminescent Orchestrii, Nels Andrews, Pinetop Perkins, Tennessee Shines on February 23, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

***First off… I want to send out some get well wishes to Americana icon Buddy Miller. Buddy suffered a heart attack on Thursday and is currently recovering from a triple bypass surgery.

Get well Buddy.

***It’s Tennessee Shines time again. This month, Jim Lauderdale is joined by The Gibson Brothers, Megan McCormick, local favorite Erick Baker, and blues legend Pinetop Perkins. Perkins recently celebrated his 95th birthday and is still churning out great blues records. His latest, Pinetop Perkins and Friends, includes guest shots from Eric Clapton, Jimmie Vaughn, and B.B. King.

Tennessee Shines airs live on WDVX Wednesday night at 7:00 (Eastern). Here’s a classic cut from Pinetop.

Pinetop Perkins: Got My Mojo Working (Buy Album)

***Now that you know what’s coming up, I can tell you about a couple of great live acts I saw last week here in town.

On Wednesday, Nels Andrews came to town to play the Blue Plate Special. Nels is a terrific singer-songwriter whose sparse and simple songs transport the listener instantly to the American Southwest where he spent a good portion of his life. For his performance, he was joined by mandolin/banjo player Brandon Seabrook. I actually found myself focusing on Seabrook for most of the performance as he coaxed sounds out a four-string banjo that I have never heard before. At times, he even drew a fiddle bow across the strings of both instruments. It filled out the sound quite nicely.

Friday it was Luminescent Orchestrii for a Blue Plate at The Square Room. The Gypsy folk rockers from New York put on a high energy show that was as diverse as it was entertaining. From Albanian folk songs to Romanian rave-ups, the band brought the traditional sounds of Eastern Europe to East Tennessee. Another concert attendee commented that Luminescent Orchestrii sound like The Duhks might sound if they were based out of Romania instead of Canada. It didn’t matter that I didn’t understand most of the lyrics (the songs were performed in many different languages)… I understood the music, and it was one of the more enjoyable shows I’ve seen in a while.

Here’s a taste of each artist.

Nels Andrews: Dollar and the Dream (Buy Album)
Luminescent Orchestrii: Moldavian (Buy Album)

Tennessee Shines Recap

Posted in Alejandro Escovedo, Jennifer Nicely, Tennessee Shines, The Duhks, The Lovell Sisters on January 30, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

It’s Friday morning now, and I’m still basking in the glow of Wednesday night’s edition of Tennessee Shines. I was finally able to attend a taping of the show, and I was not disappointed. Of course, Alejandro Escovedo rocked the pillars of the Bijou Theatre during his portion of the show… but we’ll get to that in a little bit.

Tennessee Shines is a monthly concert series that takes place in downtown Knoxville, TN that is recorded live for radio syndication and local television. It’s very similar to other syndicated programs such as Mountain Stage and E-Town. Each performance features over two hours of music and is actually recorded as two separate one-hour radio shows. The first hour on Wednesday featured The Lovell Sisters and Alejandro Escovedo while the second hour focused on Jennifer Nicely and The Duhks. Grammy winner Jim Lauderdale is the host who holds the whole thing together by introducing the artists, conducting short interviews, and sometimes sitting in with the featured performers. It all makes for a rather enjoyable experience.

First up on Wednesday night were The Lovell Sisters, a family band made up of Jessica, Megan, and Rebecca Lovell… aged 21, 17, and 16. Their age belies their skills, and they were a great way to start the show. The sisters breezed through a set of traditional tunes and original songs. They even threw in a Hendrix cover for good measure. The girls are already Merlefest regulars and should only get better with age and experience.

We’ll skip ahead in the night a bit now to Jennifer Nicely, who opened the second hour of the show. Jennifer is an East Tennessee native who produces beautifully textured singer/songwriter fare that is based primarily in folk and jazz. Jennifer played a brief set filled with laid back atmospheric grooves. Her set provided a nice calm after the storm that Alejandro Escovedo produced.

The Duhks rounded out the show with their signature mix of… well… how do you describe The Duhks exactly? Their influences cover many styles including traditional string band music, pop, jazz, Celtic, Afro-beat, and Latin rhythms, and their sound is constantly evolving.

This was my first time seeing the band with their new line-up featuring the vocalist/percussionist brother and sister combo of Sarah and Christian Dugas. Sarah Dugas is also a songwriter who contributed several original tunes to the group’s latest album Fast Paced World. She owned the stage as she belted out tune after tune while fiddle player Tania Elizabeth whirled and twirled around and banjo player Leonard Podolak stomped about the stage. Christian Dugas and Jordan McConnell kept perfect time on drums and guitar.

The highlight of their set was the closing song which was a medley called “Ship High in Transit/Magalenha.” The song began as an instrumental piece showcasing McConnell and Elizabeth before erupting into a percussion and vocal piece that relies heavily on Latin rhythms and features lyrics sang in Portuguese. This is a very adventurous band that is not afraid to take you along on the ride with them.

Here’s one of their more straightforward numbers… and a song they played Wednesday night… “You Don’t See It.”

The Duhks: You Don’t See It (Buy Album)

Of course… the highlight of the night for me was Alejandro Escovedo. I’d been geared up for his set for some time, and I was fully prepared to rock out with the Real Animal. It was all I expected it to be, Alejandro provided a blistering set of fiery Rock & Roll that may have been too much for some in attendance. I saw a few people with fingers in their ears, a few people seek shelter in the lobby, and was told of one couple who (not so) kindly asked the sound table to cut back the volume a bit. It was a bit of a departure from the usual Tennessee Shines performance where artists generally are less amped and more acoustic, but I was too busy rocking out to care.
Alejandro blazed through six songs from his 2008 album Real Animal (my fave of ’08) and old favorite “Castanets.” His set was way too short, but still quite enjoyable. It’s been a while since I’ve seen anything live that could match the fire of “Chelsea” or “Castanets.” Simply put, if Alejandro Escovedo comes to your town… Go. You’ll be better for it.

Here’s a live version of “Castanets” from the Por Vida Fan Club CD to get you through the day and the words I wrote about the studio version of the song the last time I mentioned it here.

“My favorite Escovedo song, “Castanets,” comes from my favorite Escovedo album (2001’s A Man Under the Influence), and is one of my favorite songs of all time… period. The guitar lick on this song sets the track on fire and refuses to be extinguished for the next 3:27. This is, in my opinion, one of the great barroom rock songs ever recorded, and I will not be happy until everyone knows this tune.”

Alejandro Escovedo: Castanets (Buy Album)

Alejandro Escovedo on Tennessee Shines

Posted in Alejandro Escovedo, Tennessee Shines on January 26, 2009 by AmericanaPulse

I’ve written several times here about Tennessee Shines, the monthly concert series that started last year at the Bijou Theatre here in Knoxville. The show is still in its infancy, but is already a hit here in town. Almost every show has sold out, and word of mouth has been very positive. In just a few short months, Tennesse Shines has already hosted The Steeldrivers, Darrell Scott, Jerry Douglas, The Red Stick Ramblers, Ben Sollee, Carrie Rodriguez, The Hackensaw Boys, and many, many others.

Despite all of the great music and great reviews, I have yet to attend a Tennessee Shines show. The performances are always held on Wednesday nights… one of the nights I’m on the air at WDVX. I’m the guy who has to stay behind in the studio and make sure the show makes it on the air for everyone who wants to listen online or at home. I do get to listen to the show here in the studio. I just don’t get to go.

Not this month…

Wednesday night, Alejandro Escovedo is coming to Tennessee Shines and I will be there. I started trying to find a way out of working my shift that night over a month ago (thanks Katie). If Alejandro is coming to my town, I ain’t gonna miss it.

I’ve written enough about Escovedo here that you should already know how I feel about his music. My favorite album of 2008. My favorite song of 2008. No Depression critic’s poll best album of 2008. Austin music critic’s poll best album of 2008. No Depression’s Artist of the Decade for the 1990’s. Punk rock pioneer. Roots rock innovator. A musician with an all inclusive style that draws from many influences, yet sounds completely unique. All of these things are true about Escovedo… and I haven’t even mentioned his live show.

On stage, Escovedo is a force of nature. I got to see him perform a few years back at The Dame in Lexington, KY when he was just beginning to tour again after a long and nearly fatal battle with Hepatitis C. I remember thinking immediately that he was still somewhat weakened by the disease. He was thin… almost frail. I wondered if he might have the stamina to make it through a full show. At best, I thought he might make his way through a quiet singer/songwriter set and call it a night.

I don’t know what I was thinking. From the opening chord to the final note, Escovedo absolutely commanded the stage leading a large ensemble through over two hours of music that had every soul in the club completely entranced. By the end of the night, I was wiped out, but Escovedo was still going strong. It was one of the more amazing concert experiences of my life.

I’m hoping to duplicate that experience Wednesday night. Tennessee Shines begins at 7:00 Eastern time and is broadcast live on WDVX and WDVX.com. Alejandro Escovedo is joined on the bill by The Duhks (who I also love), The Lovell Sisters, and Jennifer Nicely. Jim Lauderdale is the host as always. Try to listen if you can… should be a good one.

For today’s mp3 files, I’m going to do something different and give you a few different versions of the same song to illustrate the many different sounds Escovedo can create. Here are three different live versions of “Everybody Loves Me,” a song that first appeared on Escovedo’s 1999 album Bourbonitis Blues.

First is a fairly straightforward reading of the song that was part of a performance for a website called Basement Tapes. Next is a version from Willie Nelson’s Songs for Tsunami Relief project and features Jon Dee Graham on guitar and some interesting loops and sound effects. Finally, a much different take on the song from The Alejandro Escovedo String Quintet.

Alejandro Escovedo: Everybody Loves Me (Visit Website)
Alejandro Escovedo: Everybody Loves Me (Buy Album)
Alejandro Escovedo String Quintet: Everybody Loves Me (Buy Album)