Tennessee Shines Radio Show Preview : July & August 2018

Tennessee Shines Radio Show is performed for a live audience every Wednesday at 7pm at Boyd’s Jig & Reel musical pub in Knoxville’s historic Old City. The show is broadcast live on WDVX FM and WDVX.com. Tickets are $7 plus applicable fees in advance, available HERE or $10 at the door starting at 6pm.

July 18th – Circus No. 9 – TICKETSRSVP

Circus No. 9 is East Tennessee’s own Progressive Bluegrass outfit, blurring the lines between Bluegrass, Jazz, Jambands, and more. Described as “John Hartford meets John Coltrane,” the group has appeared alongside artists including David Grisman, Bryan Sutton, Larry Keel, and more. Comprised of musicians Matthew Davis, Thomas Cassell, and Vince Ilagan, Circus No. 9 is one of the most exciting new bands on the acoustic music scene today.
“Circus No. 9 represents everything that’s good about the new generation of acoustic music. These guys already exhibit a maturity and musicianship that has me thinking we’re going to be hearing great stuff from them for a long time!” – Bryan Sutton
Banjo extraordinaire Matthew Davis is the winner of both the National Banjo Championship and the Rockygrass Banjo Contest, not to mention the achievement of his musical chops at just age 18. Davis has performed on the Grand Ole Opry, among other venues and shows around the country.
On the mandolin is Virginia’s own Thomas Cassell, a now Tennessee transplant. Cassell is the winner of the 2016 Rockygrass Mandolin contest, and has performed on stage beside artists including Darrell Scott, Bryan Sutton, Aofie O’Donovan, Mike Marshall, Julian Lage, Billy Strings, and more.
Holding down the low end for the band is Knoxville’s Vince Ilagan, also holding a Bass Performance degree from the University of Tennessee and years of studio and touring experience. Ilagan has performed with artists including Justin Townes Earle, Jeff Sipe, Scott Miller, and many others.

July 25th – Julie Christensen & Stone Cupid – TICKETSRSVP

Julie co-fronted post-punk rockers Divine Horsemen with Chris D and is a veteran of Leonard Cohen’s bands (and the documentary I’m Your Man) “A Sad Clown” is her 7th record , an acoustic yet gritty offering of her own music and a few gems by fellow East Nashville friends Tim Easton and Darrin Bradbury; and the stunning kind of interpretation of Tom Waits’ Hold On that only Julie can deliver.

She spent time as a jazz chanteuse, tours, has performed and recorded with Steve Wynn, Van Dyke Parks, John Doe, and Exene Cervenka.

“Her swagger is true to her rebellious punk-rock roots and refined through working with the likes of Leonard Cohen, Iggy Pop, and Public Image Limited.”

–No Depression

“Julie Christensen’s music is deep and wide, speaks of experience. Her voice has amazing range, her own songs are little gems and her choice in material is assured. Wherever she is taking you, you’ll want to go. “ – Jeff Turmes

August 1st – Folk Soul Revival – TICKETSRSVP

Based in Bristol, VA/TN, a.k.a. the birthplace of country music, FOLK SOUL REVIVAL is one of southwest Virginia and northeast Tennessee’s most beloved and sought after acts. Performing original roots-rock, the quintet’s distinct, radio-ready sound and back-porch instrumentation have garnered success with high profile gigs opening for the likes of Travis Tritt, Jason Isbell, Eric Church, Justin Townes Earle, Dr. Ralph Stanley, and more. FSR’s loyal fan base, fondly referred to as “The Congregation,” consistently packs sold out shows across the southeast while singing along with the band word for word.

FSR is a mainstay act at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion which boasts more than 60,000 attendees. The band has also performed at Floydfest and are among the best-selling acts to perform at the legendary Carter Family Fold and The Down Home.

FSR frontman Daniel Davis achieved 2nd place in the prestigious Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at Merlefest in 2013 for the song “Homesick.” The band’s third album, Prompting the Dapperness, rose to #12 on iTunes’ country chart and reached #99 on the day of its release. The band also climbed to #10 on Billboard Magazine’s Heatseekers chart (South Atlantic Division). Virginia Living readers also listed them among southwest Virginia’s Top 3 bands in 2012. In 2011 FSR was voted Virginia Is For Lovers Band of the Year at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion. Their second album, Words Off A Tongue, was listed among No Depression’s Top 15. The band has also been spotlighted on Music City Roots and Sirius/XM’s “Outlaw Country.”

August 8th – Austin Lucas – TICKETSRSVP

No one ever said country music had to be simple, and when Austin Lucas began thinking about the follow-up to his critically acclaimed 2013 album Stay Reckless he had a lot on his mind. The Indiana troubadour wanted to do something not only different from his own work, but unlike anything else being done in the realm of country music and Americana. Between The Moon And The Midwest marries traditional & cosmic country sounds with sharp, vivid storytelling in a fully realized album concept.

The songs began to emerge during the 2011 Stay Reckless sessions and tour cycle; a tumultuous time masked by non-stop life on the road. With his marriage dissolving, Lucas began pouring his pain into fictionalized characters. Stay Reckless captured the experience of his divorce, and Lucas put those first few songs on the backburner while he toured heavily behind the album and avoided reflecting on the state of his personal life.

Two years later he found himself dealing with crippling anxiety and depression. Returning to the songs with a darker perspective while drawing on his life experience in rural Indiana, he crafted an intimate song cycle capturing the intricacies of friendship, love, betrayal, and the pain arising from the nature of those relationships. Being in a state of despair allowed Lucas to inhabit the characters in the story and he emerged from the darkness with the songs for Between The Moon And The Midwest.

Citing influences like Buck Owens and George Jones, Lucas had wanted to record a fully country album since 2011’s A New Home In The Old World. Enlisting the help of Joey Kneiser – guitarist and vocalist of the Tennessee band Glossary- they crafted a sound that, while rooted in outlaw and hard country, was infused with 60s psychedelic pop like the Zombies and the Beach Boys circa Pet Sounds. The result is a finely produced sound layered with guitar, vocal harmonies and atmospheric harmonics. Between The Moon And The Midwest is unique in its mix of sounds, songwriting, and influences.

From the country-gold sound of “Unbroken Hearts”, the infectious “Ain’t We Free”, to the plaintive truths in “Wrong Side of the Dream” and “The Flame”, he delivers an album at once timeless and modern. Boosted by guest appearances from John Moreland, Lydia Loveless, and Cory Branan Between The Moon And The Midwest finds Lucas at the top of his game and taking his music into exciting new territory.

August 15th – Bill & the Belles – TICKETSRSVP

Bill and the Belles capture the freewheeling, lighthearted approach to music that has endeared them to listeners of every generation. With a spirited sound that falls somewhere between old-time country and vaudeville, the East Tennessee-based group performs original songs inspired by a golden era of music, specifically the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s. As the house band for Farm and Fun Time on Radio Bristol, the band has shared the stage with some of the nation’s top roots artists. Band members include Kris Truelsen (vocals, guitar), Kalia Yeagle (vocals, fiddle), Grace Van’t Hof (vocals, banjo), and Karl Zerfas (bass). Their debut album DreamSongs, Etc. releases August 24th on Jalopy Records.

August 22nd – Matt Woods – TICKETSRSVP

Matt Woods is an americana, country and southern roots songwriter from Knoxville, Tennessee who spends a hell of a lot of time on the road, playing his songs for anyone who cares to listen. “Some folks call what I do Americana, but I have a hard time putting a label on things like that. A lot of my songs are very much based in classic country music while others are grounded in straight forward and greasy rock’n’roll,” Woods explains. “I write what is ready to come out and try to be as honest as I can about it.”

Join us for the 14th Annual Bob Dylan Birthday Bash on June 1st in Market Square

WDVX & Sweetwater Brewing Company with support from Harrison Construction present the 14th Annual Bob Dylan’s Birthday Bash.

 The WDVX Bob Dylan Birthday Bash will be held on  Friday, June 1st, from Market Square featuring:

The Reflectors

 and more including emcees Steve Dupree & David Dwyer.

The music starts at 5:00pm with festival seating. Free and open to the public.

To RSVP and invite your friends CLICK HERE

Celebrate Oak Ridge with WDVX at the ORNL Federal Credit Union’s Summer Sessions Starting on June 4th

Support for WDVX comes from Celebrate Oak Ridge inviting you to the new “Summer Sessions” concert series in Bissell Park presented by ORNL Federal Credit Union.

The concerts are free. Bring your lawn chair, friends and family Monday, June 4th for an evening of fun as Oak Ridge kicks off The Secret City Festival week. Kukuly and the Fuego and the Ridge City Ramblers will be performing Bluegrass and Gypsy Jazz. WDVX will broadcast live from 4pm until 7pm with Tony Lawson and special guests. Live music starts at 6pm and goes until 9pm. RSVP and invite your friends HERE.

For more information, visit: https://www.ornlfcu.com/summer-sessions


Stop By the WDVX Bluegrass Stage during Dollywood’s Barbeque & Bluegrass 2018 (May 25 – June 10)

Support for WDVX Comes from Dollywood’s BBQ & Bluegrass Festival taking place May 25 – June 10, with over 200 shows in 17 days. Featured acts include Rhonda Vincent & the Rage, The Gibson Brothers, Dailey & Vincent, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, The Seldom Scene, Blue Highway, Molly Tuttle and many more with a wide offering of smoked and grilled barbeque available throughout the park. For tickets and more click here.

WDVX Hosted Back Porch Theatre Stage Lineup

5/25/18 Grassically Trained
5/26/18 Just Us Bluegrass Band
5/27/18 Stoney Point
5/28/18 Echo Valley
5/29/18 Echo Valley
5/30/201 Ready For Rain
5/31/18 Grandview Mountain Pickers
6/1/18 Grandview Mountain Pickers
6/2/18 Fiddling Carson Peters   & Iron Mountain
6/3/18 Brad Hudson
6/4/18 NewDay
6/5/18 NewDay
6/6/18 Jonah Riddle Carolina Express
6/7/18 The Family Sowell
6/8/18 The Family Sowell
6/9/18 Lewell & Lora Molen
6/10/18 Chris Muncey & Narrow Way

WDVX’s Listener’s Appreciation Day 4/5/2018 Featuring Guy Marshall

It’s time once again to celebrate YOU, our listeners! WDVX is a listener supported radio station, and because of your support we are able to keep the good music going 24/7.

Join us for Listener Appreciation Day at Barley’s Knoxville on Thursday April 5th 4-7pm for pizza, door prizes and live music on the WDVX Six O’Clock Swerve, featuring East Tennessee’s Own Guy Marshall!


Johnny Mack’s 2017 Favorites

WDVX’s Johnny Mack shares his favorite tunes from 2017, complete with a Spotify playlist below!

2017 Albums

Kim Wilson, Blues & Boogie Vol. 1, Severn Records

Walter Trout, We’re All In This Together, Mascot Label Group


Sonny Landreth, Recorded Live In Lafayette, Mascot Label Group


Wee Willie Walker & The Anthony Paule Soul Orchestra, After A While, Blue Dot Records

Corey Dennison Band, Night After Night, Delmark Records

Billy Flynn, Lonesome Highway, Delmark Records

Taj Mahal & Keb’ Mo’, TajMo, Concord Label Group

Gregg Allman, Southern Blood, Concord Label Group

Monster Mike Welch & Mike Ledbetter, Right Place, Right Time, Delta Groove Music

John Primer & Bob Corritore, Ain’t Nothing You Can Do, Delta Groove Music

Rick Estrin & The Nightcats, Groovin’ In Greaseland, Alligator Records

Selwyn Birchwood, Pick Your Poison, Alligator Records

Cash Box Kings, Royal Mint, Alligator Records


Coco Montoya, Hard Truth, Alligator Records

Mr. Sipp, Knock A Hole In It, Malaco Records

Johnny Rawls, Waiting For The Train, Catfood Records

Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters, The Luckiest Man, Stony Plain Records

Karen Lovely, Fish Outta Water, Independent


The Love Light Orchestra Featuring John Nemeth, self titled, Blue Barrel Records

Chris Cain, self titled, Little Village Foundation

Mark Murray’s 2017 Favorites

WDVX’s Mark Murray shares his favorite tunes from 2017, complete with a Spotify playlist below!

As the host of the Saturday afternoon edition of the Americana Mix, I get to play lots of good music for all of you, and there were some great releases to pick from in 2017. It is always difficult to narrow down favorites, but here is my baker’s dozen that (1) I actually downloaded, (2) Are still in my car CD collection:

2017 Albums

JD McPherson – Undivided Heart and Soul










Rock, punk soul? New Sounding, with an 80’s vibe. Favorite track – “Style (Is A Losing Game)”


Jason Eady – Jason Eady

His sixth album. He’s certainly not “new”, but hear why he was one of Rolling Stone’s “10 New Country artists You Need To Know February 2017”. Gives other singer/songwriters something to aspire to. Favorite tracks – “Rain,“Drive”. He was on the Blue Plate Special in October and here is his video on our YouTube channel:

Jeremy Pinnell  – Ties Of Blood And Affection

Jeremy has been at the Blue Plate several times, and was with me in the studio in November (video on our YouTube channel). He’s got the voice, he’s got the songs, and he’s put it all together on this album. Also chosen as one of Rolling Stone’s “10 New Country artists You Need To Know October 2017”. Look for big things from this guy. Lots of good tracks to pick from… let’s go with “Take The Wheel” and “Different Kind Of Love”. Check out this video from WDVX’s YouTube Channel from Jeremy Pinnell’s WDVX in studio:


Lydia Loveless Boy Crazy (And Single)

More rock than country, more country than pop, more pop than Americana – this “bad girl” does not fit neatly into any one category. Guitarist Todd May has the best rock/pop tone I’ve heard in a long time. Favorite track – “Lover’s Spat”. I liked it even before I found out it’s about serial killer Jeffery Dahmer! (Sorry- we can’t play this one and some of the other tracks on the radio. (Bad girl – remember) Skip the two cover songs.

Marty Stuart – Way Out West

Country, rock, rockabilly, cosmic country psych-surf – is there nothing Marty Stuart can’t do? And it’s all on one album! Favorite tracks – all of them! – OK, “Time Don’t Wait”. Producer Mike Campbell, guitarist from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, contributes to the signature sound.

Mipso – Coming Down The Mountain

These guys have always been outstanding. They are finally getting some long overdue love from the music press – did I say long overdue? Outstanding musicians and harmonies that are absolutely perfect. Favorite track – “Hurt So Good”. They come through Knoxville frequently – go see them. Check out this video from their May Blue Plate Special from WDVX’s YouTube channel:


Moot Davis – Hierarchy Of Crows

Just the right balance of rock/pop/punk/countrybilly Americana. Favorite tracks – “Nighttime In Big Whiskey”,”Here Comes The Destroyer”. If you like to listen to your music at top volume, this is the album!

Nikki Lane – Highway Queen

Nikki has definitely hit her stride in her third album. Raw and polished at the same time. Favorite track – “Jackpot”.

Robert Earl Keen – Live Dinner Reunion

A must-have for all REK fans. Live, with guest artists Lyle Lovett, Cory Morrow, Cody Canada, Bruce Robison, Joe Ely, and more. Favorite Tracks – “Gringo Honeymoon”, “The Road Goes On Forever”.

The Sweetback Sisters – King Of Killing Time

Swing, country, superb harmonies – call the paramedics if you’re not tapping your feet. Favorite tracks- “Trouble”, “I’m Gonna Cry”.


Turnpike Troubadours – A Long Way From Your Heart

Steel, fiddle, electric guitars, and great harmonies – they check off all the right boxes! Favorite tracks – “Pipe Bomb Dream”, “A Tornado Warning”.


Tyler Childers – Purgatory

This is real country music. Not one weak track on this Sturgill Simpson produced album. We were very lucky to get Tyler at the (sold out) Tennessee Shines show in December – there will be very few small venues for him in the future. Favorite tracks are very hard to narrow down, try “Feathered Indians”, “Whitehouse Road”.

Will Hoge – Anchors

After touring solo for a year, his 11th full length album. Favorite tracks – “Little Bit Of Rust” (with Sheryl Crow), “Young As We Will Ever Be”.

Grace’s 2017 Favorites

WDVX’s Grace Toensing shares her favorite tunes from 2017, complete with a Spotify playlist below! In the spirit of the Americana Mix here is a little bit of everything.



2017 Songs

 Best Eclectic Tune

Joseph Huber from The Suffering Stage – Diminished Things

Best Bluegrass Tune
Dailey & Vincent from Patriots & Poets – Feel Good Music
Best Singer Songwriter Tune
Scott Miller from Ladies Auxiliary – Ten Miles Down the Nine Mile Road
Best Country Tune
Zephaniah OHora – Something Stupid


Best Alt Country Tune

Best Blues Tune
Gregg Allman from Southern Blood – My Only True Friend
Best Cover Tune
Ruthie Foster from Joy Comes Back – War Pigs

2017 Albums

Best Eclectic Album
Martin Harley & Daniel Kimbro – Static in the Wires
Best Bluegrass Album
Billy Strings – Turmoil & Tinfoil
Best Singer Songwriter Album
Josh Ritter – Gathering
Best Blues Album
Best Rock Album
Chuck Berry – Chuck
Best Alt Country Album
Shinyribs -I Got Your Medicine

Nelson’s 2017 Favorites

WDVX Music Director Nelson Gullett shares his favorite tunes from 2017, complete with a Spotify playlist below!


2017 was another solid year for Roots & Americana music. More than solid, even.

When I sat down to draft my initial list of albums that would be in contention for the ten spots available on this list, I ended up filling a page in my trusty notebook with nearly three times that many records. I was surprised it was that few. I could have gone 40 or 50 deep without expending too much extra thought or effort.

The real effort came when I looked to winnow that list down to the standard “Top 10. I could get it down to 15 or so, but each subsequent cut got harder and harder to make. It felt wrong to recognize only 10 albums while leaving others out in the cold. Representing all the different artists and sounds that made 2017 special for me would require listing more than just ten records.

Once I realized my dilemma, I quickly put together a way to work around it. So… here it is.

You’re still getting a traditional “Top 10” list of my favorite albums of the year. However, each of those albums is also paired with a companion album that explores similar sounds, themes, or otherwise occupies a similar space as the actual album in the list. These albums aren’t necessarily 11-20 on my list, but they were on my original short list and occupied a good deal of my listening time this past year. I feel pretty confident in saying these 10 (20?) albums more than fairly represent my favorite music of 2017.

A few things before we start…

*I have not placed Chris Stapleton’s From A Room: Volume 1 or 2 on this list. Going back to the first Steeldrivers record, I’ve always struggled a bit with ranking my elementary and high school classmate on these lists. Too high, and I look biased. Too low, and I fear I’m over compensating. I’ll just say that I think both of Chris’ albums from this year are great, and “Broken Halos” is the lead track on my Best of 2017 mixtape (literally).

*I don’t ever consider live records, compilations, or tribute albums for these year end lists. For these purposes, an album is a mostly original recording from the studio featuring a single artist or group.

*This list isn’t “Best,” it’s “Favorites.” I’m weighing artistic merit, sure. Mostly, though, these are just the records I enjoyed listening to the most… and kept going back to… this past year.

*While I did not limit myself to strictly Roots & Americana releases, they do represent most of what you’ll find here… with one exception that surprised even me.

*At the end, you’ll find a playlist with one track from each of the 20 (21?) albums listed here.

OK… Here we go.

My 10 Favorite Albums of 2017

jessica-lea-mayfield10. Jessica Lea Mayfield – Sorry is Gone

In a year that gave birth to the “Me Too” movement and just saw Time Magazine name The Silence Breakers… (primarily) women who spoke up and spoke out against sexual harassment and violence… as Person of the Year, Sorry is Gone stands out as an extremely powerful and relevant work. The subject matter this record primarily draws from is Mayfield’s own abusive marriage and her emergence on the other side of that traumatic experience. While this topic could make for a darker album that would ask a lot of the listener to take in and absorb, the songs here ultimately send Mayfield down an optimistic, if uncertain, path where ruminations on trauma and broken trust are less depressing contrasted against the future that path hopefully leads her down. Like countless other women who have begun to speak out in recent months, Mayfield is done apologizing for being a victim.

If You Like That, Try This: This is the Kit – Moonshine Freeze moonshinefreeze

The connection between these two records is more musical than topical. Both albums lean more on Indie Rock than Americana for influences, and come off as utterly infectious because of it. British musician Kate Stables is the primary driving force behind This is the Kit, and her loping, looping recitation of the album’s title track is one of most powerful ear worms I have carried with me this year.


9. JD McPherson – Undivided Heart & Soul

A lot of what you need to know about this record from JD McPherson can be gleaned from the cover art alone.  The Tex Avery inspired drawing provides a hint to the retro-inspired rockabilly sound McPherson has so effortlessly championed since his 2012 debut, and also points to the frenetic qualities of the music within. “Lucky Penny” recalls the Black Keys with its distorted riffs and muscular groove, and that’s kind of the norm on this record. McPherson puts his foot on the gas with the album opening “Desperate Love,” and doesn’t ever really let up all the way through the album closing “Under the Spell of City Lights.” When he does decelerate ever so slightly, as on “Hunting for Sugar,” the results are as sublime as the rest of the record is powerful.


If You Like That, Try This: Chuck Prophet – Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins

Chuck Prophet doesn’t lean quite as heavily on the retro vibes as McPherson, but a titular reference to the “I Fought the Law” singer proves he doesn’t shy away from them either. Like McPherson, Prophet jams his album full of swaggering guitar riffs and hooks stacked on top of hooks to keep you coming back. Bonus points for the spot on Connie Britton impression contained within.


8. Caroline Spence – Spades & Roses

In June, I wrote:

“The strength of this album… lies in Spence’s songwriting. Whether it’s the road weary loneliness of “Hotel Amarillo” or the deep personal confessions of “Southern Accident,” Spence strikes a resonant chord in the listener by placing a bit of herself into each and every song. “Softball” is a tune I got a preview of back in 2015 when I hosted Spence at WDVX. This song alone should put her in conversations alongside Giddens, Isbell, and a handful of others as a songwriter with the ability to subtly address the issues of our time for how it deals with the language of sexism in today’s society. “

Earlier this month, Spence released a video for “Softball” that featured 21 female songwriters lip-syncing along to her lyrics. The video ends by listing all 21 of those artists by name above the phrase, “Listen to their music!” It’s solid advice.


If You Like That, Try This: Margo Price – All American Mademargo

Margo Price lives a bit more in the honky-tonk world than does Spence, but still shares some of the same space. “Pay Gap” minces no words in tackling societal inequities while “Learning to Lose,” a duet with Willie Nelson makes sure all the heartbreak bases are covered.

Natalie Hemby’s ode to small town life, Puxico, is also a good comparison here.


7. Zephaniah OHora & The 18 Wheelers – This Highway

If I wasn’t convinced that Brooklyn’s Zephaniah OHora had a firm grasp on Haggard & Jones’ brand of Country music by the time I got to the end of this record, I certainly was when I saw how he held the Mercy Lounge in his sway during his showcase at the Americana Music Conference. After my spot near the stage became prime dance floor real estate early in the set, I slipped off to the side only to notice Jim Lauderdale had popped out to catch the show as well. I asked “Mr. Americana” if he’d heard Ohora’s record. An excited, “Oh yeah,” was the response.

Listen folks. There are a lot of artists out there who sound like they’re trying to recapture and reproduce the lost sounds of Country Music past. This guy had me checking liner notes to make sure he was actually recording these songs in the here and now. The extent to which Ohora embodies those bygone days must be heard to be believed.

If You Like That, Try This: Sam Outlaw – Tenderheartoutlaw

Classic Country didn’t just exist in Nashville. Outlaw is a California guy who brings that sensibility to his take on the genre. He also brings a stable of great songs that can pluck at the heartstrings (“Everyone’s Looking for Home” & the title track) or tickle the funny bone [“She’s Playing Hard to Get (Rid Of)”].


6. Rachel Baiman – Shame

The opening song on Rachel Baiman’s album serves as both the title track and a bit of a mission statement for the record. “They wanna bring me shame/But there ain’t no shame” Baiman sings in response to those in religious or patriarchal positions of power. It’s a mantra the former 10 String Symphony member has carried over from her recorded work into the real world as well. After the 2016 Presidential election, Baiman co-founded the organization Folk Fights Back in an effort to, “raise awareness for critical issues in today’s political climate and fund organizations actively fighting for social and political change through fundraiser concerts.” It seems the flaming fiddle on the album cover is more than just a symbol of Baiman’s willingness to subvert the traditions of the traditional folk music her sound is steeped in. It could also be a literal instrument for change.


If You Like That, Try This: Lillie Mae – Forever and Then Some

Like Baiman, Lillie Mae Rische is a bit of a fiddle playing prodigy who stepped out on her own with a debut solo record in 2017. For a debut artist, Rische already boasts a long career in music that began in childhood in a band with her father and siblings and includes periods of collaboration with Cowboy Jack Clement and Jack White among others.


5. John Moreland – Big Bad Luv

John Moreland first hit my radar in 2013 when a track from his album In the Throes boldly stated, “Nobody Gives a Damn About Songs Anymore.” Of course, Moreland has set about actively disproving that theory by consistently releasing album after album full of deeply thoughtful musical ruminations on heartbreak, faith, mortality, and any other topic worthy of deep mournful probing. On Big Bad Luv, Moreland continues to tap whatever vein it is that allows him to spill his blood so easily into his words. What makes this record stand out, however, is how Moreland takes those extra steps to make sure his words are fleshed out by a fuller sound than anything he’s previously put down on tape. In “Old Wounds,” Moreland opines, “If it don’t bleed, it don’t feel like a song.” All eleven tracks on this album feel like songs… and, man, do they bleed.


If You Like That, Try This: Turnpike Troubadours – A Long Way From Your Heart

Like Moreland, The Turnpike Troubadours hail from Oklahoma, and… like Moreland… the strength of this band is songwriting. Lead singer Even Felker incorporates narrative storytelling as a tool quite a bit here, and long time Troubadours fans will be excited to continue the stories of Lorrie and other characters who have populated past songs. New listeners should still enjoy their first steps into the worlds Felker creates.


4. Lilly Hiatt – Trinity Lane

If you love music, you probably have that one special album in your collection. You know the one. It’s been with you for a while now. You put it on when you need comfort from a broken heart, or you just need something to amplify that last bit of joy you’re trying desperately to hold onto when things aren’t going your way. It knows you. It knows exactly what you’ve been through, and exactly where you’re at. One song will be right there crying alongside you while the next track can pull the smile out of you that you didn’t think you could muster and leave you dancing alone in your living room with the volume knob pegged.

Lilly Hiatt has that album in her collection. I know because she sings about it here on the song “Records.” I know because she has made an album just like that in Trinity Lane.


If You Like That, Try This: Nikki Lane – Highway Queen

By my count, this album from Nikki Lane spent seven weeks at #1 on the Americana Airplay Chart in February & March of this year. Thus proving emphatically Lane’s declarative that, “The Highway Queen don’t need no king.” Try it out the next time you hit the highway yourself. I think you’ll find that Lane’s raspy twang and driving hooks will help you arrive at your destination in a much better mood.


3. Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit – The Nashville Sound

In the year of Black Lives Matter, Me Too, Stand with Standing Rock, and other movements meant to breed empathy for traditionally marginalized groups, Jason Isbell is here to remind us that, “There’s no such thing as someone else’s war.” We’re all in this thing together, you see. The centerpiece of this record is a song called “White Man’s World” in which Isbell turns his eye to injustices of the world and envisions a future for his daughter, and all our children, where those things no longer exist. There’s still time for us to make this future a reality, Isbell tells us, when he sings, “We’re still breathing./It’s not too late.” And while that’s true, he follows that thought on the very next song, “If We Were Vampires,” by reminding us all that our breathing days are limited. Best get to work living, loving, and fighting for what you believe in while you can.


If You Like That, Try This: Andrew Combs – Canyons of My Mind

From the opening track of this record, “Heart of Wonder,” it is clear that Andrew Combs is an artist who is comfortable with taking chances on growing and expanding his sound from album to album. There’s a grit to this song… a darkness. And by the time the horns kick in at the bridge… a frenetic energy that I found very exciting. Throw those sophisticated sounds onto an album with a batch of well written songs with a bent toward social and environmental awareness, and I feel very comfortable making the Isbell comparison here.


2. Rhiannon Giddens – Freedom Highway

Rhiannon Giddens is a genius. Legitimately. Giddens was awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant in October. Of course, anyone who has followed Giddens’ path from her days with The Carolina Chocolate Drops to today knows that already. With the Chocolate Drops, Giddens traced the story of traditional American music all the way back to its African roots. On this album, Giddens’ focus is turned more toward the story of the African American experience from the roots of this country all the way to today. Characters on this record include a mother at risk of being torn away from her child as she is sold on the slave market (“At the Purchaser’s Option”) and a modern youth who’s “good intentions” still lead to a bad situation at the hands of the police (“Better Get it Right the First Time”). As the tales on the record weave through time from slavery to the Civil Rights movement to the modern day, so does Giddens morph her sound from the more traditional to 60’s-era protest songs to hip-hop and rap. As dark as some of these tales can be, the album ends on a forward looking note with the titular cover of the Staples Singers classic “Freedom Highway.”


If You Like That, Try This: Mavis Staples – If All I Was Was Black

I think the reason Giddens closed her album with a Staples Singers song is because she knows to do the exact same thing I do whenever I need a little comfort away from the weight of the world… just put on some Mavis.  It always helps. Mavis Staples was already one of my most listened to artists in 2017 well before she dropped this Jeff Tweedy produced gem in December. The empathy and love that ooze out of every note Staples sings on this record will surely continue to grace my playlists well into 2018 as well.


1. Hurray for the Riff Raff – The Navigator

Translated into English, the Latin American slang “pa’lante” roughly means “to move forward.” As it’s used here by Alynda Lee Segarra toward the end of Hurray for the Riff Raff’s The Navigator, it’s comes as a shout of encouragement to those who need it to keep moving forward in trying and uncertain times.

Before she could pen “Pa’lante,” however, Segarra had to first look backward. She traveled to both Puerto Rico (where her ancestors are from) and the Bronx (her childhood home) in an attempt to reconnect with her roots. After steeping in the Puerto Rican culture she uncovered in both places, as well as learning about the challenges that culture faces from issues such as poverty, assimilation, and gentrification, Segarra was inspired to write The Navigator. The record ended up as a concept album of sorts that traces the path of a young woman uncovering that same heritage and tackling those same issues.

The record incorporates many musical styles and traditions including traditional American Folk and more Latin inspired rhythms and percussive elements. This album is a deeply personal turn for Segarra and another pleasing step for a band that was already critical darlings following their previous effort, 2014’s Small Town Heroes. The Navigator moves their sound forward. It mores Segarra’s songwriting forward. It moves the conversations about Puerto Rican pride, heritage, and independence forward.

Forward. Pa’lante.


If You Like That, Try This: Kesha – Rainbow

Much like The Navigator is the result of Alynda Lee Segarra reclaiming her heritage, Rainbow is the result of Kesha reclaiming her life and career following a prolonged legal battle in which Kesha alleged sexual assault against, and attempted to regain her recording rights from, a former producer. The resulting album is a daring statement of independence from an artist finally freed to make the record she wants. And while this is undoubtedly an unapologetic pop record it freely borrows from Country, Soul, and even Americana thanks to guest spots from Steelism, All Our Exes Live in Texas, The Dap-Kings Horns, and even Dolly Parton. This is the record I never expected to love in 2017. I urge you to give it a listen, even if you don’t expect to either.

Find the Perfect Gift for the WDVX Fan in Your Life

“20 Years of East Tennessee’s Own” The Book, 20 Year Anniversary limited edition hats, shirts, and more available in our online store! Order by December 13th to guarantee delivery by Christmas. Prices include shipping and handling.

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