BONUS TRACKS: Another Setback for ‘Music City Roots,’ A Tribute to Justin Townes Earle, and More
An artist's rendering of The Roots Barn under construction in Madison, Tennessee. A partnership that would have made it the new home of "Music City Roots" appears to have ended over creative differences.
The future of live music radio show and webcast Music City Roots, a roots music mainstay since 2009, has been unclear since it left its home at The Factory venue in Franklin, Tennessee, in 2017 for a Nashville venue that didn’t pan out. But there was hope the show would get back on track with a partnership in Madison that included a venue named The Roots Barn. But this week the show’s co-founder and producer, John Walker, resigned from the project, citing creative differences. Nancy VanReese, a Nashville city council member and vice president of the production company that was taking the project forward, also resigned from the project, stating “I am heartbroken that the show Music City Roots, at least how we have known it … will not continue.” The rest of the Music City Roots team resigned or was terminated, according to a statement from the show. You can read that statement, and more about this sad surprise development, from WMOT, a longtime partner of Music City Roots.
Steve Earle has put together a tribute concert for his late son Justin Townes Earle at the Ryman Auditorium on Jan. 4, when Justin Townes Earle would have turned 40. Among the artists slated to perform Justin’s songs at “A Celebration of Justin Townes Earle,” in addition to his father, are Jason Isbell, Amanda Shires, Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris, and Old Crow Medicine Show. Proceeds for the show will go to a trust for Justin’s young daughter. Learn more about the show and see the full lineup in this article from Rolling Stone. Steve Earle has also announced the seventh annual fundraising concert for The Keswell School, which serves children on the autism spectrum and where his son John Henry is a student. The lineup for John Henry’s Friends Benefit, at the Town Hall in New York City on Dec. 13, includes Bruce Springsteen, Rosanne Cash, and Willie Nile.
Hey, remember when massive mainstream country trio Lady Antebellum made a show of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement by changing their name to Lady A last year? And either failed to Google or didn’t care that the name had already been in use for decades as the professional stage and recording name of blues singer Anita White … who is Black but whose professional life apparently doesn’t matter to the renamed trio? Early on, it appeared the two parties were going to work it out, but then the lawsuits started flying, and the matter is still pending in court. Any argument that the name overlap was harmless was pretty iffy to begin with, but recently there have been some real-world consequences. New Orleans singer-songwriter Lilli Lewis (who recently wrote an essay for No Depression) released her new album, Americana, on Oct. 29, but last week it was suddenly pulled from Spotify, to the surprise of Lewis, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports. Why? Lewis had featured Lady A — the real Lady A, Anita White — on one song, and the name “Lady A” in the credits triggered Spotify to flag it as erroneous, because they assumed it referred to the Nashville trio. By Monday, Spotify had restored Lewis’ album to its service, but the damage — lost streaming numbers, Lewis’ time spent setting Spotify straight — had been done, and I hope the courts working out the claims to the Lady A name take note. (While I’m daring to hope, wouldn’t it be nice if the Nashville trio similarly took note of the continuing damage their name change has wrought against Black artists and simply found another name — preferably not one already in use — to earn their millions by?)
If you’re a roots music fan, chances are you’ve attended some shows by yourself. It’s not always easy to round up a group to see a band whose songs aren’t played on Top 40 radio, or to find a buddy for a Monday night concert a few towns down the highway. Is that sad, someone asked Steve Hyden for his “Ask a Music Critic” column at Uproxx. Heck no, Hyden says, and I wholeheartedly agree. When I attend a show solo, I tend to have great conversations with people I meet at the show — you know you have something in common just by being there! And I also don’t have to negotiate where to sit or stand with anyone else. I can just enjoy the music and look forward to telling all my friends what they missed the next day.
WHAT WE’RE LISTENING TO
Here’s a sampling of the songs, albums, bands, and sounds No Depression staffers have been into this week:
Jamestown Revival – “These Days,” from their new album, Young Man, coming in January
Renée Fleming, Alison Krauss, Rhiannon Giddens, and Yannick Nézet-Séguin – “Before the Deluge” (Jackson Browne cover)
Thomas Cassell – “New November”
Cybertronic Spree – “Cybertronic Warrior”
Rachel Baiman featuring Kyshona and The Atwood Quartet – “No Good Time for Dying”
Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway – “She’ll Change,” from her new album, coming in 2022
Leonard Cohen – Songs of Leonard Cohen
Basia Bulat – Are You in Love?
The Barr Brothers – Queens of the Breakers
Lhasa de Sela – Lhasa
Taylor Swift featuring Phoebe Bridgers – “Nothing New” (Taylor’s Version)
Taylor Swift – “All Too Well” (Sad Girl Autumn Version)
Dean Johnson – “True Love”
Westwood Avenue featuring Erin Rae – “Bachelorette Screams”