BONUS TRACKS: Independent Venue Week, Class with Chris Thile, and a New Ryman Statue
Photo via Ryman Auditorium's Loretta Lynn Statue Reveal on Facebook Live
Independent venues are vital to the roots music scene, connecting fans and musicians face to face and creating lifelong memories. For me, The Handlebar in Greenville, South Carolina, was home as I started discovering roots music in college. On that stage in the belly of an old textile mill, I saw for the first time Robert Earl Keen, Alejandro Escovedo, Kim Richey, and so many other artists who would become lasting favorites. Sadly, after a bankruptcy filing and a move to a new building, The Handlebar couldn’t hang on, and it truly left a hole in the music scene in its hometown. Hundreds of similar venues across the country could face a similar fate in 2020 in a tough business made much tougher by a pandemic and economic downtown, neither of which show signs of being solved anytime soon. Independent Venue Week, which starts tomorrow and runs through Oct. 30, seeks to highlight what venues bring to their hometowns and how these important sites are struggling, with performances and panels aimed at finding a new way forward. Look for No Depression Managing Editor Hilary Saunders in an online panel about “Diversifying Your Audience” at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, and check out the list of participating venues and full schedule of the week’s panels and performances here.
If there’s a bright side to artists being off the road, it’s the innovative ways they’re finding to connect with fans from home. Chris Thile is taking the opportunity to offer an online masterclass series titled “Music Is Life Is Music,” which over three Sunday afternoons (starting THIS Sunday!) addresses “Listening,” “Writing,” and “Performing.” Learn more and grab tickets here.
If you’ve devoured the pages of Peter Guralnick’s biographies of folks like Elvis Presley, Sam Cooke, and Robert Johnson, you’ll want to get your mitts on his new book, Looking to Get Lost: Adventures in Music and Writing, which comes out Tuesday. This time, he turns his lens inward, sharing his writing process and how he’s gotten to know and earn the trust of his interview subjects. Along the way he shares many more tidbits from some of music’s biggest names. Two online events are planned to celebrate the book’s release. On Monday, via The Strand bookstore in New York, Guralnick will chat with Elvis Costello. And on Nov. 12, from Politics and Prose in Washington, DC, he’ll speak with Rosanne Cash.
The first time I visited Nashville a couple years ago, I was thrilled to take a selfie with the Bill Monroe statue outside of the Ryman Auditorium. And after my tour inside the Ryman, I spent a nice few minutes on the steps outside, under the watchful gaze of the Little Jimmy Dickens statue, pondering where to wander next. I can’t wait to visit again (someday …) so I can see the newest statue on the Ryman’s Icon Walk — Loretta Lynn! Read more about the new sculpture and the icon it celebrates over at The Boot.
WHAT WE’RE LISTENING TO
Here’s a sampling of the songs, albums, bands, and sounds No Depression staffers have been into this week:
Tom Petty – Wildflowers and All the Rest box set
Natalie Schlabs – Don’t Look Too Close
Tift Merritt – Bramble Rose
The Weather Station – “Robbers”
The John Prine tribute performance of “Paradise” by a whole bunch of great artists — including Birds of Chicago, Black Pumas, Robert Earl Keen, Rhiannon Giddens, Patty Griffin, and Bonnie Raitt — from the “Let the Music Play On: A Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Broadcast”
Raul Malo’s beautiful unplugged performance of Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” in front of the U.S. Capitol