My New Addiction Begins in Bristol! R & R’s Vibe: Big, Beautiful, & Hot New Talent!
I never thought big could be beautiful when it came to Americana festival crowds. I’ve changed my mind after seeing the bright lights of Bristol, TN/VA and its 50,000-plus. Or maybe I’m just infatuated with festivals themselves. Perhaps, if I could afford it, this could be my new addiction. As it is, I felt like hitching up my shorts and hoping one of those freight trains loudly moving on the Bristol tracks for AmericanaFest in Nashville.
I liked it there in Bristol. Where else could I stop at a street corner under the shine of a full moon and the resplendent Bristol sign smiling down and have two women come to me saying “You’re Awesome!” (But, more on that later.) The Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion 2016 concluded with the crescendo of a storm, an hours-long downpour that waited three days before unloading on music fans from surrounding Virginia and Tennessee and, indeed, around the world. That dark, dramatic episode concluded a wide-ranging, electrifying musical immersion hard to beat, a massive salute to the American musical legacy of The Carter Family and Jimmy Rodgers.
Stages and Artists Everywhere
With the proliferation of music festivals, largely with an emphasis on root-sy music, especially here in Virginia, there is a venerable, iconic old timer (16 years) that can, as I wrote earlier, take your breath away in its sheer magnitude and scope. The Bristol R & R (Rhythm and Roots), as the locals call it, took place from Sept. 16-18 and featured over 140 bands and individual performers on 20 stages with an estimated audience of some 50,000, more than doubling the local population, coming from throughout the U.S. and some foreign countries.
Headlining the Reunion was country royalty in the person of long-time hit-maker Bobby Bare (Detroit City, 500 Miles Away from Home, Marie Laveau, et al) and from the blues aristocracy, legendary Blues deity Buddy Guy. Bare had taken the place at the last minute of queen of country Loretta Lynn who had suffered what had been described as a minor fall but one sufficient to keep the 84-year old singer-songwriter off the road for a while.
Carter Family descendent and Cash family intimate Dale Jett, appearing at the R & R, told me that there had been much interest in having Rosanne Case take Lynn’s place, a choice in keeping with local and regional history. However, there was too little time for her to change her schedule.
Bobby Bare – American Hit Maker
Happily, Bare was available. Disappointment among the fans I spoke with was intense about Lynn’s cancellation (as was mine). However, you wouldn’t know it from the sea of audience members washing up against the State Street Stage anchoring one end of lively State Street. Bare reminded us in the huge crowd of how many hits he’s brought into the American musical lexicon. His hits ranged from the iconic Detroit City to a number of tunes provided to him from friends such as Kris Kristopherson, Ian Tyson, Shel Silverstein, and others. (I once spent years looking for his tune, When the Hippies Get Older “and the hair to their shoulders turns grey” that I had heard on a juke box at an aptly-named place called the Ramrod.)
Bare made a point to include tunes he’d performed with Loretta Lynn, whom he described as a long-time, dear friend. Bare punctuated the powerful history of American music that he represents with a number of funny jokes and asides, sometimes borrowed from folks like Garrison Keeler. Looking out at the crowd filling the adjacent streets, the emcee said this year’s might be the largest R & R crowd yet. At the same time as this concert, Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn entertained another large crowd nearby, and audiences began to form for the Indigo Girls show soon to come. Still more bands performed on stages spread throughout downtown.
I had to miss Friday’s Reunion opening that featured Buddy Guy as well as Darrell Scott, Houndmouth, and numerous others. I’ll highlight hot acts that I then caught at the R & R, but it’s the tip of the ice berg of this huge, volunteer-driven event. It takes place throughout the historic downtown, which features the line dividing Virginia and Tennessee running straight up the middle of State Street. I never knew at any given time what state I was in.Leaving after the Bare concert, which was great, I passed up the line waiting for autographs that Bare promised, as the line was beginning to get into the mile range (not quite, but very long).
The Passion of the People
Another thing I noticed was the passion the people have for their music. I noted the huge line for Bare autographs and the filled stage areas, I also saw new fans of the LA band, The Americans, who’d already learned the words to The Americans songs and geared up on The Americans “stuff” at the nearby merch center.
And, I noted the fact that when I first hit the merch building on the afternoon of the second day, perhaps ½ (at least) of the boxes of artist CDs were sold-out, and guests were busy choosing artist t-shirts from the clothes lines winding throughout the large, vacated retail space. Across the street in a vending booth, shirts and other memorabilia from the festival itself were selling at a brisk pace.
With 20 stages, I had pictured some artists confronted with empty or sparse spaces in front of them instead of significant audiences. To the contrary, I never saw either empty or even sparse crowds. Audience somehow spread themselves throughout the venues, usually with a rich accompaniment of clapping and cheering.
The 2016 festival was a rich and vibrant sea of music sending wave after wave, note after note, washing up chord after sea-swept chord, major and minor – from bright “C” to mournful “A minor” – across the historic Bristol cityscape.
The Americans is a 4-piece band beginning to establish itself nationally. From L.A., the guys met in high school and have played together ever since. They’re led by lead singer, guitarist Patrick Ferris, looking like James Dean but even better, and an on-stage persona, as he belts a song and plays a guitar, that is like a knife slicing butter on a sunny day. He sings with vibrant voice and at times matches electric licks with his bandmates.
Meanwhile Jake Faulkner , with his dark black beard and jaunty hat, dances across stage lifting his stand-up bass like a dancing partner. “What’s he doing?” Patrick asked me when I said I liked Jake’s “dancing,” “I can’t see what goes on behind me.” “He’s dancing with his bass,” I told him, “It looks great, adds to the rhythmic effect,” I added, and Patrick nodded. When they came together as youngsters, they had two things in common. It has kept them together, committed to their music ever since. “Those two things were,” Patrick said, “(1) rootsy music from historic tradition and (2) rock and roll.
Relatively unknown, they were selected by T-Bone Burnett and Jack White (see recent No Depression) to be in a PBS special upcoming about the state of America’s tradition-based music and featuring the likes of Lucinda Williams, Elton John, and Alabama Shakes. Also included was the gentleman Patrick and I were about to meet and I’d interview, Dale Jett, grandson of A.P. and Sara Carter. Patrick also worked on the PBS special as an advising producer regarding traditional music. He had worked with footage of Dale but had not yet met Dale himself.
The Americans first got some attention largely through the recognition of Ryan Bingham who chose them to open for him on a European tour and spoke highly about them. Now, Bingham’s wife Ana is the efficient and personable manager of the band bearing the substantive name The Americans into an increasingly bright future. I thought Patrick would be catching Bobby Bare that night, but he was headed for bed. But, the guys had driven straight through from a gig at Louisville the night before, with one hour of sleep for Patrick.
Their new record will be out early in the year. I got a copy of an early copy they had out at the festival that has the entire unreleased record on it. Titled I’ll Be Yours, this pre-release strikes me as a bit more rock & roll and a bit more personal than the previous collection I have, Home Recordings, less tied to the traditional style and influences. I’m actually I think a bit partial to the earlier offering, though I certainly like the new, which is inventive at times, is high energy, and ranges from the more soulful and pensive to heavy rockers. The new one features The Secret Sisters on a couple of tunes.
One of the things I liked best of all I’ve heard them do is a cover that remains unrecorded by them and difficult if not impossible to find in its original issue from the 1940’s. It’s a song about President Franklin Roosevelt and his good works putting people, in particular African American people, to work through the WPA, etc., becoming a tune about both him and President Lincoln, the other president given credit in the song for helping Black people. Originally done by a, as they were called at the time, Negro Ensemble, this great song featured a driving arrangement by The Americans with complex melodies and a memorable chorus. I doubt they will, but I encouraged Patrick strongly to record it.
For someone who came on the National stage with his hit about punching some guy named Jesus because his girl shouted his (Jesus’) name during love-making, Hayes Carll has come to be, in addition to having some humorous songs and some great foot stompers, a more intense and moving song writer these days, as he moves into a degree of greater fame and critical recognition. At his R & R set, he sang a number of tunes from his latest album Lovers and Leavers, a record almost too somber for my taste overall, yet with songs I’m moved by and return to such as the lovely Sake of the Song, co-written with fellow R & R artist Darrell Scott.
Indeed, Carll noted numerous songs he performed that sunny September late afternoon that were collaborations with friends of his, some legendary such as Guy Clark, Scott, and other colorful pals such as Canadian (favorite of mine) Corb Lund and Ray Wylie Hubbard. He punctuated his performance with colorful, often funny stories about musical artists and other and sundry people and animals.
He was backed up by a talented and versatile band of two, one playing keyboards and percussion, and the other jamming on an assortment of acoustic and electric stringed instruments.
Very much at home on stage at this juncture of his career, he could have been sharing songs from his back porch.
Folk Soul Revival
I caught one of the most popular local and regional acts for last show on Sunday, the lively and twang-ily melodious Folk Soul Revival (FLR), to whom I became almost immediately attracted as I scouted them out on U Tube prior to my Bristol trip. I decided to try to split my time (a difficult task, especially for me on a walker) between FSR and an idol of mine Marty Stuart, master of the Western historic narrative as well as honky tonk and traditional C & W, and a supporter of the nearby Carter Family Fold and Museum. As it was, the downpour came on a day I’d left my rain jacket & other gear at the hotel room; and I couldn’t make it down the street to the Stuart concert.
It strikes me that FSR are neither folk nor soul, but that their work is colored by both in its raw, yet melodic rock and country core. The instrumentation too is not only electric but has generous elements of country and bluegrass music makers.
Hugely popular in the Tri-Cities region (Bristol, Johnson City, Kingsport), their most devoted followers call themselves The Congregation. I’m ready to join, fell head over heels for one of their crowd favorites, Chinatown (“Me and my baby got the whole thing down, from the Hudson River down to Chinatown.”), a tune that moves from NYC back home to Sweet Virginia (title of another favorite song of theirs that they “quote” at the end of Chinatown.
Was It All a Dream?
Walking into the bright lights Saturday night after the Bare show, it could have been 1900 or 1954 or today. State Street, sliced in the middle by that line between Virginia and Tennessee, was a bit of Victorian capital, circus midway, Times Square, and Fifth Avenue. I may have missed it, but I didn’t see a lot of drunken misbehavior or unseemly crowd manifestations – the people seemed good citizens in a movie being shot in technicolor as we moved fluidly into the Bristol night, from the aged to the newly born. A colorful panorama, the street featured retail locations ranging from a men’s fine clothing store, harkening to earlier eras of quality and elegance, to vendors of exotic soaps and jewelry, to carts frigidly full of frozen pops, to the bustling Blackbird Bakery.
I continued to the winding-stream world of Cumberland Park, where it was now midnight and Unknown Hinson had a crowd filling the audience area and spilling up the hillside. He glided knife-like on stage with his early Johnny Cash looks, dark, combed-back hair over his tight black shirt glistening with rock and rolling perspiration as he led his large band through their paces. At the top of the hill, artist Laura Marie Blankenship of Lamb Fine Art did impressionistic paintings of Unknown Hinson to add to others she’s done of regional bands like Annabelle’s Curse.
So Many Bands, So Little Time
Earlier in the day, I’d caught a few songs of Mountain Faith, including one the blond lead singer and fiddler said kids and adults had likely heard a hundred times this past summer in convenience and grocery stores, the lively, flirty Shut Up and Dance! Earlier, one of the Indigo Girls, Amy Ray, breezed by me with a couple of friends to their tour bus back of the Piedmont Stage. She presented a contrast, in her undoubtedly comfortable but strikingly disheveled look, hopping on to their glistening, look-of-perfection home on the road. The large buses, perhaps mirrored the artists’ degrees of success, the biggest buses belonging to Indigo Girls, Mountain Faith, Bela Fleck, and Steep Canyon Rangers, of those I saw.
I was sorry to miss The Indigo Girls but just couldn’t make it after Bobby Bare’s set. They sounded, as I walked in the distance from their stage, good and quite distinctive from any of the other music I’d heard there. There were numerous artists I couldn’t get to due to scheduling at concurrent with other acts (Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn, Steep Canyon Rangers (albeit without Steve Martin), etc.), Friday shows (Buddy Guy, Darrell Scott, Houndmouth, etc.) when I couldn’t arrive until Saturday, or down-pouring rain (Marty Stuart). At one point, when I sat backstage waiting to interview another artist, I could hear the emotive sounds of Trey Hensley on guitar/vocals and Rob Ickes playing dobro and the occasional vocal. Trey broke a string and stood across from me while restringing part of his rich-sounding Taylor.
Other artists included: Western crooner and rising star Anderson East, 12-year-old phenom Fiddlin’ Carson Peters (a star on Steve Harvey’s Little Big Shots) with his own band, former Ralph Stanley lead singer Larry Sparks, eclectic Native American band Ulali Project, Portland’s soulful R & B singer Liz Vice, and on and on.
Forlorn Strangers (FS) is anything but that. This five-person team, all of them playing at least two instruments, is one of the best looking, most thoughtful, and exceptionally talented groups I’ve ever come across. Their musical journey is clearly an exciting one, still fairly new, and full of promise. The two charming and attractive young ladies and their lovely friend assisting them are from Maryland’s Bel Air nestled above Baltimore near where my mother lived most of her older life, a coincidence (along with that of me being, like them, a big-time O’s fan) the girls were fascinated by. They and their three male, also charming though maybe not quite as stunning, musical collaborators packed up recently from their current home in (where else?) East Nashville to hit the road and test their musical futures. The fellas are from Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Florida. I met them all in Bristol’s historic train station that had been designated as resting and coming-together place for the R & R artists, sort of a very large green room complete with train tracks and railroad history.
I caught up again with The Americans there and joined them at a table while the Forlorn Scholars (FS) finished another interview. They had arranged, through their energetic agent Shelly, to perform privately for me a few songs followed by an interview. Baylen Leonard of the BBC, over here from England, had asked to be part of this and had joined our process, already chatting at the table next to us. He would follow this up with a shorter on-air interview upstairs, along with the mini concert. When they finished their downstairs interview, I had the pleasure of introducing members of FS to The Americans, who would be playing on the same bill with them soon in Asheville, NC, but hadn’t yet met them.
Then, upstairs, Forlorn Scholars performed a joyous, short set that clearly knocked both the BBC’s Baylen and myself out. He initiated a discussion with them of a possible trip to play in England. Then after the four of us Camden Yards devotees had a serious talk on the Oriole’s chances for the post season this year, we all moved into the interview. They talked of the parallel importance to them of having other interests as well as music and of doing good in he world. “We’re the Pete Seeger model,” Chris said with a grin. Hannah talked about fellow R & R artist Abigail Washburn, an idol and role model of hers, in this regard. “Abigail speaks Mandarin,” she said, “and she has other interests including development of a charitable fund.”
“Still, music serves a greater purpose for us, the greatest thing,” said Jesse. “We believe in doing good and spreading love,” said Benjamin. They also find it important to be fair and ethical with each other. They all write songs. “We come in with a skeleton for a song, yet each of us is different, with different ideas,” Hannah shared. “We support each other, advocate for and listen to each other’s needs,” Abigail continued, as the others nodded their heads in agreement.
Their new album Forlorn Strangers is recently out. Their music is robust and rich, full of harmonies, and with great interaction among the varied acoustic instrumentation. While not a gospel group, several songs are gospel-like, and most have a feel that is somehow spiritual, such as Cleveland, not religious, but with the spiritual intensity of belief. Asked about performing in the birthplace of country music, Abigail said there was indeed “a vibe, a feeling you get in being here, performing in this place.” “Yours is an unusually even mix of boys and girls. How does that work?” I asked them. “Very well,” said Jesse. “The two ladies have enough personality to make up for all three of us fellas.”
Salutes the Historic Musical Significance of the “Big Bang of Bristol”
“Fans can dance in two states during Bristol Rhythm and Roots!” said Birthplace of Country Music Marketing Specialist Charlene Baker. Birthplace of Country Music (BCM), parent non-profit of the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion, has a small staff and the crucial assistance of hundreds of volunteers. A committee of volunteers even handles the awesome task of assembling and overseeing the performing artists roster each year.
The Reunion part of the event’s title comes from the fact that it is a commemoration of the arrival in Bristol in 1927of RCA Victor’s Ralph Peer to record the area’s musicians. This resulted in the country’s and ultimately the world’s awareness of the music of the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, arguably the birth of country music in America.
Indeed, the Carters hailed from the nearby Maces Spring and Hiltons area that includes the aptly named Rich Valley and Poor Valley (indeed where the poorer citizens such as A.P. Carter lived) and Clinch Mountain. Before returning home to Norfolk I drove through Carter country and visited (thanks to Carter family and volunteers) sites including the famed Carter Family Fold and the Carter ancestral cabin, meeting Carters and other locals, a trip I plan to document in an upcoming No Depression article.
This important history and the reverence many country and other artists have for the Carter family are likely among reasons the Reunion is able to draw such a massive and impressive roster of artists each year. In answer to my question to her about the significance of the festival relative to the legacy and awareness of the Carter Family and its importance in the history of American Music, Dale Jett’s wife Teresa replied:
“We think Rhythm and Roots and the city of Bristol have had an important impact on honoring the legacy of the Carter Family and the traditional roots of the music and have reached thousands of people through their joint efforts,” Mrs. Jett said.
“The festival consistently includes Carter Family members in its musical line-ups as well as other descendants of the Peer recordings. You can’t walk down the street without seeing Carter Family memorabilia in the store fronts or hearing Carter Family songs. The presence of the Carter Family and the other musical descendants of the Peer auditions can be felt.”
The Birthplace of Country Music has an important offshoot, The Birthplace of Country Music Museum, with its wide-reaching roots radio station Radio Bristol. “Bristol Rhythm and Roots is a “reunion” in every sense of the word,” Charlene Baker said, Not only are we celebrating the spirit of legendary 1927 Bristol Sessions that were recorded here, families and friends – even class reunions – make the festival a destination each year in order to reconnect with each other.”
“The festival creates an estimated $16 million in economic impact for our region,” she continued,” and we’ve hosted a wide range of performers from different genres including Dr. Ralph Stanley, Doc Watson, Patty Loveless, The Drive-By Truckers, John Oates, Leftover Salmon, and Jeff Tweedy. We are known for booking under-the-radar talents such as The Avett Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show, St. Paul & the Broken Bones, and The Carolina Chocolate Drops well before they achieved notoriety. Johnny Cash once said ‘These recordings in Bristol in 1927 are the single most important event in the history of country music.’ Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion initiated a renaissance of our region’s rich music culture and helped spark revitalization in our downtown.”
The Carters and Jimmy Rodgers
Executive Director of the Birthplace of Country Music, Leah Ross, expanded on the topic of The Carter Family’s and legendary singer-songwriter Jimmie Rodgers’ significance. Rodgers also recorded with Peer in 1927 Bristol and is responsible for a significant part of our cherished American songbook.: “Ralph Peer of the Victor Talking Machine Company came to Bristol to record hillbilly music. What he discovered was a wealth of talent beyond anyone’s imagination. The 1927 Bristol Sessions included the first recordings of The Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, and they were the first commercially successful country music recordings of that time.”
I would add that the 1927 recordings included some by African Americans from that region of Appalachia. Though it appears that Peer had some of the racist baggage of the times, that didn’t stop him from recognizing and promoting some of the remarkable music he heard from this segment of the Appalachian countryside.
Downtown Bristol includes numerous historic landmarks like the huge and brightly lit, iconographic Bristol sign, the large and impressive downtown country music mural, the “Take the Stage” statue in Cumberland Square Park, the famed Burger Bar, the library, the historic LC King factory that still makes the beautifully constructed Pointer work clothes, and others. In addition to the music, there were events including guitar jams, yoga, children’s activities, and an emphasis on green awareness in recycling and other efforts.
I mentioned early in the article being called “awesome” by some ladies on the street. It was as I was making my way to my rental car at the handicapped spots by the Bristol Public Schools admin building. At the corner across from the brightly lit Birthplace of Country Music Museum, two ladies who had complimented my jewelry earlier at the Hayes Carll concert approached me. They had been at the Indigo Girls concert. “You’re awesome!” they said to me more or less in unison. “Give me five! Awesome!” “Here you are,” the one with arms full of darkly inked tattoos, said, “out here, doing it!” They were referring to the fact that I had arrived at an age that people call “old,” and my problems with lower body balance and pain relating to nerve damage, partially cleared up in surgery three years ago, but not completely. This causes me to walk with a walker or crutches (usually a rollator). The ladies touched me lightly about the upper body, repeated “awesome,” and walked off into the brightly lit night.
Also Awesome, the R & R Volunteers
I would mention also the volunteers, and people in general at the Reunion – their courtesy, kindness, and friendliness, from the performing stages to the Tri-Cities Airport, especially those in shuttles, beer carts, etc., who gave me rides from stage to stage. They had great accents too. One volunteer, a retiree, told me his name when I aske. “Stave?” I then asked him (confused), and again, “S – t – a – v – e?,” Then, it occurred to me, “Steve!… Thanks again Steve!”
In addition, all of the performing artists at R & R were selected, as I noted earlier, and recruited and rosters and schedules planned by a volunteer committee, headed by a volunteer chairperson well versed in the music and the range of talent available, Brent Treash. This strikes me as an awesome job done incredibly well by local folks giving of their valuable time.
Dale Jett and Hello Stranger
This trio includes Dale’s wife Teresa on cello and Oscar Harris on autoharp. Dale is the grandson of A.P. and Sara Carter and the last of the direct Carter descendants performing their music. I’m a fan of Dale’s deep vocals and trio accompaniments, which have also included John Carter Cash and his then wife Susan Cash., including a gig at the Smithsonian . Tom T. Hall produced a film about Dale and his unusual, often difficult relationship to the music in his veins. Dale learned his first chords from Elizabeth Cotton, the legendary African American guitarist and writer of the seminal American folk tune Freight Train.
He doesn’t see himself as a full-time professional however. “I’m more the type you’d find playing on his back porch,” he said. He spends his working life running a small construction company he owns. He was leaving by plane the day after his R & R performance to rejoin his work crew in Texarkana, AR. He may not play professionally, but he has played the Reunion each of its 16 years in existence. “I play the music for fun,” Dale said. He recalled touring with his cousin-in-law Johnny Cash, not to perform but to work with lighting, which he said he learned a lot about on those trips.
I also enjoyed his reminiscences of his Aunt Maybelle, whom he called “awesomely talented” and who lived the longest, “beloved by all who knew her,” including Dale himself. I also loved his memory of A.P. walking the railroad tracks to the other side of the valley to the general store where he would get bags of candy from big barrels to bring back to little Dale. “He would always walk the tracks,” Dale said, “never the road, with his hands always comfortably tucked in both of his back pockets as he sauntered along.” No doubt listening to music in his head.
“I try to do a lot of Carter Family songs,” he said, “but I like to ‘fix it up,.’ adding some minor chords for example, the Carters used NO minor chords, nope,” he said, with a grin as I listened astonished. I’ll share more of my interview with Dale in my upcoming article in No Depression on The Carter Family and the family sites in nearby Hiltons.
Did he still like living in the valley, I asked him. “I’ll never leave,” he said, “They’d have to kill me to get me out.” He added that he lives on the river within two miles of The Carter Family Fold and Mother Maybelle’s handsome home.
I had to catch at least some of Mipso’s performances. I caught them on day 3 prior to my second trip to The Americans performances. The wonder of their songs (including clever arrangements of surprising cover songs such as Paul Simon’s “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes”), especially manifest in live performances, was still there (duh), and the intriguing stage presence of the band, especially lead singer and principal songwriter, the quietly handsome Joseph Terrell, and his partner in harmonies and stage position, the lovely Libby Rodenbough, on fiddle.
With these two, their eyes – the focus and depth of them – seem to mirror the power and melodic resonance of the lyrics and songs.
Libby always looks sharp with her stylish sweep of dark black hair slightly to one side of her head. She was wearing a charming and brightly-colored, floral print dress looking like it had been glued on with Gorilla Special.
I, on the other hand, have color. In a flattering, I felt, and, I thought, perceptive statement, Libby looked me in the eyes and said, yes, she had read my article, including coverage of them, which I’d interviewed her for, at the past summer’s Red Wing Roots Music Festival. She liked it a lot, she said. “That’s largely because it is so colorful. Like you. You are colorful,” she said.
I had less opportunity to speak with the other band members, yet at least two of them remembered me by name from their reading of the Red Wing article. I was delighted to be appreciated by a band (from Chapel Hill, NC) that I admire and enjoy so much.
And Two More that I Missed (among the many fine acts I couldn’t get to)
The Wild Reeds. I couldn’t work in one of the performances of this LA-based band without missing others. However, I saw them on NPR’s Tiny Desk series and was very impressed. They consist of three women fronting the band with rich harmonies backed by strong rhythm from the other two male band members. Each band I spoke with at R & R said they knew The Wild Reeds and admired their music greatly, highly recommending that I catch them in future.
And, to that I would add still one more, the vastly talented Aaron Lee Tasjan. Young Aaron, formerly a member of The New York Dolls(!), gives a dynamite live performance. He also has a way of making his recorded songs sound like personal classics from a listener’s own history. Without being conscious of it, Crosby, Stills, and Nash may come to mind or Hank Williams. His incredible new album Silver Tears is due out soon. I had not been able to make either of his Bristol appearances but then caught him opening for a magnificent set of The Felice Brothers at the Camel in Richmond, VA.