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Music Review: Various Artists – Music City Roots: Live from the Loveless Café

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Music City Roots: Live from the Loveless CaféPresented live from the stage of the Loveless Barn in Nashville, Music City Roots is a weekly, two-hour radio show which showcases Nashville’s flourishing Americana music scene. This sampler gives us 11 eclectic tracks that were recorded between October and December of 2009 (season 1). Host Jim Lauderdale kicks things off with “I Will Wait For You,” a song he wrote with Robert Hunter and presents as a tribute to the deceased Jack Cooke, long-time bass player with Ralph Stanley’s Clinch Mountain Boys.

18 South is a band with a contemporary vision of “roots and branches” tradition. Their “Late Night Ramble” tells us they feel like an old-time revival with dancing, singing, drinking wine, and shaking the blues. With its reference to “inspiration, joy and jubilation, making music with our friends,” the song sets the thematic stage for the multi-genre authenticity that all these featured artists bring as keepers of the traditional flame.

Music City Roots taps the wide variety, great abundance and high quality of the current creative music community. From Greensboro, Holy Ghost Tent Revival is another band leading the resurgence in various forms of roots music. “When you can’t find a friend, you still got the radio, listen to the radio” sings Nanci Griffith.

This sampler (released by Compass Records) is just a taste of the amazing and diverse talent in Tennessee. The CD is an excellent showcase for up-and-comers like the swinging Miss Tess and the Bon Ton Parade, Caitlin Rose, and “noveau Gospel rocker” Mike Farris with the McCrary Sisters. Accompanied only by his guitar and harmonica, Scott Miller plays his self-penned “Appalachian Refugee,” an acoustic ballad about moving on to newer and bluer places, as well as a calling home. “See the Big Man Cry” was one of the last performances from the legendary Charlie Louvin who passed away in 2011. While also including electric guitars and drums in their band, The Black Lillies (from Knoxville) present “Little Darlin’” with a bluegrass beat, driving fiddle and soaring vocals of Cruz Contreras and Trisha Gene Brady.

As with the live broadcasts, this CD ends with a spirited Loveless Jam of “Up on Cripple Creek,” led by Jim Lauderdale, Sam Bush and Mike Farris (along with Scott Vestal, Stephen Mougin, Byron House, and others). Vestal imparts energy and velocity to the instrumental “Cripple Creek” to bring the crowd to its feet. As these artists embrace the spirit of tradition with innovation, it adds an exclamation point to the fact that Americana music is alive and well in Music City. NPR journalist Craig Havighurst provides some liner notes. While complete musician credits and band website links are lacking from the CD jacket, it does include many black and white photos. A portion of the proceeds from the project also will benefit The Nature Conservancy of Tennessee.

Americana music builds from the various forms of roots music that embody American culture. Besides connecting and nurturing Tennessee’s music community and its creativity, Music City Roots strives for excellence and integrity. This sampler is merely a small taste of the power of music, and its ability to make the world a better place.

About Joe Ross