Leon Russell Tribute

We’re deeply saddened about the recent passing of Leon Russell’s passing. As a tribute we re-broadcast our 2014 interview with the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer. Leon began his career playing in clubs in his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. After moving to Los Angeles, he became a sought-after session player, playing on numerous hits of the 1960s. As a sideman, he performed with scores of notable artists including George Harrison, Eric Clapton, the Beach Boys, Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson. He also worked as a producer and arranger, and eventually became a solo recording artist in his own right. Leon Russell hits include, Delta Lady, This Masquerade, Tight Rope and A Song for You. Defying categorization, Leon is comfortable in many genres, including rock, blues, gospel and country. In early 2014, he released a retrospective of his career entitled Life Journey, executive produced by his longtime friend Elton John. We had the honor of speaking with Leon on his tour bus in Roswell, New Mexico.

Gather Round with Hoke, Grebe, Farris & Oates

By Craig Havighurst, Music City Roots Producer

Reflecting on our own experiences and efforts, we at Roots must acknowledge a huge, energizing stroke of good fortune in 2016 – partnering with MTSU and radio station WMOT. For this, and the new colleagues and community that comes with it – we are deeply thankful. But as for the year at large? Yeah, it was trying. And so even more than usual, the holiday experience of being with family and friends – of gathering around tables real and metaphorical – will be particularly satisfying. This week marks our annual Thanksgiving eve show, which always calls up large doses of love and good will from the artist community and our team. Welcome one and all.

What’s on tap, as we like to say? Well how about John Oates, our yes-we-did-just-drop-that-name superstar buddy who’s done more to parlay his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame stature into the growth and enrichment of Americana music than anybody this side of Springsteen. It was a lot to get our heads around back in the early 2000s when the mustachioed songwriter of “Maneater” and “Kiss On My List” turned back to his folk music roots and began collaborating with lifer/masters like Sam Bush and Vince Gill. But the results have been superb, led by an honest voice that clearly understands the nature of great songs. Oates grew up loving roots music, and he shared an anecdote about that recently in a songwriter showcase interview. He talked about spending time as a teenager with Mississippi John Hurt when he’d come through Philadelphia to play clubs and the city’s famous folk festival. You can tell he was paying attention.

John visited us twice in 2014 but it’s been a couple of years since we featured him on our stage. He seems to have a new album in the works, so we’ll ask about that. But what he does have is a new Christmas single called “Santa Be Good To Me” recorded with Nashville’s beloved Time Jumpers. Henry Carrigan sized it up really nicely in No Depression: “Andy Reiss’ and Vince Gill’s guitars snake around Paul Franklin’s steel guitar, providing the melodic quilt into which Jeff Taylor wraps his punchy accordion and against which Oates lays his Sinatra-style vocals. It’s a smooth, cozy tune.”

To bring a little glory and hallelujah to our night of togetherness we’ve invited back mighty Mike Farris, Nashville’s roots gospel icon. You know his story by now. He was a rock and roller whose uncanny voice propelled the Screamin’ Cheetah Wheelies to the top of the Nashville club scene and regional fame. His lifestyle spun out of control and when he reinvented and rehabilitated himself, the muses that called him came from Memphis and further south and further inward. He debuted his new outlook and sound with Salvation In Lights in 2007 and it’s been steady growth and evolution as an artist ever since. His album Shine For All The People earned the inaugural Grammy Award for the best Roots Gospel Album in 2015. Every time he sings with us at MCR he’s taking time out of an increasingly busy schedule to do so. He’s also hosting Sunday morning’s Spirit of the South show on WMOT Roots Radio.

If Farris is one of those roots singers who reaches out and grabs us with his intensity of spirit and edge, others seduce us with ease, calm and a self-assured comfort with trailing behind the beat like the laziest marching band at the parade. In this category I’d put Willie Nelson, Vince Gill and East Nashville’s Derek Hoke. We’ve loved this pitch perfect artist over the years as he bid Goodbye To Rock N Rollin 2009 and accompanied us in Waiting All Night in 2012. Now he’s cast the light of a Southern Moon on a 10-song collection that matches variety with quality as they shuffle, swing, stomp and surge. The South Carolina native has a sweet-as-honey voice and a way of writing songs that would have been all over the charts in a bygone age of country radio. As host of $2 Tuesdays at East Nashville’s 5 Spot, he was there from the beginning of the revolution, coaxing it on with a gentle touch not unlike his voice.

Todd Grebe is a more straight ahead country singer with a rasp and a twang and classic sounding songs that could nudge even the most reticent among us around a sawdust dance floor. The “cold” in his band’s name Cold Country comes from Grebe’s origins in Alaska, where he started a bluegrass band in the 2000s and which started getting accolades on the mainland soon thereafter. He met and eventually married fiddler Angela Oudean, and for a good while they were focused on the eclectic Americana band Barefoot. But with that behind them, the couple is back based in the Refrigerated State focused on Cold Country and traveling to Nashville to do things like perform and record, as bands do. The 2015 release Citizen was one of the year’s overlooked gems, with smart songwriting and abundant swing. Recorded at Music City’s Butcher Shop where Johnny Cash’s ghost hangs out, the fine album ends with a gorgeous trumpet section on “You’ll Never Find Me.” (And truly, if you’re always in Alaska that would be the case.) We’re glad they’re showing themselves to gather around our MCR family table for the holidays.

Remembering Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro Dakota Access Pipeline Dispatch and Water Protectors Legal Collective

Remembering Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz

When the American supported military dictator of Cuba Fulgencio Batista fled Cuba in January 1959 and the revolutionary government led by Fidel Castro marched into Havana they passed three laws. The first lowered the age so that Fidel could be prime minister. He was 33 years old. The second made Che Guevara a citizen of Cuba, he was Argentinian. And the third was the great agrarian reform law. It took land from the large plantations, owned mostly by American corporations, and distributed it to the people who worked it. The Cuban government had a right to do this under international law. They offered compensation.

The Cuban government said they would reimburse the mostly American corporate land owners the amount that they listed as the value of the land for tax purposes. The corporations would not agree. Instead the American owned oil refinery refused to refine oil. This would have shut down the Cuban economy. The Cubans responded by nationalizing the oil refinery. Then they nationalized the telephone company, the nickel mines, the automobile assembly plant and so on. The Cuban state took control of their own economy. This became what is known as the historic Cuban socialist revolution. United States policy from that day till now has been to overthrow this revolution and reinstall capitalism. For 47 years Fidel Castro lead the Cuban government in its resistance to American counterrevolutionary activity.

Guest – James Cockcroft, a retired professor and lifelong supporter of the Cuban revolution. A bilingual award-winning author of more than 50 books on Latin America, US hidden history, culture, migration, and human rights, including most recently “Cuba In My Blood. ” He has traveled to Cuba many times, has been active in Cuba solidarity work, and has called Fidel Castro a personal friend. A bilingual poet, three-time Fulbright Scholar, and Honorary Editor of Latin American Perspectives, he serves on the Coordinadora Internacional de Redes en Defensa de la Humanidad, the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban Five, and civil societys Benito Jurez Tribunal (vice-president, 2005) that judged U.S. terrorism against Cuba and International Tribunal of Trade Union Freedom (2009-10) that judged Mexico for its violations of labor and human rights. A Canadian immigrant, he is a member of the UNESCO-sponsored World Council of the Jos Mart World Solidarity Project, la Table de Concertation de Solidarit Qubec-Cuba, la Socit Bolivarienne du Qubec, la Base de Paix Montral, le Comit Fabio Di Celmo pour les 5, and the Canada-Cuba Literary Alliance.

Guest – Ike Nahem – A longtime anti-war, socialist, and labor activist Ike Nahem is the coordinator of Cuba Solidarity New York and a founder of the July 26 Coalition. Nahem is an Amtrak Locomotive Engineer and member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, a division of the Teamsters Union. He participated in a panel on Latin American politics at the 2011 Left Forum.


Dakota Access Pipeline: Dispatch #8

At the time of our weekly dispatch from Standing Rock North Dakota, at least two major developments were unfolding: (1) Governor Jack Dalrymple had recently enacted an emergency evacuation order, citing public safety due to the frigid weather and (2) as many as 2,000 veterans are planning to gather there next week to serve as human shields for protesters who have for months clashed with the police over the pipeline construction.

The evacuation order was issued to the hundreds of Dakota Access Pipeline protesters camping on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ land near the Missouri River. It was given as a winter storm left least a half foot of snow throughout the central part of the state. It followed an order by the corps that the land will be closed to the public earlier this week. Law enforcement officials have said they would begin blocking supplies, including food, from entering the main protest camp.

The order means that emergency services will not be made available to people at the camp except on a case-by-case basis. The order will remain until he rescinds it.

Standing Rock Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II called the order “a menacing action meant to cause fear and is a blatant attempt by the state and local officials to usurp and circumvent federal authority.” The Veterans effort is planned as a nonviolent intervention to defend demonstrators from what the group calls assault and intimidation at the hands of the militarized police force.

Water Protectors Legal Collective – NLG

Guest ” National Lawyers Guild Attorney Jeff Haas, recently returned from living at the North Dakota encampment with thousands of Native Americans and climate change activists who gathered in solidarity with the Standing Rock Indian tribe in North Dakota to protest the pipeline construction. Jeff Haas was a founding partner of the Peoples Law Office in Chicago. He victoriously represented the family of Fred Hampton, the chairman of the Chicago Black Panther Party and proved that Hampton was assassinated by the FBI and Chicago Police Department. Hes also author of the book The Assassination of Fred Hampton.

Sacred Stone Camp Legal Defense ” Lawyers wanting to support the Sacred Stone Camp, contact Attorney Robin Martinez ” [email protected]


Wyatt Brewer and Kris Bradley in studio for The Tasty Brew Music Radio Show

Kansas City Singer Songwriter Wyatt Brewer will be returning to the Tasty Brew to share tunes from “Factory Made,” his EP to be released at The Tank Room Saturday December 10.  wyatt_brewerWriting music that he loves has practically been a life-long experience. Between his dad that lived in Kansas City’s mid-town community of Westport, and his mom who lived in the “Northland” suburbs, Wyatt enjoyed the “best of both worlds” – experiencing live music at practically every corner of the city.

Kris Bradley will be making her inaugural trip to Kansas City this week and will be stopping by The Brew in the 7 am hour Tuesday morning.  From Kris’ website:  “With her debut EP, Worth a Shot, singer-songwriter-producer Kris Bradley’s modern country motifs are highlighted with blues and jazz based melodic sensibilities and potent lyrical narratives. She channels these elements through the charming confidence of her vocals as she inscribes a musical signature that is adventurous, authentic and audacious.


With a career trajectory that has landed her in the historic RCA Recording Studios on Music Row, Kris can look back over a whirlwind year of transformation. Since her arrival in Nashville, significant in-roads include co-writing with a roster of top songwriters, cuts with artists Nik West and Devon Reese Simon, performing for CMA Week at B.B. King’s, being interviewed for a profile on iHeart Radio, a featured spot in a Listening Room songwriter’s round and with Worth a Shot, her inaugural artist project. “Nashville is inspiring instead of intimidating,” she says of her adopted hometown. “It makes me want to be better.” Championed by Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) Kris has been highlighted as one of the organization’s “Top 40”, “One’s to Watch” and included on NSAI’s Publisher Compilation CD.”

“Please Vote for Me” with Weijun Chen, Filmmaker

It isn’t the American presidential campaign and election, but exhibits many of the same characteristics and tactics.  This documentary chronicles a compelling experiment in democracy, the election of a third grade class monitor in a Chinese public elementary school.  The 58 minute documentary is in Mandarin with English subtitles.

Child Sex Work: Kenya

At Gazi Bay, Kenya, poverty exacerbated by drought is leaving foreign fishermen and local motorcycle transport drivers as the richest men around, able to pay young girls in food or in-kind to have sex with them. Thousands of under-age children are said to be in this trade, mostly with the knowledge of their parents, to feed their families. Local workers with organizations are trying to educate girls and their families about mitigating the risks of sex work for children and finding other sources of income.

Featured speakers:

Rose, 15 years old, eldest of 3, her family’s bread winner and a class seven drop out, has engaged in sex work for two years. Unaccompanied girls at Gasi beach buying from fishermen: GIRL 1 is 15 years old and in class 5; GIRL 2 is 17 years old and in class 7. Assupta is a 14 year old primary school dropout whose mother gets her to help sell palm wine and also sell her body to help support the family. Emanuel Kahaso coordinates the End Commercial Sex program for Strengthening Community Partnership And Empowerment ( SCOPE). Iddi Abdulrahman Juma is vice chairman of the Gasi Beach Management Unit. Saumu Salim Ramwendo and Ann Okello are community health workers with SCOPE. Hamisa Zaja is an activist who talks to girls about alternative ways of making income; she is coordinates programs for persons living with disability in Coastal Kenya.


Produced by Diana Wanyonyi. Wanyonyi is a news reporter with community radio Baraka FM in Mombasa, Kenya. WINGS series producer, Frieda Werden.