It’s another weekend of foot-stomping hits as Music City Roots gets things started off right. We’ll hear exclusive sets from Amy Speace, Hannah Aldridge, Lulu Mae, Iron Horse Bluegrass, and the MidDay Farm Report. As always, Jim Lauderdale hosts.
About the artists:
If you are a fan of singer-songwriter/folk/Americana music, you’ve probably heard Amy Speace’s name over the past few years trumpeted by many heralding her as a ‘torchbearer’, bridging the gap between old and new schools of folk music from Mary Gauthier to Judy Collins, who recorded Amy’s song “Weight of the World,” calling it ‘one of the best anti-war songs I’ve heard.’ In April 2013, Amy will release her latest collection of songs, How To Sleep In A Stormy Boat (WindBone Records/Tone Tree). A document to living gracefully with grief, it is a deeply honest 11 song journey that includes a stand-out duet with Grammy-nominated John Fullbright (“The Sea and the Shore”) as well as guests Ben Sollee on cello and Mary Gauthier both singing and co-writing the track “Left Me Hanging.”
“It is the most daring, confident, ambitious and beautiful album Amy Speace has made since she began recording…she has never sung or written better,” says rock journalist Dave Marsh in the liner notes that accompany the record. “Speace’s songs hang together like a short story collection, united by a common vantage point and common predicaments…it’s a gift to hear a heart so modest even when it’s wide open.”
Speace began her artistic career in NYC as an actress, studying at The National Shakespeare Conservatory and then working with the National Shakespeare Company for a few years before picking up the guitar to write songs. Discovered by Judy Collins in 2005, Speace released two critically-acclaimed records with Collins’ owned Wildflower Records, 2006’s Songs For Bright Street, and 2009’s The Killer In Me. Ian Hunter brought Amy to the UK to open his 2008 Acoustic Tour and then made a rare guest appearance dueting on two songs on The Killer In Me. In 2009, Speace moved to Nashville, TN and began working on her 2011 release, Land Like A Bird (Thirty Tigers/RED), produced by Neilson Hubbard with a guest turn by Kim Richey. In 2012, she toured in Europe opening for Alejandro Escovedo and wrote the song cycle that is now How To Sleep In A Stormy Boat, teaming up again with Hubbard. She’s appeared on Mountain Stage and Acoustic Café, both NPR syndicated radio shows, The Rocky Mountain Folks Festival, Philadelphia Folk Festival, Kerrville Folk Festival, Maverick Festival (UK) and SummerTyne Americana Fest (UK).
“There are voices that serve as a bridge from the past to the future and act as soul connectors, and as a people we need them to keep singing. They tell us who we are, somehow. History resonates in them, and yet their sound is contemporary. These voices open hearts with this rare, one in a million quality. Amy Speace has such a voice, and I am not the only one who hears it. Just ask the legendarily discerning Judy Collins; she’ll tell you. Amy’s got it, and then some. She is a timeless artist, a time traveler. Part past, part future. And that’s a good thing, a really good thing.”
– Mary Gauthier
Americana is the perfect concoction of American roots music that comprises our musical ethos as we know it today. It is something so engrained in our history, folklore, tradition, and mythology that it is not as simple as just “becoming” Americana, but rather, it is something that you are born into. It’s that old cast-iron Coca-Cola sign that’s been in your neighbor’s shed for 50 years, a banjo and a Fender telecaster playing together, a 1955 Chevy with a modern stereo.
There are few artists that can truly encapsulate the essence and true range of Americana like Muscle Shoals artist Hannah Aldridge, whose musical pedigree precedes her and speaks for itself.
Hannah Aldridge is the daughter of Alabama Music Hall of Famer Walt Aldridge, who is one of the most prolific songwriters of the modern musical era. Twice named by Billboard magazine as one of the Top Country Songwriters of the year, ASCAP Songwriter of the Year, and countless Number One and Top Ten hits recorded by the likes of Lou Reed, Reba McEntire, Travis Tritt, Earl Thomas Conley, Ricky Van Shelton, Ronnie Milsap, and Conway Twitty.
With sounds ranging from blues in the Mississippi Delta to the dusty, dixieland jazz sounds from New Orleans, the musical stylings of Muscle Shoals on up to the primitive roots of American Country music, Hannah Aldridge leaves no inspiration or influence untapped.
“I think people have forgotten what real drums and real voices sound like. We have been so overexposed to these pre-packaged “#1 hits” that when there is anything that has any glimpse of truth or rawness to it, it is like a fresh breath of air. Americana music really is lyrically driven and is meant to make people think, which is the total opposite of most of the stuff out there on the radio, so I think that naturally people are being drawn towards it.”, says Aldridge.
Besides being a seasoned staff songwriter for BAR Music with song placements in television shows like Hart of Dixie(CW) and recognition from American Songwriter as well as Relix Magazine, her vocal talents rarely go unrecognized, something that lends itself to being true to the Americana methodology of not using excessive “talent-enhancing” techniques in the studio or live. Both her natural and cultivated talent help her to emote with both listeners and musicians alike on a truly organic level.
Seasoned by both life events and musical events since the release of her first EP, Wanderer in 2011, Hannah’s upcoming release Born to be Broken shows a stark difference of growth in musical sensibility, writing, and maturity.
Hannah has toured all across the United States and Europe gaining a grassroots movement of fans that wait in silent adoration of the return of their Americana Heir Apparent Princess of Muscle Shoals.
This independent Nashville group has stories to tell, and does so with poignant, make-you-think lyrics and compellingly original, get-you-out-of-your-seat rock, as well as sweet and simple folk tunes. Following some good attention to the 2010 debut album Everything in the Whole Wide World, 2012′s full-length album, The Mockingbird and the Dogwood Tree again conjured time-tested emotions and showcased the band’s musical range. And according to the Nashville Scene, it “might just renew your faith in the possibilities of love.” The band is currently working on a 2014 album release which will prove to rock even harder and roll even sweeter. Recent accomplishments for the band include winning Nashville’s massive battle of the bands, Lightning 100’s Music City Mayhem competition, in April 2013.
Lulu Mae lends fresh meaning to the term “family band”: Lead singer Joel Finley writes and plays the tunes that he sings with his wife Sarah Finley, musically carried and decorated by their college buddies, the brothers Ben Smith (bass guitar) and Adam Smith (keys, trumpet), with background help from Adam’s wife Jen, and the recent additions of roommates and “adopted brothers” Anthony Mangin on electric and David Sutton on drums.
This band’s talent lies not only in the crafting of fine music, but also in offering sincere, universally relevant expressions of everything that comes with the human experience, with relationships, with love.
Anyone listening to the innovative, hard-driving instrumental licks and strong, precise harmonies of this bluegrass band will want to strap in to their seat and prepare to be thrilled with the ride. The compilations produced by this extremely progressive band truly bring delights to the listening experience. These guys are uniquely gifted in arrangement and presentation of lyrics and melody.
Iron Horse members, Tony Robertson (mandolin,) Vance Henry (guitar,) Ricky Rogers (bass,) and Anthony Richardson (banjo.) Their vision and talent for producing a distinctive interpretation of bluegrass standards as well as crossover standards has caused fans and peers in the music industry alike to agree that these guys are outside of the box of restraints and boundaries. They are, without a doubt, just in their inception of making their mark on the consumer of great acoustic and bluegrass music.
Iron Horse has a new sound for Bluegrass and they always perform with a spirit and sense of style that pays the most gratifying compliment to acoustic and bluegrass lovers; a warm mixture of family influence, belief in God, and an unwillingness to deny their creative urges.
The variety and energetic composition presented on the live stage performances and recorded projects definitely prove that the well-blended arrangements delivered by Iron Horse have merit that will stand on its own in any genre.
Iron Horse was formed in 2000 in the famous hit recording capital of the 60’s and 70’s, Muscle Shoals, Alabama. The band consists of four members including: Tony Robertson, Vance Henry, Ricky Rogers, Anthony Richardson.
The bands roots go back to the late 1970’s, when Tony Robertson and Ricky Rogers were charter members of the popular local group, The Next in Line. Through the years and after involvement with several groups, the present band was born as a result of the participation of Tony Robertson, Vance Henry and Ricky Rogers in the Jake Landers Band. In January 2003, Anthony was asked to fill an opening for a banjo player and the present Iron Horse configuration evolved. Iron Horse creates much of its own music, with an innate ability for cross-genre arrangements. Iron Horse has four self-produced albums, containing previously un-released compositions, and Iron Horse-composed originals.
Iron Horse was approached in January 2003 by Los Angeles-based CMH Records to record a tribute album to the heavy metal band, Metallica, which was released in October 2003. Iron Horse has recorded twelve projects for CMH Records. Tributes to Metallica, Led Zeppelin, Ozzy Osbourn, Modest Mouse, The Shins, Guns & Roses, The Goo Goo Dolls, Hank Williams, Black Label Society as well as others.
The skill and ability of Iron Horse to transpose metal to bluegrass while maintaining the identity of the originals is exceptional. The versatility of Iron Horse is demonstrated by the more traditional flavor of their first CD, Ridin’ Out the Storm. This versatility enables Iron Horse to perform such standards as “Rocky Top” and “Man of Constant Sorrow” with little effort, while entertaining “metal-heads” with the familiarity of the compositions of metal and pop icons – all on the same stage.
Iron Horse has developed a consistent sound and quality that has become signature for them. This consistency is due largely to the fact that the band has been able to play together for 13 years with no personnel changes. The band has continued to be true to their musical tastes and expectations no matter which direction their career and contractual obligations have taken them.
Iron Horse is grateful of the support they have received. Modest Mouse knows of our covers of their material. The Goo Goo Dolls asked CMH Records to have Iron Horse do covers of some of their songs. Even Metallica was playing a cut from Fade to Bluegrass before some of their shows in the past. You can’t get a much greater compliment that that.
MidDay Farm Report? Well….they’re like cornbread. That southern alchemy that’s one part recipe and equal parts history, influence, taste, and style. Then there’s always the ubiquitous secret ingredient, passed down through generations from mouth to ear. Add a dollop of rural middle Tennessee ladled into a hot skillet of wide-eyed Americana, and the result is authentic, honest music that satisfies, served up by four accomplished musicians. With one foot set squarely in the present and the other on the broken ground of the past. MidDay Farm Report has crafted a sound that’s all their own: Rural Route Rock’n’Roll.
Spring of 2012 saw the release of their self titled debut disc MidDay Farm Report on nunmuney records. Recorded in a barn in the winter of 2011, you can practically hear the commitment and the do-it-yourself attitude. MDFR is made up of father and son multi-instrumentalists Tim and Griffin Winton, who provide lead-vocals and genetically-driven harmonies. Rounding out the bottom end is Daniel Sheets on upright bass and Chuck Haston laying down the beat on drums and percussion.
The influences of the individual members are much like the cardinal points of a compass, each one arriving from uniquely different locations. MidDay Farm Report is the meridian that connects it all. Using a foundation of purely acoustic instruments, the sessions had both a spirit of necessity and simplicity; yet the result is anything but antiquated. The stripped down aesthetic allow the songs to reveal their individual truths. The one-two punch of the socially and environmentally conscious ‘Coal’ or the tell-it-like-it-is sting of ‘Politicians’ display the band’s in your face attitude and keen sense of the here and now. Songs like the working man’s spiritual Joe or the bittersweet reminiscence of Annie June speak straight to the heart with a sense of intimacy and understanding. But just to be clear, these boys aren’t all serious. The tongue-in-cheek, and probably true, humor of ‘Golf’ is a live audience favorite as is the rollicking coming of age story in Cherry Creek Mill.
This is the music of blue tic fabric and rusted roofs. Asphalt chip roads and long forgotten family farm houses, cradled in weeds and punished by time. It’s the glance in the rearview mirror as you head toward a new beginning. It’s Old South grace and charm, interpreting a new south reality. It’s a reality where Wal Mart has replaced the mom and pop stores that once lined a thriving down town. It’s moonshine and ditch weed giving way to the Kudzu like stranglehold of meth. It’s the eventuality of an auction sign on a 100 year old family farm and the subdivision that follows. This is also the music of living room jam sessions where you’ll likely hear a Dylan song followed by Gov’t Mule, Edward Sharpe, or the latest MDFR original. It’s lazy Sunday afternoons reading O’Connor, Hemingway, and Cather. It’s swapping stories and rousing, stimulating discussions at the kitchen table with good friends. So pull up a chair, friend. There’s sweet tea in the Fridgidaire, the cornbread’s hot out of the oven, and both hands on the clock are pointing north. It’s time for the MidDay Farm Report.