This week on Music City Roots, we present sets from the Oxford American Show, including Jim Lauderdale, Lilly Hiatt, The Bo-Keys, John Oates, and The Bis-Quits.
About the artists:
Jim Lauderdale is a multi-talented performer and songwriter, with successes in both country and bluegrass music. His roots stem from the Carolinas, yet his career has taken him all over the United States and abroad, making him an international recording artist with an ever-growing fan base. Jim won “Artist of the Year” and “Song of the Year” at the first “Honors and Awards Show” held by the Americana Music Association in 2002. Subsequently, he has hosted this same show for the last seven years.
He is among Nashville’s “A” list of songwriters, with songs recorded by artists such as: Patty Loveless, George Jones, The Dixie Chicks, Solomon Burke, Mark Chesnutt, Dave Edmunds, John Mayall, Kathy Mattea, Lee Ann Womack, Gary Allan, Blake Shelton. Vince Gill, and George Strait. He also contributed several songs to the successful soundtrack of the George Strait film, “Pure Country.” Not content to just write hits for the stars, he’s toured with the likes of Lucinda Williams, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Rhonda Vincent and Elvis Costello, among others.
Jim’s musical influences include the legendary Dr. Ralph Stanley and George Jones. These influences and his unique sense of melody and lyric help forge a sound that is truly his own. He is a 2 time Grammy winner, winning his first in 2002 with Dr. Ralph Stanley for “Lost in the Lonesome Pines” (Dualtone). His next one came for his second “solo” bluegrass album, “The Bluegrass Diaries” (Yep Roc 2007) at the 50th Grammy Awards! His first CD with Dr. Stanley, “I Feel Like Singing Today” ( Dualtone/Rebel 1999) received a Grammy nomination as did his first solo bluegrass CD titled “Bluegrass”(Yep Roc) from 2006.
As a performer his credits include production, writing and collaborating on albums such as, “Wait ‘Til Spring” (SkyCrunch/Dualtone 2003) with Donna the Buffalo, and “Headed for the Hills” (Dualtone 2004) with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. The remainder of Jim’s 17 albums include: “Planet of Love” (Reprise 1991), “Pretty Close to the Truth” (Atlantic 1994), “Every Second Counts” (Atlantic 1995), “Persimmons” (Upstart 1998), “Whisper” (BNA 1998), “Onward Through It All” (RCA 1999), “The Other Sessions” (Dualtone 2001), “The Hummingbirds” (Dualtone 2002), “Bluegrass” (Yep Roc 2006), “Country Super Hits, Volume 1” (Yep Roc 2006), “Honey Songs” (Yep Roc 2008), and “Could We Get Any Closer?” (SkyCrunch 2009).
“It’s been a particularly great period for me,” says Lauderdale. “Thanks to the records – I’m performing more and more, which I love. And I love that I can play the Opry one weekend, a jam-band festival the next and then a bluegrass festival the following week. That’s really inspiring to me and I think there’s a real thread there. The roots are the same for all of them and that’s the music I’m interested in.”
Lilly Hiatt’s a young woman wise beyond her years. Listen. You’ll hear.
Hiatt’s songs back equal measures edge (“3 Days”) and energy (“Big Bad Wolf”) with stunning lyrical elegance. Clear evidence: The Nashville resident’s buoyant Let Down. Hiatt’s seamless debut fortifies earthy (“Master”) and ethereal narratives (“Oh Mister”) with storytelling as sharp as a seasoned songwriter (“Young Black Rose”). Youthful restlessness guides the journey. “There was a self-loathing theme throughout all those songs, hence the title,” the 28-year-old explains. “It had a lot to do with being in the first half of my twenties and being in this transition from child to grownup. It’s kind of like hitting puberty again.”
If discovery defines early adulthood, Hiatt certainly spent fair time seeking out songwriters far and wide to shape her own vision. “John Prine’s always a good place to go for inspiration for writing,” she says. “I really like early Liz Phair and Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt and Neil Young and I’m obsessed with Pearl Jam.” Accordingly, the rapidly rising songwriter’s new collection soars with wild diversity. Hiatt moves and grooves between country-folk (“Championship Fighter”) and gnashing Crazy Horse rock and roll (“Angry Momma”) with an ease that boldly suggests all songs arrive branded within a single and uncompromising genre: Music.
“When people ask me, I usually end up saying I play ‘spacey country,’” she says, “but the lyrics and the band aspect are equally important to me. To me, it’s just singer-songwriter stuff with an emphasis on the band. I guess I’d put it in the indie or Americana or country category, but I’m just as big a fan of rock and roll. That’s what I’m trying to get at eventually.” Either way, Hiatt’s endless lyrical and musical searching scarcely wavers throughout Let Down.
Rewind “Knew You Were Coming.” Now, turn up the volume. Words dampen stereo speakers with tears so painful and pure. “And I felt like a woman, working and trying to fill in the blanks that come with someone dying,” she sings on the perfectly circular coming-of-age confessional, a song written as sharply as Lucinda Williams and sung as sweetly as Patty Griffin. “And I knew you were coming and I knew I was ready, but the hills were on fire and the heat was so steady.” Fighting through angst. Sounds like an Americana songwriting icon we all know whose composure, as Lilly sings, sometimes “turns to country gravel.”
His name: John Hiatt. Lilly’s bond with her father runs deep. “My dad definitely serves as one of my biggest inspirations,” she says. “I really look up to him. I draw from his music. He’s my hero and always has been and he’s very good for advice. When I was younger, he’d treat it more delicately but now he shoots pretty straight with me. He doesn’t hesitate to give constructive criticism. He’s really supportive and sweet and roots for me.” Her father’s irascible wisdom (“People Don’t Change”) frequently appears on the new album, but Lilly’s hardly a facsimile.
In fact, the collection undeniably shows that she’s an accomplished songwriter in her own right. After all, Lilly’s been writing original songs more than half her life (since age twelve). Let Down only serves as her first official declaration of personal independence and purpose. “To listen to Lilly, you can hear a young artist discovering herself,” says the abum’s producer Doug Lancio (Patty Griffin, Todd Snider, Jack Ingram). “She also has a terrific sense of humor, listens attentively and draws from diverse music, creating a style that is personal and distinctly her own.”
She’s ready to tell the world. “I finished this record over a year ago,” Lilly says. “I’m so emotionally attached to it. I’ve never made a whole record before and I felt really invested in the whole process. All I want to do is get on the road. If I can make any sort of living, even if I live in a tiny house, I would feel pretty great. I want to play live shows and share the record with anyone who wants to hear. I’ve worked in a coffee shop for six years and that’s fine, but I get restless and I like to get out.”
The Bo-Keys don’t simply replay the Memphis instrumental tradition they deliver a hard-hitting and authentic take on the city’s original soul-stew sound, featuring legendary Stax/Volt and Hi Records session players. The Bo-Keys performed the original score for Hustle & Flow, and appear in the film Soul Men, performing on-screen with stars Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac. They also appear on three songs for the film’s soundtrack. In 2010 The Bo-Keys were featured on Cyndi Lauper’s Grammy nominated Memphis Blues album. The band’s last full length release “Got to Get Back!” was featured on NPR, the BBC, the Wall Street Journal and USA Today.
• Scott Bomar, bassist and “one of the most sought-after producer/engineers in Memphis” (Memphis Flyer), has also produced music for films Soul Men, Hustle & Flow, and Black Snake Moan.
• Funky keyboardist Archie “Hubbie” Turner, who is heard on Hi Records and on Black Rock’s “Yea Yea”, which was sampled by The Black Keys.
• Percy Wiggins, Memphis soul vocalist who cut sides in the 60s for RCA and ATCO in Nashville with a band which included Billy Cox and Larry Lee who later went on to become members of Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypies.
• Guitarist Joe Restivo, founding member of the Memphis soul/jazz/funk instrumental group, The City Champs.
• Legendary Al Green/Hi Records drummer Howard Grimes
Brand new mini-doc on band
Music video from our last album
“One of last year’s tightest, funkiest, happiest shows was The Bo-Keys’ appearance in town behind “Got to Get Back!,” an album of original tunes by the seasoned soul performers…” – The New Yorker
“The real deal” – WNYC Soundcheck
“A fiery set that unfolded like a classic soul revue”
– LA Times
“I was very enthused about their performance… For those who dig a deep soul sound with definitive Stax and Memphis roots, this band should be the right choice for you. Their Got To Get Back disc will definitely be in my Top Ten favorites for 2011.” – Blues Revue Online
“This band is testifying, tight and terrific” – Elmore Magazine
“Masters of the Memphis sound.” - NPR: http://www.npr.org/2011/06/19/137269380/the-bo-keys-masters-of-the-memphis-sound
“The Bo-Keys, a 12-member band, delivers a hard-hitting and authentic take on the city’s original soul sound with their new album ‘Got To Get Back!’” - Tavis Smiley, The Tavis Smiley Show, PRI
“Funky[,] authentic groove… If the Bo-Keys sound like Memphis in the 1960s and early ’70s, it’s probably because most of the band’s musicians were recording back then for the city’s top labels.” - Wall Street Journal
“[This music] gets me dancing in ways I hope the neighbors don’t see… I can’t imagine anyone disliking it.” - USA Today Online
“Strong… The Bo-Keys present a muscular yet spare sound that captures the grit and grease of classic, horn-driven R&B. Where many revivalists pale compared to the originals, the Bo-Keys would have fit right in next to legendary Memphis musical crews the Bar-Kays and Booker T. & the M.G.’s.” - Associated Press
“What’s not to like?… It’s done incredibly well, which isn’t surprising when you consider the claibre of founder and bassist Scott Bomar’s excellent band. [It’s] a supergroup of sorts.” - MOJO
Iconic singer/songwriter John Oates was destined to be a musician. Singing from the time he could talk and playing the guitar since the age of 5, his calling in life was never in question. Born in New York City, his family made a move in the early 50’s that would dramatically change the course of his life. They moved to a small town outside of Philadelphia. Like most kids at that time, the impact of the early days of rock left a lasting impression on John. At the age of 4, he witnessed his first live concert when he saw Bill Haley and the Comets play their classic rockabilly hits at a local amusement park.
Young John was an avid collector of records, beginning his collection of 45-rpm singles at an early age. He had treasures from Little Richard, Chuck Berry, the Everly Brothers, Conway Twitty, Gary U.S. Bonds and, of course, Elvis. During the 60’s, he spent countless hours twisting the dial on his AM transistor radio trying to tune in the local R&B stations and listening to DJs like Jerry Blavat spinning obscure Doo Wop records and B sides.
When it came to his influences John’s musical pallet was wider than just the top 40 hits. One of his friends’ older brothers turned him on to the nascent folk music scene that began to sweep the country. John’s interest in traditional American music opened and he immersed himself in the Child’s Ballads, The Weavers, Joan Baez, Rev. Gary Davis, Dave Von Ronk and all the rediscovered bluesmen who began to make appearances at the Newport and Philadelphia folk festivals. While absorbing it all he developed a kind of musical split personality.
One night you might catch John wearing a shark skin suit playing everything from Doo Wop to the big R&B hits of the day with his band. The next night it was not unusual to find him playing his acoustic guitar in a local coffee house singing Appalachian folk ballads. To this day, the very same influences can still be heard in John’s playing and singing style.
John moved to Philadelphia in the late 60’s to attend Temple University and to be closer to the city’s music scene. In 1966 he wrote and recorded his first single “I Need Your Love” for a label owned by a local music store called the Record Museum. Bobby Martin, who at the time was producing and arranging for Gamble and Huff, arranged the song. The single received airplay on Philly’s R&B radio stations and John began to divide his time between being a student and a professional musician.
Around the same time he met an influential guitar player/teacher named Jerry Ricks, who had spent time on the road with Mississippi John Hurt and Son House. Mr. Ricks took John under his wing and introduced him to many of the newly rediscovered folk performers such as, Doc Watson, Reverend Gary Davis, Dave Van Ronk and Mississippi John for whom Philadelphia’s folk venues, like the Second Fret and Main Point, were frequent stops in their concert itineraries. John had the unique opportunity to play alongside some of these seminal musicians learning first hand, their finger picking and flat-picking styles.
When John first met Daryl Hall it was their mutual love for urban rhythm and blues blended with the more rural roots of Americana music that created their unique sound. Since the formation of their partnership in the early 70′s, Hall & Oates has gone on to record 21 albums. They have sold over 80 million units making them the most successful duo in rock history. They have scored 10 number one records; over 20 top 40 hits and have toured the world for decades. Their involvement in the original “Live Aid” concert and the groundbreaking “We Are The World” charity recording have further cemented them as legendary artists who have stood the test of time with both their music and philanthropic personalities. Hall & Oates influence on modern pop music has been cited by numerous contemporary bands, like the Gym Class Heroes, the Killers and Hot Chelle Rae, who have acknowledged the duo’s considerable contribution to American popular music.
The influential duo has been recognized by numerous American Music and MTV awards as well as multiple Grammy nominations. In 2005, they were inducted into the American Songwriters Hall of Fame and in May of 2008, they were presented with the prestigious BMI Icon Award for their outstanding career achievement in songwriting. John is also the creator and executive producer for the “7908 the Aspen Songwriters Festival” which brings together the finest songwriters from around the world to perform at the Historic Wheeler Opera House in Aspen Colorado. The festival’s mission is to celebrate the art and craft of songwriting combined with a strong educational component dedicated to mentoring and developing the next generation of songwriters.
In 1999, John began recording solo albums. Phunk Shui, 1000 Miles of Life, Mississippi Mile and a live album called The Bluesville Sessions round out his first 4 solo collections. His latest project is called, A Good Road to Follow and will be a series of digital singles to be released once a month during this coming year.
When not touring with his solo show or with Daryl Hall, John, his wife Aimee, and their son Tanner divide their time between Nashville and their rescue ranch in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. There you will find a wonderful menagerie of dogs, emus, peacocks, llamas and alpacas. In his free time he enjoys driving his tractor, riding his mountain bike, hiking the backcountry and telemark skiing.
THE BIS-QUITS have a show. No, really. THE BIS-QUITS have a show. Music City Roots is putting on a special Oxford American show, featuring Lilly Hiatt (who opened for Willie Sugarcapps at Smith’s Olde Bar in Atlanta recently—she’s fab!), Memphis’ soulful Bo-Keys, rock/soul legend John Oates, host Jim Lauderdale and THE BIS-QUITS. The band that brought you “Yo Yo Ma”, “Betty Was Black” and bridged the gap between Gov’t Cheese and Tommy Womack’s solo career, Will and the Bushmen and my solo (and sideman) career, and what Grimey was doing before Bare Jr and Grimey’s…and what Tommy Meyer was doing when he was one of the best rock n roll drummers in the world. In short, one of the best bands I ever got to be part of and some of the most fun I ever had.