The War on Whistleblowers

As Voltaire once said, “It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.” States don’t like to be called out on their crimes. Silence is strongly preferred. Fall in line and keep your mouth shut. This is particularly true of the United States because it globally projects a cultivated image of being a beacon of democracy and human rights and crucially, adherence to the rule of law. Instead of encouraging, celebrating and honoring whistleblowers the Obama administration punishes them, setting a record for prosecutions and imprisonments. Individuals like John Kiriakou tried to do the right thing and ended up going to jail. Edward Snowden has his passport cancelled and is forced to live in exile. The government is confusing dissent for disloyalty. What a chilling message this sends to other potential whistleblowers.

John Kiriakou is a former CIA agent who was indicted on three counts of violating the 1917 Espionage Act. He served almost two years in prison. He is featured in the documentary Silenced. He is an associate fellow with the Institute for Policy Studies, and a blogger for Huffington Post. He is a founding member of VIPS, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity.

Program #KIRJ001. Recorded in Boulder, CO on February 13, 2016.

Suyapa Portillo on Central American Refugees, Michael Ratner on Alberto Gonzalez

This week on CounterSpin: In August of last year, El Salvador experienced one murder per hour. With Honduras and Guatemala, it’s among the most violent places in the world, which along with economic insecurity and government failures, spurs thousands of people to try and leave. Why is the US stepping up deportation of Central American families, sending them back to circumstances of hardship and danger? We’ll speak with Suyapa Portillo, who teaches Chicano/a-Latino/a transnational studies at Pitzer College in California about that story.

Jeff Harshbarger

A prolific composer and bandleader in his own right, Jeff has recorded and performed across the globe with such varied artists as Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, Bobby Watson, Darol Anger, Allison Miller, Curtis Fuller, Forever Tango, Eugene Chadborne, Milt Abel, Tango Lorca, Jimmy Carl Black, Krystle Warren, Snuff Jazz, Brad Cox, Nathan Granner, Ghosty, The People’s Liberation Big Band of the Greater Kansas City Area and Forrest Whitlow. He is a co-founder of Tzigane Music, an artist-run collective and record label, and is the curator of Jeff Harshbarger Presents: An Alternative Jazz Series, promoting new improvised music in Kansas City. Jeff has received numerous grants and awards, including The Kennedy Center’s Betty Carter Fellowship, the Steans Institute Fellowship, the Creative Capital Foundation’s Professional Development Grant and the 2015 Charlotte Street Generative Performing Artist Award. Jeff also hosts Wednesday’s Jazz in the Afternoon from 1-3 pm on 90.1 FM KKFI.

Guy Clark Tribute on the Tasty Brew with Guest Cohost Joel Weir

It is an impossible task to adequately pay tribute to Texas Songwriting icon Guy Clark who passed away May 17, 2016.  This week’s Tasty Brew Music Show with Diana Linn and Guest CoHost Joel Weir will take a swing for the fences as folks like Tom Russell, Darrell Scott, Jack Ingram and many others have been asked to share a few words.  Songs and words from, about and inspired by Guy as well as a big old Happy 75th Birthday to Bob Dylan!  This will be a very special edition of this Americana Roots radio program!  Tune in 6 am!

Phillip LaRue

For chart-topping songwriter Phillip LaRue, accolades, awards, and chasing singles isn’t conducive to the creative process. When the session starts, what truly matters are the stories, the people that inspire the songs, and the act of bringing those characters and journeys to life with authenticity and fine songcraft. And judging by Phillip’s #1 country hit co-writing Tyler Farr’s “Whiskey In My Water,” his integrity-driven approach yields more than just pure artistic success.

“My motto in life is the less I think about myself, and the more I think about others, the better the person I become. That’s a guiding principle for me in the studio, too,” the Nashville-based songwriter confides. “When I’m in a session, I’m there to help someone express their story—it’s not just writing a song—it’s honoring someone’s life path and learning about them.”

Phillip LaRue has produced and collaborated with artists as varied as Tyler Farr, Brandon Heath, Jars of Clay, Jennifer Knapp, Phil Wickham, Ronnie Dunn, Jason Castro and Dave Barnes.  His co-write with Tyler Farr, and songwriter John Ozier, “Whiskey In My Water,” has hit number one on the country radio chart, and has been certified Gold by the RIAA. Phillip has also won a Dove Award “Song Of The Year” for co-writing and co-producing Tenth Avenue North’s “By Your Side.” Phillip’s songs have appeared in film and TV, most notably in such shows as Nashville, Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars & Drop Dead Diva. His songs have also appeared in ads for Kohl’s, the Food Network, Verizon, Apple and Ford. In addition, Phillip is an acclaimed artist in his own right, having released four studio albums with the group LaRue and two studio albums as a solo artist.

Phillip is fluidly creative in the studio, able to craft jewel-like vocal melodies, emotionally resonant lyrics, music, and handle production duties. “I love using a car as a metaphor for creative endeavors. With an artist who needs direction, I can hop in the driver’s seat and steer the session, but with an artist who has a vision that just needs honing, I can hop in the backseat and give directions,” he explains. “At the heart of it all is writing a great song with my collaborator. My ego or artistic identity doesn’t factor in the process.”

He’s been able to successfully work across genres such as country, pop-rock, rock, singer-songwriter, and folk because his artistry transcends styles. “I’m a sucker for a timeless melody, and songs that put a smile on your face and stir your heart,” he says.

Phillip stays active with his folk project Us And Our Daughters and his pop-rock band The Rival, but, first and foremost, he prizes his collaborative work as a songwriter and a producer. “I love being in the background to serve somebody else’s vision and dreams,” he says. “Every time I go into a room to write, I strive to do something special and significant. These aren’t just songs, they are stories we are telling, and I feel so blessed and honored to do this for a living.”

Franklin Five-O: Mike Henderson’s Blues Band, Smooth Hound Smith, Emily West, and Mike Campbell & Teresa Williams

by Craig Havighurst, Music City Roots Producer

Ratings on Amazon and Yelp are up to five stars, and this week’s Music City Roots suggested similar scale by which we might rate future shows. The Five-O scale. No, not the police. The number of standing ovations in the night. Leaving aside wonderful mid-set standers, which do sometimes happen in a scattered way, and notwithstanding our occasional five-act night, the maximum number of set-closing standing Os at a typical MCR is five, when you include the Nashville Jam. And this Wednesday at The Factory was a Five-O night, with four remarkable performances by four very different artists, followed by a Johnny Cash cover that sounded well-rehearsed on its first and only pass. This is also a testament to our crowd, which was large and attentive and excitable. But I think these acts could have earned standing Os from a bunch of snakes.

Nashville veteran Mike Henderson shocked everyone to attention with loud and lusty guitar, ripping off three choruses of 12-bar blues before singing “Weepin’ and Moanin’.” One might be forgiven for seeing Nashville as just too genteel a place, too calculated in its musical designs, to produce blues singers who truly evoke the Mississippi mud. But Mike, who’s earned his artistic freedom with hit songs for Trisha Yearwood and The Dixie Chicks, could cut with the best of them in Clarksdale or Chicago or Memphis. His cathedral-large guitar tone is as rich as any we’ve heard – a combo of vintage gear, a heavy picking hand and a guitar tuned down two steps. When he goes low, it’s low. He played mostly fretted solos, but his slide is always on his left finger, ready to carve off a slice or two at any moment. On his set closer “If You Think It’s Hot Here,” the title track off his new album, he broke traditional blues form and leaned more on a pop/rock melody that was enhanced by a intense slide solo. We must salute Kevin McKendree’s keyboard playing, which got especially nuanced on the quieter stretches of “Unseen Eye.” And the rhythm section of Michael Rhodes on bass and drummer Pat O’Connor offered a clinic in time, taste and combustion.

Smooth Hound Smith’s essence eluded me as I crash studied this week’s lineup. But between the opening fingerstyle electric guitar figures and the closing standing ovation, there was nonstop imagination, skill, finesse and intensity. Zack Smith is a multi-tasker’s multi-tasker, handling bass drum with one foot, snare drum with the other, plus guitar, banjo and harmonica. Caitlin Doyle played shakers and tambourines and melted faces with her clean, passionate and soulful country voice. He’s swarthy and muscular. She’s blonde and sweet. So the contrast and complement was everything. His picking was really clean and fascinating on its own. It merged into arrangements that really went somewhere, and with the velvety duet singing, the overall effect was magic. The songs were strong too, leading with the imaginative “Stopgap Woman Blues” (we’ve been there, right?) and ending with the stunning “Be My Husband” which put Doyle out front with a church-fevered proposal to some lucky guy. It was a cappella too, save for Zack’s intricate dance on his tambourine. He even made the drum change tone, which is an expert move. They’re relatively new as a band. So remember the name. Smooth Hound Smith. Smooth Hound Smith.

With a sharp shift of gears, Emily West approached the mic in a shimmering dress and her signature, vintage mega-blonde mane. I knew she A) had style and B) made cool recordings. But the shock was just how commanding and subtle a singer she is. I’m really stretching my brain to think of a vocalist on our show who’s had more moves and shadings and phrasing. She has perfect articulation and she can go from a purr to a major money note fast and clean. Usually singers like this look to others for material, but West is a daring, moving and skilled songwriter too. Opener “Fallen” started as a torchy love song but it took a dark twist that left a lump in my throat. “Puppy Dog” was funny, punny and downright naughty with more entendres than we have cameras. “Real Good Dancer” was vivid and melancholy short fiction. Nearly all theses songs were co-writes with her on stage collaborator K.S. Rhodes, whom we know and love, and who played guitar and piano, sometimes lending a strong second voice, as on the finale “Games.” This was a playful rom-com of a song that showed off Emily West as someone who could reanimate the lost arts of cabaret and classic pop. She has a fiery and fascinating new single on the AC charts called “Bitter” and I urge you to check it out and help push it to the top. This Nashville artist deserves to be on major stages and we hope we can say we featured her on the way up up up.

In their interview early in the show, Teresa Williams and Larry Campbell spoke of the “pure joy” of playing music in the context of their time supporting Levon Helm and his legendary Midnight Ramble shows. And they carried that ethos right up on stage for the closing set. No dour folk duo, they write and sing bright celebrations, like their opening song “Surrender To Love.” Here they took a country folk frame and jabbed really exciting melodic jumps and dives into the chorus that are uncommon in Americana. Larry’s guitar picking, here on electric, was enthralling and rhythmic. They covered the Louvin Brothers with “You’re Running Wild,” (shades of Buddy and Julie Miller, Emmylou and Rodney, Barry and Holly Tashian). The slow waltz “Did You Love Me At All” was written by Larry and sung by Teresa as a classic country heartbreaker. And their unique arrangement of “Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning” with its fat back beat and gospel fervor closed a magnificent set.

Peter Cooper subbed for a traveling, recording Jim Lauderdale on short notice, and he shone in his opening song “Ancient History” then he led the gang at the end on Cash’s “Big River,” with Larry’s guitar and his drummer Justin Gulp keeping everything buttoned up. Five stars. Five thumbs up. Five standing Os.

God and Gov: LGBT Christians and Church-State Relations in Russia

Being Queer and Christian in Russia

Two experts outline the history of Russian religion-state relations, from the tsars to the Soviet Union to the present day. Plus, reporter Lauren Ober takes us to a small, underground church in St. Petersburg where LGBT Christians worship, amid anti-gay rhetoric from religious and political leaders. Ober explains why many of Russia’s LGBT Christians find it difficult to be out about their sexuality, and their faith. Featuring Geraldine Fagan, journalist and author of Believing in Russia: Religious Policy after Communism and Irina Papkova, research fellow at Georgetown University and author of The Orthodox Church in Russian Politics.

Listen to more of our God and Government series.

Russian Spiritual Folk: Balalaika Master Andrei Saveliev

Andrei Saveliev was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, during the Soviet era, but moved to the United States about 20 years ago. He is now a Balalaika master and member of The Washington Balalaika Society.  During Soviet rule, religion was considered antithetical to communism. But faith didn’t exactly disappear; Saveliev found spirituality in Russian folk music.

Take a listen to the songs Saveliev performed for us in the studio.

First Muslim Mayor in Europe?  Not So Fast!

London has a new mayor who happens to be Muslim. His name is Sadiq Khan and he’s the son of a Pakistani bus driver and a member of the Labour Party. As soon as he was elected, the media blasted out headlines announcing Khan as the first Muslim mayor of a major European city. History disagrees. We take a walk back in time to explore Islam in Europe, stopping by a few grand cities with Muslim leaders.  Reporting by Juan Cole, professor at the University of Michigan and expert on Islam and the Middle East

Read Juan Cole’s article “London’s Muslim Mayor is Nothing New: 1300 Years of Muslims Who Ran Major European Cities.” 

“Ethics in International Finance” with Dr. Kara Tan Bhala

Dr. Kara Tan Bhala is President of the Seven Pillars Institute for Global Finance & Ethics, and editor of Moral Cents: The Journal of Ethics in Finance, covering topics of banking regulation, global financial collapse & Buddhist ethics in finance. Her new book is International Investment Management: Theory, Ethics & Practice.