This week on Music City Roots, get your toes tappin’ with live sets straight from The Loveless Cafe. This week’s offerings include music from Rebecca Frazier and Hit & Run, Walter Liars, Scott Miller, and Adam Burrows. As well, Jim Lauderdale puts down the hosting mic for once and plays an exclusive set.
About the artists:
It’s no secret that artists sometimes create their most authentic works in moments of despair. While intentions to repair their own broken hearts can supersede their desire to communicate with the public, the rawness of their experiences often creates a bridge to the hearts and minds of others. It is a circumstance such as this that brought guitarist, singer, and songwriter Rebecca Frazier to her newest work.
Frazier achieved notoriety in the bluegrass world as the first woman ever to appear on the cover of Flatpicking Guitar Magazine, and is widely known for her work with awardwinning Colorado-based band, Hit & Run. In November 2010, Frazier was faced with a void after the loss of her second son, Charlie. Uncertain of the future, and trying to move forward while continuing to raise her first son, a toddler at the time, she turned her attention to her writing. She’d hoped to revisit her muse once her second son was of school age, but life had different plans. And as life can do, it took another turn during Frazier’s unplanned return to the studio in 2012–the birth of her first daughter, Cora, took place during the recording of her forthcoming May 28 Compass Records release, When We Fall.
“The temptation was to hide under a rock,” Frazier says of the loss of her son. “But even grieving is impossible with a toddler in the house. I dusted off old journals with halfwritten songs. I took my son walking in Shelby Park and sang melodies.” On one of those walks in 2011, Rebecca happened upon one of Nashville’s most treasured and respected producers. “I was strolling my son in East Nashville when I recognized Brent Truitt (Dixie Chicks, Alison Krauss, Dolly Parton) on the sidewalk–we’d jammed at a bluegrass party years before. We started chatting, and he invited us to his son’s birthday.” Frazier and Truitt talked about working together in the future. “I called him a few weeks later and said, ‘Let’s do this.’”
When We Fall is something different for Frazier: a collection of self-penned bluegrass and Americana songs, presented in a classic way. “I’m inspired by music from the 1970’s,” she says. “early Bonnie Raitt; old-school Tony Rice and Dave Grisman Quintet; Neil Young: this music feels like home to me,” she says. And but for the one Neil Young cover, Frazier has divulged a lot of herself with her ten original songs, while still showcasing the shredding guitar skills she’s known for. In songs like “Love Go Away From This House” and “Darken Your Doorway,” she offers painful perspectives from failed love, and, as she puts it, “all the bad that comes with the good.” Yet there are hopeful notes about long-term romance in “Walk This Road” and “Morning & Night.” There’s an old-time feel to “Better Than Staying,” in which each character’s restlessness to keep moving culminates in the calm peace of a dying mother. The song, “When We Fall,” Rebecca says, “asks a question about losing our innocence. Can we fall down and lose self-respect, but get back up and look ourselves in the eye?” The album ends with “Babe In Arms,” a lilting string-band lullaby for her son.
The album places Frazier right in line behind the bluegrass women that preceded her— the driving track “Ain’t Gonna Work Tomorrow” is reminiscent of early recordings of Alison Krauss, while instrumentals such as “Virginia Coastline” and “Clifftop” give a tip of the hat to guitar legends Tony Rice and the late jazz guitarist Emily Remler, about whom Frazier wrote her Honors Senior Thesis at the University of Michigan.
Accompanying Rebecca are a host of world-class acoustic artists: her husband and musical partner John Frazier on mandolin & vocals (Steve Martin, Jim Lauderdale, John Cowan), bassist Barry Bales (Alison Krauss), banjo genre-bender Scott Vestal (Sam Bush), Dobro genius Andy Hall (Infamous Stringdusters), fiddle virtuoso Shad Cobb (John Cowan), banjo innovator Ron Block (Alison Krauss), and, on backing vocals, her longtime Western compatriot, Shelby Means (Della Mae).
Originally from Virginia, Frazier is perhaps best known for her work with Hit & Run Bluegrass, which made history as the only band to win competitions at Rockygrass (2002), Telluride Bluegrass Festival (2003), and the SPBGMA Band Championship in Nashville (2005). Driven by Rebecca and John’s leadership, Hit & Run became one of Colorado’s most electrifying acoustic touring acts. According to Denver’s Westword, “Something’s got to be up when one bluegrass band suddenly surpasses all the others.”
The group was launched as a successful touring act out of Colorado, gracing stages of prestigious festivals and venues in 36 states and Canada, and eventually migrating to Nashville in 2007 with two studio albums under their belts. Once there, the group’s mandolinist (and Rebecca’s husband), John Frazier, was offered a position with John Cowan Band. The timing was right. “I was daydreaming about starting a family,” says Rebecca. “I knew I couldn’t make the leap into motherhood while living on the interstate and at festivals.” Her first child was born. Hit & Run continued to tour, albeit not fulltime. Rebecca continued her studio work (she’s a featured performer on Curb Records’ 2012 release, The Last Ride, the soundtrack for the 20th Century Fox movie, and she and John produced three records for CMH Records’ Pickin’ On series); she used her spare time to write.
The result is the engaging and transparent When We Fall. Grammy Award winning musician Alison Brown hails Frazier by saying, “Rebecca Frazier is a triple threat. She is a wonderfully engaging singer, a compelling songwriter and an accomplished guitarist to boot. All of these talents come together to dazzling effect on When We Fall. I’m proud of Rebecca for what she’s achieved on this album, for her tenacity in pursuing her dream, and for recording one of the best bluegrass albums I’ve heard this year.”
While the album showcases Rebecca’s longstanding passion for guitar with several barn-burning originals, listeners will also hear the pure, pining—and at times exposed—soprano tones of a woman who has matured through seasons of heartbreak, loss, and love. It’s unusual for a touring musician to move to Nashville with the intention of having children soon after, but motherhood has seasoned and enhanced Frazier’s music.
In Flatpicking Guitar Magazine, Dan Miller writes, “Rebecca has worked incredibly hard…to get where she is today. And although she has achieved great success, she continues to be very passionate about her music and her guitar playing. I predict that many will point to Rebecca as a role model, inspiration, and guitar hero. Her journey is one that should serve to inspire any guitar player, singer or songwriter.”
Water Liars is Andrew Bryant and Justin Kinkel-Schuster. They met on tour some time ago and have been friends ever since. Named after the first story in Barry Hannah’s collection Airships, Water Liars began by accident in Pittsboro, MS in late 2011. Justin, who previously spent some time in a St. Louis-based band named Theodore, writes the songs and Andrew makes them better.
The new Water Liars record Wyoming was made in Water Valley, MS in September 2012. Weighted with accumulated evidence from experience, it’s likely to stab anyone who may hear it in the gut and the heart. And then they’ll turn the record over again.
Their first album, Phantom Limb, was the product of the aforementioned accident; a collection of songs, recorded without aim over one weekend at Bryant’s house in Pittsboro, released by Misra Records in March 2012.
Water Liars is on tour forever.
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.”
Feisty, funny singer/guitar-slinger Scott Miller is not a simple study; he manages the family cattle farm in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, but he also has a degree in Russian and Soviet Studies from William & Mary and tours the country as an esteemed singer/songwriter.
In 1990, armed with his prestigious but ultimately useless degree, (“The Soviet Union collapsed when I graduated — I don’t take any credit, though”) Miller moved to Knoxville, where he started scraping out a living playing local bars and clubs. The owner of a now-defunct bar called Hawkeye’s quickly recognized Miller’s homespun appeal and gave him a regular night, and he proceeded to build a loyal legion of fans. The marquee outside said “Scott Miller: Every Damn Friday” for four long years. Meanwhile, Miller began touring regionally and his following grew accordingly.
Subsequently he became a member of Knoxville roots-rock unit the V-Roys, the first band signed to E-Squared, an indie label founded by the late Jack Emerson and Steve Earle. The band found moderate success but ultimately dissolved, as bands do. Miller then signed with Sugar Hill Records, recording three studio albums and a live record with The Commonwealth.
Beginning in 2009, Miller began releasing records on his own F.A.Y. Recordings. To date the label has released two CD’s, Miller’s For Crying Out Loud (2009) and a re-packaging of The V-Roys, Sooner or Later (2011). An EP of Christmas songs; Christmas Gift (2010) provided an outlet for Miller’s original Christmas tunes written for his annual Christmas shows at the legendary Down Home in Johnson City, TN.
After meeting renowned old-time fiddler Rayna Gellert (Uncle Earl) at West Virginia’s prestigious radio broadcast, Mountain Stage, the two began touring together performing original songs that Miller had tossed out of the tune stack he was compiling for his next release. Fans began requesting these new songs so Miller and Gellert put together an EP, CoDependents (2012) to sell at their shows. Miller is preparing a new studio release with producer Doug Lancio for a project due out in the fall of 2013.
Nashville-based singer/songwriter Adam Burrows was born and raised in Northeastern Ohio. His songs reflect his small town upbringing and draw the listener in by celebrating life’s everyday moments and embracing those that are fleeting. His lyrics capture the beauty of easy conversation, and his characters remain with you like old friends. Adam’s stories touch his listener simply but deeply, evoking emotions and images of less complicated times. His recollections of hope and heartache are framed by percussive finger-picking and catchy melodies, melodies you will find yourself humming for days.
Adam was nominated for The Deli Nashville’s Best of 2012 Poll for Emerging Artists. He has had radio play on Nashville’s Lightning 100 and has been a featured local spot-light artist. Out of over 300 musicians, Adam was a top 8 finalist in Lightning 100′s Music City Mayhem contest.
Adam’s enthusiasm and endearing smile are a given at every show whether he is playing solo or with other artists. Adam began performing regularly two years ago as a duo with talented musician, Josh Preston. Josh sings harmonies and plays guitar, glockenspiel, melodica, and other various instruments. Adam plays well-known venues/ events such as Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe, Music City Roots, Musicians Corner, and Knoxville’s Blue Plate Special on WDVX.
Adam’s newest album will be released in the fall of 2013, following up Tall Tales and Never One for Silence. Adam’s two most recent albums were recorded at Me and the Machine Studio in Nashville, TN.