This was a surprising bit of news considering he had spent the last six years making rock albums of one kind or another. But Snider was feeling as if he had “maybe drifted too far from the shore.” He was feeling the pull to start over, to go back to what he was doing when he first began, to return to his roots as a folksinger.
If Snider needed any further evidence that was the direction he should pursue, he got it a half hour later. Back inside his home office, he checked his email and had one from his manager informing him he had just received an offer to play the 2019 Newport Folk Festival, an event he had never done.
Snider mentioned he had been listening to Woody Guthrie’s Library of Congress Recordings, then crossed the room to the turntable and put the needle down on side one of the record. “Woody Guthrie sometimes gets me reset on why you do a song, instead of how,” Snider explains of the man who has long been a touchstone for him. “When I was young, there was something about him that made me want to do it. So once or twice a year, I’ll go back to him, I’ll go back to the source.”
Guthrie famously had the words “This machine kills fascists” printed on his guitar, and on several of the songs on Snider’s new album, Cash Cabin Sessions, Vol. 3, he squarely aims his guitar at the creeping fascism he sees in America. He had been wanting to make a political record since 2016, and although only half the songs lean in that direction, there is one constant throughout the album: a man, his guitar, and the truth.
* * * * *
Snider has long been recognized as one of his generation’s most gifted and engaging songwriters, so it’s no surprise he has returned with a brilliant set of songs — and make no mistake, Cash Cabin Sessions, Vol. 3 contains some of his best work as a writer. But what really jumps out on the album is Snider’s growth as a musician and vocalist. He plays all the instruments on the record, and his guitar work and harmonica playing are nothing short of exceptional; not only full of feeling, but highly skilled. In regards to his guitar playing on the record, Snider says he wanted to take everything he’s learned over the past 30 years and play the way he used to play really well.
As far as his vocals on the album are concerned, Snider is singing with more confidence than ever, a confidence born in part from his time with Hard Working Americans doing nothing but sing. His stirring vocal performances range from slurring blues mumble to Dylanesque talking blues to gravely, honest ache.
Of the five songs on which Snider serves up his humorous brand of socio-political commentary, three are performed in the talking blues style: “Talking Reality Television Blues,” a hilariously accurate short history of television; “The Blues on Banjo,” a bad case of the blues caused by the sorry state of everything from the crooked international monetary-military-industrial complex to the spineless politicians who serve it and which references “Blue Suede Shoes,” Richard Lewis, and Townes Van Zandt; and “A Timeless Response to Current Events,” a brilliant bit of wordplay on which he calls bullshit on faux patriotism, crooked capitalism, and lying politicians. Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires contributed backing vocals on the latter two songs.
There are two other songs on the album featuring Snider’s socio-political points of view: “Just Like Overnight,” about the surprising inevitability of change, and “Framed,” written from the point of view of the framed ‘first dollar bill’ in a bar, a point of view that shows doing the right thing doesn’t pay.
There also are three songs with a music theme. If not for the events that led to the writing of one of those songs,“The Ghost of Johnny Cash,” there almost certainly would be no Cash Cabin Sessions, Vol. 3. After a visit to Cash Cabin Studio for a Loretta Lynn session in 2015 where she recorded a song they cowrote, Snider began having a recurring dream about the studio that featured the Man in Black himself. The dream led him to book time at the studio and ultimately inspired him to write “The Ghost of Johnny Cash,” which tells the story of Loretta Lynn dancing with Cash’s ghost outside the studio in the middle of the night. As he did on much of the record, Snider played the century-old Martin that had long been Johnny Cash’s favorite instrument on that song.
Snider paid tribute to Cash’s longtime friend and confidante in another of the music-themed songs, “Cowboy Jack Clement’s Waltz.” Inspired by the iconic record man’s oft-quoted maxims regarding the art of recording, the song achingly laments Clement’s passing, while touchingly celebrating his legacy.
The album opens with the other song with a music theme, “Working on a Song.” It’s an existential exercise, a song Snider wrote about writing a song called “Where Do I Go Now That I’m Gone,” an idea he actually has been working on for thirty years, but which remains unfinished.
There are also two songs that are personal in nature: “Watering Flowers in the Rain,” which was inspired by a former associate of Snider’s whose nickname was “Elvis,” and “Like a Force of Nature,” a philosophical reflection on the orbital nature of friendships. Isbell also added harmony vocals to “Like a Force of Nature.”
If Snider is anything, he is a true artist, and he reminds us of that on Cash Cabin Sessions, Vol. 3. At a point in time when the world has never been more complicated and confusing, with people getting louder and louder, Snider did a 180, went back to his roots as a folksinger, to a simpler, quieter form of expression; and it might be what the world is waiting to hear: just a man, his guitar, and the truth.
Dane Page continues to tour through the southeast and mid-Atlantic in support of his independently produced EP City to City. A collection of bawdy, rambler tunes perfect for taprooms, bars, and breweries. Selma (Summer 2018) will be his first full-length record. Selma is a more mature album that pushes the boundaries of folk and gives Dane the space to fully develop his sound.
Dane is a storyteller perfect for intimate rooms where audiences can delve into the imagery and lyricism of his songs. The full band—Eric Fellner on bass, Kevin Orlando on guitar, and Josh Kelley on drums—is a dynamic act taking Dane’s solo storytelling ability and adding an infectious blend of folk, rock, and blues capable of filling music halls and festival stages. In either setting, listeners are welcomed into the music and leave feeling like old friends after a bonfire.
Produced by Peter Case (T-Bone Burnett, John Hiatt, Mike Campbell), American Eclipse puts Heart Hunters’ gorgeously wounded harmonies front-and-center
“Right now, my stuff is all in storage,” she says of her state of constant motion. “I’ve lived in a lot of different places – different countries even. It’s a little overwhelming, keeping track of stuff, but it’s been an amazing trip because music has taken me places I never dreamed.
“I’m the same way with writing. Even when I’ve finished a record, or am in the middle of recording, I’m writing. Writing songs is what I do; it’s how I connect with the world.”
That sense of motion infuses Edgeland with immediacy. From the Buck Owens/Don Rich opening notes of “Red Line,” the dusky blond sweeps listeners up in her whirl. If “Red Line” is a missed train and a moment of immersion in the station, “The Get Together” shimmers with a Laurel Canyon lushness and ease in the awkward (that evokes J.D. Souther’s post-romantic midtempos) and “Can’t Seem To Let You Go” owns the ‘60s Merseybeat pop luxury of the Seekers or Dusty Springfield in Memphis. Demonstrating a facility for slipping in and out of oeuvres and emotions, this – in many ways — culminates her passage through music.
Kim Richey is a traveller, after all. Musically, physically, emotionally. Not merely restless or rootless, it’s who she is. Willing to follow where the music leads, she’s landed in Los Angeles, Nashville, London, working with a who’s who of producers – Richard Bennett, Hugh Padgham, Bill Bottrell, Angelo, Giles Martin. She’s attracted a coterie of top-shelf genre-definers — Jason Isbell, Trisha Yearwood, Chuck Prophet, My Morning Jacket’s Carl Broemel, Wilco’s Pat Sansone – for her critically-lauded projects. She has also sung on records for Ryan Adams, Shawn Colvin, Isbell, and Rodney Crowell.
Part of what draws them to the dusky honey of her crystalline alto is the way she writes: to and from the soul, never flinching from the conflicts and crushing moments, yet always finding dignity and resilience. Her arc of the human heart is true. True enough that over the years, Richey’s been both Grammy nominated. Nominated for Yearwood’s truculently groove-country “Baby, I Lied,” she also co-wrote Radney Foster’s #1 “Nobody Wins.”
“Harlan Howard said – and maybe I’ve taken it too much to heart, ‘It’s always more believable if you sing it in the first person.’ And when I sit down to write, if it’s something I’m going to sing, I want it to be what I want it to be. I don’t really settle, which may make me a little hard to write with. But I have to be able to stand up and sing it night after night, and I can’t if I don’t really believe it.”
Those standards made Glimmer one of TIME’s Top Records of 1999 and Rise named People’s Best Alt-Country Record of 2002. Even when singing from the point of view of a guy working on a barge going up and down the Ohio River in “Dear John,” her aim is true. As she says of the man refusing to read the letter that ends his romance, “because if I don’t read your letter, then it’s not over. Sometimes these songs are specific and personal, but it’s also true in ways that reflect so many other people’s experience, too.”
Sometimes Richey channels profound truths. Sometimes she embraces breezy freedom. “Leavin’ Song,” a rambler’s shuffle, is more about tasting the world than exiting a bad situation. As its chorus offers, “This ain’t no leaving song, you ain’t done nothing wrong” over an electric banjo and Resonator guitar, Richey finds the sweet spot in exulting for just being alive.
Once again, Richey has drawn a multitude of collaborators who rival her own singular voice. Veteran journeymen artist/writers Chuck Prophet, Maendo Sanz, Mike Henderson (Steeldrivers), Bill Deasy (the Gathering Field), Pat McLaughlin (John Prine) and Al Anderson (NRBQ), plus Aussies Jenny Queen and Harry Hokey co-sign on these musical polaroids from the going, the leaving, and the pausing.
“I’ll be doing an interview, and people will say, ‘You co-write a lot…’,” she marvels, “like it’s a bad thing. But it’s inspiring to me, and takes me in other directions, to other places. The people I write with are funny, and smart, and a blast to hang out with, but they’re also really good writers in their own right. Nobody’s pandering or chasing ‘a hit,’ we’re all just trying to get to the best possible song.”
Whether growing up, owning and relinquishing high times in the sleek “Chase Wild Horses,” echoed in the ether-lite, percussive folk “High Time,” then jettisoned on the smoky acceptance of her own flawed inability to be in a romance on the Western-tinged on “I Tried,” the woman from Ohio makes our natural selves both exotic and homey.
Richey enlisted producer Brad Jones, known for Over the Rhine, Josh Rouse, Butterfly Boucher, Hayes Carll and Marshall Crenshaw, in crafting an adult album that evokes and provokes musically. “I wasn’t sure at first if we’d be a good combo because he has such strong opinions, and I do, too. But it was (laughter) the easiest record I’ve ever made. He has really different ideas, and it’s nice to have somebody push you in a direction you might not have gone – and have them respect your opinion, too. I really loved working with Brad.””
With three different tracking bands, Edgeland is a who’s who of Nashville’s roots players: beyond co-writers, steel player Dan Dugmore, drummer Jerry Roe, multi-instrumentalist Sansone, guitarist/various stringed thing players Doug Lancio and Dan Cohen, string arranger Chris Carmichael and Robin Hitchcock all contribute to the bewitchery.
“So many of these guys produce and make records on their own,” she marvels. “I’m open to collaboration, too. These songs wouldn’t sound the way they do without these players.”
The noir-slink of “Pin A Rose,” a cautionary told-you-so tale of domestic abuse’s repeat cycles, the neo-madrigal “Not for Money or Love,” inspired by the father Richey lost at 2, and the Mellotron-tinged austerity of “Black Trees,” finished after a few years gestation during a residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts Colony and expanded to consider a refugee’s fortunes, all seek and explore. Here melody reinforces words, feelings, even interpersonal dynamics. Simplicity – as executed – breaks complicated things into evocative clouds that seep into the listeners unconscious.
“It’s a lot easier to say something in a song than in a conversation,” allows the easy-going grown-up. “And it’s not all about me, but the people in the songs. Even the stuff you leave out says something, so you’re creating on so many layers. And sometimes I don’t know where it comes from, just some other place.”
Listening to “Whistle On Occasion,” the Everly-esque closer duet with Prophet, Richey owns one’s place in the world. Here, there, going or gone, that’s all anyone can ask.
Hailed as “a talent to outrank Ryan Adams or Conor Oberst” by Uncut and praised for his “spare and easy sounding guitar songs” by NPR, Rouse first emerged in 1998 with his debut album, ‘Dressed Up Like Nebraska,’ which Billboard called a “dark horse gem.” Over the next two decades, he’d go on to release a steady stream of critically lauded records that would solidify his status as one of the his generation’s most acclaimed songwriters, both in the US and Europe, where he’s lived on and off since 2004. Q called his breakout album, ‘1972,’ “the most intimate record of the year,” while Rolling Stone dubbed his follow-up, ‘Nashville,’ “a landmark album,” and EW described 2013’s ‘The Happiness Waltz’ as “a big contender for Rouse’s best work.” In 2014, Rouse won a Goya Award (the Spanish equivalent of an Oscar) for best song for “Do You Really Want To Be In Love,” from the film ‘La Gran Familia Española.
As he began work on ‘Love In The Modern Age,’ Rouse was caught in a moment of international limbo. He was ready to relocate from Spain back to Nashville with his family, but his wife’s green card process was stretching out interminably. As they awaited news from the US government, their Tennessee home sat empty for more than a year, and Rouse found himself making regular trips across the Atlantic to check in on the property.
“I started working on songs with my old friend and writing partner Daniel Tashian on those trips,” Rouse explains. “I’d just finished reading Sylvie Simmons’ great Leonard Cohen biography, ‘I’m Your Man,’ and it got me really into Cohen’s synthier records. I told Daniel that I thought it’d be fun to write some stuff in that vein, so we’d start with these moody soundscapes, and then I’d write lyrics on top of them.”
Inspired by Cohen and cult heroes The Blue Nile, as well as the English bands Rouse grew up listening to like The Cure and The Smiths, the songs were cinematic and enveloping. Each track created its own entrancing world out of dense synthesizer textures and shimmering electric guitar lines. While many of his previous albums were recorded with a full band performing live in one room, Rouse built up the tracks on ‘Love In The Modern Age’ a layer at a time, recording the majority of the instruments himself between Spain and Nashville.
in me that wouldn’t have happened with just an acoustic guitar.”
Much like love in our modern age, the album is defined by the coming together of those physical and digital worlds. Underneath it all, though, lays the same endless search for human connection that drives each and every one of us. Times may change, but the song remains the same.
Little Lesley & The Bloodshots
Little Lesley & the Bloodshots light up the stage with their soulful twang and captivating songs. Hailing from New York City and South Carolina’s upstate, they’ve been making waves and making friends around the world with their honest approach to American Roots music.
Jason Moss and The Hosses
Carolina Honky Tonk
Wes and The Railroaders
Meet Wes And The Railroaders! Charlotte, North Carolina’s, newest country-rock quartet, led by Wes Hamilton of the defunct alt-country band Pullman Strike.
Michelle Malone’s musical roots run deep and wide like the mighty Mississippi river, twisting and turning through rock, blues, and alt-country music territory. She is ‘a master at mixing blues and Americana music” (GUITAR PLAYER MAGAZINE). Over the course of Malone’s career, she has shared stages with artists from Gregg Allman to Indigo Girls, SugarLand’s Kristian Bush to Brandi Carlisle, Mississippi All-Stars Luther Dickenson to ZZ Top, released more than a dozen records, and went indie when it still took guts. Her powerful live show will take you on a journey from red dirt back roads to bright city lights, whether she’s solo acoustic in a living room concert or in a big arena backed by her band. She ‘has the soul of a bluesman, the heart of a folk singer, and the guts of a rock and roll star wrapped up in one fiery bad ass’ (NASHVILLE RAGE), and she’s determined to bring the masses back together in the name of love and music with her latest, Slings and Arrows.
Held hostage by her record label at 21, the troubadour life came with a rude awakening for the young Georgia native. Peacock made her home in a ‘92 Volvo with her dog and a guitar, and for nearly seven years earned a living in the corner shadows of American dive bars.
The tables turned in 2011 when an anonymous fan helped Peacock buy out of her recording contract. Since then, she has released six additional albums and won multiple awards for her songwriting. “Hurricane” won Best Song in the American Songwriting Awards, and “Beautiful” was a winner with International Unsigned Only. “The Cool Kids,” and “Are We There Yet” have nominated her for Best Female Artist and Best Song in a number of songwriting competitions. Peacock was also named Listening Room Network’s Artist of the Year.
In 2013, Peacock released her self-produced album, Albuquerque Sky, recorded in hotel rooms across the country while maintaining her rigorous 250 show tour schedule. Albuquerque Sky was followed by a season of goodbyes, tremendous growth, and challenges, and became the catalyst for her next album, Dream On (2016). “This record helped me get un-stuck. I had a collection of live recordings which became Dream On. After such a creative dry spell, I knew I needed to hit the road and stay out a while – reconnect with my fans,” says a determined Peacock. “I found this old silver eagle tour bus in Austin, TX. I was so enchanted with it, and the renovation process really reigniting my troubadour flame. So I bought my very first bus. Oh, what a feeling!” But less than 4 months later, she would watch it burn to the ground at a California truck stop.
One of Peacock’s fans voluntarily initiated a fundraiser, which is what kept her on the road. Another fan, so touched by her story, donated his motor home so that her tour could go on. That special connection between Sarah Peacock and her fans is what gives her the strength to continue overcoming. “You have to be unstoppable, even when you don’t believe you are.” That’s the modus operandi for the now half Tennessean, half Texan road warrior.
Sarah Peacock is active in the anti-bullying community, and her song, “The Cool Kids” has become a powerful anti-bullying anthem. Its message has taken on a life of its own. As she travels the country, Peacock shares her story in schools, empowering young people to embody her message of kindness and love.
Peacock is also an animal lover and tours with her pups as often as she can. Her late road dog, Gibson, was one of the first canines to receive a prosthetic mitral valve in a clinical trial at CSU in Ft. Collins, CO in May of 2017. Unfortunately, Gibson passed away. To honor his memory, Peacock recently formed her own 501(c)3, The Band Waggin,’ benefiting various animal health and rescue programs throughout the United States.
After completing two EP’s for Nashville label, American Roots Records, Peacock plans to release a full length album on her own label in 2019. Sarah Peacock is the truest definition of a self-made overcomer, hustler, and DIY machine. She’s got a remarkable knack for finding beauty in the ashes, and there’s no denying the future is looking bright for this tenacious up and comer.
Thoreau had Walden Pond. Kerouac had Big Sur. Rayland Baxter? He had an old rubber band factory in Franklin, Kentucky, and it suited him just fine. As one of the hardest-touring artists on the road today, Baxter’s spent most of his professional life in transit, but ever since he was a kid, he dreamed of creative seclusion someplace lonely and isolated, somewhere he could sit still and devote his every waking hour to writing without interruption or distraction. When the opportunity finally presented itself in late 2016, the Nashville native pounced.
“I packed everything in my van and moved to Franklin for three months,” says Baxter. “It was the fist time I ever got to be alone and focus solely on songs like that. All I did was write, write, write all day every day. I was obsessed.”
By the time Baxter emerged, he’d penned more than 50 tunes and crafted a detailed blueprint for his spectacular new album, ‘Wide Awake.’ Deftly produced by Butch Walker, the record infuses Baxter’s easygoing, soulful sound with British Invasion melodies and rock and roll swagger, marrying lean, muscular songwriting with adventurous, inventive arrangements. It’s a cutting, insightful collection, one that takes a sardonic view the violence, greed, and division that seem to define the modern American landscape. Rather than point a finger, though, the music holds up a mirror, offering a sober reflection of the times thoughtfully bundled in bright, infectious hooks. There’s no judgment here, only keen observation, and Baxter implicates himself as much as his neighbor through it all.
Enjoy Rayland Baxter during the Fourth of July Celebration.
- When: Fourth of July Celebration (July 3)
- Time: 8:00pm – 10:00pm
- Location: River Jam Stage
- Cost: Free and open to the public
- Weather: Events are scheduled to proceed rain or shine. In the event of severe weather, the USNWC reserves the right to reschedule/cancel live music performances.
South Carolina’s Cranford Hollow has been on the road now for almost 4 years. They love every mile out on the road and every new person they get to share their music with. They now have three albums under their belt and are looking for westward expansion.
- When: Friday, September 6
- Time: 7:00pm – 10:00pm
- Location: River Jam Stage
- Cost: Free and open to the public
- Weather: Events are scheduled to proceed rain or shine. In the event of severe weather, the USNWC reserves the right to reschedule/cancel live music performances.