Roots Radio News

Essential 2016: Americana Albums We Loved

Dec 20, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CRAIG HAVIGHURST)  --  The new WMOT/Roots Radio is less than four months old but behind the scenes over here are a bunch of people who’ve been passionate lovers and supporters of Americana music for decades.

  NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Dolly Parton says a star-studded telethon for those affected by recent wildfires in her native Tennessee has brought in about $9 million.

Parton headlined the Tuesday night event that was broadcast on several cable networks and live streamed online. Parton says in a statement that all donations have yet to be counted, but the total stands at around $9 million. The total is expected to rise in the coming days as mail donations are counted and the telethon is rebroadcast.

Rhiannon Gilbert

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (RHIANNON GILBERT) -- The warehouse barroom of Little Harpeth Brewing felt more like an old English pub on Friday night as laughing, Christmas sweater-clad partygoers mingled and enjoyed up-close performances with opera singers.

This was the third performance of Nashville’s chapter of Opera on Tap, a national non-profit organization that aims to provide an outlet for young performers and expose new audiences to opera music in non-traditional settings.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CRAIG HAVIGHURST)  --  The music of Johnny Cash was destined to live on long after the artist himself. Now, 13 years after Cash’s death, an effort to preserve and publish his non musical writing has taken shape. It’s a new book – with a black dust jacket of course - called Forever Words, The Unknown Poems.

“You tell me that I must perish.

Like the flowers that I cherish

nothing remaining of my name

Nothing remembered of my fame

But trees that I planted

Still are young

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CRAIG HAVIGHURST)  --  The culture and people of East Tennessee are never far from our minds at Music City Roots and WMOT /Roots Radio, because the region is such a hotbed of traditional American music. That ground produced legends, of course, including Dolly Parton and Chet Atkins. But we know it as the home and/or origin of artists moving us today: Blue Highway, Bill & The Bells, Ed Snodderly and Trey Hensley to name a few. So the devastation of the Gatlinburg fires left scars on us too. And it was bad, folks.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CRAIG HAVIGHURST)  --  No sooner were the Thanksgiving leftovers stashed in the refrigerator than the Christmas lights went up all over town and the Best Of 2016 music lists began to appear, notably those from American Songwriter and National Public Radio.

Miranda Lambert

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (RHIANNON GILBERT) -- Two-time Grammy Award winner Miranda Lambert released her new double-album “The Weight of These Wings” on Nov. 18.

Lambert has never been described as shy, so the artist’s private approach to her recent divorce from country singer Blake Shelton had fans itching to get their hands on the new album to hear her side of the story. In two CD’s, titled “The Nerve” and “The Heart,” respectively, Lambert chronicles the ups and downs of love lost and a future changed.

Country rebel Sturgill Simpson awed by Grammy nom

Dec 7, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Sturgill Simpson's records have defied easy characterization (Country? Americana? Experimental Southern rock?), but this year The Recording Academy decided whatever genre he was, he made one of the best records of the year. And that's enough for him.

"The fact that there are a million people around the world Googling my name and trying to figure out who the hell I am right now is just enough for me," the Kentucky-bred singer said with a laugh during a phone interview Tuesday in Nashville, Tennessee.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CRAIG HAVIGHURST)  --  Few artists have ever made a more impactful debut than Gillian Welch did with Revival in 1996. The Los Angeles native and her duet partner David Rawlings absorbed Appalachian folk ideas at a distance and transmuted them into something contemporary and refreshing.


CUMBERLAND CAVERNS, Tenn. (WMOT)  -- Tennessee is home to some famous music venues, from the blues capital of Beale Street in the heart of Memphis, to Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, the Mother Church of Country Music.

Now, a relatively new music venue up on the Cumberland Plateau is gaining some notoriety. At the very least, Bluegrass Underground takes the prize as one of the world’s most unusual performance spaces.

Luke Bryan

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Country star Luke Bryan took care of a heckler without skipping a beat during a concert this week by taking a swing at the man from the stage with his microphone still in hand.

Bryan was performing his single "Move" at the Charlie Daniels' all-star Volunteer Jam in Nashville, Tennessee, on Wednesday when the outburst occurred. Fan video shows Bryan shouting, "Come on!" before stepping forward and slapping the man with his fingers while still holding onto the mic.

90 Second Spin: Mountain Voodoo from Balsam Range

Nov 23, 2016
Balsam Range

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CRAIG HAVIGHURST)  --  Western North Carolina is once again the nation’s hot spot for top-flight bluegrass bands and nobody from the region is getting more attention or praise these days than Smoky Mountain quintet Balsam Range. They released their sixth album Mountain Voodoo on November 11.

Buddy Melton is the band’s prize-winning and beloved tenor vocalist. Caleb Smith is one of the young stars of bluegrass guitar and an impressive singer too. On the new album, they team up on “Blue Collar Dreams,” a classic feeling duet.

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (RHIANNON GILBERT) -- The songs of country legend Dolly Parton are inspiring a project at MTSU’s School of Music, but the sound is not at all what you might expect.

“Inspirations from Tennessee,” a 7-track CD of chamber music commissioned by MTSU music faculty and graduates, is set to release in January 2017. Simply called “The Dolly Project,” it aims to unite different art forms and histories of Tennessee through self-expression in music.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (RHIANNON GILBERT) -- Fans of the Mavericks will tell you the band’s live performances are among the best shows in the business. In the 90s, their Cuban-tinged music became the first of its kind to hit the country charts. Now, the Mavericks have launched their independent record label, Mono Mundo Recordings, with the release of “All Night Live, Volume 1,” the first album that brings their powerhouse sound to your stereo.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Warner Music Group could receive between $1 million and $2 million in incentives for its Nashville expansion, based on job creation.

The Tennessean reports ( ) Nashville's Metro Council has voted to award Warner $500 per job added in Nashville annually over the next seven years.

Warner's country music label employs about 100 people on Music Row. Next summer, Warner plans to open a 30,000-square-foot office at Nashville City Center with financial, legal and administrative jobs.

'Daddy's Hands' Singer Holly Dunn Dead At 59

Nov 16, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Country singer Holly Dunn, a San Antonio native who had a hit in 1986 with "Daddy's Hands," about her minister father, has died. She was 59.

Dunn died Monday in hospice care in Albuquerque, New Mexico, according to June Keys, the manager at the Pena-Dunn Gallery in Santa Fe, where Dunn's paintings were displayed. Dunn announced earlier this year she was battling ovarian cancer.

Gretchen Peters Remembers Leonard Cohen

Nov 15, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Craig Havighurst)  --  The death of Leonard Cohen last week affected fans all over the world, but it has special resonance in Nashville, a city shaped by its songs and songwriters. Gretchen Peters has held Cohen up as her chief influence her entire life.

“There are so many reasons why he’s the most important songwriter in the world to me. He gave me reach and vision and the idea that I could write about anything and that I should work very hard to make every word cut,” Peters said.

PBS Series ‘Soundbreaking’ Traces Recording History

Nov 14, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CRAIG HAVIGHURST)  --  A new multi part documentary about the history of record making should be of interest to many in Music City. It’s called Soundbreaking: Stories from the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music. And while viewers will recognize scores of iconic songs and artists in its eight hours, the focus is on the art and science of the studio that made those records possible.

NASHVILLE, Tenn.  (WMOT)  --  Just in time for Veterans Day, Nashville songwriter Becky Warren has released War Surplus, an album about the post-war experience.

Writing even one song about veterans and their sacrifices without lapsing into sentimentality is hard, making a whole concept album on the subject a high risk endeavor. But War Surplus tells its visceral and enthralling story with well-chosen words and bristling Americana rock and roll.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Leon Russell, who performed, sang and produced some of rock 'n' roll's top records, has died. He was 74.

An email from Leon Russell Records to The Associated Press says Russell died Sunday in Nashville. The email cites Russell's wife as the source of the information. Russell had heart bypass surgery in July and was recovering from that at the time of his death. He had been planning on resuming touring in January, the email said.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (RHIANNON GILBERT) -- He never aspired to move away from his South Georgia home and make it big, but Brent Cobb’s music has been in the Nashville spotlight for years.  His songs have been recorded by groups like The Oak Ridge Boys and Little Big Town, plus superstars like Luke Bryan and Miranda Lambert.  The secret seems to be his true-to-life lyrics and depictions of life in the rural south.

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WMOT)  --  Operation Song is giving mid-state veterans a unique way to tell their stories.

The organization was launched in 2012 by Music City song writing veterans Bob Regan and Don Goodman.

During a recent song writing session on the campus of Middle Tennessee State Univeristy, songwriter Steve Dean sat down with former Army Staff Sergeant Blake Pickel to work on a tune.

Dean, who wrote the song It Takes a Little Rain for the Oak Bridge boys, said getting to spend time with veterans is truly a gift.

Michael Cleveland

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CRAIG HAVIGHURST)  --  If you watched Michael Cleveland play the fiddle without hearing him, you’d be hard pressed to imagine a beautiful sound coming out.

His bow flies around and slashes at the strings like a crazy conductor’s baton. But somehow, he achieves a touch and a tone so outstanding that he’s won ten fiddle player of the year awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)  --  Garth Brooks, who lost entertainer of the year at last year's Country Music Association Awards when he returned to music after a 13-year break, won the top prize at the show Wednesday, where Beyonce and the Dixie Chicks' surprise duet performance was met with love and hate.

Brooks beat out Carrie Underwood, Chris Stapleton, Keith Urban and last year's winner, Luke Bryan.

"We are so damn lucky to part of this thing called country music," Brooks yelled loudly at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CRAIG HAVIGHURST)  --  Fans of classic country music have complained for years that the CMA Awards and CMA itself give short shrift to the roots of the music and traditional sounds.

This year, those disaffected viewers will have more to watch and listen for when the show airs live Wednesday night from Nashville' Bridgestone Arena on ABC at 7 p.m central time.

Producers are calling this landmark 50th edition a throwback celebration, with performances by George Strait, Reba McEntire, Alan Jackson, Vince Gill and 1960s star Charley Pride.