Thursday, December 19, 2013

Where Is The Light (TOTR 206)

A version of this mix aired on WTTU on December 11. This is a part of my annual Joyful Noises Christmas/Solstice mixtape series. Listen to the podcast (without commentary) in the player below. Enjoy!
Yes – Run With The Fox
Blackmore’s Night – I Saw Three Ships
Jethro Tull – Ring Our Solstice Bells
Andrew Ripp – Jingle Bells
James Taylor – Here Comes The Sun featuring Yo-Yo Ma
Beta Radio – The Songs the Season Brings
Peter Mayer – Where Is the Light
The Lower Lights – Stars of Glory
Dave Carter & Tracy Grammer – American Noel
Steve Earle – Nothing But A Child
Louise Taylor – Let’s Make A Baby King
Bahamas – Christmas Must Be Tonight
Pentatonix – Little Drummer Boy
Future of Forestry – Angels We Have Heard On High
Sandra McCracken & Derek Webb – This Is The Christ
Dan Fogelberg – What Child Is This
Simon & Garfunkel – Go Tell It On The Mountain
Allen Toussaint – Do You Hear What I Hear?
Fairfield Four – Children Go Where I Send Thee
Blind Boys Of Alabama – Silent Night

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Chill In The Air (TOTR 205)

This podcast features songs that were released in 2013, & it originally aired (with commentary not included here) on WTTU during a special broadcast on December 11, 2013. 

Amos Lee – Chill In The Air
Judah – Seasons Colors
The Last Bison – Autumn Snow
The Avett Brothers – Morning Song
Blitzen Trapper – Faces of You
Roadkill Ghost Choir – Beggars’ Guild
Tea Leaf Green – Give Me One More Chance
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – Please!
Phantom Farmer – What Got Away­
James Wallace & the Naked Light – Colored Lights
Frightened Rabbit – Backyard Skulls
The National – Heavenfaced
Tired Pony – I’m Begging You Not To Go
Kings Of Leon – Last Mile Home
Typhoon – Young Fathers
Dawes – Most People
The Lonely Forest – Warm/Happy
Moby & Wayne Coyne – The Perfect Life

Moon Taxi – River Water

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Mark Creter’s Time Warp Transforms Cookeville

By Cookeville standards, theater giant Mark Creter couldn’t jump any further to the left, so, with his latest production of the Rocky Horror Show by Richard O’Brien, he takes a step to the right (okay, not really) and invites us all on a “Time Warp” into our best Baby Boomer-meets-Generation X late-night-B-movie flashback. With remaining shows running Thursday through Saturday, this fabulous play marks a magical and musical triumph in Creter’s long creative legacy at Tennessee Tech.

Supported by the genius work of Creter’s long-time collaborators set-designer Colin Forsyth and choreographer-partner-in-crime Jennifer Dotson-Creter, the Backdoor Playhouse brings in some wildly talented newcomers to comprise the cast for this carnivalesque and comic singalong fantasy. Fans who thought the Rocky Horror Picture Show smashed our assumptions about where the audience ends and the performance begins will be happily haunted by its historical predecessor, a live play (no movie here) where attendees come dressed as characters, dance in the aisles, shout back to the stage, and sing the lyrics to their favorite songs.

While Backdoor Playhouse patrons will recognize recent staple Josh Rapp standout and try to steal the show as Riff Raff, many in the daring and dynamic young cast have taken the stage in the revered space at the rear of the Jere Whitson Building for the first time. Mary Richardson’s magnetic Janet hypnotizes everyone not just with that character’s confused working-out of her seductive innocence but with her Broadway-caliber vocal delivery. Buster Shadwick’s sheer and shocking immersion inside the role of the play’s master of disaster Frank should provide all the requisite thrills and chills we expect from this classic.

Locals unfamiliar with Creter’s directorial reputation or the play’s risque and R-rated topics ought to Google-a-little about the show before bringing the grandparents or the kids or spending $12 on something that’s so completely beyond the norm. That said, seeing this show’s film version was a rite-of-passage for me in the 1980s as a teen, and the crowds so far at this 2013 run span the generations. Mark and Jennifer inject this play with such an authentic love for everything that good theater can be; so much so, the mindblowing, genderbending, and heartwarming romp may be their singular greatest achievement in already amazing parallel careers in theater and dance.

While Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, or Tommy may have more notoriety from the first great wave of rock operas, Rocky Horror’s reputation is based on our participation and an unlikely antagonist who comes adorned in heels and garters and soaked in mascara to melt all boundaries and make everyone a part of the show.  This joyful, sparkling, and colorful crash-course in the weird willingly tickles its sold-out crowds every night largely because of all the talent and sincerity that brought it to the Cookeville stage, embodied by an extraordinary commitment to the play’s extremely democratic ethos: “Don’t dream it, be it.”

All tickets for the remaining productions are only available at the door. General admission for $12. Tech Students free with Eagle Card. Get there an hour early if you expect to get a seat. For details:

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Let It Ring: Indigo Girls Grace The Goose

Amy Ray’s smile opened itself to wrap love around the couple thousand fans who’d weathered a soggy soaker of a spiritual festival to wait for their 10pm Saturday set. “Y’all have advanced way past kum-bah-yah,” she quipped. “That was a deep album cut.”

For 90 minutes, Ray and her musical partner Emily Saliers couldn’t stop praising the Wild Goose Festival crowd. It’s as if they’d trekked to the misty mountains of western North Carolina just to see us render their greatest hits the new hymnal for progressive and inclusive Christianity. The stellar setlist covered all the ground, a collection of tracks both new and old spanning a career that jump-started itself in the same 1980s Georgia music scene that gave us the likes R.E.M. and Widespread Panic. 

The Indigo Girls catalog knits itself into our daily lives in such a way to make them the perfect band for a campfire singalong at a radicals’ revival like this. But what else was obvious here could not be pinpointed in the mere practice of song. The best-selling grassroots folk duo found something in our makeshift festival that’s been true of their career: past all the great lyrics and legacy of activism, past the DIY-ethics and indie entrepreneur’s edge, past all the albums and compilations, past all the accolades exists the chewy center of hope, we see the Holy Spirit at work in such a down-to-earth humbling and fiery fashion. The Indigo Girls headline set at Wild Goose 2013 healed the audience and sealed the festival’s cultural location in a jubilant justice movement for ecumenical and evangelical convergence on the funky fringes of mainstream Christianity.

Speaking musically, socially, and spiritually, the Indigo Girls have always been there for me and their extended fan community, providing a safe sacred space against the backdrop of sonic dissonance, daily desperation, and devotional decadence. In the 1990s, I’ll never forget a particular summer night when I chose a popular folk gig with my parents and skipped a sloshy urban moshpit with the local punks. For much of my 20s and 30s, I teetered on the axis between light and dark, between life and death. I felt these songs pointing to the light then as now, even as I wallowed elsewhere.

At the top of the Indigos’ Goose set, rather than a traditional MC warm-up or a mysterious smoke machine entry, we got a fan testimonial from author Glennon Doyle Melton. She shared that the Indigo Girls had provided the soundtrack to her early sobriety. Getting clean in my own experience requires a playlist with stamina and vast emotional diversity. Melton said she listened to the Indigo Girls every day, I imagine to give that extra bump that only music can provide when all our other fixes had been flushed down the commode of admitting permanent powerlessness. Every day. She claimed she never stopped, so she had been listening to the Indigo Girls every day for more than a decade. Every day.

I haven’t been listening to Indigo Girls every day, and my much-needed reunion with their deep cuts and Amy Rays’s stunning solo work has been a long-time coming. We know from reading their interviews and studying their web presence, that the Indigo Girls give back. They take social justice and Native rights and ecological sustainability quite seriously. They help fund albums by up-and-coming artists who might not have the means to produce a CD otherwise.

They do not fit the “alternative Christian” mode like many of last year’s headliners did. And while they reside often in the women’s music scene, they seem bigger than any subculture. Because they are, like their song “Second Time Around” reminds us, “God-fearing lesbians,” a perfect choice for the third Goose! Based on the time they spent with us during the day this August Saturday, by the time of their set, it’s pretty clear they felt the fit, too. Not once, but many times, they applauded the audience, not just for our singing abilities and our knowledge of their lyrics as mentioned above, but for our various commitments to practicing what we preach in tangible gestures to better our world.

To be frank, I have been to a lot of secular music festivals that pay admirable lip service to activism, but these did not feel like they were anything close to being part of a movement. Wild Goose, on the other hand, locates itself off the map of the postmodern festival scene, way past the last outpost where festivals-for-the-sake-of-themselves reside. Activism at these other well-meaning events was more of a nametag where here it was more than a commitment; activism is the fiber of the festival itself.

This summer camp singalong is also training camp and bootcamp and recharge-your-battery-because-we’re-weary-in-the-trenches camp. It’s obvious to me and probably was to most everyone else that night that as the Indigo Girls played their hearts out, that they noticed this about us and our tribe of millennial meaning and movement for collective redemption.

Before the Indigos closed with their ever popular “Closer To Fine,” Amy Ray rocked through her solo anthem “Let It Ring” with such rugged abandon, shredding the mandolin, and piercing our sides with the prophetic lyrics about a church and a country that still marginalize minorities and wage wars. Ray sings in one stanza: “You can cite the need for wars/Call us infidels or whores/Either way we'll be your neighbor.” And then in the next: “And the strife will make me stronger/As my maker leads me onward/I'll be marching in that number.” Courageously concluding: “I'm gonna let it ring to Jesus/Cause I know he loves me too/And I get down on my knees and I pray the same as you.”

Photos by 
photos by Scott Griessel, used by permission.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Troy Bronsink’s “Songs To Pray By” Travels To Wild Goose

Troy Bronsink’s meditative live album Songs to Pray By stretches its sonic arms to embrace every listener with expansive words of spirited awe and awesome humility, with ecstatic waves of audio grace and rhythmic gravity.

Bronsink and his band bring to church what we’ve seen out on the festival circuit for years, a shimmery and psychedelic use of sound and language to elevate listeners who choose to inhabit a song as if it were wings, the place where the spirit soars and the heart sings. We don’t often associate noodly guitars and trippy percussion with the worship sound, which is exactly why this album is such a perfect addition to the praise genre.

A solo Bronsink will be presenting his musical work tomorrow at the Wild Goose Festival. We both took a break from packing and planning our journeys to North Carolina for this email interview.

Describe your motives for playing at WGF? How is it different from a church conference or a music fest?
I think WGF is a way to hear a wider conversation—to hear what the Holy Spirit is doing in surprising places. Jesus followers have a lot to learn by listening to others at the margins, the Goose puts those margins on the radar and lifts marginalized conversations to table conversations.
Upon listening to your record, pretty much on repeat since I discovered it, this may be the closest to a Jesusy jam band I have found in the contemporary scene (not since the early Jesus movement music), & I mean that in the most complimentary terms. Discuss the sonic ambiance, percussion, instrumentation, & performance styles that lead listeners to this experience. Do you seek an altered state? Is that a spiritual or psychic motive for you?
The band that made Songs to Pray By drew from a number of influences—jam bands, math rock, indie, Americana. I believe the spiritual real is physical, our soul-selves are embodied selves and so harmony, rhythm, dissonance that are held in our bodies can also be part of our prayer. Like Augustine who said that when we sing we pray-twice, we wanted to be sure that we didn't miss the prayer either time—first or second.
Is this record a mix of originals & traditionals? What's the importance of that balance for you?
We wrote these songs and arrangements with a congregation. Most, if not all, congregations are made up on novel experiences and traditions we all bring to the table. Familiar hymns and praise songs can help integrate our pasts—so I think arranging the classics is a great call. But new experiences of music form new neural-pathways, they help us form new thoughts, and open the door to that incessant knocking that Jesus is known for. Worship has to train us to open to the new or else we miss the opportunity for wonder and inspiration.
How do you personally juggle musician with your other roles—family man, pastor, author, etc.?
I'm a lousy juggler but the last year has brought some great balance. I work full time as a curator/pastor for a congregation and they offer me time to travel to speak and play. Last year I also published my first book, Drawn In: A Creative Process for Artists, Activists, and Jesus Followers. And in it I confess much of my own weaknesses here. But I would say that the many roles we have pour out of the life that is born in us every day, the renewing work of the Spirit. I have to let go of projects as much as I have to push them forward. I have to go back to the drawing board as often as I have to promote an idea. And I have to be God's canvas as much as I need to paint on the canvases that are laid before me. Juggling isn't the best image, but resonance—ringing a chord and letting it vibrate on its own for a good while—that works for me.
Why should someone check out your set at the WGF?
There are so many great musicians and speakers to hear and see. My stuff will be a mixture of folksy light heartedness and passion soulfulness. And each set is only 30 minutes (11:30 and 3:30 on Friday) so it will go by fast. You'll love singing with me on catchy tunes and rocking to other ones. And then come by the "hot off the Grill" session at 5:30 on Friday for some Korean BBQ style steaks and readings from my book and two other great author/poets: Mike Stavlund and Michael Toy.

Troy's book & album are available widely on the web from Amazon & other sources. He also put a song on Bandcamp in honor of Wild Goose:

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Second Tiime Around: Wild Goose Mixtape 2013 (TOTR 204)

I’m excited to share this mixtape in honor of the Wild Goose Festival, August 8-11 in Hot Springs, NC.

For the festival proper, this third one will surely be a charm, but for me, it’s the second time around, hence the title of this playlist, also taken from an Indigo Girls song. Getting ready for a music festival for me requires hours upon hours of research: buying and downloading Mp3s, studying sounds with the headphones on. These are just a few favorites I’ve found and suggestions for your weekend—mixing up the indie-folk with the psychedelic-liturgical with the pop-folk and power-pop.

The mixtape works like a storybook of sonic massage on the ears, guts, and heart. My prayer is that your listen will provide at least a sliver of the joy that making it offered. Hopefully you can allow this mix to accompany your packing routine or en route roadtrip. See you at the shows! Or if you cannot make it, hopefully these songs will remind you why you wish you could.

Troy Bronsink – Today We All Are Called (Fri 8.9 – 11:30am & 3pm @ Performance Café)
Ears to the Ground Family – Almond Blossom (Sat 8.10 – 4:30pm @ Performance Café)
Money Cannot Be Eaten – Incandescent Light (Sat 8.10 – 4:30pm @ Performance Café)
The Friendly Beasts – Reflex (Sat 8.10 – 6:00pm @ Performance Café)
Adam Crossley – My Summer Song (Thu 8.8 – 8:30pm @ Main Stage)
The Violet Burning – Radio Jesus Superstar (Thu 8.8 – 10:30pm @ Performance Café)
Phil Madeira – Mercyland (Fri 8.9 – 9:00pm @ Main Stage)
The Collection – Lazarus (Thu 8.8 – 7:30pm @ Main Stage)
Run River North – Fight to Keep (Sat 8.10 – 8:00pm @ Main Stage)
Indigo Girls – Second Time Around (Sat 8.10 – 9:15pm @ Main Stage)
 Lost Dogs – Beautiful Scandalous Night (Fri 8.9 – 10:30pm @ Performance Cafe)
Andy Gullahorn – Resurrection (Fri 8.9 – 7:30pm @ Main Stage)
Work of the People – Revelation 12 (Fri 8.9 – 8pm @ The Chapel)

(photo of Run River North)

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Do Lord - Gospel for Daddy 2013 (TOTR 203)

 The Lower Lights – For the Beauty of the Earth 
The Vespers – Better Now 
Delta Rae – Dance In The Graveyards 
Vampire Weekend – Worship You 
Vampire Weekend – Everlasting Arms 
 Justin Townes Earle – Do Lord 
David Crowder Band – Leaning On the Everlasting Arms 
All Saved Freak Band – Old Rugged Cross 
Shane & Shane – Blessed Assurance 
Alton Howard Singers – Seek Ye First 
Alton Howard Singers – Pass It On 
Kevin Jacobson – For Those Tears I Died 
Mavis Staples – Can You Get To That 
Mighty Clouds Of Joy – What A Friend We Have In Jesus 
The Impressions – Amen 
Larry Callahan & Selected of God Choir – Lose Yourself 
John Legend – Woke Up This Morning 
Richie Havens – Will The Circle Be Unbroken 
The Chambers Brothers – Rough & Rocky Road/I’ll Fly Away 
 Fairfield Four – Amazing Grace/The Prodigal SonThe Neville Brothers – One Love/People Get Ready  

Monday, July 22, 2013

David Wimbish: Life, Death, Fundraising, & Festivals

At the 2012 Wild Goose, for an afternoon set at a tent tucked away on the backwoods of the festival site, a young North Carolina band blew minds and won fans. More than just a band, more like a multicolored movement of sonic jubilee, David Wimbish and the Collection carry the celebratory consciousness, lyrical significance, and live energy that have made bands like Mumford & Sons or Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros the darlings of the current folk-pop moment.

In August 2013, the Collection will open this year’s festival on the main stage with a Thursday night-set sure to thrill us. Then, they will support Phil Madeira’s Friday night set. In the meantime, the Collection are furiously raising funds on Kickstarter for their next album, a surprisingly hopeful take on death called Ares Moriendi. I recently caught up with David Wimbish and convinced him to take a break from writing, recording, fundraising, and preparing for Wild Goose to answer a few questions.

Q. What is special about playing a festival? What makes WGF special among special?
A. Festivals are places people are willing to get dirty, stinky, messy, and crazy together to a degree they normally wouldn’t otherwise—just for the sake of connection, whether it be a connection through music, spirituality, art, or just fun. Everyone is out of their element at the same time, which makes everyone in the same element—the element of each other. So playing festivals lets people focus solely on connecting with each other; we get to talk and hang and laugh and have fun with people in a way, without the normal distractions a city or jobs or phones have. 

Wild Goose Festival especially is a ton of fun because there are people searching and listening, a very diverse culture and very diverse belief systems. Last year’s Wild Goose was one of the best musical and relational experiences we’ve ever had as a band, and it’s really a gift to get to be here again this year.

Q. Why do we need to get there early for the opening set of WGF 2013?
A. We’ve got some fun surprises for this year. No spoilers yet, but the fest is about community, about connecting, about new and old ideas coming together, about seeking and experiencing, and we want to kick of the festival doing just that. 

Our band always has at least a few people rotating in and out; I think every show there’s at least one new person playing with us, and it gives us a new energy to see the dynamics change in this. This year will be some new faces, some new instruments, and new energy.

Q. What will be the mix in the set from your first album, your second album, your forthcoming album?
A. We’re at that awkward stage where we know it’ll still be a bit till the new album is out, yet, we want to share the songs. I’m sure there’ll be a couple of new ones, whichever ones we're feeling the most, but we’ll be playing a lot of our favorites from previous releases. We’ve been pumped to be playing “Lazarus” a lot lately, so I’m sure you’ll at least hear that. We like to play things loosely until close to a show, so that we can feel the vibe from the folks there and do a set that feels right for the environment and band family. 

The way sets usually come together is a bit like a puzzle. I go to the closet, we look and pull them out together beforehand and say "I want to do this one, I like this picture". We spread out all the pieces on the table, and we get little sections of it together, we start to see what it'll look like, and then, after awhile of moving things around, we put it completely together for others to see as a picture. So we have elements together, songs and special things we definitely we definitely have planned for wild goose, now it's a matter of finding the in between pieces and making it look like a picture. That being said, sometimes the pieces you think go in a certain spot were wrong, and you switch them out for others. So, don't want to give away too many spoilers, but we’ll play some new, and some old, and have some good celebration shoes. Bring your dancin' shoes!

Q. Everyone has a Kickstarter anymore—why should we support yours?
A. Kickstarter, unfortunately, has seen quite a bit of abuse in the last year, from super rich actors using it to raise money for a film, to someone’s younger brother trying to raise 10000 for new socks. When I FIRST heard of Kickstarter, I was excited, because it basically runs the way our band runs. Instead of charging set rates for albums and concerts, we like to let folks experience the music and then decide if they want to give or not, and how much they want or can give. 

Kickstarter, in some ways, does this in a little backwards way: it allows people to say “Hey, I support this, and I'll be a part of it happening. I'll be a part of this startup, or album, or project, whatever.”

Specifically with ours, we have our good friend Luke creating a documentary of the album process. Luke is an incredible filmmaker, and seeing that documentary happen just to see Luke’s work I think would be worth it. On top of that, with the money, we want to get big string and brass ensembles, a big group of extra musicians with crazy instruments, record in incredible sounding locations across the south, and get the thing professionally mastered and publicized, all to hopefully get to people the best musical and visual experience possible. Without reaching our Kickstarter goal, most of those things won’t be able to happen with the new album. We also have tons of gifts for donations that are a lot of fun, including a lot of original artwork and things for ya!

Q. Explain the concepts behind the new album. What’s with the facepaint? Are you in part by the Mexican Day of the Dead tradition? Is that the vibe you are going for? Why?
A. I've been writing some of these songs for a few years, and started seeing themes of death in them; death to myself, death of beliefs or habits, and actual physical death. My good friend killed himself a few months ago: it was so random and crazy, and several people in the band knew him. I realized, when it happened, I've never worked through or questioned death that much. It's felt far away, and this time it slammed me in the face.

So what happens afterwards? I hope it's resurrection, in the physical and spiritual sense. At least in life, when I die to myself or things that have previously been myself, I resurrect into something new. But the crazy thing is, it's a mystery. Every religion thinks it knows; everyone has experiences they think makes them sure, but none of us know what happens. We live with it hanging over our heads, this great mystery. Mystery is so beautiful though!

 But really, I needed a place to work through my friends suicide, and my grandpa dying of a brain tumor, and these songs starting coming.

And I realized, though all cultures have a time of mourning, the American culture seems to be one of the biggest ones that stops at mourning. So I was finding out more about the Mexican holiday, the Day of the Dead. There's something beautiful about celebrating the deceased's life instead of just mourning. They paint these Skulls, and it’s awesome, it takes something that we normally think of as morbid and sad, and it makes it beautiful again.

I need that to happen with my grandpa. I need that to happen with my friend. I need that to happen for myself! So, that’s what’s with the Sugar Skull facepaint, and what you’ll see with the art and themes that will be coming up in the new album, trying to take dead things and figure out what it means for them to be alive again. Hopefully, we can connect through death, and bring each other to life!

The paint is inspired by the Day of the Dead tradition. It is similar to the paint that is on the sugar skulls for the tradition and really represents both a recognition of death and a celebration of life and redemption at the same time. We want to communicate both those things simultaneously instead of separately as our culture normally does.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Something In Common: Hanging Loose & Holding On with Dawes & Alabama Shakes

In their incredibly short career to date, Alabama Shakes have redefined American popular music through abiding by its pure definition, that is, by maintaining without explaining an always already impure mojo rising and slow cooking hybrid of the holy and profane.

When I drag my literature courses out of the canonical books and onto the back forty of cultural identity, we always listen to American roots music, to see the dark and light shades of musical production stirring up the profoundest poetry wrought by blues and bitterness, informed by skin and sin, taught by love and light, merging day and night.

Alabama Shakes are not the first in modern rock but only the most recent, rugged, and robust to anchor roots music in its deepest and truest roots, at the dusty, dogged, and divine intersection of gospel and blues that gave birth to its eternal bastard child called rock’n’roll. Gregarious glimpses of Janis Joplin, Mavis Staples, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe have infected your sound card so the digital age will always have an analog heart.

Epic relic of the American south’s industrial age, Birmingham’s Sloss Furnaces National Landmark boldly poses the perfect contradiction of beauty and grime, recalling an era of haughty bosses and hungry workers, of timelessness inside time. Whoever first had the notion to host rock shows here had the right idea.

Alabama Shakes are not just a band name but a regional brand, and an early summer home stand on this particular plot of land was destined for sold out crowds. We only found out about the Saturday show with our beloved Dawes as opener after all the tickets were gone. Sucking in practicality and pride, we participated in a trade of cash for tickets on StubHub. We don’t regret that decision.

A muggy Saturday mostly covered in clouds gave way to a balmy and breezy evening. We got there early enough to stand in the second row, and we would spend hours standing, yet the sounds in our ears soothed the soreness in our feet. An extra opening band broke the veil of anticipation and delayed our ultimate transformation.

Taylor Goldsmith didn’t care that this might not be his crowd and warmed us quickly, warning us and then relishing the references to Birmingham in “That Western Skyline.” The bandmates are scruffy but in a cute California-muppet kind of way, tight and rehearsed in their rendering of tracks from all three albums, including the current Stories Don’t End

Vivid lyrics cram the night, but where Brittany offers sparse blues poems on primal topics, each Dawes track could be a sonic novella, narratives brimming with odd characters meditating on the meaning of the human condition. Dawes had no problem connecting with the crowd, as many folks were there to see them as well as the Shakes.

The next night, Dawes would hold headliner status for their first Ryman Auditorium show, where the singer confessed he felt more as the fan, just like us. A 45-slot stretched to two hours with even a few jammy diversions. Deeper cuts from the new album Stories Don’t End revealed again Goldsmith’s gravity as a Paul Simon-or Jackson Browne-quality poet-lyricist. They picked up the pace on the track “Something In Common,” and the line “It's not faith that comes from miracles, but miracles that come from faith” hit the heart as a momentous reminder. Surely, Dawes and Alabama Shakes have something in common in their timeless, classic approaches that invoke a 60s and 70s feeling with falling into a trap of anything remotely gimmicky.

For some reason, a warp in time transpires at concerts. The actual sets of bands always seem to fly by, to be over just as soon as they start. But the time of waiting between sets can seem treacherous. The wait for Dawes passed quickly, but then the wait for the Shakes dragged on.

Brittany’s ability to just belt it like she felt it dispels any disdain about the level of authenticity she might maintain. The toughness of her commanding stage presence gets tempered by the tenderness of her lyrics and vocals. Brittany and band can speed it up just fine, but they also know how to slow it down. The compliment of charisma gets easily bestowed, but this is a gift that Brittany gets as she moves her body and brings her vocals. 

Even at a show as loud as this, we wondered if she even needed that mic which she held at almost arms’ length from her face. Each time she opened her mouth, a rowdy hymn rolled, sacred music despite itself, a blues wallop about him or Him or everyday whim.

Both Alabama Shakes and Dawes are bands you can get serious about seeing more than once. Certain songs—on repeated listens at home or in the car or finally at the show—stitch themselves into the quilts of listeners’ lives. Those special tracks can tempt and hurt or heal and teach, such as reality spills from the speakers and into our souls through our earholes. 

Scrolling online (at through an image gallery of Alabama Shakes show posters, I noticed a handful with religious allusions, with pictures of a church or one going so far as to compare attending an Alabama Shakes concert (and I would extent the analogy to Dawes) with “going to a rock’n’roll church.” I couldn’t agree more. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Adventures In Your Own Backyard (TOTR 202)

It’s past time to plan and almost time to roll from the annual axis of anxiety and anticipation, past preparation and into celebration. It’s the sensational and sweaty secular summer holiday of the midsouth. It’s the perennial June jubilee known as the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee. 

 Featuring a tantalizing top bill of Tom Petty, Mumford & Sons, and Paul McCartney, Bonnaroo doesn’t stop with big gigs, as those with the most name-recognition are matched by the mass diversity of talent down the poster from there. Each spring, curious and determined fans can study the schedule and its array of stages to discover nuggets they didn’t expect and new acts that could change their listening experiences for the better and forever. 

 The following playlist contains all my favorites from the upcoming festival, from people I have been excited about seeing since the lineup dropped, from artists who are rock-solid pop pillars to those recently-discovered rising thrillers. The songs coincide with the chronology of the weekend, synced to a hypothetical itinerary, granted that no fan could see this many shows easily and that some must-see sets are inevitably booked against other must-see sets. After a brief intro from me, tap the buttons to play and kick back with two hours about an upcoming adventure in our own backyard.

Nicki Bluhm – Jetplane (Thursday 6.13.13, 3-4pm That Tent)
Milo Greene – Don’t You Give Up On Me (Thursday 6.13.13, 430-530pm That Tent)
JD McPherson – Signs & Signifiers (Thursday 6.13.13, 6-7pm That Tent)
Maps & Atlases – Fever (Thursday 6.13.13, 1130pm -1230am NMOT Lounge)
Allen Stone – Celebrate Tonight (Thursday 6.13.13, 12-1am That Tent)
Trixie Whitley – Pieces (Friday 6.14.13, 12-1pm Which Stage)
Calexico – Splitter (Friday 6.14.13, 1:45pm This Tent)
Glen Hansard – Races (Friday 6.14.13, 330-445 This Tent)
Of Monsters and Men – King And Lionheart (Friday 6.14.13, 330-445 Which Stage)
Passion Pit – Where We Belong (Friday 6.14.13, 430-530 What Stage)
Wilco – What Light (Friday 6.14.13, 630-8 What Stage)
Jim James – Dear One (Friday 6.14.13, 7-830 This Tent)
The Beatles – The Long and Winding Road (Paul McCartney-Friday 6.14.13, 9-1130pm What Stage)
Patrick Watson – Adventures In Your Own Backyard (Saturday 6.15.13, This Tent 1230-130pm)
Lord Huron – We Went Wild (Saturday 6.15.13, 2-3pm This Tent)
The Tallest Man On Earth – There’s No Leaving Now (Saturday 6.15.13, 330-445pm This Tent)
Frank Turner – The Way I Tend To Be (Saturday 6.15.13, 330-445 That Tent)
Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors – Good Light (Saturday 6.15.13, 515-630 That Tent)
Beach House – Holy Dances (Saturday 6.15.13, 7-830pm This Tent)
The Lumineers – Morning Song (Saturday 6.15.13, 815-930 Which Stage)
Mumford & Sons – Hopeless Wanderer (Saturday 6.15.13, 930-1130pm What Stage)
Delta Rae – Hey, Hey, Hey (Sunday 6.15.13, 145-245pm Which Stage)
Macklemore – Neon Cathedral (feat. Allen Stone) (Sunday 6.15.13, 230-330pm What Stage)
Black Prairie – What You Gave (Sunday 6.15.13, 245-345pm That Tent)
The Sheepdogs – How Late, How Long (Sunday 6.15.13, 330-445pm Which Stage)
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – Mayla (Sunday 6.15.13, 530-645pm Which Stage)
The National – I Should Live in Salt (Sunday 6.15.13, 630-8pm What Stage)
Tom Petty – House In The Woods (Sunday 6.15.13, 9-11pm What Stage)

Monday, May 13, 2013

A New Life (TOTR 201)

 The Black Keys – 10 A.M. Automatic “You've got pains/Like an addict/10 A.M. automatic”
 Kings Of Leon – The Bucket “I’ll be in the lobby drinking for two” 
 Green Day – A Little Boy Named Train “I'm always lost and nothing will change/Give me directions and I'll get lost again”
 Green Day – Amy “Now you're too young for the golden age 'Cause the record bin’s been replaced 27 gone without a trace And you walked away from your drink”

 John Mayer – Whiskey, Whiskey, Whiskey “Whiskey, whiskey, whiskey/Wake up, shake it off/And repeat It's just a phase/It's not forever/It's just a phase/But I still might have a ways to go”
 Moon Taxi – Whiskey Sunsets “Drink it in, oh drink it in/Feel the shine upon your skin/Drink it in, oh drink it in/ Get ready for the night to begin/With those.. Whiskey sunsets/An extra pack of cigarettes/I know that I’m gonna be up all night”
 Punch Brothers - Rye Whiskey “Rye whiskey makes the band sound better/Makes your baby cuter/Makes itself taste sweeter/ Oh, boy/Rye whiskey makes your heart beat louder/Makes your voice seem softer/Makes the back room hotter, oh, but/Rye thoughts aren't good thoughts, boys/Have I ever told you about the time I.../Rye whiskey wraps your troubles up/Into a bright blue package/Ties a bow around it/Oh, boy!”  

Jake Bugg – Two Fingers “I drink to remember, I smoke to forget/ Some things to be proud of, some stuff to regret/ Been down some dark alleys in my own head” 
 Ceann – The Need for Mead 
Rodney Crowell – I’m a Mess “God gave me wisdom, but the devil’s got style/I’m a mess/Nothing less/I confess” 
 Lee Ann Womack – Momma’s On a Roll “Momma plus Daddy equals trouble when they start to drink/Me and my sister pouring liquor down the kitchen sink” 

The Deep Dark Woods – The Ballad of Frank Dupree 
 Trampled By Turtles – Codeine “Well you can keep your dusty bottle on your shelf/You can keep your words of wisdom to yourself/I love you darling so/Why can't you let me go” 
 The Dresden Dolls – My Alcoholic Friends “I'm trying hard/Not to be ashamed/Not to know the name/Of who is waking up beside me”
 Barenaked Ladies – Alcohol “Alcohol, would you please forgive me? For while I cannot love myself I’ll use something else” 
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Under The Bridge “I don’t ever wanna feel/Like I did that day” 

 Bruce Springsteen – Rocky Ground “Forty days and nights of rain have washed this land Jesus said the money changers in this temple will not stand Find your flock, get them to higher ground Flood waters rising and we're Caanan bound” 

 U2 – Wake Up Dead Man
 U2 – Hawkmoon 269 
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Otherside (feat. Fences) 
 Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Starting Over (feat_ Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses) 
My Morning Jacket – Victory Dance 
Jim James – A New Life 
Fun – Carry On

Monday, May 6, 2013

Mixtape: Hope (TOTR 200)

Sweet Honey In The Rock – Hope
Cold Specks – Restless
Beta Radio – Either Way
Horse Feathers – Belly of June
The Paper Kites – Bloom
Fionn Regan – Be Good Or Be Gone
Passenger – Life’s for the Living
Samantha Crain – Somewhere All the Time
Snow Patrol – Somewhere a Clock Is Ticking
The Cave Singers – Canopy
Robert Hunter  – Franklin’s Tower
Ryan Adams – Oh My Sweet Carolina
Iron & Wine – Sundown
Train – Sunshine On My Shoulders
Michael Franti – The Sound Of Sunshine Going Down
Baz Luhrmann – Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)
C2C – Happy featuring Derek Martin
India Arie – There’s Hope
TV On The Radio – Will Do (Xxxchange Dancehall Mix
City and Colour – Hope For Now
Glen Hansard – High Hope
Joseph Arthur – In The Sun
Ed Sheeran – Party to The Son/Sun
Billy Bragg – Do Unto Others
Switchfoot – Only Hope
The Ragbirds –  Moribayassa (I’ll Fly Away)

The 200th show & last LIVE broadcast on WTTU (before a sabbatical that didn't last forever).

Monday, April 29, 2013

Headphone Devotionals (TOTR 199)

All Songs by U2

3 Sunrises
Miracle Drug
Crumbs from Your Table
Bullet the Blue Sky
Running to Stand Still
Wave of Sorrow
Trip Through Your Wires
God, Pt. 2
Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses
The First Time
Drowning Man
Unknown Caller
FEZ-Being Born
All Because of You
If God Will Send His Angels

Monday, April 22, 2013

Loose Ends (TOTR 198)

Richie Havens – I’ve Gotta Go

Taj Mahal – Leaving Trunk
Al Green – So You’re Leaving
Aretha Franklin – I Can’t See Myself Leaving You
Otis Redding – I Can’t Turn You Loose
James Brown – Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose
Rebirth Brass Band – (I Feel Like) Busting Loose
Alabama Shakes – Hang Loose
Amos Lee – Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight
Dan Fogelberg – Loose Ends
The Rolling Stones – Let It Loose
Grateful Dead – Loose Lucy
Son Volt – Loose String
My Morning Jacket – Leaving on a Jet Plane
R.E.M. – Turn You Inside-Out
Erick Baker – From the Inside Out
Cat Stevens – The First Cut Is The Deepest
Waylon Jennings – I’ve Been A Long Time Leaving (But I’ll Be A Long Time Gone)
Everybodyfields – Leaving Today
Steve Earle & The Dukes (& Duchesses) – Down The Road Pt II
The Cave Singers – At The Cut
Paul McCartney – Cut Me Some Slack
Iron and Wine – Free Until They Cut Me Down
Time Sawyer – Cut Loose
Lord Huron – Ends Of The Earth
Kings Of Leon – The End
The Doors – The End