Author Archives: Tim Hibbs

Rufus and Martha Wainwright bring “Noel Nights” to The Ryman 12/18–12/19

PHOTOS: BENOIT ROUSSEAU | Rufus Wainwright and Martha Wainwright’s Christmas show, “Noel Nights” was inspired by Kate McGarrigle, Rufus and Martha’s late mother. It has been a family tradition since 2005 when Kate and Anna McGarrigle released their classic album, The McGarrigle Christmas Hour.

Kate turned the seasonal show into a benefit after she was diagnosed with sarcoma (a rare cancer with underfunded research) in 2006. After Kate’s death in 2010, the family revived the annual benefit Christmas show tradition. This year “Nashville Noel Nights” will benefit the Kate McGarrigle Foundation and the Epilepsy Foundation  of Tennessee. Featuring three generations of the Wainwright and McGarrigle families along with Emmylou Harris and friends, this holiday masterpiece will bring the seasonal spirit to Ryman Auditorium, December 18 and 19, 2016.

Nashville and The Ryman Auditorium hold special memories for Rufus. “I have enjoyed playing Nashville for years because of my very personal relationship with Emmylou Harris who I have known since I was a child,” he reflects. “And certainly now that my mother Kate McGarrigle has passed away, going to sing with her in her beautiful city is kind of like going home a little bit.”

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Forecastle Festival Fast Approaching!

Louisville’s annual Forecastle Festival, cited by Rolling Stone as “one of the coolest festivals in America,” sets sail again July 15-17, 2016. Staged at the 85-acre Waterfront Park along the Ohio River, the festival will feature acts on four stages throughout the park’s pastoral setting. This year’s headliners include The Avett Brothers, Alabama Shakes, Ryan Adams, Death Cab For Cutie, Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals, and many more (full lineup here).

Founded in 2002 by Louisville native JK McKnight and produced by AC Entertainment, founders and producers of Bonnaroo, Forecastle is a more user-friendly version of the Manchester, TN megafest. How so? First of all, there is no camping. Yes, I said NO CAMPING. With ample parking downtown and plenty of hotels to choose from, there is no need to sweat it out in a rancid tent. Also, there’s Louisville.

One of the country’s most beautiful small cities, Louisville offers a plethora of amenities to enjoy. For example, it would be an excellent time to visit the Muhammed Ali Center and pay respects to The Greatest. If it’s records you’re after (and of course it is), you’ve got an array of shops to choose from, such as Better Days (two locations), Matt Anthony’s, Guestroom, Underground Sounds, The Great Escape, and more. When the vinyl hunt leaves you famished, Louisville is a culinary hotbed with offerings in all price ranges. Also, there’s bourbon.

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The Wild Feathers:
Doing the Family Proud

At its best, a local music scene serves as an incubator for talent, a place for players to hone their sound away from the national spotlight. Ideally, the artists in the scene support each other and cheer on each others’ successes, free of “why didn’t I get that break?” jealousies. The East Nashville music community, for the past decade or so, has been just this type of musical laboratory, indulging and encouraging adventurous experimentation. When a hometown artist is performing on a late-night television show, clubs like The 5 Spot stop the proceedings on stage for a few minutes so that their patrons can gather ‘round the old flatscreen and celebrate their friends. It is, as the cliché goes, like a family. Recently, East Nashville’s musical offspring The Wild Feathers have been making the family mighty proud.

Coming together in 2010, The Wild Feathers played around town and built a repertoire that eventually piqued the interest of Warner Brothers Records, which added the band to their family in 2013. They toured the country in support of their debut album, The Wild Feathers, and over the course of those performances their sound naturally evolved.

The songs for their sophomore album, Lonely is a Lifetime, were mostly written on the road and they belie a leaner, tougher sound born of soundchecks and big electric guitars. Before leaving for Australia to play the Splendour in the Grass festival and on the eve of their highly-anticipated show at the historic Ryman Auditorium, Ricky Young, Taylor Burns, Joel King, and Ben Dumas appeared as guests on Acme Radio’s The Vinyl Lunch with Tim Hibbs to talk music and spin some of their favorite records.

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The Vinyl Lunch brings author Peter Guralnick to ACME Radio

Renowned author Peter Guralnick recently appeared on The Vinyl Lunch on ACME Radio to discuss his new book, Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Host Tim Hibbs brought a stack of original pressing Sun and Phillips International 45s to punctuate the conversation as he and Guralnick dug deep into Phillips’ fascinating history. Topics included Howlin’ Wolf, Charlie Rich, Elvis Presley, and Phillips’ long tenure in radio. Guralnick’s passionate prose came alive as it mixed with the timeless music created at Memphis Recording Service.

In addition to the book, there is a corresponding 3-LP/2-CD compilation on Yep Roc, also titled Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll. Prior to book’s release, Guralnick, along with Michael Gray, curated an exhibit at The Country Music Hall of Fame titled Flyin’ Saucers Rock & Roll: The Cosmic Genius of Sam Phillips. The exhibit runs through June 12, 2016, so if you want to see evidence of that cosmic genius for yourself, make plans now.

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Chris Stapleton:
The TVD Interview

East Kentucky native Chris Stapleton is an anomaly in today’s commercial country milieu. While his songs have been recorded by some of the genre’s biggest stars—Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, George Strait, Josh Turner, Darius Rucker—his own music is anything but mainstream. Absorbing the best of country’s past, his powerful voice reveals a prominent soul influence.

If Otis Redding had made a country album, it might have sounded a lot like Traveller, Stapleton’s solo debut. Garnering nearly universal acclaim, it is one of the best major label male country releases in recent memory.

He’s also becoming a regular on the talk show circuit, with appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman, The View and Late Night With Seth Meyers. TVD sat down with Stapleton before his appearance at Louisville’s Forecastle Festival to talk about recording the album, vinyl, and Tennessee whiskey.

The sound and writing on your album really stands out against most of the current country field. Was this your intention?

I was just trying to make the best record I could make. I had a single that died in October 2013 and then my dad passed away the same month. It’s part of life but it’s a rough thing and it flipped a switch in me. It helped me focus on what I was doing and what kind of music I wanted to make. It also made me think of the music I grew up on.

Then I heard Sturgill (Simpson)’s last record and I really liked the sound of it. That made me seek out (producer) Dave Cobb. I thought, “Here’s a guy who makes records the way I like them to sound.” It sounds like things I grew up on and I didn’t know that (type of production) still existed. It’s something that, sonically, I chased down unsuccessfully for fourteen years. I met with Dave and we liked each other tremendously so we started to make the record.

Again, I am struck by how different the album sounds than what commercial country radio is playing, but yet you’re having success…

Actually, the single we had on the radio didn’t work but, yeah, people like the record. I don’t know how to quantify that into what’s making the album work.

You’ve had several songs covered by artists who do get a substantial amount of airplay on country radio. What do you think it is in your songwriting that appeals to them? Have you asked them?

No, I’ve never asked that question, “Why do you like this?” (laughs), but I’m thankful that they do. The vast majority of my income over the last fourteen, fifteen years has come from being a songwriter. That’s allowed me to do other things creatively, like being in bands and make records a little outside of what (the mainstream) is. I’ve always walked in doors that were open and if someone wants to record one of my songs, I’m certainly thankful for it.

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TVD Live: Forecastle Festival 2015, 7/17–7/19

PHOTOS: ELENA HIBBS | This year’s edition of Forecastle Festival proved yet again that it is one of the country’s most enjoyable, user-friendly musical gatherings. Part of that is due to host city Louisville, Kentucky, an art-friendly upper South enclave huddled along the Ohio River. Its Waterfront Park, the festival’s location, is an inviting 85-acre greenspace that lends itself perfectly to Forecastle’s four stage set-up.

The majority of the festival’s success can be attributed to the excellent staff who, in partnership with AC Entertainment (the folks who bring you Bonnaroo), are focused on producing a unique cultural experience. This land-locked Love Boat keeps good vibes and good music flowing throughout its annual three-day cruise.

Heavy rains and flooding in the area over the last few weeks had caused the Ohio River to reach near-record heights, requiring some of the stages to be moved a little further inland from the river bank. The heat also played a bigger than usual role this year, with temps getting into the upper 90s. Forecastle handled the climate conditions in stride, providing free water refilling stations and multiple points offering free sunscreen.

If you needed a break from solar assault, there were plenty of shaded areas in which to cool down, including the circus tent-sized Bourbon Lodge. Speaking of which, I accidentally discovered that Four Roses Single Barrel and Gatorade Lemon-Lime makes a surprisingly refreshing cocktail. But I digress.

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TVD Recommends:
Ink-N-Iron Festival
at Bicentennial Mall Park, 8/6–8/9

Something festive this way comes: the inaugural Music City Ink-N-Iron Festival, August 6-9, 2015. The festival will be a celebration of hot rods/kustom cars, live music, burlesque, art, ’20s-’50s fashion, and the World Renowned Tattoo Convention. 280 top shelf tattoo artists from 30 States and 25 Countries, representing all the tattoo styles, will be putting needle to skin on the floor of Municipal Auditorium. The Motorama car and bike show will be a major part of the event, with classic rides on display for viewing (and, let’s face it, for creating gloriously envious feelings among the bystanders).

Okay, so that’s that’s the ink and iron part but what about the music? Well, that’s where it get’s really good. Thee gathering will feature a cooly eclectic music lineup on five stages in Bicentennial Mall Park, in the shadow of the Capitol building. Highlights include a 2-hour headline show from Merle Haggard, Shooter Jennings with his dad’s band, Waymore’s Outlaws, Memphis rockabilly legend Sonny Burgess, Suicidal Tendencies, Misfits, Coheed and Cambria, Wanda Jackson, Jim Lauderdale and many more.

Closing the festival on Sunday night will be soul stalwarts Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings in what will no doubt evolve into a massive dance party. Kudos to the festival organizers for including a wide scope of American roots music.

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Billy Joe Shaver:
The TVD Interview

Billy Joe Shaver is a diamond. A rough one, to be sure; no “Marquise cut” here. But a diamond, nevertheless. Playing music since the age of eight, the plainspoken Texan became a songwriter exemplar, receiving accolades (and cover versions) from peers like Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and legions more. He has also lived a life with more twists and turns than a Mexican telenovela.

While some may pad their resume with exaggerated tales of bravado, Mr. Shaver has no need to do so. The unvarnished truth of his life story comes through in his songs which are direct, emotional, and honest, brutally so at times. Touring in support of his excellent new album, Long in the Tooth, we spoke with Shaver about his career, his Texas heritage, and what lies ahead.

So, you are currently a resident of Waco, Texas?

Yes, I’m the “Wacko from Waco.”

I was born just south of there in Killeen…

(Immediately) Well, I wouldn’t brag about it too much (laughter). Nah, I’m just kidding. It’s a nice spot. A lot of crazy things happen down here.

Well, speaking of crazy, how did Todd Snider convince you to come to Nashville and make a record?

(More laughter) He has the ability to light a fire under me. What he does is pick on me until he gets me mad and then I’ll do it.

He must have made you really mad because this is a great record.

Yeah, it’s a great record, it really is. I like it. I had been planning on making another one but I was waiting for Ray Kennedy to come loose. Finally, he did and I went over to Ray’s studio with Todd and did some demo-type things. It worked out pretty good but not as good as the final version with Ray and Gary Nicholson.

All Todd was interested in was getting me back into recording again. I was doing alright just playing (live). We had built up a big fan base because I play a lot, I always have. It didn’t show up until this record came out and then people started writing me up everywhere I went. As opposed to a young songwriter, it’s easy for them to talk to me because I’ve been around so long and there’s so much to talk about. The new guys, all they’ve got to talk about is their new record and that’s about it. A lot them are so young they don’t have much to say yet.

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Eternal appeal: Sarah Gayle Meech channels Nashville’s traditions

According to CNN, over 30,000 people moved to Nashville last year, which averages out to 82 per day. Of those 82, it seems I meet at least half who have moved here to be a part of the city’s thriving music scene. That’s fantastic for us, because the steady influx of new talent means we always have fresh music to hear. It can be hell on the recent resident, however, when they realize just how deep the Music City talent pool runs. On any given stage, musicians who would be the top player in their former city/state/country are just average Joes trying to make it against very stiff odds. The day job is necessity for all but the most fortunate.

Sarah Gayle Meech moved to Nashville from Los Angeles in 2010 and gravitated toward the intensely competitive Lower Broadway scene. There, artists play in dozens of honky-tonks down the eight-block stretch to the river, surviving on tip jar offerings. You HAVE to be good or you won’t be playing there for long. Sarah has thrived due to a combination of formidable talent, steely determination and classic songwriting skills. Her new album, Tennessee Love Songs, features fifteen self-penned compositions recorded with the cream of the new Nashville session players. We spoke to Sarah about the new album, moving to Nashville and the eternal appeal of traditional country music.

For this album, you wrote all the songs. How long was the writing period for the album?

The majority of the songs came within a year’s time. Last summer, I was hell-bent on writing the songs for this album. There were two songs written in previous years that I included but everything else was fresh off-the-cuff.

When you play Lower Broadway in Nashville, are you able to play original songs?

Yes! I played the entire new album at Robert’s last night. In fact, I played both of my records at Robert’s last night! (laughter)

It can be hard playing original songs for the downtown crowd.

You kind of feel it out. I always play my originals, regardless, but I’ll pepper in the cover songs because you’re on stage for 3 1/2 hours. I don’t have 3 1/2 hours worth of original material and I don’t know who does– Bruce Springsteen? The Rolling Stones? (laughter) I put in songs by my favorite artists like Loretta Lynn, George Jones and Patsy Cline. We’re down there working for money (Ed. note: TIPS!) and if someone says, “Here’s twenty bucks, play Willie Nelson,” we’re going to play it!

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Brian Wilson,
The TVD Interview

“There are only two geniuses in rock: Bob Dylan and Brian Wilson,” I immediately countered, and so began my initial meeting and conversation with Rob Roth, owner of New Jersey’s legendary music store Vintage Vinyl. We continued the debate throughout dinner, no doubt frightening the rest of the table with our animated opinions. By the end of meal, we had begun a solid friendship. And we still disagree on Rob’s assertion.

Debate aside, there can be no argument that Brian Wilson is a musical genius. The depth he brought to the Beach Boys recordings through his vocal and instrumental arrangements is still the benchmark so many strive to reach. Wilson’s personal struggles have been well documented but he has never stopped creating arresting and vital music.

On April 7th, Capitol Records releases Wilson’s eleventh solo studio album, No Pier Pressure. Originally intended as a Beach Boys release, those plans were scrapped when the band fell apart after their 50th anniversary tour. Instead, Wilson assembled an all-star lineup of guest vocalists including Kacey Musgraves, fun.’s Nate Ruess, and She & Him’s Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward, along with Beach Boy alumni Al Jardine, David Marks, and Blondie Chaplin. Likewise, he recruited A-list session players like Don Was, drummers Jim Keltner and Kenny Aronoff, Dean Parks, and Jeffrey Foskett. The good new for vinyl fans is that it will be released as a two-LP set pressed on 180-gram vinyl in addition to CD and digital formats. We spoke with Wilson via phone on the eve of its release.

Congratulations on No Pier Pressure! To me, it sounds like an extension of the Pet Sounds era. Was that what you were going for?

Yes it was. I wrote the songs together with Joe Thomas, who I’ve been working with for a while.

I understand your daughter came up with the album title.

Yes, she did. I’m not sure what it means, exactly, but she did choose it.

You have an impressive group of musicians on the album. How did you recruit them?

We called each guy up, like Nate Russ, Zooey Deschanel, and all of them.

The singers and players are stellar, to be sure. Being in Nashville, I have to ask about Kasey Musgraves. Did you enjoy working with her?

She was great, it was really fun working with her. She’s a great singer and she learns really fast.

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