Category Archives: TVD Nashville

Rosanne Cash,
The TVD Interview

To find her voice as a musician, Rosanne Cash had to work diligently to move beyond the long shadow cast by her iconic father. In that journey, she felt compelled to move away from her native South and become a New Yorker, reveling in the creative chaos of Manhattan.

However, a series of life-changing events drove her to get in a car and drive across the South, visiting historic sites and touchstones of her early life. As she did, songs began to flow and she and her husband John Leventhal began writing what would become her new album, The River and the Thread, a concept album chronicling her recent travels.

Did moving away from the South help draw it into sharper focus for you?

Oh, yes. I think I pushed it away for a long time, it felt a little suffocating to me. In my mind, I was a New Yorker and I had to get away from it. I thought the South was in my past except for the people I love who are still there and I’m connected to. Two of my daughters live in Nashville, my sister lives in Nashville, my cousins live in Memphis, so I have family scattered throughout Tennessee in particular. But having a perfect storm of events happen in my life between 2011-2013 gave rise to a lot of songs.

Could you have written this record if you still lived in Nashville?

No. I do not think so. You have to get perspective. To try and write these songs there, it would have been too close. I had to let my heart expand and let down my defenses. That was crucial and my heart did expand when Marshall Grant died, when my friend Natalie Chanin taught me to sew, when I took my son to Sun Records in Memphis and to the place where I was born…those things were powerful.

What is it about the South that makes it such fertile ground for music, literature, and art?

I wish I had the answer. A huge part of this record is the mystery of that situation. As we say in “Money Road,” “we left but never went away”– that haunted quality stays with you. Why did Faulkner come from right down the road from where Emmett Till was killed and the Civil Rights movement began? Which is just down the road from where B.B. King, Charley Patton, Howlin’ Wolf, and Pops Staples started, which is next to where Eudora Welty grew up…you can’t help but be flabbergasted! My husband John and I kept saying, “What is it about the Delta? What is it?”

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TVD Video Premiere: Kate Tucker and the Sons of Sweden, “Looking Around”

So much about Kate Tucker reminds me of Audrey Hepburn’s character, Ann, in the classic film Roman Holiday.

If you’ve seen the movie, you know Ann is an anxious crown princess touring Europe. Kate Tucker isn’t royalty, but she has a nomadic spirit that moved her from her home in Akron to Seattle, where she harnessed her inner recording artist and learned to speak French. The singer moved to Paris, which plays a prominent role in the official video for “Looking Around.”

“Looking Around” is the first single from The Shape The Color The Feel, an incredibly ambitious collaborative film and music venture from Kate Tucker and the Sons of Sweden. Jason Smythe, owner of Silver Point Studios, is one of ten filmmakers involved in the project, making his directorial debut here.

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Elvis at Stax: The King’s Last Great Crusade

For Elvis Aaron Presley, 1973 was a crossroads. He was in the midst of a career resurgence kick-started by the television special Singer Presents Elvis (aka, the ’68 Comeback Special), fortified by a string of hits recorded at Memphis studio American Sound (“In The Ghetto,” “Suspicious Minds,” “Kentucky Rain”) and kicked into the stratosphere by a return to live performance after a decade mired in formulaic, unsatisfying films.

Indeed, 1973 was the year of Aloha From Hawaii via Satellite, a live concert television special broadcast in over 40 countries which later  became a best-selling double LP. In the show, Elvis offered undeniable proof of his performing prowess, backed by a crack band including Telecaster master James Burton, heavenly vocalists The Sweet Inspirations, and driven by indomitable drummer Ronnie Tutt. He was also basking in the glow of two hit documentaries, Elvis: That’s The Way It Is (1970) and Elvis On Tour (1972), which offered indisputable proof that The King was in command.

However, despite outward appearances, all was not well for Presley in 1973. He was deeply depressed over his divorce to Priscilla Ann Presley, which was in its final stages. Friends and colleagues commented on his weight gain, which would ebb and flow until his death four years later. Also, it was alleged that his prescription drug dependency, which began during his Army tour of duty in Germany, had become increasingly problematic. Finally, he was at odds with his manager, “Colonel” Tom Parker, who seemed to care more about his prodigious gambling debts than he did about developing his client’s career.

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JD McPherson:
The TVD Interview

“You’ve gotta hear this record!” That was the emphatic statement uttered by roots music legend Chuck Mead at an informal vinyl listening party in Nashville a couple of years ago. The album in Chuck’s hand was Signs & Signifiers by JD McPherson on Hi-Style Records from Chicago.

As he cued up the album’s first cut, “North Side Gal,” any skepticism held by the assembled vinyl hounds vanished instantly. JD’s voice, combined with a red-hot backing band, poured from the speakers in delicious analog splendor, combining the past and present in an intoxicating mix. We listened to several other cuts from the LP, and our initial impression was confirmed song after song. Driving home, I was left wondering, “Who is this guy?”

I didn’t have to wait long for an answer. Rounder Records re-released Signs & Signifiers to universal acclaim, and suddenly, JD was everywhere, on tour, on late-night television, and in heavy rotation on the BBC and other radio outlets. Raised in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, JD was first captivated by punk/alternative rock and came to vintage recordings courtesy of a free Buddy Holly double-LP collection given to him by a record store clerk.

When JD and I sat down in the offices of Florence, Alabama-based designer Billy Reid, prior to JD’s performance as part of Reid’s annual “Shindig” celebration, the conversation naturally revolved around records.

(After relating the Chuck Mead story) Wow, that blows my mind! I used to go see BR-549 at Cain’s Ballroom…jeez Louise, that’s crazy.

Signs & Signifiers has been out for a while now and I imagine you’re ready to start working on the follow-up. Do you have plans to record again soon?

Yes, we go back in the studio in two weeks.

Your debut album has a timeless sound, so much so that some people might imagine you grew up listening to a stack of blues and country 78s. Is that an accurate assessment?

No, among the first records I bought was Dinosaur, Jr.’s Fossils, which I remember was pressed on red vinyl. Actually, to hurt my feelings, a girl broke that album over her knee in front of me! She knew that was the worst thing she could do. [ED: Vinyl lovers everywhere shed a tear in sympathy.]

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Smooth Sailing at the Forecastle Festival

PHOTOS: ELENA HIBBS | It is my entirely biased opinion that the South has the country’s best music festivals. Austin has SXSW & ACL, Tennessee is host to behemoth Bonnaroo (along with the jorts-ridden CMA Fest), and New Orleans stages the grandaddy of all modern music fêtes, the Jazz & Heritage Festival. Slowly, steadily, and with a confidence born of experienced execution, Louisville’s annual Forecastle Festival has risen to join the ranks of these elite gatherings.

Founded eleven years ago by John Kelly “J.K.” McKnight, from the start, Forecastle emphasized “music, art and activism,” as their slogan declares. The festival grew naturally and received a major boost when McKnight persuaded Bonnaroo founder Ashley Capps to partner with him and bring the organizational strength of Capps’ AC Entertainment to the Louisville event. Though it is tempting to call Forecastle a “mini-Bonnaroo,” it has its own distinct personality, reflecting the charm of its host city.

Located in a Waterfront Park along the Ohio River, Forecastle’s nautical theme blends naturally with its surroundings. With plenty of adjacent parking, hotels and easy Interstate access, it is an ideal setting for music connoisseurs wanting maximum enjoyment with minimum hassle. For three days, artists from a plethora of genres appeared on the site’s four stages and delivered a joyful noise that even Mother Nature couldn’t drown out. Being Kentucky, there was also bourbon. Barrels and barrels of bourbon.

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von Grey:
The TVD Q and A

It isn’t every day that you see a group of four teenagers making their way through the music stratosphere as successfully as the sisters of Atlanta’s von Grey. Hell, when I was a teenager I don’t even think I watched Conan or Letterman, yet the folk quartet has successfully graced both stages, on top of performing a set at Bonnaroo and having embarked on a nationwide tour, all before the age of 20.

With a vibe similar to other folk-based artists like The Civil Wars and The Lumineers, von Grey enlists their classical background to create a sound decades older than the ladies of band themselves, and they have already released a self-titled EP recorded at Third Day’s studio in Kennesaw, Georgia with the help of producer Nick DiDia (of Bruce Springsteen, Train, and Pearl Jam fame).

After catching the band at Bonnaroo this summer, I was able to chat with Annika von Grey to get a fix on exactly what these girls are doing so right.

As teenagers I find it amazing that you’ve been able to break into the music scene so successfully. How early did you start to make music?

Well, growing up we started with classical music. We did weddings and events like that. I guess about four or five years ago, we decided to break out and explore more representative styles to our tastes. It was a slow evolution, but eventually we got there.

Did playing classical music first help you figure out your sound?

Yes, definitely. Playing so many instruments is most helpful with folk music because it allowed us to understand the components of the instrumentals better. We love older country like Dolly Parton and the new folk sound like Nickle Creek and Mumford & Sons, so those were also influences for us in realizing how to get the sound we wanted both organic and synthetic.

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Alabama Getaway,
TVD Style: The Anniston Record and CD Show

As every record enthusiast knows, you can never have too many records. Most collectors will travel in search of elusive vinyl grails, rummaging through decades of dust in hope of making that one big score.

That’s what makes a record show so attractive: the sorting and hunting has been done for you. All you have to do is show up and start plowing through the bins. Thus, I thought you should know about a brand-new record show launching in Anniston, Alabama on July 20th.

anniston map 131
The Anniston Record and CD Show is the brainchild of Travis Atkins, longtime Birmingham record dealer and Larry May, owner of the CD Cellar in Anniston. The show will include dealers from AL, TN, GA, and FL with specialists in Jazz and Funk and a Beatles specialist from FL (feel free to look them up and make a gratuitous “Octopus’s Garden” joke.)

Travis and Larry are doing a healthy amount of radio, print, and television advertising in addition to the usual social media push, so it looks like they’ll have a nice turnout.

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Doubled Down: The 24 Finest Moments from Bonnaroo in Year 12

BY CHARLES GRAY AND MORGAN SWANK | The reigning champ of American music festivals happened  this past weekend, leaving in its wake lengthy documentation of great performances, memorable moments, and a lingering afterglow (aftertaste? aftersmell?) somewhere between Burning Man and a late-’90s MTV Spring Break special.

This year marked the 12th iteration of the festival, so we thought why not go twice as hard and give you the 24 best moments of Bonnaroo 2013. Stupid sunglasses, Teletubby outfits, and an ignorance of 90% of the better acts not required.

24. Satirical cover king Weird Al conducted a fast-paced comedy assault late Saturday Night. His show was sewn together from splices of video bits from years past, which gave Al  the chance for costume changes between “I’m Fat,” “Polka Face,” and “Yoda.” Not to be satisfied with one set, Weird Al had an active weekend…

weird al

23. Bluegrass can be a real hit or miss with me. I appreciate the twangy banjo solos, but it takes someone incredibly talented to be able to whip out a song in the bluegrass genre for me to appreciate it. Surprisingly, the comedians have this down to a science. First, it was Steve Martin, and now, The Hangover and The Office funnyman Ed Helms reigns supreme.

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Pleased to meet me again: the return of
The Replacements

The Twitterverse delivered an unexpected surprise last week with the announcement of three (only three?!?) upcoming shows by The Replacements. After coming together to record a benefit project for ailing guitarist Slim Dunlap last year, it appears that the prodigal sons of no one finally will dare to confront their former selves. Will it be great? Will it suck? Will the tickets cost more than floor seats for the Stones? Whatever happens, it’s safe to assume that these bastards of middle age still have a few surprises up their tattered sleeves.

To be honest, it won’t be true reunion. With one member dead, one recovering, and one abstaining, it’s left to Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson to shoulder the burden. And I think “burden” is the right word here, particularly for Westerberg, who has alternately embraced and rejected his ‘Mats legacy over the years. Unwittingly thrust into the “spokesman of his unsatisfied generation” role, he was never comfortable pursuing traditional rock stardom.

Thus, his solo career has wavered between shoulda-been Top 40 hits (“Love Untold”), unpolished demo dumps (the occasionally brilliant, ultimately frustrating 49:00) and Disney songs (“The Right to Arm Bears,” anyone?). Conversely, Stinson, alternating between solo projects and the traveling circus that is Guns n’ Roses, appears to be thoroughly comfortable in the world of leather pants and limos. Contradictions such as these were at the center of The Replacements’ ethos, for whom conflict was rocket fuel. Whether this yin and yang still burns we’ll know soon enough.

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Marc Maron:
The TVD Interview

A garage, two microphones, and a laptop might not seem like a recipe for media dominance, but then comedian Marc Maron doesn’t do things in a normal way.

The former Air America host and journeyman stand-up started podcasting from his garage in 2009 at a time when he felt his career was at a dead-end. That dead-end quickly turned into an expressway for Maron’s multi-tiered intellect with the podcast giving him, for the first time in his career, an unencumbered, uncensored media outlet. His frank, in-depth interviews with his comedic peers quickly gained a loyal following which keeps WTF with Marc Maron in the Top Ten iTunes chart week after week.

WTF’s success led to the current IFC Television series Maron, based on his life and starring Marc in the title role. He also recently published his second book, Attempting Normal, and did an exhaustive media blitz to promote it, including inaugural visits to The Howard Stern Show and Fresh Air with Terry Gross. As second acts go, it’s a doozy.

Okay, that’s cool and all, but why is Marc talking to The Vinyl District? As he has noted many times on WTF, Marc is an enthusiastic vinyl fan which he illustrates with accounts of his listening sessions that brim with an almost evangelical zeal. Growing up in New Mexico, Marc’s first exposure to music came courtesy of his parent’s record and tape collection.

About two years ago, after noticing new record stores opening in and around his Highland Park neighborhood, he dipped his toe back into the vinyl stream and is now thoroughly immersed. Of course, being Marc Maron, his neurotic side frets over becoming an obsessive collector and possible future episode subject of Hoarders. But for now, the joy of listening to music on a quality turntable and music system is keeping those fears at bay.

What was the first album that really grabbed you when you were a kid?

(Without hesitation) The Beatles Second Album. It sounded so great! I remember playing “Roll Over Beethoven” over and over. I was obsessed with that song. I even went out and bought a Mountain album (Twin Peaks) because it had that song on it. It took me a while before I found the Chuck Berry original. My parents had a lot of cassettes: Janis Joplin’s Greatest Hits, Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison and stuff like that. I also had an aunt who gave me some some records. My musical education really started with a store called Budget Records and Tapes in Albuquerque. There was a guy named Jim there who turned me on to so many wild things.

While you were getting this musical education, did you share it with you friends at school?

Not really. At that time, Van Halen, AC/DC and Led Zeppelin were really popular. One of my buddies was a huge Journey fan. A lot of it was influenced by the concerts that came through. I listened to all that. What I was getting from the record store guys was probably far beyond the comprehension of my high school crowd. Later, I got into jazz and new music by artists like Joe Jackson and Elvis Costello.

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Geoff Koch:
The TVD Interview

Okay, so I really like Nashville-based musician Geoff Koch. He’s got a pretty voice and plays pretty songs, and I like him, and if you like pretty voices and pretty songs, I highly recommend giving him a listen.

Koch was one of a dozen musicians to participate in a Chevrolet (yes, as in the car company) documentary called The Chevy Music Showcase. Koch has three albums you can give a whirl: Throwing Rocks at Your Ghost, Live at Lucas School House, and If It Feels Good Don’t Do It, the latter of which was produced by Wilco’s and Uncle Tupelo’s Ken Coomer, who also played drums on the album. I caught up with Koch by phone for a quick chat just before his set at the Casbah in Durham, North Carolina.

I am new to you and your music, and since I may not be the only one, tell me about yourself.

Well, I grew up in St. Louis, MO.

Oh, I love it there.

It’s a great town. I lived there my whole life, and I went to college at University of Missouri in Columbia, and it was around that time I realized I just wanted to play and write songs and make songs. By the time I finished college, I knew that’s what I wanted to do that more than anything else. Around 2004-ish, I started to record my own songs and just got to the point where I didn’t want to just play Nirvana and Neil Young and The Beatles. I love them, and those are some of my early influences, but I wanted to play my own melodies and songs. It was around then I started putting out my own CDs, and I’ve been touring around the country making music since about that time.

Last August, I moved to Nashville, and I’m really happy. I always knew it’s where I wanted to be. It was a toss-up between L.A. and Nashville for a little bit, but logistically, Nashville is still close to family and St. Louis, and it just made the most sense. Also, for my purposes, Nashville is more of a songwriters’ town.

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Good mourning, Nashville

“Step right up. Come on in…” Those lyrics from “The Grand Tour” succinctly capture the spirit of the very public George Jones memorial service at the Grand Ole Opry House on May 3rd. Thousands of people, coming to pay their last respects to country music’s supreme singer, filled the venue to capacity for the two-and-a-half hour ceremony.

Tributes poured forth from the podium and songs were reverently, sometimes tearfully rendered in a ritual that Nashville has honed and polished to a rhinestone shine. In Music City’s version of a jazz funeral, the roles are established and the participants follow an unwritten, yet strict script with little deviation.

First, Jesus. There is always Jesus. For country music and the Christian faith are forever intertwined. Though the genre has long celebrated the joys of Saturday night abandon, it is the promise of Sunday morning redemption that provides the music’s essential yin-yang. This balance has rooted the music from the beginning and was prominent throughout Jones’ Opry vigil. Contemporaries remembered the “no shows,” the addictions and raucous road stories while Jones’ pastor provided evidence of a man of unwavering belief.

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Josh Rouse:
The TVD Interview

“I write quite a bit,” Josh Rouse mentions casually as we begin our trans-Atlantic phone conversation. No exaggeration there, as his output has been remarkably prolific over the last decade or so. Encompassing solo albums, band recordings and a fascinating side project with Spanish singer Paz Suay dubbed She’s Spanish, I’m American, Rouse’s work ethic is enviable. An expatriate living in Spain with his Suay (now his wife) and their two young children, Rouse reflected on his new album, The Happiness Waltz, his time in Nashville, and his vinyl past.

The Happiness Waltz feels likes it’s coming from a very personal perspective.

It’s a collection of songs I’ve been building over the last few years. They felt more like classic American singer-songwriter material than the other stuff I had been working on, which was jazzy and tropical. I called Brad (Jones, Nashville-based musician and producer) to discuss it and he said, “Oh yeah, your fans are going to love that,” so I just kept writing in that vein. Six months later, he flew over and we recorded the album in five days in my studio here in Valencia. I used the musicians I play with now and we knocked it out really quickly.

I was listening to John & Yoko’s Double Fantasy album a lot at the time. I really like that album and I wanted to take the same approach to lyrics about relationships and capture snapshots of my life. The Happiness Waltz is just a title that popped into my head and I thought, “That’s a nice name.” The record is up and down emotionally, like life. We swing from joy to pain every day and I wanted that to reflect in the album.

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Joey Ryan of The Milk Carton Kids: The TVD Interview

Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan, better known as The Milk Carton Kids, first came together in 2011 and quickly created a signature sound based on their voices and two vintage acoustic guitars. Having self-released two collections, which were widely downloaded, their latest album, The Ash and Clay, was released by ANTI- on March 26th.

They celebrated the LPs’ street date by performing live at Hollywood’s Amoeba Records and then left for a short tour of Europe, where I queried Ryan via email:

Were records a meaningful part of your musical education?

Not until recently, but as of a few years ago, yes, profoundly. Much is made of the difference in sound enjoyed by listening to vinyl. I appreciate and love the richness and warmth, the pops and the hiss of old records. But the most important effect my conversion to an exclusive vinyl listener (at least at home) has had has been on the very nature of how I experience music.

Merely depriving oneself of the ability to easily skip tracks slows the frenetic pace of the day, allows the mind to wander and regain focus, the imagination to engage, and the listener to sink deeply in to a prolonged engagement with the performance. In this way records are able to demand the attention they deserve and require for their full appreciation.

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TVD Live: Hey Marseilles at the High Watt, 3/23

I am a recovering punaholic. When applying words to the page, my mind naturally twists them into witticisms for my amusement. I regard it as a sign of good taste, but I realize that most people prefer their prose to taste good. (Did I also mention that I’m a master metaphor mixologist?) What makes me and my former sociology professor laugh generally induces groans among the regular reading public. With this in mind, I will try to exercise restraint going forward. But enough about me, let’s talk about Hey Marseilles.

Hey Marseilles is seven-man ensemble from Seattle, WA, the land of Microbucks, Starsoft and disappointing professional sports teams (oooh, there’s gonna be letters…). They are refreshingly beard-free with the exception of the drummer and, well, whaddayagonnado? In describing their sound, many critics have used the term “chamber pop.” I will avoid that phrase, as it causes me to think of “chamber pot” and, hence, irresistibly rich pun material.

Simply, I will say that by adding cello, viola, trumpet, clarinet, keyboards and accordion to the usual indie guitar/bass/drums instrument scrum, they transcend mere May-Decemberists. (C’mon, you gotta give me that one.) With cleverly-turned lyrical phrases laid over finely-honed melodies, they create music which makes rail-thin couples swoon. (Have you ever noticed how skinny people tend to pair up with other skinny people? It’s a case of love the one your width, I guess. Sorry, that one slipped out!)

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