Author Archives: Roger Catlin

Roger Joseph Manning Jr., The TVD Interview

Keyboard maven, studio whiz, and go-to arranger Roger Joseph Manning Jr. has created in a number of forums since 1994 when the colorful and influential band Jellyfish that he co-founded with Andy Strummer broke up. But even after putting together bands that include Imperial Drag, Moog Cookbook, and TV Eyes, and working with artists from Beck to Air to Cheap Trick, Manning has returned to working with two other members of the final iteration of Jellyfish.

Manning had worked with Tim Smith and Eric Dover in other projects (including Umajets and Imperial Drag), but working together brought back a kind of Jellyfish sound to the group they’re calling The Lickerish Quartet (after the title of an arty 1970 Italian porn flick). Their debut EP “Threesome Vol. 1” is due in stores on May 15 via The Lickerish Quartet Label Logic, distributed by Ingrooves. We caught up with Manning over the phone from Los Angeles.

How is the pandemic lockdown affecting you?

Fortunately there’s very little strife at my end. I am mostly at home during the week anyway, working in my music room on a variety of things. So, aside from procuring supplies. I don’t mind that. My girl, who is a lot more social than me and her job requires her to be more social, she’s having a tougher time of it. But I’m just like pretty much business as usual.

What’s it like to release a project from a new band in the middle of all of it?

Mostly, I’ve come to find, it’s a blessing for the fans, who couldn’t be happier about having I guess what I call a pleasant distraction at this time. They have been demonstrating in their correspondence to us how appreciative they are that this happened when it did.

Obviously, we didn’t time it that way. And I’ve been thankful that the music has been able to take their minds off things. Of course, it’s all a double-edged sword. People are tightening their belts financially, obviously, so I don’t know who even wants to throw down for a $15 CD or whatever, vs. if we were in a regular economic climate like the oasis we were all on last year.

There are going to be three EPS, is that the plan?

Yeah, that is the plan. And we have most of the music ready to go. So barring anything unforeseen, that’s what the public should get within the next year and a half or so.

Why did you decide to release it that way, rather than on one album?

Mostly from an advised business standpoint of how things operate today, getting music to fans and that interaction, how it’s done now. Because everything is so singles-driven, because of DSPs like Spotify and Apple Music.

It’s certainly not my preference. It’s not what I grew up with. I like being lost in somebody’s 45-minute soundtrack that they would present with 10 or 12 songs. but I think an EP is a good compromise. I think it’s enough of a detour that really keeps the fans entertained for a while, and sets up an environment of—well hey, if you want some more, we’ve got something a few months away as opposed to a year or two away.

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Posted in The TVD Interview | Leave a comment brings the live concert experience to your quarantine

PHOTOS: JOHN SHORE | In our time of the Coronavirus Clampdown, fans of live music are feeling the void, just as musicians have seen their livelihoods temporarily disappear. The nation’s string of music clubs reliably alive with nightly shows are shuttered and empty as the streets around them. One of the nation’s best-loved venues, the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC is attempting to fill that void by streaming a string of live shows it shot for a public television series that ran a few years back.

The 12 episodes of Live at 9:30, recorded in 2015 and 2016, features performances from nearly 60 different artists—from heritage acts like Garbage, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and The English Beat to local heroes Trouble Funk and Thievery Corporation to groups that have long since outgrown playing 1,200-capacity clubs like the 9:30: St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Grace Potter, and Lake Street Dive.

Filmed with 15 different cameras, the intent was to “capture the energy of the audience, something we unfortunately can’t reproduce at the moment,” says 9:30 spokesman Jordan Grobe. The shows, streaming free on, reflect not only the energy of the room, but the variety of its bookings.

“Each episode focuses on five different artists to show people different genres they might not be familiar with,” Grobe says. “So for instance, you might love Gogol Bordello, but not be familiar with Shakey Graves, so those are in an episode together.” “The format of it is sort of a reverse Saturday Night Live, where instead of it being 85 percent comedy, 15 percent music, it’s 85 percent music, 15 percent variety.”

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Cáit O’Riordan,
The TVD Interview

PHOTO ABOVE: JOHAN VIPPER | March gives way to thoughts of St. Patrick’s Day and the raucous annual gigs from the premiere Celtic punk band The Pogues, who supercharged traditional melodies even as frontman Shane MacGowan crafted songs as indelible as any from the Emerald Isle on classic albums like 1985’s Rum, Sodomy & the Lash. The band was active until 1996, reunited in 2001, and continued to tour yearly until they called it quits in 2014.

But in 2011, Peter “Spider” Stacy, who was living in New Orleans and working on a Pogues musical with the team from HBO’s The Deuce and The Wire, saw a set from the Lost Bayou Ramblers that had a familiar verve, despite a wholly different background. Stacy, who handled tin whistle for The Pogues took over vocals when MacGowan was fired from the band in 1991, sat in with the Ramblers for a few gigs and the Cajun musicians learned some Pogues songs.

Adding original Pogues bassist Cáit O’Riordan last year boosted the authenticity of the group which adopted a touring name Poguetry from the 1986 EP “Poguetry in Motion.” The group is on its biggest US tour to date, blending the sound and fury of The Pogues with some Cajun fervor. The Grammy-winning Ramblers open the shows with their own set as well.

We caught up with O’Riordan, 55, over the phone from New York. shortly after the first gig on the tour which continues this weekend in Philly, DC, Brooklyn, and beyond.

You just played the first gig of this tour last weekend at Tipitina’s in New Orleans. How did it go?

It went great. It’s an amazing venue. And it was Friday night in New Orleans. But it was the Friday after Mardi Gras, so we weren’t sure what state people would be in. But people just wanted to dance and have a good time, which is everything that you could want from an audience.

How did it all get started?

Spider lived in Louisiana and he went out one night and saw this band, the Lost Bayou Ramblers, and he just immediately amazed by them and introduced himself and they all got along great and they started writing together. Spider was a guest on the Ramblers album that won a Grammy last year (for Best Regional Roots Music Album), Kalenda. They tried out a few gigs.

And then me and Spider met up in Dublin at a big concert that was celebrating Shane MacGowan’s 60th birthday at Ireland’s National Concert Hall [in 2018]. Spider and I were in the house band for that and that went great; and we just got to talking, and we started talking about Louisiana, and he said, “You should come out and do some gigs with us.” So I did. We did some Christmas gigs and they were great. I just had the same reaction to the Ramblers as he did. I thought these guys are incredible. It’s such a pleasure to work with them.

They seem to come from such a different background—Cajun rather than Celtic.

Obviously it is, it’s a different background. But there’s so many parallels. It’s that thing of carrying a culture inside you, but being surrounded by a different culture, a much different culture that is trying to crush out your own culture. When you’re put under that pressure, you either crumble or you get stronger in your own culture, which very much happened with the London Irish under Thatcher. And I see these guys, the Cajuns, cause they’re working really hard to keep their music alive and their language alive—there’s a lot of parallels there.

Were they even aware of The Pogues when Spider first met them?

I don’t know. I couldn’t imagine why they would be. In my world I’m pretty urban, my life is pretty much Dublin, London, New York, Boston, LA. In that world—people my age—everybody knows “Fairytale of New York” at least. They all have an image of, if not The Pogues, they’ll see Shane in their mind’s eye and have a whole idea of what goes on with that—mostly drinking and the rowdiness and the green beer. I just love the opportunity to just iterate always that Shane is actually one of the great Irish poets. I always encourage people to listen to the lyrics. But if they do just want to dance and yell, that’s good too.

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Sergio Mendes: Bringing ‘Joy’ to Screens and Vinyl

Six decades after the rise of bossa nova, and more than a half century since the heyday of Brasil ’66, the music of Sergio Mendes is poised for another serge in popularity with the release of a new documentary and album.

John Scheinfeld’s new documentary Sergio Mendes: In the Key of Joy premieres Saturday, January 18 at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Next month it will be accompanied by a new album of the same name, In the Key of Joy on Concord Records, with a slate of new songs with guests stars that include Common, Hermeto Pascoal, and Joe Pizzulo among others.

“One aspect of Sergio’s long and impressive career that has impressed me is how he has successfully navigated the career peaks and valleys encountered by most artists,” says Scheinfeld, whose previous films include The U.S. vs. John Lennon, Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)? and Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary. “Amazingly, he has found a way to push the envelope and transform his sound from decade to decade while always remaining relevant and staying true to his musical roots.”

A three-time Grammy winner, Mendes has released dozens of albums over the years, had some top 10 singles with remakes of “The Look of Love” and “The Fool on the Hill” in 1968, and returned with a hit 15 years later with another Top 5 hit, “Never Gonna Let You Go.” He remade his “Mas Que Nada” with Black Eyed Peas in 2006 and earned an Oscar nomination for a song in the 2012 animated Rio. We caught up with Mendes, 78, this week over the phone in a call from his home in Woodland Hills, California.

How long did it take to put the documentary together?

Two years. John Scheinfeld did the John Coltrane documentary and Harry Nilsson. He’s a great guy, very musical. We went to Brazil, we interviewed a lot of people down there, we got a lot of old, great footage. And it’s just great. I’m very, very happy about it.

And you recorded a new album to come about the same time?

Yes, It’s got a lot of young artists—newcomers—and a lot of new songs, no covers. And of course vinyl, which I love. I have a 26-year-old, he buys two records a week. And his deck, you know, the turntables…the other day I had dinner with my friend, the great engineer Bernie Grundman, and he was talking all about the resurgence of vinyl. We are all very happy about it.

It’s part of your legacy too, with those great albums of the ’60s and their great artwork. You don’t get that impact in smaller formats.

Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. Or streaming—you hear one thing and throw it away. It’s kind of weird for me.

You’ve never taken a break, have you? You’ve been performing pretty consistently for six decades?

As long as God allows me to do it and gives me the health, I’m there and ready.

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TVD Live: Jesse Malin with Ryan Adams and Chuck Prophet at the Hotel Cafe, 1/9

What was already a pretty nifty small club gig—with New York rocker Jesse Malin and his band headlining a show also featuring Chuck Prophet at Hollywood’s Hotel Cafe turned into something more notable when the guest stars started coming in during Malin’s encore.

First there was Richard Bacchus of his old band D Generation—together they did “Capital Offender,” the only song from that outfit Malin played all night. But then a puffy, wild-haired, bespectacled rocker in flannel came out. It was Ryan Adams, on stage for the first time in nearly a year, when a New York Times story alleging sexual misconduct made him drop out of sight—the first major #MeToo reckoning in the rock world. Plans to release the first of three albums he announced he’d put out last year were dashed by his record company. Three equipment companies withdrew endorsements.

But Malin stayed a friend to Adams, inviting him on to play what turned out to be five songs from The Fine Art of Self Destruction, the 2003 solo debut from Malin that Adams had produced and played on. It was also the first album Adams ever produced. As Adams careened around the stage, playing mostly rhythm and adding the occasional harmony vocal, they played “Queen of the Underworld,” “Wendy,” “Downliner,” “Solitaire” and the suddenly ironic title song—a big boost to Adams fans who cheered the return online the next day.

The appearance seemed a bit different tonally from the rest of the set, with otherwise concentrated on the album he recorded out in Los Angeles with Lucinda Williams and released last year, Sunset Kids. Malin, at 51, carries the mantle of New York rock traditions dating back to Dion, with a tough guy demeanor and a heart of gold. With his newsboy cap and thin frame, he can churn up the rock with his band, but also slow it down for an acoustic confessional. As a performer, he’ll jump on the drum stand, abandon the stage, wander through the crowd and end up standing on the bar in the rear of the room — all while still connected with a wire; no wireless microphone for this guy.

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TVD Live: She & Him Christmas Party at the Anthem, 12/5

PHOTO: DAN WINTERS | The first time Zooey Deschanel sang a Christmas song for huge audiences was 16 years ago in the movie Elf, crooning “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” in the shower, eventually dueting with an unwelcome Will Ferrell. It was that moment that showed M. Ward that the actress could actually sing, and they eventually got together to form the duo She & Him, which continued to record originals and covers even as her star rose as the star of TV’s The New Girl for seven seasons.

The third album for the two was a Christmas release, as was their sixth, two years ago. That makes fully one third of the She & Him recorded output Yuletide music. So Christmas is a big deal for them. Hence a big “Christmas Party” tour that filled Washington, DC’s cavernous Anthem with good cheer if not completely with fans. A lot of them came in holiday finery so extreme there was a costume show and competition mid-show, hosted by the comic who opened the show Pete Lee, whose schtick is being a wide-eyed innocent, not unlike a certain overgrown elf Deschanel has worked with before. Six Christmas trees stayed alight on the broad stage all night and a huge 10-foot video screen looped a fireplace fire throughout.

Deschanel’s well-defined favorite holiday period was clear from her choice of the the 1944 Frank Loesser duet she did in Elf—relying on the kind of mid-20th century, postwar pop standards popular way before her time—from about the time her father was born. That lent a kind of draggy, melancholy haze to the first half of the show, weighed down with slowed versions of nostalgic standbys from your mom’s Firestone albums like “Happy Holiday,” “The Christmas Waltz,” and “The Christmas Song.”

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TVD Live: Marshall Crenshaw at City Winery, 11/16

Marshall Crenshaw’s tours these days take different forms. Sometimes he goes solo, other times he shares the stage with the Bottle Rockets. He was the lead voice for a Smithereens tribute tour earlier this year as well. But Saturday for a show at City Winery in Washington DC, he fronted a trio that gave both muscular backing to his tuneful, timeless songs and a loose, fresh approach to many of them.

It began with the opening “There She Goes Again,” whose bounce slowed with a more relaxed beat. The sprightly song had kicked off his landmark self-titled album in 1982 that’s still a favorite of Crenshaw fans and to which the singer returned a couple of other times for show high points, “Cynical Girl” and “Someday, Someway,” which with he ended the set.

But other songs may have better used his group, which boasted bassist Jared Michael Nickerson, who has played with Charlie Musselwhite, Freedy Johnston, and Vernon Reid and drummer Dan Hickey, who played for years for They Might Be Giants, and also Joe Jackson, Joe Cocker, The B-52’s and Cyndi Lauper.

The jazzy “Fantastic Planet of Love” was well suited for their instrumental flights; the hard-charging “Better Back Off” got a slower, almost country approach. The looseness overall may have been the inevitable result of not rehearsing, the singer admitted. Crenshaw extolling the practice of Dean Martin in approaching his TV variety show the same way. But it also meant the show had a spontaneity throughout.

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TVD Premiere: Mister Rogers, “Many Ways To Say I Love You”

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE FRED ROGERS COMPANY | Yes, we are tough, we are girded against an unforgiving world, the headlines make us quake each day and now winter is coming. But, oh my gosh, the tinkly piano and reassuring voice of Fred Rogers will make you melt all over again, be you tattooed metal head or cynical indie rocker. We at TVD are only too happy to make your day, save your week, instill one tiny fiber of hope with the premiere of “Many Ways to Say I Love You” from Mister Rogers.

It’s a vinyl-only bonus track from a new vinyl version of It’s Such a Good Feeling: The Best of Mister Rogers. The Omnivore Recordings CD/digital version came out in October, well in advance of the big Tom Hanks movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood that will be released November 22.

But on that same day, a translucent cardigan-red vinyl version of It’s Such a Good Feeling comes out, exclusively at Barnes & Noble, with two extra tracks not on the CD/digital version. That one of them is “Many Ways to Say I Love You” makes you instantly think: How could they have left it off in the first place? How would we otherwise hear of the cooking way to say I love you? The eating way? The cleaning way? The drawing way? Mister Rogers had a way to stick it right to your heart, in a sincere and kindly, totally non-cynical way—a trolley train express right back to your childhood.

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TVD Live: Kinky Friedman at Pearl Street Warehouse, 11/7

He’s been a popular detective novelist, a singer, a columnist, Peace Corps volunteer, animal rescuer, and a politician. He played at the Grand Ole Opry, Saturday Night Live, and the Rolling Thunder Revue. He’s the only performer in 45 years to record an episode of Austin City Limits that was never aired. And he won 12.6 percent of the vote when he ran for Governor of Texas in 2006.

Kinky Friedman is back on the road and playing music, with the latest of a revived recording career and a new album that’s in the Americana Top 10. In a typically laconic solo show at the Pearl Street Warehouse in Washington, DC on Thursday, days after he turned 75, he placed himself in the tradition of Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, with wisecracks out of Mark Twain (he fiddled with a cigar that he never lit indoors).

That notion probably comes from starting with Woody Guthrie’s “Pretty Boy Floyd,” a populist Robin Hood anthem, that begins with the invitation, “If you’ll gather ‘round me, children, a story I will tell..” That’s the same way another staple of his set began, Peter LaFarge’s “The Ballad of Ira Hayes,” another song about social import about a Pima Indian who became a forgotten World War II hero.

More often in his show—and what the dozens of people came to see—were his randy little ditties like “Waitret, Please Waitret” (“come sit on my fate” is its written lyric) or his flirty song of archeology, “Homo Erectus.” And it wouldn’t be a Kinky concert without his “Asshole from El Paso,” Chinga Chavin’s inversion of Merle Haggard’s “Okie from Muskogee.”

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TVD Live: The New Pornographers and
Lady Lamb at the
Lincoln Theatre, 11/6

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | From the big sound that comes from The New Pornographers you’d almost expect more people on stage. But just eight were there Wednesday at the Lincoln Theatre in Washington DC, covering songs from eight different albums before a happy, largely seated audience.

It was the rare second day in the city to satisfy demand. Even more rare was that they were inside a theater rather than a big nightclub. “In 15 years I don’t think we’ve ever not played the 9:30 Club,” frontman Carl Newman said. It was such a topsy-turvy thing, he sang a line from “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)” from “Hamilton,” perhaps inspired by being in the Nation’s Capital an extra day. But in doing a second night’s show, though, they were determined to present a different show than the night before. “It’s only polite,” said Newman, ever the Canadian.

So people didn’t hear the new “Leather on the Seat” from their new album In the Morse Code of Brake Lights. Instead of “Dancehall Domine” from Brill Bruisers they played “You Tell Me Where”; two things were heard from Challengers including the title track that they hadn’t played the night before; they did a rare “Use It” but not “Stacked Crooked” from Twin Cinema. Further, “Avalanche Alley” instead of “High Ticket Attractions” from Whiteout Conditions; and “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk” instead of “Crash Years” from Together.

It couldn’t have been too easy; these are intricate pop creations with lots of parts presumably needing lots of practice—they don’t just bang out anything. But it all sounded pretty darn glorious and they kept in enough favorites to rally fans from any of its eras (for me, it was “Singing Spanish Techno”).

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TVD Live: Robert Gordon & Chris Spedding at City Winery, 11/5

Rockabilly had its heyday and faded 20 years before Robert Gordon picked up the mantle in the late ’70s. By then, he had already been frontman for CBGB’s mainstay Tuff Darts and he would bring the same punk energy to the bass-slapping vibrancy of the ’50s sound.

He was the pre-Stray Cats king of the rockabilly revivalists even if he only grazed the mainstream. Still, Bruce Springsteen gave him the throbbing “Fire”; he recorded Marshall Crenshaw’s “Someday, Someway” before its author made it his signature song. Throughout a string of initial albums, he built a body of rockabilly works that would drive the music into the next decade.

Decades later, Gordon, at 72, is still performing and on Tuesday headlined a show at City Winery in Washington, DC, not far from where he grew up in Bethesda, MD. A lot of old friends showed up for him, including the drummer for the first band he was in at age 15. But it was not as crowded a night as past local appearances have been.

In a stylish suit and cummerbund, with an attempt at a modish cut in his hair, he cut a figure like a retired baseball star or ex-boxer opening a nightclub. He was welcoming and debonair but with a rough-hewn, old school expression that put him from another era. In front of a band with more credentials than there were fans before them, they rocked right into “Someday, Someway” after a five song set led by guitarist Chris Spedding, who comes to the tour after backing Bryan Ferry on a swing that played to thousands at the Anthem locally this summer.

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TVD Live: Flamin’ Groovies and Muck
and the Mires at City Winery, 11/1

The reunion this decade of the Flamin’ Groovies, the San Francisco band formed in the ’60s that made its biggest mark in the ’70s, hasn’t been easy.

Earlier tours were hit and miss, but inspirational enough for co-founding member Cyril Jordan and crew to record a new album in 2017. Part of the shakiness of recent tours was due to Chris Wilson who was co-writer of a lot of the ’70s power pop stuff, including their classic Shake Some Action.

The Massachusetts-born Wilson, who long ago transplanted to England, is officially on hiatus now. So for what they called the “Trick or Treat 2019 US Tour,” which stopped at City Winery in DC Friday, Jordan was backed by Chris Von Sneidern, who played bass on the 2017 release, now playing guitar, and bassist Atom Ellis—both are seasoned San Francisco players; Ellis worked with Dieselhed and backed Link Wray from 1996-2003 (and was wearing a Wray T-shirt in DC).

On drums was Tony Sales—not the bassist who played with Runt, Iggy Pop, and David Bowie’s Tim Machine, but his son. That would make the young drummer the grandson of comedian, kids’ TV host and sometime recording artist Soupy Sales (It all goes to make some fans seem particularly old, having been entertained now by three generations of Sales).

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TVD Live: The Milk Carton Kids at U Street Music Hall, 10/28

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | The Milk Carton Kids started making a splash soon after their 2011 debut, such that the California duo were on big tours, supporting top stars, before playing their own headlining theater gigs and augmenting their sound with a full band. Maybe it was too much too soon, or maybe Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan wanted to get back to what they did best.

They say the reason for their current “A Night with the Milk Carton Kids in Very Small Venues at Very Low Ticket Prices Tour” is for the fans: to play the kind of places when they started their run not even a decade ago, for fans who may not want to see them in a bigger venue at double the price.

The first stop for the tour (after an even smaller benefit show in DC the night before) was the U Street Music Hall, which the duo hadn’t played in before, they said, but was very like the kind of places they did—dark, crowded, with capacity for only a few hundred people with the competing sound of the the beer fridge.

That device seemed to have been turned off at U Street, Ryan noted during the show (it hadn’t). But the duo’s very quiet music engendered an equally quiet audience such that when someone exited the restroom they held the door so it wouldn’t slam behind them (and maybe for the first time, you could hear the hand dryer still blowing inside).

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TVD Live: Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit at the Ryman Auditorium, 10/23

NASHVILLE, TN | For a place that calls itself Music City, Nashville can be pretty lacking. The town’s central musical gathering place, Broadway, is a compendium of increasingly generic day-drinking bars with incongruous names of country stars dead (Johnny Cash, George Jones) and alive (Jason Aldean, Florida Georgia Line, even Kid Rock, god help us), full of bands likely paid only in tips, driving down the overall quality of both the sound and the song selection (they’ll play anything for $20, hence a lot of Skynyrd).

Even its vaunted Grand Ole Opry, relocated to an oversized mall-hotel complex out of town, with its supposedly top stars, can show how thin the contemporary country music writing can be, between the live WSM commercials for Dollar General. Blunt lyrics sung by Luke Bryan and Joe Diffie sounded like excerpts from Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony (“Drink a Beer,” “Long as There’s a Bar”).

Nashville was saved for me by a couple of things. One was the Music City Playboys, a band of unflashy Nashville touring musicians, who now prefer to stay home and play Tuesdays and Wednesdays at a bar way out on Music Valley Drive, keeping the flame alive for classic old tunes.

And I imagine the players at the Station Inn were just as good at keeping the bluegrass flame alive not far from downtown. While some pals went over there for a show, I got into one of the sold out shows by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit at the Ryman Auditorium, which managed to singlehandedly restore faith in the music and its ability to fill and elevate the soul.

The Ryman, a block off Broadway is worth its own visit—the lovingly restored former church and original home of the Grand Ole Opry now hosts its own roster of artists—Dylan and Springsteen played there, November sees Elvis Costello, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Shawn Colvin.

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TVD Live: Shovels & Rope at the 9:30 Club, 10/9

PHOTO: CURTIS WAYNE MILLARD | Like the White Stripes before them, Shovels & Rope bring the two person, man and woman, guitar and drums lineup to life. The exception is that they dwell more in country roots, with Appalachian gospel seeping through their down-home harmonies and lots of wistful tales of traveling on the road.

But there’s more—in addition to the drum work, Cary Ann Hearst also plays a short Korg keyboard and harmonica (sometimes at the same time). At times, she also gave up her drum seat for the guitar of her husband Michael Trent, who also switches around from acoustic and electric guitar, to drums, piano, harmonica, mandolin and keyboard.

Though the duo showed in a headlining show at the 9:30 Club in DC Wednesday that they have the kind of songs that could benefit from a larger outfit backing them, they resolutely kept it a twosome. They don’t even have a roadie handing them guitars or tuning, maintaining a busker’s approach as if they were always ready to go back to playing smaller venues or, if fortunes really change, to the streets.

But look around: It was a large crowd that came out to see them and many knew their older songs well enough to sing along without squinting at the lyrics that had been painted on five backdrops behind them—for decorative purposes only. (Also part of the stagecraft: a pair of busts covered and wrapped as if by Christo). It was a strange crowd though—one of those who fill a room but aren’t entirely quiet enough for the quietest parts, with yammering going on in corners of the room, as if the duo were there as background music for their party.

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