Music City Roots hosted by Jim Lauderdale feat. Susan Werner, Kristi Rose, Fats Kaplin, James Wallace And the Naked Light, Randall Bramblett & Strung Like A Horse
Chicago IL | Singer-Songwriter
Dubbed by NPR as the “Empress of the Unexpected,” singer/songwriter Susan Werner confirms her
reputation as an artist changeable as the weather with her newest recording Hayseed. Paying tribute
to American agriculture and to her Iowa farm roots, Werner again keeps her audiences guessing and
laughing simultaneously, lending her wry humor and passionate voice to subjects such as farmer’s
markets, agrochemicals, climate change, drought, longing for a sense of place, and the movement
towards sustainable agriculture. The characters and perspectives are varied and colorful, the lyrics
are sharp as thistles, the music is handmade and hoppin’, and with Hayseed Werner continues her
reign as one of the most bold and creative forces on the acoustic music scene today.
Listeners will recognize Werner’s Americana roots, first heard on 2011’s country/blues tinged Kicking the Beehive; however, the collection of originals that appear on Hayseed hits even closer to home. “Everything was mandolin and banjo and upright bass and fiddle,” she says. “A sound that’s as - forgive the term, but it finally applies - organic as a sound can get.” Released on Sleeve Dog Records and distributed via Thirty Tigers, the album itself was commissioned by the University of Nebraska’s Lied Center For The Performing Arts and the Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the entire project began with seed money from fans during a successful PledgeMusic campaign. Werner incentivized fans with unusual rewards like signed ears of corn from her folks’ farm, and a percentage of the money raised was donated to three farming charities; Practical Farmers of Iowa in Ames, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES) of Spring Valley, Wisconsin, and The Land Institute in Salina, Kansas. Known for her engaging and energetic live show, Werner will be adding another homegrown aspect to her Hayseed tour schedule—making special appearances at local farmers markets throughout the nation.
Hayseed was produced by Boston-based songwriter and producer Crit Harmon (Martin Sexton, Lori McKenna, Mary Gauthier, Ed Romanoff). “I chose Crit to produce because he’s a songwriter himself, and that was hugely important to me,” Werner says. “And also because he grew up on a farm in the Midwest and knows the business end of a honey wagon. I knew he’d get the spirit of the songs, the sense of humor and the sense of place in these songs. I also knew he’d assemble a great cast of musicians, and this is the A list of the A list of the Boston area players.” That cast includes legendary guitarist Duke Levine, upright bassist Marty Ballou, dobro genius Steve Sadler, and Red Molly’s Laurie MacAllister on backing vocals. “Crit totally got it when I said this should sound like it’s being played on the front porch of a farmhouse,” Werner continues. “I wanted this thing just about as unplugged as anybody could stand it. I mean, Dubuque was the big city where I grew up, and that’s about as urban as the sound on this album could get and still be true to Delaware County, Prairie Township, Section 14.”
On Hayseed, Werner employs her signature songcraft and wit to deliver an assortment of tunes as hilarious as they are insightful. “There’s a certain sense of humor that goes along with farming because things don’t always turn out the way you expected,” she states. “If you can’t laugh about it, you might be in the wrong line of work.”
Opener “City Kids” sets the tone for the record with a wry commentary on what Werner refers to as “the Revenge of the Nerds.” “Truth is that if you grew up on a farm, you always did feel a little square, a little behind,” she explains. “But times change and tables turn. And who’s paying twentyfive dollars a pound for organic pork these days? It’s not the farmers, people.” To a banjo and upright bass accompaniment, Werner practically spits out the title phrase: “All the city kids, they had fluffy little dogs, a dog that sits and begs, a dog with all four legs, didn’t smell like hogs.”
The wacky, folky “Herbicides” is an instant campfire classic. “Agrochemicals are a fact of farm life, but I didn’t know quite how to address it. This seemed like a novel approach,” she laughs. The reflective, tender “Something to Be Said” is at the heart of the record – which turns out to be a tender heart, indeed. “I did a series of shows in rural Nebraska, and this little girl sent me a note that said, ’Thank you for coming to this waste of cornfields,’” Werner says. “It struck me – it took the wind out of me, really - that this little girl felt that way about where she was growing up. I had to find a way to say, kid, listen, you’re overlooking something. It may have taken me years to see it, but I really do see it now.” A slinky melodic motif introduces “Egg Money,” a tune that charts the tale of a crafty farm wife’s revenge. Other Hayseed highlights include the rollicking, sexy fun of “Bumper Crop,” the hushed and silvery “Plant the Stars,” dedicated to Werner’s father, and the dobro-tinged heartbreak of “While You Wait For The Rain.” The album closes with “Ode to Aldo Leopold,” a song written in tribute to a man now recognized as one of the founding fathers of sustainable agriculture. The song closes the album with these lyrics: “The land will outlive us all, however long we all shall live, and when the future comes to find the legacy we leave behind, may they say of us that we’ve been kind; we left the land with more to give, for the land will outlive us all.”
Werner is a farmer’s daughter herself and well acquainted with the trials and tribulations of American farm life. Her keen perspective led to the creation of the varied cast of characters that populate the album. “I wanted to show that farmers are just like everyone else,” she says with a laugh, “Honest, hardworking, kind, generous, resentful, and murderous.” Underneath its glib, satirical wash, Hayseed is tender and benevolent, an homage to her upbringing. “Growing up on a farm is part poetry and part child labor,” she jokes - “but it’s the landscape, the land itself, your love for that that stays with you – the fields, the fences, the creek. And I’ve found you can love a place as much as you can love a human being.” After all, it seems a pastoral childhood is what drove Werner to music in the first place. “I started playing guitar when I was little, and everyone in my family can play and sing. Maybe its part genetic – I suspect my family is wired for it. But if you’re alone out there on the prairie – well, playing music is a pretty good way to spend a couple hours. And, if you hit a few wrong notes – well, nobody’s gonna hear you.”
At age five, Werner made her debut, playing guitar and singing at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Manchester, Iowa; she learned both piano and guitar by ear. After earning a degree in voice from the University of Iowa, she attended Temple University in Philadelphia, performing in numerous recitals and operas while completing her graduate studies. On occasion Werner, who calls Chicago home now, still closes any one of the 125 club dates she plays annually throughout the US and Canada with “Un Bel Di” from Madame Butterfly or “Habanera” from Carmen, but ultimately, she opted to forgo a career as an opera singer, dedicating herself to songwriting instead, building a reputation at jazz clubs, coffeehouses, and folk festivals along the Eastern Seaboard.
After launching her career with the self-released Midwestern Saturday Night in 1993, her second recording Live at Tin Angel impressed executives at Private Music/BMG, which released her critically acclaimed major label debut Last of the Good Straight Girls in 1995. She also received critical accolades for her subsequent recordings Time Between Trains (VelVel, 1998) and New Non-Fiction (Indie, 2001). She has toured the nation with acts such as Richard Thompson, Keb Mo, and Joan Armatrading, and was featured in a 1998 Peter, Paul, and Mary PBS special as one of the best of the next generation of folk songwriters.
Nashville TN | Country
Husband & Wife Duo---Kristi Rose & Fats Kaplin, have long been recognized as artists of distinctive note. Kristi Rose as a powerful and evocative singer and writer. Fats Kaplin as a composer and master multi-instrumentalist, who, over several decades, has played with hundreds of artists.
Together they are mesmerizing performers who have created a highly eclectic musical genre, (and a way of life) known as Pulp Country. It is a world of cinematic proportion where rural and urban collide. Their very particular slant on the world is shaped by their individual backgrounds. She is from a farm in far Southern Illinois, an area historically known as “Little Egypt” that has a dark, hard scrabble past. He was raised on the Westside of Manhattan, a working class cultural melting pot where music and life reverberated through the air shaft and into his psyche.
Their numerous critically acclaimed albums include the classic “This Is Pulp Country!” ---“Kristi Rose- Live In Holland”, ---- Fats’ “The Fatman Cometh” ---“World of Wonder-Downunder”---numerous EPs and their most recent, an album for the Christmas Season in 2010, “I Wonder As I Wander”.
As a duo, Kristi Rose & Fats have played venues ranging from major festivals and clubs in the U.S., Canada and Europe to intimate House Concerts and Listening Rooms. Onstage, through story and song, Fats, with lone guitar and fiddle, and Kristi Rose with a voice that gives cry to the heavens, conjure up the thinly veiled lives that we all must lead. Lives that are haunted by ghosts of regret, disrupted by carnal dreams, yet still able to be given over to rapturous joy.
Nashville TN | Singer-Songwriter
Born and raised in New York City, influenced by jazz, gypsy, and traditional string band music, Fats Kaplin had already been featured on legendary recordings and extensive tours by the time he was 18 years old.
Now, living in Nashville, he is one of the music industry's leading multi-instrumentalists (fiddle, steel, accordion, mandolin, guitar and so on).
Fats grew up in an apartment in Manhattan and remembers falling asleep to the sound of salsa music rising up the airshaft, Johnny Pineapple's Hawaiian Revue seeping through the steam pipes from the apartment below, and Cantor Ackerman practicing next door. It was in this melting pot that Fats' musical tastes were formed.
Though Fats was raised in a family of artists he lay down his sketch pad at an early age and picked up a banjo. Then a fiddle. Then a whole assortment of instruments quickly followed. Intrigued by the folk scene that was developing in New York in the 1960s, Fats grew up learning to play by listening to old recordings of string bands, early jazz and other world music.
James Wallace And The Naked Light
Nashville TN | Alternative
His penchant for dark and clever wordplay above eerily-cheery melodies, begs there may be a few twisted stories from his past that we've yet to hear.
Similar to what has often been said of Belle and Sebastian's earlier works, More Strange News From Another Star captures a distinct vintage quality channeled from some non-existent folk music period of decades past. Often referenced to Paul Simon in vocal range and use of textured percussion, Wallace's writing showcases a similar love of African music and Gospel harmonies. But more often than not, his band heads into the more ramshackle, go-for-broke qualities of the early Kinks. A kind of Rock and Roll bred with cacaphony that balances eerily well beneath Wallace's falsetto.
Athens GA | Rock
Randall Bramblett and his wife, Lenore, were kicking around ideas for an album title when she suggested Now It’s Tomorrow. But no amount of thought could have produced a more apt description of where the singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist stands at this point in his celebrated career.
While Bramblett may not be a household name, he is legendary within music circles for his songwriting and musicianship. He released a pair of acclaimed solo albums in the mid-’70s, then joined the jazz-rock outfit Sea Level, becoming their principal songwriter and vocalist. From there, Bramblett embarked on a path as a big-league, musical utility man (primarily sax and keys) and landed on the speed dial of some of the greatest names in rock history, including Traffic, Steve Winwood, Levon Helm and Bonnie Raitt.
Along the way, although he did not resume his solo recording career, he continued to perform live with The Randall Bramblett Band. Then around the turn of the new millennium, he refocused on his recording career and signed a contract with New West Records. Now It’s Tomorrow, his fourth for the label, represents an artistic peak in his long and stellar career.
“Most of the songs speak about the experience of time passing and moving from one stage of life to another,” he says. “How much time does anyone have left? I think that’s the big question of this record.”
Strung Like A Horse
Chattanooga TN |
So far, this the only description that nearly fits Strung Like A Horse. Their acoustic driven sound fires people off to the darker areas of this strange universe. These unique individuals and their music is like a hellbender found under a rock; not hard to find, but damn hard to get a grasp on. Built in a garage two years ago, these fellas resemble a psychobilly diesel pick-up. There’s BJ Hitower’s manic bass work providing the suspension of the band; bouncing, at times weird, but always reliable. Ben Crawford and his “s-s-s-s-string drum”. Slothimus Prime and Bertha, his chairdrumset, ping-ding-crack-and-rumble like a pieced together yet functional engine. “Spooky Chicklets” exists as an otherwordly force surrounding the truck; his violin sings the sounds of night-woods on the sides of the highway. Clay Maselle with his guitar in the shotgun steers the band into the depths of the wood with lyrics to narrate the adventure. To bring it down to a point, these junkyard dogs bring “honest, playful, head-bangingly interactive fun” to any venue their rocket crashes.
Nashville TN | Country
Jim Lauderdale is a Grammy® Award winning musician and one of the most respected artists working the Bluegrass, Country and Americana music communities today. He is considered one of Nashville's "A" list of songwriters with songs recorded by artists such as Patty Loveless, Shelby Lynne, Solomon Burke, The Dixie Chicks and George Strait, who has had numerous hits with Jim’s songs. Jim’s music has been featured recently on the ABC hit show “Nashville” and he had several tracks on the soundtrack of the successful film “Pure Country.” Jim is also in high demand as a player, touring with the likes of Lucinda Williams, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Rhonda Vincent and Elvis Costello.
Jim, who frequently collaborates with legends like Ralph Stanley and Elvis Costello, is also a critically acclaimed solo artist with dozens of studio releases, including his latest Carolina Moonrise, written with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter and Buddy and Jim the critically acclaimed new duets album recorded with long time friend Buddy Miller of which Mojo states: “Miller and Lauderdale's duets has both the easy familiarity of old friends and the musicianship of old pros.”
In addition to making music together, Buddy and Jim also co-host “The Buddy & Jim Show,” recently described as “…highly entertaining…” by NPR’s Fresh Air. Each week Buddy and Jim invite artists to Buddy’s home studio in Nashville, where they tape performances and in depth interviews with a wide variety of artists and friends. Jim also hosts the popular Music City Roots each week from the Loveless Barn in Nashville and since winning "Artist of the Year" and "Song of the Year" at the first "Honors and Awards Show" held by the Americana Music Association in 2002, he has subsequently hosted the show each year.
Jim is the subject of a new documentary, directed by Australian filmmaker Jeremy Dylan called “The King Of Broken Hearts.” The feature length documentary tells Jim’s unconventional and prolific story from his North Carolina roots, being immersed in the country music scenes in both New York City and Los Angeles, to breaking through in Nashville as a songwriter.
Jim's musical influences, including the legendary Dr. Ralph Stanley and George Jones, can be heard in his songs with his unique sense of melody and lyrical expertise. He won his first Grammy Award in 2002 with Dr. Ralph Stanley for Lost in the Lonesome Pines (Dualtone) and then for The Bluegrass Diaries (Yep Roc) in 2007. In addition to previously mentioned releases, as a performer Jim is credited with production, writing and collaborating on over two dozen albums including Wait ’Til Spring (SkyCrunch/Dualtone 2003) with Donna the Buffalo and Headed for the Hills (Dualtone 2004) his first total project with Robert Hunter, Planet of Love (Reprise 1991,) Pretty Close to the Truth (Atlantic 1994,) Every Second Counts (Atlantic 1995,) Persimmons (Upstart 1998,) Whisper (BNA 1998,) Onward Through It All (RCA 1999,) The Other Sessions (Dualtone 2001,) The Hummingbirds (Dualtone 2002,) Bluegrass (Yep Roc 2006,) Country Super Hits, Volume 1 (Yep Roc 2006,) Honey Songs (Yep Roc 2008), Could We Get Any Closer? (SkyCrunch 2009,) Patchwork River (Thirty Tigers 2010) and Reason and Rhyme (Sugar Hill Records 2011.)
Jim's musical influences include the legendary Dr. Ralph Stanley and George Jones. These influences and his unique sense of melody and lyric help forge a sound that is truly his own. As a performer his credits include production, writing and collaborating on albums such as, "Wait 'Til Spring" with Donna the Buffalo, "Headed for the Hills” with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, "I Feel Like Singing Today" and the Grammy winning “Lost in the Lonesome Pines” with Ralph Stanley and The Clinch Mountain Boys.
His second solo bluegrass album, “Bluegrass Diaries” (Yep Roc 2007) won a Grammy in the “Bluegrass Album of the Year” category. His next album, “Honey Songs” was released in February 2008, and features an incredible lineup of musicians including James Burton, Garry Tallent, Al Perkins, Glen D. Hardin, Ron Tutt, Emmy Lou Harris, Patty Loveless, and many more.
Jim’s solo albums include “The Hummingbirds” (Dualtone 2002), “The Other Sessions” (Dualtone 2001), “Onward Through it All” (RCA 1999), “Whisper” (BNA 1998), “Persimmons” (Upstart 1996), “Every Second Counts” (Atlantic 1995), “Pretty Close to the Truth” (Atlantic 1994), and “Planet of Love” (Reprise 1991), as well as two releases in 2006, “Country Super Hits, Volume 1” and “Bluegrass” (Yep Roc), Grammy winner "The Bluegrass Diaries" (Yep Roc 2007), "Honey Songs" (Yep Roc 2008) "Could We Get Any Closer?" (Sky Crunch 2009) and "Patchwork River" (Thirty Tigers 2010).
"It's been a particularly great period for me," says Lauderdale. "Thanks to the records - I'm performing more and more, which I love. And I love that I can play the Opry one weekend, a jam-band festival the next and then a bluegrass festival the following week. That's really inspiring to me and I think there's a real thread there. The roots are the same for all of them and that's the music I'm interested in."