No sooner were the Thanksgiving leftovers stashed in the refrigerator than the Christmas lights went up all over town and the Best Of 2016 music lists began to appear, notably those from American Songwriter and National Public Radio. Then, yesterday’s Grammy nominations, where art annually meets commerce for an awkward but potentially hot prom date, further focused the spotlight on the albums and artists we’ll potentially still be listening to and talking about years from now.
Following is an objectively subjective, Americana-focused, Nashville-centric, Roots Radio-slanted ramble through what we’re learning about how the mavens, tastemakers and cognoscenti view the best music released in this rapidly waning year.
he new issue of the East Nashvillian magazine includes a great feature by Mary Brace about Roots Radio Program Director Jessie Scott. Learn about how she was there at the birth of Americana and how she used to hang out with the Rolling Stones!
Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe is intimately associated with songwriters playing their original material in a respectful and even reverent atmosphere. For 17 years, however, the storied venue has hosted a special night with great songwriters performing songs by others - songs that have been anything but reverent. Because Freedom Sings, a musical celebration of the First Amendment, is about spotlighting songs that have, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, shaken the windows and rattled the walls.
The birth of Roots Radio on WMOT 89.5 FM has become a big story in the world of public media. Last week Current, a journal covering public media, featured the new all-Americana WMOT in a lengthy story. The in-depth piece by Sara Wise offers a detailed look at the innovative partnership between Middle Tennessee State University and Music City Roots.
There are more artists and events than one person could see and far too many for a comprehensive guide here, so we turned to our Roots Radio music mavens for their recommendations. They pointed to the following shows as the ones they’d hate to miss.
There’s a scene in Star Wars: The Force Awakens when Rey, Finn and BB-8 escape from the planet Jakku by jumping in the Millennium Falcon and piloting it for the first time. It’s a bumpy ride, but they make it of course. The episode has come to mind a few times as I watch the on-air staff of the new WMOT slip into the pilot’s seat of a radio station that’s been on the air since 1969 and learn the controls in real time. Because there’s no simulator and no rehearsal time for this.
With an “opera” to “Opry” genre hand-off that recalled the birth of Nashville’s most famous radio show in 1927, WMOT/Roots Radio went on the air Friday morning at a warm and celebratory gathering at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Music City Roots co-founder John Walker had the idea to segue from WMOT's classical era with Aaron Copland’s famous orchestral “Hoedown” into a live take on the old fiddle tune that inspired it, “Bonaparte’s Retreat.”
WMOT, 89.5 FM, MTSU’s flagship public radio station founded in 1969, is making the biggest, boldest leap in its history in September 2016 when it dedicates itself to an all Americana music format. Branded as “Roots Radio,” the initiative is a partnership with the music experts and on-air talents of Music City Roots, the Franklin-based weekly variety show that reaches the nation on radio and public television.