JON BYRD'S HARD, POST-PUNK COUNTRY
Soul Country
by Alan Richard
1w ago
One of Nashville’s best hard-country artists, Jon Byrd also seamlessly incorporates 1980s and 90s jangle rock, alternative, and even post-punk elements into his originals and well-chosen covers. As I wrote in this profile in 2022, Byrd may be Nashville's best gut-string guitarist and pure country singer — and perhaps the only country artist to have taught at a college for historically Black students.   Byrd’s latest album, All Your Mistakes, deftly balances his love for Johnny Paycheck and soulful country with groovy Southern sounds at times reminiscent of Tony Joe White — with a love ..read more
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CHANGE MAKERS: MY FAVORITES FROM 2023
Soul Country
by Alan Richard
3M ago
Something changed in roots music in the past year. If many artists hadn’t yet turned their focus to social-justice issues, the attacks on LGBTQ+ people by leaders in Tennessee and other states helped tilt the scale. (Not to mention all the new laws restricting teaching about race and other topics in many classrooms across the country.) More trans and nonbinary artists in particular and other LGBTQ+ performers are performing bold protest songs and speaking out against injustice. These artists — joining Black artists, especially Black women, and other queer artists, whom I highlighted in m ..read more
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NASHVILLE HONORS PETER COOPER
Soul Country
by Alan Richard
1y ago
Some of the most talented musicians and artists in Nashville — or anywhere — gathered the night of Feb. 24 to share songs, stories, and memories of Peter Cooper, our friend and beloved music writer and singer-songwriter who passed away in December. An audience of hundreds, many of whom Peter touched either personally or through his writing and music, nearly filled the stunning, three-story CMA Theater at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. “I didn’t want this day to come, ever,” said Kyle Young, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s chief executive officer, opening the memorial e ..read more
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MY MUSICAL MEMORIES OF PETER COOPER
Soul Country
by Alan Richard
1y ago
When Peter Cooper died in December, Nashville lost a major figure in the music community, hundreds of us lost a good friend, and one of the best to ever write about American popular music took a final bow. Peter was a dad to his 12-year-old son, friend and counsel to many, a storyteller and author, music historian and teacher, baseball fanatic, fine singer-songwriter and musician, host of a podcast — and the list goes on. His work — his mission in life, really — was country music. Hundreds of friends, fans and music lovers are gathering at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on Feb. 24 ..read more
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QUEER YEAR: MY FAVORITES OF 2022
Soul Country
by Alan Richard
1y ago
Black women ruled American roots music in 2021. The beautiful, striking, courageous presence of singer-songwriters Allison Russell, Queen Esther, Mickey Guyton, Shemekia Copeland, Adia Victoria and others, represented the most important development in country, soul, blues music and beyond. Indeed, Black women have become the creative leaders of genres that shunned them from the start. Daring to expand the bounds of country music — especially since much of country is partly but directly derived from Black Americans’ influence and expression — many artists of color are pushing for change, despi ..read more
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JON BYRD SEEKS COUNTRY'S SOUL
Soul Country
by Alan Richard
2y ago
NASHVILLE — Jon Byrd is one of the best pure country singers and gut-string guitar players in Nashville. He’s got to be the only one to have begun a Ph.D., teach at historic colleges serving Black students, and work on the papers of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. No wonder Byrd’s heartbreaking, hard-country and pedal steel-laden songs have so much soul. Raised in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, he heard many 1960s country classics on the radio in his father’s shop, but it took Byrd many years of wandering to reconcile country music and where he's from with what he believes. “I grew up listening to that ..read more
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MIKO MARKS FINDS HER WAY 'HOME'
Soul Country
by Alan Richard
2y ago
DECATUR, Georgia — Miko Marks has played music for a long time, but her first show at Eddie’s Attic showed why the talented singer-songwriter may now be hitting her artistic stride. More than a decade ago, Marks made a run at becoming a mainstream country artist. Finding hesitancy and even resistance in Nashville, she left town and made her way to Oakland, California. On her two most recent albums, Our Country and Race Records — both among my favorites of 2021 — Marks has more fully embraced and explored her love for traditional country music and its undeniable connections to gospel, soul and ..read more
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ROY ROBERTS: STILL COUNTRY COOL
Soul Country
by Alan Richard
2y ago
Something different was afoot one night in 1980 when Roy Roberts took the stage. The veteran R&B singer had toured for years on his own and played guitar for Solomon Burke, Eddie Floyd, Otis Redding and other greats, but Roberts suddenly was facingtough times. Disco had quickly become king, and 1960s Southern soul seemed suddenly passe’. “I was playing about 300 nightclubs a year back then,” Roberts said. “Then, everybody within a month called and cancelled every gig.” On that particular night, before an all-white audience in Burlington, North Carolina, the gifted, versatile musician and ..read more
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Marshall Chapman: COMING HOME
Soul Country
by Alan Richard
2y ago
More than 50 years after she left Spartanburg, South Carolina, for Nashville, Marshall Chapman returned to her hometown to share her songs and stories from the same stage she'd played as a 6 year old during a piano recital. Joined by two of Nashville's most talented and literate artists, she opened her April 16 homecoming concert, appropriately, with The Byrds’ Hickory Wind, Gram Parsons’ ode to South Carolina and the longing for home. On a deep stage with towering pipes and an organ in the background, Chapman and her longtime singer-songwriter friends and collaborators Will Kimbrough and Tom ..read more
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JOHN PRINE'S LABEL TURNS 40
Soul Country
by Alan Richard
2y ago
NASHVILLE — John Prine was tired of the hobnobbing the music business seemed to require. What mattered most to him was writing songs, singing them for people, and getting to know his followers and other musicians along the way. Then he came up with an idea. “We were riding in the car, and he said, ‘I think I’m going to start my own label in Nashville,’”recalled Jim Rooney, an accomplished music producer and close friend of Prine’s. “I said, ‘What are you gonna call it?’” “Oh Boy,” Prine replied. “I said, ‘What are you gonna call it?’” More than 40 years after that exchange, Oh Boy Records su ..read more
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