Mother Church Pew Feature Maggie Rose

    An album release this last August and a fall tour stretching across the US for several months would be a full year’s work for most artists—especially with the cautious re-opening of the world in 2021. However, this is just part of what Nashville soul and Americana artist Maggie Rose has accomplished this year. In a year where many of us found challenges mustering creative energy, Rose has used nearly every moment to add her mark to the musical world. 

    For a proper start, we need to go all the way back to January 5th when she launched her Salute the Songbird podcast.  With over 30 episodes so far in the series, Rose has hosted a remarkable mix of rising and prominent artists while carrying out the podcast’s mission of, “host[ing] candid conversations with her female musical heroes about their lives in and out of music, challenging the status quo, and changing the game for those coming up behind them.”  Past guests have included Ruby Amanfu, Martina McBride, Micky Guyton, Valarie June, Brandi Carlile, Yola, and many more. 

    At the same time she was growing her new podcast, Rose started giving us early cuts from her then recently-announced album, Have a Seat.  While it is common practice to release several singles working up to an album release, Rose partnered with photographer/videographer Ford Fairchild as director and Jared Rauso/Bolo Brothers on production to create a music video trilogy that showcases her from different perspectives.  Featuring the singles “What Are We Fighting For,” “Have a Seat,” and “For Your Consideration,” the videos were all exceptionally shot, with “Have a Seat” being added to our companion rock blog’s (East of 8th) YouTube playlist

    We’ve compiled the video trilogy into a playlist for easy viewing:

    Maggie Rose’s Have a Seat Album

    Maggie Rose Have A Seat Album Art

    At first listen, Have a Seat might sound like a strange fit for an artist who has played over 80 times on the iconic stage of country music, The Grand Ole Opry.  Strong influences of soul, rock, and even some pop are featured throughout. However, that’s just your brain being nearsighted and forgetting about the fusion of genres that make up the history of country and Americana music.  Go into any self-respecting, traditional honky-tonk and numbers from Ray Charles and Percy Sledge will be included in the rotation.  Likewise, artists too numerous to mention, both past and present, have injected blues rock swagger into the tome of country music.  Perhaps, upon further reflection one might wonder why we don’t have more albums like Have a Seat being created by current artists playing the Opry.  However, these musings may be moot. We don’t have to label a record’s sound to appreciate it.

    The record is loaded with classic soul sounds thanks to its finely pedigreed support.  Production was handled by Ben Tanner of the Alabama Shakes at the iconic FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL; instrumentation gets a boost thanks to bassist David Hood of the Swampers (session musicians who played with the likes of Aretha Franklin and Etta James); and guitarist Will McFarlane who has recorded with Bonnie Raitt and Levon Helm, among others.

    The album’s theme is clear.  Rose is challenging the conflict and intolerance that she has felt growing in society in recent years.  Straight to the point, she asks in the album’s highlight single, “What Are We Fighting For?”  Her message is one of tolerance, discourse, and understanding.  One might not think of this as a controversial idea.  However, in the social media age, this may be a bold concept.  Just as Rose proudly lets her sound stand out by embracing her soulful side, she doesn’t shy away from sharing her feelings on the need for conversation in our world.  While we often (and rightly so) applaud artists for taking a stand, what makes Have a Seat work so well is that we often don’t know the issue that’s causing the divide.  It’s not a group of songs that sets out to slay the demons in our society; rather it aims to unite us to find a way to work through any problem we might face.  The album, and “What Are We Fighting For” in particular, makes you think of the role of a mediator: no matter the dispute, we can work it out through good faith discussion.

    Later in the album, “For Your Consideration” builds on this theme and gives the listener enough room to apply it to more personal struggles.  On one hand, Rose’s call for swapping perspectives and understanding the sacrifices of others could easily apply to any issue, no matter how weighty.  However, it equally works as a ballad about a one-sided relationship, wishing the other person offered shared respect.  The track both starts and ends minimally, allowing the ache in Rose’s vocals to shine through while the middle swells with an R&B groove.

    The album also helps itself by never becoming preachy. Rose never claims to have all the answers. Instead, she’s willing to admit that she may be wrong about things—that she may be part of the problem.  A slow-dance bass groove and drumbeat introduces us to another gem off the album, “Saint.” As the song transitions from lyrical confessional to an anthem of self-acceptance, Rose gives us a stirring vocal performance while the addition of background singers makes it feel like it’s echoing in the rafters on the wings of a gospel choir. 

    The soul-rock vibes are thick, but the album is not without some tracks that embrace a more ‘traditional’ country side.  The quick-moving, “Do It,” may have flourishes of organ and pack plenty of horns, but the guitar riffs and her lyrical presentation have country roots. Likewise, “Best in Me,” is a straight up throwback ballad that takes us to the days when Trisha Yearwood or LeAnn Rimes dominated the airwaves with their dual hit, “How Do I Live.”

    Have a Seat is an album worth several spins in order to appreciate all of the influences merged into Rose’s sound. If you’re not an ‘album person,’ the tracks cover enough sonic and emotional space to find a song for any mood or playlist.  This makes it a record well worth exploration by fans of soul, rock, country, Americana…or just good music for that matter.  

    Maggie Rose’s Have a Seat Tour

    Maggie Rose Performing at her Have a seat album release show

    As live music returned in the latter half of 2021, Rose set out across the country bringing the new album to life. Mother Church Pew was lucky enough to catch one of the early stops at the Have a Seat album release party at Nashville’s Brooklyn Bowl. 

    Rose is an artist who dazzles in the spotlight of a live show.  It’s difficult to explain how hearing live versions of hits from the album— “Do It,” “What Are We Fighting For,” “For Your Consideration,” and more—is so different.  The easiest way to describe it is that you just feel more.  That’s not a slight at all on Rose’s recorded performances.  Instead, it’s a grasp at quantifying the spark she has on stage. 

    Some of that comes from the dynamic energy of her longtime live band and collaborators, Them Vibes.  You only have to spend about 10 seconds around the band’s iconic Brother Love to get sucked in.  Rose and the band not only seemed to know each other’s moves; they’re also seasoned touring vets who know how to put on a show. 

    However, there’s also a legitimacy in Rose’s performance both as a singer and a songwriter.  You can employ a lot of technical magic to make an album like Have a Seat work.  However, the excellent sound at the Brooklyn Bowl can be a double-edged sword.  It can make real singers sound better and expose studio-hidden shortcomings.  At her album release party, there was no doubt that Rose was the real deal as her voice poured tons of emotion into every track. Although I had respected the recording of “What Are We Fighting For” before that night, I was completely hooked on the vocals after hearing the live performance.

    But it’s still more than that.  At the Brooklyn Bowl show you could tell that Rose felt each word she was singing.  Those were her songs. She was proud of them and excited to share them with us. Her energy wasn’t lost on the audience as the crowd moved closer to the stage and people watching from the venue’s upper seating were drawn to the floor to be more engaged in the show. 

    Maggie Rose at The Brooklyn Bowl Nashville

    I started by saying that the show brought the album to life and that is still the best way to describe it.  At the Nashville Brooklyn Bowl it felt like we were getting both the raw feelings behind the music and the refined result of Rose’s work.  

    New Music and Looking Forward

    Unfortunately Rose recently had to make the difficult decision to end the Have a Seat Tour early over her concern for everyone in light of increased COVID cases.  However, Rose has continued to create in 2021.  Her most recent release is her haunting cover of Carole King’s, “I Feel The Earth Move.”

    She still has two stops scheduled at the legendary Grand Ole Opry in 2022 that we hope will safely go on.  Meanwhile, her Salute the Songbird podcast continues growing both in its content and audience.  Rose may have put together an impressive 2021, but it’s likely to be yet another stepping stone in her expanding presence across the Americana, country, soul, and pop scenes.

    Connect with Maggie Rose:

    Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | Spotify


    Mother Church Pew Music Blog Playlist Update Photos of Artists Added

    Who’s ready for some new and new(ish) music that we may just be catching up on? We’ve got a whole new roundup of tracks added to our Spotify playlist! Please enjoy our curated selection of the latest Americana, folk, alt-country, and bluegrass. (And make sure to connect with the artists on social media!)

    Fantastic Negrito – “Rolling Through California” Feat. Miko Marks

    Fantastic Negrito Artist Photo

    GRAMMY Award-winning artist Fantastic Negrito’s funktastic “Rolling Through California” brings attention to the widespread tragedies inflicted by California wildfires, specifically the Dixie Fire of 2021 which burned over 960K acres of land–the largest single fire in California state history. Wildfires have countless repercussions on the environment–wildlife and human casualties and displacement, climate change acceleration, and more. The video, which also features fellow soul powerhouse Miko Marks, is set on a ranch and follows a dejected and exhausted young Black firefighter seeking refuge who eventually finds home with another historically marginalized and overlooked group, the Black Cowboys of America. Never one to shy away from difficult subjects, Fantastic Negrito pushes through the pain and uses his voice and the power of his unique gifts to bring awareness to important issues and inspire us to better understand each other as human beings.

    Connect with Fantastic Negrito:

    Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | Spotify

    The Sully Band – “When The Battle Is Over” Feat. Rebecca Jade

    Sully Band Group Photo
    Sully Band Photo by Steve Sherman

    If you’re looking for a party in your ears, look no further than The Sully Band’s take on Aretha Franklin’s 1970 cut “When The Battle Is Over (ft. Rebecca Jade),” from their forthcoming LP Let’s Straighten It Out! This San Diego-based, 10-piece, beast of a band, staffed by GRAMMY-winning maestros makes us want to get up and dance. The band provides a most funktastic backdrop while frontman (and national tv/radio host Bob “Sully” Sullivan) trades licks with the soulful Rebecca Jade. “When the battle is over, who will wear the crown?” the lyrics inquire, and we’re pretty sure The Sully Band will walk away with that prize.

    Connect with The Sully Band:

    Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | Spotify

    The Lumineers – “A.M. Radio”

    The Lumineers Band Photo

    We’ve had a soft spot for stomp-and-holler folk outfit The Lumineers since “Ho Hey” back in 2012. The band recently release “A.M. Radio,” a track from their forthcoming fourth studio LP (or “fourthcoming”…see what we did there) Brightside due out January 14. With its yearning and intimate verses that progressively crescendo into a powerful ending, we’re treated to that signature sing-along quality that we love from our favorite Lumineers tunes.

    Connect with The Lumineers:

    Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | Spotify

    Sad Daddy – “Charlie Pickle”

    Sad Daddy Band Photo By Annemarie Sundell
    Sad Daddy Band Photo By Annemarie Sundell

    Rootsy quartet Sad Daddy (Brian Martin, Joe Sundell, Rebecca Patek, Melissa Carper) announced their forthcoming LP Way Up In The Hills (out January 28th) with the release of lead single “Charlie Pickle.” The track is about an old timer who embodies the phrase “dance like no one is watching.” With that in mind, Sad Daddy used footage from their fans who recorded themselves doing everything from buck dancing and clogging to the moonwalk and the mashed potato. The heartwarming video is hilarious, and is the perfect complement to this brilliant song. We think Charlie Pickle would definitely be proud.

    Connect with Sad Daddy:

    Website | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube | Spotify

    Mike Legere – “Love Songs (In Fear Of Dying Penniless)”

    Mike Legere Artist Art

    Have you ever felt like an outsider looking in? Like you’re alone in the midst of grief and heartbreak? Toronto-based artist Mike Legere wrote a song about it called “Love Songs (In Fear Of Dying Penniless), but don’t let that title scare you away–this song features Legere’s 60s-era folk-singer style vibrato against muscular rock n’ roll. It’s a juxtaposition of sound, and we just love those kinds of tunes. The video illustrates that feeling of isolation, where all the players are separated in different camera shots, with a little madness thrown in for good measure. It’s also kind of comforting to feel all alone…together.

    Connect with Mike Legere:

    Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | Spotify

    Please make sure to follow the Pew Playlist on Spotify!

    Sad Daddy Band Photo By Annemarie Sundell

    Sully Band Photo by Steve Sherman


    The Imaginaries Performing At Nashville's The Basement

    Out of the driveway, onto the highway/The day has finally come/Feeling so strong after waiting so long/I know we’re gonna get there from here

    Lyrics from “Blue Sky” by The Imaginaries

    “Blue Sky,” by Oklahoma’s The Imaginaries, is actually about their literal trek to start the band. However, the lyrics sync perfectly with the band’s path to their recent show at Nashville’s The Basement.  The husband-and-wife duo, comprised of Shane Henry and Maggie McClure (supported by full band), used their time well, giving fans a broad taste of their musical offerings and their journey. 

    It has indeed been a tale worth telling about challenges, perseverance, and a lot of love. The question is where to start.  The concert was of course filled with songs from their recent self-titled album.  The release itself was met with several challenges including a health crisis and the financial impact of COVID closures. The pair used the time of isolation to their advantage, making music videos and promoting their new songs. As the crowd listened to the intensity of the opener, “Geronimo,” tapped toes to the follower, “Thinking ‘Bout You,” and bathed in the couple’s harmonies on, “Trust Falling,” these relatively new songs already felt like classics because we’ve listened to them so many times.  Later in the show, it was impossible not to feel hairs rise as Henry fiercely strummed the opening chords to their epic single, “Walking on a Wire.” 

    With you by my side/As we watch the world go by/All I need in this life/Is you and the blue sky

    However, the night wasn’t just about the present.  As they shared, the self-titled LP holds a gateway to the band’s past.  Near the end of the set, while the crowd nodded along to the infectious rhythm, the duo played the first song they wrote together as The Imaginaries, “There Will Come a Day.” Continuing to reflect on their history together, they quickly followed with the swaying, soulful sounds of their latest release, “You Already Know,” originally written together by the couple for their wedding. The crowd applauded as McClure shared this story, along with the fact that the couple just celebrated their 10th anniversary.  Throughout the night, the bond between the duo was palpable, adding deep authenticity to their oft-romanticized lyrics.

    Shane Henry and Maggie McClure of The Imaginaries

    Mile after mile, turning the dial/To a small-town serenade/Smilin’ in silence, Each state line reminds of/Just how far we came

    Together, The Imaginaries have made it to the other side and are back on the road sharing their new music across the country. This show at The Basement was the final stop on the current tour leg that has kept them traveling for two months and taken them over 15,000 miles. Fortunately for us, they didn’t show any signs of slowing down.  As the band prepared to close the set, Henry only had to play a few sticky blues notes on his guitar for everyone to know their hit single, “Revival,” was on its way.  By the end of the song, its big, foot-stomping beat was firmly implanted in our heads.  The song’s message of new beginnings made for a fitting end to the story…for now.

    No matter what happens, I know we’ll be fine/We’re writing this story one page at a time. 

    Maggie McClure Performing at Nashville's The Basement

    Connect with The Imaginaries:

    Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | Spotify

    Listen to The Imaginaries:


    Tall Tales & Fables Album Art - Haunted Like Human

    Even the familiar can become eerie when bathed in shadow.  Tall Tales & Fables, the third release by Nashville’s Haunted Like Human, takes classic folk themes down a haunting, southern gothic path, thanks to its oft-ominous instrumentation and lyrical exploration of dark places.  

    While the honed musicianship may be the first thing you notice, the duo, comprised of Cody Clark (multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter) and Dale Chapman (lead singer, lyricist), keeps your attention thanks to the lyrical detail throughout the twelve-song track list. With topics ranging from mental health, good battling evil, challenges the LGBTQ+ community faces in finding acceptance, and leaving the past behind, the pair explore a lot of emotional ground.  Its notable that the group takes on the challenge of parsing through so many timely issues yet keeps the album consistent and flowing. 

    Album opener, “September,” serves as a preview of the harmony-heavy focus of the record.  Chapman and Clark’s timing are on point, making sure the paired voices build on each other and meld as a collective thought. However, it’s with the increased pep of the second track, “Ohio,” that the album takes off.  Well-placed touches of fiddle, a jaunty beat, and judicious use of Clark’s harmonies spin the longing tale.  It’s on the fourth track, “Run Devil Run,” that the real gothic tones of the album shine through as the classic battle between good and evil looks to a mysterious female force as the champion. This trio of songs sets the tone for the remainder of the record.

    Other highlights include the return to a more banjo folk sound on “Bruised Feet;” the dark exploration of forbidden love on “Whistling Tree;” and the haunting “Ghost Towns.” Although the entire album relies on the duo’s woven vocal harmonies, the minimalist album closer, “Things Fall Apart,” does the best job of letting the vocals shine. 

    On Tall Tales & Fables, Haunted Like Human struck the perfect balance between recognizable folk music themes that draw you in and gothic diversions that keep your ears alert.  Quality storytelling is matched with fine fiddle playing, nimble banjo strumming, refined guitar work, and smartly restrained percussion to craft an album that garners repeat listens—both for enjoyment and to capture the full tapestry of the work.

    You can purchase Tall Tales & Fables here or listen to it on your preferred platform including Spotify.

    Connect with Haunted Like Human:

    Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | Spotify

    Featured Image and other band photos by Caroline Voisine


    Angus Gill - The Scrapbook Album Cover

    Oftentimes, “place” pays a large role in an artist’s sound and style—for example, when you think about the blues, the Mississippi Delta, Memphis, or Chicago usually come to mind. And, when thinking of bluegrass, images of the verdant Appalachian Mountains or the rolling hills of Kentucky dance through the imagination. For Australian prodigy Angus Gill, who recently released his new bluegrass LP The Scrapbook, “place” is straight from the heart.

    The Scrapbook is a brilliant example of how the pandemic forced us to become more creative in how we, well, create. Gill assembled a star-studded lineup to bring his vision to life while 2500 miles away from his collaborators. Throughout its 11 tracks, the album takes the listener on a rollicking adventure full of intricate musicianship, wit, and a gamut of emotion. The album begins with “Always On The Run,” an energetic tune full of bright banjo licks that playfully intertwine with guitar and fiddle. Gill shows us his tender side with tracks like “Samson,” a song about bullying with a sweet resolution, and “Whittling Away,” a duet with grassy icon Jim Lauderdale inspired by the struggles Gill’s mother endured and strength she displayed when wrestling with the decision to move her mother to an assisted living facility.

    Gill’s charm and cleverness come through in album tracks “Let’s Have A Drink (To Not Drinking Again),” a high, lonesome waltz performed with award-winning songwriter Jerry Salley, and in title track The Scrapbook,” where he walks us through the pictures on the pages of his grandmother’s keepsake album.

    In “Heartquake,” we get an ample dose of traditional grass as the song moves at a lightning pace, leaving the listener breathless in time to receive haunting, hymn-like album closer “Forget Me Not,” an a cappella beauty featuring exquisite four-part harmonies.

    With The Scrapbook, Gill’s plethora of talents are in the spotlight; he amply proves he’s not only a prodigious creator, but a gifted storyteller that puts his heart on the line in every turn of phrase.  

    Connect with Angus Gill:

    Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | Spotify

    Featured Image and additional photo of Angus Gill by Jackson James


    Americana Playlist Update Artist Photos

    After a brief hiatus, we’re pleased to bring you a new update for the The Pew Playlist! We’ve got a whole new roundup of tracks added to our Spotify playlist! Please enjoy our curated selection of the latest Americana, folk, alt-country, and bluegrass tracks. (And make sure to connect with the artists on social media!)

    Angela Perley – “Here For You”

    Angela Perley - photo by Lindsay Jordan.
    Photo of Angela Perley by Lindsay Jordan.

    Like countless other artists, Columbus, Ohio native Angela Perley was set to tour in celebration of her 2019 LP 4:30 when the reality of COVID-19 brought everything to a grinding halt. Written and produced by Perley, the “Here For You” is a different kind of love song – being here for and taking care of yourself. With its slinky psychedelia and reverb-laden riffs, Perley delivers an amplified pep talk in her timeless voice, giving us an electrified taste of the album to come. Climb into the convertible, roll the windows down, and crank it to 11.

    Connect with Angela Perley:

    Website | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube | Spotify

    Alicia Stockman – “Halfway To Houston”

    Alicia Stockman Artist Photo

    “I was halfway to Houston when I broke down,” sings Alicia Stockman in her wistful break-up song “Halfway To Houston.” The track appears on the Utah-based singer/songwriter’s forthcoming LP These Four Walls, produced by MCP fave Mary Bragg -its smartly-crafted lyrics and unfussy accompaniment provide an expansive space for Stockman’s emotive and angelic vocals to shine.

    Connect with Alicia Stockman:

    Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | Spotify

    Spencer LaJoye – “Breathing”

    Artist Photo of Spencer Lajoye
    Photo of Spencer LaJoye by Whitney Wilson and Hannah LaJoye Photography

    Violinist and vocal loop artist Spencer LaJoye recently released “Breathing,” the latest track from their forthcoming EP Remember The Oxygen, out November 5th. The song is a powerful and moving story of LaJoye learning to “breathe my own air again, so to speak,” says the Boston-based folk-pop songcrafter of the track’s inspiration. “When I remembered to breathe my own oxygen rather than meeting and anticipating everyone else’s needs first, I learned a lot of things (for one: I am not a girl. Oops!). It’s the story of me grabbing my own oxygen mask.” LaJoye’s pure, crystalline vocals deliver their truth in the most heart-wrenchingly vulnerable way as they offer experience proudly for the whole world to hear.

    Connect with Spencer LaJoye:

    Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | Spotify

    Charles Wesley Godwin – “Strong”

    Charles Wesley Godwin courtesy of Harry Ilyer
    Photo of Charles Wesley Godwin by Harry Ilyer

    Charles Wesley Godwin channels the grit of his West Virginia upbringing into his music, using his strong vocals to gently deliver character-driven, stories of the everyman. Relatable, smartly crafted, and poetic, “Strong” is an anthem of encouragement and perseverance, wrapped in lush textures that dance across a sonically cinematic landscape.

    Connect with Charles Wesley Godwin:

    Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | Spotify

    Naomi Keyte – “Greenhill”

    Listening to Australian folk artist Naomi Keyte’s new single “Greenhill” is unexpected sunshine a cloudy day, a daydream on a quiet afternoon, or blowing on the fluffy white seeds of a dandelion. It’s the sound of possibility. Written during lockdown, “Greenhill”
    Is a love song to a home and what’s inside that makes it special. Keyte’s style brims with airy, acoustic grace, and reminds us that there is beauty all around us.

    Connect with Naomi Keyte:

    Website | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube | Spotify


    Kashena Sampson Time Machine Album Art

    Reflection, perspective, and determination are at the heart of Time Machine, the second album from Nashville’s Kashena Sampson. That description, coupled with the unsurprising saturation of COVID-era songwriting inspiration, would make one think that her record likely comes from soul searching that has been thrust upon us over the last year and a half.  Perhaps it’s ironic that the tracks for Time Machine were mastered prior to Sampson’s life being turned upside down in early 2020—first by the tornado that decimated her source of income bartending at Nashville’s Basement East and later by the devastating impact the pandemic had on the music industry.  In reality, her album is all about dealing with codependency, finding a way to move on, and growing from life experiences.  However, it may also be possible that Sampson has the most apt album title of all time for a collection of songs that inspire discovery and resolve, almost as if her songwriting senses knew this was a record we would need in 2021. 

    Kashena Sampson Artist Photo By Laura Partain
    Photo By Laura E. Partain

    Fittingly, no song embraces the theme of Time Machine better than its title track. Over a gentle acoustic guitar riff and a piano melody, Sampson looks upon the past and finds that many dreams are simply delusion in disguise.  However, she doesn’t approach this wisdom in a state of melancholy.  Instead, she finds strength while embracing reality.

    Sampson, a familiar face behind the bar for many of us Nashville concert-goers, may be one of the most visible examples of the grit that it takes to persevere in an industry where talent, exposure, and quality songs often still mean hours of work tending bars, waiting tables, or pushing paperwork to keep the dream alive. The slow-build folk-country-rocker, “From the Outside,” paints a vivid picture of the dichotomy between the pure joy the artist gets from performing clashing with the struggle behind the curtain.  The addition of the ominous guitar and Sampson’s wonderful use of inflection in her vocals drives home the song’s turmoil. 

    Time Machine may dole out a healthy dose of introspection but never feels heavy.  Part of this is due to the fact that Sampson packages her biggest emotional punches in her words yet keeps the music upbeat enough that you never feel mired in melancholy.  However, it also benefits from bright, hopeful tracks like, “Little Spot of Sun.” As Sampson preaches about seeking out and embracing the good side of any moment, the song lays down a classic country vibe that would feel right at home on your father’s VHS tapes of the Grand Ole Opry. Somehow the track feels like its being played on vinyl…even if you’re cheating and listening on Spotify.

    There are little surprises throughout the album to keep your interest. You’ll have to listen to put together all the pieces that add up to her vision.  There’s the opening cover of Shocking Blue’s “Hello Darkness.” Here Sampson goes more groovy country rock with vocals that inspire comparison to when Margo Price kicks up the tempo.  A more notable twist comes late in the album with, “The Black Sea.”  The track feels like a bard’s tale reimagined as a building rocker.  Sampson showcases her vocal power, adding a dramatic pageantry that would make Nick Cave take notice.

    Her 2017 album, Wild Heart, gave most of us our first chance to hear Sampson’s traditional, country-soul sound.  While she had been performing for several years on the cruise ship circuit, Wild Heart was something distinctive and distinctly her own.  Time Machine has many of the elements of Kashena Sampson’s prior work, most notably her classic vocals with the range to carry a world of lyrical emotion.  However, it shows clear progression as well—a maturity in both lyrical crafting and smart production. 

    Connect with Kashena Sampson:

    Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | Spotify

    Images of Kashena Sampson by Laura E. Partain


    Byrd's Creek Music Festival Setting

    With the first two days of the 2021 Byrd’s Creek Music Festival already behind us, it was hard to believe that we were almost to the end of our first festival of the year.  We were certainly excited for the day’s lineup, but sad that it was almost time to go home. 

    Sunday at Byrd’s Creek ended up being a day of adaptability.  It also highlighted the family atmosphere that embodies what’s special about this event—something that’s often hard to describe while writing about it.

    Mose Wilson & Friends

    The first surprise of the day was the unfortunate cancellation of one of the acts.  However, that couldn’t put a damper on a festival with a campground loaded with musical talent.  Pulling together musicians from across the festival setlists, Mose Wilson returned to the stage for an Americana and classic country jam session including members of the West King String Band, Hannah Juanita, Chelsea Lovitt, and more.

    Mose Wilson and Friends at Byrd's Creek Music Festival (2)

    Check out more on Mose Wilson in our coverage of Day 1 of Byrd’s Creek 2021

    Sad Daddy ft. Melissa Carper

    Earlier this year, the award-winning Arkansas bluegrass band (that’s not entirely a bluegrass band), Sad Daddy, announced that they were working on their first album since 2016’s Fresh Catch.  The setlist included their hit, “Mountainside,” a country-classic styled number from band member Melissa Carper’s recent solo album, and an encore with fan-favorite, “Bigboned & Buttugly.”

    Sad Daddy at Byrd's Creek Music Festival
    Melissa Carper at Byrd's Creek Music Festival
    Sad Daddy at Byrd's Creek Music Festival (2)

    Connect with Sad Daddy:

    Website | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube | Spotify

    Connect with Melissa Carper:

    Website | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube | Spotify | Bandcamp

    Momma Molasses

    Dusty vocals and traditional country storytelling took center stage as the Byrd’s Creek Music Festival welcomed Bristol’s Momma Molasses. Showcasing a talent for making new music sound vintage, the band played several tracks from their album Anthems From A Broken Heart as well as the latest single, “C-A-R.”  Momma Molasses had the audience swaying along to her combination of classic country-western swing and soul-grass sounds. 

    Momma Molasses at Byrd's Creek Music Festival (3)

    Connect with Momma Molasses:

    Website | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube | Spotify

    If Birds Court Fly

    In a weekend rich with full-acoustic sets or minimal instrumentation, Virginia’s If Bird’s Could Fly brought a welcome change up with the hum of electric bass and rhythm led by a full drum set. This added an alt-country edge to their soulful folk performance.  The set featured a mix of songs from their recent album Long Gone Songs, as well as their 2012 record, Ghosts.

    If Birds Could Fly at Byrd's Creek Music Festival (3)
    If Birds Could Fly at Byrd's Creek Music Festival

    Connect with If Birds Could Fly:

    Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | Spotify

    The Rainstorm – As in a real, actual storm.

    Fortunately, the festival had eluded several storms that had come through the region throughout the weekend.  Unfortunately, the odds of probability were no longer in our favor, and we finally were caught by a solid downpour.  Normally, this wouldn’t even make it into a festival recap; however, what happened next highlighted the family feel of Byrd’s Creek.

    Inside the event barn located on the festival grounds, sound equipment was already being set up so that we wouldn’t have to miss the night’s headliner, Sierra Ferrell.  With the vendors having closed, festival owner Jason Kemmer fired up some catering sized grills.  Hot dogs and sausages were made available for free to the soaking wet festival crowd in a gesture you don’t see at…well, any other festival.  As more people came to the barn, early arrivals helped set up additional chairs. Pretty soon everyone was inside, fed, and ready for more great music.

    Sierra Ferrell

    The event barn, in many ways, made the perfect setting for the post-rain Sierra Ferrell concert.  The rustic, classic instrumentation fit so well echoing in the rafters of the well-appointed barn. Her beckoning vocals matched the intimacy created by the dimmed lights and seated crowd—like a sepia-toned scene out of an old movie where the road-tested troubadour holds the townsfolk in rapt silence.  Of course, the spell was put on hold between each song as the appreciative audience roared with applause after favorites like “Jeramiah,” “Why’d You Do It,” and many more from her now released album Long Time Coming.

    Connect with Sierra Ferrell:

    Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | Spotify

    End of Day 3 of the 2021 Byrd’s Creek Music Festival…And a look at upcoming events at Oaklawn Farms:

    We may not have been ready for the weekend to end, but it was unfortunately time to head back to the real world.  This edition of Byrd’s Creek Music Festival checked all the boxes: plenty of high-quality roots music, a fun return to live performances, and a promise of more great events in the future! 

    During the festival, it was announced that the Oaklawn Farms, the home of Byrd’s Creek, will be hosting a fall concert series. Called Music at the Manor, it refers to the once-beautiful estate house on the grounds which owner Jason Kemmer is restoring to its former glory. The shows run from September 15th to October 6th on Wednesday evenings.  The lineup includes Bella White, Kelly Hunt, Logan Halstead, and The Local Honeys.  Ticketing is donation based—pay what you can to support the show—and can be purchased here.  

    Connect with Byrd’s Creek Music Festival:

    Website | Facebook | Instagram


    Bluegrass music has spanned centuries; its ability to penetrate the soul and send shivers down the spine only contributes to its staying power. In their brilliant new LP I’ll Come Back, Bay Area roots powerhouse AJ Lee and Blue Summit thrust their musical flag into the grassy landscape, coming back to the style they love the most. This theme is laced throughout the album, from its title to standout tracks like “Back To Bluegrass,” where the group wears their collective heart on their musical sleeve as they pay homage to their roots.

    Led by award-winning mandolin prodigy Lee, who began her professional career at the ripe old age of seven when she joined Palo Alto family band the Tuttles, (formed by Tuttle patriarch Jack with his children Molly, Sullivan and Michael as members) Blue Summit begins the adventure with the sassy swagger of album opener “Lemons and Tangerines.” The was song purportedly inspired by a grafted fruit tree in Lee’s San Jose backyard, though the tree could easily be a lyrical metaphor for a lover. Either way, Lee’s silky vocals are accentuated by gorgeous, sun-drenched harmonies, with Chad Bowen holding down the rocking low-end, as Sullivan Tuttle and Jesse Fichman provide texture with their respective guitars allowing Jan Purat’s fiddle to sing.

    In the playful turns of “Something Special,” a love song that eases the listener into the band’s interpretation of the traditional, Purat steps into the spotlight and delivers as his fiddle swells and swirls, dancing with Lee’s twinkling mandolin licks supported by strong harmonies swelling in the background. Lee leans on the storytelling aspect of the genre in “Monongah Mine,” relaying the gut-wrenching tale of a mining accident in 1907 West Virginia. Most of the miners were immigrants; she tenderly sings of the heartbreak and loss of hope as miners were trapped in the depths of the earth, declaring “There’s no American Dream in mine number six.” 

    With “Put Your Head Down,” a barn-burner awash in minor chords, the momentum moves like a freight train into “Faithful,” a Flatt and Scruggs-style heartbreak-oriented yet playful romp that keeps the energy headed towards the rafters. After the instrumental “Rodney Dangerfield,” a track penned by fiddler Purat and well-suited to sawdust-covered dance floors, we’re introduced to “Magdalene,” written from the perspective of a woman in love with another woman, ending the album on a wistful note.

    Throughout the album’s 11 tracks, each member’s mind-blowing talent is showcased as the band delivers tight yet expansive jams, making the listening experience a joy from cover to cover. With I’ll Come Back, AJ Lee and Blue Summit powerfully propel the genre forward, their influences of country, soul, swing, rock, and rock on full display as they deftly weave their contribution into the tapestry of the bluegrass tradition.

    You can listen to I’ll Come Back by AJ Lee and Blue Summit on Spotify, or even better, purchase it from the band.

    Connect with AJ Lee and Blue Summit:

    Website | Tour Dates | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | Spotify


    Sunrise at Byrd’s Creek Music Festival brought with it the promise of a day packed with Americana, bluegrass, and traditional country music.  At the risk of a spoiler: it didn’t disappoint!

    As the sound of bacon sizzling in the campsites gave way to the distant hum of the festival’s stages coming to life, there was a distinct feeling of anticipation throughout the grounds. 

    The Hill Country Devil

    At the main stage inside the festival village, the crowd had already gathered to take in the enjoyably depressive sounds of The Hill Country Devil.  The project of singer-songwriter Hayden Allen Karchmer, The Hill Country Devil is a self-described “scumbag troubadour.” The crowd soaked in the honest song crafting on his hits including, “Rats Get Fat,” and, “New Kind of Lonely,” and met him with a roar of applause following his cover of, “Greengrass,” from Tom Waits.  His painfully exposed lyrics were powerful enough to create a delightfully dreary musical cloud to fight back the sun’s rays.

    Hill Country Devil at Byrd's Creek Music Festival
    Hill Country Devil at Byrd's Creek Music Festival (2)

    Connect with The Hill Country Devil:

    Website | Facebook | Instagram | Spotify

    Adeem the Artist

    Over at the festival’s Dogwood Stage, Knoxville’s Adeem the Artist had just finished tuning and was ready for a set in the sun.  Playing several songs from the recently released album Cast Iron Pansexual, Adeem didn’t miss any opportunity to share some cynical wit—both between and in each song. The set also included the best (maybe only) song about Weigel’s convenience stores, a reference true to Adeem’s Marble City home.

    Adeem the Artist At Byrd's Creek Music Festival (3)

    Connect with Adeem the Artist:

    Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | Spotify

    Matt Heckler

    One of the best parts about the Byrd’s Creek Music Festival is the intimacy of the sets.  It feels like you’re surrounded by old friends sitting around a campfire or watching an artist play a house show.  This was highlighted during the early afternoon set by Matt Heckler.  There’s something special about seeing an artist who has toured with bands such as Devil Makes Three, Lost Dog Street Band, and Flogging Molly in a setting where people felt comfortable making requests—and the artist responded.  Heckler’s set featured his brand of dark Appalachian bluegrass but included several extended fiddle interludes which merged classic violin influences into the mix.  He was met with a roar of applause when he played crowd-favorite, “Blue Eyes Dancing,” and several of his songs inspired people to clap along—with a few even dancing through a brief mid-set downpour. 

    Matt Heckler at Byrd's Creek Music Festival (3)
    Matt Heckler at Byrd's Creek Music Festival
    Matt Heckler 2021
    Matt Heckler at Byrd's Creek Music Festival (2)

    Connect with Matt Heckler

    Website | Facebook | Instagram | Spotify

    Jennifer Jane Nicely

    Classic country & western honky-tonk vibes returned to Byrd’s Creek Music Festival when Jennifer Jane Nicely took the Dogwood Stage.  With a setlist exploring most of her tracks from her Depending on the Light EP, Angels, Demons, Red-Tail Hawks and many of her prior singles, Nicely pulled the crowd into her songs, thanks to the slightly twangy, aching inflection of her vocals.

    Jennifer Jane Nicely at Byrd's Creek Music Festival (3)

    Connect with Jennifer Jane Nicely:

    Website | Facebook | Instagram | Spotify

    Chelsea Lovitt

    Back at the festival’s main stage, Nashville’s Chelsea Lovitt gathered an all-star band to give her meaning-loaded rocking country a lighter honky-tonk feel. Songs like, “If I Had A Dollar,” and, “Beanstalk,” from her recent album, You Had Your Cake, So Lie in It, still didn’t pull any punches, but thanks to the fiddle playing of Nate Leath, the harmony/background vocals from Audrey MacAlpine, and the pedal steel from Will Ellis, the set had a buoyancy that was perfect for the end of a hot afternoon. 

    Chelsea Lovitt At Byrd's Creek Music Festival (2)
    Audrey McAlpine at Byrd's Creek Music Festival

    Connect with Chelsea Lovitt:

    Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | Spotify

    Hannah Juanita

    Over nine hours of music had already come and gone on Saturday of Byrd’s Creek Music Festival, and they weren’t done giving us classic country songs just yet.  With the sun set and the stage lights coming to life, Nashville’s Hannah Juanita shared several of her songs from her recent album Hardliner—a record full of traditional country sounds and strong lyrical narratives. With her own Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn influenced honky-tonk numbers filling the air with two-step vibes, it felt like we were right at home in our favorite western bar.

    Hannah Juanita at Byrd's Creek Music Festival

    Connect with Hannah Juanita

    Website | Facebook | Instagram | Spotify

    Lost Dog Street Band

    It was now time for the evening’s headliner and the start of the late-night party.  The festival crowd made their way to the Byrd’s Creek mainstage for the emotionally hard-hitting roots music of the Lost Dog Street Band. The audience bathed in the band’s painfully honest lyrics, nimbly strummed acoustic guitar riffs, and intimate fiddle accompaniment.  Dark, brooding melodies like, “Terrible and True,” were balanced by still-pensive, yet more jaunty numbers like their hit, “September Doves,” during their thoughtfully curated set.

    Lost Dog Street Band Byrd's Creek Music Festival (6)

    Connect with Lost Dog Street Band:

    Website| Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Spotify

    West King String Band

    Once again, the festival knew we would need some high-energy music to keep us going strong into the late-night sets. They didn’t have to look further than the fast-picking stylings of Nashville by way of St. Augustine, West King String Band. Not quite newgrass—more folk grass—WKSB put on a set that was high in classic bluegrass influences, but felt modern and relaxed.  Featuring well-picked mandolin solos merged with rambling acoustic guitar and plucked bass, the band performed several songs fans knew well from both Staring At The Sun and Achin’.

    West King String Band at Byrd's Creek Music Festival (2)

    Connect with West King String Band:

    Website | Facebook | Instagram | Spotify

    End of Day 2 at Byrd’s Creek Music Festival

    Eight bands and twelve hours of music later, it was time to call an end (at least for us) to the second day of the 2021 Byrd’s Creek Music Festival.  As we walked back to our campsite, we could tell that there was still music and a heck of a good time going on at the Dogwood Stage.  However, we needed to be ready for another great day of Americana music still coming our way.

    Read About Day 1 of the 2021 Byrd’s Creek Music Festival

    Connect with Byrd’s Creek Music Festival:

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