October 2022 - The Birthplace of Country Music
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Sunday at Bristol Rhythm 2022 with Rosanne Cash

As communications manager for the Birthplace of Country Music, the biggest part of my job is to  promote BCM, get media to cover our events and create content connected to our mission. I spend my days writing press releases, pitching story ideas to media outlets, and writing content for things like this blog, our newsletters and website, and social media. Twice a year, in August and September, I get the opportunity to publish my own stories in Voice Magazine for Women to highlight acts that will be performing at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion  – that’s kinda-sorta how I wound up spending Sunday at Bristol Rhythm 2022 with Rosanne Cash.

This year marked the 95th anniversary of the 1927 Bristol Sessions. In order to help BCM capitalize on this important milestone in our region’s music history, we contracted two amazing publicists to help us bring more media attention to the 95th and the festival: Cindy Dupree, a seasoned pro who served as the PR director and public information officer for the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development for more than 12 years, and Danielle Dror, a firecracker publicist from Asheville with her own PR firm, Victory Lap Media. As a team, we attracted dozens of international, national, regional and local outlets to Bristol and the festival, several of which had never previously attended the event. I must note that Cindy and Danielle’s experience and expertise in the field was essential in getting some incredible coverage, and I am blessed to have these fine ladies as friends and colleagues. With their help, we were able to facilitate dozens of interviews and generate an impressive number of great stories in the media.

A photo of Johnny Cash outside Folsom Prison with graphic "1968: A Folsom Redemption"Having Rosanne Cash headlining Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion on the 95th anniversary of the 1927 Bristol Sessions was also a huge deal, given her familial connection to Bristol through her dad and stepmom, Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. Hers is a living history that opens a new perspective into the past. To say we were stoked about her visit is an understatement. Serendipitously, a special exhibit honoring Johnny Cash, “1968: A Folsom Redemption,” was on display at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum during Bristol Rhythm, and we were confident that it was something Rosanne would want to see.

I reached out to Rosanne’s longtime manager, Danny Kahn, to invite her on a tour of the museum and special exhibit while she was in Bristol and asked if she’d be interested in holding a small press event. I also asked for an interview to talk about her history with the Carter Family and Southwest Virginia that would be published in the September issue of Voice Magazine. Fortunately for us, Rosanne recognized the importance of her visit to Bristol and agreed to most of our requests, including the interview for Voice that you can read here.

Though I have been privileged to meet many amazing acts, it’s pretty unusual for me to have much contact with big name, headlining artists at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion. Other BCM team members usually work through artists’ tour managers to meet their needs. Unless I’m arranging interviews for them or just happen to be at their stage at the right time, I’m generally just a spectator like everyone else. In this instance, because my team and I were organizing the press event and I already had somewhat of a rapport with Danny, it just made sense for me to be the point person for Rosanne.

Rosanne was performing on Sunday, closing out Bristol Rhythm on its third and final day. Though her schedule was too busy to take in the entire museum, she did have a brief window of time to tour the special exhibit and speak to the media. Our team worked out a logistics plan for the press event at the museum, and we alerted attending journalists that there would be an opportunity for interviews. Here’s what the itinerary looked like:

Photo of a crumpled note containing details of Rosanne Cash's itinerary during Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion
Found on my phone: A crumpled itinerary for Rosanne’s visit to the festival. Photo credit: Charlene Tipton Baker

10 a.m.: Rosanne and her team’s flight lands in Knoxville
12:30 p.m.: Rosanne arrives in Bristol
3:25 p.m.: Meet Rosanne in lobby at hotel
3:30 p.m.: Special exhibit tour
3:50 p.m.: Press event at museum
4:00 p.m.: Return Rosanne to hotel
4:45 p.m.: Pick up Rosanne from hotel lobby, take her to stage
5:15 p.m.: Rosanne’s performance
6:35 p.m.: Take Rosanne back to hotel

When you factor in how long it takes to get from point A to point B, you can see the itinerary is packed pretty tight. Not only did we want Rosanne and her team to have a good experience in Bristol, it was also important for the press event to be of value to our journalists. Many of them were there specifically to get an interview with her. Everything needed to be perfectly organized to stay on time.

BCM arranged for two drivers to pick up Rosanne, her team, and her band from the airport in rented SUVs. BCM booked a suite next door to the museum at The Bristol Hotel for Rosanne so she would be close by. Our drivers communicated to us that her flight had arrived on time, so we all breathed a sigh of relief. To remain on schedule, every detail had to be mapped out perfectly.

Photo of Charlene Baker standing in Rosanne Cash's suite at The Bristol Hotel, holding a gift bag.
Delivering a welcome gift to Rosanne’s suite at The Bristol Hotel.Photo credit: Danielle Dror.

We put together a gift bag full of Bristol goodies from The Museum Store to have waiting in Rosanne’s hotel room before she arrived. Afterward we did a walkthrough of the press event with BCM staff to make sure our logistics were on point. When it was time, I met Leah Ross, BCM’s executive director of advancement, in the lobby of the hotel to greet Rosanne and her manager. We were only waiting a few minutes when Rosanne and Danny Kahn stepped off the elevator.

Rosanne Cash is a lovely lady with smiling eyes – and tiny! Maybe 5′ 2″ or 5′ 3″. My impression of  her is that she is friendly, composed, and a bit reserved. She had that “look” I’ve seen on faces of other touring artists just arriving at the festival for the first time – it’s kind of like they’re trying to get their sea legs back after being on the road for a while. When I recognize “the look,” I am quick to reassure them of what’s coming next, answer questions, and generally try to make them feel at home.  I gave the spiel to Danny Kahn – running through the logistics of how we’d be getting them to and from the museum, what would happen once we got there, and how we’d get them back to the hotel and to the stage. I sensed some relief before I guided them out the back of the hotel to my golf cart. I’ll add that Danny was great to work with. He has managed Rosanne for about 25 years and is very friendly, organized and hands-on. Every artist should be so lucky as to have a Danny Kahn on their team.

Photo of Rosanne Cash, her manager Danny Kahn, Leah Ross, and Charlene Baker
(Clockwise L to R) One of my infamous festival selfies with Rosanne, Danny Kahn, and Leah Ross. Please ignore the Port-O-Potty. Photo credit Charlene Tipton Baker.

Dr. Rene Rodgers, head curator at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, was waiting for us at the back door. I made the introductions and, to save time, Rene immediately started talking about the special exhibit as we walked through the museum’s loading dock and into the back entrance of the special exhibit. I didn’t linger at this point, instead choosing to meet Cindy and Danielle who were waiting to let the media inside. At this time they were all gathered in the atrium of the museum. Our plan was to allow Rosanne a few minutes to browse the exhibit with Rene and then quietly open the door for the media about halfway through so they could set up any cameras and microphones.

Rosanne Cash pointing out a photo to her husband, John Levanthal
Rosanne and her husband, John Leventhal, admiring one of the photos in the special exhibit “1968: A Folsom Redemption.” Photo credit: Charlene Tipton Baker

Rosanne was genuinely engaged in the exhibit, and it was truly special to see her stop and admire certain photographs of her dad and ask questions. At some point Rosanne’s husband, John Leventhal, joined us in the gallery. Rosanne lingered at several photos, sometimes pointing things out to John and Danny, and commented on the ones she liked the most. Her smile spoke volumes as she moved from photograph to photograph and I believe she was sincerely moved by the experience.

Rosanne Cash lingering at a photo of her late father, Johnny Cash
Rosanne lingering a bit at this photo of her late father, Johnny Cash. The photo was taken at his concert at Folsom Prison in 1951. Photo credit: Ashli Linkous

After a few minutes, we quietly allowed the media to enter the room. When she had worked her way through the exhibit to the front of the gallery, we had a chair set up at the end of the room so she could sit and take questions, and she answered every single one. My friend Joe Dashiell, a veteran reporter at WDBJ-7 TV in Roanoke, had driven down for the event that day and captured this wonderful story.

More than a dozen journalists line up in the special exhibit
International, national, and regional media in attendance at the presser for Rosanne Cash. Photo credit: Charlene Tipton Baker

Tom Wilmer, host of NPR’s “Journeys of Discovery” podcast, and Justin Goldman, Deputy Editor of Hemispheres, United Airlines’ onboard magazine, had previously requested one-on-one interviews with Rosanne following the press event. After we cleared the room, they stayed behind to speak with her. Neither of their interviews have posted yet, but if you follow us on social media they will be shared there once they’re online.

NPR's Tom Wilmer, wearing headphones, conducting an interview with Rosanne Cash
NPR’s Tom Wilmer interviewing Rosanne Cash. Photo credit: Charlene Tipton Baker

Side note: This was Tom Wilmer’s second visit to Bristol. He had visited the museum once when we first opened and I did an interview with him then. Cindy Dupree worked diligently to get him back to Bristol for the festival this year, and he collected a ton of interviews over the course of the three-day event. Click here to listen to his first story, “Bristol, VA-TN – resonating with America’s musical soul for a Century.” Click here to listen to his second story with Jack King, fourth generation owner of L. C. King Manufacturing Co., founded in Downtown Bristol in 1913 and the unofficial outfitter of musicians passing through town. You’ll hear a brief promo for NPR by Rosanne, recorded by Tom during his interview, at the end of the podcast.

Rosanne Cash posing next to one of her favorite images of her late father, Johnny Cash.
Rosanne pointing out one of her favorite photos of her dad. Photo credit: Ashli Linkous

Once her interviews were over, I rushed Rosanne back to her hotel on via trusty golf cart so she could freshen up before her set. I waited in the lobby until it was time to take her to the State Street Stage. Before long, she reemerged from the elevator, having changed into a simple black suit and contrasting red blouse – very reminiscent of her legendary father.

The golf cart ride gave me the opportunity to tell her a little more about the festival, since she wouldn’t have time to take it all in. I remember telling her that she would be standing in both states on the State Street Stage and she found that amusing, as most artists do. Many don’t realize until they arrive in Bristol what that looks like, and it’s so cool when they make that discovery.

Molly Tuttle talking to Rosanne Cash backstage at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion
Molly Tuttle and Rosanne Cash meet for the first time at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion. Great moment! Photo credit: Charlene Tipton Baker

Once backstage, I noticed Molly Tuttle standing in the wings. She had just finished her own set, and I could tell she really wanted to talk to Rosanne. Though Molly has performed at Bristol Rhythm several times, I’d never had the opportunity to meet her…but I am a big fan! Ironically, she was wearing a Molly Tuttle t-shirt and I couldn’t help but comment on it. I pulled her over to Rosanne and asked if they’d ever met. Immediately Rosanne says, “No, but I LOVE you!” Molly’s face lit up. I walked away so they could chat privately; it made me happy to have initiated the exchange. It’s moments like these I cherish most at the festival – people connecting. They will always remember when they met for the first time in Bristol. Priceless!

A photo of publicist Danielle Dror taking a selfie with Jim Lauderdale and Charlene Baker backstage at Bristol Rhythm
A fun backstage moment with Danielle Dror and Jim Lauderdale. Two of my favorite humans! Photo credit: Jon Houser

At that point I needed to break away to help Danielle with a task, my memory is a little fuzzy on what we were doing, but we left on a golf cart to do…something? On our way back we spotted Jim Lauderdale walking a block over on Shelby Street. He was on his way to see Rosanne. Of course we stopped and offered him a ride.

A little backstory: My relationship with Jim Lauderdale is now very informal. He is an old friend of the festival and has been so gracious and kind to us over the years. He has also gone above and beyond to promote Bristol on our behalf.  Not only is he an immensely talented artist, he is a wonderful human and I genuinely love him. He is also super-accessible at the festival. He walks around from stage to stage as a fan…just amazing. Jim and Rosanne have been friends for decades – Jim actually introduced her to John Leventhal when she was still married to Rodney Crowell. She talks about the encounter in this interview with The Bitter Southerner, in case you’re interested. There are so many connections to Jim Lauderdale, I often joke that he’s the Kevin Bacon of country music!

When we made it back to the State Street Stage, Jim in tow, quite a crowd had formed. Rosanne’s was the final set of the festival, so throngs of people were making their way to see her perform. BCM had arranged for Bristol’s Mountain Empire Children’s Choral Academy‘s (MECCA) Highlands Youth Ensemble students to perform a tribute to Johnny Cash just prior to Rosanne’s set. They delivered a terrific performance to classics like “Ring of Fire” and “I Walk the Line” – just precious!

Photo of the Mountain Empire Children's Choral Academy's Highlands Youth Ensemble, boys and girls, dressed in black and wearing cowboy hats.
MECCA’s Highlands Youth Ensemble waiting to go on stage. Photo by Charlene Tipton Baker.

When it was time for Rosanne to take the stage, all of State Street erupted in thunderous applause. She began her set with “A Feather’s Not a Bird” and “The Sunken Lands” from her album The River & The Thread, then “The Only Thing Worth Fighting For” from She Remembers Everything. A little later in her set, she stopped to speak.

Rosanne Cash speaking into a microphone.
Rosanne Cash addressing her audience from the State Street Stage at the 21st annual Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, 2022, on the 95th anniversary of the 1927 Bristol Sessions. Photo credit: Billie Wheeler.

“I owe the Carter Family a tremendous debt because all of those Carter women…the first things I learned on guitar were those Carter Family songs,” Rosanne said from the stage. Then she broke into the Carter Family classic “Bury Me Beneath the Weeping Willow” from the 1927 Bristol Sessions.

Bristol Rhythm moments like these are simply iconic. Though I believe the majority of people who come to the festival know our history, it is likely that there are some who do not and just come to enjoy great music. Whenever an artist pays reverence to the 1927 Bristol Sessions from our stages, it’s a teaching moment. For Bristolians, in particular, it reinforces the work we are doing at BCM and reenergizes that sense of community pride for our music heritage. This declaration by Rosanne Cash – coupled with that song – festival GOLD. Check out Rosanne’s entire Bristol Rhythm 2022 set list here.

Rosanne Cash on stage with Highlands Youth Ensemble
Rosanne Cash with MECCA’s Highlands Youth Ensemble at Bristol Rhythm 2022. Photo courtesy: Mountain Empire Children’s Choral Academy

Rosanne had asked the Highlands Youth Choir kids to come back and join her on stage for one final number, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” a song that always brings tears to my eyes especially when it’s performed at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion. Luckily, someone in the audience captured the performance on video and posted it to YouTube, so you can see it here. Seeing the kids grooving with Rosanne during the performance was unforgettable and heartwarming.

Windblown Rosanne Cash, smiling and wearing sunglass, as she passes the famous Bristol sign.
A quick selfie of Rosanne as we passed the Bristol Sign as we whizzed past on a golf cart. I purposefully cut myself out of the photo. Photo credit: Charlene Tipton Baker

After her set Rosanne spoke to a few fans and signed autographs, then I took her and John back to the hotel. Rosanne asked for a glass of wine to be sent up to her room and I jokingly said, “I’ll hook you up.” Amused, she shot me the side-eye and a sly smile before going up to her room. I immediately approached the hotel desk manager and asked them to send up a whole bottle!

About 15 minutes later Danny Kahn called my cell. He was still with the band at the State Street Stage loading up gear, but needed guidance getting his SUV over to the hotel. The barricades make it difficult to get around easily, but there is a route for emergency vehicles.  I met up with him and he followed me in my golf cart to the back entrance.

Figuring my job for the day was done, I headed to Lumac Rooftop Bar above the Bristol Hotel for a much-needed cocktail with Cindy and Danielle. Just as I emerged from the elevator and into the bar, the bottom let out on a giant rain storm that had been threatening to burst all day. The hotel boasts 360 views of the entire city, but visibility at that moment was zero! It was coming down hard as bar patrons fled from the rooftop patio, soaked to the bone. Thank little baby Jesus the festival had ended at that point, but I instantly worried about everyone who was left out there trying to tear down their tents in the storm. The bartender handed me a martini and no sooner than I took the first sip, my phone rang.

“Rosanne is wondering around the lobby of the hotel and doesn’t know where to go. Will you help?” asked Danny Kahn. He was still outside the hotel, no doubt getting soaked. Without hesitation, I quickly got back on the elevator and headed downstairs. When the elevator doors opened, Rosanne was standing on the other side at our usual pick-up spot, looking beautiful and relaxed in an oversized, white sweatshirt and black leggings. It was then that I realized I was still holding my drink.

“I’m having a drink too,” I said, a little embarrassed, then set it down on a little table outside the hotel conference room. She gave me that gorgeous mega-watt smile and I guided her to the back exit. When we opened the door, we saw that Rosanne’s tour manager had backed  the SUV into the little covered porch to try and stay dry as he loaded up suitcases. Rosanne got into the SUV and I ran over to the driver’s side to give Danny directions to the interstate. A minute or two later, they were driving away, headed back to Knoxville to spend the night so they could catch an early morning flight.

A close-up photo of a martini with two olives.
Reflecting on a fabulous festival with my favorite libation, a dirty Bombay Sapphire martini with extra olives.

In solitude, I lingered under the porch in the back of the hotel to watch the rain for a little while and finished my martini, reflecting on that historic day in Bristol’s history and silently mourning the passing of another great festival. Each year I marvel at how truly precious all those little moments are that make up Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion weekend – and how they always seem to come and go so quickly.






A Celebration of Tennessee Music Pathways!

October 26 is National Tennessee Day, and we want to share one of the many things that we think makes this state so great – its connection to music! As the “home” to seven genres of music – country, blues, bluegrass, gospel, soul, rockabilly, and rock ‘n’ roll – Tennessee’s music heritage is as diverse as its landscape. Beyond the lights of “Music City, USA,” the sounds of country music echo from the mountains of east Tennessee while the blues wails from the west. With so many musical points of interest – including our very own Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol, Tennessee/VA – the music heritage of this state runs deep.

In 2018 the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development launched Tennessee Music Pathways to help tourists and locals alike recognize the state’s significant musical history. Over 500 landmarks, attractions, and points of interest from all seven genres of music that call Tennessee home were identified, marked, and compiled into an online interactive guide. Using this guide, you can put together a driving tour across the state based on your own musical interests. You can search for sites related to a specific person or genre of music; search by type of venue or site such as a museum, recording studio, concert hall, historic marker, or festival; or by location if you have a destination already in mind and just want to turn up the volume on your trip by adding a few extra stops to your itinerary. The Pathway makes it easy to find music destinations to break up – and enhance – your drive.

Here are a few lesser known stops along the pathway you may want to visit on your way to or from the Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Bristol, Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, the Grand Ole Opry and Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, and Sun Studios, Graceland, or the Blues Hall of Fame in Memphis.

Photograph of nine Black and white men and women standing around the TN Music Pathways marker dedicated to Lesley Riddle. The marker includes a panel with information and a photograph of Lesley Riddle with the guitar pick-shaped TN Music Pathways icon above it.

Image from the Tennessee Music Pathways website

Lesley Riddle Marker

Pathway markers have been popping up all over the state to highlight locations where significant musical events took place, such as this marker for Lesley Riddle in Kingsport, Tennessee, the city where he and A. P. Carter met in the 1920s. Riddle was a musician and friend of The Carter Family who taught them many songs and influenced Maybelle Carter’s iconic “Carter Scratch” guitar style. Riddle also travelled extensively through the segregated south with A. P. as one half of an interracial song collecting duo.  You can learn more about him by reading In Search of Lesley Riddle, one of our blog posts from 2017.

A photograph of 11 Black and white men and women standing around the DeFord Bailey TN Music Pathways marker. The marker is rectangular with info about and an image of DeFord Bailey; the TN Music Pathways guitar pick-shaped icon is above the main panel.

DeFord Bailey family with his Tennessee Pathways Marker. Image is from Smith County Insider

DeFord Bailey Marker

Another marker you won’t want to miss is located in Carthage, Tennessee. This marker honors DeFord Bailey, the first African American star of the Grand Ole Opry and the first performer introduced on the show under the name “Grand Ole Opry.” Bailey appeared on the show twice as often as any other artist in 1928 and remained a regular performer on the show through 1941.

A long single-story brick building with garden planting in front of it and the museum's name on a sign before the entrance door.

Image from Casey Jones Home and Railroad Museum website

Casey Jones Home and Railroad Museum

In Jackson, Tennessee, you can visit the Casey Jones Home and Railroad Museum. This is the original 1870s home of the railroad engineer who sacrificed himself to save his coworkers and passengers from a potentially catastrophic crash. Jones has been immortalized in country music with over 40 versions of the “The Ballad of Casey Jones,” giving him a nearly mythical status.

A white clapboard building -- an old schoolhouse -- with steps leading up to a pale blue grey door. There is a bell on a pole near the steps.

Image from Tina Turner Museum website 

Tina Turner Museum

In Brownsville, Tennessee, stop in to see the Tina Turner Museum, which is housed in the Flagg Grove School – a one-room school building Turner attended as a child. The school was built on grounds donated by Turner’s great-uncle, Benjamin Flagg, in 1889. The school was moved from Nutbush and renovated in 2012 to house a collection of the “Queen of Rock’s” memorabilia, from stage outfits to gold records to yearbooks, as well as interpreting what education and school life would have been like for African American children in a small rural community in the 1940s through the 1960s.

Two images: To the left, a statue of Minnie Pearl from the shoulders up made of chicken wire and set within some large rocks and trees in what looks to be a park. She is wearing her iconic flowered hat with the price tag on it. To the right, a large metal microphone with several dark coils (made to look like the mic's wire) that can be used to attach your bike to when leaving it behind.

Minnie Pearl statue image from Kelly Kazek’s (ODD)YSSEY blog; microphone bike rack image from nashvillepublicart.com

Public Art

If you don’t have time for a museum, maybe photo ops with public art pieces are more your speed! If so, check out Centerville, Tennessee’s larger-than-life statue of Minnie Pearl made entirely of chicken wire. And if you need a break while biking around Nashville, you can park your bike next to a giant microphone bike rack.

Two views of George Jones grave and cemetery monument. To the left is the grave marked otut on the ground with a raised border and a carved stone top with his name on it. There are flowers at the head of the grave. To the right is the large marble monument made of columns, arches, and bearing his name.

Photographs by Tony Stogsdill 

In Musical Memoriam

You can even curate a personalized graveyard tour to honor and offer tribute to your favorite musical stars of the past. See the list below for just a few places where some of country music’s most beloved stars are resting in Tennessee. If you want to expand your trip outside the state, check out our blog post From Rhinestones to Tombstones: Memorial Monuments of Country Music’s Dearly Departed to learn more about the gravesites of some of country music’s dearly departed stars.

  • Hope Cemetery, Franklin, Tennessee – Minnie Pearl
  • Williamson Memorial Garden, Franklin, Tennessee – Sam McGee, Kirk McGee, Carl Smith, Goldie Hill, Skeeter Davis
  • Hendersonville Memory Gardens, Hendersonville, Tennessee – Mother Maybelle Carter, Helen Carter, Anita Carter, June Carter Cash, Johnny Cash, Luther Perkins
  • Ridgecrest Cemetery, Jackson, Tennessee – Carl Perkins
  • Spring Hill Funeral Home and Cemetery, Madison, Tennessee – Roy Acuff, Earl Scruggs, Louise Scruggs, John Hartford, Hank Snow, Kitty Wells, Jimmy Martin
  • Memorial Park Cemetery, Memphis, Tennessee – Sam Phillips, Marshall Grant
  • Greenwood Cemetery, Nashville, Tennessee – DeFord Bailey
  • Harpeth Hills Memory Garden, Nashville, Tennessee – Chet Atkins, Charlie Louvin, Ira Louvin, Eddie Miller
  • Mount Olivet Cemetery, Nashville, Tennessee – Ernest “Pop” Stoneman, Hattie Stoneman
  • Woodlawn Memorial Gardens, Nashville, Tennessee – Eddy Arnold, George Jones, Porter Wagoner, Tammy Wynette
  • Oaklawn Memorial Cemetery, Sparta, Tennessee – Lester Flatt

Jimmy Martin's tombstone: a large rectangular marble stone with curved top. It bears a large amount of text extolling Martin's life events and career achievements, along with an etched image of Martin at the top.

Photograph by Lane Owens White 

Erika Barker is the museum’s Curatorial Manager.

Radio Bristol Spotlight: Florencia & the Feeling

Radio Bristol is proud to offer a platform to local and regional artists who are often underrepresented on a national level yet deserving of that audience. In expanding upon Radio Bristol’s core mission we are pleased to bring you our Radio Bristol Spotlight series, which highlights the top emerging artists in our region. Through interviews and performance, we will learn more about the musicians who help make Central Appalachia one of the richest, and most unique musical landscapes in the world.

Last month in the Radio Bristol studio we hosted a band that is very much on the rise in the Tri-Cities – Florencia & the Feeling, a Johnson City-based jazz-infused pop-funk band with Latin roots. This band has several top-tier gigs under their belt, including shows at The Down Home, The Jones House in Boone, North Carolina, and recently opening for country Tex-Mex great, The Mavericks. The group also had their debut performance at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion this September. With tight rhythmic jams and groovy guitar riffs, Florencia & the Feeling have been majorly wowing regional audiences. We were thrilled to catch them on a day off the road for a quick chat and live performance in our studio. Front woman Florencia Rusiñol talked about her musical background, influences, and new music on the horizon.

¡Qué buena onda!  (What a good vibe!)

The bandon stage with a multitude of colored lights shining down on them, coalescing into a purpse aura.

Florencia & the Feeling performing at local venue Capone’s in Johnson City, Tennessee. Photo courtesy of Jason Vaper

 An abbreviated version of “The Feeling” joined us on air in the Radio Bristol studio with guitarist Noa Wise and keys player Isaac Ratliff. Typically, the band consists of six pieces with a full drum kit (Austin Herron), electric bass (Nick Castro), and violin (Diego Núñez). The trio started things off with a song called “Meant to Be,” a soulful heartbreak song with cohesive syncopated stops and old-school R & B-inspired three-part harmonies. Florencia’s soaring voice was accented by dazzling progressive jazz chord voicings; making it crystal clear that this is a band with serious musical chops. It comes as no surprise that Wise studied musical performance as a jazz guitarist at East Tennessee State University (ETSU), and Florencia studied music therapy and guitar while at Queens College in Charlotte, North Carolina. The depth of their musical understanding comes across instantly to the listener and packs a sonic punch that isn’t easily forgotten. You would think that this band had played together for years to pull off so many rhythmic acrobatics with silky smooth finesse, but in fact, they are relatively new and fully formed after Rusiñol left her full-time music therapy job in Washington, D.C. during the pandemic.

Although the current lineup of the band is new, Florencia told us she has had a few different mash-ups of musicians for her songwriting, and has always thought of her music in terms of being with a full band. She considers this the third iteration, now comprised of close-knit high school friends and exceptional local talent. The band began in early 2021 when Castro and Herron got together to play a virtual show with Florencia for a socially distant stream. Little did they know that this performance would be the kick-off to a whirlwind tour throughout the South East. As booking requests started pouring in, the band formulated around Florencia’s writing, drawing inspiration from progressive jazz, bossa nova, disco rhythms, thoughtfully executed choral arrangements, and Latin American bolero-style music, distinctive for its rumba-esque walking beat and bien parado (“sudden stops”). The group hit the ground running, playing over 50 shows in 2021, and this year “The Feeling” has accelerated into high gear playing dozens of regional music festivals and touring through multiple states.

Currently, the band is working on recording a new album, which should be out in the next year. Slated to be produced by Grammy winner Martin Walters, who is also the director of jazz studies and contemporary music at ETSU. While speaking about the new recordings on air, the band hinted that there may be some singles released by the end of this year, possibly joined by guest artists, and assured us they would most definitely include a horn section.

A close-up of Florencia from the shoulders up -- she has long brown hair and is wearing a red patterned hair band/scarf to hold her hair back from her face. The background is blurred but seems to be trees and buildings.

Florencia Rusiñol. Courtesy of Florencia Rusiñol

Before the pandemic, Florencia was no stranger to traveling and spent time teaching music and art therapy in Atlanta, D.C., and Ecuador. With family roots in Argentina, Rusiñol’s time in South America gave birth to her songwriting career, and in 2018 she recorded a debut EP in Ecuador. Backed by a dazzling full band, complete with a horn section and twinkling jazz piano, the self-titled EP is an eye-opening testimony to the young songwriter’s talent for envisioning musical arrangements and manifesting them into lush full-scale productions. To hear Florencia’s EP, check out this link, and don’t forget to share it with your friends!

Florencia shared that this past year she has dived headfirst into being a full-time musician, saying that in the past she had always told herself it was too hard or not a possibility. However, recently her heart has led her to give it a sincere effort – one that is playing off in regional accolades and top tier gigs. The last song they performed for us – “What Can I Do?” – expounds upon that subject and follows her journey to accepting the need to be a working musician. Sweeping extended chords and catchy pop-funk walk ups accentuate the song’s subject matter, connecting with Florencia’s voice, unregulated with breath-taking accuracy and improvisational melody lines.

Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for new music from Florencia & the Feeling by keeping tabs on their website and following them on social media via Facebook, Instagram and Spotify. And catch “The Feeling” playing at a local venue or festival near you!

Radio Bristol Book Club: Segregating Sound: Inventing Folk and Pop Music in the Age of Jim Crow

Welcome to Radio Bristol Book Club where readers from BCM and the Bristol Public Library come together each month to celebrate and explore books inspired by our region’s rich Appalachian cultural and musical heritage! We invite you to read along and then listen to Radio Bristol on the fourth Thursday of each month at 12:00 noon when we dig deep into the themes and questions raised by the books, learn more about the authors, and celebrate the joys of being a bookworm!

Cultural historian Karl Hagstrom Miller’s first book, Segregating Sound: Inventing Folk and Pop Music in the Age of Jim Crow, combines cultural, economic, and intellectual history to chart the development of a segregated commercial music industry in the early 20th century. Segregating Sound examines popular music in the United States through the intersections of race, gender, sound, and money. A musical color line, corresponding to the physical color line of southern segregation, emerged as both commercial record companies and academic folklorists scoured the south for new songs and categorized them according to the racial ideologies of the day. This book gives readers a more nuanced understanding of the making of musical genres and the impact on these delineations on the music industry. After its publication in 2010, Segregating Sound received the Woody Guthrie Award for the best annual book on popular music from the International Association for the Study of Popular Music.

Black-and-white book cover with title in the center dividing two close-up shots of a guitar player's hands on the neck of the guitar -- one hand is that of a Black musician, the other that of a white musician.

Dr. Karl Hagstrom Miller is an Associate Professor in the Department of Music at the University of Virginia, focusing on Critical and Comparative Studies. He received a Ph.D. in history from New York University and has received fellowships from the Smithsonian Institute and the American Council of Learned Societies. His writing on various pop music topics has appeared in Wax Poetics, Texas Observer, American Music, American Historical Review, and PopMatters, among other venues. Miller is particularly interested in how transformations in commercial markets and music technology changed the ways people used music to forge their conceptions of race and region, imagine their relationship to the broader world, comprehend the past, and dream about the future.

Color image of a white man shown from the upper chest/shoulders up. He has short light brown/dark blonde hair and a "soul patch" tuft of hair below his lower lip. He is wearing a green shirt.

Please make plans to join us on Thursday, October 27 at 12:00pm for the discussion of Segregating Sound: Inventing Folk and Pop Music in the Age of Jim Crow. You can find us on the dial at 100.1 FM, streaming live on Radio Bristol, or via the Radio Bristol app. The book is available at the Bristol Public Library, so be sure to pick up a copy and read it ahead of time. The librarians will be happy to help you find the book. We look forward to exploring this book on-air, and if you have thoughts or questions about the book that you would like to share with our readers, you can email info@birthplaceofcountrymusic.org (Subject line: Radio Bristol Book Club) – your book insights might appear on air with us!

Looking ahead: Our book pick for November is Voices Worth Listening: Three Women of Appalachia by Thomas Burton; we’ll be discussing it on Thursday, November 17. Check out our full list of 2022 Radio Bristol Book Club picks here, where you can also listen to archived shows! We will also be releasing our 2023 reading list in November!

Tonia Kestner is the Executive Director of the Bristol Public Library.