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Instrumental History: Inspired by Jimmie Rodgers Martin 000-45 Guitar

Did you know that last year the Birthplace of Country Music Museum took in on loan one of the most important guitars in American music history – Jimmie Rodgers’ 1928 000-45 Martin? Yep, it’s true, and it’s currently on display here at the museum! 

Jimmie Rodgers: A white man in a dark suit with a bow tie. He wears a light-colored cowboy-style hat and holds a guitar in his hands. The background is dark though you can see a windowed-doorway to the left-hand side of the image.

Jimmie Rodgers. From the John Edwards Memorial Foundation Records, #20001, Southern Folklife Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Over the years this guitar has become one of the most iconic symbols for country music, boasting a mother of pearl neck inlay touting Jimmie Rodgers’ name, an iconic hand-painted “THANKS” on the back of the guitar, the words “Blue Yodel” in inlay on the headstock, and a label on the interior with a message signed by C. F. Martin himself. Of course, the guitar was made famous by not only Rodgers – recognized as “the Father of Country Music” and also known as “the Singing Brakeman” and “America’s Blue Yodeler” – but also by honky tonk great Ernest Tubb, who was loaned the famous guitar by Jimmie’s widow Carrie Rodgers. Ernest went on to play the guitar for nearly 40 years, helping to solidify its importance in the history of country music.

Left image: Guitar seen from the front in a museum exhibit case. You can see the inlay "Jimmie Rodgers" and "Blue Yodel" on the neck and headstock. Right image: Guitar seen from the back in museum exhibit case. "Thanks" is painted on the back of the guitar's body.

Jimmie Rodgers’ 1928 Martin 000-45 on display at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. © Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: Ashli Linkous

To celebrate this iconic guitar in its temporary home here at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, Clint Holley – Radio Bristol DJ and host of “Pressing Matters” – has been working with museum and radio staff to create and share a three-episode program featuring perspectives from scholars and musicians from across the country. Titled “Instrumental History: Thoughts & Anecdotes on Jimmie Rodgers Martin 000-45 ‘Blue Yodel’ Guitar,” the program will air on Fridays at 6:00 pm ET on Radio Bristol for the next six weeks launching Friday, February 3 – each episode will be aired two week in a row. And so, in other words, tune in tonight for the first one! 

To get us warmed up and ready for the series, we asked some of our knowledgeable Radio Bristol DJs to tell us about their favorite Jimmie Rodger’s songs, whether sung by him or a cover by another artist. Our DJs came through with some great, if not surprising, choices. 

Crystal Gayle, “Miss the Mississippi and You”

“A thoroughly modern take on this classic song. Although NOT written by Jimmie, he made it his own and was the first to release it in 1932. The song has been recorded over 40 times, and Crystal’s version is the first I could find with a female singer as the main character. Produced with contemporary sounds in the late 1970s, this version shows how flexible and enduring the song truly is.”

~ Clint Holley, Pressing Matters

Jorma Kaukonen, “Prohibition Blues”

“I want to nominate Jorma Kaukonen’s version of Jimmie’s never-recovered master of “Prohibition Blues” from his album Blue Country Heart as my favorite…both for its rarity and its timely nature. The fact that he had the writer, Clayton McMichen, play on his recording of it is even more interesting and shows how much respect Rodgers had for his fellow musicians. As a collector’s aside, can you imagine finding that master sitting in a dusty storeroom somewhere today? Talk about your Holy Grail! It would probably be worth more than the 000-45 that we are so lucky to get to display!

Jorma’s version is, of course, outstanding as well with a superb lineup, and he does it justice with humor and flawless musicianship. I will admit to prejudice here, because Jorma is a good friend whose music is a large part of my repertoire…but his choice of that song is a rare treat for us all.”

~ Marshall Ballew, Off the Beaten Track

Jimmie Rodgers, “Waiting for a Train”

“Two of Jimmie Rodgers’ tunes that I have always connected with are “Waiting for a Train” and “Miss the Mississippi and You.” Jimmie wrote his version of  “Waiting for a Train” based on an English tune from the 19th century. He recorded it in 1929 for Ralph Peer’s Victor label on the back side of “Blue Yodel #4.” I have always liked the horns at the beginning; they resonate with my traditional jazz roots. “Miss the Mississippi and You was recorded later and has that feeling, to me, that Jimmie knew his time was increasingly short. I think Jimmie was able to translate a number of types of music into his own unique style, which is why he was so popular. I hear the music of Western styles in his yodel and jazz in his singing, coupled with the Delta blues and Appalachian sounds. It is a compelling combination. He also recorded long enough that his later songs were technologically better recorded than his early stuff. He was a true artist who died way too young.”

~ Bill Smith – Crooked Road Radio Hour

Jimmie Rodgers, “Last Blue Yodel”  

“A part of Jimmie Rodgers’ final group of recordings, performed during the sessions that took place in New York City just 48 hours before his untimely death, “Last Blue Yodel” is a poignant soliloquy relinquishing personal thoughts on heartbreak. Following a 12-bar-blues format paired with Jimmie’s trademark yodeling, which Rodgers employed on all of his series of 13 Blue Yodels, this last one has become my favorite for its directness and intensity. The tag of each verse admits “The women make a fool out of me.” Rodgers known for his intimate solo guitar style is also one of the first singers to display confessional songwriting, which has deeply shaped country music as a genre, and my own personal approach to creating songs.”

~ Ella Patrick, Folk Yeah!

Leon Redbone, “T.B. Blues”

“My personal favorite cover version of a Jimmie Rodgers song is Leon Redbone’s rendition of “T.B. Blues.” The song itself always stood out to me because of the unique perspective of writing so specifically about one’s own mortality. It was covered by several bluesmen that I took to when I first started researching the blues, but Redbone’s version has the perfect amount of his own style while still paying homage to the original.”

~ Scotty Almany, Scotty’s Tune Up

 

Kris Truelsen is the Radio Bristol Program Director.

Radio Bristol’s Top Albums of 2022

As 2022 comes to a close, it becomes a time for reflection – and so Radio Bristol would like to take the opportunity to look back at some of the releases that made this past year memorable on the music front. This year saw releases from many great artists, including some heavy hitters like Billy Strings and Tyler Childers, and many breakout artists like Adeem the Artist, Miko Marks, and more. With so many great releases this year, it’s tough to narrow it down, but here are just a few of our recommendations for some of this year’s standout releases.  As always, if you tune into Radio Bristol you’re sure to hear all these artists regularly spinning on our airwaves!

49 Winchester // Fortune Favors the Bold

The boot-scuffing barstool ballads of 49 Winchester’s fourth studio album, Fortune Favors the Bold, has landed the band national acclaim and the mega fandom of country music superstars such as Luke Combs. A festival favorite at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, the Russell County, Virginia natives have gone from playing small venues on Bristol’s State Street to selling out theaters across the country.

Composed of high school buddies who grew up together in nearby Castlewood, Virginia, 49 Winchester’s newest release relates genuine downhome grit with dang-good storytelling, showcasing the group’s infectious Southern rock-infused brand of Appalachian folk meets country soul.

Leyla McCalla // Breaking the Thermometer (To Hide the Fever)

New Orleans-based multi-instrumentalist Leyla McCalla’s newest album, Breaking the Thermometer, explores her Haitian-American heritage through the troublesome history of Creole-language based Radio Haiti, an independent station that for decades confronted corruption with traditional Creole music. This interdisciplinary project, commissioned by Duke University, also combines storytelling, dance, video projection, and audio recordings from the Radio Haiti Archive which can be viewed during live performances.

Breaking the Thermometer feels like an exuberant analysis of culture, physiological space, and political discourse, with vibrant cello arrangements and emotive organic soundscapes that feel epic in scale and intensity.

Image: Album cover has a stark black background with a Black woman sitting in the center of it. She has her hair pulled back and faces to the left; she is wearing a white cross-over short-sleeved top and dark pants/skirt.

The A’s // Fruit

Sylvan Esso’s Amelia Meath and longtime musical collaborator Alexandra Sauser-Monnig teamed up for a new project as The A’s, recently releasing Fruit, an idiosyncratic collection of folk songs that glean inspiration from early country music’s yodeling farm girls, The DeZurik Sisters. Recorded over a two-week stint during balmy summer nights at Sylvan Esso’s Chapel Hill studio “The Betty,” the pair playfully procured songs such as Harry Nilsson “He Needs Me” and traditional ballads like “Swing and Turn Jubilee” and “Copper Kettle” with endearing whimsy and hair-raising vocal harmonies.

The clarity of their voices peppered amidst a capella and thoughtfully accompanied atmospheric tracks create a glowing sense of intimacy, harkening back to early American field recordings, while sounding ultra contemporary. A perfect choice for a rainy day or a sun dappled picnic!

Image: Two white women lie in the center of the image looking at the camera. The woman in the foreground is wearing all black and sunglasses; she has medium-length brown hair. The woman behind her is wearing all white and has platinum blond hair. Vibrantly colored fruits and flowers are painted on the background behind them.

Brennen Leigh// Obsessed with the West

Brennen Leigh’s collaborative Western swing-inspired record Obsessed with the West hit the vintage vibes music lover’s scene with a punch. Produced by Ray Benson, whose legendary band Asleep at the Wheel also backed Leigh on the recording, this album is a grand excursion into a well-loved subgenre of country music. Punctuated by 1940s jump blues, folk cowboy balladry, and jazz-infused country, the tracks read like a love note addressed to the austere beauty of the Western plains. Nashville by-way-of Austin, Texas-based singer Leigh’s voice sways across the rollicking big band like a silk cloud of sawdust with a mellow swagger that feels effortlessly cool.

Image: Album cover has a reddish brown border around the central photograph. In the photo, a young white woman with long brown hair is walking towards the camera; she wears a reddish-brown and white prairie-style top and skirt with western belt. A landscape of scrubby brush and mountains can be seen behind her.

Charlie Crockett // Man from Waco

Charlie Crockett, the record-slinging Texan with an ever-expanding discography of retro-tinged Americana gold, has now become one of the most popular artists in independent country. Crockett is currently landing in a new stratosphere for roots musicians dominating the independent Americana radio with the #1 album and #1 song on the release of Man from Waco.

Man From Waco is a loosely conceptualized project with a theme song that both introduces and closes the album, drawing its inspiration from legendary country music singer James Hand. Mostly recorded live by Crockett and his band The Blue Drifters,’ this new album solidifies Crockett’s monstrous talent and incredible ability to turn out top grade recordings.

Swimming through multiple genres – including funk, R&B, soul, Tex-Mex, Western swing, folk, and traditional country – Crockett treads water through uncharted territories with an easy grin, maintaining his authentic aww-shucks attitude and relaxed cowboy charm though vulnerable lyrics.

Image: This album cover shows a scrubby mountainous landscape with a Black man in western clothes walking down a slope in the foreground. He wears a cowboy hat, blue shirt, and jeans, and he carries a black guitar case.

Willie Carlisle // Peculiar, Missouri

Peculiar, Missouri, Willi Carlisle’s newest release on Free Dirt Records, further authenticates the rising songwriter’s rare talent for storytelling. Packed full of poetic grit and intimate ruminations on the human condition, Carlisle’s musical performance feels like Allen Ginsburg and Utah Phillps bore a folkster lovechild with a voracious proclivity for personal truth.

This album acts as a stylistic barometer of American folk music, with flashes of honky tonk on the socially-aware single “Vanlife,” Tejano-on-Cowboy border ballad “Este Mundo,” and talking blues on the title track – an anxious Guthrie-esque account of an existential “come apart” in the Walmart cosmetic aisle. Every so often Carlisle releases a tremulous yawp amidst impossibly witty lyrics like a reflexive revolt against the absurdity of existence; his voice feels like something familiar and something wholly new that we’ve never heard before.

Image: Album cover and CD, both pink. In the center of the album cover is a sepia photograph of a white man from the shoulder up. He has dark hair and a short beard, and is wearing a cowboy hat and collared button-down shirt. In each corner of the album are graphic symbols like a hand with a pen and a crying eye.

Tyler Childers // Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven?

Liberator of free thought in country songwriting the Kentucky poet Tyler Childers’ triple-LP Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven? is a complex celebration of traditional Appalachian religious music, offering social commentary with an ecumenical scope. The album’s eight tracks are imagined in three different arrangements – the “Hallelujah” version, which has an unadorned “live” feel; the “Jubilee” version, which has more of the production you’d expect from a country music recording, and a “Joyful Noise” version, which seems to delve into the energetic essence of each song though electronic remixes and auditory environments with sound bites from artists such as Jean Ritchie and country comedian Jerry Clower.

Deeply divisional for fans of Childers’ more acoustic releases, Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven? is striking for its imaginative qualities and Childers’ uninhibited sonic journey through nostalgia, spirituality, and contemporary awareness.

Image: Album cover is red with a linen-like book cover feel. In the center in gold writing is the name of the album, Can I Take My Hounds to Heaven? and a small dog.

 S. G. Goodman // Teeth Marks

Western Kentucky-based songsmith, S. G. Goodman made an indelible mark on southern music with their debut album Old-Time Feeling in 2020; its pensive production and self-aware lyricism caught the attention of major music industry players, such as Tyler Childers who recently covered the single “Space and Time.”

Now the queer-identified farmer’s daughter who grew up near the banks of the Mississippi River is carving a place as a rising voice in new-south roots rock on Teeth Marks. Enveloped by surging post-punk meets 1960s southern rock reverb clad guitar, Goodman’s achy voice quavers like an exposed nerve with acute realizations that stem from a progressive rural consciousness, making this album easily one of most intriguing releases of the year.

Image: Album cover is white with a line drawing in the style of connect-the-dots. Numbered dots outline the main part of the drawing -- that of a woman who sits backwards in a wooden chair; she looks to the right and holds a red ball in one hand.

Melissa Carper // Ramblin’ Soul

For the second year in a row, we have to include Austin-based stand-up bassist Melissa Carper’s and her latest recording Ramblin’ Soul. With a similar recipe that created her beloved Daddy’s Country Gold in 2021, Carper’s newest collection of songs was also recorded at the Bomb Shelter in Nashville, Tennessee. Produced by Andrija Tokic and Dennis Crouch of The Time Jumpers, Ramblin’ Soul definitely has a healthy helping of that extra special sauce that has made Carper become a stand out artist on the Americana charts.

With an alluring varnish of vintage tone, Carper masterfully encapsulates a multitude of classic American sounds with glimmers of Western swing, rhythm and blues, country, soul, jazz, and folk, that both sound impressively authentic to the era, and gratifyingly pleasant to hear. This is definitely an album you can put on without skipping a track, perfect for cooking up a mess of biscuits with Caper’s blissful Billie Holiday by way of Loretta Lynn-sque vocals simmering on the backburner.

Vaden Landers // Lock the Door

We would be remiss to not include a local release on this list. East Tennessee native and Bristol resident Vaden Landers envisions traditional country music through a lens made razor sharp by countless performances at dive bars and regional venues, with an undeniable finesse that can only be gained through road-worn experience.

You may have caught Landers performing at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion this year or at State Street’s Cascade Draft House where he and his band – The Hot n’ Ready String Band – played a weekly residency this summer. As a rising purveyor of irrefutable country music, Landers’ newest release on Hill House Records has masterful production, calling to mind the golden era of country music production in the mid-1950s known as The Nashville Sound. Produced at The Bomb Shelter by Andrija Tokic and John James Tourville, the 12 tracks on Lock the Door relay songs of love, heartbreak, and hard living, while Landers’ satisfyingly raspy twang summersaults and yodels across old-school sounding lyrics. No doubt borrowing vocal techniques from country greats such as George Jones and Johnny Paycheck, the album feels like a country fan’s daydream. At Radio Bristol we’ve been spinning this album in heavy rotation and think it’s well worth the listen!

Ella Patrick is a Production Assistant at Radio Bristol. She also hosts Folk Yeah! on Radio Bristol and is a performing musician as Momma Molasses.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Radio Bristol Book Club: The Star Fisher

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!

This month’s book is The Star Fisher by Laurence Yep, a book featured in Reading Appalachia: Voices from Children’s Literature, a special exhibit that was on display at the museum in 2019. Based on Yep’s mother’s childhood, The Star Fisher tells the story of 15-year-old Joan Lee, a Chinese-American girl who moves to West Virginia from Ohio in 1927. Joan and her siblings speak English but her parents only speak Chinese, and while she knows that they are all Americans, no one else seems to see her and her family that way. As they struggle to put down roots in their new town and run their laundry business, Joan encounters prejudice and racism but also kindness. Amidst these experiences, Joan believes that her desire for respect and acceptance mirrors the Chinese legend of the star fisher, a half-bird/half-human creature that sees with two sets of eyes – and so Joan sees life as an Asian and as an American. Aimed at upper elementary and lower middle school readers, this book wonderfully explores the story of an Asian American’s experience and the importance of treating everyone with empathy and respect.

Book cover with the drawing of a young Asian American girl standing at a fence with a house behind her. You can also see the expansive blue night sky and mountains behind her. She is wearing a blue top or dress, and her black hair in in pigtails/braids. She has her chin on one hand and gazes at the sky.

Born in San Francisco in 1948, Laurence Yep published his first story – a science fiction piece – when he was only 18 years old. Yep has said that he often felt torn between mainstream American culture and his Chinese roots when he was growing up, and this theme has often come to fore in his writing throughout his career. Focused on children’s literature, Yep has written over 70 books and other works, including two Newbery Award winners in his Golden Mountain series. The Star Fisher was published in 1991 and was followed by a sequel called Dream Soul in 2000.

A Chinese American man with dark, slightly graying, hair is smiling at the camera. He wears glasses, a greenish-blue checked shirt with a dark blue fleece or sweater vest over it. He has his arms crossed.

Portrait of Laurence Yep from a 2001 article in the Seattle PI

Please make plans to join us on Thursday, December 22 at 12:00pm for our discussion of The Star Fisher. 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 it! 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 ebarker@birthplaceofcountrymusic.org (Subject line: Radio Bristol Book Club) – your book insights might appear on air with us!

Looking ahead: Our book pick for January 2023 is Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy; we’ll be discussing it on Thursday, January 26. Check out a full list of the books we will read in 2023 here, where you can also listen to archived shows.

Rene Rodgers is Head Curator at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum and an avid reader.

Radio Bristol Book Club: Voices Worth the Listening: Three Women in Appalachia

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!

Voices Worth the Listening: Three Women in Appalachia is a powerful look at the lives of three different women from different parts of Appalachia. This oral history paints a complex picture of the region through the unique yet relatable experiences of these interesting women. Their lives are influenced by issues such as race, class, drug culture, education, socioeconomic mobility, self-blame, dysfunctional family, religion, and perseverance, and their stories will resonate with the experiences of people in and outside of the region. This carefully crafted oral history faithfully recounts the lives of these women using their own words to expand the readers understanding of Appalachia and Appalachians.

Image of the book's cover, which shows a black-and-white photograph of what looks to be a rock and wooden beam structure with three blank framed rectangles (windows?) in the center.

Thomas Burton was born in Memphis, Tennessee. He graduated from David Lipscomb College before continuing his education at Vanderbilt University where he earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in English literature. He taught at East Tennessee State University from 1958 until his retirement in 1995. During his time at ETSU he directed the Appalachian-Scottish Studies Program and was appointed Professor Emeritus in 1996. Dr. Burton has conducted many oral interviews in the Appalachian region and published several books including The Serpent and the Spirit: Glenn Summerford‘s Story, Serpent-Handling Believers, and Beech Mountain Man: The Memoirs of Ronda Lee Hicks. He also transcribed and edited Rosie Hicks and Her Recipe Book. He excels at presenting oral histories in text in such a way that brings the reader back to the speaker.

An older white man with grey hair and a white beard. He is wearing a charcoal suit jacket or blazer over a light blue shirt, and he is standing at a wooden dais with a microphone.

Author Thomas Burton.

Please make plans to join us on Thursday, November 17 at 12:00pm (a week earlier than usual due to the Thanksgiving holiday the following week) for our discussion of Voices Worth the Listening: Three Women of Appalachia. 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 December is The Star Fisher by Lawrence Yep; we’ll be discussing it on Thursday, December 22. Check out a full list of the books we have read in 2022 here, where you can also listen to archived shows. Our 2023 Radio Bristol Book Club list will be added to the show’s page soon!

* Top image: Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Image by James St. John and taken from Flickr

Erika Barker is Curatorial Manager at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum and an avid reader.

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.

Radio Bristol Spotlight: Tyler Hughes

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 learn more about the musicians who help to make Central Appalachia one of the richest and most unique musical landscapes in the world.

Recently the Radio Bristol studio hosted ETSU Bluegrass, Old-Time, and Country Music Studies graduate Tyler Hughes who hails from beautiful Big Stone Gap, Virginia. Tyler wears many metaphorical hats – some might even call him a modern-day mountain renaissance man – including songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, square dance caller, music teacher, regional music historian, avid gardener, and social justice advocate. During the pandemic, Tyler also worked as a ranger for Southwest Virginia Museum Historical State Park where he booked musical lineups for events such as Gathering in the Gap.

This past summer Tyler played dozens of events at regional venues and recently even performed at The Grand Ole Opry! While in our studio Tyler spoke with “The Old Ranger” – aka DJ Bill Smith – whose radio program, The Crooked Road Radio Hour, focuses on regional music from the 19 counties that comprise Southwest Virginia along the Crooked Road, Virginia’s heritage music trail. The two chatted about Tyler’s upcoming projects, his musical past, and his latest release, When the Light Shines Again, a collection of tunes centered around coal mining.

A white man holding a banjo in a sunny field with the hills and trees rising behind him. He holds a flower up to his face to smell it.He wears dark trousers, a white shirt, and suspenders. His hair is brown and cut short.

Tyler Hughes enjoying the natural beauty of a Southwest Virginia field. Photo courtesy of Trevor White

On-air, Tyler’s demeanor felt much like the gracious rolling hills of Southwest Virginia –  welcoming, sunny, and wise. Accompanied by a dimpled grin and an open-backed banjo, Tyler began his set with some traditional songs. One of particular note was his rendition of “Davenport,” a tune that is possibly a variant of another old melody called “Last Chance,” originally adapted by Scott Boatright, who was a historically important old-time musician from Fort Blackmore, Virginia. Boatright played throughout the 1920s and 1930s, accompanying well-known musicians such as Dock Boggs, Tom Ashley, “Fiddlin” John Carson, Clarence Greene, and Dudley Vance, as well as with his band, The Boatright String Band. Boatright played anywhere he could – at barber shops, barn dances, coal fields, and theaters.

While listening to Tyler, you can hear musical influence from both Boatright and Dock Boggs, as he employs a unique mixture of clawhammer frailing and three-finger “up-picking” banjo technique. It creates a style that feels extremely distinctive, polished, and organic, like a well-worn river rock – smooth, weighty, and comforting.

Talking about his musical inspiration, Tyler enthusiastically spoke about his experience attending The Mountain Music School camp as a young teenager. The camp is hosted annually at Mountain Empire Community College (MECC) and focuses on keeping traditional Appalachian folk music alive through engaging educational programs. Tyler now works on their faculty as a lead instructor and co-director of the Mountain Music School Stringband. While attending camp, Hughes met Boatwright’s daughter Sue Ella Boatright-Wells, who tirelessly worked to promote the preservation of Appalachian music traditions in Southwest Virginia during her 39-year-long service as the Dean of Workforce Development at MECC. Sue Ella was one of several community members who encouraged Hughes to pursue traditional music, and Tyler expressed extreme admiration for her work and character. Her legacy is something Hughes hopes to champion as a musician and educator. Indeed, in his online bio Tyler states: “I believe that through regional arts, Southwest Virginia can move beyond its current challenges, build a new economy and stronger communities where everyone can reach their full potential” – an inspiring mission statement that encapsulates his current work.

Tyler Hughes’ performance of “Sittin’ on Top of the World” in the Radio Bristol studio.

Tyler has recently returned to playing music full-time after wading through the hardships faced by many working musicians during the pandemic. His downtime was extremely productive, yielding a new album, and he has more original music in the works. His latest release was recorded at the legendary Maggard Sound Studio in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, the same studio that produced Dr. Ralph Stanley’s GRAMMY-winning albums. Tyler’s album When the Light Shines Again is a luminous collection of songs that share a central theme of coal mining. Hughes grew up in the heart of Southwest Virginia’s “Coal Mining Country,” and his Papaw was a miner. The concept for the album was born from conversations the two had about his grandfather’s experiences. Tyler’s interpretations feel purposeful and innate, seamlessly churned with care and bearing an unassuming accuracy that exists only through dedicated practice and deep empathy for ancestral wisdom. The recording features excellent musical performances by several members of the old-time music community throughout the region, including Todd Meade, Haselden Ciaccio, Rich Kirby, Stephanie Jeter, and Sam Gleaves.

Amidst the album’s 11 songs, Tyler maps out the complexities of Southwest Virginia’s relationship with coal through songs that explore the cultural, economic, and environmental impact of mining. A stand-out track, “Coal Miner’s Blues,” was first recorded by The Carter Family in 1938 and was collected by A.P. Carter around Lee County, Virginia in the mining community of St. Charles. The song explores tribulation and veneration of the human spirit with rollicking banjo rhythms and mournful lyrics. As a whole, the album depicts different aspects of the coal miner’s experience with songs that follow a 100-year span telling stories of tragic accidents, hardships of physical labor, and the trials faced by unionized workers. To listen to or purchase the album, visit the link here.

Tyler’s work as a budding forbearer of Appalachian folkways follows many different paths. You can find Tyler pickin’ and grinnin’ while playing an archtop guitar, autoharp, banjo, or dulcimer, solo or with accompaniment. He regularly plays with the Empty Bottle String Band formed by musicians he met when he attended ETSU’s Bluegrass, Old-Time, and Country Music program.  Tyler also teaches young musicians in Wise County at the after-school music program Junior Appalachian Musicians (JAM) and is a caller for regional square dances. He learned to call square dances after a group of friends couldn’t find anyone to call a dance for them while in college. Tyler began scouring eBay to find old square dance instructional material and picked local callers’ brains, learning customary dances that were common in the Appalachian Mountains. You can catch all of Tyler’s musical performances and dance callings, or maybe even sign up for banjo lessons, through his website here.

Twp books stacked on top of each other, the bottom one is red with gold lettering and the top one is grey or beige with red lettering.

Tyler Hughes’ collection of vintage square dance instructional books. Photo courtesy of Tyler Hughes

Closing out the hour on air, Tyler shared renditions of two Ralph Stanley tunes – “Battle Ax” and “Shout Little Lulie” – with precise clawhammer banjo licks and jaunty singing. Tyler is a regional musician to watch, whose performances offer outstanding musicality and reach into the core of Appalachian life, telling the stories of its people and sharing its rich musical heritage.

* Top image: Tyler Hughes performing with the Empty Bottle String Band at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion in 2019. © Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: Tiffany Bower

Ella Patrick is a Production Assistant at Radio Bristol. She also hosts Folk Yeah! on Radio Bristol and is a performing musician as Momma Molasses.

Radio Bristol Book Club: The Man in Song: A Discographic Biography of Johnny Cash

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!

Johnny Cash sold more than 50 million albums over his 40-year career and is the only artist to be inducted into four different Hall of Fames – the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Many biographies have been written about “the Man in Black” but none are quite like The Man in Song. This unique approach to a biography tells the story of Cash’s life through the lens of the music that meant so much to him. By studying the songs Cash wrote or chose to record, John Alexander takes the reader into the mind of the legendary singer and shows how deeply intertwined Cash’s life and music were.

Johnny Cash was a man who prized authenticity in his music, and Alexander demonstrates this as only a music historian can. He leads the reader though a detailed look at how the music and lyrics Cash wrote or recorded throughout his life reflect specific events, people, and memories that tell the story of his life.

The Man in Song book cover shows a black-and-white image of a young-ish Johnny Cash. He is looking straight at the camera, wears all black, and has his chin on his hand.

John M. Alexander is a music journalist and a lifelong fan and historian of Johnny Cash. He has a PhD in English from City University Graduate Center in New York and has worked as a professor and was the Senior Music Editor and Producer at Reader’s Digest for 18 years. He is now Senior Editor at the Brooklyn Eagle and has opened his own Alexander Records where he focuses on creating timeless compilations. He has created almost 400 CD box sets throughout his career. In 1977, he compiled Cash’s greatest gospel songs into a 3-CD box set collection called Johnny Cash Timeless Inspiration that prompted Cash to pen a personal note expressing his gratitude, saying “This is an album that has always been my dream project…I am eternally grateful that someone like yourself could share this love with me and put it out there for people to hear.” This note and the work on that collection led to a relationship and four more Johnny Cash box sets.

The Timeless Inspiration album cover shows an ocean and sunrise/sunset view with Johnny Cash's image in the foreground. He is in profile holding his guitar and wearing a black jacket over a white long-sleeved shirt.

Please make plans to join us on Thursday, September 22 at 12:00pm for the discussion of The Man in Song: A Discographic Biography of Johnny Cash. 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 October is Segregating Sound: Inventing Folk and Pop Music in the Age of Jim Crow by Karl Hagstrom Miller; we’ll be discussing it on Thursday, October 27. Check out our full list of 2022 Radio Bristol Book Club picks here, where you can also listen to archived shows!

* Be sure to check out the current special exhibit at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum – 1968: A Folsom Redemption – to learn more about Johnny Cash and his music. It is on display through October 20, 2022.

Erika Barker is Curatorial Manager at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum and an avid reader.

Radio Bristol Book Club: The Thread That Runs So True

Welcome to Radio Bristol Book Club where readers from the Birthplace of Country Music Museum 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!

This month we are reading The Thread That Runs So True by Jesse Stuart. This book tells the story of Stuart’s life told in six sections or parts. Among these parts are several stories that define Stuart’s career as a Kentucky Mountain school teacher. Conversational in tone, you soon forget the book is autobiographical because the characters come alive in the richness of their speech and personalities. The book’s title and chapter headings were taken from a folk song children would sing at Lonesome Valley School. At 17, after only three years of high school, Stuart began his teaching career in a one-room rural school. Stuart does not allow himself to come between the reader and the community he describes because he functions as a guide to the experiences of his community. Stuart’s disguise of the people and places within the book give the stories artistic freedom. This book will make you grateful for the teachers you had growing up who influenced your life.

Cover image of The Thread That Runs So True has an illustration of a young white man wearing light-colored shirt and pants leaning against a tree with a one-room white clapboard schoolhouse in the background.

Jesse Stuart was born in a log cabin in Greenup County, Kentucky, in 1906. He was the first in his family to finish high school, graduating from Greenup High school in 1926, and he worked his way through Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee, from which he graduated in 1929. While at Lincoln Memorial, he studied under Harry Harrison Kroll, a well-known novelist and one of Stuart’s greatest influences. Stuart returned to Eastern Kentucky and, after two years of public school teaching and administrative service, he decided to enroll in graduate school at Vanderbilt University. He pursued, but did not complete, a Master of Arts degree in English.

Stuart married Naomi Deane Norris in 1939, and they settled on his ancestral land in W Hollow. They had one daughter named Jessica Jane who became an accomplished novelist and poet. Stuart was a remarkable and original writer becoming an accomplished poet, short story writer, novelist, and essayist by the time he was in his 40s. He received the 1934 Jeannette Sewal Davis poetry prize for his first major book of poetry, Man with the Bull-Tounged Plow (1934), which included 703 sonnets, many mimicking the style of great Scottish poet Robert Burns.  The book was described by the Irish poet George William Russell as the greatest work of poetry to come out of America since Walt Whitman published Leaves of Grass. He was the recipient of many awards, among them a Guggenheim Fellowship (1937), the Academy of Arts and Sciences award, the Berea College Centennial award for literature, the Academy of American Poets award, and several honorary degrees. He died in 1984 in Ironton, Ohio, and is buried in the Plum Grove cemetery near W Hollow.

A colorized photograph of Jesse Stuart. He is a white man with dark hair, and he wears a light-colored suit and tie. It looks like he is leaning on the side of a boat in this photograph. He is smiling widely at the camera.

Author Jesse Stuart

Please make plans to join us on Thursday, August 25 at 12:00pm for the discussion of The Thread That Runs So True by Jesse Stuart. 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 September is The Man in Song: A Discographic Biography of Johnny Cash by John Alexander, a book chosen to go along with our upcoming special exhibit 1968: A Folsom Redemption about Johnny Cash’s concerts at Folsom Prison. We’ll be discussing this interesting book on Thursday, September 22. Check out our full list of 2022 Radio Bristol Book Club picks HERE, where you can also listen to archived shows!

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

Radio Bristol Book Club: The Lost World of James Smithson: Science, Revolution, and the Birth of the Smithsonian

Welcome to Radio Bristol Book Club where readers from the Birthplace of Country Music Museum 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!

For those who don’t know, the Birthplace of Country Music Museum is a Smithsonian Affiliate museum, and so that connection inspired our July book club pick: The Lost World of James Smithson: Science, Revolution, and the Birth of the Smithsonian by Heather Ewing. British scientist James Smithson (1765–1829) left his estate to the United States to found “at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” Congress authorized acceptance of the Smithson bequest on July 1, 1836, and ten years later the Smithsonian was officially founded. Drawing on unpublished letters and diaries from archives across Europe and the United States – including the entirety of the Smithsonian’s archive – Heather Ewing paints an in-depth and fascinating portrait of James Smithson. His compelling story takes us from his complicated beginnings as the illegitimate son of the first Duke of Northumberland to his career in science, the closest thing the 18th century had to a meritocracy. Against a backdrop of war and revolution, Smithson and his friends, who included many of the most famous scientists of the age, burst through boundaries at every turn, defying gravity in the first hot air balloons, upending the biblical timeline with their geological finds, and exploring the realm of the invisible with the discovery of new gases. This book presents readers with a wonderful journey through science, ambition, and philanthropic vision, resulting in the largest museum and research complex in the world!

Book cover shows a painted portrait of James Smithson - he is a white man, middle-aged, wearing a high collar and white cravat, and a black frock coat.

Heather Ewing is a graduate of Yale University and the Courtauld Institute of Art. She is an architectural historian who has worked for the Smithsonian and the Ringling Museum of Art. She lives in New York.

Please make plans to join us on Thursday, July 28 at 12:00pm for the discussion of The Lost World of James Smithson: Science, Revolution, and the Birth of the Smithsonian. 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 August is The Thread That Runs So True by Jesse Stuart; we’ll be discussing it on Thursday, August 25. Check out our full list of 2022 Radio Bristol Book Club picks HERE, where you can also listen to archived shows!

* The featured image above is the original Smithsonian Institution building, Washington, D.C. in 1864. Liljenquist Family Collection of Civil War Photographs. http://lccn.loc.gov/2017659613

Rene Rodgers is Head Curator at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum and an obsessive reader!