Voice Magazine for Women, a free, monthly publication distributed regionally in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia to 650 locations, partners with the Birthplace of Country Music to promote our annual music festival, Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion. In August and September of each year, Voice generously allows us free rein to produce cover stories for the magazine highlighting upcoming acts performing at the event. With their permission, we have duplicated the cover article for this month – we hope you enjoy it! To read this month’s issue in its entirety, click here.
Voice Magazine for Women, August 2022
The Future is Female: Women Rule Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion 2022
By Guest Contributor Charlene Tipton Baker
Who says female artists don’t sell tickets? Tell that to Tanya Tucker or Rosanne Cash, two iconic Country Music Queens that have been selling out venues for decades. Both ladies just happen to be headlining a strong, female-inclusive lineup at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion this year. Nearly half the acts featured at September’s festival are either led by women or have a strong female presence in their bands. We don’t have room to list them all here, but we do want to shine the spotlight on a few powerful, must-see acts across a diverse spectrum of genres; artists who are more than great musicians – they’re real, relatable women working through complex, real-life issues to become their higher selves.
The War & Treaty
The War & Treaty’s Michael and Tanya Trotter are couple goals. Michael is a U.S. Army vet who overcame homelessness; Tanya is a born entertainer working in theater and music. Serendipitously, the two met at the Love Festival, and this is where their story began. Soon they would marry and later have a son while touring. It makes sense that their music is all about love and positivity, and the duo has won the hearts of audiences internationally with their intense, high-energy shows and all-around good vibes. In 2020 they performed alongside Cyndi Lauper, John Legend, and Gary Clark Jr. at the GRAMMYs for a tribute to Ken Ehrlich. They’ve also toured with the likes of Al Green, Brandi Carlile, and Jason Isbell. Tanya recently turned her signature pin-up style into a retro-cool side business, check out her online boutique at SheLovesVintage.com.
Sierra Ferrell is a country-folk gypsy from West Virginia who grew up with a single mom and two siblings. They were poor and moved around the state a lot. Sierra spent her childhood playing outdoors and using her vivid imagination. Her introduction to music was whatever was on the radio and singing in the school choir. Since then, Sierra’s lived out of a van, hopped trains, and hitch-hiked her way across the country playing music, picking up a myriad of styles and influences along the way. A few years after moving to Nashville she was signed to Rounder Records, and now she’s enchanting audiences on a grand scale with her authenticity, angelic twang, and a genre-bending sound that she describes as “past life.”
Katie Pruitt’s conservative Catholic upbringing in the Atlanta suburbs led her to live a closeted existence until she left town to complete her collegiate studies in Nashville. For years she had hidden her true self from her family and friends back home and turned to music as a means of self-expression. She’s very open about her struggles coming out to her family and with mental health, and writes about it in her music. Today she’s living her true, authentic self as a queer woman. More indie-folk than Americana, Pruitt’s velvety vocals open the floodgates to confessional songs about love, longing, and societal expectations. Her music resonates universally with life-affirming beauty and resolve.
Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway
At 29, Molly Tuttle is hands-down one of the finest flat-picking guitarists of our time. In 2017 she was the first woman to win the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Guitar Player of the Year and was part of the all-female super group First Ladies of Bluegrass with Alison Brown, Missy Raines, Sierra Hull, and Becky Buller. Tuttle has been vocal about her experiences with sexism in bluegrass music and her struggles with anxiety and alopecia. On her latest album Crooked Tree, Tuttle is re-writing the narrative. “Some of the old ballads are really misogynist. There’s a lot of violence towards women. So I flipped the perspective to a woman’s.”
At 24, Jade Bird is wise beyond her years. Raised in the U.K. by her mother and grandmother, who were both separated from their spouses, Bird credits her own feminist worldview to their strength and resilience. In an interview with Holler magazine about her latest album Different Kinds of Light, Bird stated: “There’s a strong sense of fury that comes with being a young woman with rights taken away.” With influences ranging from Alanis Morissette and PJ Harvey to Oasis and the Bee Gees, Bird harnesses her raw vocal power into strong, relatable narratives that represent a woman who is still figuring out the world around her.
San Francisco native Nicki Bluhm gained widespread attention when her YouTube rendition of the Hall & Oates classic “I Can’t Go For That” went viral. At the time she was in the band Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers, a group formed with her husband Tim Bluhm. The Gramblers recorded two albums together and toured internationally, but Bluhm’s marriage was crumbling under the weight of her husband’s substance abuse and infidelity. Nicki left the band and moved to Nashville with something to prove to herself and her ex – that she could make it as a solo artist on her own terms. Success has indeed been the best revenge, following collaborations and appearances with artists such as Phil Lesh, Margo Price, Dawes, The Band of Heathens, Josh Ritter, Lukas Nelson, and the Wood Brothers. Oliver Wood, Karl Denson, and A. J. Croce are just a few of the major artists she collaborated with on Avondale Drive, an album best described as “nostalgic country soul.”
Miko Marks walked away from the music industry after recording two albums and struggling to feel accepted as a Black artist in country music. The Flint, Michigan native’s elders were part of the Great Migration of Black Americans who escaped from the Jim Crow South. “People don’t realize that Black people, we were watching ‘Hee Haw’ too,” said Marks in an interview with NPR last year. A decade later, in the midst of the pandemic, a former bandmate sent her the song “Goodnight America,” a bluesy ballad about injustice and the breakdown of the American dream. It was then that Marks revived her musical career. Marks has now reclaimed her place in the industry and is listed among CMT’s Next Women of Country Class of 2022.
S. G. Goodman
S. G. Goodman is a queer artist from Hickman, Kentucky, who writes cinematic, indie-rock grooves with subversive, rural narratives that push back on Southern stereotypes. Goodman’s haunting, warbling vibrato echoes old-time voices of generations past, with punk sensibilities. Her latest, ground-breaking release, aptly titled Teeth Marks, rips Southern stereotypes, emotional trauma, the opioid crisis, and small-town life into bite-sized shreds. “I always feel, when describing the South to people, that the South is the soul of the country. And when the soul of the country is sick, the body is sick.” The artist admits to writing an open suicide note on her first album called “Space & Time” when she was at her lowest, feeling isolated and unsupported by her community. She says it was her musical circle of friends that saved her life.
Emily Scott Robinson
Greensboro, North Carolina native Emily Scott Robinson once worked as an advocate for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault in Telluride, Colorado. It was there that her dream of becoming a musician was fostered by kindred spirits at Planet Bluegrass’ The Song School. When asked what listeners would learn about her from her latest album American Siren, Robinson says, “I think they would learn that I absolutely LOVE unpacking the roles that religious, cultural, and moral beliefs play in our life choices. I like to take my characters into their shadowy places and explore their inner lives.” Inspired by other strong Americana songwriters like Patty Griffin, Nanci Griffith, John Prine, and Brandi Carlile, the beauty in Robinson’s music is in the art of skillful and personal storytelling, delivered with pristine vocals that echo her influences. Robinson’s album has appeared on a number of “Best Of” lists in publications like NPR, Rolling Stone, Wide Open Country, and The Bluegrass Situation.
Oh He Dead
The story behind the Washington, D.C. quintet’s unusual name, Oh He Dead, came from a song written by the band’s vocalist C. J. Johnson. Based on an incident from Johnson’s life, the song’s narrator comes home to find her man cheating and guns him down. When asked by a band member what happened to the guy in real life, Johnson dryly retorted, “Oh, he dead.” No one was actually killed, but the phrase became a running joke and, eventually, the band’s name. The group had been together for four years when the pandemic placed a sudden halt on touring, so they started hosting weekly “Jammy Jams” where fans would tune in to listen to the group’s jazzy, rock and soul online. The two-year hiatus allowed the band to work on two albums of new material. In 2021 they submitted to NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Series, and it helped revive the band’s spirit. Johnson cites Fleetwood Mac and Sade as influences, and her autobiographical songs touch on real life – like the birth of her son, her rocky relationship with her father, and a high school crush.
Check out these acts and a host of other amazing talent during Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, celebrating the 95th Anniversary of the 1927 Bristol Sessions September 9–11, 2022, in Historic Downtown Bristol, Tennessee-Virginia. Check out the full lineup and purchase passes at BristolRhythm.com.