Month: December 2015

Favorite Roots Music Albums of 2015

I’m not going to pretend that this is a “best of” list for roots music in 2015.  With so many things thrown on my plate this year, I  haven’t had the time to sample as widely as I would like.  (Come to think of it, the last time I felt comfortable enough to publish a “best of list” was 2013!) But I’m very comfortable with a favorites list that just says, “Hey, I like these and I hope you will too.” So with that caveat, let’s see what’s made the cut. The SteelDrivers:  The Muscle Shoals Recordings – I’ve loved this Nashville-based bluegrass band for years, even as they have moved through personnel changes that included their lead singer and main songwriter.  (More on that later.)  The Muscle Shoals Recordings is really the first album where Gary Nichols stepped out on his own as the lead voice for The SteelDrivers – no longer in Chris Stapelton’s shadow. Singer-songwriter Peter Cooper describes it this way: Right there, at two minutes and ten seconds into the first …

Observations from the Road: (The Family, Friends, Community Edition)

This is a tale of family gathering to grieve in the best way possible – by telling stories.  It is a tale of being part of a community. It includes guitars.  (Always guitars.) And it includes a haircut in a mini-United Nations. Hang with me.  I’ll try to be brief. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I received a call early in the morning from my sister Debbie.  She called to tell me that our brother-in-law Raouf – husband of my younger sister Carol – had passed away suddenly as a result of a heart attack.  Their two boys had come home from college the day before and the family had shared a meal together on Tuesday night.   By mid-day Wednesday, their lives had changed forever. My older brother Steve and I spoke.  We were not able to get to the funeral, but quickly agreed to find a mutual time to travel to Tennessee to see Carol and the rest of the family. Our father – he of the recent 90th birthday – had just moved into …

A Republic, If You Can Keep It

When asked, following the Constitutional Convention, what kind of government had been created, Benjamin Franklin made a now famous reply.  “A republic, if you can keep it.” Those words have been on my mind a great deal in recent weeks.  I wonder why? Could it be the calls from those who want us to seal the borders, shut off all immigration into the U.S., and deport 11 million individuals?  Could it be presidential candidates saying – when a decision is made that recognizes that we are a secular nation and not based on religious law – that we have “criminalized Christianity?” Could it be the calls to register Muslims and to reopen the internment camps of WWII?  When I hear these speeches, I’m reminded of the late great Molly Ivins’ quip about Patrick Buchanan’s famously combative “culture wars” speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention:  It probably sounded better in the original German. But that’s not why I sat down to write. I’ve read three books over the past couple of months that all bring …