People may think of the commercial side of country music when they think about Nashville and Music Row, but the "other" side of the city and its musical industry is just as vibrant and even more diverse. Files loosely under "roots music," the plethora of bluegrass, folk, traditional country, rock and soul singers are every bit as important to Nashville as those singers who routinely appear on the Grand Ole Opry and mainstream country radio.
The Loveless Cafe and its "Music City Roots" radio program help these artists find a larger audience. The weekly show, hosted by Jim Lauderdale, has won over many new fans, not only from those lucky enough to buy a ticket to the show, but also for those who listen online. The new "Music City Roots" album brings together 11 performances from the show's first season.
For fans of the show or of the roots music scene, there are plenty of familiar names. Lauderdale leads things off with I Will Wait for You, which he originally sang with Ralph Stanley. Nanci Griffith's Listen to the Radio is bouncy and joyful, while Mike Farris and the McCrary Sisters turn the Loveless Barn into a gospel tent revival with On My Way to Heaven.
Along with the more established artists, there are some relative newcomers who mostly impress. Caitlin Rose dazzles on Sinful Wishing Well, thanks to her crystalline voice and slightly throwback country sound. The Holy Ghost Tent Revival sound more than a little like The Avett Brothers, but they feature a fuller sound on Walking Over My Grave, and it works well. 18 South, a band that includes the husband-and-wife duo of Jon Randall and Jessie Alexander, bassist Mike Bub and drummer Larry Atamanuik, is essentially a supergroup of people who should be more famous than they are. Their Late Night Ramble is about as good as one would expect, given the personnel.
With an enthusiastic live audience and a group of musicians who obviously brought their A-game, "Music City Roots" will appeal to both fans of the program as well as those who have never heard it before.