Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives (Photo by Alysse Gafkjen)
Gathered around a single mic at The Birchmere recently, Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives played an all-acoustic cover of Tom Petty’s “Runnin’ Down A Dream.” Kenny Vaughan, a winner of the Americana Music Association’s Instrumentalist of the Year, played acoustic guitar. Harry Stinson was on snare drum, and Chris Scruggs, grandson of bluegrass scion Earl Scruggs, was on upright bass.
The cover encapsulated a lot of what this band does: They honor country traditions, but their sonic palette extends well into rock & roll.
Steve Earle & The Dukes (Photo by Jacob Blickenstaff)
When legendary singer-songwriter Steve Earle got to the “chick song portion of the show” recently, he told his audience at The Birchmere, “I’m not above repurposing a song.” Having had seven marriages to six different women, as well as various other relationships over the years, I can see why he’s had to do that. Everyone wants to know for whom these songs were written, but as he told the audience Wednesday night (and he has said on many other occasions), “They’re all about me.”
He’s also remarked, quite humorously — though he didn’t say it on July 20, “We used to make music for girls. Now we make it for nerds.”
Guitar virtuoso and singer-songwriter Molly Tuttle’s “San Francisco Blues” is about how, to cite a cliche, you can’t go home again. When the Bay Area native returned to the area where she’d grown up, she found that it felt different, and she told us about it at The Birchmere recently. Her friends had moved away because they couldn’t afford it. That’s happening in major cities across the United States.
Back in April, singer-songwriter Molly Tuttle released Crooked Tree via Nonesuch Records, exploring her love of bluegrass, which she discovered through her father, a music teacher and multi-instrumentalist, and her grandfather, a banjo player.
“Gem City” is an unusual nickname for Dayton, Ohio. Perhaps, it’s a nod to a time when the city churned out the who’s who of funk. Artists like Zapp, Roger Troutman, Heatwave, and Slave, to name a few. This past Memorial Day Weekend, The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia, welcomed Dayton’s crown jewel of funk and R&B — the Ohio Players.
Rodney Crowell performs at The Birchmere, Alexandria, Virginia, May 20, 2022. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)
Rodney Crowell came to Nashville from his native Houston 50 years ago, apprenticing himself himself to master songwriter Guy Clark. In the five decades since, he’s written songs for Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Van Morrison, Bob Seger, and Rosanne Cash, to just rattle off a few very partial list of the folks who’ve covered his songs.
In addition to his solo records, he worked as a rhythm guitarist and backed vocalist in Emmylou’s band in the late ’70s, and the duo reunited in the middle of last decade for a pair of albums that each won the Grammy Award for Best American Roots Album. In 2004, he reunited for a well-received collaborative project with old friend Vince Gill, The Notorious Cherry Bombs. All this is to say, Rodney and his band played for more than 2 hours at The Birchmere recently, and there wasn’t a weak song in the set. As long and wide-ranging as the evening’s setlist was, Rodney could easily have added even more of his songs without diluting the quality of the material.
Carsie Blanton grew up in the Shenandoah Valley, and she came to The Birchmere many times as a teenager. Since becoming a professional musician, she’s played the venue several times in an opening slot, beginning with a performance with the late Leon Redbone. Carise recently headlined the historic Northern Virginia venue for the first time.
Jeff “Skunk” Baxter performs at The Birchmere on May 4, 2022. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)
Jeff “Skunk” Baxter is one of those “first call” guys, the musician you call first when you need someone who can play just about anything.
Although he’s most famous for his stints in Steely Dan (1972-74) and The Doobie Brothers (1975-79), Jeff has had a long career lending his considerable multi-instrumentalist talents (guitar, pedal steel, keyboards, percussion) supporting artists as diverse as Les Paul, Bryan Adams, Joni Mitchell, Dolly Parton, Hoyt Axton, Rod Stewart Eric Clapton, Donna Summer, and Linda Ronstadt (for whom he played congas on “You’re No Good”).
Allison Moorer and Shelby Lynne perform at The Birchmere on April 27, 2022. (Photo by Ari Strauss)
Sisters Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer are two of the most accomplished singer-songwriters in the contemporary country and Americana scene. The Alabama natives both possess remarkable gifts as writers and are among the finest vocalists working today. Each possesses a distinctive style: Shelby leans more toward soul and gospel (she noted her favorite singer is Mahalia Jackson), while Allison often inclines toward folk, but has had an eclectic career that’s also seen her work in more rock-oriented directions as well.
With their remarkable voices, they don’t need much support to put on an incredible show as they did at The Birchmere recently.