Americana Music | WGLT

Americana Music

Brent Simonds

Illinois State University School of Communication Professor Brent Simonds knows his just completed documentary of Nashville singer/songwriter Verlon Thompson tells a compelling story.

“It’s a sweet story about a really sweet man who has monstrous talent, especially when it comes to playing acoustic guitar,” Simonds said of his film "Sweet Dreams Do Come True."

Shelly Swanger / Shelly Swanger Photography

Bluegrass legend Sam Bush included the original song “Bowling Green” on his latest album titled “Storyman.” It’s an ode to growing up on a farm just outside the southern Kentucky town.

Ennemay Photography

Downers Grove native Scott Marek is an aspiring country singer/songwriter/bandleader ready to up his game.

"It's so much fun to get up on stage and sing," said Marek. "Hopefully everyone is listening, and as long as that continues to climb as it has been, I don't see why I should turn back."

Jeff Roberson / AP Photo

The man credited with helping to create rock 'n' roll will be remembered during a public memorial on Sunday, April 9, in St. Louis. Chuck Berry died on March 18 at the age of 90.

Judith Valente/GLT News

As a teenager, Robert McLaughlin would go to the public library in the small town in upstate New York where he grew up and check out the cast albums of Broadway musicals. 

One of those musicals was Stephen Sondheim's "Company" from 1970. 

"I knew his name from "West Side Story," but I didn't know this musical, "Company." It started with all these voices overlapping, calling out the name of the main character. I'd never heard anything like that. It was one of those moments when your heart goes whoo. And I was hooked from then on."

Now McLaughlin has a new book out that looks at the artist and the man, called "Stephen Sondheim and the Reinvention of the American Musical." 

Singer-songwriter Carrie Newcomer is perhaps to the Midwest what Bruce Springsteen is the the New Jersey shore.

Her lyrics evoke not only a landscape, but a Midwestern sensibility of neighborliness and an appreciation for tradition, common sense and the land.

Her rich alto voice, acoustic guitar work and knack for capturing the sacred in the ordinary have delighted Twin City audiences for decades.

Edward David Anderson has been flying solo as a folk/country/rock artist since Backyard Tire Fire announced an "indefinite hiatus" in 2011.  With two critically acclaimed albums since 2014 and a touring  schedule that keeps his cars odometer spinning, the multi-instrumental Anderson has found his sea legs post-BTF.  But he didn't find them overnight.

The Deep Hollow co-founder Micah Walk immediately knew “Devil” was a good song.

“Liz and I started writing songs together before Dave came along” said Walk, referring to fellow group members Liz Eckert and Dave Littrell.  “That was one of the first three or four songs we wrote, and I thought ‘this is coming along pretty well.’”

John Legg / www.johnleggphotography.com

Oliver Wood sort of chuckled when he said joining forces with brother Chris to form the Wood Brothers in 2005 was a good career move.

"Until that time, I certainly put in my 10,000 plus hours of playing music and working as a musician, but I was never able to realize the creative part with the business part to really make a living and be taken seriously in the world" said Wood.

Charlie Schlenker / WGLT

The Nobel Committee recently named musician Bob Dylan as the winner of this year's prize in literature.

The songwriter and sixties icon is known for his distinctive voice and delivery as much as for his lyrics and activism.

ISU Professor of English Jan Susina is a Dylan fan from way back and thinks this year's prize is a great choice.

Susina joined GLT's Charlie Schlenker to talk about Dylan's work. Susina says he and his tolerant family recently got to geek out on Dylan...

Don Palma / Palace Events

Musicians and music fans will join together to support a local landmark with a new music series beginning October 1. The Duncan Manor Songwriter Series will support restoration of the Italianate-style mansion near Towanda. 

Dylan Langille (OntheDL)

Transcendental Folk is a term often used to describe the music of Nederland, Colorado based Elephant Revival.   The town of 1500 sits in the rarified hills just southwest of Boulder. 8200 feet above sea level, this mountain town with a mining past has a burgeoning music scene far surpassing its small population.  Elephant Revival's fiddle player Bridget Law says the high profile artists utilizing the now legendary Caribou Ranch Recording Studio just outside Nederland helped the town become home to a concentrated group of talented musicians.

Rory Bolton

An increasing number of senior citizen facilities are using music therapy to help the elderly improve their cognitive skills, avoid depression and even stay more physically fit. 

Rory Bolton recently completed graduate studies in music therapy and piano performance at Illinois State University. Throughout his time at ISU, the 28-year-old singer performed at private parties and on cruise ships. For the past several months, Bolton has sung and played old standards and classic pop songs at Twin Cities residences for seniors. 

hamiltonbroadway.com

The 2016 Tony Awards take place June 12 in New York. Lin Manuel Miranda's acclaimed hip-hop-infused show "Hamilton" -- about America's first Treasury Secretary -- seems a sure bet to win for best musical. It received a record 16 nominations.

"Even if you think to yourself,'Hmm, hip hop, Alexander Hamilton, I don't know, you go in [to the theater] and you're blown away, just because it's so well done," said Broadway musical lover Sally Parry, associate dean at Illinois State University.

Joe Mazza

In a town that birthed House music and wears Blues music on its sleeve, Kent Rose is an outlier in the Chicago area.  A child of the 1950's and 60's, Rose grew up in suburban Glencoe devouring the rock & roll of Buddy Holly and Elvis.  He was also enamored by country and honky-tonk and the folk music of Pete Seeger and Mahalia Jackson. 

“What I found was that I was given some records by country artists by my cousin, and WLS radio at the time played a wider mix of music. You could hear something like Stonewall Jackson or The Statler Brothers. I was pretty entranced by the whole thing.”

Dave Glacinski

Writing one song with an appealing melody is difficult.  Bloomington's Michael Adams and his War Painted Horses band mates have filled their debut album “Murder at the Wheelhouse” with 12 melodic gems (not including a hidden track).  When lauded for his impressive songwriting ability, a trait not always present in even great musicians, Adams deftly deflected the compliment.

Stone & Snow

Just because you don’t see the acoustic duo Stone & Snow on stage every week, doesn’t mean the band isn’t working. They just got the results of their entry for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert. (See their video entry below) Clint Thomson and Karen Bridges, who are the core of Stone & Snow, said they’re not too upset or surprised they weren't selected. There were 6,000 entries.

Every year, Acousticity host Bruce Bergethon keeps a list - of the favorite holiday songs by artists he interviews for the GLT Sunday night program. It's December, and Bruce has checked the list twice, tracked down the songs, and presents this medley of holiday treats, naughty AND nice, for your enjoyment.

Compass Records

Alison Brown is the CEO of Compass Records. She's also a mom, an MBA and a musician. GLT's Bruce Bergethon spoke with the woman who's working to redefine her instrument of choice.

Doug Anderson

The man behind the group called Backyard Tire Fire has just released his second solo album. It was produced by Anthony Crawford, longtime collaborator with Neil Young. GLT's Bruce Bergethon caught up with Edward David Anderson, to talk about "Lower Alabama: The Loxley Sessions."

album art by Solitaire Miles

You might associate "Western swing" with Texas dancehalls and Oklahoma honky-tonks. But a great new take on the classic American idiom comes from a Chicago jazz singer.

Justin Niguchi

Hot on the heels of their fourth album, "The Muscle Shoals Recordings," The Steeldrivers return to Bloomington's Castle Theatre on Thursday, October 15. The hard-driving bluegrass/Americana band is growing its audience through relentless touring and distinctive original music. GLT's Bruce Bergethon spoke with founding member, fiddler/singer/songwriter Tammy Rogers.

The Guardian

Rhiannon Giddens performed at Bloomington's Castle Theatre on September 18th. She's touring behind her new CD, "Tomorrow is My Turn," produced by T Bone Burnett. Giddens is the co-founder of The Carolina Chocolate Drops. Her first solo CD is a convincing collection of diverse American styles, from country to gospel to blues. From her home in southern Ireland, Giddens spoke with GLT's Bruce Bergethon.