WXNA at Southern Festival of Books!

Editor’s Note: We asked WXNA DJ Leslie to report back from this year’s Southern Festival of Books, and DJ Laura Powers  provided some photos and videos below of our WXNA stage featuring some of our favorite local artists as well as a tribute to beloved late songwriter, David Berman. Check it out, and join us next year!

This year’s Southern Festival of Books did not disappoint, as it kept it’s visitors bound together downtown at the plaza and library for three cheery days with live music, good food, prolific authors, and a ton of books, eliciting many meaningful discussions. Highlights for me included author Ottessa Moshfegh (My Year of Rest and Relaxation) and, of course,  Friday afternoon when WXNA hosted the Music Stage on Legislative Plaza.

Karina Daza kicked things off at the Music Stage on Friday afternoon with a mesmerizing set of Latin-influenced soul. Kyle Hamlett Uno followed with a set of beautifully poetic acoustic tunes, and WXNA’s own Anne McCue had us spellbound with her set of songs that blended the personal and the political. The day ended with a tribute to the dearly missed musician and poet David Berman that reminded us of the power that words and art have to create community.

– Leslie Hermsdorfer

Daniel Pujol reading the poem titled “Interregnum Strange” that he wrote for the David Berman tribute.

DJ Juanny Cash spinning records

Anne McCue Performs

Karina Daza

Kyle Hamlett

Southern Festival of Books

What DJs Are Reading: Southern Festival of Books Edition

Southern Festival of Books is just around the corner, and we’re excited that we’ll be a part again this year! In celebration, we’ve polled our DJs about what they’re reading. Look below for all kinds of recs, ranging from musical to comic!

DJ: popGeezer

Show: The English Breakfast

What I’m Reading: Any DC Comic from Tom King or Brian Michael Bendis.

Still in the middle of Lincoln In the Bardo by George Sanders.

Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns documentary accompanying “Country Music” tome is waiting to move into the rotation.

But Flannery O’Connor’s The Complete Stories always stands at the ready for quick consumption at any time.


DJ: Chad Pelton

Show: Dustbin Days

What I’m Reading:

Karl Ove Knausgaard- My Struggle Book 6

I am one of the many that got entangled in the minutiae of the daily life of Knausgaard, as he takes us through the sometimes cringeworthy growing pains of his life. And being one that likes to finish what I start, here I am lugging the 1200 page final tome of the series on my vacation with me. Good for the 8 hour flights. 

Val Wilmer- As Serious As Your Life (Black Music and Free Jazz Revolution, 1957-1977):

Not only a great photographer, Val Wilmer is also an engaging storyteller, and this book is a great read for someone who, like me, is diving headlong into the world of free jazz with very little knowledge on the subject. My radio show focuses in the folk/country world, so it is refreshing to switch gears and hear about the achievements of the likes of Milford Graves, Albert Aylor, John Coltrane, and Cecil Taylor. 

Jesse Graves & William Wright – Specter Mountain (poems):

Jesse is an old pal from Knoxville, and his latest volume of poetry is a team effort with fellow poet William Wright. Together they have created a book-length poetry collaboration rooted in the hills and valleys of the southeastern mountains. Praised by Robert Morgan, and weighing in at 67 pages, it is a delight to see what two differing voices combined together in a single, lengthy poetry cycle can evoke.


DJ: Michael Roark   

Show: Slings & Arrows

What I’m Reading: You Can Say You Knew Me When by K. M. Soehnlein

This is the third book that I’ve read by Soehnlein. It’s the second he wrote of three. Together they make a kind of trilogy (though written out of order). He’s a gay author who deals with awakening sexuality in the late 1970s in suburban New Jersey and onward. This novel is what happens at the start of the new century in San Francisco, when it blew up with dot-coms and mass gentrification. It delves into homophobic self-destruction, pot smoking, and deep dark closets being opened by the death of a father. It’s about inheritance, financial and genetic. And one of the reasons I may be enjoying it is that it provides a grand tour of a San Francisco—a San Francisco at a crossroads, one that I visited several times during that period in the late 1990s and early twenty-first century.


DJ: LT

Show: Shout, Sister, Shout!

What I’m Reading: How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell, who seamlessly weaves a tapestry of interdisciplinary ideas into a cohesive book that encourages us to resist the attention economy without hiding from it. Pauline Oliveros’ theory of Deep Listening is explored alongside Buber’s I and Thou, Thomas Merton’s writings, birdwatching + bioregionalism, and more. 


DJ: Laura Powers

Show: Needles+Pins

What I’m Reading: The Children by David Halberstam

The Children is former Tennessean reporter David Halberstam’s account of the Nashville Student Movement in the late 50s and early 60s. The Nashville Student Movement was responsible for ending racial segregation at downtown lunch counters and led the famous Freedom Riders who challenged segregation on public buses in the Deep South. At a time when Nashville is changing so much I feel it’s important to know our history. And it’s inspiring to read about young people who saw wrongs that needed to be made right and were brave enough to make it happen.


DJ: Trevor

Show: Our Golden Tones

What I’m Reading: Nate Chinen’s Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century. Many wild and wonderful worlds are illuminated in this. It’s excitingly relevant. I’ve been hooked on its analysis of the various ways “traditional” and “free” jazz communities and practitioners have splintered in certain contexts, but also worked together in others. It’s as interesting of a cultural study as a musical one. It’s also like if Jacques Ranciere’s Aisthesis was a history of jazz. Wowee!!


DJ: DJ Karl

Show: Dizzy Spell

What I’m Reading: Sex and Rockets: The Occult World of Jack Parsons by J R L Carter – A fascinating exploration of the life and fiery death of Thelemic magician and rocket scientist Marvel “Jack” Parsons.


DJ: Anne McCue

Show: Songs On The Wire

What I’m Reading: If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller by Italo Calvino. I’m re-reading this wonderful book after many years. Calvino has a limitless imagination and comes up with many ‘novels’ within this post-modern creation/novel. It is a love story for and about readers and reading.


DJ: Alexis Stevens

Show: Free Association

What I’m Reading: Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh. I loved My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Moshfegh, so I wanted to go back and read her earlier work. Her books are great for anyone going through Fleabag withdrawals. And she’s coming to the Southern Festival of Books! 


DJ: Sirena 

Show: Music for Grownups

What I’m Reading: The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Besser van der Kolk, M.D. This book outlines mind-body therapeutic practices being integrated into bio-medicine which I believe to be a promising approach to healthcare. Before that I read, Hearthmath Solutions by Doc Childre and Howard Martin. Both books support current research in neurofeedback methods to promote self-regulation as a means to address dis-ease. I just bought my book club selection for this month, Eva Luna: A Novel by Isabel Allende . I look forward to transitioning to some well written fiction!


DJ:Adam Ebb 

Show: Body to Body

What I’m Reading: Soft Fruit In The Sun written by Oliver Zarandi. It’s a collection of short stories that explore doomed familial, romantic and sexual relationships through the lens of “body horror.” It’s a great debut thats funny, disgusting, and very relatable.


Photo Credit: Humanities Tennessee on Flickr

Top Four Randy Newman Albums (Excluding “Good Old Boys”)

Hi, I’m Josh Halper! I’m a guitarist born and raised here in Music City. I’m one of two hosts of WXNA’s “Hot Fudge Tuesdays” which airs every Saturday, from 2 to 4 p.m. We are the self-proclaimed “Randy Boys” on the WXNA lineup, so as a statement of my love for Mr. Newman, I’ve decided to make a list of my favorite Randy albums.

4. “Darkmatter” – Randy’s 2017 album serves as a Cliff’s Notes for the types of work you might find when digging through the songwriter’s expansive career. Songs such as “The Great Debate”, “Putin”, and “It’s a Jungle Out There (V2)” represent the scathing critiques of both governmental and societal hypocrisy that we, as Randy fanatics, have come to anticipate with a nervous reluctance. These songs ride the line of hilarious and cringeworthy, satisfying the listener’s appetite by the third or fourth listen. The rest of the album contains delicious historical vignettes (“Brothers” & “Sonny Boy”), heart-wrenching narrative, and seemingly autobiographical poetry (“Lost Without You, “She Chose Me”, “On the Beach”, and “Wandering Boy”). This is with a solid collection of songs that any Randy lover can be beyond pleased with.

3. “Little Criminals” – In terms of production, this album is a launching point for Randy Newman’s middle era, when he sometimes used distorted electric guitars and synthesizers instead of strings. Bringing in the Eagles as his backing band bridged the gap between crooner Randy and rocker Randy, giving his discography a nice dip into rock’s evil depths. The songwriting is just as whimsical as before, but something about the way the pieces are tracked makes them feel less silly and fun, even though the subject matter is relatively consistent with the rest of his work. His high energy songs see these changes, but the ballads remain pure and simple, creating a wonderful balance.

2. “Sail Away” – I consider this album to be the sister to “Good Old Boys”, which is a crowd favorite. A solid chunk of the cuts (“Sail Away”, “He Gives Us All His Love”, “Old Man”, “Dayton Ohio”, and “Burn On”) feel like they would fit right in with the following release. The string motion is in the same style, the instrumentation is almost identical, and the subject matter is just as romantic and somber. Thematically, the lyrics are geographically broader, outlining both critique and praise of the U.S. and the world, rather than focusing just on the South. Though this makes for an interesting trip around the globe, “Good Old Boys” reigns supreme in my ears. Something about a concept album…

1. “Randy Newman/Live” – This is my favorite Randy Newman Record (yes, over “Good Old Boys”). The record, which was originally released as a treat for Reprise’s fan club, feels like the most intimate and spontaneous thing ever put on tape. The image of Mr. Newman performing in a tiny club by himself, taking requests from and joking with the audience, makes it the most charming album of all. Songs like “Tickle Me”, “Mama Told Me Not to Come”, and “Lover’s Prayer” that are totally absurd (and almost creepy) become as cute as a shaved lamb in the solo setting. The solo performances of some of his heavier songs (“I’ll Be Home”, “So Long Dad”, and ”Living Without You”) are undeniably brutal. You can hear the audience’s awestruck silence as Newman spills his guts in song after song. This romance is immediately tossed aside when he jumps gracefully from “I Think It’s Going To Rain Today” into “Lover’s Prayer” proving that he is an incomparable writer and performer who both recognizes the weight of his work and does not take himself too seriously. This is a combination that I have yet to see elsewhere.

Josh Halper(DJ Sweetbaby)
Hot Fudge Tuesdays
Sundays 2-4 pm

Back to School Bangers by the WXNA Fam!

School has started and we’ve got the ideal soundtrack for you!
Whether it’s you, your children, or your nostalgia looking forward to sharpening those #2 pencils, we’ve curated a playlist just for the occasion!


Thirteen by Big Star

It perfectly captures and brings me back to that time and age and all the conflicting emotions and hormones.

Joe Wolfe-Mazeres, Double Shot with Joe and Sue


Sacré Charlemagne by France Gall’s

DJ Natasha, The French Connection


Punk Rock Girl AND Bitchin’ Camaro by The Dead Milkmen

For me, this is SO high school!

DJ Sirena, Music for Grownups


Sister, Do You Know My Name? by The White Stripes

Everyone knows The White Stripes’ “We Are Going to Be Friends” (which I believe can now be found in childrens’ book form): a sweet, schoolish song. But “Sister, Do You Know My Name?” is my pick from their catalog, and not just because of the word sister. It can be found simmering in the middle of the tracklisting on their second album, De Stijl (2000), which was a huge back-to-school album for me circa junior year of high school. It was one of the first vinyl records I bought and then recorded with a vinyl-recording software that came with my record player (all very early-2000s). I remember listening to the crackly, too-quiet mp3 of “Sister” on repeat while biking around my neighborhood in autumn, crunching dry leaves under my tires. Yes, it’s a bit silly, but so is going back-to-school when you’d rather be listening to records. 16-year-old DJ LT was all about this dreamy, autumnal blues and its simultaneous indebtedness/reverence to Blind Willie McTell, whom the record was dedicated to. 

Meg White’s drumming is usually simple yet relentless, but here we find it almost sleepy, behind itself, like a lounging cat batting at the rug on the verge of slumber. The slide guitar fills in the blanks and overflows, coloring outside the lines and warming up the atmosphere perfectly for some sweet, boyish lyrics about longing: 

 

I didn’t see you at summer school

But I saw you at the corner store

And I don’t want to break the rules

Cause I’ve broken them all before

But every time I see you

I wonder why

I don’t break a couple rules

So that you’ll notice me

 

DJ LT, Shout, Sister, Shout!


Schoolhouse Rock by Billy Harlan

Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, rockabilly!

Fuck School by The Replacements

A classic from the Great American Songbook!

Drugstore Rock & Roll by Janis Martin

And one from the Female Elvis her ownself!

 

Randy Fox, Randy’s Record Shop and Hipbilly Jamboree


I Need a Teacher by Hiss Golden Messenger

This is more generally pro-education (countering the Replacements? ha) and brand new from NC’s Hiss Golden Messenger, which is coming to Basement East in November. Big ups to all our educators gracing classrooms AND the airwaves each week!

DJ Celia, What Moves You


Late for School by Ponytail

This one is mostly included here for the title, as the song itself doesn’t have lyrics — unless you count the odd whoops, hollers and general sonic craziness. So, y’know, just like being late for school.

Rick Pecoraro, contributor


A Summer Song by Chad & Jeremy

DJ Alexis, Free Association


Waitin in School by Ricky Nelson

DJ Blackcircle, The Root


(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party) by the Beastie Boys

High school would not have been bearable without the parties . . . believe it or not we listened to the Beasties on our way to the Science Bowl at TTU with our super school science teacher!

DJ Leanne, X-Posure and Double X-Posure


Another School Day by Hollywood Brats

DJ Michael, The Scattershot


Sunday Morning by No Doubt

DJ Caro


What Did You Learn In School Today? by Tom Paxton

Tom Paxton’s “What Did You Learn In School Today?” is not the cheeriest of back-to-school bangers, but it’s a banger nonetheless. Its call-and-response folk form displays a conversation between a little boy in school and his parents, who ask in each verse: “What did you learn in school today, dear little boy of mine?” The boy responds with all kinds of plaintive answers, delivered with a touch of self-awareness to make it clear that Tom has an opinion on the matters at hand. Here’s an example:

What did you learn in school today, dear little boy of mine?

I learned that policemen are my friends

I learned that justice never ends

I learned that murderers die for their crimes

Even if we make a mistake sometimes

And that’s what I learned in school today

That’s what I learned in school

 

DJ LT, Shout, Sister, Shout!


Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana

Jason Waterfalls


Smokin’ in the Boys Room by Brownsville Station

Because it’s so punk!

DJ Houndog Hoover, Goin’ Down South


School’s Out for the Summer by Alice Cooper

Because I’d already be looking forward for this shit to be over.

DJ Ed, Eighties Schmeighties


 

Is This America?

In observance of the upcoming July 4 holiday, this week’s WXNA blog post features a list of some of our DJs’ favorite songs about the U.S. of A.

Read as you listen with our Spotify playlist!


DJ ED
Eighties/Schmeighties
Fridays from 10 to Noon

“Little America”- REM

Songs that hit the sweet spot of celebrating America without dipping into cheap sentimentality, jingoism, or out and out nationalism are hard to come by IMHO. Little America hits it both in its particulars of recounting the band traveling around the south on tour—”Another Greenville, another Magic Mart”—and in general showing the pure pleasure of the road trip free and easy. I saw REM many times and for me this was their best live song. An exhilarating celebration of freedom. 


DJ Cranky Pants (Ashley)
Set Records to Stun
Fridays from 6-8 a.m.

“America”- Simon & Garfunkel

Ever since Dustin Hoffman and Katharine Ross plopped down on the back seat of that bus at the end of The Graduate (1967), disaffected middle-classers have questioned the American Dream. In “America” (1968), Paul Simon seems convinced that while the search may be eternal, the promised land remains an illusion.


The popGeezer
The English Breakfast
Saturday, Noon to 2 PM

“American Tune” (1973) by Paul Simon, from the album “There Goes Rhymin’ Simon”

Paul Simon wrote this song, using the music of Renaissance era composer Hans Leo Hassler, after Richard Nixon’s re-election.

My emotional attachment to it is two-fold.

It’s the first Simon album I ever bought. Even though I wasn’t old enough to “get” any of it then, I really loved it. Now, over the passing decades, I return to the album, and this song, again and again.

“America Tune” is succinct, emotional, and very direct. And these lyrics especially stir a hard-won, but not cynical, patriotism in me:

“Oh, we come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age’s most uncertain hour
And sing an American tune”


DJ Lauren
Different Every Time
Mondays 3-5pm

This is Not America” is a song by David Bowie, Lyle Mays and Pat Metheny used in a soundtrack to the 1985 film The Falcon and the Snowman. But the reggae-fueled, Carla Bley arranged instrumental that I am thinking of is from Charlie Haden’s “Not in Our Name”, the Liberation Orchestra’s 2005 response to the Iraq War on Verve . In this context, surrounded by an ironic, dissonant Battle Hymn of the Republic and a stately version of Lift Every Voice, the tune takes on a new meaning. Haden believed that you could capture people with beauty and that the politics would follow. “This is Not America” reminds me that even with its set-backs, the journey to democracy is one worth taking, that politicians don’t always speak for me, and that dissent is patriotic.


Dave Brown
The Black Ark
Thursdays 11:00 p.m. – 12:00 a.m.

“American Music”- Violent Femmes

You were born too late
I was born too soon
But every time I look at that ugly moon
It reminds me of you


Mike Mannix
Psych Out!
Wednesdays from 7-9 p.m.

“America the Myth”- Christ on Parade
The corporatization of our political system is destroying our country. No amount of empty rhetoric, fireworks, or flag waving is going to stop that. We are flying too close to the sun on wings of soft wax.


Hound Dog Hoover
Goin’ Down South
Monday 1-3 pm

“America”- Willie King
Sweet plea for togetherness from a late bluesman and community organizer from rural Alabama. Great soul blues groove and call-and-response vocals.


DJ LT
Shout, Sister, Shout!
Sundays 1-2pm

“Fireworks” by Irreversible Entanglements

Last thing we saw was fireworks symbolizing somethin’
Can’t tell the difference between America and the unknown
The forever-expanding and reshaping the landscape

Poet Camae Ayewa (a.k.a. Moor Mother) uses her words as an instrument in free jazz collective Irreversible Entanglements. I can’t think of a better song to listen to on this day! It explores the symbol of fireworks, yes, but also Black trauma and liberation– all rendered by the lively collaboration of improvisation. In both form and content, this song is a true embodiment of American values such as democracy and freedom.


Drew Wilson
Loud Love
Sundays at Midnight

These are on my setlist every year:

“America Rules” by Murphys Law

“American Heavy Metal Weekend” by Circle Jerks

“Rock N America” by Catholic Girls


Chad Pelton
Dustbin Days
Wednesdays from 11pm-1am

“4th Of July” by Dave Alvin

Dave Alvin’s “4th of July”, particularly the version on King of California, expertly captures the desperation of a relationship quietly breaking apart, while simultaneously describing the sound of every small town backyard 4th of July celebration, ending with kids shooting off bags of fireworks into the night air. America in 6 stanzas.


DJ Michael Roark
Tuesdays from 12-2 p.m.
“Now That the Buffalo’s Gone” by Buffy Saint-Marie
Lest we forget the freeways we travel were built on Manifest Destiny, i.e. genocide, here’s a song to remind you of our ugly past, and our greedy not-so-pretty present.

The Singular of Vinyl: Kiwi Jr.

Jay Millar from the Plural of Vinyl highlights his favorite album of the moment.

Kiwi Jr., Football Money (Mint Records)

Despite the plethora of current Aussie bands that find their way onto the playlists of the Plural Of Vinyl, it somehow figures that Kiwi Jr. are a Canadian band. And oddly enough, at times they remind me of turn-of-the-century canucks The Flashing Lights, especially on the emotive jangly “Comeback Baby.” The Flashing Lights led by Matt Murphy of Super Friendz, were a favorite of mine so mixing that with some Pavement-ish sounds gets me into a full blown nostalgia love fest. If I’m merely dropping one lazy comparison it would be later era Pavement.

Produced by Alec O’Hanley, guitar player from Alvvays, and released in March of 2019 via Mint Records out of Toronto, it’s an effervescent jangly ball of indie-pop fun with smirk inducing lyrics delivered with a slightly snotty deadpan tone. Largely guitar, bass, drums, & keys but it’s lightly sprinkled with some other fun sounds.

A couple lines I feel like pointing out because they make me smile:

“I’m a salary man, I want cigarettes from Japan… that taste like oranges.” – from “Salary Man”

“Gimme more Star Wars, gimme open bar chords, gimme more, gimme more more more!” – from “Gimme More”

“Last night your dreams were broadcast, but no one you know owns a television” – from “Comeback Baby”

If I had a complaint about this record it would only be that it’s too damn short. Gimme more!

Jay Millar
The Plural of Vinyl
Tuesdays, 7-9 a.m.

Guilty Pleasures

When I think of Guilty Pleasures, my first thought is, “Why should I let somebody tell me what music I’m allowed to enjoy?” Then I think, “Whatever. I know they aren’t cool, but damn, I like The Carpenters.”

For the uninitiated, The Carpenters were a sister-brother duo that formed in the 1960’s and gained notoriety in the 1970’s for making inoffensive elevator-ready music. Tastemakers will tell you this is banal, Up With People-level grandparent music, but I’m here to tell you to quit paying attention to tastemakers. Why were you ever listening to those people in the first place? How on earth could they possibly know what kind of music you like? Let’s look at the facts:

  1. Singer Karen Carpenter had an objectively beautiful voice. If you don’t agree with me on this, just listen to it when all the instrumentation is stripped away and then apologize for trying to troll me.
  2. She also played drums. Are you trying to tell me that’s not worthy of consideration? WRONG.
  3. Ok, so maybe Karen wasn’t the best drummer in the world. Do you like musicianship? Because if you do, The Wrecking Crew is all over the place on many of The Carpenters’ albums.
  4. Sonic Youth liked The Carpenters. They covered “Superstar” wayyy back in 1994… without irony in the decade of irony! Even though Richard Carpenter absolutely hated Sonic Youth’s version of the song, who cares? Richard Carpenter always seemed like a completely humorless person to me anyway. Incidentally, I know The Capenters didn’t write “Superstar”, but the Sonic Youth version is on a Carpenters tribute album, so take it up with Thurston Moore.
  5. Speaking of cover songs, The Carpenters recorded their rendition of Klaatu’s “Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft” in 1977, so if you think they were just some creepy suburban pie-eyed schmaltzball of a band, you’re wrong. You see, they also had some creepy interplanetary telepathic thing going on. That may or may not be cool, but it’s unquestionably interesting.
  6. Richard Carpenter was clearly a control freak and that means he was perfectly suited to compose intricate musical arrangements, which I always appreciate. The guy seemed like he was created in a lab for the sole purpose of sitting in front of a piano and cranking out hits that my parents would play while balancing the checkbook.
  7. Speaking of parents, The Carpenters may be the only band I like as much as my folks do. One of my earliest memories is riding around downtown Nashville in my mom’s VW Golf while listening to “There’s a Kind of Hush” on the easy listening station. Hell, we still listen to The Carpenters’ Christmas album every year and I hate Christmas music. THIS BAND KEEPS FAMILIES TOGETHER!
  8. Come to think of it, The Carpenters probably helped make a lot of babies in the 70’s. Yay for me, but eww.

Now that you’ve been fully convinced that this is the best band ever, I must warn you to slow your roll. Not everything they did was that wonderful, but the good stuff is very good. Where do you start? This is one of the rare instances where I recommend starting with the greatest hits compilations. Give those a shot first and if you’re still into it, start exploring their catalogue.

Brandon Spencer
Nashville Mixtapes

Shout, Sister Shout!

Sister Rosetta Tharpe is the reason I titled my radio show Shout, Sister Shout!. I have my pal Joey to thank, introducing me to her music years ago while working together at the since-defunct J&J’s Market & Cafe, where all of us baristas frequently played things not only as cafe music, but as our own form of conversation: “Have you heard this?! Listen to this one while you’re doing the dishes!” not unlike many other no-frills haunts in Nashville, I’m sure.

“Have you heard this?!” is something I’m postured to ask every Sunday from 1-2pm on WXNA FM, where I host the show named after Tharpe’s song Joey played for me that day. I delight in asking that question and hearing that question, being surrounded by fellow DJs and listeners who teem with that obsessive curiosity about where sounds come from and what they can mean to us. 

Born Rosetta Nubin on a cotton plant in Arkansas,Tharpe came of age playing thunderous electric guitar in traveling gospel groups and married an evangelical pastor in the 1940’s. Her voice is both cloud and lightning bolt: chilling wisps of tenderness alit by hollers of fury. She would bring gospel tunes to the nightclub via her signature Gibson SG and record all sorts of songs that defy the clarity-grubbing confines of genre. She was at long last inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame just last year. Later in life, she became musical and life partners with another woman in a time when that was unspeakable—especially for a woman of color. Her voice continues to cross every kind of boundary.

* * *

When an opportunity arose to host an hour of programming on the community radio waves of Nashville, I thought about existing radio shows and attitudes around the sharing of music. I considered how I would love to have a show defying genre and celebrating the nuances of form as it shape-shifts throughout tradition and culture in our rapidly globalizing world– and did so experimentally, yet accessibly. I thought about what my experiences could bring that maybe others could not, and my female-ness became difficult to ignore.

I felt that sense of delight seeping into my thoughts and my record collection, seeking out women I hadn’t heard of or had previously passed by for whatever reason, mining record shops and deep corners of the internet. I listened for sounds to play in conversation with Tharpe’s, voices of women and non-binary folx who were (or are) complex and genre-defying, marginalized and silenced–people like Beverly Glenn-Copeland or Nashville’s own Jackie Shane. I also looked for records by women that are celebrated but maybe not played as often as their brothers on the radio, for whatever reason. The music I’ve been choosing is personally inspiring, musically exciting, and culturally relevant– and there is almost always a new sister waiting in whatever crate I choose to dig in.

Despite this excitement and sense of certainty, approaching Shout, Sister, Shout! during #metoo and a clamoring, confusing call-out culture was tough. I wanted to approach it with a spirit of thesis more than antithesis, with joyful revolution more than reactionary rebellion. I didn’t want the show to feel exclusive to anyone, men included. The intention was to center the show around the sounds & stories of women, but trace their influences to all kinds of human experiences. It wasn’t necessarily designed to be explicitly radical, but if I’m honest– the show is radical simply by existing in a man’s world.

Playing majority women and nonbinary artists for an hour on the radio is noticeable, where playing all male voices for an hour is just– not. The airwaves tend to reflect the status quo rippling throughout everything else– in festival lineups, media coverage, and opportunities to make music without experiencing harassment. Recently a fellow DJ at WXNA (Hey, Heather!) brought to the community’s attention the sexist attitudes of a self-described commercial radio “consultant” who argued that if women made up 50% or more of programming on the radio, people would start to lose interest and touch the dial. He also added that in his astute opinion, female DJs are great to have for their “mom factor”, another gross condescension that masks as… I don’t know, being a mama’s boy?

* * *

There are endless complexities and nuances to hold in imperfect hands when we speak of gender, sexuality, and art. There are ever-evolving approaches, even in Nashville alone, on how to make safe space for women and nonbinary folx in music specifically. These are exciting times! I am in no way an expert or an authority on inclusivity, and I am not offering my records prostrate at the virtue-signaling-altar of the Goddess of the Politically Correct, who isn’t a substantial entity after all! However, I do think these communities (my communities) need representation– and that representation is more than a buzzword that lands corporate sponsorships and approval from the right kinds of people.

I think representation, like I saw articulated so well by NPR’s Jess Skolnik recently, needs to be paired with revolution. It’s not as simple as playing Joni in equal parts to Dylan or inserting Betty Davis into every conversation about Miles. Maybe it’s noticing the ever-spinning web between all of these artists, and when women are spun with duller thread, inspecting it a little closer and with tenderness. Keeping in mind that history has not been kind to her threads, that they may need some repair and restoration; and that they are not to be objectified on a pedestal of exclusivity, but rather recognized as part of the complex web of human musical history. Being intentional about the voices of women is difficult, painstaking work. It’s delicate and powerful, like I’d imagine adjusting the gears of a clock might be.

* * *

Let’s use The Rolling Stones as an example here. I haven’t played The Stones on my show. I don’t need to expound on this, obviously, something like “Brown Sugar” is not a counterpart to the sounds and stories of black women, not to mention it being overplayed and lyrically offensive. And yet, I don’t think I should “cancel” The Rolling Stones or burn every copy of Sticky Fingers as a listener of American music. But oh boy, do I listen to it with a critical ear, and think about what they continue to mean to our zeitgeist while tapping my toe. Here’s a thought– maybe I would play “Gimme Shelter” and discuss oft-overlooked, dynamite-vocalist Merry Clayton, how her name was misspelled as “Mary” on some of their releases, and play another one of her recordings in the same set. And hell, I’d throw in Liz Phair’s Exile in Guyville next to that too, and the whole show could be a self-referencing historical conundrum, and it would sound dynamic and great. As a DJ, I think it’s my responsibility to the community not to censor but to curate, and to play the voices that are less likely to be heard in elevated spaces such as these. Maybe it’s also our responsibility to explore how those voices can respond and add to the existing conversation. Isn’t recognizing the humanity in someone or something you don’t relate to the most radical thing we can do in a world of ever-dividing divisions?

* * *

In Nashville specifically, conversations around music can tend to feel pretentious and stilted. It is sometimes intimidating to do live radio for a city of musicians and critics, to know that my transitions may likely be analyzed, to know that as I struggle to pronounce someone’s name correctly, there is a listener out there in the void– driving their Volvo down Gallatin and cackling at my best. In this cultural moment, specifically in Nashville, I think we need to be able to fumble in front of one another. We need to dig for what delights us and unabashedly dust it off and spin it for our neighbors.

Looking into past generations and histories for the show has been such an enticing and inexhaustible adventure, but I think the most fulfilling points have been connecting them to people and music that are active now. The most meaningful moments of the show thus far have been the live interviews and in-studio sessions featuring women in Nashville who are doing really cool, important shit: Meg Pharr (of riot grrrl punk band Depression Breakfast), Sean Della Croce (singer-songwriter and co-founder of a print publication called Broadside), Ziona Riley (singer-songwriter & bassist for local band Heinous Orca), Kate Haldrup (local drummer and audio engineer), Eve Maret (synth wizard and Hyasynth House co-founder), Dream Chambers (electro-pop musician and other Hyasynth House co-founder), Wu Fei and Celine Thackston of chatterbird, and Peggy Snow (matriarch of the decades-running local experimental folk band The Cherry Blossoms and virtuosic painter of Nashville’s condemned buildings). Each of these women has brought wildly different playlists and perspectives into Martha’s Chicken Shack. Having them with me in that space feels electric and energizes me to ask more questions, to seek out more women, and ultimately to turn people onto more beautiful, meaningful shit.

In these moments when someone else is sharing from behind their particular lens of experience, I feel like I am getting to create the kind of space I intended to make on the show and that I long for more of in the world. I experience this as a listener, too– It makes me feel like the ever-spinning, ephemeral web of musical history is being held to new light, refracting incessantly for whoever chooses to turn the dial and tune in.

DJ LT
Shout, Sister, Shout!
Sundays, 1 p.m.-2 p.m.

Mr. Narrator, This Is Joe Strummer to Me:

Hello, my name is Ed, and I am a Clash-a-holic… (In my mind you are calling back “Hello Ed!”)

Today is International Clash Day. We should give a shout out to fellow DJ John Richard at KEXP in Seattle who initiated Clash Day in 2013. Yay John! Really, it should be called International Clash FAN Day. We celebrate not only the Clash themselves but the brother/sisterhood of Clash fans worldwide, and here in Nashville. In the teenage recesses of my mind, I still think the Clash are somehow on the edge—weird, marginal—and I’m still kind of shocked when I run into other passionate Clash fans. So cheers to us! Passion is the fashion!

Personally I came to the Clash, I’m sure like many of my generation, overnight. One day it was Yes and Rush and 20-minute rock concertos; the next it was Year ZERO, laser focus on what matters, and London’s burning AND I’m SO Bored with the USA. The Clash gave us bullshit detectors!

To borrow from Duke Ellington, there are three types of Clash music: early, middle, and late. And I love them all. The fury and pure punk of early Clash with “White Riot,” “1977,” “Jail Guitar Doors,” and “Garageland”; to the expansiveness and cinematic quality of middle Clash with “London Calling,” “Spanish Bombs,” “The Card Cheat,” and “Death and Glory”; and finally to the experimentation of late Clash with “Magnificent Seven,” “Washington Bullets,” “Lose This Skin,” “Ghetto Defendant,” and “Straight to Hell.” It’s all fantastic!

The Clash broke up in 1983; Mick Jones was fired in September of that year. So that’s where I mark their end. To hell with post-Jones Clash! Wait, back up. Even I can learn a thing or two about the Clash. This year on WXNA I interviewed Kosmo Vinyl, sometimes known as the fifth member of the Clash, about his time with the band. He mentioned that a new book about Clash 2.0 had just come out and that I should check it out. Mark Andersen’s We Are The Clash covers the band from Mick’s ouster to the finale. This book radically changed my view of this period of the band, and I highly recommend it. It may challenge your likely derisive view of the band during this era. (You can listen to Kosmo’s interview here: http://www.wxnafm.org/broadcasts/7776.)

Regardless, the Clash came to an end over 35 years ago! And here we are, celebrating International Clash Day in 2019. What’s going on here? Perhaps the Clash, their music, their example, their inspiration persist because we need them to. These times require deep reserves of musical, artistic, and spiritual sustenance. The Clash really only existed from 1976 to 1983. In those six years they put out six full length albums (two of which were multi-disc) and many EPs and singles. Digging into that output, you will find much that speaks to us today. What I’m struck by is the deep humanism of the band and Joe’s lyrics in particular. They weren’t perfect, they weren’t the best musicians, they didn’t invent punk, but they were true believers for a time. It was and is true rebel music.

The Clash were not Joe Strummer’s band. They were a collective unit: Joe’s lyrics, Mick’s arrangements, Paul’s pure style and chutzpah, and Topper’s solid drumming chops came together to create a unique sound and sensibility. In ways not true for other punk-era bands, they continue to spark our imagination and our collective will to resist. And to rebel in the Albert Camus sense of the term—or as Joe had slapped on his battered Telecaster, “ignore alien orders.” They were sincere without being goofy, they were ironic without being distancing, and they believed what they were saying even if they were at times naive. “I think people ought to know that we’re antifascist, we’re anti-violence, we’re anti-racist, and we’re pro-creative. And we’re against ignorance.” Tell it, Joe!

The Clash and the spirit of Joe Strummer are still with us. In 2016, after what seemed like a calamity, Henry Rollins put it as succinctly as I’ve ever heard: “This is not the time to be dismayed, this is punk rock time. This is what Joe Strummer trained you for.” Goddamn, I can hardly say that without tearing up. WXNA, the DJs and the volunteers, are proud to be on the side of our community and when necessary to be part of the fight to make this community open to all. That is the spirit of the Clash, and that is what Joe Strummer taught us. “Without people, you’re nothing…”

I’m a collector of Strummer quotes. There’s one for just about any situation. Here’s one for right now: “If I had five million pounds I’d start a radio station because something needs to be done. It would be nice to turn on the radio and hear something that didn’t make you feel like smashing up the kitchen and strangling the cat.”

The creation of WXNA in 2016 gave us a chance to re-enchant our love affair with music, and through music to connect with each other: My long love for this band has been reawakened. And I am heartily grateful, because, damn, I needed it. So let’s raise a glass to St. Joe Strummer and to The Only Band That Matters. Cheers and Solidarity.

DJ ED
Eighties/Schmeighties
Friday, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.

Starman Ascending

WXNA DJ Anne McCue Remembers the Star Star

 

That night I woke up at about 3 a.m. and couldn’t get back to sleep. Usually I try to meditate when that happens but for some reason unknown, I picked up my phone and checked in and saw the news. Unbelievable. There was someone I never realized would actually die. He hovered over our childhoods and our teen years in Australia, a superlative human, part alien (all too convincing), fantastic planeteer.

I saw The Man Who Fell To Earth when it came out with some of my teenage siblings at Huskisson Theatre which doubled as a church on Sunday mornings. Sitting in a little old rickety cinema with wooden seats in a tiny coastal town in Australia we were transported into the seemingly “Bowie Universe.” We were intrigued, mesmerized, captivated; and it was hard to doubt that Bowie was actually from another planet. Nearly impossible to separate the man who sang Starman from the character in the film, especially when you are a kid whose imagination is attempting to brim over and get loose.

Throughout the ’70s, Bowie shifted and transformed and could do no wrong. He was made to be a star and handled it better than just about anyone. He was fearlessly and brazenly unconventional. His inspiration was limitless, his imagination was unencumbered.

I’ve been revisiting Low and Hunky DoryLow – that depressed, stoner album – can make me feel as weird as I used to feel when I listened to it all those years ago, like an ethereal flashback to a past nightmare dream of darker, more wintery times. Happier is Hunky Dory, the elvin Bowie hasn’t completely thrown off his hippie whimsy on this wonderful album. We have loved so much of him and will keep on at it. Wow, Mr. Jones. Happy Birthday! xo

 

Anne McCue
Songs on the Wire
Tuesday, 10 a.m.-12 p.m.

http://www.wxnafm.org/broadcasts/10123
annemccue.com
songsonthewire.com