Listen And It All Begins To Fit: On Dory Previn

Let’s be clear: I’m not here to discuss Father John Misty. However, I owe it to him to begin this piece by mentioning a playlist he began curating via Spotify a couple years back (in true Father John Misty form, it’s titled Father John Misty’s Father John Misty Playlist). I remember cueing it up with my boyfriend on a road trip one weekend in college, skipping the tracks we already knew and loved from folks like Harry Nilsson or John Fahey, hungry for new sounds to sink into. At some point in the shuffling, Dory Previn’s “Atlantis” began to play:

I lie in bed
beside him
and I know him
outside in
I’ve learned his body’s
line and length
and memorized his grin
I’ve counted
every crease
at the edges
of his eyes
I know his soul’s
complete circumference
I know
his lies

She unfurls these lyrics by way of a sensuous melody, yet her voice remains a bit withheld and guarded; there is no glimmer of a “come hither” sexiness. There’s a show tune-ish-ness to the melody, but no “All That Jazz” cuteness. She sounds kind of in awe, a little bit afraid, maybe wounded. She sounds wild, too.

Hearing “Atlantis” was all I needed. I immediately researched all that I could on Dory Previn née Dorothy Lanagan and learned that she’d passed away on Valentine’s Day in 2012. I found that her life was as complex and winding as her songwriting. She’d been both a writing partner and a life partner to the famous Hollywood composer André Previn before he had an affair and child with actress Mia Farrow in 1969. Dory’s already fragile mental state reached a breaking point when the couple divorced. And when André Previn married Farrow, Dory was hospitalized for her psychosis. Eventually, she began writing her own singer-songwriter tunes as a part of her healing process. One of the first was a song outlining her ex-husband’s affair called “Beware of Young Girls”:

Beware of young girls
Who come to the door
Wistful and pale of twenty and four
Delivering daisies with delicate hands

This track, among others exploring other vulnerable themes such as her childhood trauma (“With My Daddy in the Attic”), fear (“Scared To Be Alone”), and psychosis (“Mister Whisper”) appeared on her debut solo album On My Way To Where (1970). She went on to record five more solo albums in the ‘70s, and one live album at Carnegie Hall.

On her 1974 self-titled album on the Warner Bros label, her voice seems to have reached a new peak of gumption and ease. Tracks such as “Coldwater Canyon” and “Brando” present as a direct commentary on Previn’s zeitgeist in ’70s L.A., both lyrically and musically. Her observations and descriptions are as sharp (and often funny) as ever, but shadowed with a sinuous, poignant longing and self-awareness. Folky instrumentation like steel guitar and Latin-style drums are punctuated with a show-tune-ish urgency that Previn reappropriated from her past to support sophisticated and catchy melodies that effortlessly wield an emotional narrative.

These songs are at once self-deprecating, profound, feminist, dark, funny, sweeping, strange, unique to their time, and ahead of their time. One of my personal favorites is the last track on Dory Previn, “Did Jesus Have a Baby Sister?”:

Did she long to be the saviour
Saving everyone
She met?
And in private to her mirror
Did she whisper:
Saviourette?
Saviourwoman?
Saviourperson?
Save your breath!

The background vocals are searing on this track and the chord changes sound intuitive but are quite complex. There is a less groovy but equally probing song called “Woman Soul” off of 1976’s We Are Children Of Coincidence that brings wonderful nuances to the love song form. I think it speaks to what we might today call “toxic masculinity” with great empathy:

I love him ‘cause he questions all the roles he’s forced to play
‘Grown men don’t cry’: he sees the lie, and cannot change his way
Oh, but he does the best he can; that’s why I love that man
But I also love the woman in his soul

In addition to her records, Dory Previn also published a trio of autobiographies in her lifetime: “On My Way to Where”, “Midnight Baby”, and “Bogtrotter”. They feel like extended liner notes, her lyrics interwoven with stream-of-consciousness narratives and an occasional poem. Her books overlap non-linearly and further explore her troubled childhood and her rise to songwriting in L.A. after several odd jobs including salesgirl, secretary, and chorus girl. She details her inner world and psychosis with a disarming vulnerability. One of my favorite poems included in any of her books is titled “Listen”. I was thrilled when I came across a clip of her on Irish television reading this poem in her inimitably playful yet serene tone:

The feeling in my blood-flow
Is a simple thing you see
I am it
I am it
We are everything and nothing
But that’s how to play the game
In these weatherbeaten bodies
With these godforsaken brains
We can listen
Listen
Listen to the universe resounding
In the pulsing and the pounding
Of our infant ancient veins
Listen
Listen
Listen and it all begins to fit
You are it

Dory’s records have become an anchor for me when I yearn for music to be a space for making meaning beyond sounds and words alone. I find myself enchanted by her snarky honesty, her wistfulness, her admissions of uncertainty and her occasional turns toward nurturing. I am simultaneously shocked and comforted by her voice. And when I’m feeling weatherbeaten I will watch that funny little video, sometimes on repeat. Listen, and it all begins to fit. You are it.

Lauren Turner
Shout, Sister, Shout!
Sundays 1-2 pm

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.

Music Feels Pride

Being a gay man and deejay on WXNA (Slings & Arrows, Tuesdays noon to 2), and it being the month of June, I was asked by the station manager if I would consider writing a blog for Pride. My first thought was, Why not? I like to think I might have something to say on the matter. But then my mind went blank. So, it was suggested I might want to discuss music that affected me as a closeted youth and the powerful pull music can have to open hearts and minds, to be a solace or a catalyst.

Well, after wracking my brain, I couldn’t think of any music that spoke to me as a youth on that level. Of course, music enters the soul in ways unknowing, and surely the inner self hiding within was listening to the music that passed my ears in a way differently from the outer self. Dancing queens like ABBA and Donna Summer, or the witchy swirl of Stevie Nicks, were scratching an inner itch, and music my brothers brought into the house—The Rolling Stones, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, The Pretenders—scratching an outer.

The PretendersI remember my 12-year-old self hearing Pretenders I for the first time in my brother’s room. He brought it home, excited to listen, as a friend of his had suggested he get it. When that first song came on with its driving drums and thrashing guitars, I was hooked. But it was Chrissie Hynde’s vocal attitude that sealed the deal. Her incisive intensity scared the bejesus out of me, and I loved it. 

When she sang, “but not me baby, I’m too precious, fuck off,” I was (1) blown away by the fact that such language could be said on a record, and (2) excited that it was a woman who would say it. It was my first “fuck” in music. The lacey frills of Stevie Nicks twirled away. I wanted the staunch leather of this badass woman to reach into places I didn’t yet know existed.  On that album I discovered the essence of the preciousness within (a resource not to be wasted) and the rowdy and lawless swagger without. Selves coalesced. 

Of course, time moves on, and Tom Petty’s drawl prevails over Hynde’s as I get older. One can’t change the vicissitudes of time. Just like one can’t change the crucial way music makes you feel when you’re young and alone and scared and hiding within yourself. When you feel that the world rejects you. 

The music on the jukebox at the Stonewall Inn must have had that kind of powerful effect. It was stacked with the songs of its time, 1969, a year of revolution. (In 1969 it was illegal for gay people to congregate and drink—let alone dance—together. The Stonewall Inn was a place where they could do all three.) Witnesses claim that shortly before that historical raid, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” was played. It has also been noted that one of the favorite songs to dance and sing along with on the Stonewall Inn jukebox was “Aquarius (Let The Sunshine In)’ by The 5th Dimension. Clearly, it is a song about transcendence: 

Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind’s true liberation

The word “liberation” must have struck a chord and reverberated in the hearts of the young queer men and women and transgender individuals who frequented there. Along with “This Is My Life (La Vita)” by Shirley Bassey, with its refrain of “let me live, let me live,” and others, these songs must have forged feelings of rebellion, independence, and hope. 

So, when the cops came (with little backup at first, it must be noted) in the post-midnight hours on that hot New York City night, something burst. Liberation enflamed the dark. Love steered the stars. And here we are, a people on a road to vindication. Pride.

Michael Roark
Slings and Arrows
Tuesdays, noon-2pm

How Playing Music Has Helped with Making Music

Our very own DJ Anne McCue was recently quoted in a feature on how her show “Songs on the Wire” influences her work as a musician and songwriter: “For two hours every week, I’m listening to new music,” McCue says. “That’s been an incredibly inspiring experience. It’s really expanded my mind. That’s really helped with my creativity. You have to let go of the music business and just get back into the music.”

Little may our listeners know, Anne isn’t the only musician-DJ at WXNA. Read below to see how curating a radio show has informed the music-making of several of our DJs, and vice versa!


“I think, to a lot of musicians, listening and playing are almost inseparable. If you think of the most awful, confused, disjointed band you’ve ever seen, the foundation of their horribleness was probably a lack of listening. The act of listening, sometimes seen as mere fertilizer used to serve the playing / creation, is really the soil itself – at least half of the entire equation. If you are a musician, compare the flow states achieved when playing with a tight band where the synergy is palpable and powerful, and being absorbed into a beautiful record through headphones or what-have-you. They are not the same, but I think they’re intrinsically linked. If you’re not a musician, you actually are! Haha. Gotchya. At least if you’ve ever actually listened to music, you’re already most of the way there. For myself, combining the practice of listening with the communal nature of terrestrial radio broadcasting, makes for a ritual that directly informs and encourages good, perceptive performing. Come all, let’s listen deeply together!”

-DJ Trev of Our Golden Tones; making music as Trevor Nikrant and in Styrofoam Winos.


“The link between deejaying and creating music can be identified as mutual growth. All of us should strive to master our chosen craft and ideally we can link different creative endeavors to inform one another. For instance, if a musician is exploring a new genre that technically challenges them, why not explore similar music while deejaying on the radio? For a DJ it is important to allot time in the week to sit down, drop a needle on a record and listen to uncharted territory.  The unknown is the edge of understanding and future growth. As the student, if we only study what we know, then the creative in us has been sealed in a box, only to imitate our narrow scope of understanding. The next time a creative block obstructs our output, it may be time to listen to worlds and stories we do not know, because they may become our own.”

-DJ Brer Sunshine of The Black Gold Historical Society; making music as Brer Sunshine.


If you are a musician, how do you know when something is Done? Good? Decent? Listenable? Play it on the radio. The radio does not lie.  The airwaves are more Democratic than the Bill of Rights. Is loud or just full of volume? Does it sound deep or bassy? Is it loud or dynamic?  As a DJ, I’m flummoxed (flabbergasted) and surprised at how often records made by cool people under cool circumstances–impeccably dressed with excellent smelling hair tonic wearing never-seen-in-stores posh vines–will make records that do not hold up the thrilling prom-heard-round-the-block chaos that is The Kingsman’s “Louie, Louise,” the steel factory smoke of Bo Diddley’s “Pretty Thing,” or the shiny chrome of B.B. King’s “She’s Dynamite.”  

– Paul Burch of Works Progress Radio Hour; making music as Paul Burch.


“When Shout, Sister, Shout! used to be late at night, I’d often leave a show I’d either played or attended and race on over to the station with a new record in hand from the merch table. I loved cueing up some brand new vinyl and trying to quickly track down a song I’d just heard over at Betty’s or wherever. Nothing seemed more appropriate for Nashville’s airwaves than an echo of her own shows, still hovering in the air. I think there is a natural overlap between performing and playing music on the radio in their real-time urgency, their inescapable live-ness, never existing in isolation or a vacuum, like how recording or writing can sometimes be. Curating a playlist helps me think about “flow”– the way songs can move in succession as almost a meta-song of its own, another art form altogether. Doing this helps me to consider “flow” in my own music– how I want to ease into the hour or so of programming, how I want to transition or pause, when to play a cover song, etc. Digging for radio gems also keeps me on my toes with listening to new stuff for inspiration and never drawing solely upon the same well of influences over and over again.”

-DJ LT of Shout, Sister, Shout!; making music as Lou Turner and in Styrofoam Winos.

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.

Freeform Love: WXNA Turns 3

My indoctrination into music nerd-dom came rather late in life. I spent my high school years as a science fiction/comic book/movie/comedy nerd. My primary access to new music was what I heard on mainstream Top 40 radio, most of which left me cold in the late 1970s. My only source for records was the Russellville, Kentucky, Big K (a local discount store chain that was devoured whole by Walmart in 1981) where I scoured the racks for movie soundtracks, comedy LPs, and Beatles records, the one musical group I was truly passionate about during my high school days.

Growing up in the boondocks of Western Kentucky meant I had no access to a local record store to discover artists I’d never heard before, and I lacked a music “mentor” to say, “You’ve never heard fill-in-the-blank? Here, listen to this!” Occasionally I might see an interesting act on TV like Blondie or Devo, but the musical infrastructure to nurture a budding fascination simply did not exist in my world.

My first year of college at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky, changed my life more completely than I could ever imagine. Not only did I feel like I was free from the rural “prison” of my high school teenage years, but I suddenly found the perfect means to express my teenage angst and frustration – punk rock. My first few weeks of college led me to records by the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, the Clash, Elvis Costello (back when he was one REALLY pissed-off skinny geek), and more. But along with the punk rock, I was also discovering 1960s rock beyond the Beatles: glam, ’70s hard rock, classic early rock’n’roll, and more. Albums like London Calling, Jerry Lee Lewis Original Golden Hits, The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars all arrived in my growing collection within weeks of each other.

The result was that I quickly developed very egalitarian tastes in music. For me, Otis Redding’s Dock of the Bay was just as much “new music” as X’s Under the Big Black Sun. At the same time, I became aware of just how boring and timid mainstream commercial radio was. Records like R.E.M’s Chronic Town knocked my socks off, but you sure didn’t hear it on the big radio stations.

“Someone should start a radio station that just plays great music, no matter when it came out or what style it is!” became one of my frequent rants. “It might not be the highest rated station in town,” I bellowed at passing clouds, “but there are enough people who would dig it if someone just had the balls to just do it!”

It would take me three decades to finally put my time and money where my rant was. Of course in the meantime, I’d discovered college radio, but even it often fell victim to the “format” infection, and its entanglement with university politics and dependency on a young, inexperienced and constantly rotating management team meant that even the best station could be decimated with one graduation ceremony or an arbitrary decision by an institutional bureaucrat.

Around the same time I secured a community-volunteer spot on Vanderbilt University’s WRVU in 1997, I also discovered WFMU and other like-minded freeform stations that were just beginning to extend their programming to the internet. A similar station was what Nashville truly needed — an independent, community-focused radio station, founded on a belief that good programming, no matter how eclectic, would find its audience.

The death of WRVU as a terrestrial broadcast station in the summer of 2011 was a tragedy for Nashville’s cultural scene, but it also presented an opportunity. That’s why I jumped at the chance when Heather Lose called me in the March 2012 to ask if I had any interest in starting an independent, listener-supported community radio station in Nashville. At our first meeting, I said we had to be totally freeform, every DJ programming their own show, and I was pleased and surprised to find that everyone else felt the same way.

Seven years after that first meeting, and three years since WXNA officially began broadcasting that vision of freeform, people-powered radio is not only still going strong but is growing. WXNA is a testament to both our volunteers and our listeners. It demonstrates that real human beings sharing their passion for music, the arts, and the human condition can inspire hope, bring real change to the world, and share our humanity in the moment, right here and now, along with proving that punk fury-powered rants sometimes turn out to be right.

Randy Fox
Randy’s Record Shop
Mondays, 7-9 a.m.

Stuck Inside of DC with the Delta Blues again: The Story of Goin’ Down South

My journey to hosting Goin’ Down South on WXNA started when I was a Capitol Hill reporter, way back in 2001. Washington, D.C., was a stressful place back then. The 9/11 terrorists had crashed an airplane into the Pentagon, and envelopes containing anthrax started showing up in congressional offices. I’d been near one of these offices when one of these envelopes showed up and I couldn’t get a straight answer as to whether there was any chance I had been exposed to anthrax, bacterial spores that can kill you if you inhale them.

I decided it was time to get the hell out of Dodge. So I took a road trip — not just any road trip, but a Southern music pilgrimage. I’d been to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival a dozen times, but despite growing up in Tennessee, I’d never been to Memphis. I’d never been to the Mississippi Delta, despite my love for the blues. And I’d never been to Duane Allman’s grave. It was time to visit all those places.

So I drove south on Interstate 81, stopping first at the Carter Family Fold in rural Hiltons, Virginia, where Janette Carter was waiting for me on the porch of her father’s store. Janette was the daughter of A.P. Carter and Sara Carter, who teamed up with Maybelle Carter to go over the mountain to Bristol in 1927 to record some tunes for Ralph Peer — part of the Bristol sessions that made the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers the first big stars of country music. Janette, who was keeping the Carter Family tradition alive by hosting weekly concerts, explained to me the difference between old-time and bluegrass music — bluegrass is simply old-time “all sped up,” she said. Somewhere I have a tape of our conversation. Maybe I’ll dig it up and play excerpts on Goin’ Down South sometime.

Then I drove into Bristol, to hear a weekly bluegrass concert at the Bristol Mall, an event held by the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, which at that point was housed in a vacant space in the mall. Now the museum is housed in a grand old brick building in downtown Bristol, which has smartly capitalized on its place in country music history. Every September, thousands of music lovers crowd the streets of downtown Bristol for the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion, a 20-stage festival whose headliners this year range from Wynonna Judd to St. Paul and the Broken Bones.

Next stop was Nashville, where I dropped in on the second-ever Americana Music Festival & Conference. I didn’t spend much time at the conference — I enjoyed hearing Rodney Crowell tell stories about the Nashville songwriter scene of the early 1970s, but I didn’t come to Nashville to be cooped up in a hotel meeting room. Instead, I spent hours looking through the 45s at Lawrence Record Shop on South Broadway, which had more singles than any record store I’d ever seen. The now-gone store was heaven for me, since I had a jukebox in my basement that hungered for new records to play.

AmericanaFest was just a small affair then. I saw the Drive-By Truckers at Springwater, of all places, with maybe 40 other people. They played a lot of songs from their newly released Southern Rock Opera album and blew me away.

Then it was off to Memphis, with a stop along the way at the Loretta Lynn Ranch. I hit Beale Street, of course, and Sun Studio, where I posed for a picture with the same microphone Elvis used. I was determined to go to a real juke joint, and I knew there weren’t many left in Mississippi, so I asked the Sun Studio tour guide if he knew of any in Memphis. He recommended Wild Bill’s, a small club far away from Beale Street’s tourist traps. I walked in and the place was packed. There was even a table of deaf people, who could feel the vibrations of the music through the floor. I ordered a Bud, and the bartender gave me a quart bottle and a glass. Until the next band showed up, I was the only white person there. I had found a real juke joint.

I stayed in a hotel downtown, across the street from Memphis’ minor-league baseball stadium. Big mistake — there was a late-night party at the stadium that night with hiphop music so loud that it rattled my hotel room’s windows. I couldn’t get to sleep. I complained to the hotel clerk the next morning, and she said, “Memphis doesn’t shut down at night.” It was Sunday, so I went to church — not just any church, but the Full Gospel Tabernacle Church, where the Rev. Al Green preached. I was surprised there weren’t more people there, but Al Green didn’t care. The soul singer turned preacher gave it his all, singing with the choir, preaching a little, singing some more, preaching some more, and so on. After two hours I wondered if the service was ever going to end, and I wanted to get to Graceland before it closed. Graceland turned out to be an island in the middle of a low-rent commercial district. It’s not that big of a mansion, and its stone wall was covered in graffiti. Inside, it’s a trip to see it furnished just like Elvis left it in 1977, and the homemade memorials that had been placed around his grave were touching. Plus Elvis’s cars and his airplane, the Lisa Marie, were fun to see.

I headed to Mississippi as the sun began to sink and landed in Batesville, where I was disappointed to find that I couldn’t buy a beer on Sunday. The next day I headed to Clarksdale, where I visited the Delta Blues Museum and ate lunch at the Ground Zero Blues Club, a sanitized version of a juke joint owned by actor Morgan Freeman and a local lawyer. Clarksdale already was on the map for blues travelers, but it was nothing like the blues mecca that it is today. Since it was a Monday, there was no prospect of seeing any live music that night. So I went rambling.

With Robert Johnson playing on my car’s tape deck, I drove through a bunch of crossroads until I got to Rosedale. Prisoners under the watchful eye of an armed deputy were working on the side of the road. I parked my car when I saw what looked like a juke joint. There was a guy sitting on a chair on the sidewalk by the door. I asked him if I could go in, and he said it was closed, but I could take a look. Inside the walls were covered with graffiti, and there was a DJ station, but no stage for a live band. Hiphop, not the blues, ruled.

I decided it was time to find Sonnyboy Williamson’s grave in Tutwiler. The most direct route, according to my map, was through Parchman. I didn’t realize until I got to a gate manned by armed guards that Parchman wasn’t a town, it was the notorious Parchman Farm, the prison where many bluesmen spent time. I could drive through it, they said, if I didn’t have a camera. I admitted to having a camera, so that’s one site I didn’t see.

I had to drive back to Clarksdale in order to get to Tutwiler, and it was pitch black by the time I got there. I couldn’t find Sonny Boy Williamson’s grave, but I did see where composer W.C. Handy first heard the blues in 1903 while waiting for a train.

I was tired from all this driving around, but I was ready to leave the Delta. So I drove all the way to Tupelo, where I planned to visit the home where Elvis was born. I stayed in a cheap motel and woke up with a fright in the middle of the night — I had dreamed there was a man at the motel room’s door looking in at me. Too much Robert Johnson, I guess.

Elvis’ birthplace was small and simple — a two-room house built by his father, grandfather and uncle. It didn’t take much time to see. I spent more time in a chapel on the museum’s grounds, where I sat alone on a wooden pew surrounded by stained glass, listening to gospel songs performed by Elvis. I found comfort in this peaceful setting, as I did later on this trip when I visited the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, where I listened to the music of Thomas Dorsey, the father of black gospel music, in a replica of a church sanctuary.
The rest of the trip was anticlimactic — I did make it to see Duane Allman’s grave in Macon, as well as the graves of Elizabeth Reed and Little Martha, the inspirations for two of the Allman Brothers’ songs.

I’ve gone down south many times since then, including numerous trips to Clarksdale, but most of my journeys are now taken on turntables and CD players. Thanks to WXNA, you can go with me.

I left the Washington, D.C., area in 2016 and moved to Kingston Springs and opened a record store. Turns out records are a better hobby than a business, at least for me, and I closed the store after one year. I did get to know several WXNA DJs through the store, however, and I jumped at the chance to join the WXNA team.

You can find all kinds of music and public affairs programming on WXNA, and I get the chance to play everything from Celtic music to New Orleans funk when I fill in for other DJs. But Southern roots music is still my first love, and that’s what you’ll hear on Goin’ Down South. Let’s ride!

Hound Dog Hoover
Goin’ Down South
Mondays, 1-3 p.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

Let’s Hear It for People-Powered Radio!

When we brag that WXNA FM is people-powered radio, we mean it. Listener support makes possible our broadcasting in Nashville at 101.5 FM and online, with a wide array of freeform and speciality programming coming to you seven days a week. This Spring Pledge Drive (May 13-19, 2019), we thank you for expressing your love for WXNA by making a donation. Here’s what several of our volunteer DJs had to say about what people-powered radio means to them.

 

Leanne Merritt of “X-Posure”

People-powered radio, especially WXNA, is a positive example of a thriving symbiotic relationship. I love seeing how music connects us all and I realize every day just how small the world is as I meet people through music. I believe that music is a powerful connector, and that it creates community. I hope that the joy I get by sharing new sounds on my radio show is also experienced by the listener tuning in and by the artist who is getting their music played on the radio.

 

Plato Jenkins of “The Needle in the Groove”

WXNA gives me a reason to search out new (to me) music. It’s like spinning records in my living room, except I’m sharing with more than just my dog. 😜 And the other shows inspire me.

 

Laura Pochodylo of “Big Little Records” and “Runout Numbers”

For me, being part of a people-powered radio station is an exercise in putting my time, effort and money where my mouth is. If I want an alternative to corporate mass media, I had better help build and support it! Hosting two shows each week is a great excuse I can use to keep buying cool records, and I love that it expands my sonic horizons while building my confidence in my musical knowledge and on-air abilities. Being a part of WXNA feels like having an extended family all throughout Nashville.

 

Alexis Stevens of “Free Association”

WXNA reflects the eclectic tastes of the Nashville community (and beyond), and it belongs to the listeners who support it—that is people-powered radio. On a personal level, it fulfills a deep desire in me to share the music I love with others. I think all WXNA DJs feel that way and take the responsibility/privilege seriously. Long live freeform, people-powered radio! LONG LIVE WXNA!

 

Peter Rodman of “Peter Rodman Goes Off”

Music changed my life the minute WXNA went on the air. It changes my life every day listening to the station. I learn more about music now than I had learned in the 50 years prior to the launch of this station! It shows how much the station revitalizes this 67-year-old–we want to do that for everyone listening!

 

Chris Nochowicz of “The Future of Jazz”

When I found out that I have a listener in another country building their personal playlists off of what I play; when I have a listener tell me that what I played got them out of a tough point in their life; when I know I have sold music for artists because their listeners heard it on my show, I understand how important what I play is. All of a sudden I realized that what I play and say is important. I need to stay fresh and current and keep finding the struggling artist that doesn’t have the money to promote, but has some of the best music out there. I’ve been doing this for fifteen years and I could go on forever about why I do this. Better than a paid day at work. Oh, and then the large group of friends I met because of the ❌

 

Nashville Leslie of “Studio & Stage” and “The Soap Radio Hour”

People-powered radio means radio that still reflects free speech and real people playing music they’re passionate about!

 

Lauren Turner of “Shout, Sister, Shout!”

From the late-great “Seaship Auricle” to “Maiden Voyager”—this station has got the whole world’s music covered, as well as the music of the weird and wonderful people in your backyard, making your breakfast, and teaching your children! The magic of the everyday is alive and well on-air, and running on community support is totally a part of that!

 

Celia Gregory of “What Moves You”

When plotting a move to Nashville from my college town a decade ago, aiming to immerse myself in LIVE music, it never occurred to me I might have the opportunity to spin songs and talk to artists I love, sharing their art and perspectives with a wider audience via terrestrial radio. WXNA is a people-powered labor of love, and a dream come true for the volunteer DJs who lend their time and record collections. But we hear from listeners that this is THEIR radio home, too, and there’s room for all! Inclusive. Inspirational. Addictive. For those about to rock (tuned to 101.5 FM), we salute you.

 

Heather Lose, Founding President of WXNA and “Aging Hipster” Host

To me it’s all about connecting with the audience. Our world is a complicated, scary, amazing, beautiful, horrific place. Prepping each week’s show in response to what’s going on out there helps me process, and sharing these songs brings community together to celebrate, mourn, rage, or just enjoy an awesome Elvis Costello song on a pretty day. Because it’s happening live, we’re doing these things together, and anything that helps bring people together is very special and very needed.

 

Lauren Bufferd of “Different Every Time”

I came of age at a time when radio was the primary way I learned about new music or really any music, short of sharing with friends. I first heard Coltrane on a late night jazz show and had to pull over to the side of the road. I’d never heard anything so beautiful–I had to stop driving. Though nothing’s been quite as transcendent since, I have been exposed to lots of new music via radio. When I do my show, I am thinking of someone like me who has big ears and eclectic taste and is going to hear something new and beautiful and exciting on “Different Every Time” and fall in love, just the way I have, so many many times. Also, it’s a great excuse to buy more CDs.

 

Michael Buhl of “The Scatter Shot”

I suppose “people-powered radio” is about individual passions—certainly that of the DJs, who would do their show the same way regardless of whether they had one million listeners or no listeners at all, but also that of the listeners who get their individual tastes and interests catered to as well as being able to discover new ones.

 

Ashley Crownover of “Set Records to Stun” and “The Soap Radio Hour”

Freeform radio is magic brought to you by wizards who are secretly regular people just like you. The songs they play are spells that say, “You are not alone.” The power to cast these magic spells is created via a mystical process of ritual and belief that combines faith, science, and financial support in a big black cauldron of community. DJs stir the concoction at 33 1/3 RPM while cackling maniacally to themselves in a room full of alchemical equipment made possible by listener support. The result is a sparkling fresh batch of people-powered radio sent straight to your head and your heart every single day!

 

Ed Brinson of “Eighties/Schmeighties”

Being part of an organization that is dynamic, growing, and engaged with the community is a true privilege. And planning shows and presenting music beats paying for psychoanalysis!

 

Hound Dog Hoover of “Goin’ Down South”

To me, people-powered radio means that WXNA is bigger than the sum of its parts. Our individual shows might cater to a particular audience, but anyone that tunes it at any time will find some delightful surprises.

 

Drew Wilson of “Loud Love Show

I love having the opportunity to play songs that a listener might not get a chance to hear anywhere else. For that one kid who hears a punk song on the radio late at night and starts learning three chords. To build a community and give an outlet to those that already exist. Music is both a release and a unifying bond. To hear songs that mean something to you, that would never get airplay on a commercial station, that can be life changing.

 

Randy Fox of “Randy’s Record Shop”

Radio is the sound of human voices singing, talking, and connecting with others. It’s one of the most powerful inventions ever created and can be, and should be, more than a means to make money and sell products. “People-powered radio” is real human beings sharing their passion for music, the arts, and the human condition—changing lives and inspiring visions of a world bigger and more diverse than one imagination can contain. It’s also the best means possible to inspire hope, move feet and shake booties, raise a fist in solidarity, rock your ass off, and share our humanity in the moment, right here and now.

 

Music-makers as Community Change-makers: Let’s Hear ‘Em Out

Shut downs, (democratic) socialists, and supreme court battles, oh my.

It’s April 2019, and we’re still here, somehow, some way, with our new(ish) Congress ushering in all sorts of new stories, drama and eventually — fingers crossed! — new laws to debate, celebrate or mourn. You don’t have to be fan club president for a famously ripped-and-dissenting octogenarian, nor a click-baiter’s MAGA dream, to be an informed and politically engaged American these days. The info (and infotainment) is all around us, downright inescapable unless you unplug all media but your FM radio with the dial set to 101.5. (We WXNA volunteer DJs approve of that path, for the record.) But even then, Twitter app deleted, cable news shunned, you might tune to a show on the X — yours truly with “What Moves You” Wednesday mornings, perhaps, or Laurel’s “All About Nashville” midday Friday — and stumble upon an interview with someone who makes music, and also chooses to make statements about that which influences life and music. For many, arts and activism (<< the name of a former WXNA interview show, incidentally, big ups to Ariel!) are not mutually exclusive pursuits, and I, for one, am grateful for the blending.

Obviously, art has forever accompanied and in many cases helped to power political and cultural movements. (I love this collection of important works in the Civil Rights era from nonprofit Teach Rock.) But midterm elections aren’t sexy — it’s far too easy to generate a weary “meh” about down-ballot races, disconnecting oneself from policies that actually impact the day-to-day (hello, Nashville transit referendum). It’s in fervor for or against executive candidates that we usually see the artists and other pop culture influencers out flexing their sway over us commoners (see: Rock Against Bush, this Millennial’s first memory of real-time music made and marketed in protest, plus countless others).

But the year 2018 was a surprisingly major one for political activism, locally, nationally, globally, and musicians were both participants and soundtrack providers in the democracy we made. Speaking as a community-loving freeform DJ, but also a superfan of civic engagement and voting rights, I’ve never seen such galvanized support from the music community to make changes in our country, and at the neighborhood level, too.

Early last year, I interviewed local soul-rock bombshell Alanna Quinn-Broadus of Alanna Royale the week of the second Women’s March. Additional “What Moves You” interviewees, Nashville-based artists Will Hoge and Ron Pope, respectively hosted spring and summer “& Friends” benefits for nonpartisan nonprofit HeadCount, for which I moonlight as a Team Leader registering voters at concerts. Come September, my show guest Kyshona Armstrong was pairing up with Nicki Bluhm to celebrate “rowdy women” at the book release of local author Sarah Hays Coomer. In that same month, an embarrassment of riches put me in a room chatting with Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls, a duo historically vocal about and involved in many human rights and environmental causes, before both Amy and Emily Saliers played a National Voter Registration Day concert at City Winery alongside an impressive slate of singer songwriters. Sheryl Crow, Amanda Shires and Jason Isbell, Billy Ray Cyrus and Brit songstress Lucie Silvas, among others, played a free, Saturday morning “Party to the Polls” event that culminated in a march from Ascend Amphitheater to Howard Office Building to early vote.

With even more national relevance and resonance, Jason Isbell’s August performance at Marathon Music Works in support of 2018 Senate candidate and former TN Governor Phil Bredesen drew the ire of GOP leaders and voters who just want their Americana uncluttered with/unfettered by their politics, thankyouverymuch . Down in Texas, Willie rallied for then-Senate and now-Presidential hopeful Beto and hordes of fans were shocked and appalled by Nelson’s affiliation with the progressive young candidate, despite decades of overt activism for left-leaning priorities. And then, who could forget previously mum (or at least middle-of-the-road) Tay-Tay’s extraordinary impact on last-minute registrations in the Volunteer State by Istagramming her support for Dems in early October? WHOA.

I’ve volunteered for more than a decade with HeadCount, founded on the very premise that live music fans can and should all be participants in their democracy, so let’s meet them where they are (music venues) and make that first step (registering to vote) convenient and fun. It never ceases to amaze or delight me the difference made in our engagement with fans when the (wo)man with the mic casually nudges the captive audience to “check out the HeadCount table in the lobby” or “register to vote if you haven’t already, it’s too important.” Roots-rock darling Michael Franti made such a call to action from stage in the summer of 2008, remembers my husband and co-Team Leader, spurring an immediate and steady stream of potential voters to turn their heads to the top of the amphitheater lawn, and make their ways to complete an official voter registration form in an exciting if not eerie Walking Dead effect.

Save the “sheeple” jabs: if artists recognize their influence and choose to use it beyond music, we should appreciate and celebrate this conscious choice to not just “shut up and sing,” as the anti-war Dixie Chicks were advised nearly 16 years ago . Maybe music is your escape from the madness, and I can certainly appreciate its life-giving powers as divorced from any other belief system, including our hyper-divisive American politics. But I’ll continue to dig into what moves artists to create their work, and to — as our fellow (concerned) citizens, real people seizing their status for good — advocate while amplified.

DJ Celia
What Moves You
Wednesdays, 9 a.m.-10 a.m.

Photo credit: Romel Sanchez, Flickr