Asheville Spring Concerts: Lee Ann Womack, Anna & Elizabeth, Dead Horses, Belle Adair, Dr. Dog
It’s been a long, somewhat brutal Winter in Asheville and the arrival of Spring couldn’t be more anticipated. Along with warmer temps, sunnier and longer days comes a slew of concerts from up and coming, and well established talent. Here’s a sampling of what’s coming.
Lee Ann Womack
@ Diana Wortham Theatre – 3/31
Lee Ann Womack’s new album and debut for ATO Records, ‘The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone,’ is a stunning exploration of the music of East Texas that showcases her talent for timeless songwriting and cements her status as “one of American roots music’s foremost auteurs” (NPR Music).
On Lee Ann’s tour for the album she’ll be accompanied by some of Nashville’s best musicians, with Jonathan Trebing (guitar), Lex Price (bass), Dave Dunseath (drums), Justin Schipper (pedal steel) and Luke Bulla (fiddle) rounding out her touring band.
American Songwriter called ‘The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone’ “a late-breaking short list nominee for 2017’s album of the year,” while LA Times says the album is “one of the most personal albums of her impressive career.”
Produced by her husband Frank Liddell (2017 ACM Album of the Year winning producer for Miranda Lambert’s ‘The Weight of These Wings’) and largely recorded at the legendary SugarHill Studios in Houston, TX, ‘The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone’ features more Lee Ann Womack co-writes than all her previous albums combined, making it her most personal collection to date. The album mixes the country, soul, gospel and blues of her native East Texas, into an audacious, sharp-edged work of art.
Buy/Stream ‘The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone:’ smarturl.it/law-official
Official Website: leeannwomack.com
Anna & Elizabeth
@ Grey Eagle – 4/10
The Invisible Comes to Us is a new album from the pioneering partnership of Anna & Elizabeth. Released on the significant Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, the record is a spellbinding reconfiguration of ancient folk ballads that sees the duo’s immersion in Appalachian music move to a place of boundless experimentation.
They combine two powerful and very distinct voices. Elizabeth LaPrelle was raised in rural Virginia and is frequently lauded as the finest traditional singer of her generation. Anna Roberts-Gevalt is a multi-instrumentalist whose musical curiosity has taken her from old time fiddling in Kentucky to a more recent immersion in Brooklyn’s avant-garde community. Together they find new ways to tell old stories of love, loss and intrigue, while relishing the tension that arises between their very different backgrounds and orthodoxies; holding firm to the roots of the music while removing the limits of how that music can be played and presented.
Joining the duo on The Invisible Comes to Us are drummer Jim White of The Dirty Three, and experimental pedal steel player Susan Alcorn, whose perceptive musicianship helped create the sonic world that Anna and Elizabeth visualised for these songs, a world that also brought in brass, woodwinds and synths. The album was co-produced by Anna with Benjamin Lazar Davis from avant-pop outfit Cuddle Magic, who brought new technologies and tools to the pair’s recording process; while his partiality for structure and detail acted as a welcome counter-force to Anna’s more intuitive composing methods.
With The Invisible Comes to Us, Anna & Elizabeth are revealing what they find buried between the lines of traditional music; showing us what they see. The result is an immersive, novelistic and groundbreaking exploration of old and nearly-forgotten songs.
@ Ambrose West – 4/20
At fifteen, Dead Horses frontwoman Sarah Vos’ world turned upside down. Raised in a strict, fundamentalist home, Vos lost everything when she and her family were expelled from the rural Wisconsin church where her father had long served as pastor.
What happened next is the story of Dead Horses’ stunning new album, ‘My Mother the Moon,” a record full of trauma and triumph, despair and hope, pain and resilience. Blending elements of traditional roots with modern indie folk, the songs are both familiar and unexpected, unflinchingly honest in their portrayal of modern American life, yet optimistic in their unshakable faith in brighter days to come. Earthy and organic, Vos’ songs often reveal themselves to be exercises in empathy and outreach; she writes not only to find meaning in the struggles she’s endured, but also to embrace kindred souls on their own personal journeys of self-discovery. As much as the album is a reckoning with the past, it’s also an effort to shape the future, to build a community based around art and love and beauty and acceptance, a community to replace the one she was so brusquely robbed of as a child.
When bassist Daniel Wolff and Vos first started playing music together, it felt as if the clouds had finally parted. Vos introduced songs she’d been writing since high school open mics, Wolff learned a new instrument for the band (the double bass), and within months, they had earned a devoted local following. Regular gigs led to steady residencies led to regional touring and their first recordings. Two of the band’s original members ultimately left the group due to opioid addictions (“I still see the pawn shop sticker every time I look at my guitar tuner,” remembers Vos), but the Dead Horses moniker the pair created as a tribute to a friend who’d over-dosed from heroin stuck even after their departure.
‘My Mother the Moon’ is the band’s third album, and it follows hot on the heels of their acclaimed 2016 release, ‘Cartoon Moon,’ which Wisconsin Public Radio called “equally beautiful and effortless.” When it came time to record ‘My Mother the Moon,’ Vos and Wolff traded Wisconsin for Nashville to collaborate once again with producer/drummer Ken Coomer (Wilco, Uncle Tupelo). Cut primarily live in the studio over the course of two weeks, the album is raw and understated, drawing its potency from the power intimacy and hushed revelation.
Far from obliterating the past, though, ‘My Mother the Moon’ draws strength from it. It’s an album of catharsis and redemption that comes at a time when both are in high demand and short supply. Sarah Vos may have lost the community that raised her, but with Dead Horses, she’s raised an entirely new one, and this time, there’s a seat at the table for everybody.
@ New Belgium Brewing – 4/20
When Muscle Shoals four-piece Belle Adair recorded their new album ‘Tuscumbia,’ released January 19 on Single Lock Records, they leaned into their hometown’s musical legacy to create a sound unlike anything that’s come out of The Shoals region before. Produced by longtime Wilco collaborator Tom Schick (Real Estate, Parquet Courts, Iron & Wine), ‘Tuscumbia’ was tracked at the hallowed FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, home to legendary sessions by Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Arthur Alexander, Duane Allman, and countless others, and mixed at The Loft, Wilco’s home base in Chicago. The result doesn’t so much update the Muscle Shoals sound as redefine it with chiming guitars, meditative lyrics and a breezy, blissed-out feel.
The eleven new songs on ‘Tuscumbia’ were all written by frontman Matt Green, and the album marks a massive leap forward for a band that’s already been praised by NPR for its “dreamy sound” and by SPIN for songs that “glow with a deep, dusky aura.” Both grand and intimate, far-reaching and deeply personal, ‘Tuscumbia’ is a definitive declaration of identity from a band that bucks tradition in search of their own personal truths.
While Belle Adair is rewriting what it means to be a band from Muscle Shoals, the group’s ties to their local music community run deep. Keyboardist Ben Tanner and drummer Reed Watson run Single Lock Records, which has released music by Alabama artists like St. Paul and The Broken Bones, Dylan LeBlanc, Donnie Fritts and label co-founder / multi-GRAMMY winner John Paul White. In recent years, Belle Adair has also served as something of a house band to other Single Lock artists, backing White, Fritts and others on extensive tours. Through this work, Belle Adair finds themselves at the center of one of the South’s most thriving independent music scenes, building Muscle Shoals into an artistic beacon for a new generation.
@ Pisgah Brewing – 5/19
On their first tour in two years, fans can expect a revitalized energy coming from Dr. Dog.
“I feel like I’m in a totally new band right now,” says Dr. Dog guitarist/singer Scott McMicken. It’s a bold declaration considering he’s been co-fronting the beloved indie outfit for a decade-and-a-half, but it cuts straight to the heart of the intense and transformative experience behind the group’s brilliant new album, ‘Critical Equation.’ Produced by Gus Seyffert (Bedouine, Michael Kiwanuka), ‘Critical Equation’ is the most infectious and adventurous collection Dr. Dog has laid to tape yet, the record was born from a journey of doubt and discovery, a heavy, sometimes painful reckoning that ultimately brought the band closer together with more strength and clarity than ever before.
Call it an existential awakening, call it a dark night of the soul, whatever it was, it fueled one of the most fertile creative periods in the group’s history and forced them to confront that timeless question: what do we really want?
“We’d been touring and making records for our entire adult lives, and I think we just needed to take a step back,” reflects bassist/singer Toby Leaman, who splits fronting and songwriting duties with McMicken. “It was important for all of us to figure out if we were actually doing what we wanted to be doing, or if we were just letting momentum carry us down this path we’d always been on.”
“This band has been at work a long time and this record is about a concerted effort to push ourselves to grow with courage and confidence built upon our history together. That ends up being a renewed testimony of love for ourselves, each other, the work we do together, and the willingness to approach something you know so well with a beginners innocence”
‘Critical Equation’ is out April 27th on Thirty Tigers.