John Prine, hero of ‘New’ Nashville, dies after developing COVID-19 symptoms

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John Prine, a wry and perceptive writer whose songs often resembled vivid short stories, died Tuesday in Nashville from complications related to COVID-19. His death was confirmed by his publicist, on behalf of his family. He was 73 years old.

Prine was hospitalized last week after falling ill and put on a ventilator Saturday night, according to a statement from his family.

John Prine, performing during Coachella on April 27, 2014. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
John Prine, performing during Coachella on April 27, 2014.
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Even as a young man, Prine — who famously worked as a mailman before turning to music full-time — wrote evocative songs that belied his age. With a conversational vocal approach, he quickly developed a reputation as a performer who empathized with his characters. His beloved 1971 self-titled debut features the aching “Hello In There,” written from the perspective of a lonely elderly man who simply wants to be noticed, and the equally bittersweet “Angel From Montgomery.” The latter song is narrated by a middle-aged woman with deep regrets over the way her life turned out, married to a man who’s merely “another child that’s grown old.”

Bestowing dignity on the overlooked and marginalized was a common theme throughout Prine’s career; he became known for detailed vignettes about ordinary people that illustrated larger truths about society. One of his signature songs, “Sam Stone,” is an empathetic tale of a decorated veteran who overdoses because he has trouble readjusting to real life after the war. (Prine has said he based the protagonist around friends who were Vietnam War veterans, and also soldiers he encountered during his own two-year stint as an Army mechanic.)

Like “Sam Stone,” many of Prine’s songs also had an uncanny ability to address (if not predict) the societal and political zeitgeist. The understated 1984 song “Unwed Fathers” illustrates pernicious double standards pertaining to gender: The titular group “can’t be bothered / They run like water, through a mountain stream,” while the young women they impregnate are shamed and face consequences. Recorded for John Prine, “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore” criticizes people who use piety and patriotism as a cover for supporting an unjust war — a theme he’d revisit on 2005’s “Some Humans Ain’t Human,” which pulls no punches slamming both hypocritical people and the Iraq War started by George W. Bush.

But like fellow songwriting iconoclast Shel Silverstein, Prine also cloaked his pointed commentary within whimsical wordplay. “Some Humans Ain’t Human” claims that inside the heart of these turncoats is “a few frozen pizzas, some ice cubes with hair and a broken Popsicle,” while “Dear Abby” has a lilting, rollicking rhythm to its verses, as it gently chides advice-column complainers to count their blessings. “Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow)” uses both absurdity (an altar boy struck by a train) and the mundane (a bench makeout) to encourage people to stay positive and have gratitude.

And “Christmas In Prison” boasts one of his best lyrics — “She reminds me of a chess game with someone I admire” — while embodying his quiet irreverence. “It’s about a person being somewhere like a prison, in a situation they don’t want to be in, and wishing they were somewhere else,” he wrote in the liner notes to 1993’s “Great Days: The John Prine Anthology,” adding that “I used all the imagery as if it were an actual prison. … And being a sentimental guy, I put it at Christmas.”

Prine was born on October 10, 1946, to parents with strong family ties to Paradise, Kentucky, a place that later served as the backdrop to “Paradise,” his cautionary tale about a coal country town destroyed and discarded by corporate interests.

Raised in Maywood, a suburb of Chicago,, the young Prine devoured 45s from Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash and Little Richard, and soaked up the country music his father loved, such as Hank Williams Sr., Ernest Tubb and Roy Acuff. More crucially, Prine learned rudimentary guitar skills from his oldest brother, Dave, a folk fan who memorably gifted him a Carter Family LP. “I learned all those songs,” he told NPR’s Terry Gross in 2018. “And not too long after that, I started writing when I was 14. And my melodies always came out like old-timey country stuff.” Around this time, Prine also started to learn finger-picking by playing songs by Elizabeth Cotten and Mississippi John Hurt, he added: “I’d sit in the closet in the dark in case I ever went blind, to see if I could play.”

Although Prine also started taking guitar lessons at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music starting in fall 1963, he still wasn’t considering pursuing music as a full-time career. In fact, he was working as a mailman and playing gigs at night on the side when a generous live review from critic Roger Ebert in late 1970 boosted his reputation in Chicago’s nascent folk scene. A record deal with Atlantic Records came in early 1971, after then-executive Jerry Wexler saw Prine perform three songs during a Kris Kristofferson set at the Bottom Line in New York City.

John Prine, hanging out at Georgia State College in 1975.
Tom Hill/WireImage

Prine received a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist in 1972, on the strength of his debut, and started turning out records at a brisk pace for the rest of the 1970s. Almost immediately, his songs were covered by other artists: Bonnie Raitt did a version of “Angel From Montgomery” (as did John Denver and Tanya Tucker), while Bette Midler, Everly Brothers, Swamp Dogg and, later, the Highwaymen also recorded Prine-penned songs.

Being in the spotlight didn’t come naturally. “I had a difficult time listening back to them because I was so nervous,” he told Fresh Air about his early records. “I didn’t expect to do this for a living, be a recording artist. I was just playing music for the fun of it and writing songs to … that was kind of my escape, you know, from the humdrum of the world.”

But Prine’s early success allowed him to start approaching his career on his own terms. With manager Al Bunetta, he formed the independent label Oh Boy Records in 1981, launching it with a Christmas single, “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.” Prine slowed down his output in the ’80s and ’90s but expanded his sonic purview, co-writing “Jackie O” with John Cougar Mellencamp for the latter’s hit 1983 LP Uh-Huh and collaborating with members of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers for his 1991 album The Missing Years, which won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album. (Prine also won in the same category for 2005’s Fair & Square.)

Starting in the mid-’90s, Prine also dealt with several serious health issues. He had a cancerous tumor in his neck removed in 1996, successfully beat lung cancer in 2013, and had a heart stent implanted in 2019. In 2018, he admitted to NPR’s Terry Gross that his 1996 cancer surgery changed his voice. “It dropped down lower, and it feels friendlier to me,” he said. “So I can actually sit in the studio and listen to my singing play back. Before, I’d run the other way.” He debuted his new voice — which did feel a bit rougher of comfort, like a rock swathed in moss — with 1999’s In Spite of Ourselves, which featured duets on covers with female artists such as Iris DeMent, Patty Loveless and Lucinda Williams. He released a kindred-spirit sequel in 2016, For Better, or Worse, that also featured DeMent, in addition to duets with contemporary artists Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves and Morgane Stapleton.

John Prine at the Edison Hotel in Times Square, 1999. New York Daily News Archive/NY Daily News via Getty Images
John Prine at the Edison Hotel in Times Square, 1999.
New York Daily News Archive/NY Daily News via Getty Images

Prine’s career received another boost more recently, too, after his work was championed by modern Americana acts such as Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires — two artists with whom Prine collaborated — Sturgill Simpson and Margo Price. In 2019, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the year after releasing The Tree of Forgiveness, his first album of all-new original songs since Fair & Square. The album featured co-writes with Dan Auerbach and long-time foils Pat McLaughlin and Keith Sykes, and debuted at No. 5 on Billboard‘s Top 200.

The Tree of Forgiveness ends with a song called “When I Get to Heaven,” a detailed look at what Prine said he intended to do after he dies: start a band, see dearly departed family members, order a cocktail, shake God’s hand, and encourage rampant forgiveness. (In a nod to his usual wryness, he also said he’d enjoy a cigarette that’s “nine miles long,” no doubt because he gave up smoking after his cancer bouts.) The lyrics are sentimental and freewheeling, making it clear that Prine planned to keep the good times going up in heaven. It’s likely that the song was intended to be a winking bit of foreshadowing about his own mortality, although now, perhaps it’s better interpreted as Prine providing a blueprint for how to live life with gusto while you’re still here.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.
88Nine Radio Milwaukee

Janet Jackson, John Prine and Radiohead are 2019 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees

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Rock n Roll Hall of Fame 2019 nominees

  • Def Leppard
  • Devo
  • Janet Jackson
  • John Prine
  • Kraftwerk
  • LL Cool J
  • MC5
  • Radiohead
  • Rage Against the Machine
  • Roxy Music
  • Rufus featuring Chaka Khan
  • Stevie Nicks
  • The Cure
  • The Zombies
  • Todd Rundgren

From the press release:

To be eligible for nomination, an individual artist or band must have released its first commercial recording at least 25 years prior to the year of nomination. Six out of 15 of the Nominees are on the ballot for the first time, including: Def Leppard, Devo, John Prine, Roxy Music, Stevie Nicks, and Todd Rundgren.

Inductees will be announced in December 2018. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 2019 Induction Ceremony, presented by Klipsch Audio, will be held at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York on March 29, 2019. Ticket on-sale information will be announced in January.

Ballots will be sent to an international voting body of more than 1,000 artists, historians and members of the music industry. Factors such as an artist’s musical influence on other artists, length and depth of career and the body of work, innovation and superiority in style and technique are taken into consideration.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame will again offer fans the opportunity to officially participate in the induction selection process. Beginning October 9 and continuing through 11:59 p.m. EST on December 9, 2018, fans can visit rockhall.com to cast votes for who they believe to be most deserving of induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The top five artists, as selected by the public, will comprise a “fans’ ballot” that will be tallied along with the other ballots to choose the 2019 inductees. Fans will need to login to vote. Voting is capped at one ballot per day.

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

5 Songs We Can’t Stop Listening To with guests John Prine and Roy Wood Jr.

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88Nine Radio Milwaukee

A glimpse into the wistful, humorous and empathetic mind of John Prine

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After two bouts with cancer and at the age of 70, John Prine’s spirit is tireless. He says he still feels like the 22-year-old kid who wrote “Hello in There” all those years ago. In 2018, he released new music for the first time in 13 years with “The Tree of Forgiveness.” And, even in the middle of a move, he and his wife (who is also his manager) are going on the road.

John Prine interview

Photo by Danny Clinch

With the loss of his long time manager and business partner, Al Bunetta in 2015, he says that his music is now a family affair. His wife, Fiona, and his oldest son, Jody, are now running Oh Boy Records. When talking about his recent success on the Billboard charts, he says that the album has been working wonders for “us,” not for “me.”

He’d been telling them about “The Tree of Forgiveness” for years.

Prine says, “I kept telling my family, ‘You know, the next record, whenever I write enough songs for it, I’m going to call it ‘The Tree of Forgiveness.” Nobody paid much attention to me. One night I looked it up on the internet, and there’s a painting from Greek mythology, I don’t know how famous of a painting it is. I tried to buy the painting for the cover of the record, but evidently it’s worth too much for me.”

But that’s not where his original idea for the title came from.

“My wife and I used to eat at a restaurant outside of Dublin, Ireland called The Tree of Idleness. I liked that title so much that I stole an ashtray from there. I just kept thinking that’s a cool title: The Tree of Idleness. So, I just morphed it from there, to forgiveness.”

It also made it’s way into a wistful lyric in the last song on the album, “When I Get to Heaven.”

Then as God as my witness, I’m gettin’ back into showbusiness
I’m gonna open up a nightclub called “The Tree of Forgiveness”
And forgive everybody ever done me any harm
Well, I might even invite a few choice critics, those syph’litic parasitics
Buy ’em a pint of Smithwick’s and smother ’em with my charm.

I brought up that the beginning of that song reminded me of Tex Ritter’s “Hillbilly Heaven.”

He realizes, “Wow. That may be, because that was one of my favorite records when I was a kid. I never steal anything on purpose, just by accident.”

Then, he starts singing in a low voice, “I dreamed I was there/ in hillbilly heaven…”

John Prine interview

Photo by Danny Clinch

With a similar nostalgia, he talks about his inspiration for the song “The Lonesome Friends of Science.”

“I remember around 10 years ago, when the scientists decided that Pluto was no longer a planet, just a star. That really ticked me off,” Prine says. “I just let that simmer for a few years, and then I thought, ‘I’m gonna get these guys.’ I mean they have nothing better to do than to take an old planet and make it into an ordinary star. And then they come back years later and say that it is a planet, but a dwarf planet. I mean, that was adding insult to injury. So, I thought I’d write something about the humiliation of the planet Pluto.”

Humor like this has always been a cornerstone of his songwriting. But, in “Caravan of Fools,” a song that hints at our comical current political organization, he takes a serious tone instead.

He wrote this song with Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys, Pat McLaughlin and David Ferguson. Originally, he thought they were writing it for Dan. Eventually, it ended up fitting better on Prine’s album.

“We didn’t discuss what the subject was while writing ‘Caravan of Fools.’ For me, it was about the current administration, but I didn’t ask the guys, so I couldn’t say that’s what they had in mind. I knew we all thought the song was about impending doom. That’s a good definition of the current administration.”

He says that if he would have written a song directly about Trump, he would have made it funnier, because according to Prine, “Humorous protest songs last longer than serious ones.”

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

John Stano + Patty & Craig

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John Stano

Milwaukee’s own award-winning John Stano performs a distinctive blend of acoustic and slide guitar, harmonica, with expressive vocals and insightful songwriting developed over many years of performance and paying attention to the masters.

John studied American finger-style guitar at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music and harmonica with national blues legend, Jim Liban. With playful lyrics and solid guitar work, John creates a tapestry of sound and lyric that pulls you in and keeps you wanting more.

‘Green Man Review’ compared John’s music to early Bob Dylan, while ‘Dirty Linen’ was reminded of Country Joe McDonald. John also performs his own arrangements of folk and country blues classics by artists such as Robert Johnson and Mississippi John Hurt, as well as contemporary writers. John has released four recordings of original music.

“ … (John has a ) vocal resemblance to John Prine (and a) songwriting voice (all) his own.” ~ The Shepherd Express

“His guitar just sings – the tone is lovely and his technique is outstanding.” ~ Bay View Compass

Patty & Craig

Although primarily roots singer songwriters, Patty & Craig (Patty Stevenson and Craig Siemsen) also offer their take on timeless classics, supported by guitars and piano. They’ve been described as genuinely talented with classic folk voices, known for their gorgeous harmonies, impeccable musicianship, playful stage humor, and jewel-like original songs.

Patty is a classically trained pianist and amazing finger-style guitarist. She often writes portrait songs of people in her life and in history. Her covers of Kate Wolf have earned her a fan in Al Kniola, of WVPE, South Bend, IN, who keeps her version of Here in California in rotation.

Craig has been described as a leading midwest guitarist with a voice that is a mixture of honey and grit. His songwriting speaks to the human condition with poetry and humor. He has received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Wisconsin Arts Board to write songs of people who live in restricted communities, from prisons to senior homes.

The combination of these two artists creates a sound that is full-on harmony and joy.

“Storytelling and melody come together for a sound that embraces all that is Americana.” ~ The Shepherd Express

“Classic folk voices… a real pleasure” ~ Santa Fe Summerscene

“… I looked around and Patty & Craig were the best Wisconsin had to offer … “ ~ Dave Sheely, Celebrate Hudson Concert Series

$15 adv/ $18 at the door (advance sales until 3pm day of show, then available at the door). Doors at 7pm, showtime 8pm

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

David Huckfelt (of The Pines) with Arum Rae and Chris Porterfield

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David Huckfelt is a singer / lyricist / activist and founding frontman of Minneapolis indie-folk cult favorite The Pines. His work with The Pines received record of the year accolades from Mojo & Q Magazine, and garnered praise for Huckfelt from David Fricke (Rolling Stone) as one of the finest songwriters of his generation. In a fifteen-year touring career, he has shared stages with artists from John Prine, Mavis Staples and Emmylou Harris to Bon Iver, Calexico and Trampled By Turtles.

Starting with the late Santee Dakota poet John Trudell in 2014, Huckfelt has partnered increasingly with an array of Native American artists and activists in the fight for environmental and social justice. Last year David joined forces with Honor the Earth founder Winona LaDuke to organize and perform at the inaugural Water Is Life benefit festival in Duluth, MN with Bon Iver, Hippo Campus, Adia Victoria & more, with plans in progress for Water Is Life II in summer 2022.

With thousands of shows under his belt across the US, Canada & overseas, Huckfelt’s grassroots following has grown from small-town opera houses, Midwestern barn concerts to national tours and festival stages such as Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, Edmonton and Calgary Folk Fests, and the legendary First Avenue mainroom in his beloved Minneapolis home. His live performance is both improvisational and masterful, with a rugged optimism that blasts through layers of darkness in real time with songs that speak volumes, soft & clear.

$15 adv/ $18 at the door (advance sales until 3pm day of show, then available at the door). Doors at 7pm, showtime 8pm

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

Zach Pietrini Album Release Show ft/ Christopher Gold

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$12 adv/ $15 at the door (advance sales until 3pm day of show, then available at the door). Doors at 7pm, showtime 8pm

Zach Pietrini’s Midwestern, indie-americana songwriting aesthetic is the sonic embodiment of a well-worn denim jacket. At the forefront of the Americana resurgence, the band takes its cues from Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, and David Ramirez, reinterpreting and rejuvenating American roots styles through a contemporary lens. Pietrini came up on the Chicago music scene before moving to Milwaukee, where he honed his signature “foot-tapping and pensive steel-guitar-driven” style (Milwaukee Magazine). The band has also toured prolifically throughout the United States, including opening for Huey Lewis and the News and playing SXSW. Pietrini’s dynamic live performances are intimate, yet high-energy, and his laid-back stage presence brings a very Wisconsin sense of Gemütlichkeit to his shows.

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Christopher Gold is a Kentucky-born songwriter living in Wisconsin. Together with his band The New Old Things he has written and recorded folk songs, country songs, rock & roll songs, and everything in between citing a love for songwriters like Townes Van Zandt, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, John Prine, and anybody else whose work begins with paper and pen. He travels primarily as a solo act, carrying on the folk tradition of performances that blend music, storytelling, and humor.

$12 adv/ $15 at the door (advance sales until 3pm day of show, then available at the door). Doors at 7pm, showtime 8pm

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

Laney Lou & the Bird Dogs + Joseph Huber

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$10 adv/ $15 at the door (advance sales until 3pm day of show, then available at the door). Doors at 7pm, showtime 8pm

Laney Lou and the Bird Dogs are an energetic Americana band from Bozeman, Montana, that infuses four-part harmonies, engaging songwriting, and rock-n-roll drive into a modern approach to traditional folk music. Coming from varied musical backgrounds, the five-person ensemble creates a sound unique to them, but one that finds common ground by adding the energy of Montana’s big sky country into their music. The Bird Dogs weave stories through their songs that are reflective, joyous, longing, or meant to share a journey with the listener. Through it all, the band is able to convey heartfelt honesty, getting the audience to immerse themselves in the moment by dancing, singing and laughing along.

The Bird Dogs have been taking their infectious sound on the road since 2013, supporting acts such as The Travelin’ McCourys, The Steeldrivers, The Steep Canyon Rangers, The Jeff Austin Band, Amy Helm, Leftover Salmon, Town Mountain, and many more.

The most recent album from Laney Lou and the Bird Dogs, Through the Smoke, was recorded in February of 2021 at The Panoramic House in Stinson Beach, CA. This album is one of personal transformation. The concept of letting things go, processing past and current situations, and moving forward has been ever present in 2020-2021, as the world went through trials beyond words. Laney Lou and the Bird Dogs found a way to represent their journey through hardship, while also celebrating the silver linings and breakthrough moments in their lives. Through the Smoke brings energy to the darkness, and proves that resilience can get us through the hardest of times.

The Bird Dogs released a live self-titled studio album in 2016, recorded at Basecamp Studio in Bozeman. Their follow-up album, titled The Vigilante Session, was recorded live at a forest service cabin in the Ruby mountains. In 2019 Laney Lou and the Bird Dogs recorded their first full-length studio album, Sweet Little Lies, at Prairie Sun Records in Cotati CA. Their live album, Live at the Filling Station, was recorded in 2019 at the Filling Station in Bozeman MT and released in 2020.

Laney Lou and the Bird Dogs consists of Lena (Laney) Schiffer on vocals/guitar/percussion, Matt Demarais on vocals/banjo, Ethan Demarais on bass, Brian Kassay on fiddle/mandolin/harmonica, and Josh Moore on vocals/guitar.

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Joseph Huber hails from the state of Wisconsin, and seems to bring forth the varied voices of whatever it may be that lies dormant within either the fertile soil or the callous concrete of that world. It has been said, “You don’t just like Joseph Huber’s music. You feel it’s something that the rest of the world needs to hear, and how criminal it is that it isn’t spreading far and wide.” That sentiment could be related to the fact that the voices which Huber unearths are subtle and take more than a hurried listen to truly absorb. A person who appears reserved and matter-of-fact in everyday speech brings forth songs that are anything but that.

As the singer, songwriter, performer, recorder and producer of all of his own material, Huber has his hands full, but never seems to miss a beat. And his own ‘solo’ material has now certainly surpassed the output of his past efforts, both in volume and substance. As one of the founding member of the .357 String Band–a group that would probably fit better in today’s ‘Americana-saturated’ environment than in the early to middle aughts–he’s gradually honed a sound that seems to fill a very real gap within the still-emerging genre. Having progressed, Huber continues moving onward and upward captivating folks with his sincere and well-crafted songs under his own name along with the impeccable musicianship of his fellow touring partners. Whether it’s irresistible, fiddle-driven, dancing tunes or honest, heart-wrenching “songwriter” songs, Huber’s songs and shows spans the spectrum of ‘Roots’ music while preferring not to stay within the boundaries of any strict genre classification.

His lyricism and introspective writing style has received high acclaim from music enthusiasts looking for a more substantive substitute to much of today’s music. Maintaining a solid touring schedule, playing all throughout both the U.S. and all around Europe, Huber continues to gain positive press, including being listed on L.A. Weekly’s ’10 More Country Artists To Listen To.’ Blue Ridge Outdoor writes, “Songwriters like Townes Van Zandt, Chris Smither, and John Prine can marvel listeners in the simplest of acoustic settings,…From time to time, I stumble upon a new singer/songwriter whose work warrants comparison to the luminaries on this list. …Huber’s songwriting has me comparing him to my favorites above.” He’s had the pleasure of sharing the stage with many artists including Tyler Childers; Hackensaw Boys; Scott H Biram; The Tillers; Possessed By Paul James; Dave Simonett; Robert Earl Keen; Ben Nichols; The Tossers; Charlie Parr; Amy Lavere; Horseshoes & Hand Grenades; Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band; Henhouse Prowlers; Keller Williams, and more…

As of now, Huber has delivered five solo records: ‘Bury Me Where I Fall’ (2010); ‘Tongues Of Fire’ (2012), ‘The Hanging Road’ (2014); and ‘The Suffering Stage’ (2017), ‘Moondog’ (2019) and now 2021 give us ‘The Downtowner’–Huber’s latest effort which rollicks between social and personal spheres while mixing elements of rock and folk music that fans will immediately see as maintaining a solid continuity of sound and attitude with his previous two albums–rollicking between the feelings of freedom and severity, with both wit and earnestness.

$10 adv/ $15 at the door (advance sales until 3pm day of show, then available at the door). Doors at 7pm, showtime 8pm

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

Danni Nicholls with special guest Derek Pritzl

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“Smoky soul, folk-pop and heart-wrenching alt-country, all in a rich voice” – Q Magazine

Danni Nicholls

With the wind in her sails from receiving two consecutive Americana Music Association UK award nominations (2017 UK Album of the Year for Mockingbird Lane and 2018 UK Artist of the Year), singer/songwriter Danni Nicholls has embarked upon her next artistic journey – her third studio album The Melted Morning with a new producer at the helm. Once again, Nashville, Tennessee, has played host to her musical undertaking, as the city has long held a special place in Danni’s heart.

From the honky-tonks of Broadway to the woods of Whites Creek, Nashville has become something of an adopted hometown for Danni, with the creative community warmly welcoming her presence. “My time in Music City making music with incredible musicians has been a life altering experience” she says. “It has fuelled my inspiration, forced me out of my comfort zone and pushed me to raise my game”

Over the past few years, Danni has played shows with the likes of Shakin’ Stevens (28 date UK wide tour), Lucinda Williams, Sturgill Simpson, The Secret Sisters and other notables and been invited to perform at festivals around the world, including Cambridge Folk, Tønder, Denmark, Folk Alliance International and AmericanaFest, Nashville.

The word that recurs most often in reviews of Danni’s songs and performances is “elegance.” She’s too modest to agree, but it’s a style she has lovingly, honed across what is truly an entire lifetime in music, and one with all sorts of interesting cultural twists and artistic turns.

The small town of Bedford, UK, served as the backdrop to Danni’s childhood, scored by her grandmother’s collection of American folk, country, and rock ‘n’ roll records. “The Anglo-Indian side of my family — my mum’s side — are real party animals,” she laughs. “We had constant house parties at my grandparents’ place, parties in halls, or with family in London. There would just always be great American roots music blasting out, jive dancing, and singing. Music from rock ‘n’ roll to country and western to soul. My grandmother loves country music. It would always be playing in the house. She would often talk about the Grand Ole Opry so it was just in my psyche from a really young age.”

Then, at 16, Danni inherited her Uncle Heathcliff’s 1963 Burns London short-scale jazz guitar which was rumoured to have once belonged to Billy Fury. Danni’s connection with the guitar was instantaneous, and having played saxophone since age 9, she had a musical foundation upon which to build her songwriting skills. As soon as she knew two chords, she was off writing her own songs and, before long, performing at school assemblies, selling homemade albums of her songs.

Eventually, she recorded and released two EPs, Heavy Shoes (2009 produced by Tim Bidwell in Brighton, UK) and Time (2012 produced by Iain Archer in London) before meeting bassist/producer Chris Donohue in 2011. “I went to see one of my sheroes, Emmylou Harris, at the Royal Festival Hall with a friend who knew her bass player, Chris,” she says. “We got chatting for a while, and I mentioned I was heading to Nashville in a few weeks. He gave me his card and said to let him know when I got to town. Five minutes later, he was up on stage with Emmylou. Obviously, I got in touch and the rest is history.” With some of Nashville’s finest musicians in tow, the pair have now made two critically acclaimed albums — 2013’s A Little Redemption and 2015’s award nominated Mockingbird Lane.

2019 sees the release of her third. The Melted Morning was produced by Jordan Brooke Hamlin (The Indigo Girls, Lucy Wainwright-Roche) at the idyllic woodland studio MOXE, Nashville TN.

“I needed a new challenge, a new landscape to work in sonically, physically, energetically and viscerally. Collaborating with Jordan and this incredible team of women gave me that opportunity and we have created a delicate, vibey, honest and vulnerable collection of songs that we dove deep into to find out who they wanted to become”

Closely personal yet widely relatable, the themes of this album span an array of life’s takeaways; from the pain and darkness of rejection, the fear of losing yourself and the power of human connection to offering up hope and new perspectives in the face of adversities.

Love and guts, moxie and magic… that’s the stuff dreams are made of, and Danni Nicholls’ dreams are coming true.

“Her passion for her craft is unparalleled. Her depth of emotion, commitment to the song, and ability to go deep makes her a rare artist”

Jed Hilly, Director of the Americana Music Association

“An artist with the elegance and imagination to restore your faith in the visceral power of an original song”

Paul Sexton, BBC Radio 2 and freelance print/broadcast journalist

“I absolutely love the elegance and beauty of her music” – Bob Harris, BBC Radio 2

“Smoky soul, folk-pop and heart-wrenching alt-country, all in a rich voice” – Q Magazine

“Sumptuous…a warm wry line in confessional songwriting” – UNCUT

“One in a million…” – Maverick Music Magazine

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Derek Pritzl

Derek Pritzl is a Wisconsin singer/songwriter. He brings a style and narrative that is reminiscent of some of the great songwriters of yesterday and today, continuing a tradition of songwriting developed by artists such as John Prine, Guy Clark, John Fogerty and Bill Walkner. His songs evoke visions of the struggles of the working man, the road weary traveler and of love found and love lost. Regardless of the size of venue, his music and songs create an atmosphere of intimacy, reflection and fellowship that brings the audience into his world.

$10 adv/ $15 at the door (advance sales until 3pm day of show, then available at the door). Doors at 5pm, showtime 6pm

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

Adrian + Meredith with special guest Nathan Kalish

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$10 adv/ $15 at the door (advance sales until 3pm day of show, then available at the door). Doors at 7pm, showtime 8pm

COVID POLICY FOR LIVE SHOWS

We want to ensure we are doing everything we can to help keep our community safe, so we are now requiring the following for entry to Live Shows:

Proof of Vaccination -OR- Proof of a Negative COVID 19 Test taken within 72 hours of the show.

Masks are encouraged but not required.

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Four years since their debut release, Adrian + Meredith take their fearless, blistering, and Balkan-tinged Americana to new heights on their sophomore record, Bad for Business. Recorded in the living room of their midcentury East Nashville house with friends like Paul Niehaus (Justin Townes Earle, Calexico), saxophonist Ken Francis Wenzel (Carlos Santana, Bobby Parker), and banjo player Fats Kaplan (Jack White), Bad For Business is a raucous, rebellious and home-spun variety show. The record’s intimate connection with the recording space and personnel creates the right conditions for Adrian + Meredith to soar sonically and lyrically, as they consider disillusioning times for the country—and the world.

Off the top, Bad for Business highlights the elements that make Adrian + Meredith’s music truly theirs—and then pushes those talents further. Adrian Krygowski’s gritty vocals, Meredith’s Krygowski’s fiery fiddling, and the band’s distinctive, foot-stomping bounce and sense of eclecticism—all of it has ferocious intentionality. And, from there, the pair get innovative. They use Meredith’s foot percussion on the introduction to “Kids These Days,” they add not one horn but a whole Balkan brass section on “Too Far,” and they give “California,” with its surf-a-billy guitar flourishes, an unexpected indie rock lean. Clearly, Bad for Business goes big, highlighting Adrian + Meredith’s confidence in their vision, as well as the influence of their musical mentors, particularly The Legendary Shackshakers’ JD Wilkes and Mark Robinson, the latter of whom produced and mixed the album.

The lyrical content of Bad for Business is bold too —particularly in its candid exploration of current political issues that have left many artists tight-lipped. “Even” offers unforgiving commentary on the Trump-era political divide and the obsession with getting “even,” which Adrian puts to rest on “Chalk,” just a few tracks later: “The rain falls equally on everyone,” he sings. Similarly, the klezmer-inspired track, “Kids These Days,” dives into the impact of gun violence in American schools, “California” balks at climate change deniers, and even “Valley View,” a lilting folk tune written from the perspective of an immigrant at Ellis Island, asks “Did we forget who we are?” in the face of current anti-immigration attitudes. That said, the vaudevillian-inspired pair go big with quirky lightheartedness, too. Songs like “Too Far,” highlight their sense of humor as they describe a Thanksgiving dinner political discussion gone bad, and a rousing rendition of the 1963 polka-pop hit, “Who Stole the Keishka,” and upbeat tunes like “Hungover Eyes,” balance Bad for Business’s heavier ruminations with rip-roaring fun.

In the end, Bad For Business is the sound of Adrian + Meredith’s front door, left wide open. The listener is drawn inside by the couple’s warmth, intensity and frankness—and in the end, left with a sense of easy joy and friendship they’d all but forgot.

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Nathan Kalish has spent the past decade averaging 200 shows a year at bars and honky-tonks across the country. It’s from this experience he cultivated his new collection of story songs for his 10th album, the self-produced Songs for Nobody. His sound has been described as a “unique brew of Americana, rockabilly and outlaw country.” Through his cutting and intimate lyrics, he transports listeners from the passenger seat of his touring van to behind a magnifying glass aimed at the darker side of American culture. It’s not only his experiences that he shares, but the experiences of the people that he has met along the way.

The music he’s released has landed him on stages with Lucinda Williams, Molly Tuttle, and Lucero. He’s earned accolades from Rolling Stone Country, Saving Country Music and dozens of alt-weeklies. Kalish has lived the life of a curious wanderer, taking his music from town to town, creating a catalog of songs that act as colorful snapshots, like polaroids in a photo album. His music has been compared to American icons like Merle Haggard, John Prine, Gram Parsons, and the Sun Records’ rockabilly roster, circa 1956.

Kalish’s new LP Songs for Nobody was recorded at Nashville’s Trace Horse Studio and provides an auditory evolution of that engaging, mysterious psych-folk sound. Finding inspiration from acts like Darrell Scott and Daniel Romano, Kalish brings a gritty moodiness to his expertly-blended traditional country elements. By recruiting incredible locally-based talent that includes acclaimed guitarist Laur Joamets (Sturgill Simpson, Drivin N Cryin) and pedal steel aficionado Adam Kurtz (Great Peacock, American Aquarium), Kalish tapped into the magic of Nashville’s tightly-knit creative community to bring his vision to life. The result of this collaboration is an LP filled with heart-wrenchingly honest and reflective songs that leave a lasting mark on anyone who listens.

The haunting yet comedic title track, “Songs for Nobody,” shows the mental and emotional strain life on the road can bring. From the tedium of long hauls across the country to the stale smell of gas stop cuisine, the moments that precede and follow nightly sets in strange cities provide their own unique set of challenges and stressors. Note by note, Kalish examines what the cost of those fleeting moments on stage can bring.

Even with its unexpected curves and bumps, Nathan Kalish’s committed relationship with the road is one that still has many more miles to go. With a busy 2020 planned, Songs for Nobody will mark an important chapter in Kalish’s creative journey, which is only just beginning.

$10 adv/ $15 at the door (advance sales until 3pm day of show, then available at the door). Doors at 7pm, showtime 8pm

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