The Show On The Road features interviews and exclusive acoustic performances with songwriters, bandleaders and musicians from around the world. Hosted by Dustbowl Revival's Z. Lupetin, each episode features an in-depth and playfully creative conversation about the real day to day lives of artists and their inspirations.
Béla Fleck and Abigail Washurn (Rebroadcast)
This week, we’re bringing back a favorite episode featuring banjo heroes Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn.
We caught up with this well-traveled roots music super couple a few years back on a tour through LA (back when live music was a thing). As we reckon with the one year anniversary of the music industry’s full shutdown, most touring artists and songwriters find themselves still sequestered at home with their partners, families or podmates (and in Abigail and Béla’s case, two rambunctious kids who can be heard in the taping). The beautiful connection and respect Fleck and Washburn have for one another on stage and at home is on full display during the episode - and if you follow their social media, you’ll see they are truly making the best of this dark downtime.
Both could be considered pioneers not just in advancing the banjo into the mainstream - but in creating nuanced multi-lingual world music with an instrument once thought to only belong in front porch jam sessions or in barnstorming bluegrass bands.
As we jump into women’s history month - now would be a good time to thank all the hard working moms, grandmas, sisters, aunties, wives, caretakers and creators of all stripes who helped make it possible for your favorite music to exist.
We will be back every Wednesday with new episodes.
Shovels & Rope
This week, we celebrate the newest record by Charleston’s hellion harmonizers Shovels & Rope, with a new conversation with the married co-leads Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst.
You’d be hard-pressed to find two harder-working singer-songwriters than this prolific duo; and that was before they got together to record their honey-voiced self-titled first album over a decade ago. Thinking it was just a sonic souvenir before they split off again to pursue their barnstorming bar-band solo careers, the human heart and some encouraging listeners had other plans, convincing them to keep creating as a team. They’ve been off to the races ever since - making five acclaimed records of originals starting with the acclaimed O’ Be Joyful and three gritty covers albums with an assassins row of collaborators like Lucius, Shakey Graves, Brandi Carlile, The War and Treaty, and more.
Their newest cover project Busted Jukebox Volume 3, which dropped on Feb 5 via Dualtone Records, is a new experiment. You could say it’s an angsty rock record for kids, or maybe it’s an homage to the yearning, defiant, ever-hopeful teenager in all of us. With indie-darlings like Sharon Van Etten sitting in on standouts like the Beach Boys' “In My Room” and Deer Tick joining a rollicking version of the Janis Joplin favorite “Cry Baby” - like a good Pixar animated flick, this collection has just as much to offer Mom and Dad as it does for the kiddos.
If you’ve seen them live, you’ll notice that Trent and Hearst often face each other, not the audience; their eyes never seem to leave each other. Almost all their songs, like the award-winning favorite “Birmingham,” include spot-on harmony and intensely-focused unison singing. Somehow they create a blisteringly big sound despite always remaining a duo. Even on the biggest stages, from Red Rocks to their own acclaimed festival High Water Fest (set in their longtime South Carolina home base), they stick to their simple but potent formula. Switching back and forth between jangly and crunchy guitars, humming keyboards and pounding piano, hopping from sweat-strewn stripped-down drum kits to aching accordions, their joyous garage-rock Americana keeps gaining them new fans worldwide.
If you’re stuck at home and have kids running rowdily through your house like Michael and Cary Ann do, (this taping had to be rescheduled three times), maybe try turning on Busted Jukebox Volume 3 nice and loud and see what little ones think. Or just put them to bed and rock out yourself!
Stick around to the end of the episode to Hearst and Trent present the sweet campfire jam “My Little Buckaroo” featuring M. Ward.
The Lumineers (Jeremiah Fraites)
This week, host Z. Lupetin talks to one of the founding members of beloved folk-rock hitmakers The Lumineers - drummer and pianist Jeremiah Fraites. After following his heart to Italy, Jeremiah dialed into the podcast from Turin - his wife’s hometown. Alongside juggling duties as co-songwriter and performer in one of the most successful acoustic groups of the last twenty years and raising his two-year-old son, Fraites released a gorgeous instrumental record called Piano Piano this January.
Nearly fifteen years in the making, Piano Piano was created at his former home in Denver during the height of the early COVID-19 lockdowns, with his two favorite pianos leading the way as main characters in a story that seemed to unfurl, as his wife would say in Italian, “step by step” - delicately, but with passion. First he used a newer Steinway for the brighter, more forceful tones, and then a warmly creaky creature, that his piano teacher sarcastically named “Firewood,” for the most personal moments. Really, it’s the tiny imperfections that make this solo work shine: when you can hear the bench swaying slightly, when you spot his wife making dinner in the next room as the sustain pedal is pressed into the wood floor, when the aged instrument struggles to hammer out the final notes (but finally does,) and when Fraites and the instrument seem to breathe and speak and cry out, together.
While certain smaller songs like “Departure” and “Chilly” are as intimate as fateful field recordings, other standouts like “Tokyo” and “Arrival” are more polished pieces, blooming from that same small space but growing into masterful orchestral widescreen soundscapes with the help of violinist Lauren Jacobson (who often plays with The Lumineers,) cellists Rubin Kodheli and Alex Waterman, and the 40-piece FAME's Orchestra from Macedonia.
Fraites was born in New Jersey, where he grew up with Lumineers frontman Wesley Schultz. When they self-released their confessional and warm-hearted self-tilted record in 2012, the two friends never imagined that they would have a chart-topping hit on their hands. Playing the scruffy bars around Denver before their fanbase expanded exponentially and their first record went triple-platinum, The Lumineers soon found themselves headlining international pop festivals, opening for U2 and Tom Petty, placing songs in The Hunger Games and Game Of Thrones, selling out Madison Square Garden (twice) and finally filling their favorite hallowed Colorado venues like Red Rocks. Before the pandemic slowed them down, The Lumineers were bringing their same acoustic spirit to a full-on arena tour coast to coast - showcasing their newest album III. If you’re reading this right now, you’ve probably found yourself singing along to their romantic, stomping ear-worms “Ho Hey” or “Ophelia” or heard them accidentally a thousand times in the last decade, (both have been streamed over 500 million times and counting,) but all of that is paused for now.
What a perfect time for a peaceful piano record to clear our heads. As Jeremiah has gained confidence as a sought-after composer, songwriter and unlikely pop performer, he’s given himself the space to finally create the deeply personal record he’s been hoping to share for decades.
Blind Boys Of Alabama
This week on the show, to help honor Black History Month, we bring you a conversation with members of the foundational gospel group The Blind Boys Of Alabama - including longtime singer Ricky McKinnie, and beloved senior member Jimmy Carter who has been with the group for four decades.
Formed in the late 1930s with talent discovered at the Alabama Institute Of The Negro Blind, the troupe has superseded its limitations by bringing its own high-spirited version of jubilee gospel throughout the world. Their music was often the backdrop to the civil rights movement as Martin Luther King JR. toured the south, and Jimmy and Ricky are amazed and grateful that their message was still ringing true during the Black Lives Matter protest movement of the tumultuous last year.
While the members of the band have changed through history, the group has stayed steadfast to preserving a kinetic church-based music that doesn’t seek to evangelize, but can bring people of all faiths together. Indeed, watching Jimmy and the other bespectacled members walk with hands on each other’s shoulders into the youthful crowds of adoring festival goers from Bonnarroo to Jazzfest is really something to behold.
Their body of work continues to grow. In the last few decades they’ve gamely collaborated with a wide range of secular artists from Peter Gabriel to Ben Harper to Bonnie Raitt, made an album with Bon Iver (the stellar 2013 release I’ll Find A Way) and shrewdly reworked the ominous Tom Waits classic “Way Down In The Hole” which became the theme for HBO’s The Wire.
Their newest full length Almost Home, a treatise on morality and mortality, is particularly moving. It features songs written by Marc Cohn, Valerie June, The North Mississippi All Stars and many others - and was the last record that longtime member and bandleader Clarance Fountain was a part of before he passed away. Fountain was part of the group for for nearly sixty years.
As Jimmy playfully mentions throughout the conversation, they’ve never let being blind stand in the way of doing what they do best: putting on a show. They’re entertainers at heart and it’s so small feat that they’ve brought a nearly lost form of swinging, soulful (and expertly arranged) gospel from the small southern towns where they grew up, all the way to the White House, where they’ve held court for three different presidents. They’ve won five Grammy Awards along the way.
Stick around to the end hear their rich cover of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released”.
This week, a wide-ranging conversation with the peripatetic Pennsylvania-born confessional folk songwriter Sean Scolnick, who for the last fifteen years has become the troubadour truth-teller of the Americana circuit, amassing a devoted following performing as his many-hatted, impish alter-ego: Langhorne Slim.
Host Z. Lupetin caught up with Langhorne to discuss his much awaited new LP Strawberry Mansion (just released last week via Dualtone) which is named after the neighborhood in Philadelphia where both of his grandfather grew up. Coming out of a deep creative funk, Langhorne produced a record of many entwined reckonings. A flurry of twenty two diaristic sonic sketches, incantations, and emotive story-songs following, sometimes in real time, his struggle with mental illness, pandemic isolation and sobriety - it is an overall hopeful collection that shows Langhorne may be finally finding his true calling on the other side of the darkness.
Sean is never shy about revealing how his mental health and creativity are ever-evolving. Without playing the hundreds of international shows and festivals a year he normally does, Sean had to create at home in a new way. A note his therapist gave him still holds true as he releases his newest record without being able to take his guitar and his trademark worn hat in public to support it: “when you’re freaking out, just play”.
Make sure you stick around the end of the episode where he plays an acoustic rendition of “Morning Prayer, joined briefly by his cat Mr. Beautiful.
The Secret Sisters
This week, Z. talks with Laura and Lydia Rodgers, Grammy-nominated songwriters and preeminent harmonizers from Muscle Shoals, AL, who for the last decade have recorded as The Secret Sisters.
First breaking through with their warmly-vintage, vocally-entwined self-titled record in 2010, they’ve toured the world relentlessly, while recording with a who’s who of Americana royalty like Dave Cobb and T Bone Burnett. If you’ve ever seen them live, Laura and Lydia are known for their sharp-tongued and story-filled live shows - which, even over Zoom, made them particularly rip-roaring interviewees.
After breaking free of a major label hell which sidelined and nearly bankrupted them for a time, the sisters regrouped and created their most personal and pop-forward work yet, the heart-string pulling You Don’t Own Me Anymore (2017) and 2020’s fiery Saturn Return. Both were made with friend and producer Brandi Carlile, and both were nominated for a Grammy.
While the last year plus was hard - they lost both grandmothers - there was quite a silver lining: Lydia and Laura each become moms, and have begun to sing their own lead pieces, courageously facing uncomfortable truths about their southern upbringing, calling out the double standards and sexual politics of the music industry, and showcasing their very different experiences as young mothers.
With Carlile pushing them to find their own voices, Laura wrote the tender “Hold You Dear” while Lydia penned the more yearning and sardonic “Late Bloomer,” two favorites that stick out after repeated listens to the album. Still, the true beauty of Saturn Return - which they recorded with Carlile's beloved band - may be how Laura and Lydia can split off into new territory and then return together in chills-inducing harmony, as only real sisters could.
Stick around to the end of episode for an intimate acoustic performance of “Nowhere, Baby.”