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.
This week, we feature a conversation with one of most admired and sharp-witted singer-songwriters in the fertile Nashville Americana scene, Caroline Spence.
A sought-after lyricist who mines her own vulnerabilities and lovelorn past to tell delicately crafted story-songs, her voice seems to always hover angelically above the page, bringing to mind new-wave country pop heroines Alison Krauss or her vocal hero, Emmylou Harris.
Growing up in Charlottesville, VA daydreaming to Harris’ signature twangy honey-toned records like 'Wrecking Ball,' Spence admittedly was a bit starstruck when the silver-maned lady herself came on board to sing harmonies on the title track of Spence’s newest LP 'Mint Condition.' It quickly became a critic’s darling and an Americana radio staple nationwide.
As a conversationalist, she usually leads with cheerful southern modesty, but beginning with her 2015 debut 'Somehow,' Spence wasn’t afraid to push at country music’s guy-centric boundaries. She brought aboard a talented group of genre-defining collaborators like blue-eyed soul hero Anderson East and folk pop favorite Erin Rae to give the songs new heft. Her follow-up 'Spades And Roses' brought more lush atmospherics to her yearning acoustic stories, elevating the clear-eyed feminine power behind emotive songs like “Heart Of Somebody.”
While Spence will tell you she is just furthering the empowered spirit of roots songwriter pioneers who came before her, during this time of high anxiety, her deeply felt love songs like “Sit Here and Love Me” and “Slow Dancer” seem especially fitting, touching on her bouts of depression and her inability to connect with the ones who are trying to help her through.
Sometimes sad songs truly do make people happy, and if you’re feeling a bit low, maybe pop on her newest single “The Choir,” about finding your people when you need them most.
This week, we feature an intimate conversation with beloved soul and R&B singer Bettye LaVette.
Covering her remarkable six decades in show-business, we dive deep into her beginnings as a Detroit hit-making teenager during Motown’s heyday (her neighbor was Smokey Robinson), to her early career touring with Otis Redding and James Brown, and the hard times that followed as a music industry steeped in racist and sexist traditions largely turned its back on her.
While other soulful song stylists like Sharon Jones, Tina Turner, Mavis Staples and others have seen their status and popularity rise with time, LaVette remains a best kept secret in the nascent Americana circuit, with younger listeners just discovering her remarkable work covering anyone from The Beatles to Neil Young to Billie Holiday.
After nearly dropping out of music, her remarkable comeback began in 2005 with a string of acclaimed records - bringing her from half-filled bars to singing “Blackbird” at The Hollywood Bowl with a 32-piece orchestra, being nominated for five Grammy awards, and being inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.
One thing you’ll notice immediately is her fiery laugh which punctuates the episode - even when telling the darkest stories like her early manager getting shot and her 1960s hits being recorded by white artists, leaving her versions largely forgotten. Her Grammy-nominated newest LP 'Blackbirds,' produced by legendary drummer Steve Jordan, shows her at her most vulnerable best.
The Tallest Man On Earth
This week, we take the show to the countryside of Sweden for an intimate talk with Kristian Matsson, poet-songwriter and masterful acoustic multi-instrumentalist who has released five acclaimed albums and two EPs over the last decade and a half, performing as The Tallest Man on Earth.
Growing up in the small hamlet of Leksand, a three hour trek from Stockholm, Mattson was in rowdier indie-rock outfits like Montezumas before breaking out with his own dreamier acoustic material - gaining international notice with his breakout solo offering 'Shallow Grave' in 2008. Tours with Bon Iver across North America gained Matsson an adoring audience in the states, where he ended up setting up shop in Brooklyn.
Most often performing solo even on the biggest stages, Matsson is known to have seven or more intricate tunings for his guitars and banjos, and with his high, cutting voice and cryptic, nature-inspired lyrics, he has been compared to some of his heroes like Roscoe Holcomb, Bob Dylan and Paul Simon but with a Swedish-naturalist touch. Songs like “Love Is All” or “The Gardener,” while gaining tens of millions of steams on folky playlists, pack quite a punch, often detailing how the cold cruelty of the animal kingdom filters into human life with its many frailties.
In 2019, Matsson found his marriage to a fellow Swedish singer-songwriter ending and he holed up in his Brooklyn apartment to write, produce and engineer his newest Tallest Man On Earth LP, 'I Love You. It’s A Fever Dream.' Like Springsteen’s eerie and emotional 'Nebraska,' Matsson's collection is a clear-eyed view of our current state of interpersonal (and even societal) isolations. Standout songs like the warm guitar and echoey harmonica opener “Hotel Bar” - though written before he knew what would happen with our current pandemic - seem to capture the lost closeness and romance of our very recent past, where one could fall in love with a new stranger every night in a new town and think nothing of it.
Sequestered in a small house in the middle of Sweden since the world shifted last year, a new Tallest Man On Earth album is sure to be on its way. Admittedly Matsson is going a bit stir-crazy away from the road, but really he’s grateful to be able to have the time to explore and create new sounds without any distractions. A fall tour of the states is in the works (fingers crossed), including an opening slot at Red Rocks joining Mandolin Orange and Bonny Light Horseman.
The Allman Betts Band
This week - it’s a rock-n roll-family affair with a special conversation with Devon Allman and Duane Betts - two guitar-slinging sons of the iconic Allman Brothers Band who formed their own soulful supergroup in 2019 - The Allman Betts Band.
With their debut record 'Down To The River,' Allman and Betts - who took turns playing alongside their revered dads Gregg and Dickey as teenagers - finally banded together to create a new collection of the soaring slide-guitar-centered Gulf-coast rock and brawny road-tested blues that both pays homage to their heady upbringings and forges their own way forward. Even their touring bassist has a familiar name to Allman die-hards: Berry Oakley Jr., whose dad was one of the Allman Brothers' founding members when they formed in 1969 out of Jacksonville, FL.
While many groups were stuck at home licking their wounds as the pandemic shut down most touring options, Devon and Duane’s crew tapped into the nascent drive-in circuit, bringing their spirited 2020 release 'Bless Your Heart' to a whole new set of excited fans. Always sticking to their southern roots, they laid down both records at the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios with producer Matt Ross-Spang (Jason Isbell, Margo Price, Elvis Presley.) While history is always dancing in the margins of the songs, it’s clear on this second offering that they wanted to create stories that didn’t only reflect their roaring live shows.
Standout songs like the soft piano ballad “Doctor’s Daughter” show the group roving in new, more nuanced directions - while “Autumn Breeze” is a pulsing, slow-burn, but features the effortless twin guitar lines that made their dads' work so instantly recognizable.
Of course playing in the family business wasn’t always a given for the guys - especially Devon who only met his hard-touring father Gregg at sixteen. Devon first started hanging out with young Duane - then only twelve - in 1989 on the Allman Brothers' 20th Anniversary tour. As he describes in the episode, Devon wasn’t sure he wanted to follow in his father’s hard-to-follow footsteps, but once he sat in on “Midnight Rider“ and the crowd went crazy? It was off to the races.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Allman Brothers' breakout record 'Live At The Fillmore East' - which I grew up listening to on loop with my father. Though Duane Allman died tragically in a 1971 accident before his namesake was born, and Gregg passed away in 2017, their spirit lives on in the Allman Betts’ epic live show - which is already gearing up for the tentative 2021 touring season.
Low Cut Connie
This week, we call in to Philadelphia for a conversation with the highly-theatrical pianist and tireless, much-adored performer Adam Weiner, who for the last decade has gained a cult following around the world fronting his soulful bizarro-rock outfit Low Cut Connie.
Some artists have retreated into obscurity during the pandemic shut-down; some have made turned lemons into personalized live-stream lemonade. But Adam took it to another level when he launched his often twice-weekly vaudevillian interactive web show “Tough Cookies” from a back bedroom in March. Charging around his small home stage like a schvitzing piano preacher, often losing clothing along the way, Adam has learned nearly six hundred covers in the last eight months alone - from Barry Manilow to Cardi B’s "WAP" to Macho Man to an entire Little Richard set, which he performed to honor his hero after his passing. He then interviews anyone from Beyonce’s dad to members of Sly and the Family Stone - in short, it's a rollercoaster every week that you kind of have to watch to believe.
Alongside his 2020 LP Private Lives, Low Cut Connie’s heartfelt and sweat-dripping sets have gained him some famous supporters: Elton John for one, fellow New Jersey-born hero Bruce Springsteen for another - and that up-and-coming playlist presenter Barack Obama unexpectedly placed Low Cut Connie’s defiant cabaret rocker “Boozophilia” on his must-listen list. Indeed, this taping - which often showed Adam jumping from his piano to his guitar to play favorites like the Kinks-esque “Revolution Rock N Roll,” initially had to be delayed so he could play an inauguration event for new president and Philly-piano lover Joe Biden.
While Adam is basking in some much-earned attention, it hasn’t always been an easy road. He readily admits to scrapping by on side jobs into his mid-thirties, for years playing around dim New York City piano bars as his sequined alter-ego Ladyfingers. If Adam's learned anything during this strange era, it’s that people desperately still need live music - in all its spur-of-the-moment, sweaty glory. One of the more moving stories he tells is seeing groups of nurses in beleaguered hospitals taking a much needed break to watch his livestreams. Much like his hero and patron Elton John, Low Cut Connie’s songs can leap from intimate folk-rock to greasy soul to bombastic musical theater and back with ease - and his relentless spontaneity keeps fans waiting for that he will do next.
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.
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Never fails to deliver
Interesting interviews, great music. Take a listen - its my fav go to Podcast to learn more about the artists and Zac and DustBowl Revival.
Listen to this podcast!!
This is an amazing podcast for discovering new artists and getting to know in-depth details from artists you already love. Zach is a thoughtful interviewer and really brings the best out each artist he talks to. This is a must listen for music lovers!
If you love music, you’ll love this podcast!
Zach blends his skills as a deep thinker, a writer, and a musician, that results in a truly entertaining and inspiring podcast! I constantly learn about new bands through Show on the Road, and I appreciate the unique glimpse Zach facilitates into the artists’ creative process through his interviews. The intros are especially poetic. Definitely worth subscribing!