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Acoustic CD of the Month, March 2018

The ninth album from Tuscon, Arizona based Calexico, The Thread That Keeps Us, is WNRN’s March 2018 Acoustic CD of the Month.

One reviewer called the new album from Calexico mistakenly “The Threat That Keeps Us” instead of Thread. The likely source of this slip came from listening to the lyrics of smoky scenes, disenfranchised running across fields and the general look at border politics. There is the apocalyptic “End of the World With You,” and built in concern about wildfires in “Voices in the Field” and “Bridge to Nowhere.”

On the second half of The Thread That Keeps Us, there are songs with Calexico’s signature cross border sound and lighter lyrical content. Fans of Joey Burns and John Convertino 22 year collaboration will be delighted with “Flores y Tamales” that includes mariachi horns over a cumbia rhythm. “Under the Wheels” fuses reggae rhythms with 80s flare. “Another Space” includes Miles Davis sounding trumpet.

March 1st, 2018|Anne Williams, CD of the Month, Featured|

Electric CD of the Month – February

WNRN’s Electric CD of the Month is One Drop of Truth by The Wood Brothers.  The trio started their tour with a sold out show at the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville.

Video from WNRN’S In Studio session is at our YouTube page. Along with playing “River Takes the Town”, the infectious song that introduced us to this new album, The Wood Brothers also performed “Happiness Jones”. A song about getting your fix of positivity in every form that you can.

It was thirteen years ago that The Wood Brothers came together to make their first collaboration. Oliver had moved to Atlanta to be in Tinsley Ellis’ band, that lead to the blues band King Johnson where Oliver was singer, guitarist and songwriter. Chris studied Jazz bass at the New England Conservatory of Music before moving to New York City where he formed Medeski Martin and Wood. Each brother had been hugely successful, but as the two playoff of each other with Jano as The Wood Brothers they create a joyful and unique sound that is unmistakably their own.

Highlights abound on this album, but along with the songs the band performed at WNRN check out “This Is It” a bright, yet introspective song that plays up the percussion in surprising ways and the booze soaked fun of “Sparkling Wine”. “Laughin’ or Crying”, with its slinky guitar line that evokes a world fitting for the main character that might have lived in the Broadway show Chicago.

If you didn’t get to see The Wood Brothers in January in Virginia they will be playing on Saturday, May 26 in Martinsville, VA for Rooster Walk 10.

February 1st, 2018|CD of the Month|

Acoustic CD of the Month, February 2018

Ruins, the fourth release from Swedish sisters, Klara and Johanna Söderberg, better known as First Aid Kit, is our Acoustic CD of the Month for February 2018.

During the month that features Valentine’s Day, WNRN looks at an album of heartbreak. This emphasis comes after the sisters took time off from the group, only coming back together after the end of Klara’s first serious relationship. The single, “It’s a Shame,” sets the mood with mixing the gravity of a break up and lyrics like “no point in wasting sorrow on things that won’t be here tomorrow” with their beautiful harmonies. On other Americana sounding songs on Ruins, First Aid Kits’ “Postcard” appeal to an ex-lover to “send me a line” while “Fireworks” examines the night sky and the end of a relationship.

Some new sounds on Ruins is work of a new producer, Tucker Martine, who worked with case/lang/viers and the Decemberists. Martine assembled R.E.M.’s Peter Buck on guitar, Midlake’s McKenzie Smith and Wilco’s Glen Kotche play drums, along with their dad, Benkt Söderberg on bass. This reconvening of First Aid Kit shows us again the sister’s talent for combining Country/Americana sounds with harmony and fine lyrics then gives us a look at their growth as artists. Vocals in “Hem of Her Dress” show more versatility with moments that bordering on a howl, moving quickly to crowd sing-a long.

Photo: Album cover

February 1st, 2018|Anne Williams, CD of the Month|

Electric CD of the Month, January 2018

WNRN’s Electric CD of the Month for January is U2’s Songs of Experience. After five months of touring to celebrate the 30th anniversary of The Joshua Tree the band released their 14th studio album. It was meant to be a counterpoint to Songs of Innocence that was released three years earlier, but whose songs came out of the same sessions. While talking with The Irish Times Bono discussed why it took so long to get Songs of Experience out saying, ”When the world changes, you change with it.  We didn’t want to release an album where it seemed we were singing about the equivalent of the Y2K bug.”

Along with finding a current prospective for the album some re-writes went into the tracks as Bono faced what The Edge called “… a brush with mortality” at the beginning of 2016. The bandleader has refused to discuss what that brush was, but has said, “The songs on this album can best be understood as me thinking what do I want to say to the people that I most love…” That heart-on-his-sleeve sentimentality can be felt throughout Songs of Experience, like on the opener “Love Is All We Have Left” and “Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way”. “The Little Things That You Give Away” finds Bono talking to his younger self.

With this album U2 has had a Number 1 album in each of the past four decades. They worked hard to make this album feel fresh. After working on material while they were on tour with Songs of Innocence U2 re-recorded the entire album live at Electric Lady Studio in NYC with Steve Lillywhite. I was struck by “Red Flag Day” and its overtones of “New Year’s Day” recorded 34 years before by Lillywhite for the War album.


There are flashes throughout the album of U2 from their past 41 years, see “American Soul” with Zooropa styling, and when thinking about their future the band is likely on stage. On June 17 and 18 U2 will play Capital One Arena in Washington, DC.

January 4th, 2018|CD of the Month|

Acoustic CD of the Month, January 2018

Here at WNRN, we were first introduced to Becca Mancari as a former Lynchburg resident who had moved to Nashville and was working on some new songs. We fell in love with her song, “Summertime Mama,” and started playing her music. What a thrill it was to see critics, including NPR and Rolling Stone, state their love for this new album, Good Woman. WNRN joins with them in praising the new album by making it a CD of the Month.

We invite you to dig into this album to help kick off the new year. Not only is there a version of “Summertime Mama” to enjoy along the other radio single, “Arizona Fire.” Many songs on this album have that atmospheric sound of WNRN favorites: Hiss Golden Messenger, The War on Drugs, and Big Thief. Becca Mancari uses relationships as the subject of most of her songs. The metaphor,“Dirty Dishes,” allows the discussion the difficulties of letting go of an ex-lover. “Waiting So Long” could be seen as a coming out declaration. A personal favorite is the “Kitchen Dancing” a folkier number, lamenting the loss of love.

Photo: Andrea Bernhards

January 1st, 2018|Anne Williams, CD of the Month|

December 2017 Acoustic CD of the Month

WNRN is featuring the second release of 2017 by Chris Stapleton as its December 2017 Acoustic CD of the Month. The album was recorded during the same session as From A Room: Vol. 1, so it is aptly named, From A Room: Vol. 2.

Recently, I reviewed a January 2016 post on the morning show’s Facebook page where I displayed an article waxing philosophically about the impending impact of Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell and Chris Stapleton on the world of Country Music. A comment in response stated they had “tried” to listen to country music but did not like the “good old boy” antics of driving trucks and excessive consumption of alcohol. This stereotype may describe some commercial Country, but not the work of these three gentlemen. A better description was a David Dye’s comment made on a recent World Cafe episode, stating that Chris Stapleton’s songs are “heart music.”

Stapleton does talk about drinking on the new album.“Tryin’ to Untangle My Mind” and “Drunkard’s Prayer” spelunk into those soul awakening moments of reconciliation between  how one lives life with consequences and uses drinking as a lens.

Country music’s sense of humor and ability to get to the “heart” of the matter is its biggest selling point for me. Flaunting Country Music songwriting’s “super-power” to get at the value of relationships, “Millionaire,” “A Simple Song” and “Friendship” soar.

This new album continues to showcase Chris Stapleton as one of the best singers alive today. The rolicking “Midnight Train to Memphis” is the loudest song on the album. His soulful singing is present there, and even more in the quieter moments of this recording.


If you want more information about the CD of the Month clubs at WNRN, go to wnrn.org

December 1st, 2017|Anne Williams, CD of the Month|

Acoustic CD of the Month, November 2017

The 11th solo album from Robert Plant, Carry Fire, is the November 2017 Acoustic CD of the Month.

Robert Plant wrote many of the lyrics for Led Zeppelin. It is not surprising that he dips into the same well of imagery to write a few of the new songs found on Carry Fire. The initial track, “The May Queen,” and “Every Season” have the most in common with those older songs that drew on Tolkien or British Isles mythology. This album is a continuation of Plant’s journey away from what made Led Zeppelin famous to the place where he regarded as the confident solo artist.

Carry Fire, the second album with the Sensational Shape Shifters, could be called Lullaby…and the Ceaseless Roar Part 2. There are Northern African tribal sounds, drums, and vibe picking up where the last album left off. Some of Plant’s solo material pays tribute to his love of American blues and folk. Band of Joy best fits this description, but there are other examples including the whole album with Alison Krauss, Raising Sand. The radio single, “Bones of Saints” brings all these ideas in focus.

November 1st, 2017|Anne Williams, CD of the Month, Featured|

Acoustic CD of the Month, October 2017

The Acoustic CD of the Month for October is the newest from North Carolina’s Hiss Golden Messenger, Hallelujah Anyhow.

This album is about darkness and light, good and bad, all set to this band infectious groove. In a recent conversation that I had with MC Taylor he stated his relationship with the Cook Brothers, and Phil Cook in particular allows his songwriting to come alive because of Cook’s ability to translate Taylor’s ideas into reality. Taylor notes that the musicians he admires are people that have this same sense of musicality.

Lyrically that are pictures of the difficulties of life with the recommendation of “Hallelujah Anyhow.” There are the images of war in “Jenny of the Roses.” The song that captures the songwriter zeitgeist of the day “When The Wall Comes Down” as well as the love song “Caledonia My Love.” You are already familiar with the first single, “Domino (Time Will Tell)” that reminds us that being surrounded by good people can turn your luck around.

October 1st, 2017|Anne Williams, CD of the Month|

Acoustic CD of the Month, September 2017

The September 2017 Acoustic CD of the Month is Iron & Wine’s Beast Epic.

Shortly after purchasing Iron & Wine’s Ghost on Ghost in 2013, Aoife O’Donovan came to WNRN to promote her own Fossils CD. As we were setting up for the instudio session, she state plainly that the Iron & Wine album “was not what she was expecting.” Maybe what she was looking for then is now out in this new release, Beast Epic. Unlike Ghost on Ghost’s full band sound, this Iron and Wine effort is stripped down, with haunting melodies, sharp lyrics, and Sam Beam’s breathy singing.

The lead single, “Call it Dreaming” expands with keys, drums and cello. The lyrics stand out in “About a Bruise,” (“tenderness to you was only talk about a bruise”) “Thomas County Law,” (“every traffic light is red when it tells the truth/the church bell isn’t kidding when it cries for you”) and “Bitter Truth.” Sam Beam has returned to his root sound all while moving forward.

It is an album to be enjoyed on repeat.

September 1st, 2017|Anne Williams, CD of the Month|