Shawn Colvin

Three-time GRAMMY winner Shawn Colvin stopped the industry in its tracks with her arresting 1989 debut, Steady On, a stunning introduction to an artist who quickly established herself as a mainstay in the singer-songwriter genre. The album was lauded for its confessional songwriting and well-crafted melodies, and for Colvin’s delicate and provocative vocals. Colvin received the ultimate acknowledgement for Steady On when she was awarded the GRAMMY award for Best Contemporary Folk Album. She swiftly amassed a dedicated and passionate fanbase, to whom this album remains very special.

As the record’s 30th anniversary looms, the trailblazing singer and songwriter has recorded a truly mesmerizing acoustic reinvention of her landmark album, lacing up each track with fresh layers of warmth, charm, and wisdom. Colvin brings a 30-year lens to her treasured songs, casting new light on the stories she first told as a young artist. Colvin has always been hailed as an exemplary solo acoustic performer and these new recordings are a brilliant showcase for her enduring artistry.

“I was 32 years old, and the dream of my life had been fulfilled,” Colvin says, “not only because I made an album but mostly because I had written or co-written every song, an accomplishment that was hard won. I was so proud. My feeling was then — and still is — that if I never made another album, Steady On would have been enough.”

The newly-recorded version of Steady On strips each song to the core, placing Colvin’s songwriting masterclass on full display. “I’ve played these songs countless times, primarily as a solo acoustic artist,” she says. “All in all, this is the incarnation that feels most genuine. And so, to commemorate this milestone I decided to celebrate Steady On by recording it again, this time using only my voice and my guitar. This represents who I am as an artist and all I ever wanted to be, and I believe it does its predecessor proud.”

Over the course of three decades, Colvin has established herself as a legacy artist by creating a remarkable canon of work, touring relentlessly both nationally and internationally, and having her songs featured in television and film. She is a revered storyteller deserving of the special recognition of both her peers and those who have been inspired by her songs. The reworking of her iconic debut feels not only timely but essential, further underscoring that Colvin remains a vital voice for women in music and reaffirming her status as an Americana game-changer.

Shawn Colvin will perform Steady On Acoustic in its entirety in what promises to be a very special evening for her longtime fans.

Shannon McNally

Recorded with an all-star band and featuring special guests like Jessi Colter, Buddy Miller, Rodney Crowell, and Lukas Nelson, Shannon McNally’s extraordinary new collection, ‘The Waylon Sessions,’ isn’t so much a tribute to Waylon Jennings as it is a recontextualization, a nuanced, feminine rendering of a catalog long considered a bastion of hetero-masculinity. That’s not to say McNally has a softer, gentler take on the songs of Jennings and his outlaw compatriots here; in fact, just the opposite. Over and over again, she manages to locate a smoldering intensity, a searing hurt buried deep within the music’s deceptively simple poetry, and she hones in on it with a surgical precision. McNally doesn’t swap pronouns or couch her delivery with a wink; she simply plays it straight, singing her truth as a divorced single mother in her 40’s in all its beauty, pain, and power. The result is that rare covers record that furthers our understanding of the originals, an album of classics that challenges our perceptions and assumptions about just what made them classics in the first place.

“When I listen to Waylon, I hear an adult,” says McNally. “He sounds like a grownup, and for a long time, I think being a grownup has been confused with being a man. There’s a feminine perspective hidden somewhere inside each of these songs, though. My job was to find a way to tap into that and draw it out.”

As daunting an undertaking as that sounds, it was really nothing new for McNally, who’s been mining the rich veins of American roots music for more than two decades now. Born and raised on Long Island, McNally has, at various points, called New Orleans, Nashville, and Holly Springs, Mississippi, home, but it was in Los Angeles that she first came to national attention in the early 2000’s with her Capitol Records debut, ‘Jukebox Sparrows.’ Recorded with a Murderer’s Row of studio legends including Greg Leisz, Benmont Tench, and Jim Keltner, the collection garnered high profile spotlights everywhere from NPR to Rolling Stone, earned McNally slots on Letterman, Leno, and Conan, and led to dates with Stevie Nicks, Robert Randolph, and John Mellencamp among others. She followed it up in 2005 with ‘Geronimo,’ a critically acclaimed sophomore effort that prompted the New York Times to call her “irresistible” and the Washington Post to hail her as “a fine lyricist who often calls to mind Lucinda Williams.” A restless creative spirit with a magnetic personality, McNally would go on to release a wide range of similarly lauded albums, EPs, and collaborations over the next 15 years, performing onstage and in the studio with the likes of Willie Nelson, Dr. John, Bonnie Raitt, Levon Helm, Charlie Sexton, Derek Trucks, Terry Allen, and many more along the way.

Monte Montgomery

You can call it prescient or predetermined, but when Terry Lickona, undisputed tastemaker and producer of Austin City Limits, plucked a then relatively unknown guitar talent to tape a segment of the legendary show, one had the sense that this was just the beginning.

Since that jaw dropping performance, Monte Montgomery has embarked on an almost fantasy like rock and roll roller coaster ride filled with dizzying accomplishments and mind blowing accolades. Named one of the “Top 50 All-Time Greatest Guitar Players” by Guitar Player Magazine, he’s been called everything from “guitar-god” to the “answer to the Fermi Paradox”.

Still, despite the six-string notoriety, Monte is not content to rest on his musical laurels. “I’ve resisted temptation to be just that guitar gunslinger from Austin, Texas,” says Monte. “I strive to have more depth, to be more layered as an artist, songwriter and singer.”

With the release of his latest CD “Monte Montgomery”, he is cementing his place as not just some blazingly electrified acoustic guitar playing freak of nature, but also a rare and true triple threat; songwriter, singer and master musician.

“I want my music to be accessible to everyone,” says Monte. Accessible it is, but he’s still managed to make a record that is uncompromising. The virtuoso-like trademark guitar licks and arrangements you’d expect from Monte are there, forming the rich and colorful aural backdrop for his insightful songwriting and amazing voice.

The end result, in a day of homogenized, digitalized, and processed music, is that this new project stands out as a throwback to the great pop rock records of the past. Recorded live at the legendary Masterlink Studio, the textured, deep, rich, nuanced and just plain rocking 12 tracks run the gamut, showcasing Monte’s stylistic diversity beginning with the opening album track “River”, an almost primal seven minute dark bluesy roots rocker, and ending with “Midlife Matinee” a wistful ballad that soulfully explores the turning points and crossroads of life, love and loss.

In between, it’s a mix of dark, edgy rock to light, breezy pop-like melodies. There’s the pure rocker “Can’t Fool Everyone” and the jazzy, vibey “Could’ve Loved You Forever”. And just when you think you’ve got him pegged, Monte changes it up to leave you breathless with the sensual, lyrical, Latin-tinged “Moonlight Tango.”

“All of these songs are road tested,” laughs Monte when you ask him to explain how he chose what to record for this record. “I don’t write with a project in mind. I write to play live, for my fans. My audience is great, they tell me what to record. It’s like having a built-in focus group.”

Long a big draw on the live music scene, Monte’s non-stop touring schedule this year has included ParkPop (one of the largest music festivals in Europe). A Monte Montgomery show is likened to a musical religious experience. “I wanted to capture what I do live on this record. I want people to close their eyes and envision themselves at one of my concerts.”

To do that Monte enlisted the help of the hip, rock producer John Billings and Rob Clark, Grammy nominated Neil Young and CSN&Y recording engineer. “In the past my records were made in my hometown of Austin”, says Monte. “We went to a larger [studio] room in Nashville for this one which, with some very clever microphone placement techniques from Rob and John, enabled us all to set up in the same room and just play each song straight through. These are live takes, band tracks and no overdubs, with the only exception being some different instrument parts (string section and B3) added later to some tracks.”

All the songs were written by Monte, with the exception of “Little Wing”. Monte’s blistering interpretation of the Jimi Hendrix classic is a fan favorite but has never been recorded in a studio environment. “I never play it the same way twice,” says Monte. “So when making this record we planned for “Little Wing” to be the last thing we attempted to track every night in the studio and if we get it, we get it. If not, we would just leave it to the live performances. On the second night, after a long day in the studio, the track we got was like, wow. We knew it was magic.”

Ironically, it’s the cover of another rock pop classic that is bringing Monte a high profile fan and opening up new doors. After seeing Monte’s version of Sara Smile on YouTube, Daryl Hall (Hall & Oates) was so blown away he invited Monte to be the featured artist on Live from Daryl’s House, the popular web-based music show.

These accomplishments are quite a distance from Birmingham, Alabama where Monte learned to play piano and trumpet. At the age of 12 Monte moved to Texas to live with his mom, a singer/songwriter who instilled in him a passion for music and a taste of the life he was destined to lead as he sang and performed with her in Hill Country picking parlors.

It was the eventual move to Austin where you could say he earned his musical baccalaureate from that city’s highly competitive music scene (earning him seven consecutive Austin Music Awards). That led to the current fulfillment of his musical destiny; a dedicated fan base, critical acclaim and an ever growing touring circuit in the U.S. and Europe. It’s no wonder that when Terry Lickona introduced him on that Austin City Limits’ stage some years ago he uttered these words: “Monte Montgomery blows people away. There is no other way to describe it.”

Shannon McNally

Thom Jurek at All Music said it best, “Only Gram Parsons’ term “Cosmic American Music” begins to touch her mercurial, changeling roots aesthetic, … McNally is a Zen-like, post-Beat song poet”. For those who have followed McNally’s nearly twenty year career the thing that most sticks with the listener about her, is the timeless effortlessness that she brings to all she does. With a long catalog and longer list of peers with whom she has written, recorded and toured, McNally continues to turn out great music that defies blatant genre-fication.

At home across the American (Americana) music spectrum, the Grammy nominee who’s live music career began on the jam band circuit of the 1990’s with bands like Robert Randolph and Derek Trucks, writes as well as she interprets the songs of others, has a top tier musicality to her craft, a soul stirring voice that immediately grabs one by the heart strings and a troubadour’s wanderlust, not to mention as it turns out, she is also an excellent electric guitar player.

Like her anti-hero heros J.J. Cale, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan. Dr. John, and Jim Dickinson, McNally knows who she serves. She serves the song. Her quiet but steady plodding through the many layers of the business of music, hasn’t ever been rewarded with massive fame and fortune but in time that slow burn has become the treasure in and of itself.

The part of McNally’s narrative that is often missed is that not only has she self-managed herself for nearly all of her career but that she has also been a stout warrior-like-artist who often went toe-to-toe with label heads and A&R to defend and fight for her visions. She left the major label world after ten years at Capital/EMI to fend for herself on various smaller labels and self-release paradigms. Perhaps the business of music is finally catching up with her independent spirit. We shall see.