In the Scene: Talkin’ about the latest rocking roots and high-concept hip-hop releases

Here’s our latest conversation on what the alt-weekly The Nashville Scene is covering with its music editor Stephen Trageser.

Jewly Hight: You enlisted a crew of Scene contributors for another round-up of recent Nashville releases that people might have missed. So I would like to talk about that today. Two of those are on the rocking roots side of things, a new duo and a second-generation storyteller. What can you tell me about those projects?

Stephen Trageser: Well, so the duo you mentioned is Jade Jackson and Aubrie Sellers, who are rising country, roots, rock folks. They teamed up on a kind of ferocious set of new tunes called Breaking Point that came out just a couple of weeks ago. And then there’s Lilly Hiatt. Her album Lately is also a very recent release, kind of a hybrid of New Wave and country-indebted rock. She’s got this new collection of songs that have mostly come during the pandemic, and a lot of it is sort of putting the present in context of the past, something that happens when you have some time to process things.

JH: Tribute albums are definitely not a new phenomenon in Nashville, I mean, Nashville musicians are pretty quick to pay tribute to their heroes, whether that’s on stage or in the studio. What is the approach with this latest tribute to a towering figure that you’ve covered in the roundup?

ST: Well, that is Broken Hearts and Dirty Windows Vol. Two. It’s a tribute to the late, great John Prine, which is on his family label. Oh Boy. And it’s kind of an opportunity for a lot of folks, frankly, with some real star power in the Americana and country worlds who have been heavily influenced by him, who he had been a mentor to, to sort of to sort of stand up and pay tribute. You’ve got folks like Valerie June, Sturgill Simpson, Margo Price, Jason Isbell, Brandi Carlile all on the record. Bonnie Raitt is doing a new version of “Angel from Montgomery”: her recording [of that song] in the 1970s helped make that famous. Just a really loving tribute from some folks who might not be where they are if it weren’t for John Prine’s influence and his mentorship, and they just wanted to kind of say, thanks for that.

JH: You also spotlighted both a solo project and a collaboration from some of Nashville’s leading hip hop voices. Can you fill us in on those?

ST: Sure. So there’s, Chuck Indigo, who folks from around town might know from his great 2019 record Indigo Cafe and another one in 2020 called No Moor Bad Days. He was working on a follow-up, wasn’t happy with the results he was getting, but still felt that some of those tracks were worth sharing. So he released an EP called Shades of Indigo, in which he’s kind of pushing some boundaries of his style and his sound. It’s showing off his singing voice in some places, which is also great. You know, if he decided these were the tracks that didn’t make the cut, I can’t wait to see what he’s got next there. And then you’ve also got Spoken Nerd, who’s been kind of part of the underground scene for well over a decade. He and a friend from Cincinnati, producer Juan Crosby, [channeled] their mutual love of the beloved and influential horror anthology “Tales from the Crypt” into an LP called Grapes. A lot of the songs there are about human frailties and failings, you know, temptation, hypocrisy, jealousy, lot of the things that fuel those stories in the “Tales from the Crypt” comic book and TV show and movie series as well.

JH: Now there are a lot of other releases that made the list, but if you had to single out just one of them as a real wild card pick, a real left-field surprise, what would it be?

ST: I would pick Great Grand Sons’ Terra Incognita. That’s kind of a psychedelic blend of dub and folk pop from Christopher Lord Byrd and Joel McAnulty, who some longtime Nashville listeners will probably remember from a band called De Novo Dahl. He’s also a producer, multi-instrumentalist, multi-hyphenate, polymath kind of guy. Anyway, it’s kind of taking a closer look at how different spiritual traditions examine the nature of existence and the cycle of life. It’s very heady stuff. McAnulty actually sent a little note that I included a part of in my little mini review. He says, “This is kind of like an agnostic gospel album with Robert Anton Wilson as our patron saint and Terrence McKenna as our guardian angel,” which I think sums it up pretty well.