In case you haven't been tuning in (or, "logging on", rather) to the 'Songs From the Doc' series, the music presented in these posts is pulled from an hour-long radio documentary I produced for the 30 year anniversary of our live performance radio show, Mountain Stage.
As I've mentioned before, the songs used in the documentary represent only a fraction (about 1/700, by my rough math) of the show's "Smithsonian grade" archives. While Mountain Stage is looking to digitize their entire catalog, they need some help in making that possible. And YOU can help. But, until the entire archive becomes available, their podcast archive and the 'Songs From the Doc' series will have to suffice.
Todd Snider - "Alright Guy"
Take a listen to any of Todd Snider's songs and it won't take long to realize why he's a been a favorite of Mountain Stage host Larry Groce since he first came to play on the show in February 1995. Snider's smart, witty, and has a keen ability to criticize American culture and politics that's unapologetic and nearly impossible to argue with.
Because I knew Snider would headline the 30th Anniversary show in December (and also because I'm a big fan) I wanted to somehow incorporate him into the documentary. He wasn't available for an interview that I could use for broadcast (phone line quality wasn't going to cut it for a documentary), so using a tune of his was the next best thing.
If you listen closely to the opening of 'Mountain Stage at 30: A Radio Retrospective' (the part immediately following the "teaser sound bites") you can hear the first few bars of Snider's "Alright Guy"--but, it's quickly faded down. What I'm trying to say is that if you liked the documentary and wanted to learn more about the music, this one is a real treat.
Bottle Rockets - "Welfare Music"
Brian Henneman is arguably one of the most underrated songwriters and guitar players in American music. From his days in alt-country (whatever that's supposed to mean) forerunners Uncle Tupelo and Chicken Truck to forming the incomparable Bottle Rockets, Henneman has established himself as a mainstay in blue collar, roots-driven rock music.
Songs like "Thousand Dollar Car", "Radar Gun", "I'll be Comin' Around" off their second full-length release The Brooklyn Side prove the Rockets' ability to craft songs for the everyman without being too simple or too complicated, either. Rightfully so, their song "Welfare Music" is one of Larry Groce's--and the entire Mountain Stage family's--favorites.
The Band - "The Weight"
The first time The Band played the show technical issues almost kept the show from happening.
However, Levon Helm and the boys returned to Mountain Stage in April 1996 and chief engineer Francis Fisher was back at the helm of mixing the show for broadcast. Performing songs like "Rag Mama Rag" and Bob Dylan's "Blind Willie McTell", The Band came and did what they always did: hit right to the heart and soul of Americana.
Ricky Skaggs - "How Mountain Girls Can Love"
Bluegrass has always been an important part of the identity of Mountain Stage for obvious reasons and, not surprisingly, the show has hosted a long line of greats from the genre, including Bill Monroe, Doc Watson, Peter Rowan, and Tony Rice. Although Skaggs has only played Mountain Stage twice, I felt his status as a bluegrass legend and his ties to Appalachia made him a perfect interview subject for the project. He stopped by our Charleston studios in August to chat for a bit about the show's roots in Appalachia and how that translates to a family feel. Here he is performing on Mountain Stage's 400th episode in November 1996.
Editor's Note: Mountain Stage at 30: Songs From the Doc is a multi-part series that serves as a companion to a recent documentary that details the history of the show. Stay tuned to wvpublic.org as the series is rolled out over the Christmas and New Year holidays.