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In 2019 Mountain Stage welcomed 121 artists among our 25 live events here in West Virginia and beyond. Our 36th Season of live performance radio saw five road shows, seven guest hosting appearances by Kathy Mattea, and artists from places like Sudan, London, Montreal, Toronto and Ireland. In July we recorded episode #950, and we’re now heard on more than 240 stations across the country thanks to our colleagues at NPR Music, and our listeners like YOU.
Our host Larry Groce, with some input from our office staff, narrowed down this list to “20 Favorite Performances from 2019.”
Here they are in alphabetical order, with a link to hear each show’s podcast and a place to listen via NPR Music, wherever available. Please support the artists by purchasing and streaming their music, ordering from their label or the artist directly, or, best yet, go out and see them live if they come to your area.
We’d love to have you in the audience some day too! Our 2020 Live Show Schedule is already filled with opportunities to be a part of our live audience.
Portland’s Anna Tivel impressed us with the rich vastness of her newest release, The Question, and then wowed us all over again with a captivating live performance in Athens, OH. Hear it in Episode #941.
There’s no crowd Catherine Russell can’t win over. She’s a favorite of anyone who hears her, and we were thrilled to welcome her back this summer as part of FestivALL Charleston. Revisit the set via NPR Music or listen to Episode #948. Be sure to check out Catherine’s latest, Alone Together.
It was standing room only in the wings of the stage as nimble guitarist Charlie Hunter brought along soulful powerhouse vocalist Lucy Woodward and bonkers percussionist Keita Ogawa, to do songs from their enthusiastically titled collaboration Music! Music! Music! Hear their entire set, recorded last July in Marietta, OH with the Peoples Bank Theatre, via NPR Music and Episode #949.
This, we assure you, is the real deal. Kentucky’s Chris Knight returned after seven years with songs from his highly anticipated latest, Almost Daylight. There were a lot of “Wows” in the audience that night, just like anytime Knight takes the stage. Hear it via Episode #951.
It’s hard to describe what we love about Craig Finn, other than to say “Everything.” With a tightly tuned band, the Uptown Controllers, Finn and Company powered through a wonderful set of tunes from his solo catalog, including his latest, I Need A New War. They also helped lead the charge at the after-show post-jam, which was a fave of anyone who was there to witness it. Hear their set via Episode #954.
It’s a beautiful thing to watch a band interpret their albums live. Darlingside’s Extralife has a richness and warmth that was only emphasized more when they joined us in Morgantown, WV in April. Expert singing, arrangements and band-member introductions await, in their set via NPR Music and Episode #943.
Season 36 began in Morgantown, WV with our friends at WVU Arts & Entertainment. The year was off to a great start thanks to this set of marvelously arranged songs by Gregory Alan Isakov. This set of tunes from Evening Machines, which you can hear performed live via NPR Music or in Episode #936, was one of the most listened to segments of the entire year.
High class in every way, John Pizzarelli and his trio are the most charming- and sharply dressed- performers of the entire year. Smile along and tap your toe to songs like “Save The Bones for Henry Jones,” and many others, in Episode #948. His latest is called For Sentimental Reasons: 100 Year Salute to Nat King Cole.
Do us a favor and watch this short video, then scroll on for more favorites from 2019.
We love this set because it’s simple in the most beautiful ways. The formula – Two voices, two instruments, and some really great songs- is a hard one to perfect, yet Kane & Gellert deliver straight to the heart and the soul. Hear them doing songs from When The Sun Goes Down in Episode #955.
Talk about dynamic duos, Larry & Teresa powered through their set this past October with poise and grace. The energy and joy they share in music and on stage together is one of the best things we’ve seen or heard. Check out their album Contraband Love, and hear their set via NPR Music and in Episode #957.
This year was a full of big moments for Mandolin Orange, who received universal praise and loving admiration from critics and audiences alike, thanks to their fantastic new album Tides of a Teardrop. We got to hear the songs on the first show of our 36th season, which you can hear as Episode #936.
What can we say? Matt Nathanson has hooks for days and he gets laughs like no one else. Just like his songs, his segment at NPR Music rewards multiple listens, as the tenderness in his songs matches the humor in his sunny disposition. Listen to Episode #942, or via NPR Music. Matt has a new EP called Postcards (from Chicago) and he’s got a holiday single, “CHRISTMAS (BABY PLEASE COME HOME)/RIVER”
We’ll take this just about any day of the week. If you ever get to catch this faction on tour, please do it, as their set on the NPR Music page is just an appetizer for what their live shows can do. You can hear them in Episode #954 or via their latest release, Love Starvation/Trombone on YepRoc Records.
Patty Griffin returned to Mountain Stage for the first time in five years, and she brought the goods. Her latest, self-titled, album, is among her most powerful works, and her band was hard to beat. Listen to Episode #954.
Steve Earle and the Dukes paid homage to the great Guy Clark, who made many appearances on our show-including one on Episode #500 that Steve was also on. So when we found out Earle was about to pay tribute to the legend with GUY, we had to be a part of it. We also got a preview of an upcoming theater production about a coal disaster in West Virginia. Hear the set via NPR Music or find Episode #947. This set also has a sad note, as The Dukes’ long time bassist Kelley Looney passed away in November of this year.
Listen closely and you can envision the choreography of The Lone Bellow, who expertly weave their voices together around one single microphone in this captivating set recorded in April with Ohio University and WOUB in Athens, OH. Hear it via NPR Music and in Episode #941.
The simplest things can also be the most beautifully dynamic. Such is the voice and guitar melding of The Milk Carton Kids. Blow us away with powerful songs, crack us up with some wry wit in between, and we’ll keep coming back every time. Hear their set via NPR Music and in Episode #960.
We’ve loved following the evolution of Virginia roots outfit The Steel Wheels since they first visited us in 2011. Their latest, “Over the Trees” is their most sophisticated and powerful. Sample the songs via NPR Music and Episode #955.
Tradition runs deep with old-time innovators the T-Mart Rounders. Founded in Elkins, WV, where tradition is preserved but still evolves, Jesse Miles and Kevin Chesser play fiddle and banjo to the percussive steps of Becky Hill, creating an interesting and intriguing sound of their own. Milnes’ original tune “Margaret’s Song“, stands as a worthy addition to any songbook. Revisit their set via NPR Music and in Episode #950.
Just like our entire region, we’ve enjoyed watching the meteoric rise of home-grown Appalachian country songwriter Tyler Childers. The year contained highlights throughout, starting with the release of his latest Country Squire. The break out record led to a sold-out show at Red Rocks, national TV appearances with guys like Fallon and Kimmel, and tour dates across the globe. We were happy to be a part of the journey when we recorded our 36th anniversary show earlier this month. The broadcast won’t hit until March, but we’ve got this video of “All Your’n” as a preview below.
Listen starting March 6 as we kick off our newest season on these NPR stations.