WRUR 88.5 Different Radio

Jewly Hight

The only true constants in the music industry during the tumultuous pandemic era have been fantastically sobering ones: lost livelihoods; interrupted career momentum; belated recognition of the brokenness of a system built on the exploitation of Black innovation and labor.

To be a respected citizen of the bluegrass world, no matter how far newgrass, jamgrass, folk-rock, pop, indie and classical offshoots push its boundaries, requires being able to play in a traditional style with real command and grit. The band Sister Sadie has certainly lived up to that musical ideal over the past eight years through various festival and club dates and two album releases.

Founding singer-guitarist Dale Ann Bradley describes, with conviction and an evocative gardening tool metaphor, how her band mates attack their instruments:

In 1966, Charley Pride's debut country single, "The Snakes Crawl at Night," was deliberately mailed out to radio stations without a photo of him. That way, his label strategized, his voice alone would inform the industry's first impression before Pride's African American identity was widely known. On the one hand, this oft-repeated tale underscores the blatant racism of the 1960s country music business and, on the other, the belief that his singing could nonetheless sell itself.

Nashville's Namir Blade seemed to emerge out of nowhere with the fully formed vision of Aphelion's Traveling Circus, a concept album with an elaborate sci-fi narrative, witty, theatrical skits and prismatic musicality released on the respected indie hip-hop label Mello Music Group in late September.

A.B. Eastwood traveled to the star-studded Miami studio scene to learn the fundamentals of production. He returned with a vision for elevating his hometown.

How Tim Gent and Bryant Taylorr, a rapper and singer respectively, began cultivating their talents and strategizing how to open the door to the insular world of professional songwriting.

Entrepreneurial Mychael Carney helped his poet-rapper sibling, The BlackSon conceive of music as a business. Their BlackCity collective has grown into a model of community-minded and empowered economic self-sufficiency.

Daisha McBride, The Rap Girl, has channeled her performing abilities, affably clever personality and college-level industry studies into her own version of artistic and professional equilibrium in Music City.

It's no wonder that journalistic surveys of Nashville's hip-hop underground typically frame the mere fact of its existence as a big reveal. To a large degree, the scene here is the creation of Black music-makers and entrepreneurs who came up in the city or surrounding region.

These days The Mavericks are known as a hot, swinging nine-piece outfit. Before that, there were country record deals, and even further back, a stint in the South Florida alternative scene. The one thing the group hadn't done in its 30-year existence was record an album entirely in Spanish, until now; its new full-length is called En Español.

Long before Raul Malo became The Mavericks' famously expressive lead singer, he learned how to communicate growing up in a bilingual Miami household.

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