Southern Songs and Stories

Podcast on the WNCW Web Site

Southern Songs and Stories is a documentary series about the music of the South and the artists who make it. Hear their performances and discover the stories behind their songs with a look at their lives on stage, in the studio and at home as well as the family, friends, fans and music professionals around them.

The series is based in western North Carolina and the surrounding Appalachian and foothill regions, covering an incredible array of musicians and bands. Podcast episodes are produced in partnership with public radio station WNCW as well as the Osiris podcast network, and are also carried on Bluegrass Planet Radio. Host Joe Kendrick produces Southern Songs and Stories, documenting the current music of the South and the story of how it came to be, from styles that are centuries old to genres that are just emerging. Episodes typically spotlight individual artists and bands, and occasionally focus on historical topics, issues surrounding musicians and the music industry, and even a song itself, like in the podcast on “Wagon Wheel”. It is a show for everyone who loves music and for anyone who wants to explore the South.

You can find out more by emailing Joe at southernsongsandstories@gmail.com

When people talk about artists like Aretha Franklin, St. Vincent, Paul Brady and Sam Cooke, they tend to talk about these artists’ best known work, their music that came after their formative years. For Aretha Franklin and Sam Cooke, her Columbia Records sides and his time in The Soul Stirrers tend to get glossed over. For the casual fan, who remembers that St. Vincent got her start in The Polyphonic Spree, or that Paul Brady once was known as a Celtic artist?

Memphis quintet Lucero has been making straight ahead rock without a hint of pretense since 1998, and just over two decades in, they are at an inevitable crossroads of sorts.

Photo: Daniel Coston

For those who adhere to the old adage that “If you're the smartest person in the room, you're in the wrong room,” you would likely feel comfortable being in the company of Dom Flemons. Now living in Chicago, he has called many places home, from his native Arizona to North Carolina to Washington, D.C., and has covered even more musical territory, mastering the banjo, fife, guitar, harmonica, percussion, quills, and bones in many styles along the way.

Dom Flemons performs at WNCW’s Outback Opry drive-in concert September 2020
Photo: Daniel Coston

After a brief pause over the holidays, it is time to jump into the new year with a strong lineup of guest artists here at Southern Songs and Stories. On deck is Dom Flemons who has a new song with Reverend Peyton featured in his episode, as well as Amythyst Kiah who is soon to raise her profile with her album Wary + Strange, scheduled for release this June. Also in our pipeline are Ben Nichols of the band Lucero, and a relatively new artist, Pony Bradshaw, both of whom have new albums which we will explore as we speak with them in their podcasts.

No survey of current bluegrass is accurate without mention of Darin and Brooke Aldridge. The husband and wife duo, whose first album came in 2008, are now at the center of what contemporary bluegrass does best. And they have the hardware and chart hits to attest to that — for starters, Brooke is the 4-time, reigning IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year, and their 2019 album Inner Journey rose to the top of the charts, surprising no one on both counts.

Make no mistake, Kenny Roby has turned in one of the most emotional and raw records of 2020. But listening to his fifth solo album The Reservoir, it is impossible not to feel solace. When he sings in the album opener “Don’t Ya Know What’s On My Mind”, “My mama told me I was special/ She never saw me in the dark/ A soft truth and a wet confessional/ Dressed in a mess and double parked”, you know right away that there’s going to be trouble ahead, and real soon. But Kenny’s voice is so reassuring, his music so assuaging, that you know it is all going to be okay in the end.

(l to r) Woody Platt and Graham Sharp warm up in WNCW’s Studio B 9/28/20
Mike Gavin

It could be easy to lose sight of this, with all of the trials and tribulations we have endured in 2020, but Steep Canyon Rangers is having a banner year. Beginning with their live album North Carolina Songbook, continuing with a surprise collaboration with Boyz II Men on the remake of their song “Be Still Moses”, and finishing with their studio album Arm in Arm, the western North Carolina six piece band has been fully en fuego despite all of the cold water thrown on the music world lately.

In May of 1989, Doc Watson was 66 years old. He was known around the world, and had already cemented his legacy, but was nowhere near the end of his achievements. With four Grammy awards under his belt, he had four more to go. He had yet to be inducted into the International Bluegrass Hall Of Honor, and was probably not anticipating that the National Medal Of Arts would be awarded to him in the coming decade. One of his great contributions to the music world had begun just the year before: the event which was born out of the tragedy of losing his son, MerleFest.

On Monday, September 21st, tune in during the music mix with Joe Kendrick as he brings you a special presentation of his interviews of Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires, just after NPR headlines in the 1pm hour. This half-hour session with Jason and wife Amanda features new music from both artists, along with wide-ranging conversation, and is a preview of their upcoming episode of the documentary music podcast Southern Songs and Stories.

Tune your dial to 88.7FM or listen live online.

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