Author: Nathan Empsall

You Might be Surprised where the FM Radio Plays Hank Williams

When you Google “Washington is,” some of the automatic suggestions are “broken” and “too close to the banks.” Fair enough – when people think Washington, they think politics. But D.C., while a company town, is also the heart of a six-million person metro area, which can be a pretty dynamic place to live.

Why do I bring that up here, on a music blog? Just to give a quick shout to WAMU Bluegrass Country, 105.5 FM, one of the best radio stations in the country. Most local NPR stations focus on classical music, but in our nation’s capitol, it’s bluegrass and Americana, and they do a great job.

This may not be what you think of when you think Capitol Hill, but I just drove home across the Capitol Hill neighborhood cranking Hank Williams – on the FM dial, not a CD player. “The Dick Spottswood Show” played a short 15-minute radio show from 1949 hosted by none other than Hank himself. He sang Pan American, Lovseick Blues, and I Saw the Light, with some great fiddle interludes. There aren’t too many places in the country where you can drive through an urban area loudly singing along to I Saw the Light with a goofy grin.

So, thank you, WAMU. You keep doing you. And you don’t have to visit DC to hear 105.5 – you can listen along live online.

Gotta Love “We Hate Pop Country”

If you saw this morning’s post about my being blocked by We Hate Pop Country – know that it was all a mistake and the post has been deleted! I take it all back. Whether this was Facebook’s glitch or an accident on the part of WHPC editors, who knows and who cares. But it certainly wasn’t their page taking a ham-handed approach to comments, politics, or diversity. Quite the opposite. Many thanks to them for their speed, professionalism, and courtesy.

We know return you to your regularly scheduled meme sharing.


Three Hours of Springsteen Live Feels Like 30 Minutes

There are no more piano dancing or knee slides, but even at 66, the Boss rocked Hartford, CT, for more than three hours last night, even crowdsurfing across the entire pit as part of the E Street Band’s “The River Tour.”

IMAG6793_BURSTSHOT002_1While I will never get tired of screaming along to “Born to Run,” “Thunder Road,” and “Dancing in the Dark” during the encore with the house lights up, the highlight of my fourth Springsteen concert in ten years was Nils’ extended guitar solo on “Because the Night.” It was the greatest guitar playing I have ever seen live, bar none, HOLY WOW. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing/seeing!!! I’ll remember that one forever.

As I noted, this was part of The River Tour, which means that every night, the band plays the 1980 album “The River” in its entirety. That made the concert a bit different than most E Street Band shows, with a lot of deep cuts showcasing the Boss’s excellent songwriting and the coherence of an emotional album (Drive All Night? Independence Day? The River itself?) to really create an intimate feel. It also meant less room for crowd favorites. There was no Born in the USA, no Glory Days, and nothing post-Rising. The band intros were also less theatrical than usual, and Patti Scialfa took the night off.

But there were plenty of other highlights to make for a great night:

  • Bruce’s emotional introductions to songs from the River
  • The inclusion of a “Shout” cover and “Cover Me” on the setlist
  • Amazing performances of Rosalita, Two Hearts, Hungry Heart, Ramrod, and more
  • As always, pulling up several women from the crowd for Dancing in the Dark (including a dance partner for keyboardist Roy Bittan – her sign said she wanted to dance with “Lil’ Boy Roy” on her birthday!)
  • Featured sax player Jake Clemons, four years in as a featured player, does his late uncle Clarence proud, but Clarence is definitely missed
  • And whenever Bruce, Nils, Stevie, Jake, and Suzie jam or sing around a single mic, they really seem like family. It’s such a close and fun feel. All the feels, in fact.

IMAG6791_1 (1)I think Springsteen will keep playing for another 20 years, but we’ll likely see more and more of his acoustic and folk-rock sides. As its members age – may Clarence and Danny rest in peace, we miss y’all – the E Street Band is probably nearing the end of its raucous run. I’m thrilled I’ve gotten to see them three times in the last ten years (in addition to non-E Street Springsteen shows); I hope this wasn’t my final one. Thank you for a great night as always!