Nashville Beats: Alt Country Artist Elise Davis

 

 

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Elise Davis moves between lush alt-country and stripped-down folk on her second album, Cactus. Arriving two years after The Token — the songwriter’s 2016 debut, whose electrified roots-rock sound earned praised from outlets like Rolling Stone Country and The Wall Street Journal — Cactus spins autobiographical stories about a self-sufficient woman in the modern world. Like the desert plant that lends the album its title, Davis takes pride in her own independence, confident that she doesn’t need help from others to grow tall.

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Davis’ independent streak began in Little Rock, Arkansas, where she kicked off her career at 12 years old. Now based in Nashville, she has earned acclaim not only for her live show, but also her sharp, articulate songwriting. She collaborates with co-writers like Grammy-winner Maren Morris on Cactus, whose bold, country-leaning sound was produced by Jordan Lehning. The result is Elise Davis’ most honest record to date — an album about what it takes to stand alone, rooted in the hard-won wisdom of a songwriter who’s unafraid to shine a light on her missteps and victories.

 

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A Sound Recommendation: Fiddler Gaelynn Lee

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Photo by EvrGlo Media

 

When Gaelynn Lea won NPR Music’s 2016 Tiny Desk Contest, her two decades as a hardworking and talented musician finally crystallized in a beautiful moment of national recognition. It was also just the beginning of a grand adventure. With the wind of her award at their backs, Gaelynn and her husband Paul sold their house in Northern Minnesota, quit their jobs, bought a van, and hit the road.

Since then, Gaelynn has played over 250 shows in 42 states and seven countries, adding nearly 100,000 miles to their Ford Econoline’s odometer. The singer-songwriter and violinist has performed everywhere from coffee shops, bars, schools and festivals; she’s graced the stage of renowned venues like Nashville’s Music City Roots , The Kennedy Center , House of Blues and even BBC World News . This June she was featured at arts festivals in Iceland and Switzerland, and she played the Winnipeg Folk Fest in July and Travelers’ Rest Fest (curated by The Decemberists).

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Her new album, Learning How To Stay , is an 11-song collection that runs the gamut sonically from pensive and luscious to aggressive and intentioned, from folk to decidedly pop, and even includes a couple of traditional fiddle tunes. Undoubtedly the connecting thread of this album is Gaelynn Lea herself. With her singular voice and deeply-affecting violin, she guides the listener through a journey that explores the contrasting nature of existence: dark and light, birth and death, anger and forgiveness, sorrow and joy. Learning How to Stay encourages the listener to stay present for it all.

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In addition to performing and recording, Gaelynn Lea loves to do speaking engagements about disability awareness, inclusion in the arts, and leading an enriching life. Gaelynn has a disability called Osteogenesis Imperfecta (Brittle Bones Disease) and she is a strong voice in the disability community. Gaelynn Lea believes society must prioritize accessibility so people with disabilities can participate in their communities and use their gifts without barriers or discrimination.

 

ARTIST LINKS

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Nashville Beats: Country Rocker Ben Danaher

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Drawing on the influence of legendary troubadours like Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, and Townes Van Zandt, Ben Danaher first made a name for himself as a songwriter in Texas before relocating to Nashville. Along the way, he shared bills with Ray Wylie Hubbard, Jack Ingram, Angaleena Presley, Rhett Miller, Travis Meadows, and Amanda Shires, in addition to co-writing songs for Ryan Beaver, Bonnie Bishop, Rob Baird, and Justin Halpin among others. For his own songs, Danaher collaborated with some of Nashville fastest-rising stars, including Maren Morris, on material that blended classic country tradition with modern rock and roll sensibilities. 

Recorded live and raw with his touring band, ‘Still Feel Lucky’ showcases Danaher’s hard-won wisdom and cinematic storytelling, capturing slices of life with a candid honesty that cut straight to the heart of things. Danaher lost his brother to murder and his father to cancer in short succession, and while many of the songs draw from that well of pain and loss, the music is anything but self-pitying. These are songs of revelation and redemption, reflecting a maturity and an acceptance that can only come with time and perspective. Writing the album was a therapeutic process for Danaher, an opportunity to make sense of the inexplicable, but it was also a chance to respond to the universe with love and gratitude despite all he’s been through. 

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You can go through hell and get completely hardened up, but there’s always going to be this human part of you that can still feel lucky and grateful for all the good that’s in your life,” he concludes. “No matter how difficult things get, in the end, there’s always hope.”

ARTIST LINKS

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