Nashville, home of country and western, is in many ways the exemplary denim town. Today Nashville Denim Days kicks off. This is our soundtrack. Five must-hear acts from ‘Music City USA’.
If there were such as thing as ‘Western Futurism’, Kiya Lacey would fit the bill. Her blend of alternative R&B, hip-hop, and electronic music is as contemporary as it gets. Lacey’s recurring Neon Cowboys hat gives away her Nashville roots. From all-pink for her debut EP Fail In Love in 2015, she switched to blue to represent her style. “I’m really into colors and color therapy,” she told i-D magazine last year. “Blue is associated with police lights, you can see them and get really nervous. For me, it’s really calming, the color blue. It’s symbolic of honesty and organization.”
Magic In Threes
Library music is for some a fascinating world of background music for TV, film, and radio–the quality brother of stock music, if you will. It’s for Magic In Threes, three twenty-somethings, the main ingredient for cinematic soul infused with a heavy dose of psychedelics. One of the Magic In Threes’ members, Nick DeVan, owns G.E.D. Soul Records out of Nashville, which plays a leading role in the current soul revival going on in the city.
DeRobert & The Half-Truths
DeRobert & The Half-Truths could’ve been a 60s soul group. The seven-piece band (including a brass section) is contemporary as hell though, and has been making gritty classic soul for the last decade. With “Music City” all over their biography and press outings, they’re proud locals doing justice to the city’s rich musical history–also taking wider Tennessee influences in the line of Stax Records, Memphis Soul, and rhythm-and-blues. Most of it is released by –here they are again– G.E.D. Soul Records.
The son of jazz trumpeter Gary “El Buho (The Owl)” Gazaway is for us the uncrowned king of mashups. Nashville-born producer Amerigo Gazaway’s mashups may seem at times odd. Think Nashville blues legend B.B. King with Texas rap icons UGK. And then there is his ‘Soul Mates’ series: linking artists from different generations who could’ve been musical soul mates, such as Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti with De La Soul, or Stevie Wonder with rapper Common. But Amerigo Gazaway’s mashups are skillfully made and could have been originals, had time and space not existed. Must-listen mind-expanding material.
When you’re at Nashville Denim Days you may run into the First Lady of Outlaw Country, Nikki Lane: this highway queen who don’t need no king. Lane reinvents country and western in a subtle way, with a mix of feminine power and all the classic ingredients of Americana. A blend of Lana Del Rey with country and western–the uncut Tennessee-born bottle proof version. As Rolling Stone put it: “Inspirations cased in a streetwise, modern shell that’s as unapologetic as Johnny Cash’s middle finger.”
Third Man Records
Bonus: Third Man Records. The Nashville record store–and vinyl-focused label– of Jack White. You probably won’t find him behind the counter as he must be locked in a Cumberland River cabin working on another wild music adventure. But a feature on Nashville music won’t be complete without mentioning the semi-official ‘Music City Ambassador’. With the Third Man record store and ‘novelties lounge’ as the embodiment of Nashville’s rich musical heritage.