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Dawson Hollow

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Dawson Hollow is an indie-folk band based out of the Ozark Mountains. Their music encompasses the nostalgia of folk while channeling the urgent and intoxicating energy of indie-rock.

Cordovas

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Rooted in triple-stacked harmonies, southern storytelling, and cosmic country twang, Cordovas create their own version of American roots-rock with That Santa Fe Channel.

The album marks the band’s ATO Records debut, arriving after more than a half-decade’s worth of international touring, communal living, and shared songwriting sessions. It’s a timely – and timeless – version of a sound that’s existed for 50 years, ever since pioneers like the Grateful Dead and the Allman Bothers Band blurred the lines between rock, country, and amplified folk music. If That Santa Fe Channel nods to the band’s influences, though, it’s still a fiercely unique album, recorded in a series of live takes that shine a light not only on Cordovas’ songwriting chops, but their strength as a raw, rugged live band, as well.

That Santa Fe Channel was produced by the Milk Carton Kids’ Kenneth Pattengale in East Nashville, not far from the home that doubles as the band’s rehearsal space, headquarters, and shared living quarters. There, in a converted barn behind the property’s main house, the guys logged countless hours fine-tuning a sound that’s already earned praise from outlets like NPR Music and Rolling Stone, who described the group as “the harmony-heavy, guitar-fueled house band at a Big Pink keg party in 1968.” With its western wooziness and siesta-friendly swagger, That Santa Fe Channel also nods to the band’s other home bases: Southern California, where bassist and band leader Joe Firstman lived for years; and Todos Santos, Mexico, where Cordovas’ five members travel every winter to write new songs, sharpen old standbys, and oversee the acclaimed Tropic of Cancer Concert Series. The result is a record that’s steeped in – but not limited to – southern sounds and California charm. It’s American music without borders.

Years before Cordovas’ formation, Firstman traveled the country as a solo musician. Raised in North Carolina, he moved to Hollywood as a determined 20 year-old, signing a major-label deal with Atlantic Records in 2002. His debut album, War of Women, hit stores one year later. When a dizzying blur of acclaimed shows – including opening dates for Sheryl Crow and Willie Nelson – weren’t enough to satisfy the expectations of a big-budget record label, Firstman lost his contract and took a new job as music director on Last Call with Carson Daly. It was good work, with Firstman performing nightly alongside first-rate musicians like Thundercat and Kamasi Washington. Still, the need to create his own music was ever-present. With Cordovas, he’s found his ultimate vehicle: a collaborative band with multiple lead singers and a collective approach not only to songwriting, but to existing. Cordovas aren’t just bandmates. They’re roommates. They’re co-conspirators. They’re a family.

“The Cordovas are a 24-hour, 7-days-a-week job,” clarifies Firstman, who shares the band’s roster with drummer Graham Spillman, keyboardist Sevans Henderson, and dueling lead guitarists Lucca Soria and Toby Weaver. “You’re always on call to play, to adapt to another man’s idea, to pick up a guitar or look at a lyrics sheet. We’re eating dinner together, hanging out together, and making art. We don’t have rehearsal times, because rehearsal is always. You have to honor the art first, and everything else comes second.”

Living in such close quarters – both at home and on the road – has turned Cordovas into a band of brothers. Stop by the band’s East Nashville compound and you may find Soria and Weaver picking their way through bluegrass songs inside the barn, while Firstman wraps up a family dinner in the kitchen and Spillman fixes the band’s RV outside. There’s a communal vibe to the band’s existence that bleeds over into their songs, where it’s often hard to pinpoint a single person’s voice in those thick, swooning harmonies. That Santa Fe Channel is the soundtrack to that communal existence: a collection of songs written together, performed together, and lived together.

And what a soundtrack it is. There’s the Band-influenced boogie-woogie of “Standin’ on the Porch,” full of blue notes and pedal steel. There’s the layered melodies of “I’m the One Who Needs You Tonight,” the classic chord changes of “Selfish Loner,” the barroom piano of “Step Back Red,” and the hungover charm of the album’s opener, “This Town’s a Drag,” which finds Firstman searching for illegal thrills in a dry town. Together, That Santa Fe Channel’s nine songs paint the picture of a band on the rise, heading for a horizon whose beauty can match their own.

Kelsey Waldon

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Over the past seven years, Kelsey Waldon’s life has changed drastically. Since moving to Nashville, she’s found her place in a lush, supportive, and versatile artist community. She’s released two albums, played with some of music’s biggest names, and toured nationally. She made her debut performance on the Grand Ole Opry at the hallowed Ryman Auditorium, and she’s already been bestowed with one of Nashville’s highest honors: playing the historic Station Inn, the go-to spot of the 70’s, where intimate, post-Opry jam sessions were hosted by legends like Jimmy Martin, Bobby Osborne, and Bill Monroe. While most musicians work a lifetime to achieve that status of success, Kelsey Waldon’s talent has earned her way to the top in a matter of years. And even though she traded her small town for the city, she’s making moves in country.

Straddling the junction of the Ohio River and the Mississippi, Waldon was born in Ballard County, Kentucky, and raised in one the county’s even smaller, unincorporated communities, lovingly named Monkey’s Eyebrow. The destination has been spotlighted by NPR and Roadside America, but the Western Kentucky town is about as “rural America” as it gets. Waldon’s family roots in the Bluegrass State date back over ten generations, from tobacco farmers to cattle raisers, and a general cast of real strong-spirited characters. “Farming and planting tobacco were some of the first jobs I had growing up,” she says; but dating back even farther, to some of her very first memories, is her relationship with music. Inspired by ‘a melting pot of influences’, Waldon took notes from a wide variety, spanning from legends like Merle Haggard and Mavis Staples, to bluegrass luminaries Ralph Stanley and Ricky Skaggs, and songwriting greats John Prine, Bob Dylan, and Townes Van Zandt. When she picked up the guitar at 13, she never looked back. “I finally felt like I was a part of something when I started playing and writing music. It was something that finally made everything make sense, and it was a very essential and healthy thing for me during my younger years, and still is.”
While Waldon faced a multitude of obstacles during adolescence, music always remained a constant source of stability in her life — and out of that adversity, she crafted a distinct sound that meets at the juncture of classic country, bluegrass, soul, R&B, and rock and roll. “I wasn’t one of those kids that applied for college or probably even took it very seriously upon graduating high school. I wanted to do things my own way, so I didn’t go to college and I moved to Nashville, on a whim really,” she says. Despite her initial feelings, Waldon ended up at Belmont University, studying Songwriting and Music Business, and became the first person in her family to graduate college. While working toward her degree, she played gigs at ‘any bar that would let her in the door and on the stage’ and worked 45+ hour work weeks at a minimum wage job. After graduating, Waldon continued playing local dive bars and venues, including one of Nashville’s most famous honky-tonks, The Palace, where she also worked as a bartender.

Waldon’s traction skyrocketed with the release of her debut LP The Goldmine, which The Fader dubbed as “the brightest country debut of 2014”. Relix claimed it was “dripping with the most sought-after currency of authenticity.” The album was named one of Rolling Stone’s “10 New Artists You Need To Know: Summer 2014,” with journalist Marissa Moss calling Waldon, “Tammy Wynette on a trip to Whiskeytown, as unafraid of heavy twang and spitfire pedal steel as coffeehouse confessionals.”

By the time I’ve Got A Way hit in 2016, she had established herself as one of Nashville’s founders of the female-pioneered twang revival — a movement that is quickly redefining the modern country music narrative. Her sophomore album ranked on two of NPR’s most-acclaimed lists of the year; Fresh Air host Ken Tucker’s “Top 10 Favorite Albums of 2016” alongside Beyonce, Miranda Lambert, and Stax legend William Bell. The album’s shining single, “All By Myself” was named on their list of “Top 100 Songs of 2016.” The video for the single, filmed in her hometown of Monkey’s Eyebrow, was featured on Rolling Stone Country and Billboard. One of the most notable supporters of I’ve Got A Way was Ann Powers, who admired the record’s “delightfully direct language and delivery enhancing vivid musical settings that demonstrate her vast understanding of the traditions she mines.” Powers went on to praise Waldon’s unique talent in NPR’s First Listen, saying, “It’s the immediacy of her storytelling, utterly unsentimental yet deeply heartfelt, that makes Kelsey Waldon a queen of the cool rejoinder and an all-around contender.”

Since the release of I’ve Got A Way, she’s been busy touring the country — sometimes solo, but more often than not, with a tight-knit band of extremely talented musicians. But despite the fame and notoriety she’s seen in the past three years, Waldon remains humbled by her success. “I’ve spent a huge majority of my life studying my favorite records, my favorite songs, and my most-favorite singers,” she says, adding, “You never stop learning or gaining from it. I’m still doing it all the time… all the while still writing my own story and hopefully becoming an entity in my own right.” If one thing is set in stone with Kelsey Waldon, it’s that she does have a way — and it’s straight up from here.