Bill Anderson

Bill Anderson performing at the Paramount Center for the Arts on Sept. 7.

The Howlin’ Brothers

Like a lyric from a Hank Williams masterpiece, The Howlin’ Brothers waylay convention in favor of blunt force music.

Translated, buckle up when The Howlin’ Brothers step on the unvarnished gas in Johnson City at Founders Park on Friday, Sept. 13. Presented as part of the Founders After 5 Concert Series, the free show spotlights a band brimming in vim and — ahem — yeah, vinegar.

“We love the howl,” said Ian Craft of The Howlin’ Brothers.

Moonshine lines the innards of The Howlin’ Brothers’ fiery music. On the road touting their newest release, “Still Howlin’,” the string band trio exude country abandon amid a wide mix of music. There’s bluegrass — big surprise, right? Yet there’s also snippets of jazzy jazz, springy Cajun and riotous rock as played by a band of country boys.


Polished as a Texan’s belt buckle, Lonestar shed its edge in favor of a slick approach to country music in the 1990s and 2000s.

It worked. From bars to barnstorming sell-out tours, Lonestar rose to country stardom. Hear their route via a show of smashes Saturday, Sept. 14, at Niswonger Performing Arts Center in Greeneville, Tennessee.

Early hints of Lonestar bore honky-tonk leanings. Then John Rich left; they primped their look and polished their sound to a pop-heavy slant. Hits resulted. Their “Lonely Grill” album yielded massive crossover success with “Amazed,” a tone-setter from which the band bounded to brief superstardom. Twenty years later, Lonestar persevere, among those who altered country’s course.

The Wooks

The what? You read that correctly. Yes, there’s a band by the name of The Wooks.

Offspring of George Lucas’ Wookies? Um, no. Hold the lightsaber, reach for a banjo, and you’re getting closer to The Wooks. They’re bluegrass, and they’re en route to Johnson City’s Down Home on Friday, Sept. 13.

Intergalactic ’grassers clear outta the realms of rural Kentucky, The Wooks straddle bluegrass traditionalism like Darth Vader envelops evil. They do it with aplomb and style. Raw as homemade liquor, The Wooks’ “Glory Bound” album captures that which they do best — bluegrass in overdrive.

Music Notes

Bright lights and country music shone upon the Birthplace of Country Music on Saturday night at the Paramount. Courtesy Bill Anderson, country legend, those who attended observed a clinic of country music.

Songs, stout as a sequoia. Substantive lyrics, unmistakable.

A rock chiseled from Georgian granite, Anderson exuded heart and emotion. Given knee-bucklers including “Mama Sang a Song” and “Still,” he stood like a mountain, resolute yet quite moveable.

Anderson’s voice, at its whispering best. For 60 years, he’s proven that a whisper can draw a crowd as well and perhaps even better than a wail.

Anderson held his microphone close, closed his eyes and whisper-sang “A Lot of Things Different.” The wisdom inside is enormous. A look back on a life lived, he admits to having not spent as much time with life’s loved ones — his father, wife, kids. Moving? Eyes blinked back tears among many in the crowd.

That’s country music at its best. Anderson touched nerves. He did so with cold, hard truth, songs written in the keys of impact and import.

Simple elegance pervaded. Particularly during Anderson’s revival of “I Love You Drops,” one of country’s most well-crafted recordings of the 1960s, he illustrated that even as we age, impeccable songs do not.

Neon and night lights, invoked. Quarters in a jukebox, sure sounded like it as Anderson shed nearly all of his 81 years to sing as if he were young again.

Call upon “Bright Lights and Country Music.” An anthem to country music’s heart and soul, Anderson approached it as if on stage at the Mother Church of Country Music, the Grand Ole Opry.

Suddenly Roy Acuff lived again. Ernest Tubb honky-tonked. Buck Owens Buck-a-rood as time stopped, looked back and recalled times that were.

So goes the power of country music in the arms of a master. Call him Whisperin’ Bill Anderson.

With Bill Anderson in mind and Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion on the way, open a curtain to historic recordings from the stage of the Grand Ole Opry in this week’s free MP3 downloads. Tap into Click audio. Search Grand Ole Opry. Find dozens of downloadable shows from the Opry during the 1940s and ’50s. Hear Carl Smith, Minnie Pearl, Webb Pierce, Hank Snow and more.

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Tom Netherland is a freelance writer. He may be reached at

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