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Roots On The Rivers Music Festival Gets Rolling in Donelson

by Rich and Laura Lynch

The well-respected radio station known as WMOT presented Roots on the Rivers (ROTR) at Two Rivers Mansion in Nashville, Tennessee. Their inaugural outdoor music festival held on August 27, 2022 celebrated American Roots music. It was a family friendly event that featured community advocacy groups, drinks, food and of course quality music from artists that are regularly played on Roots Radio. The concert was streamed on the station so that fans unable to attend could still hear all the great music.


Stokes Nielson of The Lost Trailers at Roots On The Rivers in Donelson.

The concert was a fundraiser for WMOT. The lineup included Maggie Rose, Lera Lynn, Mike Farris, Nicki Bluhm, The Lost Trailers and 49 Winchester on the Main Stage and Jessica Willis Fisher, The HawtThorns, The Woods, Gina Sicilia, Gabe Lee and Mark Thornton & the Sidekicks on the Local Brew Stage. On site there was enough space to set-up chairs and blankets. Both stages were close enough so that one could just turn their chair to see each which worked out well that while a set was being changed on the Main Stage folks could enjoy music from the Local Brew Stage.

Two Rivers Park is between the Cumberland and Stones Rivers, just off the Briley Parkway in the Donelson area. The Mansion is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is owned by Metro Nashville Parks. The Friends of Two Rivers - a nonprofit group - runs the Mansion and the grounds. The stately home made for an impressive back drop and the lovely lawn had quite a few trees so there was some shade which was a bonus as it was hot and sunny during the daytime on Saturday.


Stokes Nielson and his crew played a mini-festival of their own on Saturday.

Kicking off the festivities on the Main Stage was one of our favorite indie bands. We were stoked to see The Lost Trailers. However, the group's leader Stokes Nielson in the spirit of community selflessly shared his slot with up and coming associates. Dylan from The New Fate fronted this group through a Led Zeppelin cover and then presented a number of compelling originals.


Mike Farris at Roots On The Rivers music festival.

Dylan moved to the bass so that another singer Miss Chandler Flint could tell the story of "Stubborn Girl" a song that Stokes had written about his Mother who when he was a teen had to work two jobs when his father was ill. Stokes also shared guitar responsibilities with the very capable Brady Hughes on the latter's Brady "New Way". Nielson concluded his opening festival slot by introducing another talented female singer Serena Alexandra who closed out the set with the Aerosmith classic "Dream On".


We ran into Maggie Rose just as she arrived at Roots On The Rivers.

In his opening remarks Nielson had said that WMOT was a champion of all genres and his set reflected that and the idea of supporting local musicians. That concept was strengthened at the Local Brew Stage which showcased emerging artists. We thoroughly enjoyed sets by Mark Thornton & the Sidekicks and later the HawtThorns a husband and wife duo that creatively combined California cool with Bible Belt countryside. They and many other Mid-Tenn artists graced that stage throughout ROTR to remind attendees that Nashville is known as Music City for a reason.


Lera Lynn at Roots On The Rivers in Donelson.

From the main stage Lera Lynn thanked WMOT for supporting her from day one. The station played Lera before she came to international attention through her writing and performances on HBO's True Detective. Yet, in many ways Lynn is still an inspired alternative indie artist who happens to have a strong following. At ROTR, Lera was captivating with songs like the complex "Shape Shifter" along with new material that she described as a progression.

Nashville based Mike Farris won a Grammy for 2015's Shine For All The People (Best Roots Gospel album) and his current release Silver & Stone promises to be earthy and personal. The title refers to his wife's wedding ring and much of the album is about her. In an eclectic set Mike presented some of those songs along with tributes to blues men like Willie Dixon. We also liked Mike's slow and serious take on "John The Revelator" but much of his ROTR set was filled with feisty tunes that he encouraged folks to sing along to.


Great music and good fun characterized the first Roots On The River.

Maggie Rose another Nashville based singer/songwriter aptly blends folk, funk, rock and soul in songs that are appealing and powerful. Her live experiences includes opening for Heart and Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, touring as direct support for Kelly Clarkson, and sharing the Cayamo Cruise bill with Emmylou Harris and Jason Isbell. Maggie is a popular local draw and many who were at ROTR were there to see what Miss Rose does best in a live setting.

In addition to musicians Roots on the Rivers had a number of local vendors and charitable organizations. The Cumberland River Compact's vision is clean and abundant water for the animals and people who rely on the Cumberland River. Their work includes advocacy, education, restoration and more.


Gabe Lee at Roots On The Rivers in Donelson.

Bonaparte's Retreat founded in 2004 by Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Emmylou Harris is named for one of Harris's own beloved dogs. Bonaparte's Retreat focuses on the neglected and forgotten-senior dogs, large dogs, or dogs in need of imminent medical care or surgery. Their mission is to love and care for these wonderful animals for as long as it takes to find their forever homes.

Also at Two Rivers was Dee's Country Cocktail Lounge a local venue selling merch, Desert Door Texas Sotol a distilled spirit from wild-harvested sotol plants and Flaming Feminist Candles. In addition, Alleypong which is a table top game that offers hours of mindful interaction for players of all ages had a couple of tables set up. We thought that they were attractive enough to be dining room tables as well as a gaming surface. There was a lot to see and hear at Roots on the Rivers. It was a great way to celebrate music while raising money for an important cultural resource in Mid-Tenn.


Alleypong was a fun vendor on the grounds at the Two Rivers Mansion park.

"WMOT enriches people's lives by championing music and discovery". WMOT's on-air programs play old favorites, deep cuts and showcases emerging Americana artists many of whom reside in Mid-Tenn. For those out of range go to WMOT.org or on the WMOT Roots Radio app on the App Store and Google Play, on Alexa and Homepod and the TuneIn Radio app.

Roots Radio also host live events and their "Wired In" sessions pairs legendary and up and coming artists together. These shows are broadcasted live on the air and are often live streamed by their partner VuHaus/NPR Music. WMOT is a non-profit so it relies on community funding and donations so please support Roots Radio if you can.


The beautiful Two Rivers Mansion was a spectacular backdrop for a stately day of music.

Related Links: For more information on ROOTS ON THE RIVERS and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - WMOT.org | Two Rivers Mansion

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