Longtime Radio Free Athens DJ Doug “R@T” Brooks shares what he’s been listening to in 2021

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It’s that time of year again! WOUB Culture has reached out to a variety of folks involved in various capacities with the music and arts throughout WOUB’s diverse coverage region to inquire: “what have you been listening to this year, my friend?” Find their answers on WOUB Culture all throughout the month of December. 

Doug Brooks

After a year or so off I have started to become more of what I would consider a consumer of music again.  After the late and great Haffa’s music closed it seems that I did not search out new music like I used to.  Fortunately that has started to head back to me actively looking for new music. It is why I go into the studio at least a half hour before I go on the air so that I can listen to what is new in the computer. I also have to thank my Radio Free Athens comrade Dave Baer for turning me on to lots of new music as well. So, for 2021 here are some musical musings.

I met Tim Easton nearly three decades ago when he was playing with his band The Haynes Boys.  Since then he has gone on to a solo career and has released a dozen recordings. This year he put out “You Don’t Really Know Me.” Another quality collection of Americana tinged with blues and a reworking of his classic “Festival Song.”

Billy Strings has seemed to have at least a toe in the genre of bluegrass. I think some of his songs like “Dust In A Baggie” could be described as “psycho hippie jam grass.” This year’s release “Renewal” puts him firmly in the straight up bluegrass genre. Some might call it “newgrass.” At first I was a little disappointed in “Renewal.” The more I have listened to it the more it has grown on me.

Columbus band Moviola released “Broken Rainbows” this year. It is difficult to classify what their sound is.  Melodic nerd rock with a whiff of Americana? There is a kind of Columbus feel that reminds me of bands like The Black Swans and Swarming Branch. Their sound has matured since they released “East Of Eager.” It has become more thoughtful, perhaps moody, and well worth the listen.

There was a Velvet Underground tribute album released this year called I’ll Be Your Mirror. Various artists go solo and collaborate on VU songs. I liked the collaboration between Nelsonville Music Festival alums (all of them) Andrew Bird and Lucius’s take on “Venus in Furs” and Kurt Vile’s rollicking “Run Run Run.”

The recording that totally blew my mind this year was one of the discoveries that I made while going through the computer before I went on the air. New Orleans’ Dumpstaphunk came out with “Where Do We Go From Here” in April. Full blown funk with that New Orleans sound. Big and brassy that makes you want to get up out of your seat and boogie.

Other artists that have caught my attention; I was introduced to Trapper Haskins, a Tennessee based singer songwriter and his recording “Blood in the Honey.”

From the computer in the studio I also have been giving some air time to a band called Southern Avenue also from Tennessee. They have a record called “Be The Love You Want.”

Tristen, who I saw recently at The Rumba Cafe in Columbus has released her fifth album called “Aquatic Flowers.”

Speaking of shows there have only been a few that I have been to in this era of pandemic mayhem. Angela Perley at Stuart’s was one of my first since the crap hit the fan. Bob Mould finally came around and was one of the loudest shows that I have ever seen at Stuart’s and it was just him and an electric guitar. My most recent show was yet another great performance by Aaron Lee Tasjan at the Rumba in Columbus with the aforementioned Tristen opening for him.

The happiest music news of the year is that Athens has a new record store. Republic of Athens Records has opened up and I am excited to get in there.

Unfortunately there has been some musical sadness too.  We lost the front man to my first band Larry and the Lima Beans. Mark Richardson was Larry and one of the greatest freaks that I have known. There is not much of our music out there in the public domain. Most of it resides here at my house on cassettes.

We also lost a legend of the Athens community with the passing of J.D. Hutchison. I have spent some time with his music over the past couple of months. It is almost impossible to pick a favorite of his but I would have to give the Realbilly Jive release a very close win.  You should also check out the Hutchison Brothers if you have not.

Of course, one of the best things in my musical life continues to be Radio Free Athens. After sixteen years and 437 shows I still love being on the air and bringing music to you, my faithful listeners. Thanks for tuning in to us most each and every Saturday.