Elizabeth Cook, Mary Gauthier, and Abigail Washburn explore their musical roots and their approach to songwriting in this September 8, 2010, program at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, hosted by author Jewly Hight. The panelists—all of whom are featured in Hight’s 2011 book, “Right By Her Roots: Americana Women and Their Songs”—also perform two songs each.
The event begins with Elizabeth Cook recounting her childhood in Florida as a country singer backed by her parents. She speaks about rebelling against her family by quitting music and attending college. She then sings “Heroin Addict Sister” from her 2010 album, “Welder.”
Mary Gauthier talks about how she uses writing as a tool to figure things out, offers a concrete example, noting how she didn’t fully understand how profoundly being adopted had affected her until she began to write about it. Gauthier performs “Mama Here, Mama Gone” from her 2010 album, “The Foundling,” accompanied by Tania Elizabeth.
Discussing “the roots of my mind,” Abigail Washburn says that growing up privileged in the suburbs led her to feel that something was lacking in her life. In response, she moved to China while in college. Upon returning to the United States, she discovered the music of Doc Watson and became fascinated by banjo. She sings a medley of “Hop High My Lulu Gal” and the title track from her 2011 album, “City of Refuge.”
As the conversation continues, Jewly Hight asks the panelists how their families respond to such confessional songwriting. They also speak about writing songs that are personal as well as universal. Further performances include a rousing song sung in Chinese by Washburn, “Drag Queens in Limousines” sung by Gauthier, and “Yes to Booty” by Cook.
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