Music City News:

The River as Song: Prolific American and Chinese Songwriters Take the Stage at Analog at Hutton

A concert that features multi-Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale and multiple national music award-winner Su Yang, from China is going to take place at the Analog at Hutton Hotel at 8pm, October 24th. This is a collaboration between MTSU Center for Chinese Music (CCMC) and Culture and Center for Popular Music (CPM).

I interviewed Dr. Mei Han, director of the CCMC about the idea behind this unique concert. She said that the concert series is meant to connect individuals across cultures and create a space for creative exploration. This performance will be the first of its kind in the series, with a focus on writing music and lyrics in addition to playing music, featuring multi-Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter Jim Lauderdale and multiple national music award-winner Su Yang, from China.

The Dialogue series has brought Chinese and American instrumentalists together, matching instrumental cognates. Grammy award-winning harmonica virtuoso Howard Levy and American national hammer dulcimer champing David Mahler among other, were paired with top Chinese artists to perform a variety of concerts in Middle Tennessee. Beyond this, well-known names, such as Abigail Washburn, Grammy award-winning songwriter and acclaimed banjoist, lectured on bridging cultures through music as part of this series. It’s not just about connecting the cultures, but also connecting as individuals to one another using music as a vehicle.

Su Yang, multiple Chinese national award winner

If you missed any of these exceptional concerts, you’re in luck; the upcoming Dialogue performance will be taking place in at the Analog at Hutton Hotel at 8pm, October 24th. Titled “The River as Song,” this concert lends a special focus to the importance of both the Yellow and Mississippi Rivers and their influences on Chinese and American music, respectively. Indeed, the symbolic and literal importance of rivers runs deep in this performance.


For Su Yang, the folk music he encountered in his hometown in Northwestern China in the Upper Basin of the Yellow River provides inspiration for his songwriting. Where most Chinese musicians are trained in conservatories, Su Yang developed his musical talent and collected folk music near his hometown independently, so his writing is uniquely informed by sounds and music that have developed over generations in the area, which also happens to be the cradle of Chinese civilization. His song, “Like a Grass”, showcases how he blends folk music with rock and roll.

To Jim, the Mississippi River and especially Memphis have played an integral role in shaping his musical

Jim Lauderdale, 2 time Grammy-winner

influences. Jim cited influences like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, George Jones, Robert Hunter and Jerry Garcia, and certainly without Memphis, there is no rock and roll. Jim referred to Memphis as the cradle of a lot of great American and world music. Check out his work on “The Road is a River” to see how the symbolism of rivers figures into his writing.

Jim said, “There must be something in the water.”

So there you have it—music from the cradle of Chinese civilization, and music from the cradle of great American music, coming together for a performance in Nashville.

Both artists are looking forward to collaborating on this project, and hope for the performance to be exactly what the series aims to be – a dialogue. As for Jim, he enjoys listening in addition to performing, and anticipates the collaboration itself as being his favorite part of the program. Su Yang also expressed that he wants to expand his artistic space through listening and observation, travel, and collaborating with different artists.

The event is free, but reservations are advised.*

*The event is 21+, and doors open at 7pm.

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