Saturday, September 23, 2023

Muddy Roots’ early sets prove to be crowd pleasers


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Despite their early set times, groups such as Tilford Sellers and the Wagon Burners, Dead Soldiers and Deadly Lo-Fi drew crowds on Saturday. Though many of the better known headliners were not scheduled to perform until later in the evening, these bands proved they were worth getting up and seeing.

Chicago natives Tilford Sellers and The Wagon Burners played early in the afternoon on the Ol’ Wood Stage, warming up to a nearly vacant lot, but they had drawn in a fairly large number of people by the end of their performance. Vocalist and acoustic guitarist Tilford Sellers had a rich, deep voice with a twang not unlike Elvis Presley and slick, black hair that looked like it came straight out of Grease.

The Wagon Burners included an upright bassist, violinist, and fast-played steel guitar. The group had an upbeat honky-tonk sound with a bit of a hillbilly twist, playing dance-worthy numbers like “Heartbroken Baby”, “Truck Drivin’ Man” and a classic cheating song, “Two-Timin’ Mama”.

Over on the Trailer Stage, Dead Soldiers blew the audience away with their intricate instrumentals and intensely-delivered lyrics. From Memphis, Tennessee, this five-member band had all their bases covered, sporting an electric guitar, bass, mandolin, violin, keyboard, and drums, with one of the members regularly switching instruments.

Songs such as “Old Man”, “Iron Clad” and “Don’t Let the Fever Take Me” boasted dynamic instrumentals and sincere lyrics that carried energy that had the crowd moving and singing along by the second chorus. The biggest hit with the audience was a number entitled “High Anxiety” off their new EP of the same name, which the band aptly dedicated to any member in the audience who suffered from “crippling anxiety”.

Dead Soldiers capped their set off with a cover of Hank Williams’ “Ramblin’ Man” and a feverish song of their own called “It All Goes Black”.

Playing on the Cracker Swamp stage a few hours before dusk, Deadly Lo-Fi entertained its audience with its unique presentation and choice of instruments. Self-described as playing “Spooky Rock and Roll”, this trio rotated through baritone and alto saxophones, keyboard, electric guitar and drums, with one member clad in a rubber skull mask for the duration of the set.  True to their description, their songs, which included “True Love and Murder”, “Teenagers from Outer Space” and “Doctor Gone Crazy”, told wild stories to a staccato drum line and were accentuated by haunting tones from the baritone saxophone. People who were initially drawn in by the group’s mask-wearing alto saxophonist seemed to be entranced by Deadly Lo-Fi’s tunes, and soon a fairly large crowd packed around the small stage.

Other artists that played earlier in the day include Gabe Zander, Rickett Pass, Blackbird Raum, and Tex Railers Doomtown.

For more updates from last weekend’s Muddy Roots Festival, follow us at, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter at @Sidelines_Life.

To contact Lifestyles editor John Connor Coulston, email

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