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Music Inside Out: Tomi Lunsford

Tomi Lunsford and Gwen Thompkins at Tomi's home in Nashville
Jason Rhein
Tomi Lunsford and Gwen Thompkins at Tomi's home in Nashville

Like so many other musicians who have made a home in Nashville, singer Tomi Lunsford has spent her life immersed in country music. A native of Asheville, NC, she played in a family band from a young age.

Her father, Jim Lunsford, was a journeyman fiddler who played with superstars of classic country and bluegrass such as Roy Acuff, Jim and Jesse McReynolds, Reno and Smiley, Bob Wills, and Marty Robbins. Her great-uncle, Bascom Lamar Lunsford, was a lawyer and famed collector of folk songs from the mountains of North Carolina.

For Tomi Lunsford, these rambling roots in the culture of Appalachia have supported equally impressive branches. Her playful vocal style draws from jazz and the blues. There are traces of Billie Holiday, Betty Carter and Carmen McRae in Lunsford’s voice, as well as Memphis Minnie and Alberta Hunter. She boasts a four-octave range.

In spite of her singular style and impressive pedigree, Lunsford is not yet widely known. She recently released the album Come On Blue, a follow up to her 1997 debut High Ground.

Gwen and the Music Inside Out crew hit the road to visit Tomi Lunsford at her home in Nashville.

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Gwen Thompkins is a New Orleans native, NPR veteran and host of WWNO's Music Inside Out, where she brings to bear the knowledge and experience she amassed as senior editor of Weekend Edition, an East Africa correspondent, the holder of Nieman and Watson Fellowships, and as a longtime student of music from around the world.