GhostTunes Previews New Garth Album; Sturgill Simpson Plays The Tonight Show; CMT Debuts New Angaleena Presley Video
- Larry Cordle, Doc Hopkins, and Pete Stamper are part of the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015. They’ll be inducted on April 10. (via press release)
- If you’re at work, you should probably put on headphones before you listen to Dean Miller’s masturbation song.
- Robert Earl Keen talks about his forthcoming bluegrass record, Happy Prisoner (out February 10), in this interview posted on TexasMonthly.com.
- An edited, hour-long version of last month’s IBMA Awards will be broadcast as part of PBS’ Music City Roots television series in late February or early March of 2015.
- Sturgill Simpson played The Tonight Show on Tuesday. Watch his performance of “Turtles All the Way Down” here. (warning: autoplay)
- Mike Ayers of The Wall Street Journal compiled videos of “10 Amazing Performances from the Final Allman Brothers Band Shows.”
- Willie and Bobbie Nelson have been playing music together for nearly 80 years. Read about their shared musical history in this Michael Corcoran piece.
- Angaleena Presley released a video for “Pain Pills.”
- GhostTunes is offering a sneak peek of Garth Brooks’ new album, Man Against Machine. From the Tennessean: Starting at midnight Thursday and for the next 24 hours GhostTunes will give fans the opportunity to listen early along with a bonus. At the request of GhostTunes, Brooks went into the studio and recorded himself speaking over snippets of the songs.
- Pieta Brown and Amos Lee teamed up for a duet called “Do You Know,” a song on Brown’s latest album, Paradise Outlaw.
- Here’s a previously unreleased “Rhymes and Reasons” demo from the forthcoming John Denver box set All of My Memories, which comes out next week.
- University of Maryland prof Clifford Murphy contemplates New England’s country music history in an article titled “Stand by Your Maine.” An excerpt: When the Country Music Association formed in 1958 (an effort by a reeling industry to respond to the popularity of rock’n’roll), Nashville marketing agents streamlined country’s image, eliminating “western” music from the airwaves (and changing the genre’s name from “country and western” to “country” in the process), while packaging and promoting country as strictly rural, southern, and white. Suddenly, once-popular local tunes sung with regional accents were replaced by a nationally oriented sound sung with a Southern drawl – regardless of what corner of the continent the singer hailed from…Country music is working-class music, and its regional variations have been muffled by the stranglehold that the heavily centralized music industry has on the content of our regional broadcasts. This is a tragedy – not so much because something once beautiful has been lost (though it is that), but because it represents a larger problem: wherever we come from, it is very difficult to hear ourselves reflected in major media broadcasts…It wasn’t always this way, and there is still a generation of Americans who can recall a time in which the content of radio broadcasts struck a balance between the interests and styles of both the region and the nation.
- Hurray for the Riff Raff played “The Body Electric” for CMT Edge. (The band’s Body Electric Fund raises money to combat violence against women, minorities, and LGBT communities.)
- Jon Stewart’s Daily Show probably could’ve gotten a Texas artist to sing this silly song about the state of Texas politics, but Brad Paisley does a decent job. (warning: autoplay)
NYC Gets Country Fest; Tompkins Square Records Celebrates Nine Years; Angaleena Presley, Nadine Hubbs Discuss Country Music Classism
- Jewly Hight did a fantastic piece for Wondering Sound in which she talks with Angaleena Presley and scholar Nadine Hubbs (author of Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music) about class and country music.
- Your other piece of mandatory reading: this Cuepoint feature in which Myra Gale Brown, Jerry Lee Lewis’ child bride, now 70, tells the story of her relationship with the Killer.
- Maddie & Tae are the first female duo in the Top 10 of Billboard’s Country Airplay chart since The Wreckers in 2007.
- New York City is getting its own country music festival. Brad Paisley and Dierks Bentley are among the headliners for the inaugural FarmBorough fest, which is scheduled for June 26-28.
- Courtney Patton’s Kickstarter campaign met its fundraising goal. She and producer Drew Kennedy will enter the studio in early December.
- Stream Over the Rhine’s new holiday album, Blood Oranges in the Snow or Wade Bowen’s self-titled album.
- The Country Music Association and YouTube have formed a partnership. From The Nashville Business Journal: “Details about the partnership haven’t been released yet, but it marks the second time that the CMA has ventured into music tech in as many months. In September, CMA signed on as the lead industry partner for the Nashville Entrepreneur Center’s new music-tech accelerator, ‘Project Music.’”
- Vince Gill was in Oklahoma City last night accepting the 2014 John F. Kennedy Award for Community Service.
- Tompkins Square Records is celebrating its ninth anniversary with a sale. Go get nine percent off any two purchases (I’d suggest the Charlie Louvin, Alice Gerrard, or Roland White albums, but really, you can’t go wrong with any of these releases. In the words of Tom Haverford, treat yo’self.)
- Paul Thorn released a video for “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.”
- The Music Maker Relief Foundation was profiled on PBS’ Newshour the other night. Watch the segment here.
- Chelsea Crowell counts down the ten creepiest murder ballads for Rolling Stone Country.
- Kelly Dearmore shares five reasons to be excited for the upcoming reissue of The Old 97s’ Hitchhike to Rhome.
- George Strait will perform at the CMA Awards next week; it will be his 24th performance on the CMAs.
- Next Tuesday, go get newly updated ebook versions of Peter Guralnick’s Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm & Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom and his Sam Cooke book, Dream Boogie. The enhanced ebooks include interviews with Ray Charles and Solomon Burke as well as new chapters.
- On November 22, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum will hold a special program called “From Hillbilly to Rockabilly” that celebrates the country roots of rock ‘n’ roll. (via press release)
- There was a piece about the new Glen Campbell documentary on NPR.
- Jewly Hight recaps Sunday night’s medallion ceremony inducting Ronnie Milsap, Mac Wiseman, and the late Hank Cochran into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
- The Ryman is undergoing a $14 million renovation to expand the lobby and retail areas, among other additions. The project is scheduled to be completed next June.
- Kenny Chesney and Jason Aldean are playing ten stadium shows together next summer.
- American Songwriter chose “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)” as their new Lyric of the Week.
- Bluegrass and metal: it ain’t just for Steve ‘N’ Seagulls or Iron Horse anymore. Stash Wyslouch (The Deadly Gentlemen) has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a solo album that will combine the genres.
- Elisabeth Carroll Dawson of CMT.com put together a list of 10 Willie Nelson prime hits.
- Hunter Hayes discusses the influence Ronnie Milsap had on him in this Rolling Stone Country interview.
- Jason Aldean and Florida Georgia Line “danced on the grave” of country music during last Saturday’s show, reports The Dallas Observer.
- Out November 4: Christmas with Nashville, an album (produced by Jay DeMarcus) of the Nashville cast singing holiday standards and originals. Here’s the track listing.
- Give a listen to an alternate version of “I Shall Be Released” from the upcoming Basement Tapes box set.
- This week’s album releases:
Bessie Jones – Get in Union
BlackHawk – Greatest Hits and More
Caitlyn Smith – Everything to You
Cale Tyson – Cheater’s Wine
Crystal Yates – I Believe
Dan Penn – Nobody’s Fool (remastered)
Darius Rucker – Home for the Holidays
Hard Working Americans – The First Waltz
Hardin Burns – Down the Deep Well
Jerry Lee Lewis – Rock & Roll Time
Joey + Rory – Country Classics
LeAnn Rimes – One Christmas
Pegi Young & The Survivors – Lonely in a Crowded Room
Sam Hunt – Montevallo
Scott Dean – All Over Again
Stacy Mitchhart – Live My Life
Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble – The Complete Epic Recordings Collection
Stoney LaRue – Aviator
Wade Bowen – Wade Bowen
Yusuf (Cat Stevens) – Tell ‘Em I’m Gone
- And books:
Barry Mazor – Ralph Peer and the Making of American Roots Music (out Nov. 1)
Rick Bragg – Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story
- The Country Music Hall of Fame formally inducted Ronnie Milsap, Mac Wiseman and Hank Cochran with last night’s medallion ceremony.
- Rumors are flying that Ronnie Dunn might be the next artist to sign with Nash Icon. (Reba signed with the label last week.)
- E145 pal Peter Cooper interviewed Taylor Swift for The Tennessean. Here’s what Swift had to say about Music City: “I would never quit Nashville…I think Nashville has become such a melting pot for different genres, and so many different artists who make different kinds of music move here and call it home. I don’t think that because I don’t make country music right now that means that I’ve in any way unleashed some great assault on this city.”
- Willie Nelson took the No. 7 slot on the CMT All Time Top 40: Artists’ Choice countdown.
- Stream Neil Young’s Storytone and selections from Bob Dylan’s six-disc box set, The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Sessions Vol. 11.
- Liz Rose shares the songwriting stories behind hits like “Songs About Rain” and “You Belong with Me.”
- Sturgill Simpson will perform on The Tonight Show on Tuesday.
- Aaron Lewis screwed up the national anthem at last night’s World Series game. Deadspin’s got the video.
- Mallary Hope unveiled a new song called “Be the Change.”
- Jason Eady and Courtney Patton were goofing around last Friday night and covered the Family Ties theme song.
- Tim McGraw appear on the CBS special A Very Grammy Christmas, which will air December 5.
- K.T. Oslin reportedly announced on Deborah Allen’s SiriusXM show that she has recut nine of her old songs with more modern production and will release a new album as early as Christmas.
- The studious C.M. Wilcox posted a new installment of Quotable Country.
- Dolly Parton shares an RCA Studio A memory with The 615: “The first time I ever got a new car was also the first time I was going to be recording with Porter [Wagoner]. I went down to Studio A and I didn’t know how to drive. I ran right through the wall and tore a bunch of bricks out that fell on top of my car. I just got out of the car because I was running late. I didn’t see anybody so I locked my car, went in and did the session. When we all came out, someone said, ‘Damn, somebody ran into the wall.’ [I said], ‘That was me’ and then I called my father-in-law, Carl’s dad, to come down.”
- Kudos to Miranda Lambert for raising over $600,000 with her latest “Cause for the Paws” charity event.
- The Crowe Brothers released a new bluegrass album called Forty Years Old.
- Last Friday, The Bobby Bones Show triggered a FEMA Emergency Action Notification.
- Sara Evans will release a new Walmart-exclusive holiday album called At Christmas on November 17.
- Steve Azar’s new single, “Fly,” is the official song of the 2015 FIS Alpine World Sky Championships.
- New music videos from the past week or so:
Corb Lund Featuring Bryx – “Gravedigger (remix)”
Jake Owen – “What We Ain’t Got” (lyric video)
Aoife O’Donovan and Noam Pikelny – “Don’t That Road Look Rough and Rocky”
SHEL – “Hold On”
Eliot Bronson – “Comin’ For Ya North Georgia Blues”
Bobby Bare, Jr. – “North of Alabama by Mornin'”
Zac Brown Band – “Free”
Jimmy Rankin – “Whiskey When the Sun Goes Down”
Johnny Winter – “Death Letter”
The Lone Bellow – “Then Came the Morning”
Brian Mackey – “America”
The Cadillac Three – “White Lightning”
The Rankin Twins Featuring Kimberly Kelly – “Never Yours to Break”
Fats Domino Documentary Debuts at New Orleans Film Fest; Kenny Chesney Returns to the Road; O’Donovan, Pikelny Collaborate
- Music City Roots’ Craig Havighurst interviewed Joe Mullins about keeping bluegrass alive on the radio. (warning: autoplay)
- Ryan Bingham will release Fear and Saturday Night on January 20. Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal premiered one of Bingham’s new songs, “Broken Heart Tattoos.”
- Here’s Aoife O’Donovan and Noam Pikelny collaborating on a lovely version of “Don’t That Road Look Rough and Rocky.”
- New documentary The Big Beat premiered at the New Orleans Film Festival yesterday. The film, directed by Joe Lauro, tells “the story of one of the defining partnerships of rock ‘n’ roll: that between New Orleans piano royalty Fats Domino and musician-songwriter Dave Bartholomew. Built around both new interviews and archival recordings, it tells a story with its roots in the city’s Lower 9th Ward but one with ultimately global ramifications.”
- After taking a year off from touring, Kenny Chesney plans to return to the road this spring. The Big Revival Tour will begin March 26 in Nashville. (via press release)
- During the encore of his second artist-in-residence show at the Country Music Hall of Fame, Alan Jackson sported his ‘90s duds: sleeveless flannel shirt, holey jeans, and a sweet mullet.
- The Stray Birds were featured on an episode of World Cafe: Next earlier this week.
- Emma Lord moved to Nashville to pursue her songwriting dreams. After a few months, she came to this conclusion: It’s a harsh reality that you really only understand when you are in Nashville: you are a dime a dozen. There are a hundred thousand girls there who look just like you, who sing just like you, who write songs just as well as you do. In Nashville, it isn’t always about who has the most talent because everybody there has talent. It’s about who perseveres, who shows up, who happens to be in the right places at the right times and doesn’t get discouraged by rejection – or worse than rejection, nothing happening at all.
- The Department of African American Studies at Yale will hold a panel called “Exploring the Rise and Fall of Paramount Records” on October 28. Participants will include Jack White, whose Third Man Records has released two Paramount Records box sets in conjunction with Revenant Records, music journalist Greil Marcus, and Adia Victoria.
- Check out the track listing for Willie and Bobbie Nelson’s forthcoming release December Day (out December 2), the first installment in the “Willie’s Stash” series.
- Peter Cooper writes about The Sutler, a new venue in Nashville whose name references…The Sutler, a “long-shuttered, divey little joint” that, in the 1990s, “became a center of Nashville’s roots music scene and an incubator for the artists who would in the new century be called ‘Americana.’”
- Randy Lewis of The L.A. Times wrote a fine piece on the Glen Campbell documentary I’ll Be Me. An excerpt: The documentary shows doctor visits Campbell couldn’t comprehend, sometimes testy rehearsals with his band, a 2012 trip to the Grammy Awards to perform and accept a Lifetime Achievement Award, and the occasional trek to the golf course that had long been another of his passions. The film doesn’t flinch from the harsh realities of Alzheimer’s, showing Campbell losing his temper at times with loved ones and frequently falling back on the jovial manner that made him an engaging star of “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour” variety series that ran on CBS from 1969-71. “I got to know Johnny Cash at the end of his life, and when he made the ‘Hurt’ video, he said, ‘I want people to see the ugly truth.'” [director James Keach] said. “I think what Glen is doing is the same — he’s being incredibly honest and vulnerable in putting himself out there this way.”
- Here’s Sturgill Simpson playing “Turtles All the Way Down” for BBC Radio Scotland.
Trampled By Turtles Cover Yes; Bob Seger, Jason Aldean to Tape CMT Crossroads; Kasey Chambers Postpones Tour
- Trampled By Turtles covered “Owner of a Lonely Heart” by Yes for The A.V. Club’s Undercover series. (warning: autoplay)
- Rob Ickes and Trey Hensley discuss their forthcoming album, Before the Sun Goes Down, in this Bluegrass Today video.
- The Lone Bellow will release sophomore album Then Came the Morning on January 7. Here’s the new video of the title track.
- Everybody ever is playing SXSW. Some neat-sounding seminars were announced, too, including “Alan Lomax at 100: A Centennial Retrospective” and “Got My Mojo Working: The Musical Legacy of Muddy Waters and the Chicago Blues.”
- The Robert Earl Keen Band (aka “The Xmas-Men”) riffs on The Louvin Brothers on the cover of their new instrumental holiday album, Santa is Real.
- Jason Isbell is playing three nights at the Ryman this weekend; there’s a solid piece on him in the Tennessean.
- Bob Seger and Jason Aldean are taping the next episode of CMT Crossroads later this month; the program will premiere November 28.
- Florida Georgia Line’s Anything Goes debuted atop the Billboard 200, selling 197,000 copies in its first week.
- Kasey Chambers postponed her tour after being diagnosed with nodules on her vocal cords.
- Here’s an interview with Mountain Stage Executive Producer Adam Harris about what goes into making the show.
- Paul Simon is playing a Phil Everly tribute/COPD benefit in Nashville next Wednesday. Tickets for the intimate concert start at $500.
- On December 9, Shout Factory will release The Only Folk Collection You’ll Ever Need, a two-disc compilation featuring recordings by The Carter Family, Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie, The Kingston Trio, John Prine, and more.
- American Aquarium is offering their 2012 album, Burn.Flicker.Die., for download on NoiseTrade.
- There’s some music from Streets of Laredo (read Chris Parton’s CMT Edge introduction to the New Zealand folk-rock band) on NoiseTrade as well.
- The Allman Brothers Band will play their final show on October 28 at the Beacon Theatre in NYC.
- Folk singer Sam Amidon: “Every version of a folk song is a reworking. They go through mutations and change. And in that process they become tough little beasts. And in some ways, I don’t think of [my] records as folk records, because I’m not engaging in that tradition. Of course they are. But a lot of what’s considered ‘traditional’ is really arbitrary, anyway, so they are as traditional as anything else, in some ways.”
- Not that you need an excuse to listen to Dwight Yoakam, but it is his birthday today. What’s your favorite song he’s recorded?
CMT Names Artists of the Year; Stream Jerry Lee Lewis, Cale Tyson Albums; 180,000 Attend World of Bluegrass
- Mindy Smith reflects on One Moment More, which turns 10 this year.
- Yesterday The New York Times published Paul Craft’s obituary.
- Jerry Lee Lewis on his country music recordings: “It wasn’t necessary for me to play country. I did it because of the material. I couldn’t find good rock’n’roll songs by the late ’60s. Nobody could. I got all these slower country songs and I played them and they were great. I had nearly 30 top-10 country hits. My favorite is ‘What’s Made Milwaukee Famous. When I got tired of doing slow stuff I switched back to rock’n’roll. Now I’m starting up again.”
- Here’s Ronnie Fauss’ “Old Life” from his next record, Built to Break, out November 4.
- An estimated 180,000 people attended IBMA’s World of Bluegrass shindig in Raleigh last month.
- Kellie Pickler performed at the USO Gala in DC last weekend.
- Time.com premiered Andrew Bird’s version of Robbie Fulks’ “I’ll Trade You Money for Wine” from forthcoming Bloodshot tribute record While No One Was Looking (out November 18). Fulks recorded Bird’s “Core and Rind;” Bloodshot will release both songs on a split 7” on Black Friday.
- Justin Townes Earle will release Absent Fathers, a companion album to Single Mothers, on January 13. (via press release)
- Chuck Dauphin makes the case for The Oak Ridge Boys’ induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
- On December 2, CMT will air a special saluting their 2014 Artists of the Year: Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Miranda Lambert, and Keith Urban.
- NPR’s Ann Powers discusses the “new voices of crossover country,” including Little Big Town, Angaleena Presley, and Sam Hunt.
- Ben Glover released a video for “Too Long Gone.”
- The November issue of Smithsonian Magazine includes an article on new Ingenuity Award winner Rosanne Cash and The River & The Thread.
- Album streams:
Jerry Lee Lewis – Rock & Roll Time
Cale Tyson – Cheater’s Wine
Caitlyn Smith – Everything to You
Hard Working Americans – The First Waltz
Yusuf (Cat Stevens) – Tell ‘Em I’m Gone
Alan Jackson Announces Tour; Trisha Yearwood, Little Big Town to Sing at World Series; New Album Releases
- Reba has become the first artist signed to Nash Icon Music, a joint venture between Big Machine and Cumulus. She’s currently working on a new album with Tony Brown and James Stroud.
- Alan Jackson announced the Keepin’ it Country Tour, which will kick off in Fort Myers, Florida on January 8. Brandy Clark and Jon Pardi are the opening acts. (via press release)
- St. Paul & The Broken Bones’ winter tour begins today in Boston and will wrap up in London next March.
- RecordStoreDay.com posted a list of this year’s Black Friday releases. They include a Waylon Jennings 7” featuring three unreleased songs that have been remastered and restored, with “additional production and affection” from Shooter.
- The Johnny Cash Museum is planning a 15,000 square foot expansion that will add a performance venue and double the size of the gift shop.
- Joe Purdy talks about songwriting and his latest album, Eagle Rock Fire, in this interview posted on CMT Edge.
- Martin Chilton of The Telegraph looks at ten forthcoming releases from UK folkies including Threepenny Bit and Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker.
- Kristian Bush uses his guitar to fight hordes of the undead (no, not like this) in his new video for “Trailer Hitch” (warning: autoplay). The Tennessean’s Cindy Watts shares more info about the zombie video, which was directed by Blake Judd.
- Trisha Yearwood is singing the national anthem at the 2014 World Series opening game in Kansas City tonight. Little Big Town will sing at Game Three on Friday in San Francisco.
- Speaking of Little Big Town, at next month’s CMA Awards, they’ll perform with pop singer Ariana Grande, while Meghan Trainor will sing her hit “All About That Bass” with Miranda Lambert. If pop songs must be featured on the Country Music Association Awards show, I’d at least prefer that Lambert be joined by Nashville’s singing librarians for a rousing version of Trainor parody “All About the Books,” but I’m not in charge of the CMAs, and with good reason.
- Listen to “Not a Song” from Jim White vs. The Packaway Handle Band’s forthcoming Yep Roc album, Take It Like a Man, which comes out in January.
- This week’s album releases:
Becky Buller – ‘Tween Earth and Sky
Blind Boys of Alabama and Taj Mahal – Talkin’ Christmas
Eliot Bronson – Eliot Bronson
Elliott Brood – Work and Love
Kelly Pardekooper – Milk in Sunshine
Little Big Town – Pain Killer
Reed Foehl – Lost in the West
Seven Handle Circus – Shadows on the Wall
The Hello Strangers – The Hello Strangers
The Stray Birds – Best Medicine
- Just two weeks after his induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, Paul Craft passed away last Saturday at the age of 76. Read the obituary Peter Cooper wrote for The Tennessean.
- Grand Ole Opry historian Byron Fay recently shared the passing of Jimmy Sizemore on his Facebook page: “I just found out that Jimmy Sizemore passed away on October 14, 2014 at the age of 87. Along with his father Asher, Little Jimmy (as he was known), first appeared at the Grand Ole Opry on September 24, 1932. They remained a part of the Opry until leaving in 1942. According to Opry founder George D. Hay, ‘Asher and Little Jimmy sang heart songs and closed their programs with a prayer. They got out a song book, which sold by the thousands. They broke records with their personal appearances on the road and people crowded into our studios to watch them work.’ As you can see from this clip, Little Jimmy continued to perform. I would have to double check, but I think he is the last remaining Opry performer from the 1930s that was still alive. And from what I can tell, there was no mention of his death at the Opry.”
- It appears that Love & Theft and Leah Turner have parted ways with RCA/Sony Nashville; they’re no longer listed on the label website.
- Dustin Lynch was hit in the face with a full beer can at the 38th Annual Boggy Bayou Mullet Festival in Niceville, Florida, requiring a hospital visit and a few stitches.
- Glen Campbell’s “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” marked his first Billboard Hot Country Songs chart appearance in 21 years; the song debuted at No. 50.
- Johnny Cash came in at No. 8 on the CMT All-Time Top 40: Artists’ Choice list, a list of the most influential artists in history chosen by country artists.
- Last Friday, Little Big Town was formally inducted into the Grand Ole Opry by Vince Gill and Little Jimmy Dickens. Their first performance as members was the Kris Kristofferson classic, “Why Me.”
- Sundy Best will release Salvation City on December 2.
- Willie Nelson’s upcoming project with sister Bobbie, December Day, also comes out on December 2. Here’s the cover art.
- January 13 has been selected as the release date for Cody Canada and The Departed’s new album, HippieLovePunk.
- Brooke Eden signed with Broken Bow Records (she’s got Sherrie Austin “providing additional management needs” as well). Eden’s debut single will be released early next year.
- The sedulous C.M. Wilcox has another Quotable Country feature posted on Country California.
- “Girl in a Country Song,” the anti-bro-country anthem from Maddie & Tae, continues to climb the charts; it’s currently at No. 11.
- Several artists are releasing singles this week:
James Otto – “Somewhere Tonight”
Steve Azar – “Fly”
Chuck Wicks – “Saturday Afternoon”
Gloriana – “Trouble”
- From The Huffington Post: “14 Baby Names Inspired by Country Music Stars.”
- John Denver will be getting a posthumous star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
- Cybergrass.com owner Bob Cherry wrote an open letter to the IBMA Board of Directors challenging the departure of Executive Director Nancy Cardwell following the board’s recent vote of no confidence.
- New music videos from the past week or two:
Gretchen Wilson – “Chariot”
Jared Porter and Kaylee Bell – “Pieces”
Dom Flemons – “James Alley Blues” (Live at WAMU’s Bluegrass Country)
Glen Campbell – “I’m Not Gonna Miss You”
Olivia Lane – “Steal Me Away”
Tyler Farr – “A Guy Walks Into a Bar”
Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors – “American Beauty”
Jerry Castle – “Road Less Traveled”
Ray Scott – “Drinkin’ Beer”
Hurray for the Riff Raff – “The Body Electric”
Mac Powell – “I’ve Always Loved You” (Live at the Blackbird Studios)
Lera Lynn – “Standing on the Moon”
“I don’t want no headstone on my grave,” Jerry Lee Lewis informed us from his undisturbed piano bench on stage at the Ryman, October 4th. “I deserve a monument!” He was still toying with the keys, and had just finished wailing the bluesy Charlie Rich song “Don’t Put No Headstone on My Grave,” as he’s been doing regularly since he first recorded it for his “London Sessions” record of 1973. He’d been enjoying, just then, a remarkable half-decade comeback as a mainstream country star, then returned to rock with the likes of his hit version of “Chantilly Lace.”
As Rick Bragg reminds us in his new, important biography Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story (out October 28), “The Killer” played on the Ryman stage that same year, 41 years ago, too, on the Opry. Ernest Tubb and Hank Snow and the regulars watched helplessly as he sang not just his “Another Place, Another Time,” (one of the great country records of all time, I’d say) and “Me and Bobby McGee” and his timeless takes on “Crazy Arms,” “You Win Again,” and “Waiting for a Train,” but medleys of Little Richard and Chuck Berry and Ray Charles numbers, and “Whole Lotta Shakin,” of course, right on through the commercials, no one able to stop him—and no one in the audience suggesting they should. He’d already been at this for over twenty years.
Anybody placing a small bet in 1973 that of the four members of the Sun Records flash mob “Million Dollar Quartet,” he, not Elvis or Cash or Carl, would be the one still here taking bows at 79, with a new record, Rock and Roll Time (out today), and that major new bio, with which he actually cooperated, you’d no doubt have won enough to buy the record, the book, and a ticket to the show. Personally, I don’t even try to be objective on this subject: Whatever one makes or thinks of Lewis the man and his tumultuous life, he has been among the very greatest of our performing artists, in any field, and a national resource for the reclamation, emancipation and personalization of American songs. Lots of artists have been monumentalized in box sets by now; this is one who could have taken virtually any single song he loves, from the days of Stephen Foster to the heart of his own time, and get a box set out of his live variations on them. (The Bear Family Sun set almost works that way at times, where it seems nearly all of his ‘50s takes could have been hit singles.)
Jerry Lee Lewis, after years of battling arthritis, after surgeries, still recuperating from more damaging habits than many people could think up, is not the wildly explosive singin’ piano player he so long was, and he knows it. Vocally and instrumentally, though, working with his still crack band led by his guitarist and friend of many decades Kenny Lovelace, he rocked the Ryman (and I don’t use the word “rocked” loosely) with the likes of “Drinkin’ Wine Spo-Dee-Odee” (one of the first songs he ever performed) and “Little Queenie.” And he was moving with the “Graveyard” number and Mickey Newbury’s “She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye.” You could sense that he wanted—as he’s always wanted—a bigger audience response early on in the show, when he turned to “Whole Lotta Shakin’” eight numbers in, not as the closer. Real-time adjustments. (That could be a Jerry Lee Lewis title.)
Jerry Lee’s new Rock & Roll Time CD (which shows him out front of Sun Records, today, on its cover) is a worthwhile addition to the Last Man Standing/Mean Old Man Jerry-atric recordings he’s been making over the past decade, mainly in the “duets with younger stars” stunt mode the recording industry now seems to require of veteran artists. The Jerry Lee voice is expressive and fine. Guests include Keith Richards and Ron Wood, Robbie Robertson, and Shelby Lynne. And, no surprise, the highlights tend to be in the boogie and blues modes– a turn on Dylan’s “Stepchild” with Doyle Bramhall II, Fats Domino’s “Sick and Tired,”and Mack Vickery’s hard country “Keep Me in Mind.”
His sister Linda Gail Lewis opened for him, reminding those who knew and those who forgot that she’s no slouch with piano boogie rock herself, and introducing her daughter, Anne Marie Dolan, who has a way with a song, too, if generally a different, less frenzied way. In the finest country, carny and tent revival tradition, Linda Gail stepped out before the curtain to hawk both Jerry Lee’s new record, and what she referred to as “his” book. Its author, Rick Bragg heard about that. At the Southern Festival of Books here in Nashville a week later, he joked, “I tell you one damn thing; Jerry Lee Lewis is a hell of a writer!”
Bragg himself, as he’s proved repeatedly over time, is indeed one of this country’s most adept and engaging writers of non-fiction, a hell of a writer, both as a Southern regionalist and as a less denominational, methodical journalist. Lewis’s story presented a chance to exercise both modes, and the result will be a lasting addition to the bookshelf of American music. He was able to interview his subject at length, over the course of two recent summers, most of the time as Jerry Lee was bedridden, but the result is not a standard false first person “memoir with help of writer” or “as told to” autobiography, but an original third person narrative amalgam, masterfully blended. Bragg lays in more details of Jerry Lee’s life, professional and personal, than have been in one place before, right through to today, weaving in descriptions of Jerry Lee describing scenes, or commenting on events as they arrive. The voice is great-syllables-of-fire vivid, yet avoids any echo of Nick Tosches’ rightly celebrated narration in Hellfire: The Jerry Lee Lewis Story—which, shockingly enough, is 32 years old now. Bragg’s perspective is necessarily broader.
By now, a lot of the dramatic issues and conflicts of Jerry Lee’s life–the “bigamist husband of a teenybopper” scandal that wrecked his initial career momentum, the substance abuse, the outbreaks of violence, his conflicts with televangelist cousin Jimmy Swaggart—if not exactly settled, have all been put in their own emotional place by Jerry Lee himself, and so Bragg’s portrait is not so much of a conflicted Huckleberry Finn character in an endless self-torturing debate about the likelihood he’s headed for hell for making the commanding, transgressing music he makes, but of a man who, looking back, “has lived life exactly as he wanted to,” take it or leave it—with collateral damage acknowledged. Along the way, Bragg puts to rest the lingering insinuations of a well-known Rolling Stone article that suggested “the Killer” could have been an actual killer, of a wife or two. And for this lifelong fan, seeing in this new biography that Jerry Lee has arrived at the theological answer that those of us who value his contributions, including his own mother, had before—that his music has been a great gift, and not a devilish, damning curse—is pleasing indeed.
When I interviewed Jerry Lee Lewis in early 2008 for my book on the legacy and influence of his hero Jimmie Rodgers, I ventured to ask him how sentimental Rodgers songs like “Mother, the Queen of My Heart” and “The One Rose” could so easily and convincingly come from the same place as his roughest, rowdiest, blasting rockers, and he simply answered, “I have more than one side to me, and to my music. Any performer who is real will understand that.” The artist Jerry Lee Lewis is real, with us yet, and at 79, still holding onto genius.
(All photos by Barry Mazor.)
- luckyoldsun: I think the number one country murder ballad is "Frankie and Johnny"--by Jimmie. Also, how about "Delia's Gone" from Harry Belafonte …
- Juli Thanki: Colloquial use of "fantastic" as a synonym for "excellent" dates back to the 1930s. And if it's good enough for …
- Paul W Dennis: I think "Banks of The Ohio", "Miller's Cave" and "It's Nothing to Me" are far creepier than several of the …
- Paul W Dennis: The Hight article is interesting, although I don't know that I would describe it as fantastic, but then I know …
- Dana M: I'm actually excited to hear a new Reba album. As for the Alan Jackson tour, I hope he announces Canadian …
- nm: Agreed. A good job by three very smart women.
- Deremy Jylan: The Hight piece is tremendous reading.
- Juli Thanki: Much like the music of Aldean and FGL, Michelob Ultra is favored by college kids and too much exposure will …
- Tom: ...michelob ultra seems to be a brew from hell.
- luckyoldsun: Maybe he was just changing out of his hunting clothes. At least he didn't do the full Randy...um Monty.