Homer Bailes Passes Away; Muddy Roots Lineup Announced; Brennen Leigh & Noel McKay Release Christmas Album
- Homer Bailes, the last surviving member of The Bailes Brothers, passed away on December 3. He was 91.
- A federal judge denied a motion to dismiss Amy Bowen’s lawsuit against Brad Paisley, Carrie Underwood, Sony, and others. Earlier this year, Bowen alleged that the defendants “violated her copyright interests in the song ‘Remind Me,’ a song that Bowen copyrighted and recorded.”
- Brennen Leigh and Noel McKay released a Christmas album. It sounds good.
- Also good: Ronnie Fauss’ new song, “Everybody Deserves a Merry Christmas.”
- Kenny and Amanda Smith have released a Christmas song, too. Listen to a snippet of “When Love Was Born” on Bluegrass Today.
- The full lineup for Muddy Roots 2014 (August 29-31 in Cookeville, Tenn.) has been announced: it includes Bobby Bare, The Blasters, Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers, The Tillers, and lots more.
- Bassist Blake Johnson and banjo player Keith McKinnon have joined IIIrd Tyme Out, filling the spaces left by Edgar Loudermilk and Steve Dilling. (via press release)
- Chris Young talks about Texas, Nashville Star, and manscaping with our pal Kelly Dearmore.
- Aoife O’Donovan’s got a new video for “Beekeeper.”
- Pokey LaFarge is featured in The Nashville Scene.
- Jason Isbell’s Southeastern topped American Songwriter’s 50 Best Albums of 2013 list.
- GAC will air Kenny and Dolly: An Intimate Conversation on Monday night.
- Fantastic film 20 Feet from Stardom has made the 2014 Oscar shortlist in the best documentary feature category. The five final nominees will be announced on January 16.
- Alabama Shakes are experimenting with new sounds on their second album.
- The Shakes’ Brittany Howard guested on Buffalo Clover’s “Misery.”
- Harvelle’s, an L.A.-area blues club, is going to become a nonprofit. The venue already hosts a weekly benefit called “Service Your Soul,” which raises money to help feed the hungry and provide music education to foster children.
- Kenny Roby visited the Relix offices to play the title track of his 2013 album Memories & Birds.
- Trace Adkins on his Christmas record and holiday tour: “It’s definitely something different for me and yes, I’m probably taking a bit of a chance with it, but I’m not worried about it…Musically, it’s the most beautiful thing I have ever had a chance to be a part of. I have always said that anytime you get outside your comfort zone and challenge you. That’s how you grow.”
- The Voice contestant Adley Stump is The 615’s newest spotlight artist.
- The “Enlightenment of W.C. Handy” marker will be unveiled on the Mississippi Blues Trail this afternoon in Cleveland, Miss.
“Jolene,” Kristofferson Added to Grammy HOF; Della Mae to Make Opry Debut; Drive-By Truckers Announce Tour Dates
- Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” and Kris Kristofferson’s eponymous debut album are among 27 new additions to the Grammy Hall of Fame. In order to be selected, singles and albums must be “at least 25 years old and exhibit qualitative or historical significance. Recordings are reviewed annually by a special member committee comprised of knowledgeable professionals from all branches of the recording arts, with final approval by The Recording Academy’s National Board of Trustees.”
- Della Mae will make their Opry debut on December 10.
- Garth Brooks is rounding up his band for four Vegas shows in early January. Tickets – which start at $200 – go on sale Friday. In other Garth news, Jon Caramanica (The New York Times) takes a look at Brooks’ new box set.
- Tony-winning director Walter Bobbie is going to direct Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s Broadway musical, Bright Star. Here’s the casting notice.
- One, the debut album from The Clay Hess Band, will be released February 1.
- Stream the Sound of Music soundtrack featuring Carrie Underwood.
- Blue Ridge Outdoors’ December Trail Mix includes songs by The Henry Girls, Poor Old Shine, and more.
- Check out the track listing for The Drive-By Truckers’ English Oceans (out March 4) and some of their recently-announced tour dates.
- Bros Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean, and Luke Bryan were among those honored at CMT’s Artists of the Year special last night.
- T Bone Burnett and the Coen Brothers talk with Jim Fusilli of The Wall Street Journal about selecting songs for the Inside Llewyn Davis soundtrack.
- Another Day/Another Time, a concert special inspired by Inside Llewyn Davis, is scheduled to air on Showtime December 13. Performers include Rhiannon Giddens, Gillian Welch, and Punch Brothers.
- CMT Edge posted video of Charlie Peacock playing “Go Tell It on the Mountain.”
- Bonnie Raitt on the “Americana” label: It’s a catchall phrase that I think is really great, because people want to put music in a box. And I don’t want to be in one, but if I have to be in a broad-based holding pattern like that, at least we have some validity and somewhere to stand under in this roofless business, for people who see something and want to get it out there – they kind of need a label to be able to promote it… It’s ended up being a really good thing, because there’s just been so much fragmentation and segregation of musical styles…My record was No. 1 on the Amazon blues chart last year, and I don’t understand why. There’s two songs that are blues, but the rest of them aren’t. I want the people who are really working in those fields to have a clear shot at it, so while I appreciate the esteem in which I’m held, I want to broaden it out a little bit, and of course all this music deserves to be heard. There’s so much out there. When I talk to reviewers I’ve trusted for years and years, just the sheer volume of new great acts coming across their table to listen to is just deafening. It’s overwhelming, to decide which album by which great artist you just heard about to check out.
- Singer-songwriter-producer Joe Henry has embarked on his first solo tour in 25 years.
- RollingStone.com posted a Jake Owen live performance video. (warning: autoplay)
- Rolling Stone also premiered “Stomp & Holler,” a Hayes Carll song covered by the Hard Working Americans (Todd Snider’s new band).
- The L.A. Times gave out some awards to the stars of CMA Country Christmas. A sample: Most Dead-Eyed Performance of a Yuletide Staple, for instance, was a fierce two-way fight between Rascal Flatts, who drained everything jolly from “Jingle Bell Rock,” and Lucy Hale, who despite her regular acting gig on “Pretty Little Liars” brought zero believability to “Christmas (Baby Please Come [Home]).”
The tree is trimmed, the stockings are hung, and Black Friday shoppers have successfully reenacted a trashier version of Gladiator. What else is there to do this holiday season but crank up the stereo? Here are a few albums we’ve been enjoying lately.
Mindy Smith – Snowed In
Mindy Smith’s new five-song EP (three classics, two originals) is a welcome holiday collection, and her voice is just as stunning as ever. Snowed In opens with “Auld Lang Syne,” covered with just a hint of a Celtic flair; “Silent Night” and “What Child is This” are more straight-forward interpretations on piano/keyboard. The EP’s stand-out moments come when Smith sets her voice to her own lyrics. The record’s title track, “Snowed In,” is a hopeful wish to get stuck in the house and celebrate the sights, sounds and smells of the holidays with the one you love. It’s a celebration of the little nuances like the change of the lights on the tree and the temperature changes of the hearth fire, delivered with an intimate vocal over a simple acoustic production. The stand-out track is the grown-up lullaby, “Tomorrow is Christmas.” Told from the perspective of a parent tucking in their child on the evening of Christmas Eve, Smith weaves visions of Santa Claus, presents under the Christmas tree, sheep running up to be counted, hardworking elves, and letters written to the North Pole. It’s also on this track where Smith shows off a vocal range that reaffirms her place as one of alt-country’s most beautiful vocalists. This EP is a winner. –Ken Morton, Jr.
John Fahey – Christmas Guitar Soli with John Fahey
The stress of the holiday season can cause even the most laid back celebrant to snap like a candy cane. Luckily, there’s an antidote: Fantasy Records has released a new compilation of songs selected from American Primitive guitarist John Fahey’s four Christmas albums, which were released on his Takoma Records label from 1968-1983.
Soli boasts fourteen deftly played versions of holiday standards like “Silent Night, “Auld Lang Syne,” and “We Three Kings of Orient Are.” Tracks from Fahey’s collaboration with guitarist Terry Robb, Popular Songs of Christmas and New Year’s, are among the most enjoyable moments of the record; the duo deliver a delightful medley of “Deck the Halls” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” before ending with a sparse and lovely take on “The Christmas Song.” The holidays have rarely sounded so relaxing. –Juli Thanki
Legacy Christmas – Treasured Carols of the Kirk
If Christmas has any real meaning, you’re not likely to find it circling parking lots looking for a space or overwhelmed by crowds in malls or stacks of big-screen televisions. No, the real meaning of Christmas can be found in giving to those who lack love and the necessities of life, like food, shelter, and clean water. Producer Melissa DuPuy, who also plays guitar and number of other stringed instruments here, captures the spirit of Christmas on this album of Christmas standards played in Celtic style. The proceeds from the purchase of the CD go to Living Waters for the World, a Franklin/Spring Hill Tennessee-based organization that seeks to provide clean water to communities around the world where it is lacking.
Alyth McCormack of The Chieftains lends her crystalline voice to “O Holy Night” and “Wexford Carol.” DuPuy’s ringing guitar and Deanie Richardson’s fiddle turn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” into a slow reel, and Richardson’s jaunty fiddle kicks off a dancing jig of a medley that includes “I Saw Three Ships,” “O Come All Ye Faithful,” “Joy to the World,” and “The First Noel.” In a Christmas season filled with the rush of shoppers flying here and there, this gorgeous album encourages us to slow down and listen closely to the angelic sounds of those old songs that celebrate the ways that love once changed the world. –Henry L. Carrigan, Jr.
Spooner Oldham, Oteil Burbridge, Billy Crain, Tammy Rogers, and Marco Giovino – The Southern Christmas Songbook and Hymnal
A roots music supergroup is a better Christmas present than a hippopotamus, front teeth, or a Red Ryder BB gun. This allstar quintet serves up instrumental versions of classic holiday songs without ever becoming saccharine, or worse, boring. SteelDriver and fiddle player Tammy Rogers leads a particularly lovely rendition of “O Holy Night,” and Spooner Oldham delivers a fine version of “Silent Night,” with guest Viktor Krauss on double bass. But Songbook isn’t just a collection of ballads: “Joy to the World,” which features the fantastic guitar work of Billy Crain, skews toward Southern rock. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” on which Oldham, Crain, and Rogers trade solos, is one of the best takes on the song you’ll hear this December. –JT
- Clear Channel and CMT have
formed an unholy alliancesigned a deal to “create central country-music programming to be distributed across 125 Clear Channel country stations, as well as television and digital platforms, such as Clear Channel’s iHeartRadio.” An interesting factoid from the Wall Street Journal article on this deal: “Country fans have become particularly attractive to advertisers. More than 61% boast individual income above $75,000 a year, about half are homeowners and 40% have college or post-graduate degrees, according to Cumulus.”
- Brandy Clark is scheduled to play Letterman on January 6.
- The New York Times published a lengthy review of Robert Hilburn’s Johnny Cash biography.
- Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan will return as ACM Awards hosts in 2014. The show will be broadcast live on CBS April 6.
- Brad Davis will release A Bluegrass Tribute to George Jones next Tuesday.
- Paste’s free holiday sampler includes songs by David Mayfield Parade, Nick Lowe, Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors, Otis Redding, and others.
- The fine folks of Galleywinter have rounded up some Red Dirt Christmas songs for you to stream.
- Rosanne Cash talks about her new album, The River & The Thread, with Chuck Dauphin of The 615.
- Stream Neil Young’s Live at the Cellar Door before its December 10 release.
- Joey Allcorn, Jesse Keith Whitley, and Trent Tomlinson are among the artists scheduled to perform at a benefit concert in honor of Wayne Mills in Nashville on December 4.
- Gangstagrass will release new album Broken Hearts and Stolen Money on January 28. (via press release)
- Jewly Hight picked out ten new music books to add to your reading list.
- Keith Urban and Taylor Swift will appear at the Grammy Nominations Concert on Friday night. Looks like Urban will perform with R&B singer Miguel.
- “I Drive Your Truck,” written by Connie Harrington, Jessi Alexander, and Jimmy Yeary, is the American Songwriter Lyric of the Week.
- Uncle Lucius played “Keep the Wolves Away” for CMT Edge.
- C.M. Wilcox posted a new installment of Quotable Country.
- Stephen Deusner interviewed The Bottle Rockets’ Brian Henneman.
- This week’s album releases (thank you for continuing to support E145 by purchasing music through the below affiliate links — treat yourself to an internet high five):
Eric Brace & Karl Straub – Hangtown Dancehall (with performances by Kelly Willis, Tim O’Brien, Darrell Scott, Jason Ringenberg, and more)
Deana Carter – Southern Way of Life
Jake Owen – Days of Gold
Spooner Oldham, Oteil Burbridge, Billy Crain, Tammy Rogers & Marco Giovino – The Southern Christmas Songbook & Hymnal
Wanda Jackson – Before the Music Died: The Complete Recordings 1954-1962
Various Artists – An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story
Various Artists – Sons of Anarchy: Songs of Anarchy, Vol. 3
- And a movie:
- Clear Channel and CMT have
Bobby Osborne to Celebrate 50 Years as Opry Member; Zac Brown Band to Release The Grohl Sessions; New Music Videos
- Dave Grohl has produced a brand new EP for the Zac Brown Band; The Grohl Sessions, Vol. 1 will be released on December 10.
- Garth Brooks had a triumphant return to television on Friday night with Garth Brooks: Live from Las Vegas. 8.7 million viewers watched the two-hour special, which won its time slot.
- Eric Church landed on the cover of Billboard magazine. An excerpt from the cover story: “Church was already at the vanguard of contemporary country’s rock movement, but The Outsiders blurs the lines even further. The first single, the title track, contains even more of the rough electric guitar and big booming drums that define Church’s live shows. It’s dark and loud, and without the North Carolina accent in Church’s vocals it might find itself in between Kings of Leon and Linkin Park on rock radio. But its rebel attitude…and the twang in the vocals put it squarely in the world of country music. Like a modern-day Lynyrd Skynyrd, Church manages to be simultaneously more rock’n'roll and good-old-boy than anyone else out there–no easy task.”
- Toby Keith cut the ribbon on his OK Kids Korral, a facility for children receiving cancer treatment at the Oklahoma Health Center Campus in Oklahoma City.
- A bunch of The Voice fans are ticked off that the singers and show omitted the word “Lord” from “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?”
- Taylor Swift sang with Jon Bon Jovi and Prince William at the Winter Whites Gala last week.
- Lynn Anderson blew out a tire on the way to the George Jones tribute concert last month and suffered a minor head injury in the subsequent accident.
- Peter Cooper wrote about the magic of Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” for The Tennessean.
- Chuck Dauphin of Billboard interviewed Deana Carter about her new album, Southern Way of Life: “There’s one song that I wrote by myself on the record called ‘Do Or Die.’ That’s when I was at the bottom – when I didn’t know if I was going to make it, or if I would do records again. I was looking at this little boy who was relying on me to take care of him. It was a real heavy time. I sat in the kitchen floor, and like the song says, I was wondering how I was going to take care of my son and me. Right after I said my prayers, Kenny Chesney cut ‘You And Tequila,’ and that did well. So, that was a gift, and being able to write through that, I’m so grateful to be able to share that. I feel I did that with the first record. I had time to write about a lot of different kinds of experiences. Now, it’s more seasoned – similar experiences coming through things like being a mom. It’s not all about me anymore.”
- Kellie Pickler, Florida Georgia Line and Brett Eldredge all performed during the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade last week.
- Our friend Stephen Deusner interviewed Mindy Smith about her excellent new EP, Snowed In. An excerpt of their conversation: “I know what Christmas is to me, but I also know that not everybody shares that idea of Christmas. So I think it’s important to present a collection of songs that can move different people for different reasons. It’s about making sure you’re not alienating someone who is on a different journey. On all my albums I’ve tried to speak from the heart and not make any bones about where I’m coming from, but I want to leave it open so people can take from it what they need. It’s a tricky balance.”
- Jack Ingram unveiled a new tune called “You’re My Amen” on the Ray Benson-hosted Texas Music Scene.
- Musik Mafia members Shannon Lawson and Jon Nicholson have formed a new group called El Camino. You can stream their new, self-titled EP here.
- Jamey Johnson has a new collaboration with Shooter Jennings and Twiggy Ramirez, a trippy little cover of “You Are My Sunshine.”
- The Huffington Post named Rhonda Vincent’s A Dream Come True as one of the all-time “Best Albums with the Worst Album Art.” “Hey, look! Your Sunday School teacher made an album! Hailed today as one of the best bluegrass records of the past 30 years, Rhonda Vincent’s first album may also have one of the all-time dweebiest covers. The hair. The sequins. The font. The blush. The lavender. The hair. Everything about this screams the early ‘80s (which is all the dorkier considering that the record came out in the early ‘90s). But if you are able to unsee that awkwardness, the performances on this extraordinary debut are all utterly thrilling.”
- Cody Alan will be the new host of the overnight radio show After MidNite beginning January 6.
- Bobby Osborne will celebrate his 50th anniversary as a member of The Grand Ole Opry next year; he’s planned a special tour to commemorate it.
- Lauren Alaina has released her rendition of “Grown Up Christmas List” to benefit Special Olympics.
- My Kind of Country’s Jonathan Pappalardo revisited Alison Krauss and Union Station’s Paper Airplane: “Paper Airplane is everything a contemporary country/bluegrass/roots record should strive to be. A fully-formed album, it executes a winning yet tired formula in a new light. All the required themes of an AKUS music project are present – heartbreakingly sad songs presented as ballads and sung exquisitely – yet the album feels more like a rebirth than a recession. It never rests on its laurels and surprises the listener around every bend. But what’s truly remarkable is when most singers do whatever it takes to get noticed, Krauss doesn’t sell herself out for the price of fame. She doesn’t work her butt off at chasing her youth but instead records songs from an adult woman’s perspective. She smartly acts her age without appearing matronly. Without being anything she isn’t, she stays true to her roots and shifts the focus off her and onto the music, where it belongs in the first place.”
- Ray Price was released from the hospital just in time to celebrate Thanksgiving at home.
- Rita Ballou posted Wade Bowen’s holiday song, “O Holy Night,” over at Rawhide and Velvet.
- The 14-year old daughter of singer/songwriter Ray Lawrence, Jr. is missing. She was last seen in the Phoenix area.
- Amber Hayes is offering a holiday track called “Uh Oh, Looks Like Snow” as a free download on her website.
- Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson’s Wreck & Ruin won Best Country Album at the ARIA Awards.
- New music videos from the past week or so:
Payton Rae – “Gone Girl”
One More Girl – “Love Like Mine”
Lee Kernaghan – “It’s Only Country”
Sara Storer – “Come on Rain”
Tom Keifer – “The Flower Song”
Granger Smith – “Miles and Mud Tires”
Gary Allan – “It Ain’t the Whiskey”
Jamie Lynn Spears – “How Could I Want More”
Emily Hearn – “Found a Heart”
Jake Bellows – “Meaning Wrong”
“I think I’m becoming more of a settled person — and I’m feeling inspired by that,” Marlin says, sitting in cool sunshine with Mandolin Orange partner Emily Frantz behind their favorite hometown coffee house, the Open Eye Café in Carrboro, North Carolina. “I’m realizing, wow, you can really chill out in life and still accomplish things. You can be inspired by small things and not have to make giant gestures. Just getting up, making a cup of coffee and hanging out with Em in the morning can be as rewarding as staying out all night.”
Frantz quickly casts a sideways glance in Marlin’s direction and adds: “Hopefully more rewarding than staying out all night!”
The couple’s banter is relaxed, casting a quiet confidence in their art, their relationship and their future. They have worked through the issues that led to a brief personal breakup, during which they continued playing music together, and survived Marlin’s fall from a 10-foot dam spillway outside of Carrboro in 2011. The accident landed him in the hospital with a broken pelvis and Marlin likes to joke that he was just thankful his finger wasn’t injured so he could keep playing and writing during his recovery. But you can still hear a trace of fear under Frantz’s laugh. “I mean, he fell off a dam and landed on a rock. It’s all fine and good, he landed on his hip and we can laugh about it afterward. But really, he could have landed on his spine, or his head … ”
The realization of what could have happened, and didn’t, was ultimately therapeutic for Marlin. He let go of lingering grief from the loss of his mother at age 18 and, for the first time since her death, began to focus on memories of their time together. “It was like, ‘Hey, you’re still alive!’ That helped take some of sadness out of it and made me want to celebrate the life she lived instead of the life she left,” Marlin says.
Mandolin Orange’s third album, This Side of Jordan, released on Yep Roc Records in August, is a product of Marlin’s renewed optimism. While Jordan touches on some of the same dark themes as 2010’s Quiet Little Room and 2011’s double LP Haste Make/Hard Hearted Stranger, it is overall a much brighter record.
“It’s easy to see the dark side of life and that’s real easy to write about,” says Marlin. “I think that’s why so many amazing songs are really sad. But sometimes you have to find your way through the dark matter.”
This Side of Jordan dances playfully along the turning points between life and death, applying Biblical language and imagery to a modern framework. Spirituality pulsates through the tunes, but they are not religious. On “Turtle Dove & The Crow,” Marlin imagines his father crossing the River Jordan to visit his mother in the spiritual realm, with a stop to go fishing on the way: “I’m gonna climb that ladder, Jacob won’t you hold the door?” he sings. “Just gotta drop me a line this side of Jordan.”
Frantz, however, interpreted the song in a different way at first. “I heard it as him saying ‘Drop me a rope so I can get over there,’” Frantz says, laughing. “It’s funny how much time will go by, like years of us singing a song. We’ll be typing up the lyrics or something and I’ll be like, ‘Ohhh, that’s what it’s about?’ And I’ll have this moment of realization.”
The room for interpretation is by design, explains Marlin, who has written more than 300 songs since teaching himself to play guitar at age 14. He aims for a lyrical sweet spot, specific enough to make sense but vague enough for the listener to draw his or her own conclusion. “Some songs come really fast,” Marlin says. “It’s almost like the songs are floating ahead in a bubble, and I was able to jump up in the bubble and float along with them.”
Inspiration sometimes comes from Marlin’s personal life. As Frantz helped care for him through his recovery from the fall, Marlin wrote “The Runaround”: “Walked a mile or two alone, and it won’t long before I knew / That true love ain’t true love without you.”
He wrote “The Doorman,” which traces the murky line between curiosity and addiction, after hearing about a friend’s band that had to push out one of its members with a heroin problem, after many attempts to intervene. “You get a little too close to the edge, thinking ‘Yeah, everybody else fell in, but I’m not gonna. I just want to check it out and see how close I can get.’ And then realizing all the sudden that you can’t turn back,” Marlin says. “The Doorman is just the guy standing at the gate saying, ‘Hey, I’ve got no friends over here. Where are all my friends?’ So you come up and try to comfort this dude, and all the sudden he grabs your hand and pulls you in, and you’re stuck.”
Not every song on Jordan is so intense – “Cavalry” was inspired by the Lord of the Rings movies and “Waltz About Whiskey” is a cheerful send-up of traditional country music. Then there’s the politically charged “Hey Adam,” a gentle challenge to conservative Christians and politicians in North Carolina who passed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. By writing the song as a message from a secret same-sex lover, Marlin takes a clear stance: “Well, hey, Adam. Our secret’s safe / But I hope the world will learn / Go tend to Eve in the garden, crying, but please hear these words / Our father loves you all ways.” Frantz’s soaring fiddle brightens the song, suggesting a celebration of acceptance rather than a divisive attack.
“Our musical roles are very opposite and easy,” Frantz says. “He is a good leader and I’m a good follower. I like to just lay back and play easy parts that fit in with the song, I don’t feel like I need to be leading everything with the fiddle.”
There is no strict method to how a Mandolin Orange song takes shape. Frantz typically works on arrangements with Marlin after he’s finished writing, but there is subtle give and take throughout. “Emily will be in the next room listening sometimes, and I’ll just run in there and say, ‘Hey, can you sing this chorus with me real quick?’ Then she’ll try a go-to part and it just kind of pops out, then we can deviate from there.” And Frantz often hears enough of Marlin’s writing process to have ideas ready when they sit down to play it for the first time.
“I have some of the most fun coming up with harmony stuff,” Frantz says. “A lot of times it’s just a simple tenor part, but taking it out of that can be fun too. His voice and my voice are at a range where sometimes I can sing the melody an octave higher, sometimes high baritone, sometimes tenor. Just getting to weave in and out of those, instead of having to stick on one part throughout the whole song, can affect the way the melody songs and even the energy of the song.”
The collaboration reaches new heights on Jordan, more sharply focused and sonically rich than their previous records. Fans had to be turned away from a sold out house for their release show with a family reunion vibe at Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro. Up next is the duo’s long-awaited first trip to the west coast with shows in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
“You’re going get better at your craft, as long as you’re striving to get better,” Marlin says. “That’s what we do, and I think it shows on this record. We can feel it and it makes everything way easier: Touring on it to support it, talking about it, playing on it shows. All that stuff comes together.”
- On December 7, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum will celebrate Buck Owens and The Buckaroos with a trio of special programs: a panel discussion (“The Buckaroos: Making Music with Buck Owens”), a book talk (about Buck ‘Em, Owens’ posthumous autobiography co-authored with Randy Poe), and a concert featuring Buddy Alan Owens, current and former Buckaroos, and guests including Jim Lauderdale, Sunny Sweeney, and Angaleena Presley.
- Peter Cooper wrote about John Prine and the CMHOF’s new Prine exhibit for The Tennessean.
- Craig Shelburne (CMT Edge) interviewed Martin Guitars CEO Chris Martin.
- The banjo shall make its triumphant return to Antarctica next November. (Anyone seen the real Shackleton banjo, toted around the South Pole by crew member Leonard Hussey? It’s a pretty neat part of history.)
- Preservation Hall Jazz Band crammed into a yurt to play “Yellow Moon.” Watch here.
- Dead Peasants frontman and Foo Fighter Chris Shiflett posted the audio of his interview with Dwight Yoakam. You might want to wear headphones if you’re around coworkers/kids/grandmas.
- David Menconi wrote a fine article on Link Wray, “the most important guitar player you’ve never heard of.”
- NPR premiered Ryley Walker’s folky new song “The West Wind.”
- Bassist Sam Grisman has left The Deadly Gentlemen to pursue other musical opportunities. Adam Chaffins is his replacement.
- Chuck Dauphin profiled Darin & Brooke Aldridge for The 615.
- CMT Edge’s Brian T. Atkinson interviewed fiddle wizard Casey Driessen about his cool new project, The Singularity.
- Kellie Pickler drinks wine and listens to Lee Ann Womack. Country singers: they’re just like us!
- Tedeschi Trucks Band released a video for “Made Up Mind.”
- Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones talk about their Everly Brothers tribute, Foreverly, in this NPR piece and a USA Today article.
- There’s a lengthy Avett Brothers feature in the November/December issue of American Songwriter. Seth Avett also put together a pretty strong list of “deathbed albums.”
- The Drive-By Truckers’ next album, English Oceans, will be released March 4. (via the CD and one-sheet I got in my mailbox this morning)
- Stream new box set I Heard the Angels Singing: Electrifying Black Gospel from the Nashboro Label, 1951-1983.
- There are a number of rootsy acts on Paste’s countdown of their top 30 Rolling Stones covers. Which is your favorite? (I dig Townes Van Zandt’s “Dead Flowers” and, though not country, The Sundays’ take on “Wild Horses,” which was used excellently in that one Buffy episode.)
- This is Jamie Lynn Spears’ new country single. Discuss.
- Check out The John Jorgensen Bluegrass Band’s Mountain Stage performance.
- Mandolin Orange played one for Folk Alley.
- This week’s album releases (thank you for helping to support E145 by purchasing stuff through our Amazon affiliate links):
Billie Joe Armstrong & Norah Jones – Foreverly
NC Music Love Army – We Are Not for Sale: Songs of Protest
The Speedbumps – The Harbors We Seek
Danielle Bradbery – Danielle Bradbery
Peter Walker – Has Anybody Seen Our Freedoms?
Rugged cliffs, rocky coastline and grassy ruins frame a haunting, Celtic-tinged melody and soaring harmonies in a new video by folk revival band SHEL for their song “Lost at Sea,” from 2012’s self-titled debut album. Entirely self-directed, edited and filmed in Northern Ireland near the ruins of the Dunluce Castle and The Giant’s Causeway, familiar to Led Zeppelin fans from the album cover of 1973’s Houses of the Holy, the new video also reflects SHEL’s fierce spirit of independence.
Long before fusing the first letters of their first names together to form a band name, Sarah (violin/bass), Hannah (piano), Eva (lead vocals/mandolin/cello) and Liza (percussion) Holbrook grew up honing their multi-instrumental skills in wide open spaces just outside Fort Collins, Colorado. Home schooled by a singer-songwriter father and an artist mother, the sisters emerged with singular identities and a passion for making music together.
The Station Inn provided one of SHEL’s signature moments from a breakout performance at the Americana Music Fest in September. Liza became ill and missed our interview a couple days after that show at The Station Inn, but Sarah, Hannah and Eva beamed with pride in their youngest sibling while explaining exactly how they became a band of sisters called SHEL.
Tell me a little bit about how you grew up. Four sisters born within five years of each other, I’m guessing there had to be some sibling rivalry?
Hannah: Our dad’s a singer-songwriter, so we grew up with music in the house and we were all home-schooled. From an early age, our parents told us we were going to be best friends and we were basically like, “Okay. Cool.” We would go to our dad’s shows and then around the age of 10, for me, I started playing piano on a song or two of his. And these guys started playing their instruments the following year. We’d all get up on stage and back him up on a couple songs. Eventually, we started writing our own songs and putting a band together.
Eva: It wasn’t always smooth. Things are going to happen as you grow together and work toward a common goal. In the beginning, when we would have fights, our parents would resolve it and remind us that we were going to be best friends. They encouraged us to become comrades. And over time, we did, when we realized that what we make together is more important than our individual pride or preference. At the same time, we still make sure that everybody is well taken care of individually because that’s the only way that a collective can be healthy. We want to make sure that everybody finds fulfillment in the band musically. I think we reached a point when we started working on a more professional level where we realized that every person’s give was a huge component of the whole. That it wasn’t a threat, but the better each individual did, the better the whole would become. We even started to develop an appreciation we didn’t have before, when we were more insecure. Professionals would tell us things like, “Did you know your sister is a great drummer?” Hearing that was humbling and realizing that it was true was very freeing. I was like, “Yeah, she is … I’m glad she is!” So we started taking more of an interest in everybody’s individual abilities. Now it’s a joy, just a sheer joy. When one of us accomplishes something, we all delight in it. But it’s taken, what, 12 years to get to that point, of just continuous growth and working through things.
Did you ever get tired of practicing on your instruments or want to quit at any point while you were growing up?
Eva: For me, it was kind of a fluke that I ended up with a mandolin in the first place. I was really intrigued by it, but I hadn’t done anything that involved that kind of dedication before. And it was explained to me that it would take dedication in order to become passionate, but it’s hard to understand those words when you’re young. When I got my mandolin, I hadn’t developed any calluses yet and playing it hurt like anything. My first thought was, “I’m going to quit.” Then I started taking lessons and my second thought was, “I’m going to quit right away.” I hated lessons so much and I never practiced. I remember when the time came to decide, I only had one lesson left. My dad said, “I paid for this, so you better go practice.” I went to my room and I remembered just enough from the lesson I’d had before to play part of a piece … and I’ll never forget that feeling. Actually being able to play music changed my life. From that point on, I knew I wanted to do this for the rest of my life. Then the dedication just grew as I became inspired by other mandolinists like Chris Thile and Sam Bush.
What are some of the advantages and challenges of being in a band with your sisters?
Sarah: You have so much accountability with sisters. They know you better than anybody. If I’m not sure about something, I can talk to them about it and they’ll be completely honest with me. The challenge is that we’re so close, we can get into fights easier than you would with anybody else. Liza and I were roommates and we were having a little issue the other day. And I realized that if it had been one of my friends, I would have treated the situation differently. That’s the challenge with family, that it’s easy to take each other for granted.
Eva: But there’s also an openness that allows you to resolve things faster. I have issues with my friends that I don’t resolve because I’m not as comfortable around them. With my sisters, I can resolve it instantly.
Hannah: In our situation, we see each other pretty much every day. So if an issue comes up, we have to resolve it, which is actually really good because it makes us communicate and work past it.
Sarah: That’s the other thing with family, we have to resolve things. Because no matter what happens, even if the band broke up tomorrow, we still have to see each other at Christmas. We still have the same parents.
The music industry is so crowded these days that almost everything seems derivative of something else. And here you guys come with a very fresh, unique sound and presentation. Is that something you consciously set out to do or is it just reflection your background and personalities?
Eva: I think it’s because of our dad. He was not only honest with his feedback but he was incredibly encouraging. From the time we were little, he would say things like, “If you really wanted to, you could be like The Beatles.” Or, “You could be like the Marx Brothers.” Those were his examples of greatness, uniqueness, innovation and originality that he encouraged us toward. When you look at those kinds of examples and that becomes your goal, I think you do create entirely different music. What was amazing about those two specific examples was the way they embraced the individuality of each member of the group and how that’s really what shined. That’s what we want to create. It did just happen naturally because everybody has a really strong personality and unique gifts to contribute.
It’s pretty hard to be the first at anything at The Station Inn with its rich tradition, but Liza very well may have been the first performer to beatbox at The Station Inn. How do you feel about that?
Sarah: The beatboxing was so cool! I always look at the people who work there because they have experienced the most of what has happened at that particular venue. I wish that Liza could be here, but it was awesome when she started. I looked at the guy who was running the bar and his jaw was just dropped. So I went over and talked to him afterwards, and he was just going off about how cool that was with Liza. He said, “That’s the first time I’ve ever seen anything like that happen here.” And I said something like, “Yeah, that’s my little sister.” And he was like, “What, you’re all sisters?” And he freaked out again. He was so sweet. And the way the staff reacted to us afterward was really encouraging, because I respect their opinion more than anyone. But I can go on and on about Liza …
Hannah: She’s our favorite. (Laughs)
Sarah: She’s just such a natural talent. That girl just blows my mind.
Hannah: We have to talk about her because she’s not here right now.
I read that a major label exec once said you are “too musical for today’s music market.” Which seems like a ridiculous statement and a huge compliment all at once. But it brings up an interesting question: How hard is it to remain true to yourselves and your musical vision when there’s so much pressure to conform?
Eva: It’s easier now than it ever was before. When we heard that statement, it made us realize the urgency of what we’re doing. If that’s what they’re looking for, music that’s not musical, that rules out all the music we love. Queen, The Beatles, Supertramp, The Who …
Eva: But it’s not even true. We’ve been listening to a lot of Muse, and there’s one piece where he’s playing Chopin. People love music! Label A&Rs are concerned about money and they think in those terms. But people who enjoy art and artists don’t think in those terms. So I don’t think there’s any pressure for us to conform, it just reinforces the urgency inside of us to provide an alternative if music is becoming unmusical. We want to keep up the tradition of musical music … and it’s sad to even have to say that!
Sarah: Isn’t that interesting what you just said about the tradition becoming the alternative. Because it used to be the opposite of that, it’s like we’re coming full circle now.
Hannah: I think most things do. But you look at music from the past, like the Baroque era with Bach or Chopin, music used to be so ridiculously musical. So it’s crazy to think that what we’re doing is too musical. It’s a little frightening.
What kind of lessons came out of the process of making your first two EPs?
Hannah: Being in the studio really improves your performance. We learned a lot about how to capture our sound in studio. Recreating the live sound is an art in and of itself. We were really lucky to work with Brent Maher and Charles Yingling on these projects, we really enjoyed that. I think the EPs helped us refine our work in a good way. At the same time, we listen back to some of the demos we made when we were greener and still think, “Oh, we were doing some cool things back then that we shouldn’t have moved away from, we should pull that back in.” So we’ve learned to look back on the work we’ve done and look forward to think of how we challenge ourselves to make something we’ll always be proud of.
Do you experiment a lot in your creative process and rehearsing to see what modern touches might be a good fit with your sound?
Hannah: Definitely. Usually how a song will come about is that Eva will bring us lyrics or a chord progression and then we arrange it together with everyone writing their own parts. So there’s constant experimentation and lots of feedback. If somebody has an idea, we’ll run with it and see if it feels right. We can try out ideas all day long until something just feels like, “Yeah. That’s it. That’s SHEL right there, that’s the perfect fit.”
Are you thinking of a new album yet or is there one in the works?
Sarah: We’re constantly working on a new album. I think we almost have enough material to get one done, or at least start on it. So we’re definitely thinking about it.
You’re very active on social media, why is that important to you?
Hannah: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are some of the best platforms to keep people talking about you and informed about what you’re doing.
Eva: We realized recently how much it allows fans in other cities to communicate with us that we wouldn’t hear from otherwise. That’s been incredibly touching. We got a message the other day about someone coming to see us. And this is a big deal for us, we have to prepare for this show because it’s the last thing on his bucket list. He’s actually suffering from a terminal illness. And if we weren’t able to communicate with people through social media, we might not be able to hear about that in advance to prepare something for him. It helps us realize what we’re doing is making the impact that we want, which is to touch people and lift their spirits. That’s why we do what we do.
- Four hours and 40 songs of music by country music’s biggest and brightest stars honored George Jones at Bridgestone Arena on Friday night. Saving Country Music live-blogged the event if you’d like to relive the evening, and Twang Nation has some videos if you weren’t lucky enough to be in the audience.
- Jerald Wayne Mills, 44, of the Wayne Mills Band was shot in the head by the owner of the Pit and Barrel Bar in Nashville early Saturday morning and succumbed to his injuries later that afternoon. Nashville police are investigating the shooting and the shooter’s claim of self-defense.
- A tour bus carrying Willie Nelson’s band crashed outside of Sulphur Springs, Texas early Saturday morning. Three band members were injured: Paul English (ankle injury), Billy English (hip injury) and Tom Hawkins (cracked rib). Nelson postponed all remaining November dates and will resume his tour next month.
- The American Music Awards were held last night. Taylor Swift (Artist of the Year, Favorite Female Artist of the Year: Pop/Rock, Favorite Female Artist of the Year: Country, Favorite Country Album), Luke Bryan (Favorite Male Artist of the Year: Country), Lady Antebellum (Favorite Band, Duo, or Group: Country), and Florida Georgia Line (Single of the Year: “Cruise”) all took home trophies.
- The Grand Ole Opry just uploaded some live performance videos that are doozies: Sarah Darling performing “Landslide,” Kacey Musgraves performing “Are You Lonesome Tonight” and Little Big Town singing “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes.”
- In other Kacey Musgraves news, a “fan” stole her harmonica after a show in Nacogdoches, TX on Friday night and then she tweeted a picture of herself with the evidence to Musgraves. After being shamed by Kacey’s fans on the social media site, the harmonica is supposedly en route to its rightful owner.
- Musgraves and Dale Watson’s Austin City Limits taping is being live-streamed tonight beginning at 9 p.m. Eastern.
- The Grand Ole Opry will raise ticket prices at the Opry House beginning in February. They’ve added a Premium Main Floor section; a ticket there will cost $69.50. Other sections are more moderate in their increases.
- Chris Parton of CMT Edge interviewed Jason Eady about his upcoming album, Daylight & Dark. An excerpt: “The temptation when you sit down to write is to say, ‘Am I going to write a happy song or sad song?’ … I kinda got into vinyl [records] this last year and a-half. So as I started listening to all these songs that I had loved forever with the album cuts on there, I felt that was something they didn’t really used to do. It didn’t really walk either line. It just kind of told what the story was, and whether it’s happy or sad is up to you as the listener. So I really wanted to try and get into that, and I wrote the title track “Daylight & Dark.” Once we wrote that song, I kind of knew where I wanted to go with the rest of the record as far as writing. It really took that direction.”
- Dolly Parton is a singing, wisecracking hologram Ghost of Christmas Past in Dollywood’s theater production of A Christmas Carol.
- Story Behind the Song: Alabama’s “Born Country.”
- Chuck Dauphin of Billboard interviewed Bill Anderson about his new album, Life!
- Our friend Kelly Dearmore interviewed Rosehill about how they turned tragedy into something positive: the Save a Life Tonight campaign, which aims to raise awareness about suicide prevention. All proceeds from the duo’s song “The Bible and The Gun” will be donated to suicide prevention organizations.
- The resplendent C.M. Wilcox posted a new Quotable Country over at Country California.
- North Carolina native Harper Van Hoy, longtime fiddle player and founder of the Ole Time Fiddlers and Bluegrass Festival at Fiddler’s Grove, passed away last week at the age of 92.
- Rosanne Cash was honored by The Old State House Museum on Saturday for her contributions to the development of Arkansas history and culture through her work to restore her father’s boyhood home in Dyess.
- Can you ethically review an album without a physical copy of the CD?
- Eric Paslay will release his self-titled debut album on February 4.
- Bart Crow and wife Brooke welcomed twin boys last week.
- A 120-year-old wax-covered cylinder containing the earliest known recording of a black vocal group named the Unique Quartet (aka The Unique Quartette) — one of only two copies known to exist — was auctioned on Saturday; the winning bid was $1,110. The other known copy is at the Library of Congress.
- New music videos from the past week or so:
Green River Ordinance – “Flying”
Star Anna – “For Anyone”
Ronnie Dunn – “Kiss You There”
SHEL – “Lost At Sea”
Ronnie Fauss – “Good Enough”
Whitney Wolanin – “Run, Run Rudolph”
The Band Perry and Fall Out Boy – “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light ‘Em Up)” (from CMT Crossroads)
Mindy Smith – “Tomorrow is Christmas Day”
Bottle Rockets – “Every Kinda Everything”
Paul Metsa – “Jack Ruby”
Leah Turner – “Take the Keys”
Niall Toner – “Burren Backstep”
Brian Wright – “Rosalee”
Prine Diagnosed with Lung Cancer; Ralph and Nathan Stanley Plan Gospel Release; Nicki Bluhm Plays Conan
- John Prine was diagnosed with lung cancer. Doctors caught it early and Prine will undergo surgery next month (his mid-December shows in Louisville have been postponed).
- Ronnie Dunn’s got a new video for “Kiss You There.”
- The Infamous Stringdusters have a new video too. Here’s “Night on the River.”
- Ronnie Fauss released a video for “Good Enough.”
- Ralph Stanley and grandson Nathan are working on a gospel album.
- Peter Cooper’s new column is a heartbreaker: Tonight was supposed to be George Jones’ farewell concert. He was in on the planning, agreeing last year that he’d be at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena for days of rehearsals, and for dozens of interviews. His wife and constant companion of three decades, Nancy Jones, thought it strange that her husband — normally reluctant to practice or gab — was saying a quick “yes” at each of his publicist’s numerous requests for November of 2013. “I said, ‘Why are you agreeing to everything?’ ” Nancy Jones remembers. “He said, ‘’Cause I’m not going to be here. I’m going to agree to anything they ask. Promise me you’ll make a tribute show out of it, and I’ll see it from heaven.’ ”
- Listen to a brief clip of Carrie Underwood singing “The Sound of Music.”
- The Music of Nashville: Original Soundtrack Season 2, Vol. 1 will be released December 10.
- Alan Jackson is donating one of his boats, a fully restored 1955 Chris-Craft Semi-Enclosed boat he named Flat Top, to the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, New York.
- The Dave Rawlings Machine’s Knoxville show looks – and sounds – like it was an excellent night of music.
- Dwight Yoakam, Travis Tritt, Dierks Bentley and Alabama will appear on CMT’s Artists of the Year special celebrating Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean, Hunter Hayes, and Tim McGraw. (warning: autoplay)
- Linda Thompson and Anais Mitchell & Jefferson Hamer are among the nominees for the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, which will be held in London February 19.
- The Ballad of Shovels & Rope, a documentary about the Americana duo, is currently in the works thanks to The Moving Picture Boys, who’ve been filming Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent since 2011.
- The 12th Annual March Mandolin Festival will be in Concord, N.H. March 7-9.
- Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers played Conan last night.
- Check out the teaser for Doug Paisley’s Strong Feelings, which is scheduled for release on January 21.
- Authentic Brands Group has purchased Elvis Presley’s intellectual property from Core Media Group.
- Kellie Pickler’s new album, The Woman I Am, came in at No. 4 on Billboard’s Country Albums chart, having sold 16,000 records in its first week out.
- Norah Jones and Billie Joe Armstrong talk about their Everly Brothers tribute record in this Paste feature.
- Luckyoldsun: Well, Hunter plays a mean accordion on Jambalaya!
- Country fan: Merle is one of the greatest talents in music.
- Country fan: Could not agree more with Bruce !
- Janice Brooks: The Kenny and Amanda Smith track is in rotation her. Hoping for a promo from Brennen and Noel.
- SunsetPark: www.dictionary.com today has "5 Famous Words of Country Music" on their front page. It includes honky-tonk (with a reference …
- BRUCE: Florida Georgia Line, Hunter Hayes, Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan. These are the CMT Artists of the Year? Folks, it's …
- Janice Brooks: I'm happy with the Grammy list as usual. Don't overlook the Doc Watson album. As far as Bonnie R's …
- BRUCE: I missed no point whatsoever. Please re-read. By-the=way, I didn't miss the point about their positive review. However, I rarely …
- Luckyoldsun: Bruce, And I was making the broader point that you're missing the forest for the trees. A widely read national web publication …
- bruce: Lucky, Please revisit my comment. I said nothing about their review of the album but only their comment about the …