- The New York Times published George Hamilton IV’s obituary today. Robert K. Oermann wrote one for MusicRow.
- Jim Ed Brown will release his first solo album in 30 years, In Style Again, on Plowboy Records in January. (via press release)
- Randy Travis attended a fundraiser in Denison, Tex. yesterday. The photos accompanying the article show Travis walking with assistance, and his fiancée is quoted as saying that Travis attends physical and speech therapy daily; however, he’s still got a long way to go in his recovery.
- Lee Ann Womack and John Legend’s episode of CMT Crossroads will premiere September 26 at 10 p.m. ET.
- Listen to Cale Tyson’s “Fool of the Year.” It’s pretty good.
- Old Crow Medicine Show played “Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer” on Conan Wednesday night. Watch here. (warning: autoplay)
- USA Today is streaming John Mellencamp’s new album, Plain Spoken.
- The Old 97s played “Longer Than You’ve Been Alive” on the Relix roof.
- Jeff Tweedy shares his thoughts on why the album still matters.
- Eric Banister of Music Tomes interviewed Jake Brown, author of Nashville Songwriter: The Inside Stories Behind Country Music’s Greatest Hits.
- TheFader.net published an interview with Estonian guitarist Laur Joamets, who’s currently playing with Sturgill Simpson.
- Check out Rose’s Pawn Shop’s “What Were You Waiting For” video.
- Jerry Douglas on The Earls of Leicester: My whole thing about revisiting this stuff and replanting it in the minds of young bluegrass players coming up is that Alison Krauss and Chris Thile did not invent bluegrass. They weren’t the first high-level bluegrass artists who had their team together or anything like that. Flatt & Scruggs had it all. They had great musicianship. They had a show that entertained, which is something that bluegrass music has kind of lost. I would like to inject a little bit of what they did back into the mainstream just to juice it up again.
- This afternoon at 2 p.m. ET, you’ll be able to watch Barry Mazor’s conversation with Ry Cooder on the Country Music Hall of Fame website.
- Jason Aldean complains about things in the new issue of Billboard.
- Jewly Hight on the Americana Music Awards: All told, the awards show veered toward some pretty far-flung sensibilities, but that’s a sign of growth, and of Americana, as a scene, a genre, an industry, living up to its broad-as-Jimmie Rogers potential.
- Robert Earl Keen and Pedernales Brewing Co. have teamed up to create Robert Earl Keen Honey Pils, which will be available in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona around mid-October.
- Emily West came in second on America’s Got Talent. The singer is currently raising funds for a new album.
- Kevin Oliver of No Depression takes a look at the world of house concerts, which are a great way to see and support some of your favorite singer-songwriters.
- The Deslondes have signed with New West Records; the New Orleans-based Americana band will release their full-length debut in early 2015. (via press release)
- Here’s a New York Times piece about Woody Guthrie’s time in New York City and the upcoming box set celebrating those years.
- Anne McCue released a new video for “Things You Left Out in the Rain.”
- Kelly Dearmore wrote a fine feature on folk singer Jacob Furr, whose new album was inspired by devastating personal tragedy.
Folks today just don’t sing about infectious diseases like they used to a century ago — thanks a lot, Alexander Fleming — so today, we’re going to look at a handful of older songs written about influenza. (Though, if you’re looking for a new flu song, Chris Jones & The Night Drivers’ 2012 album Lonely Comes Easy includes the intricate instrumental “Swine Flu in Union County.”)
Bonus Track: Albert Collins – “Dyin’ Flu”
Albert Collins and his Telecaster can even make one’s deathbed sound cool.
5. Blind Willie Johnson — “Jesus is Coming Soon”
With his raw, gravelly voice, Johnson sounds like a harbinger of death on this song, released in the late 1920s.
4. Ace Johnson – “Influenza”
Johnson recorded this song, about the disease that “makes you all weak in your knees” and “puts a pain in ev’ry bone,” for John and Ruby Lomax in 1939 in Brazoria, Texas. Listen on the Library of Congress website.
3. Huey “Piano” Smith – “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu”
This flu actually doesn’t sound that unpleasant. At least you can dance to it until you die of respiratory failure.
2. Roger Miller – “Lou’s Got the Flu”
Listening to Roger Miller is normally the cure for whatever ails a person…unless you’re poor Lou, apparently.
1. Essie Jenkins – “The 1919 Influenza Blues”
You won’t find a better song about a global pandemic than this one about the Spanish Flu, which killed more than 50 million people worldwide.
George Hamilton IV Passes Away; Isbell Wins Three Americana Music Awards; Bravo Development Plans to Demolish Studio A
- George Hamilton IV passed away yesterday, less than a week after suffering a serious heart attack. The 77-year-old, who began his recording career as a pop artist with the Top 10 hit “A Rose and a Baby Ruth” in 1956, had been a member of the Opry since 1960. Peter Cooper wrote Hamilton’s obituary for the Tennessean, and CMT.com, Billboard, and the BBC also published articles on Hamilton.
- The winners of last night’s Americana Music Awards:
Lifetime Achievement Award (Performer): Taj Mahal
Lifetime Achievement Award (Instrumentalist: Flaco Jimenez
Lifetime Achievement Award (Songwriter): Loretta Lynn
President’s Award: Jimmie Rodgers (award presented to the Jimmie Rodgers Museum)
Album of the Year: Southeastern, Jason Isbell (Producer: Dave Cobb)
Artist of the Year: Jason Isbell
Duo of the Year: The Milk Carton Kids
Song of the Year: Jason Isbell, “Cover Me Up”
Emerging Artist of the Year: Sturgill Simpson
Instrumentalist of the Year: Buddy Miller
Spirit of Americana/Free Speech in Music Award: Jackson Browne
- The Tennessean tweeted last night that demolition papers have been filed for Studio A, and WZTV reported that, unless someone who wants to preserve the building purchases it by September 30, the current owners, Bravo Development, will proceed with the demolition. Last week, the tenants of the building were told that they’d be evicted on December 1. Yesterday, the Nashville Business Journal reported that a group organized to help save Studio A plans to release its own report on the state of the building in response to the report recently presented by the current owners, Bravo Development.
- On October 14, Phil Leadbetter, who’s been battling Hodgkin’s Lymphoma for several years, will release his new album, Next Move, on Pinecastle Records. Guests appearing on the album include Bela Fleck, Sierra Hull, Sam Bush, Shawn Camp, Dale Ann Bradley, and many more. (via press release)
- Yesterday Tejano singer Miguel “Cowboy” Donley received an NEA National Heritage Fellowship. Tomorrow you’ll be able to stream a concert celebrating Donley and his fellow…fellows on the NEA website. (If you’re DC, the show will be held at GWU’s Lisner Auditorium. There aren’t any more free tickets available to reserve online, but you may have some luck in the standby line outside the venue tomorrow night.)
- The Jayhawks’ Hollywood Town Hall, Tomorrow the Green Grass, Sound of Lies, Smile, and Rainy Day Music will all be reissued on 180 gram vinyl on September 30.
- Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood will play Lexington, Kentucky on Halloween and November 1.
- Yahoo is going to live stream a Drive-By Truckers show in Dallas tonight at 11 p.m. ET.
- Ryan Adams released another 7”; this one’s called Jacksonville.
- Tim O’Brien discusses Americana music placement in film and television in this interesting American Songwriter Q&A.
- In the chorus to “Portland, Maine,” a ballad (written by Abe Stoklasa and Donovan Woods) on Tim McGraw’s new album, Sundown Heaven Town, McGraw sings that he doesn’t know where that town is, and that he doesn’t want to know. A spokesperson for the city of Portland joked that the girl who left McGraw for Portland in the song made a good choice, and says that next time McGraw is in the area, the mayor will personally give him a tour. You can listen to the song here; it’s not bad, but “King of the Road” still holds the title of Best Country Song That Mentions a Town in Maine.
- IBMA announced the nominees for this year’s Momentum Awards, which go to artists, industry professionals, and festivals/events/venues who, while in the early stages of their career, have made an impact in bluegrass music. Check out the full list of nominees here.
- The Byrds’ Roger McGuinn re-recorded “Turn! Turn! Turn!” with Emmylou Harris and Ricky Skaggs for new film The Song, which comes out September 26. Listen to the new version on CMT Edge.
- Scott Avett on “confessional songwriting” in a new Nashville Scene interview: “I’ll say that if the person that’s pulling something out of a diary believes that they’re the only one that’s ever felt that, that they’re more special than they actually are, that’s the danger — if they think that they’ve been picked to teach the world something. … I’ve never written songs out[side] of the realm of a diary source. It’s always been a journal. Let me be clear: to not come from a journal seems odd to me. … I think that you can only start with your autobiography. From there, you go other places.”
CMA Launches Startup Accelerator; Actor Options Film Rights to Steve Earle Novel; Opry to Return to NYC
- Progressive bluegrass duo Jimmy Gaudreau and Moondi Klein will release their third album together, If I Had a Boat, on Rebel Records September 30. It is good. (via my ears)
- Actor Chris Hemsworth, best known for playing Thor in various Marvel-verse movies, has optioned the film rights to Steve Earle’s novel I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive, about a doctor who’s “haunted by the ghost of Hank Williams following his involvement in the country singer’s mysterious death.”
- Stream Lee Ann Womack’s The Way I’m Livin’ right this second. When the album comes out next week, Walmart will offer an exclusive version that includes Womack’s versions of “A Satisfied Mind” and “Cup of Loneliness.”
- On September 19, a new marker (written by Barry Mazor) honoring The Taylorsville Bluegrass Jamboree – which later became The Smith County Jamboree — will be unveiled on the Mississippi Country Music Trail.
- Kacey Musgraves will soon start working on her second album.
- There’s a Ronnie Fauss sampler available for download on NoiseTrade.
- American Songwriter just published an article on Jed Hilly, executive director of the Americana Music Association. (Don’t forget: NPR.org is live streaming the Americana Music Awards tonight beginning at 8 p.m. ET.)
- Lonesome River Band will release their next album, Turn on a Dime, October 14 on Mountain Home. (via press release)
- Let’s all cry along with Miranda Lambert as she sings to a seven-year-old who is battling cancer.
- Our pal Eric of Music Tomes interviewed Michael Spörke, author of Big Mama Thornton: The Life and Music.
- Steve Gulley & New Pinnacle will release their debut album in early 2015 on Rural Rhythm. (via press release)
- Third Man Records and Revenant Records will release the second installment of their drool-inducing Paramount Records box set on November 18. It’ll include “six LPs, a sculpted metal USB drive with 800 songs and 90+ original hand-drawn ads from the Chicago Defender, a large-format hardcover book telling the label’s story via new writing and original images, and an illustrated Field Guide with biographies and recording information for each artist represented in the set. It is all housed in a streamline case of polished aluminum modeled after a portable phonograph in 1930s American ‘Machine Age’ Art Deco style.”
- The Opry is returning to New York for a series of free acoustic performances in Bryant Park beginning September 29. The Swon Brothers, Dustin Lynch, and Kristian Bush are all slated to perform.
- Chuck Berry is, at the age of 87, still performing monthly gigs at The Duck Room in St. Louis. (warning: autoplay)
- Seattle Weekly published a nice piece about Alice Gerrard and her new album, Follow the Music.
- The Country Music Association, in conjunction with the Nashville Entrepreneur Center, has launched a startup accelerator for businesses working on issues related to the music industry.
- Song/video premieres:
Hot Rize – “I Never Had a One Like You”
Marc Ford – “Dream #26”
Sons of Bill – “Road to Canaan”
Luke Winslow-King – “Swing That Thing”
Hiss Golden Messenger – “Mahogany Dread”
Whiskey Shivers – “There is a Time”
Bay Area folk trio The T Sisters — Erika, Rachel, and Chloe Tietjen — released their debut album, Kindred Lines, earlier this year on mentor/producer Laurie Lewis’s label, Spruce & Maple.
Drawing on elements of early country music, R&B, and family bands like The Andrews Sisters, the Tietjens’ angelic harmonies can easily go from the gospel tune “How Can I Keep from Singing” to a delightful a cappella version of The Weather Girls’ “It’s Raining Men.”
This morning we’re pleased to premiere The T Sisters’ new video, “It Was Me.”
- Some jerkwad stole ten of Radney Foster’s guitars and an amp from a locked storage facility. Six instruments have already been recovered.
- Barry Mazor’s new Wall Street Journal column looks at the five artists nominated for the Americana Music Association’s Emerging Artist of the Year Award: Valerie June, Parker Millsap, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Sturgill Simpson, and Hurray for the Riff Raff.
- Speaking of Simpson, some folks were upset that the lyrics of the song he performed on Conan the other day included a couple “goddamns.” Simpson took to his Facebook page to respond: [Since] I’m self-funding/self-releasing my art instead of shooting for ACM awards and taking it up the ass from the music row man, I have the right to write and sing and say whatever I choose just as you have the right to not buy or listen to my music and stay away from my page if you don’t like it.
- Steven Hyden of Grantland asks, “Can Garth Brooks Really Make a Comeback?”
- The Birthplace of Country Music Museum opens a new exhibit called “The Carter Family: Lives and Legacies” today.
- Cale Tyson will release a new EP called Cheater’s Wine on October 28.
- On October 14, New West Records will release An Americana Christmas, featuring Robert Ellis (covering “Pretty Paper”), Valerie June (“Winter Wonderland”), and more.
- Two weeks later, Darius Rucker releases Home for the Holidays.
- Johnny Cash’s black 1970 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow is going up for auction at Barrett-Jackson in Vegas later this month.
- Song premiere: Lucinda Williams’ version of JJ Cale’s “Magnolia.” It’ll be on Williams’ forthcoming album, Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone.
- Here’s a nice feature on Elizabeth Cook, though sadly she does reveal that she and Tim Carroll are divorcing.
- Toby Keith was allegedly too drunk to perform at his Saturday night concert in Indiana. Saving Country Music has the scoop.
- Folk Alley premiered Eliza Gilkyson’s new video for “Fast Freight.”
- Clear Channel is now iHeartMedia.
- Peter Cooper on Tom T. Hall: He’s an absolute, total badass. He’s in the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and that’s not nearly enough. We songwriters should build him a gleaming marble statue and then tear it down because it can’t come close to conveying the magnitude of the man. Or, at the very least, we should listen, deeply and often, and curse him for finding everything we seek.
- NPR.org will livestream the Americana Honors and Awards Ceremony tomorrow night.
- Here’s the new lyric video for Will Hoge’s “Middle of America.”
- Amazon currently has 68 free country and bluegrass songs for you to download, including recordings by Balsam Range, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Robbie Fulks, Whitey Morgan & The 78s, Depression-era string band The Red Fox Chasers, and more.
- Yahoo is going to live stream a Drive-By Truckers concert on September 18 at 11 p.m. ET. (warning: autoplay)
- Rolling Stone premiered Angaleena Presley’s “Grocery Store.”
- Here’s half a dozen new Kenny Chesney songs.
- Miranda Lambert, Keith Urban, and Blake Shelton have been confirmed as performers for the CMA Awards, as though there was any doubt about that.
- Lera Lynn played two songs from her new record, The Avenues, for Relix.
- This week’s album releases:
Annalise Emerick – Field Notes
The Earls of Leicester – The Earls of Leicester
Mike Auldridge, Jerry Douglas, and Rob Ickes – Three Bells
Jesse Winchester – A Reasonable Amount of Trouble
Kevin Lee Florence – Given
Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice – Trouble Follows Me
Casey Berry – Long Way Down
Nu-Blu – All the Way
George Strait – The Cowboy Rides Away: Live from AT&T Stadium
Mike Farris – Shine for All the People
Sid Griffin – The Trick is to Breathe
Ben Rabb – Until It’s Gone
Steelism – 615 to Fame
Tim McGraw – Sundown Heaven Town
Moira Smiley & VOCO – Laughter Out of Tears
Various Artists – Dead Man’s Town: A Tribute to Born in the U.S.A.
- And a documentary:
- George Hamilton IV suffered a heart attack last Saturday. He is recovering in a Nashville area hospital.
- Billy Bob Thornton’s band, The Boxmasters, have been signed to 101 Ranch Records and will release a new single later this year, with a double album and tour planned for early 2015. They join Mark Collie on the label.
- Ray Charles comes in at No. 13 on CMT’s All-Time Top 40, a countdown of the most influential artists in history chosen by country stars themselves.
- Peter Cooper spoke with Jerry Douglas about the Dobro great’s forthcoming projects, The Earls of Leicester and Three Bells (with Rob Ickes and the late Mike Auldridge).
- People premiered the new Barbra Streisand and Blake Shelton duet, “I’d Want It to Be You.” The song can be found on Streisand’s new album, Partners.
- The serendipitous C.M. Wilcox posted a new Quotable Country column at Country California.
- Listen to Kellie Pickler’s debut as an anthropomorphic tuber in this trailer for VeggieTales: Beauty and the Beet.
- Carlene Carter will be joining John Mellencamp on an 80-date North American tour early in 2015.
- Maddie & Tae will release their debut EP on November 4; the duo also performed on Letterman last week.
- Our pal Stephen Deusner counted down 10 essential Ryan Adams songs for CMT Edge.
- Soon you’ll be able to own Lady Antebellum-branded bed and bath linens.
- Chuck Dauphin introduces us to The Pfeiffer Twins. The duo’s new album, Nobody’s Puppet, is pretty intriguing.
- The Tennessean’s Cindy Watts interviewed Tim McGraw about Sundown Heaven Town.
- Josh Turner unveiled his new single, “Lay Low,” via Rolling Stone Country.
- Rolling Stone Country also counted down Johnny Cash’s “11 Coolest Cover Songs.”
- New music videos and a couple live performances from the past week or so:
Holly Williams – “Waiting on June” (NPR Performance)
Zoe Muth – “Lungs” (Live at WAMU’s Bluegrass Country)
Frankie Ballard – “Sunshine & Whiskey”
Lee Ann Womack – “The Way I’m Livin’”
Old Crow Medicine Show – “Sweet Amarillo” (Live @ CMT)
Greensky Bluegrass – “Burn Them” (for CMT’s Concrete Country)
Crow Moses – “Horse Heaven Hills”
The Roosevelts – “Cold Sheets”
Kayla Adams – “Sober & Sorry”
Sam Riggs – “Hold On and Let Go”
Erica Lane – “Burden”
The Mastersons – “Closer to You”
Field Report – “Home (Leave the Lights On)”
Blake Shelton – “Neon Light”
“Most commercial country singers don’t make records like this,” says Lee Ann Womack of her new, stone-cold country album, The Way I’m Livin’ (out September 23), her first solo project since 2008, and, after spending a decade on MCA Nashville, her first release for Sugar Hill Records.
Produced by husband Frank Liddell, The Way I’m Livin’ is perhaps Womack’s finest album, one that’s unlike any she’s made before. Backed by a stellar band that includes Paul Franklin, Mac McAnally, Glenn Worf, and Matt Chamberlain, Womack covers gems penned by contemporary singer-songwriters like Brennen Leigh, Hayes Carll, Bruce Robison, and Mando Saenz and delivers a feverish version of “Tomorrow Night in Baltimore,” a Kenny Price song that Roger Miller took to No. 11 in 1971. It’s the record she’s always wanted to make, and, after the frustrations of the last several years post-Call Me Crazy, it’s rejuvenated her passion for her music. “While I’m holding on to tradition in some sense, I also feel like I’m paving a new road, at least for myself,” she explains. “It’s just an exciting time.”
We recently got the chance to speak with Womack about The Way I’m Livin’, her relationship with Maya Angelou, and her jam-packed upcoming schedule, which includes a gig co-hosting the IBMA Awards, a performance with the Del McCoury Band at Wide Open Bluegrass in Raleigh, and forthcoming tour dates.
How did you choose the songs for this record?
We were just looking for songs that we loved. It just turns out that those are the kinds of songs that I’m drawn to, songs that were written to be performed and not pitched. And “Tomorrow Night in Baltimore,” I was drawn to that because it was a little weird. How many country music songs are there about guys obsessed with strippers?
Not enough. Hearing the song sung by a woman gives it a new twist.
I love doing guy songs anyway. Half the time, I don’t even change the pronouns or anything.
You’ve got a fantastic band on here, with musicians like Paul Franklin and Mac McAnally. How’d you all work up the arrangements?
Frank was more in charge of that, but we wanted to get away from the standard approach on Music Row and have a group of players come in who didn’t work together on three sessions a day, five days a week. Of course, we’ve all known each other for years, but this band was a new grouping.
When you have players of that caliber and you all start talking through the songs and start talking about where you want to go as an artist and musically how you’d like things to sound – and we were camped out in the studio together for several days doing that – it comes together smoothly when they’re that good.
What was the recording process like?
We recorded it live. It was very much like a band rather than being so orchestrated, “Okay, we’re going to make a record now.”
It was more, “Let’s just sing through this and see what happens.” Then we’d talk about it and maybe someone would say, “I think I’m going to change guitars; I think the strings on this other one would fit the mood of the song better.” All those kinds of things.
Is that how you’ve done your previous albums?
It was somewhat like it, and I’ve worked with some of these musicians before, but this particular group of musicians had not worked together in this configuration before. That made it a little different. For instance, on “Fly,” deciding to just have me and Mac do the song, when I’ve suggested things like that in the past for commercial country records, the producer acts like he’s going to have a coronary. It’s not a bizarre things to do, to just have a guitar and vocal or piano and vocal on a record, but they think that once they get those musicians in the studio, everybody needs to be on everything and then you’ve got 15 guys in from the downbeat all the way through the outro and you didn’t really need all that, you know?
Making this record was a time when everybody was really thinking about what the songs needed, not so much what they were going to play on and get paid for at the end of the day, and the producer wasn’t worried about the musicians not wanting to come back and work for me if they didn’t get used on everything.
That must have been very refreshing.
It was so much more fun.
I think country music has been more progressive than many people give it credit for, but with songs like “Same Kind of Different” on The Way I’m Livin’ as well as hits like “Follow Your Arrow,” are we entering an era where it’s more prevalent?
I agree with you; I think country music has always been progressive, but those progressive artists or lyrics haven’t always risen to the top. I think those things have always been there, but they don’t get much attention. I hope we’re going to see a turning of the tides with that over the next few years and that we’ll have more commercially successful artists saying, “Let’s change it up a little bit.”
You’re going to be hosting the IBMA Awards with Jerry Douglas and singing with the Del McCoury Band in Raleigh later this month. Were you a bluegrass fan growing up?
I started listening to bluegrass when I was 18 years old. I had started dating a guy who played bluegrass, so he turned me on to all kinds of bluegrass stuff. So I’ve been a fan for a long time, but not when I was a real little kid. When I was little, it was all really Texas hardcore honky tonk country music.
Can you give us a hint about what you’re going to sing with Del or do at the awards show?
I don’t know yet what I’m going to sing with Del. Jerry and I have tossed around some ideas. On the actual awards show – I’m going to play with a little bluegrass combo that I put together with Ronnie Bowman, Shawn Lane, Rob McCoury, and a couple other guys. I have some really good friends in the bluegrass world, and we get together all the time and play. I don’t know about the actual songs yet, but those are the musicians I’m going to play with. I’m real fired up about singing with Del McCoury, of course. He’s so soulful, and the boys are such great pickers. That’s going to be a lot of fun for me. Most of the time I sing with a full band – drums, keyboards, and everything – but there’s nothing I love more than to strip it down and do acoustic stuff. I think people will be surprised. I’m really in my element at that time.
Any chance you’ll do a bluegrass record in the future?
I’ve always wanted to do a bluegrass record. I just want to make sure that it makes sense and that it’s not forced. Ronnie Bowman is one of my best friends and we write together and play together so I find it hard to believe that we wouldn’t start on something like that.
A few months ago you sang at Maya Angelou’s funeral. What was your relationship with her like?’
We just spoke on the phone a few times, and met a couple of times. She was very passionate about lyrics and about telling stories through song. I think she was particularly drawn to country music because it’s so much more real – or some of it is – and it’s more centered around lyrics.
I sang “I Hope You Dance” at the funeral. It was her favorite song and I had no idea beforehand that she was going to request that I come in and sing it. I was happy to do that. I didn’t know anybody there, but they all knew each other. They were a close-knit group, but when I came in, they treated me like one of the family too. They told me a lot of stories about how much the song meant to her, so I was very, very happy to get to be a part of that. It really was special.
Were you a fan of Maya’s work?
When I first met her, I wasn’t familiar with her work, so she told me to go get her book and read it. So I did, and I think I read it all in one night. I couldn’t put it down. It was really, really good. Maya grew up in Arkansas and it was a very interesting story, and right in my wheelhouse as far as the kind of writing I like. I love American writers: Harper Lee, Mark Twain, John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces. I just love that style of writing, and I’m always reading.
What are you reading now?
I just got a book last night, David Cantwell’s Merle Haggard book; I just started that and I can tell I’m going to love it. I just finished The Hot Zone, which is not about country music.
The Ebola book? It’s so scary.
It is terrifying! (laughs)
Under the Banner of Heaven [by Jon Krakauer] is one I recently read, and I also just read Galveston, by Nic Pizzolatto. He did the True Detective series.
We’re approaching the 20th anniversary of your major label debut. How have you evolved as an artist over that time?
It’s funny how much I’ve changed and how much I haven’t. I’m still very roots-oriented, I’m still drawn to the same kinds of music. I hope that I’ve gotten better over time, because the more you do something, the better you get at it, but I still feel like the same kid that came to town wanting to sing traditional country music.
Certainly meeting Frank and having him be involved in my career has opened some new doors for me creatively because his background was different from mine. He wanted to expand my horizons somewhat because I mostly just listened to traditional country music, with a little bit of crooners and big band type stuff, which I got turned onto through my love for Bob Wills and Western Swing. Frank had more of a rock music background and he’s the reason I have a Neil Young song on the new record.
What’s next? What do you still want to accomplish in your career?
I’m playing some dates this fall to support the record, but most of the dates that we do for this will be next spring.
There are so many things I want to do. We talked about the bluegrass record, and I’d love to do a Western Swing record.
You’ve had so much radio and chart success. Are you still interested in pursuing that the same way you had to earlier in your career?
It’s less important now because there are so many avenues to get music out there that you don’t have to be beholden to – “Well, the song has to be a certain length, we have to get to the hook at a certain time, you can’t sing about this, you can’t sing about that, we need to have this instrumentation” – you’re not beholden to that anymore. I don’t worry about that like I used to.
That’s got to be really liberating.
Very much so. And for somebody who’s very passionate like musicians are about their art, no longer having to worry about those things can turn you from being bitter to happy real quick.
Were you bitter?
I really think I handled things pretty well, but I do think a change like this can make you excited about music again. It was definitely a difficult situation, but things always change and I knew they would. I’m not one of those artists who has to be in the spotlight all the time or she’s not comfortable. I’m happy to step away. I have a beautiful home and children and a great life and I love to live life, and that gives me more things to write and sing about, so I’m happy to do that. In the music business right now, doors are opening up that haven’t been there for us, and there are new ways of getting music to the fans. So it’s an exciting time.
- Studio owner and recording engineer Cosimo Matassa passed away yesterday at the age of 88. Fats Domino, Little Richard, a teenage Jerry Lee Lewis, and Ray Charles were among the artists who recorded at Matassa’s J&M Recording Studio in New Orleans.
- Lynn Anderson was charged with DUI last night after she was involved in a crash and “showed signs of impairment.” According to the arrest warrant, Anderson admitted to drinking alcohol and taking prescription medication. She was released on bond this morning and is scheduled to appear in court on November 20.
- There’s a lengthy interview with Dolly Parton in the new issue of Southern Living.
- The Ralph Peer exhibit opened at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum today. It’ll run through December 31, 2014. In November, Barry Mazor will participate in a program and sign his forthcoming book, Ralph Peer and the Making of Popular Roots Music, at the Hall. (via press release)
- George Jones would have celebrated his 83rd birthday today. Tomorrow, his widow, Nancy Jones, will release balloons at the Possum’s gravesite; the event is open to the public.
- Elizabeth Olsen (Kill Your Darlings, Godzilla) has signed on for the upcoming Hank Williams biopic I Saw the Light. She’ll be playing Audrey Williams.
- If none of us watch another country awards show, will it still exist? Probably. Florida Georgia Line is slated to host the American Country Countdown Awards December 15 on Fox.
- The investor who was going to build an eating disorder treatment facility on the Hendersonville property once owned by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash has reportedly withdrawn his request for the city to rezone the residential property.
- Here’s the new lyric video for Whiskey Myers’ “Early Morning Shakes.” (warning: autoplay)
- Zoe Muth covered Townes Van Zandt’s “Lungs” during an in-studio performance at WAMU’s Bluegrass Country.
- American Songwriter tagged along to Steve Earle’s songwriting camp in upstate New York.
- Pandora has inked a deal with BMG. From The New York Times: BMG’s deal with Pandora is for the portions of its catalog that have been represented by Ascap and BMI, the two giant licensing groups that have long handled the performing rights — the royalty payments for whenever music is played on the radio, online or in concert — for millions of songs in the United States. Even though BMG remains a part of Ascap and BMI, it bypassed them by making the direct deal with Pandora, for what analysts believe is a higher royalty rate than those organizations — which are governed by decades-old federal regulation — are able to obtain on their own. In exchange, the deal gives BMG and its songwriters unspecified “marketing and business benefits,” according to a statement issued Thursday by Pandora.
- Lydia Loveless played a short set for WFPK’s Live Lunch. Watch here.
- Mental Floss looks at the stories behind 10 Johnny Cash songs.
- Edward Morris of CMT.com put together a list of 10 country kiss-off songs ranging from “When You Leave, Don’t Slam the Door” to “Before He Cheats.”
- Pop star Pink is going folk: she’s formed a duo with Dallas Green (City and Colour) called You + Me. Their album, Rose Ave., will be released October 14. Listen to one of the tracks, “You and Me,” here.
- Celebrate Mississippi music at AmericanaFest next week.
- Farce the Music put together a “Best of Ryan Adams” Spotify playlist.
- The Ottawa Folk Fest was fined $305 for violating noise bylaws on the event’s opening night.
The anthracite mines of my home state, Pennsylvania, don’t get a lot of love in roots music, probably because most country and bluegrass artists are more familiar with Kentucky coal country, but maybe also because folks outside the state can’t pronounce “Schuylkill,” much less find something that rhymes with it.
But here are five songs that do tell stories of Pennsylvania coal and the men that mined it. (You’d think there’d be more songs about Centralia, the ghost town that’s had a coal fire burning underneath it for half a century, but there are only a couple decent ones. At the very least, it’d make for a neat metaphor.)
5. Saravanan Sankaran – “Miner’s Lament”
Bluegrass bassist Saravanan Sankaran assembled a top-notch band for his solo album Back to Bassics. “Miner’s Lament” is the album’s highlight, with Sankaran’s boyish tenor singing about miners with broken bodies and broken souls, whose hearts have turned as hard as anthracite.
4. Bobby Osborne & The Rocky Top X-Press – “Keystone Coal”
With a pickaxe and shovel, the miner in this song (who started out as a breaker boy and worked his way down) inadvertently digs his own grave.
3. Irene Kelley – “Pennsylvania Coal”
On the title track of her last album, Kelley shares memories of growing up in the Coal Region with a grandfather who spent eight hours a day digging in the dark.
2. Buddy and Julie Miller – “Quecreek”
Penned by Julie Miller, “Quecreek,” about the 2002 rescue of nine workers trapped underground in a flooded mine, is one of the few mining songs with a happy ending. Folksinger Anais Mitchell also wrote and recorded a song about the incident called “Quecreek Flood” for her 2004 album, Hymns for the Exiled.
1. Paul Clayton – “The Avondale Mine Disaster”
In 1869, a fire broke out at the Avondale Colliery in Plymouth Township. It claimed the lives of 108 mine workers and two rescuers, making it, at that time, the deadliest mining disaster in American history. Clayton recorded this folk song for his 1956 album, Folk Ballads of the English-Speaking World.
- Paul W Dennis: They are an interesting group. This song sounds more jazzy (Andrews Sisters, Puppini Sisiter, Ingrid Lucia) but for a folkier …
- Barry Mazor: What the "Americana" term brings to mind, by this point, is a matter of time and marketing. Like all …
- Paul W Dennis: I loved the Jerry Douglas interview and love the ideas behind his two concept albums Unfortunately I never had the opportunity …
- luckyoldsun: Barry, That's a good point, as far as country itself being a word that refers to a lot more than a …
- Six String Richie: Also, in regards to that article, Aldean's #2 complaint was "Nashville Copycats" and he gripes that people are copping Luke …
- Six String Richie: Billboard misprinted his new single as "Burnin' It Up" in that article! That goes to show how little even …
- CraigR.: Here are 5 things that piss me off about Jason Aldean: 1. He is a sore winner. Why complain when you …
- Barry Mazor: The words "country" and jazz (or "jass") and blues had been around for decades before they became genres (or formats) …
- Jeff Miller: Yeah, the first time I played Jimmie Rodgers for my wife & daughter- they were aghast that he was singing …
- David Cantwell: I think it more helpful to think of Americana not as a genre but as a format--and, perhaps better, and …