- George Strait will release a live album, The Cowboy Rides Away: Live from AT&T Stadium, on September 16. On August 29, CMT will air a two-hour special that was shot at that concert.
- John Fullbright will be on Letterman August 28.
- Angaleena Presley, the new American Songwriter Writer of the Week, talks about her new album, co-writing with Gretchen Peters, and more in this Q&A. Presley also charmed the hell out of me when she opened for Marty Stuart last Saturday, but more on that later.
- The Secret Sisters are going to appear on Friday night’s episode of The Tonight Show. (via press release)
- Nickel Creek’s self-titled album, which was released on Sugar Hill in 2000, has been certified platinum. (via press release)
- American Songwriter Lyric of the Week: Steve Earle’s “Jerusalem.”
- Jerry Lee Lewis will play the Ryman on October 4.
- Check out Sturgill Simpson playing “Life of Sin” in Studio A.
- Mac Wiseman will celebrate Songs from My Mother’s Hand with songs and stories at the Franklin Theatre on October 21. This is a pretty rare event, so if you’re near Franklin, Tenn., you need to go to it.
- Evergreen Media Holdings has secured the rights to make a movie and a musical about the history of Stax Records.
- American Aquarium’s BJ Barham says the band has finished making an album of “the best group of songs” they’ve ever recorded together. The record will be released in early 2015.
- David Morris of Bluegrass Today makes the case for Hazel Dickens’ induction into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame.
- The “absolutely magnetic” Billy Joe Shaver celebrated his 75th birthday on Saturday with a show in L.A.
- David Nail released a video for an acoustic version of “The Secret.”
- Adam Gold (The Nashville Scene) put together a list of 19 must-see clips from The Johnny Cash Show.
- Robbie Fulks was on BBC Radio Scotland the other day; listen to the interview here. (warning: autoplay)
- Nicole Atkins covered “Dancing in the Dark” on Dead Man’s Town, the upcoming Americana salute to Born in the USA.
- Shooter Jennings did an Ask Me Anything for Reddit.
- Sasha Frere-Jones in the August 25 issue of The New Yorker: Until recently, country music was seen as stylistically retrograde—conservative music for the conservative states. But the truth is more complicated. In the nineties, Garth Brooks was blending stadium rock into his country songs. He was also singing about gay rights, something that it took a Top Ten rapper two more decades to do. In 2000, when pop stars were unlikely to write songs about domestic violence, the Dixie Chicks scored a Top Twenty hit with “Goodbye Earl,” a cheerfully ruthless narrative about two friends poisoning an abusive husband. And Taylor Swift is only one of many country artists who incorporate covers of hip-hop and R&B into their live sets, a favor that is not often returned by their peers in other genres. Country refuses to die because it isn’t particularly specialized—it’s an ecumenical church that admits all comers.
- On September 27, Willie Nelson and Neil Young will be in Nebraska performing at a protest concert organized by opponents of a pipeline that will carry oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast.
- This week’s album releases:
Otis Gibbs – Souvenirs of a Misspent Youth
Cory Branan – The No-Hit Wonder
Paul Thorn – Too Blessed to Be Stressed
Ruthie Foster – Promise of a Brand New Day
Rob McCoury – The 5 String Flamethrower
Smoke Dawson – Fiddle
Crowe, Lawson & Williams – Standing Tall and Tough
Michael-Ann – Heavy Load
Town Mountain – Live at the Isis
Cahalen Morrison & Country Hammer – The Flower of Muscle Shoals
Benjamin Booker – Benjamin Booker
Dr. John – Ske-Dat-De-Dat…The Spirit of Satch
Parsonsfield – Afterparty
Ray Stevens – Gospel Collection, Vol. 1
Elvin Bishop – Can’t Even Do Wrong Right
Phil Ochs – Live in Lansing, 1973
Various Artists – Look Again to the Wind: Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears Revisited
Daryle Singletary Returns to the Studio; NPR Premieres Shovels & Rope’s Swimmin’ Time; New Music Videos
- Florida Georgia Line will release Anything Goes on October 14.
- John Mellencamp will “embrace his Americana roots” on his new LP, Plain Spoken, out September 23.
- Cumulus has launched its Nash Icon format on multiple radio stations stations.
- Check out the trailer for The Song, a new movie about a singer-songwriter whose hit record leads to family drama.
- In other film news, the documentary Glen Campbell… I’ll Be Me will be released in New York and Nashville theaters on October 24, with a nationwide release to follow. You can watch the trailer here.
- Stream Shovels & Rope’s Swimmin’ Time on NPR.
- Jim Lauderdale visited the American Songwriter offices to play “I’m a Song.”
- Listen to Kenny Chesney’s “Flora-Bama,” which will be on his next album, The Big Revival.
- Angaleena Presley released a lyric video for “Ain’t No Man,” the first single on her upcoming solo album.
- Former Eden’s Edge lead singer Hannah Blaylock unveiled an acoustic video of her beautiful song, “Don’t Want You to Go.”
- Logan Brill performed a four-song acoustic concert that you can stream over at Daytrotter.
- The devoted C.M. Wilcox posted a new Quotable Country.
- Bob Dylan came in at Number 18 on CMT’s All-Time Top 40: Artists’ Choice.
- Brad Paisley leaked his song “American Flag on the Moon” from a launch pad at Kennedy Space Center.
- Meet Alexis Cunningham, one of SiriusXM’s fresh female voices of country music.
- Tim McGraw scored his 50th Top 10 hit with “Meanwhile, Back at Mama’s.”
- What happens when you’re George Strait’s backup singer and your golden goose retires from the road? Marty Slayton Jordan lets you know in Peter Cooper’s new Tennessean column.
- Crystal Shawanda announced on Facebook that she will release her blues album, The Whole World’s Got the Blues, on September 30.
- Daryle Singletary is back in the studio working on his next project.
- Ray Wylie Hubbard looks like he’s working on a new project too, based on this note he posted on his Facebook page: “went in and listened to what we recorded a few weeks ago..it stands up on its hind legs and makes a fist.. you may not like the singer or the songs but you will like the way it sounds.. i really don’t know where these gnawed off pieces of obscureness come from and sometimes i even wonder why i can’t write somewhat remotely close to mainstream commercial popular type songs that maybe somebody else might record some day but then..i get a headache thinking about that and i quit and get grateful that as an old cat at least my songs aren’t metaphor deficient and i still can lay down a groove that make the hip bones wanna do the shaka shaka boom boom ugha ugha whomp whomp.”
- Bassist Jason Moore has left Mountain Heart.
- New music videos from the past week or so:
Doug Bruce – “Broke Down Heart”
Nu-Blu and Sam Moore – “Jesus and Jones”
Mick Lindsay – “Imaginary Girl”
Michaela Anne –“Ease My Mind” (Live at WAMU’s Bluegrass Country)
Jim Gaudet & The Railroad Boys – “Walk of Life” (Live at WAMU’s Bluegrass Country)
Gwen Sebastian – “Small Town Soul”
Chasin’ Crazy – “That’s How We Do Summertime”
Stephanie Quayle – “Sugar High”
Christie Lamb – “Wish You Were a Cowboy”
John Berry – “Please Come to Boston” (Tour Bus Covers)
Kacey Musgraves and Katy Perry – “Keep It to Yourself” (CMT Crossroads)
Eric Church – “Cold One”
Erica Bryan – “This House is Haunted”
Mac Wiseman’s new album was more than 80 years in the making. And it’s worth the wait.
But it’s not as though the 89-year-old music legend wasn’t doing anything else during those decades: he’s performed everywhere from the Old Dominion Barn Dance to Carnegie Hall, been an executive for Dot Records, helped found the Country Music Association, recorded hundreds of songs, and, most recently, been named one of this year’s inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
“I was quite pleasantly surprised when they told me I’d gotten into the Hall,” says Wiseman, calling from the cell phone he keeps stashed in a Crown Royal bag tied to his wheelchair. “I had kind of given up on it.”
Several weeks before his induction, Wiseman will celebrate the release of Songs from My Mother’s Hand, his first new album since 2007’s John Prine collaboration, Standard Songs for Average People. The album consists of songs that his mother, Neva Ruth Wiseman, transcribed off the family’s radio during the 1930s. “In the wintertime, she’d sit by the radio crocheting or quilting,” Wiseman remembers. “She’d keep a notebook on top of the radio, and when the musicians would sing a song, she’d write down a few lines. A few days later, they’d sing the same song, and she’d get a couple more lines.” She filled 13 composition books this way. The songs, which included “The Eastbound Train” and “Little Rosewood Casket,” formed the bedrock of country music.
The Wisemans were a musical family. Mac’s mom played the piano at church, and his father was the first person in their rural Virginia community to buy a phonograph and radio. “People would gather at our house on the weekends to listen in. We could get clear stations from Jacksonville, Hopkinsville…everybody would listen to the barn dances overnight, Mom would fix ‘em breakfast, and then they’d go home,” Mac laughs.
For Mac, a sickly young boy who survived polio as an infant and battled pneumonia throughout his childhood, the songs in his mother’s notebooks opened up an entire world for him outside Crimora, Virginia. He taught himself guitar by figuring out how to play the songs Ruth wrote down for him, and he’d sit at the kitchen table reading the lyrics over and over again by the light of a kerosene lamp. He didn’t dream about pursuing music professionally until his polio-damaged leg kept him from more physically demanding jobs. A polio foundation paid for Wiseman to attend the Shenandoah Conservatory of Music in the early 1940s, where he studied broadcast radio and soon found a job on Harrisonburg, Virginia station WSVA, which is where he got his start in the music business, where his crystalline tenor eventually earned him the nickname “The Voice with a Heart.” Even as his career took him away from the Shenandoah Valley — to Chicago to record with Molly O’Day, Nashville (to play with Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs) and, later, Los Angeles, home of Dot Records — he hung on to his mother’s yellowing notebooks for more than half a century until it became time to use them again.
“Mac had been telling us for years about these notebooks, but I had never seen them,” says Peter Cooper, who co-produced Songs from My Mother’s Hand with Thomm Jutz. “We had been talking with Mac about making a album because it seemed like the perfect time to do so, with his Hall of Fame induction coming up. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to record for it. He said, ‘Maybe I should do more modern songs, like ‘The Gambler.’’ But the next time we went over there, he had one of the notebooks out and was singing from it.”
“That was like somebody handed us not just the record, but the graphic design, the cover art, and the narrative that a project like this needs,” Jutz adds. “The only unknown was that neither Peter nor I had worked with an 89-year-old singer before, so we didn’t know what the work load was going to be.”
Turns out it was easier than either producer could have imagined: Wiseman completed all of his vocals for the 12-song album in just six hours, a task that’s nearly unheard of in the contemporary country world. Says Cooper, “I wouldn’t have asked a 30-year-old singer to do that!”
Recording the music came just as easy. Wiseman wanted some of the best pickers Nashville had to offer, including guitarist Jimmy Capps, leader of the Grand Ole Opry house band, bluegrass phenom Sierra Hull, bassist Mark Fain, multi-instrumentalist Justin Moses, harmonica player Jelly Roll Johnson, hammered dulcimer player Alisa Jones Wall, and Jutz, who played guitar.
“We didn’t want to make a bluegrass record because these songs are pre-bluegrass,” Jutz explains. “We wanted to play and record these songs in the way that somebody might have played them in 1932.” There are no electric instruments, no drums, and no reverb. It’s folk music at its purest.
Though Wiseman’s famously pure tenor is weathered now, he’s still got a strong command over it, wrenching each drop of feeling out of the lyrics. When he sings “I Heard My Mother Call My Name in Prayer” and honors his grandmother with his version of her favorite song, “Will There Be Any Stars in My Crown,” it’s hard not to choke up at the emotion in his voice, and it’s impossible not to grin as he cuts loose on the playful “Ol’ Rattler,” about an ostensibly blind dog who miraculously regains his sight every evening around suppertime.
Songs from My Mother’s Hand doesn’t hit shelves for another month, but Mac’s never been too good at staying still. These days, he’s busier than ever. He’s recorded an album with Merle Haggard that will hopefully see the light of day before too long, he’s been in talks with Bear Family Records about releasing a third box set of his music, and he’s got a slew of notebook songs (“like 100”) that he still wants to record “for the younger people who aren’t familiar with them.”
Over his decades in music, Wiseman has watched country music unfold. The night Hank Williams made his Opry debut in 1949, Wiseman was there, as a member of Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys. He still pays attention to new music – he admits he “[doesn’t] particularly enjoy” a lot of what he hears, but listens to keep abreast of what’s going on. He’s had hit songs in multiple countries, sung material by everyone from The Carter Family to Fleetwood Mac, and influenced countless country and bluegrass artists.
But with everything he’s accomplished, Wiseman remains modest when discussing his achievements: “When all of this is over, I’d like the short epitaph ‘he did the best he could,’” he says. “I didn’t do it all, by any means, but I’ve done the best I could with what I had.”
He’s had a lot, and it all started with a mother who took the time to write down the music she thought her boy might like. “These notebooks are the beginning of my life,” he says, matter-of-factly. By recording Songs from My Mother’s Hand, he’s shared not just an essential piece of himself, but a priceless American music artifact with the world.
Fleck-Washburn Album Due in October; Kenny Rogers’ HoF Exhibit Opens; Ruthie Foster Releases New Video
- Here are Kacey Musgraves and Katy Perry singing “Keep It to Yourself” in a clip cut from their CMT Crossroads special.
- Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn will release a banjoriffic self-titled album on Rounder Records October 7. Listen to one of the songs, “Railroad,” here.
- If you love yourself, you’ll stream Paul Thorn’s fab new album, Too Blessed to Be Stressed.
- Then you’ll stream Ben Glover’s Atlantic.
- Trisha Yearwood’s next album will include Matraca Berg’s “Your Husband’s Cheating on Us.” Yearwood’s done a fine job with Berg songs in the past, so I’m looking forward to hearing this.
- GuitarWorld.com premiered “She Makes It Easy Now” from Jesse Winchester’s final album, A Reasonable Amount of Trouble. Jerry Douglas guests on the song.
- Kenny Rogers’ Hall of Fame exhibit opens today. Tomorrow afternoon you’ll be able to live stream an interview with Rogers on the CMHOF website. He’s a truly delightful interviewee, so you’ll definitely be entertained.
- If you’ve got five million bucks, Rogers’ Atlanta home could be yours. It has a swim-up bar and a “Roman spa.” Curse tablets not included.
- Robert Earl Keen doesn’t want you to text and drive.
- Saving Country Music put together a list of 10 Badass Alan Jackson Moments.
- Chicago bluegrass band Henhouse Prowlers covered P-Square’s decidedly non-bluegrass single “Chop My Money” at a show in Nigeria earlier this summer.
- Darin and Brooke Aldridge are offering a sneak peek at their next album, due out in 2015.
- CMT Edge premiered Whiskey Shivers’ “Pray for Me.”
- Ruthie Foster released a video for “It Might Not be Right.” Foster also spoke with CMT Edge’s Jewly Hight about her new album.
- Philadelphia police officers have reached out to Luke Bryan’s camp in hopes that the singer will dedicate a song during tonight’s show at Lincoln Financial Field to the memory of Officer Seth Stellfox, who died in an off-duty motorcycle accident on Monday. Bryan was one of Stellfox’s favorite singers.
Los Angeles-based Americana band Rose’s Pawn Shop releases their third album, Gravity Well, on September 9. A couple weeks before that record drops, they’ll kick off an extensive tour that includes stops at Riot Fest Chicago and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. For today’s Friday Five, we asked the guys in the band to share their favorite albums to take on the road. Then, because we’re greedy, we asked them for a song from Gravity Well.
Gillian Welch – Time (The Revelator)
This album changed my life and how I wrote music. After all these years I still love to listen to it top to bottom. There’s nothing for me that quite captures the feeling of our night drives to the next city like this album’s 14 minute, 40 second last track “I Dream a Highway.” Such a longing, beautiful, melancholy tune to listen to as you’re rolling across the country through the night. – Paul Givant (lead vocals, acoustic guitar, banjo)
Rheostatics — Whale Music
A band at their peak of creativity and risk taking comes through on this record from 1994. The variety of songs are as different of a collection as any album should be , certainly defies the pigeonholing albums are forced to be nowadays. Its emotional, zany, somber, folky and very Canadian. – John Kraus (banjo, electric guitar, vocals)
Tin Hat Trio – The Rodeo Eroded
Driving on I-40 through Oklahoma and Arkansas. This album sounds like what it looks like to drive that part of the country. – Tim Weed (fiddle, vocals)
Death Cab For Cutie – Transatlantisicm
Lately on tour I listen more to podcasts but I always make an exception while we are touring the Pacific Northwest. I would have to go with Death Cab For Cutie’s Transatlanticism….unless we are driving to Aspen….then the Dumb & Dumber soundtrack. – Christian Hogan (drums, mandolin)
Tom Waits – Rain Dogs
Our bass player Stephen is surfing in Mexico with no Internet this week, so I get two albums. Waits getting gruff and weird. No regard for genre. Country, blues, tango, jazz orchestra madness, back porch banjo, New Orleans funeral dirges, rockabilly, rock n’ roll, blender. Desperate characters. Broken hearts. One of Waits’ best and an album that I feel like I discover something new on with each listen. Especially a favorite when we’re driving through the Deep South. – Paul Givant
- The IBMA Award nominees were announced last night. The full list of nominations can be found here.
Hall of Fame inductees: The Seldom Scene (original lineup), Neil Rosenberg
Album of the Year: Junior Sisk & Joe Mullins – Hall of Fame Bluegrass; Del McCoury Band – Streets of Baltimore; Noam Pikelny – Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe; Blue Highway – The Game; Boxcars – It’s Just a Road
Entertainer of the Year: Balsam Range, Blue Highway, Dailey & Vincent, Gibson Brothers, Del McCoury Band
Instrumental Group of the Year: Balsam Range, Blue Highway, Boxcars, Del McCoury Band, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen
Vocal Group of the Year: Balsam Range, Blue Highway, Dailey & Vincent, Gibson Brothers, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver
Songwriter of the Year: Becky Buller, Mark “Brink” Brinkman, Jerry Salley, Tim Stafford, Donna Ulisse
Emerging Artist of the Year: Detour, Flatt Lonesome, Spinney Brothers, Town Mountain, Volume Five
Male Vocalist of the Year: Del McCoury, Buddy Melton, Tim O’Brien, Frank Solivan, Dan Tyminski
Female Vocalist of the Year: Dale Ann Bradley, Alison Krauss, Claire Lynch, Amanda Smith, Rhonda Vincent
Banjo Player of the Year: Jens Kruger, Mike Munford, Noam Pikelny, Sammy Shelor, Ron Stewart
Bass Player of the Year: Barry Bales, Mike Bub, Missy Raines, Mark Schatz, Darrin Vincent
Fiddle Player of the Year: Jason Carter, Michael Cleveland, Stuart Duncan, Bobby Hicks, Ron Stewart
Dobro Player of the Year: Jerry Douglas, Andy Hall, Rob Ickes, Randy Kohrs, Phil Leadbetter
Guitar Player of the Year: Tony Rice, James Alan Shelton, Kenny Smith, Tim Stafford, Bryan Sutton
Mandolin Player of the Year: Sam Bush, Sierra Hull, Frank Solivan, Adam Steffey, Chris Thile
- Esquire is streaming Otis Gibbs’ fine new album, Souvenirs of a Misspent Youth.
- Wade Bowen will release a self-titled album on October 28. (via press release)
- I’m not sure what’s more surprising: that actor Michael Cera (Arrested Development) released an album out of nowhere, or that it includes a Blaze Foley cover.
- There’s some Nora Jane Struthers music available for download on NoiseTrade. You should probably get it.
- Check out the audio book version of Tom T. Hall’s The Storyteller’s Nashville. It’s read by Peter Cooper and features original music composed and performed by Thomm Jutz.
- North Mississippi Alllstars covered “My Hometown” for Dead Man’s Town, the upcoming Americana salute to Springsteen’s Born in the USA.
- Grammy.com premiered Lee Brice’s “Drinking Class.”
- Lindi Ortega, Robert Ellis, and Ryan Bingham are among the acts who’ll play the inaugural Southern Fork Americana Festival in Auckland, New Zealand this October. They’ll be joined by local acts like Bernie Griffen and Marlon Williams.
- Owensboro, Ky. has been added to the Americana Music Triangle.
- Lucinda Williams on her forthcoming double album, Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone (out September 30): “I felt like I was really on a roll when we started working on the album…I usually have enough songs to fill an album, and maybe a couple more, but when I started writing for this, the inspiration just kept coming, and the people I was working with kept telling me the songs were worth keeping. It’s not like I was reinventing the wheel — there are only so many things you can write about, love, sex, death, redemption, and they’re all here—but I felt like I was really in a groove here.”
- Here’s Ray Benson’s new video for “It Ain’t You,” featuring Willie Nelson.
- Jewly Hight wrote a nice piece on Kenny Rogers for The Nashville Scene, while The Tennessean shot a video of Rogers talking about his new Hall of Fame exhibit, which officially opens tomorrow. (warning: autoplay)
- Ronnie Reno is helping the Renfro Valley Barn Dance celebrate its 75th anniversary: the September 13 episode of Reno’s Old-Time Music Show (which airs on RFD-TV)will be devoted entirely to the Barn Dance and its rich musical history.
- Dom Flemons to The Nashville Scene: “Folk music has really been in the subconscious of a lot of people for a lot of years — now it’s so old that it’s new again…Even then I think people have new perspectives on things that have been the standard of folk music for years. It’s been interesting to be a performer out here in the world … seeing all these different performers doing the industry in a different sort of way. That’s why in ‘Grotto Beat’ I say I’m going backward up the mountain. I’m going backward up the mountain because going up the front way hasn’t worked out, so I’ve got to figure out a different way to do it.”
NYT Premieres Ruthie Foster, Dr. John Albums; Lydia Loveless Guests on World Cafe; Dierks Bentley Adds Tour Dates
Country Universe is counting down the final entries of their 100 Greatest Men in Country Music list five at a time.
Tickets for Alan Jackson’s Artist-in-Residence shows (one on October 8, the other on October 22) at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum go on sale September 8. Presale tickets for museum members and Alan Jackson fan club members will go on sale September 5.
Lydia Loveless was on World Café. Listen here.
Our favorite and most-expensive weekly holiday, New Music Tuesday, might become New Music Friday worldwide if the record industry decides to adopt a standard global album release day.
Todd Snider and Gary Clark Jr. have been added to this year’s Farm Aid lineup.
The New York Times is streaming new albums by Dr. John and Ruthie Foster.
This year’s IBMA Awards nominees will be announced this afternoon at 5:45 Eastern. You can watch the event – hosted by Sam Bush and Jim Lauderdale – on Music City Roots‘ website.
Stream Cory Branan’s new record, The No-Hit Wonder, on The Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy music blog.
Willie Nelson wants to make a Ray Price tribute record. He’s also been tossing around the idea of recording with Kacey Musgraves as well as Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson. I am in favor of all of this.
Duane Allen was inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame. His fellow Oak Ridge Boys were proclaimed “honorary Texans.” (via press release)
Galleywinter’s Brad Beheler wrote an editorial on the bro-country/”Girl in a Country Song” hubbub.
The Brothers Osborne will release a self-titled EP on September 9. Their full-length debut is expected early next year.
Dierks Bentley will embark on the second leg of his Riser tour in October.
Music executive and producer Henry Stone passed away at the age of 93. He produced recordings by Ray Charles and James Brown (and he co-owned disco fixture TK Records).
Does songwriting get easier the longer you do it? Not according to Richard Thompson, who told CMT Edge that writing is “as hard as ever. If it was easy, maybe I wouldn’t trust the process.”
Here’s the track listing for Kenny Chesney’s The Big Revival.
Garth Brooks added a couple more Atlanta shows.
Ryan Adams released a video for “Gimme Something Good.”
For the last few years, you would have needed a scorecard to keep track of who was in The Duhks at any given time. It never affected the quality of the Ameri-bluegrass/Celtic/folk-cana band’s music; its four albums were pretty consistently excellent. However, Fast Paced World, The Duhks’ last album, was released back in 2008; since then, members have come and gone and occasionally come back. The group’s public appearances have been limited to some festival shows, and it seemed like its recording days were over. Fortunately, there were finally enough Duhks in a row that they could go back to the studio and knock out a new album.
Leonard Podolak has been the one constant in all of the iterations of The Duhks, and his distinctive banjo playing is as much of a signature sound for the band as the returning Jessee Havey’s soulful lead vocals. Together, the two are joined by new Duhks fiddler Rosie Newton, drummer/percussionist Kevin Garcia, and guitarist/bouzouki player Colin Savoie-Levac, as well as “non-touring founding members” Tania Elizabeth and Jordan McConnell and other guests.
Beyond the Blue is more expansive than anything the band has done before, and that’s an impressive feat. In the past, the band has been versatile enough to slip from a centuries-old Celtic or French Canadian song to a contemporary original, or even the odd Sting cover. This time around, the sound is a more electric, with lap steel, a full drum kit and even a horn section scattered throughout the album. “Banjo Roustabout” is an electrified blues-rocker — something right up Havey’s alley — and is probably the loudest the band has ever been.
On the rare occasion, the experimentation takes away from what made The Duhks stand out in the first place. The horn-driven “These Dreams” is a fine song, but aside from Podolak’s banjo fluttering in and out of the mix, there’s really nothing to distinguish it as a Duhks song. Elsewhere though, Beyond the Blue has plenty of what fans have come to expect: a couple fun instrumentals, a Cajun dance tune (“Lazy John”), and some gorgeous vocals from Havey, particularly on “Black Mountain Lullaby.”
It’s difficult to criticize a band for being too experimental when the quality of the songs are as strong as they are on this album. Even personnel changes, label changes and extended downtime have not dampened The Duhks’ creativity, and Beyond the Blue is a welcome return.
- Check out a teaser for The Southern Gospel Revival, featuring Courtney Patton, Drew Kennedy, Jamie Lin Wilson, and Ben Hester.
- John Marks of SiriusXM, who helped break Florida Georgia Line, is hoping to do the same thing for women country singers by introducing “Fresh Female Voices” programming on The Highway channel.
- Taylor Swift is hosting a mysterious “worldwide live stream” event on August 18 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern. She’ll probably announce some new music. Or commit a ritual sacrifice to appease Cthulhu.
- The Wall Street Journal published an article on Europe’s country music scenes and homegrown acts like The Common Linnets and The Shires.
- Billy Joe Shaver and The SteelDrivers are among the acts scheduled to play Outlaw Fest in Bowling Green, Ky. this October.
- Watch Valerie June play “Workin’ Woman Blues” for CMT Edge.
- “Eastbound and Down” and Dolly’s “Straight Talk” made The A.V. Club’s list of soundtrack songs that double as film synopses.
- Jason Isbell, John Hiatt, Jamey Johnson, Don Was, and Blackberry Smoke are just a few of the acts who will celebrate Lynyrd Skynyrd at a tribute concert in Atlanta on November 12.
- Eric Church released a video for “Cold One.”
- There’s a Ben Glover sampler available for download on NoiseTrade.
- Tom Douglas, who co-wrote “The House That Built Me” with Allen Shamblin, talks about the story behind the song in this interview posted on the Tennessean site.
- Joss Whedon, the guy behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a bunch of things not as great as Buffy but still pretty good, is collaborating with singer-songwriter Shawnee Kilgore on a folk EP.
- Brittney McKenna of American Songwriter wrote a feature on rising star Adia Victoria.
- Stream Benjamin Booker’s self-titled album.
- David Bellamy to Chuck Dauphin: “I don’t know if we actually were the beginning of country rap, but I do think we were ‘Bro Country’ before it was cool.”
- Lera Lynn is the American Songwriter Writer of the Week.
- Brazilian kazillionaire Zero Freitas wants all the vinyl. He’s already got a collection of several million records, and he hopes to share it with the public by setting up a listening library that he’s calling “Emporium Musical.” Over the weekend, The New York Times published a piece on Freitas’ quest.
- Brandi Carlile’s Pin Drop Tour – inspired by a show in which her band’s PA system cut out — begins October 1 in New Hampshire. Carlile recently finished recording a new album, so concertgoers can expect to hear some new material at her fall shows.
- Brad Paisley on the “Accidental Racist” controversy: What I learned is that there are certain subjects that are almost next to impossible to sing about, to do songs about, but that was the point of the last album was to tackle those things that seem like they would be impossible to do and see if they are possible. Intention is everything and our intention was to try to raise awareness for points of view… I’m proud that we stood up and did this. I wish we’d gotten out in front of the people who took it the wrong way and framed it a little bit better that way and framed the debate ourselves, but it’s too late for that, but I also don’t know if I’d change much about it because in the same way that training for a fight as a fighter, you have to take punches to train for a fight. You can’t just stand there and throw punches, you have to take them and I took them. And in that sense, I’m ready to do better things and greater things because of the punches I took.
- This week’s album releases:
Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen – Cold Spell
Ethan Johns – The Reckoning
Curtis McMurtry – Respectable Enemy
Randy Travis – Influence, Vol. 2: The Man I Am
Brian Setzer – Rockabilly Riot!
Quiet Life – Housebroken Man
Lucero – Live from Atlanta
Mike Zito & The Wheel – Songs from the Road
Louvin Brothers – Complete Recorded Works 1952-1962
Eddy Arnold – Complete US Chart Singles 1945-1962
- Lori McKenna will release a ten-song album called Numbered Doors on September 23.
- Cindy Watts reported in The Tennessean that Johnny Cash’s boyhood home is fully renovated and ready for its grand opening on August 16 in Dyess, Arkansas.
- Ticketmaster broke when tickets for Garth Brooks’ Atlanta concerts went on sale.
- We’d like to send some well wishes to Jessie Scott, the head-of-everything at Music Fog, who is recovering from a hip replacement surgery earlier this year.
- The summer of bad behavior at country concerts continues: a man was arrested after stabbing three people at a campground near the WE Fest in Minnesota.
- Esquire premiered Marty Stuart’s new song, “Jailhouse.”
- Longtime Grand Ole Opry fiddle player Earl White passed away last week at the age of 78.
- Kris Kristofferson will perform at the Ryman on September 13; all proceeds are going to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Tickets go on sale Friday morning. (via press release)
- Check out Taylor Swift in this clip from the upcoming film adaptation of The Giver.
- Ray Stevens is playing it serious on a new gospel collection that comes out on August 19.
- Joe Freeman wrote a piece for Country Weekly about Kelsey Weldon and her excellent new album, The Gold Mine.
- The consistent C.M. Wilcox posted a new Quotable Country.
- Vince Gill is Number 19 on CMT’s All-Time Top 40: Artists’ Choice.
- Trisha Yearwood is on the cover of the September issue of Woman’s Day.
- Lamon Records signed Texan Cody Joe Hodges.
- Rosanne Cash is set to receive the Performing Arts Award from Smithsonian Magazine in October.
- Rolling Stone Country posted some audio of Will Hoge recording “Middle of America” in Studio A.
- Rolling Stone Country also identified “The 26 Albums of 2014 You Probably Didn’t But Really Should Hear.”
- Welcome back, Billy Gilman.
- Kacey Musgraves has announced a ten-day fall tour that will begin September 25 in Tulsa. In other Musgraves news, she and pop star Katy Perry have written a song together that’s loosely based on The Wizard of Oz.
- Laurie Lewis and Kathy Kallick have teamed up to celebrate their heroes Vern Williams and Ray Park on a new album.
- On September 23, Saguaro Road Records will release a set of 40-year-old, previously unreleased recordings that Jerry Lee Lewis made for Knox Phillips in the 1970s.
- Our friend Rita Ballou posted a new Stoney LaRue song called “Golden Shackles.”
- Kix Brooks shot some mildly amusing new commercials for Zaxby’s restaurants.
- New music videos from the past week or so:
Don Williams – “Sing Me Back Home”
Israel Nash – “Who in Time”
Ben Miller Band – “The Outsider” (for CMT Edge Live)
Del Barber – “Right Side of the Wrong” (Live at WAMU’s Bluegrass Country)
Amber Lawrence – “Superhero”
Ray Benson – “I Ain’t Lookin’ for No Trouble” (Live on The Texas Music Scene)
Pieta Brown – “Before Gas and TV”
Neal Morse – “Heaven Smiled”
Stephanie Lynn – “Two Ships”
RaeLynn – “God Made Girls”
- luckyoldsun: Leann- I've biked a lot of laps around Central Park over the years. If I thought it would get me to …
- Leeann: No offense to Chely Wright, but while I expect that she will make a good album, asking for $175,000 seems …
- Juli Thanki: Ha! The best way to celebrate Connie Smith Day is by marrying a younger man. Mullet optional.
- nm: But was it Connie Smith Day all day long and then from dusk to dawn?
- Deremy Jylan: I heard that Jim Lauderdale documentary is some super-duper great movie stuff. Makes Scorsese's THE LAST WALTZ look like Wiseau's …
- Barry Mazor: I'll have to see if Dr. Green's ever read 3 Lives; it's a good book.
- Juli Thanki: Rose is a rose is a rose is a yellow rose of Texas. I smell a terrible concept album!
- Barry Mazor: Pigeons on the grass, alas.. Come-a kai-yai yippy, yippy ay.
- Ken Morton, Jr.: Barry, thanks for the great sentimental look at Winchester. I will admit that he is an artist that was largely …
- Arlene: Thanks for this article, Barry. It's not often that an artist brings another performer to tears during a guitar pull. …