Vince Gill to Receive BMI Icon Award; HoF to Salute Billy Edd Wheeler; Drive-By Truckers Concert Film Due in November
- Kenny Rogers and Little Big Town are two of the acts who’ll appear on Star-Spangled Spectacular: Bicentennial of our National Anthem this Saturday. The PBS program will be broadcast live from Baltimore.
- The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum will salute Billy Edd Wheeler as part of its “Poets & Prophets” series on October 18. The 90-minute interview and performance will be streamed live on the HoF website. (via press release)
- On November 4, Vince Gill will receive the BMI Icon Award.
- Loretta Lynn on her career longevity: “I think there were girl singers out there that could out-sing me…but they didn’t want to work for it. I’m glad that I had to work for it, and I did work hard. If it would’ve come easy, I wouldn’t have been as happy. I’m glad that I went for years without a band. I’m glad that I had to ride in the back of a car from one place to the other. If I had to sleep, I slept sitting up. I’m glad I had to work hard to do it. Them that runs out and gets a bus after one record, they’ll never stay. It’ll be one or two songs and that’ll be over, and I’m glad it ain’t me…Now I can do what I want to do.”
- That article reveals that Lynn – who signed a five-album deal with Sony Legacy – has been busy recording music and writing songs with Shawn Camp.
- Sturgill Simpson performed “Living the Dream” on Conan last night. (warning: autoplay)
- There’s a Q&A with Parker Millsap posted on NPR’s music blog.
- This is neat, and new to me: the archives of Folk Music Worldwide, a radio program that aired in New York City from 1963-64, are available online. You can listen to shows featuring music and interviews with Pete Seeger, The Dillards, and more.
- Listen to a new Neil Young song called “Who’s Gonna Stand Up.”
- Out November 4: All of My Memories: The John Denver Collection. The five-disc set includes material from 31 albums as well as six tracks that have never been released before.
- Check out the title track of Kenny Chesney’s The Big Revival.
- On November 18, ATO Records will release Black Ice Verite, a Drive-By Truckers concert film shot in Athens, Georgia, where the Southern rockers played their newest album, English Oceans, in full.
- David Inman of American Songwriter takes a look at “The Business Behind Jamgrass Touring” and how bands like The Infamous Stringdusters and Greensky Bluegrass have cultivated audiences and found success through some different methods, like putting your album in 12-packs of Oskar Blues brews.
- Download Julian Lange and Chris Eldridge’s 2013 EP, Close to Picture, before the October 7 release of their full-length album, Avalon.
- Jewly Hight interviewed Justin Townes Earle for CMT Edge.
- Merle Haggard (the coolest rec league softball player ever) on contemporary country: “There seems to be love songs written about mechanical items…I never thought about using a tractor as some way of getting laid.”
- Here’s Shovels & Rope playing the Opry:
Stream Dead Man’s Town; Blues HoF on Schedule for May 2015 Opening; Lee Ann Womack Releases New Video
- The ACM Honors Ceremony was held at the Ryman last night. Toby Keith and Ronnie Milsap received Career Achievement Awards, Carrie Underwood took home the Gene Weed Special Achievement Award, Steve Buchanan and Rascal Flatts got the Jim Reeves International Award, and Jack Clement, Dean Dillon, Buck Owens, and Kris Kristofferson were honored with the Poet’s Award.
- Stream Dead Man’s Town, the Americana salute to Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. The highlights of the album are Holly Williams’ take on “No Surrender” and Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires’ version of “Born in the U.S.A.”
- Alison Fensterstock of NOLA.com takes a look at ten upcoming music books that will be worth your time, including texts about Jerry Lee Lewis, “Ode to Billie Joe,” and more.
- Crystal Gayle discusses her Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum exhibit with Chuck Dauphin.
- The Blues Hall of Fame, currently under construction in Memphis, is on schedule to open in May 2015.
- If, like me, you need 160 GB of music on your person at all times (it makes public transportation tolerable), the news about Apple killing the iPod classic bums you out a little.
- Ray Scott will release an eponymous album on October 7; it’ll include co-writes with Mark Stephen Jones and Brandy Clark.
- Check out Ronnie Fauss’ version of “Song for Zula.”
- Kacey Musgraves’ “Follow Your Arrow” has gone gold.
- Watch Dave and Phil Alvin perform a couple songs from their Big Bill Broonzy tribute album.
- There’s a really well done cover story on Taylor Swift in Rolling Stone. An excerpt:
Swift’s last album, 2012’s Red, straddled the line between country and pop. “But at a certain point,” she says, “if you chase two rabbits, you lose them both.” So this time, she set out to do full-on “blatant pop music.” A casual fan won’t notice much difference, but to Swift and her brand, it’s a big step. She says she won’t be going to country-awards shows or promoting the album on country radio. When she first turned in the record, she says the head of her label, Scott Borchetta, told her, “This is extraordinary – it’s the best album you’ve ever done. Can you just give me three country songs?”
“Love you, mean it,” is how Swift characterizes her response. “But this is how it’s going to be.”
- Out September 30: a 10th anniversary deluxe edition of Ray Charles’ Genius Loves Company, which includes collaborations with Willie Nelson, Bonnie Raitt, and more. A behind the scenes documentary will be included in the package as well. (via press release)
- A documentary called Country Roads: The Heartbeat of Americana was released this week. It features Caitlin Rose, Justin Townes Earle, and more.
- Here’s Lee Ann Womack’s new video. Watch it if you dig good country music, pass it by if you’re scared of snakes:
- Glen Campbell’s final recording, a song called “I’m Not Gonna Miss You,” will be released on September 30 as part of a five-song EP from the soundtrack of the documentary I’ll Be Me. The EP will also include a couple live songs recorded at the Ryman during Campbell’s farewell tour, daughter Ashley Campbell singing “Home Again,” and The Band Perry’s version of “Gentle on My Mind.” Big Machine will release the film’s full soundtrack later this year.
- Eddie Adcock has been awarded the 2014 Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass Music. You may remember Adcock from The Country Gentlemen or that time he played the banjo whilst undergoing brain surgery.
- Willie Nelson (“Yesterday), Wanda Jackson (“Run Devil Run”), Booker T. Jones (“Can’t Buy Me Love”), and Allen Toussaint (“Lady Madonna”) are just a few of the 40+ artists appearing on super-sized tribute album The Art of McCartney, which is due out on November 18.
- C.M. Wilcox compiled a new edition of Quotable Country that includes quotes from Mac McAnally, Billy Joe Shaver, and more.
- The Mastersons’ new video for “Closer to You” makes me wish I had a scooter and sidecar.
- Lee Ann Womack’s “The Way I’m Livin’” will premiere across CMT’s various platforms tomorrow. (via press release)
- Justin Townes Earle played a Tiny Desk Concert at NPR HQ. NoiseTrade also has Earle’s Eastside Manor Sessions available for download.
- Marty Stuart’s “Observations of a Crow” is the newest American Songwriter Lyric of the Week.
- Dom Flemons talked about his new record and played a few songs for Folk Alley.
- Cybergrass (which turns 22 today) reports that the 2015 Outer Banks Bluegrass Island Festival will include a Cherryholmes reunion.
- Blue Ridge Outdoors’ September Trail Mix includes recordings by Fayssoux, Cahalen Morrison & Country Hammer, Jesse Winchester, and more. Go get it.
- This week’s album releases:
Lera Lynn – The Avenues
Drew Kennedy – Sad Songs Happily Played
Fayssoux – I Can’t Wait
Lee Brice – I Don’t Dance
Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams
Mark Erelli – Milltowns
Chris Thile & Edgar Meyer – Bass & Mandolin
Brothers Osborne – Brothers Osborne
Justin Townes Earle – Single Mothers
Rose’s Pawn Shop – Gravity Well
Max Garcia Conover – Ellery
David Mayfield – Strangers
Terri Clark – Some Songs
Greensky Bluegrass – If Sorrows Swim
Canadian alt-country trio Elliott BROOD is currently getting ready for the release of their forthcoming album, Work and Love, on October 21. A couple weeks before that record comes out, they’ll be in the States, playing shows in New York and DC as well as performing at the Bristol Rhythm and Roots Reunion in late September. Today we’re pleased to premiere a video for one of the songs from Work and Love, “Jigsaw Heart.”
- USA Today premiered Easton Corbin’s new single, “Baby, Be My Love Song.”
- Jerrod Niemann on his most recent album: “High Noon was just a statement saying, ‘OK, here’s that next step in facing the adversary, which is … also the run-of-the-mill state of mind in which we’re supposed to exist in this where there’s parameters of what music is.”
- Gord Bamford, Lindi Ortega, Small Town Pistols, and Dean Brody were among the winners of this year’s CCMA Awards.
- Station Inn staple Ann Soyars is battling cancer. In his new column, Peter Cooper said exactly what those of us who’ve had the genuine privilege of meeting her are feeling.
- Actor Tom Hiddleston is playing Hank Williams in a new biopic. At the Wheatland Music Festival over the weekend, he tried his hand at “Move It on Over.”
- The Beatles were voted Number 14 on CMT’s All-Time Top 40: Artists’ Choice.
- Stream Steelism’s 615 to FAME.
- Robert Earl Keen tells Edd Hurt of The Nashville Scene about his new bluegrass record, which will be released on Dualtone in February.
- CMT’ Edge’s Craig Shelburne checked out The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s new Alan Jackson exhibit.
- Corby Davidson, co-host of sports radio station KTCK-AM 1310’s program “The Hardline,” skewers bro-country in his “Fun with Country Music” segments.
- Lee Roy Parnell is this month’s featured artist over at My Kind of Country. They’ll be reviewing his whole discography and posting lots of live videos throughout September.
- Chuck Dauphin interviewed The Roys about their new album, The View.
- Miranda Lambert opened a new bed and breakfast called The Ladysmith in her hometown of Tishomingo, Oklahoma.
- New music videos and live performances from the last week or two:
Patty Griffin – “Truth #2” (Live on Mountain Stage)
The Bankesters – “Cups (When I’m Gone)” (Live on WAMU’s Bluegrass Country)
Kristian Bush – “Trailer Hitch” (Live at the Grand Ole Opry)
Chris Lane – “Broken Windshield View”
Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis – “Motor City Man” (Live on The Texas Music Scene)
Ray Johnston Band – “More Crown Than Coke”
John Hiatt – “Terms of My Surrender” (Live for CMT Edge)
Matt Cornell – “Outta This Town”
Crystal Shawanda – “The Whole World’s Got the Blues”
The New Basement Tapes – “Married to My Hack”
Claire Lynch – “Dear Sister”
Bryan Sutton – “That’s Where I Belong”
Donna Ulisse – “Showin’ My Roots”
Dom Flemons – “But They Got It Fixed Right On”
Garth Launches GhostTunes; “Two Black Cadillacs” to Become Miniseries; Bryan Sutton Releases New Video
- Garth Brooks has launched GhostTunes, a streaming and download service that’s an alternative to iTunes and other digital music services. From The L.A. Times: “Brooks’ beef with iTunes is that it is grounded in selling singles, while Brooks says he wants his music sold as complete albums to protect the songwriters and music publishers who depend on income from tracks included on those recordings.” For a limited time, Brooks is offering “The Bundle” – a collection of his eight studio albums, two more that he plans to release late this year and sometime next year, and a 25th anniversary edition of Double Live – for $29.99 on GhostTunes.
- Brian Mansfield of USA Today reviewed Brooks’ first Chicago show. Cindy Watts also reviewed the concert for The Tennessean.
- To celebrate Ronnie Milsap’s induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Legacy Recordings will release the 21-disc box set The RCA Albums Collection. (via press release)
- Carrie Underwood’s “Two Black Cadillacs” is going to become a six-hour television series on Fox, spearheaded by producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Underwood has signed on as an executive producer.
- In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, on September 30, Jason Isbell’s releasing Southeastern on pink vinyl.
- Lee Brice visited the Relix offices to play the title track of his new album, I Don’t Dance.
- Rolling Stone published a “definitive profile” of Willie Nelson. It’s a long read that’s worth your time.
- But save a few minutes for Peter Cooper’s new column about Guy Clark’s wall of cassettes in his workshop.
- On September 16, Sid Griffin (The Coal Porters) will release The Trick is to Breathe, his first solo album in a decade. (via press release)
- Check out Bryan Sutton’s new video for “That’s Where I Belong.”
- Drive-By Trucker Patterson Hood wrote a piece on songwriting for the September/October issue of American Songwriter. An excerpt: “As much as our band gets written about for guitars or for our shows or even our work ethic, we have always considered ourselves to be a songwriter band first and foremost. Our priority has always been and still remains to write the best songs we can and play them in the way the song calls out to us to be played. I’m still in constant search for something new to write about or some new way to write about something: a new song and a better song, a new tale to tell and a better way of telling it, a new notion and the best way to articulate it.”
- Mac Wiseman’s going to be on the Opry September 26.
- Jake Owen to Rolling Stone: “I’ve made a good living and a good career out of doing songs like ‘Barefoot Blue Jean Night,’”…I take a lot of pride in being a pretty good singer, and songs like ‘Barefoot Blue Jean Night’ and ‘Beachin’,’ where I’m kind of just talking, don’t showcase that. For the first time in my career, I feel like it’s imperative for me to put out a song that offers some validity.”
- Is Irish radio killing Irish music?
- Speaking of radio, late last month, Ed Miller, who hosted two folk music shows on KUTX, was forced out after more than 40 years on the air when the radio station announced a series of programming changes.
- Brad Paisley’s Moonshine in the Trunk debuted atop Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart, selling 53,000 copies in its first week.
- Out November 4: Nell Robinson & The Rose of No Man’s Land, a project based on the history of her family: various relatives have fought in every American conflict since the Revolutionary War. Guests on the album (which was produced by Joe Henry) include Kris Kristofferson, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, and John Doe. A related PBS special will air in late fall. Here’s the trailer:
Hard Working Americans to Release Documentary; MLB Pitcher Jake Peavy Covers Townes Van Zandt; Stream New Edgar Meyer & Chris Thile Album
- Tom Riggs, founder of bluegrass label Pinecastle Records, passed away last Saturday. He was 78 years old.
- Watch Giants pitcher Jake Peavy and third base coach Tim Flannery (who has his own band, Tim Flannery & The Lunatic Fringe) cover Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho and Lefty” in the stairwell of a Ritz-Carlton.
- The A.V. Club is giving away 10 copies of the forthcoming Jerry Lee Lewis LP, The Knox Phillips Sessions: The Unreleased Recordings of Jerry Lee Lewis.
- Stream Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile’s lovely new instrumental album, Bass & Mandolin.
- Jim Beveglia of American Songwriter conducted an excellent interview of Marty Stuart. The best part is when Stuart reveals, “[Back] in the 90’s, I used to send Harlan Howard a crisp $100 bill every January 1 for everything I was going to steal. It was a running joke with us. I did that for years. He would call us younger guys juveniles and he’d say, ‘The juvenile era has an account with me.’”
- The lineup for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s Everly Brothers tribute is starting to come together. Rodney Crowell has already been named the event’s emcee, and other performers will include Emmylou Harris, Shelby Lynne, and Vince Gill. More artists will be announced leading up to the October 25 concert.
- Eric Church will launch “The Outsiders World Tour” on September 11 in Louisiana.
- Jewly Hight interviewed John Cowan for CMT Edge.
- Here’s an interview with Brian Pounds, whose new roots-pop EP, Strikes and Gutters, is worth a listen.
- Watch Benjamin Booker perform “Have You Seen My Son” for NPR’s “Field Recordings” series.
- Garth Brooks is holding a press conference in Chicago at 1 p.m. Maybe he’ll explain why his new single sounds so terribly loud and overproduced.
- Stoney LaRue’s next record, Aviator (produced by Frank Liddell and Michael McCarthy), will be released October 28. (via press release)
- Shovels & Rope (you might want to check out Paste’s new cover story on the duo) was on Conan last night. (warning: autoplay)
- Hunter Hayes, Eli Young Band, and David Nail are among the artists who’ll be included on the soundtrack for The Best of Me, a film based on a novel written by Nicholas Sparks, the same man who brought you The Notebook and That Book That Became the Movie Where Mandy Moore is Dying of Cancer. (via press release)
- Listen to The New Basement Tapes (Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens, Jim James, Taylor Goldsmith, and Marcus Mumford) put unrecorded Bob Dylan lyrics to music in this video for “Married to My Hack.”
- Doug Dicharry of The Ben Miller Band tells AmericanBluesScene.com all about the group’s “Ozark grunge” sound.
- If you’re near South Padre Island this weekend, you might want to check out the Island Folk Festival. The free two-day event will feature performances by Warren and Marshall Hood, Jason Weems, and more.
- On October 28, Hard Working Americans will release a live album and documentary called The First Waltz. Here’s the trailer.
- The 2014 CMA Award nominations were announced this morning.
Entertainer of the Year
Album of the Year
Crash My Party — Luke Bryan (Produced by Jeff Stevens)
Fuse — Keith Urban (Produced by Benny Blanco, Nathan Chapman, Ross Copperman, Zach Crowell, Mike Elizondo, Dann Huff, Jay Joyce, Stargate, Keith Urban, and Butch Walker)
Platinum — Miranda Lambert (Produced by Frank Liddell, Chuck Ainlay, and Glenn Worf)
Riser — Dierks Bentley (Produced by Ross Copperman, Jaren Johnston, and Arturo Buenahora, Jr.)
The Outsiders — Eric Church (Produced by Jay Joyce and Arturo Buenahora, Jr.)
Female Vocalist of the Year
Male Vocalist of the Year
Vocal Group of the Year
Eli Young Band
Little Big Town
The Band Perry
Zac Brown Band
Musician of the Year
Single of the Year
“Automatic” — Miranda Lambert (Produced by Frank Liddell, Chuck Ainlay, and Glenn Woft)
“Drunk on a Plane” — Dierks Bentley (Produced by Ross Copperman, Jaren Johnston, Arturo Buenahora, Jr.)
“Give Me Back My Hometown” — Eric Church (Produced by Jay Joyce and Arturo Buenahora, Jr.)
“Meanwhile, Back at Mama’s” — Tim McGraw featuring Faith Hill (Produced by Byron Gallimore and Tim McGraw)
“Mine Would Be You” — Blake Shelton (Produced by Scott Hendricks)
Song of the Year
“Automatic” — Miranda Lambert (Written by Nicolle Galyon, Natalie Hemby, and Miranda Lambert)
“Follow Your Arrow” — Kacey Musgraves (Written by Kacey Musgraves, Brandy Clark, and Shane McAnally)
“Give Me Back My Hometown” — Eric Church (Written by Eric Church and Luke Laird)
“I Don’t Dance” — Lee Brice (Written by Lee Brice, Rob Hatch, and Dallas Davidson)
“I Hold On” — Dierks Bentley (Written by Brett James and Dierks Bentley)
Musical Event of the Year
Bakersfield — Vince Gill & Paul Franklin (Mercury Nashville)
“Meanwhile, Back at Mama’s” — Tim McGraw featuring Faith Hill (Big Machine)
“You Can’t Make Old Friends” — Kenny Rogers with Dolly Parton (Warner Music Nashville)
“We Were Us” — Keith Urban featuring Miranda Lambert (Capitol Records Nashville)
“Somethin’ Bad” — Miranda Lambert with Carrie Underwood (RCA Nashville)
Vocal Duo of the Year
Dan + Shay
Florida Georgia Line
Love and Theft
The Swon Brothers
Music Video of the Year
“Automatic” — Miranda Lambert (Directed by Trey Fanjoy)
“Bartender” — Lady Antebellum (Directed by Shane Drake)
“Drunk on a Plane — Dierks Bentley (Directed by Wes Edwards)
“Follow Your Arrow” — Kacey Musgraves (Directed by Kacey Musgraves and Honey)
“Somethin’ Bad” — Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood (Directed by Trey Fanjoy)
New Artist of the Year
- Mac Wiseman guests on the newest episode of Otis Gibbs’ Thanks for Giving a Damn podcast. (warning: autoplay)
- Listen to Garth Brooks’ new single, “People Loving People.”
- Performers at this year’s IBMA Awards will include The Gibson Brothers, The Del McCoury Band, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, Della Mae, Lee Ann Womack, and Jerry Douglas. Members of the original Seldom Scene – John Starling, Ben Eldridge, and Tom Gray – will take part in a Seldom Scene performance celebrating the original lineup’s induction into the Hall of Fame. (via press release)
- Trampled By Turtles played a Tiny Desk Concert; watch here.
- Download The Dirty Guv’nahs’ most recent album, Hearts on Fire, on NoiseTrade.
- American Songwriter chose Ben Glover to be their new Writer of the Week.
- John Hiatt played the title track of his last album, The Terms of My Surrender, for CMT Edge.
- Rolling Stone Country premiered Jesse Winchester’s “Every Day I Get the Blues.”
- Mac McAnally, who produced Winchester’s final album, discusses the experience with Mike Ragogna of The Huffington Post.
- Keith Urban appears on “Good Times,” a song on Jimmy Barnes’ (Cold Chisel) new album, 30:30 Hindsight.
- USA Today premiered Maggie Chapman’s “Sweatshirt.”
- More than 30 years ago, Chubby Checker recorded a song for use in a commercial for the Atari game Dig Dug. His recording was never used in the commercial, but the song just found its way to Soundcloud and I can’t stop listening.
- Wilco will celebrate their 20th anniversary with a fall tour as well as the release of a “Best Of” collection and a “Rarities” box set.
- The Josh Abbott Band will make their major label debut on September 23 when they release their new EP, Tuesday Night, on Atlantic Records. (via press release)
- Logan Brill and Rob Baird are touring together next month.
- Album streams:
Lera Lynn – The Avenues
Mark Erelli – Milltowns
Judah & The Lion – Kids These Days
Hiss Golden Messenger – Lateness of Dancers
Our daily news roundups frequently feature links to Eric Banister’s work at Music Tomes, an essential site for voracious, music-loving readers. Today we’re pleased to post an exclusive excerpt from his new book, Johnny Cash FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the Man in Black. If you dig it, visit Banister’s website to get a free bonus chapter from the book.
Ragged Old Flag (1974)
In the mid-’70s, Cash stood at a cultural precipice. Except for a few sporadic appearances on shows like The Tonight Show and comedian Flip Wilson’s variety show Flip, he had pulled back a little from the televised public eye, and had left longtime fans wondering about his direction as he continued to pull in young songwriters and give their revolutionary songs a platform. But the generation that had embraced him prior to his smash prison albums—and whom he had once championed—remained skeptical of Cash because of his public support of President Nixon, the object of much of their venom.
Maybe he wasn’t so much standing on a precipice as straddling the one representing the growing generation gap, looking down from there to everyone else. He was the wild-eyed Memphis guy who shook up the country charts with his sparse arrangements and songs that didn’t chirp along with illusions of perfect love. He was the man who stood alongside presidents with no fear to tell them what he thought should be happening in our prisons—even our country.
Here, on the cover of his new album, he stood before all of the people—young and old, country music fans and rock ’n’ roll fans—pointing at a ripped and torn American flag. No words were required; the look on his face said it all: “I don’t give a damn who you are or where you come from—by God, we’re all Americans.”
The title track, and the albums only single, was not presented in the spirit of Haggard’s “Fightin’ Side,” with its directive to “love it or leave it.” “I wrote ‘Ragged Old Flag’ to remind myself of how many and how often this country’s been involved in wars,” Cash said in 1987. “It seems to me like the politicians and the military just can’t wait for another one. And that really bothers me.”
The recitation was recorded live at a Columbia luncheon; after it received the ovation that remains on the record, Cash took it into the studio, where the orchestration and Earl Scruggs’ banjo were added. The message was clear: the flag, the concept of being an American at that time, was in all of us. But this wasn’t a song you’d put on again and again and listening to over and over, and that was reflected on the charts, where it reached only #31 Country.
The flip side of the single didn’t even chart (as many of Cash’s previous B-sides had). If some listeners—especially those in younger age groups—might have found “Ragged Old Flag” jingoistic, “Don’t Go Near the Water” takes to task those in the older group who don’t believe the concerns being raised by environmental movements. “See the fish all dead upon the shore?” Cash asks, before lamenting that he won’t even be able to enjoy taking his young son fishing the way he used to, because they wouldn’t be able to eat their catch for fear of what toxins the fish might contain.
In the liner notes, Cash writes, “I got so excited writing the songs in this album that you’d think I just started in the music business. It’s something I always wanted to do, write an album of all my own songs and for some reason, I just never got around to it. One reason, I suppose, is that I have so many friends that are good songwriters and their songs just kept coming along.”
Cash also co-produced the album, alongside engineer Charlie Bragg, and as on Man in Black he takes the sound back to the bare essentials, with the Tennessee Three, Carl Perkins and session ace Ray Edington adding some guitar, a little piano supplied by Larry McCoy, and the occasional vocal support of the Oak Ridge Boys, brought in to fill the void left by the departure of the Statler Brothers, whose own careers had started to explode.
Dave Dudley and Red Sovine had made huge career gains in the early ’70s with truck-driving songs, and a little more than a year after Ragged Old Flag, “Convoy” and the CB radio craze would sweep the nation, catching even Kris Kristofferson, who starred in the movie adaptation of the song in 1978. With “All I Do Is Drive,” Cash plants his tongue in his cheek to sing about those songs glamorizing the trucker’s life, to which the truck solemnly replies, “All I do is drive.”
That wry humor carries over into “Southern Comfort,” the story of a man who is trying to survive life in Nashville, but with little to look forward to save for his job making snuff at a tobacco plant. He finally meets a woman, but she soon tires of “tobacco, at least the regular kind,” and leaves him to “grow her own” in Sumner County.
“King of the Hill” takes Cash back to his cotton-picking and coal-mining songs, while “Pie in the Sky” finds him longing to leave the toil of earth for the escape of Heaven. “Lonesome to the Bone” is sang from the point of view of a homeless man warmed only by the memory of someone who once loved him.
The humor returns in “While I Got It on My Mind,” an ode to sex in marriage, and perhaps Cash’s most innuendo-laden song. “I like my honey from the hives of home,” he sings, “and berries from my own vine.”
“Good Morning Friend” is a testimony of Cash’s life since he rededicated it to God, and the second of three gospel songs on the album. The last of these is the album closer, “What on Earth Will You Do (for Heaven’s Sake),” an exhortation on how sitting around simply waiting to die won’t help the cause.
June joins proceedings for the bouncy “I’m a Worried Man,” with Cash later recalling the writing of the song during his 1998 appearance with Willie Nelson on VH1’s Storytellers:
I was walking along the streets of Falmouth [Jamaica] one day and this bum came up. He said—he recognized me—he said, “Mr. Cash, I’m a worried man, I’m a very worried man.” I thought, here’s a new approach—I’ve never had this one before. I said, OK, what are you worried about? He said, “I’ve got a wife and nine kids, and no job. That’s makes me a worried man.” So after I left him, on the way back to our home, I wrote [“I’m a Worried Man”].
The next song, “Don’t Let Me Out,” tells of a prisoner who has been granted parole but, having spent eleven years behind bars, doesn’t really want to be released into the wide world. It’s a song that displays the nuanced qualities of Cash’s writing, as listening to the verse can bring an amused smile—until the words sink in fully, and the truth is heard.
The title track aside, Ragged Old Flag represented a return to form for Cash, here reaching back to his Sun days and forward to his future as a musical icon. It is the work of a man standing firm in the knowledge that he was releasing the music he wanted to release, how he wanted to release it. The country music world of the time was in the midst of big changes. When the album reached its peak of #16 on the Country chart, the slots above it were filled with pop-country amalgams by acts like Olivia Newton-John (who held the #1 and #11 spots), Cash’s fellow Memphis refugee Charlie Rich (who mixed in elements of soul with his pop-country, and held #2, #3, #4, and #6), Freddie Hart, Ronnie Milsap, and Mac Davis. Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty served as the only representatives of an older style of country (though often with their own blend of pop).
In among them all stood Cash’s old pal Waylon Jennings, with This Time, an album he co-produced with Willie Nelson. In 1972, Waylon had turned up the heat in his fight for independence in the Nashville system, while Willie headed for the higher ground of Texas. A year later, Nelson released his laid-back Shotgun Willie, while Jennings made two albums, Lonesome, On’ry & Mean and Honky Tonk Heroes, the second of them being the record many point to as the start of the “outlaw country” movement.
As they are wont to do, record labels followed suit with pseudo-outlaws in an attempt to match that initial success. Cash couldn’t help but notice the success his friend Waylon was having—a success he had achieved essentially by following the blueprint drawn by Cash. It also couldn’t have escaped his view that, even without charting, Willie had managed to connect with the younger generations—and, with the help of Cash friends like Waylon and Larry Gatlin, among several others, was able to draw 100,000 fans to a field in College Station, Texas.
Even with all of the changes going on around him, though, Cash stayed true to his vision of honest music that drew from the folk and country traditions, which he would continue to follow, with very little variation in theme or instrumentation, for the rest of his career.
From Johnny Cash FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the Man in Black (c) 2014 by C. Eric Banister. Published by Backbeat Books, an imprint of Hal Leonard Corporation. Reprinted with permission.
Mavis Staples, North Mississippi Allstars Collaborate; Kix Brooks Films Food Network Pilot; New Album Releases
- Reports say that the RCA Studio A building, bought last month by Bravo Development, is in poor shape, requiring a new HVAC system, “substantial reinforcement” of the walls, and reconfiguration of various structural elements in order to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. On Friday night, Bravo’s PR firm released a statement that said, “it is not structurally or financially feasible for [Bravo Development] to recondition 30 Music Square West.” Bravo owner Tim Reynolds also released an open letter in which he wrote, “We have approached various cultural institutions about their interest in helping salvage the few elements of Studio A that are under our ownership. We hope to have positive news to report about those conversations in the coming days.”
- Check out this feature on 98-year-old Georgia Warren, who sang at The Bristol Sessions when she was 11.
- Carrie Underwood’s pregnant.
- Jamie Lin Wilson isn’t anymore: she recently gave birth to this little peanut.
- Listen to Mavis Staples and North Mississippi Allstars collaborate on “I’ve Been Buked,” a song from Take Me to the River, an upcoming film “celebrating the intergenerational and interracial musical influence of Memphis in the face of pervasive discrimination and segregation.”
- Donna Ulisse filmed a video for “Showin’ My Roots.”
- Claire Lynch released a new music video, too. Watch “Dear Sister” here.
- Our pal C.M. Wilcox compiled a new installment of Quotable Country.
- Here’s a sweet story about The Wild Berry Pickers, a family bluegrass band composed of Cindi and Mike Kunz’s biological children as well as the abandoned children they adopted from China.(warning: autoplay)
- The New York Times’ Nate Chinen on Miranda Lambert’s Sunday night concert: What she mostly left out of the show were songs of introspection and ambivalence, like “Bathroom Sink” and “Dear Diamond.” One of the few along these lines, “The House That Built Me,” brought out her finest singing, unhurried and open. Elsewhere, Ms. Lambert seemed bound by her agenda, pushing toward an equitable outlaw license, or straining against the strictures of genre and gender. She found a loophole — a chance to touch on her favorite subjects without the usual pressures — in “Smokin’ and Drinkin’,” which appears on “Platinum” as a collaboration with Little Big Town. It’s far from the album’s best song, but here its wistfulness presented a refreshingly different angle for Ms. Lambert, a way of opening up without letting down her guard.
- Sturgill Simpson played a Tiny Desk Concert.
- Us Weekly reports that Taylor Swift (the Olivia Newton-John of the 2010s?) will serve as an advisor on the upcoming season of The Voice.
- Get the story behind Marc Beeson and Sonny LeMaire’s “When She Cries,” a hit for Restless Heart in the early ‘90s.
- There’s a dearth of women on Canadian country radio as well, according to this article published on CBC.ca.
- Kix Brooks is shooting a pilot for the Food Network called Steakout, a show that’ll feature him traveling to various steakhouses around the country.
- Roots pop duo Larkin Poe released a new single. Stream “Don’t” here.
- This week’s album releases:
Ben Glover – Atlantic
Brian Pounds – Strikes and Gutters
The Roys – The View
Phillip Fox Band – Heartland
Johnny Winter – Step Back
Anthony D’Amato – The Shipwreck from the Shore
Calico – Rancho California
Mac Wiseman – Mac Wiseman Sings Old Time Country Favorites
Jim and Jesse & The Virginia Boys – I’m Gonna Sing, Sing, Sing
Various Artists – Dear Jean: Artists Celebrate Jean Ritchie
- 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 …
- Juli Thanki: That would definitely be better than Marvel's hilariously terrible Billy Ray Cyrus comic book, released in 1995. http://4thletter.net/2009/02/billy-ray-cyrus-the-marvel-comic-book-yes-really/
- Applejack: "I’m sure there are many ways to lasso in and constrict any genre or format, any of them, so tightly …
- Emily: Wow!! Fabulous! Love those boots and you all look stunning! xo