Engine 145 HQ, we’ve been looking forward to March 11 like a kid anticipates Christmas: that’s because Don Williams’ new album, Reflections (Sugar Hill), will be released on that date. A strong successor to 2012’s And So It Goes, Reflections finds the Gentle Giant in fine form as he smoothly delivers material by Townes Van Zandt, Merle Haggard, and Jesse Winchester.
Give a listen to the album’s second track, “Talk is Cheap” (written by Guy Clark with Chris Stapleton and Morgane Hayes – you may remember it from Alan Jackson’s Thirty Miles West), below.
Newspaper Pulled Aldean Review After Advertiser Pressure; Gregg Allman Biopic Shuts Down; New Music Videos
- Stop the presses: Lee Ann Womack might unveil some details about her next album later this week according to a tweet she made over the weekend.
- A scathing Baltimore City Paper review of a Jason Aldean concert has taken on a life of its own after it was pulled due to pressure from the Baltimore Arena, LiveNationDC (who promoted the concert) and Under Armour (a sponsor of Aldean).
- Bruce Springsteen will release a 12” vinyl EP called American Beauty on Record Store Day (April 26).
- Billboard’s Chuck Dauphin interviewed Kevin Fowler about his new album coming out this week, How Country Are Ya? An excerpt: “That’s the good thing and the bad thing about the scene here. It’s all about touring. It’s all about the fan base, not as much about radio airplay, it’s about getting people in the door. How we make our living is touring and merchandise. That’s the great thing about it is that it helps it create a career where you can play for thirty or forty years like Jerry Jeff Walker or Robert Earl Keen. They’re still out there touring, so you’ve gotta stay on the road.”
- The worldly C.M. Wilcox has a new Quotable Country column up over at Country California.
- The Gregg Allman biopic is “shutting down” following the train crash that killed a crew member.
- David Nail discussed his new album, I’m a Fire, in an interview on Radio.com. CountryMusicIsLove.com posted a preview of his song “Lyle County” if you want to hear it early.
- Hank Locklin was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame on Friday night.
- Our friend Jewly Hight profiled Robert Ellis for the Nashville Scene.
- Dolly Parton’s Blue Smoke Tour is dazzling concert-goers Down Under.
- JT Hodges celebrated Johnny Cash’s birthday last week by performing “Get Rhythm.”
- “5 rock acts ripe for country music tribute albums.”
- Taylor Swift is back in the studio recording her followup to Red.
- The 39th Annual Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival in Grass Valley, California, unveiled the lineup for the June 12-15 event.
- George Strait will receive the T. Boone Pickens Lifetime Sportsman Award for his commitment to preserving the native habitat of the bobwhite quail population.
- Does it bother anyone else that the cover of Cole Swindell’s album pictures him wearing a baseball cap that has the initials GS instead of CS?
- Lukas Nelson & P.O.T.R. won the Bruce Corwin Award at the 29th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival for scoring Satellite Beach.
- Adam Hood has a brand new single called “Tryin’ to Write a Love Song.”
- New music videos from the past week or so:
Highway 4 – “Long Road Home”
Small Town Pistols – “Colour Blind”
Lee Matthews – “That Country Girl”
Marty Brown – “Whatever Makes You Smile”
Ashley Leone – “Spinning”
John Waller – “Life is a Gift”
The Moonshine – “Flood”
D. Charles Speer & The Helix – “Wallwalker”
Mando Saenz – “Pocket Change”
Lindsay Ell – “Trippin’ on Us”
The Sea The Sea – “Love We Are We Love”
Joshua Scott Jones – “Honk (If You’re Tonky)”
The Statesboro Revue – “Huck Finn”
Kevin Fowler – “Love Song”
The Wild Feathers – “Got It Wrong”
Possessed By Paul James – “There Will Be Nights When I’m Lonely” (live at WAMU’s Bluegrass Country)
Farewell Drifters – “Modern Age”
The Haden Triplets – “Single Girl, Married Girl” (on Conan)
Last week, programmers and DJs descended upon Nashville for the Country Radio Seminar. Several programs discussed the music habits of today’s listeners and some interesting facts were shared. In one program, Edison President Larry Rosin offered more information from the organization’s media research study, including a stat he was hesitant to reveal yesterday for fear of “bumming people out”: “Respondents’ favorite ways to listen to music scored traditional FM radio at 17%, internet options such as YouTube and digital stations at 14% and ‘my own personal collection’ topping the list at 30%.”
In another program, Rhapsody’s Jason Schneck added, “85,000 users on Rhapsody are primary Country users. 350,000 consumers have played Country in the last month. When we do a Country feature, we see a 20-30% increase in that catalog after. Country is growing exponentially for us. There’s a great opportunity there and we’re doing all we can to promote it.”
We want your take: What is your favorite way to listen to music? Do you primarily use streaming services, radio (traditional or satellite) or mostly listen to your own music collection – and is that collection digital, or do you prefer vinyl and/or CDs? If you look in your personal crystal ball, what do you think it will be five years from now? What about 20 years from now?
HoF to Launch Miranda Lambert Exhibit; Jesse McReynolds Celebrates 50 Years with the Opry; Dolly Books Glastonbury Gig
- Miranda Lambert: Backstage Access will open at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on May 16; the exhibition will run through November 9.
- Tomorrow the Grand Ole Opry will pay tribute to Jesse McReynolds, who celebrates his 50th anniversary as an Opry member this year.
- Tammy Wynette’s daughters want the singer’s name to be put back on her crypt. Two years ago, her stage name was replaced with her married name, Virginia W. Richardson. (warning: autoplay)
- Bluegrass DJ Tom Henderson, who launched “This is Bluegrass” on Tampa station WMNF in 1971, passed away Tuesday night. He was 75.
- Dierks Bentley accidentally tweeted his personal email address and his inbox was flooded with messages. He was pretty cool about it, though.
- Peter Cooper wrote about The Johnny Cash Museum for the Tennessean.
- Send Cash (a slightly belated – also, posthumous) birthday message and get the opportunity to listen to his recording of “Out Among the Stars.” Here’s another track from Cash’s forthcoming “lost” album, a duet with June Carter Cash: “Baby Ride Easy.”
- Chatham County Line will release its next album, Tightrope, on Yep Roc May 20. Listen to “Any Port in a Storm” here.
- David Nail talked about his battle with depression.
- The Chicago Sun-Times published a feature about St. Paul and The Broken Bones.
- Josh Turner has written his first book, Man Stuff (out April 29). If it’s anything like his albums, there will be three good chapters and nine filler chapters.
- Great news for our UK friends: Dolly Parton is playing the Glastonbury Festival on June 29.
- Here’s the story behind Avicii and Dan Tyminski’s collaboration on EDM hit “Hey Brother.”
- The Blue Ridge Outdoors March Trail Mix includes songs by Laurie Lewis, Marah, Korby Lenker, and more. Also, it’s free.
- The Doobie Brothers (featuring Michael McDonald) are working on a country album featuring new recordings of their old hits; Chris Young, Sara Evans, Toby Keith, and Zac Brown are among the guest stars.
- The Handsome Family is seeing a boost in popularity thanks to HBO’s True Detective using “Far From Any Road” as its theme song.
- CMT Edge posted a video of The Far West playing “The Bright Side.”
- Band of Horses played “Heartbreak on the 101” next to the famous Hollywood sign.
- Amazon is thinking about starting a streaming music service.
- Our pal Eric at MusicTomes.com interviewed Ed Komara and Greg Johnson, who compiled the 100 Books Every Blues Fan Should Own.
- Jewly Hight interviewed Lake Street Dive’s Rachael Price for CMT Edge.
- Ralph Stanley celebrated his 87th birthday at Nashville’s Station Inn last night with guests including Larrys Sparks and Cordle. Also, there was cake. Our Barry Mazor was there to snap a few photos.
- Preservationists are raising funds to purchase and restore the Oildale, California boxcar Merle Haggard called home as a child. The “Save Hag’s Boxcar” campaign also wants to move the home to the Kern County Museum. (You can find more information about the campaign on the Save Hag’s Boxcar website and Facebook page.)
- Stream Chuck Mead’s Kansas-focused new solo album, Free State Serenade (out March 4).
- Randy Lewis of The L.A. Times wrote an appreciation of the late guitarist Franny Beecher.
- Bobby Bare, Jr. will release his next record, Undefeated, on Bloodshot Records April 15. (via press release)
- Speaking of Bloodshot, they’re celebrating their 20th birthday this year with lots of events and also cool t-shirts.
- Glen Campbell and his family will receive the inaugural Glen Campbell Courage Award for their role as public advocates in the fight against Alzheimer’s on March 26 at the annual “A Night at Sardi’s” event benefitting the Alzheimer’s Association. (via press release)
- Kris Kristofferson, Jessi Colter, Lee Roy Parnell, Shooter Jennings, and Bonnie Bishop will perform at the Texas Heritage Songwriters’ Association’s Hall of Fame Awards Show on June 22 to pay tribute to this year’s three honorees. Kristofferson, Colter, and Jennings will salute Waylon Jennings, Bishop and Parnell are going to honor Buck Owens, and K.T. Oslin will perform some of her own material. (via press release)
- Rodney Crowell announced a bunch of spring tour dates.
- The Dirty Guv’nahs have a new video for “Where We Stand,” a cut from their upcoming record, Hearts on Fire, which comes out March 11.
- Martina McBride will release her first cookbook this fall, not that Drunken Martina needs a cookbook (“Open whiskey bottle. Pour over ice.”) Also, CMT and Southern Living are teaming up to release Country Music’s Greatest Eats, featuring recipes and interviews from Alan Jackson, Zac Brown Band, and more, on May 6.
- American Songwriter listed the 10 best performances from Bob Dylan’s 30th Anniversary Concert, including Willie Nelson’s take on “What Was It You Wanted” and Johnny and June singing “It Ain’t Me, Babe.” You can watch Ronnie Wood play “Seven Days” on The Wall Street Journal Speakeasy Blog.
- Jason Ringenberg appeared on the newest episode of Otis Gibbs’ podcast. Ringenberg, aka Farmer Jason, has started a fundraising campaign to help record a Christmas album.
- Junior Sisk and Ramblers Choice have started work on a new album that they hope to release this summer.
- Here’s a map of America — developed by Paul Lamere of streaming service The Echo Nest — that shows each state’s most distinctive popular artist.
- Download free songs by Laura Cantrell, Parker Millsap and Angel Olsen.
- August Brown (The L.A. Times) on Lucinda Williams’ Tuesday night show at the Echoplex: [The] depth of set also put her writing in new context. Early, more traditionalist “I Lost It,” from the 1980s, went neglected in its time; here it had a desperation and power that only a few decades of actual loss could provide. “Seeing Black,” from “Blessed,” was written for the late singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt, who died by his own hand in 2009, and she played it with the quiver and confusion of a still-raw wound. A trio of new songs mid-set didn’t quite have the immediacy of her back catalog staples, but “Foolishness” had a sparse, dreamy sadness befitting the Velvet Underground, whose “Pale Blue Eyes” she’s also been covering lately. Williams’ legacy is in good hands with today’s young female artists. But a Williams set in 2014 reminds one only how striking, original and inimitable that voice is.
- Kellie Pickler, Clint Black, and The Grascals are among the artists who’ll perform at Charlie Daniels’ Scholarship for Heroes benefit concert to raise money for veterans’ education programs.
- A $4,000 Rob Ickes model Scheerhorn/National Resophonic guitar will not make you play like Rob Ickes. But it sure is purty.
- Get a sneak peek at Jolie Holland’s forthcoming album, Wine Dark Sea (out May 20), at The A.V. Club.
- The music festival boom has resulted in a slew of new country fests popping up in the last couple years.
Loretta Lynn Fights House Fire (She’s Okay); The Mavericks Celebrate 25 Years with Spring Tour; Stream New Drive-By Truckers Album
- There was a small fire at Loretta Lynn’s house yesterday when a lit candle fell onto a chair. Lynn sustained minor burns on her hands while using a pillow to put out the flames.
- Franny Beecher, guitarist for Bill Haley & His Comets, passed away on Monday at the age of 92.
- The Mavericks are kicking off their Twenty-Five Live Tour tomorrow in Charleston. The band formed in 1989, which makes 2014 their 25th year of making music if you don’t count all those years they didn’t.
- Stream The Drive-By Truckers’ English Oceans before its March 4 release date.
- NPR is streaming folksinger Linda Perhacs’ The Soul of All Natural Things.
- Gregg Allman biopic Midnight Rider may not have had permission to film on the railroad tracks where an unexpected train killed one crew member and injured seven.
- James Alan Shelton is coming up on his 20th year as one of Ralph Stanley’s Clinch Mountain Boys.
- The Dixie Chicks will help salute Rick Rubin on Thursday in L.A. when the producer is presented with The David Lynch Foundation’s Lifetime of Harmony Award.
- Keith Urban’s got a line of $60 t-shirts. Or you could buy 15 boxes of Thin Mints, which seems like a better deal.
- Execs Leslie Fram (CMT) and Matthew Siegel (Viacom) write that the tech industry is missing an opportunity to create products geared toward country music listeners.
- Griffin House recorded “Barricades of Heaven” for the forthcoming Jackson Browne tribute album, Looking Into You (out April 1). Listen here.
- Saving Country Music reports that Jett Williams was arrested early Tuesday morning for driving under the influence.
- In his new column, Geoffrey Himes wonders, “Who is the greatest country music artist of all time?” Spoiler: Merle Haggard. (Bonus: Himes names Hank Williams The Hillbilly Sandy Koufax, a comparison that kind of works.)
- Steve Martin, The Steep Canyon Rangers, and Edie Brickell are heading out on tour beginning March 14.
- You might want to add JP Bean’s Singing from the Floor: A History of British Folk Clubs to your reading list. Here’s a review published by TheGuardian.com.
- Blackhawk has signed with Loud & Proud Records and is working on a new album.
- Little Big Town is back in the studio with producer Jay Joyce.
- Neil Young is working on a car-themed book that’ll hit shelves this fall.
- Stephen Deusner of CMT Edge interviewed Robert Ellis about new album The Lights From the Chemical Plant.
- Gerry House shared a memory with The 615’s Chuck Dauphin: “[Jane Pauley] came to town for the ‘Today’ show, and I was her guide. I took her to Printers’ Alley to a honky tonk at about 4 o’clock in the afternoon. I went to open the door, and I hit somebody with the door, and it was George Jones. He came out, and he was in a little bit of an altered state. He saw Jane Pauley, and he assumed he was on TV. So, he hopped up on stage and sang ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today’ acapella, all by himself. I told him that it wasn’t a TV show, and he said ‘Well, alright,’ and ran out of the club. It was a strange and otherworldly experience, but it made me a hero to Jane Pauley, who said ‘You got George Jones to sing for us live.”
- The Darrell Brothers, the delightful weirdos behind “Mountain Twerker,” deliver a dramatic reading of Luke Bryan’s “That’s My Kind of Night.”
At age 71, Ronnie Milsap has been in the music business for half a century, but he’s not slowing down. On March 18, he’ll release Summer Number 17, a new album for which recorded several songs that he enjoyed as a young man, including “Tears on My Pillow” and “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted.” An Opry member since 1976, Milsap has sold more than 35 million albums over the course of his career, and his genre-blending sound won him countless fans as well as numerous chart-topping singles and awards.
We caught up with Ronnie a few weeks ago and he told us all about his new album, his lengthy and accomplished career, and the items still on his bucket list. Listen to his take on Hank Williams’ “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still in Love with You)” at the bottom of this interview and be sure to check Engine 145 later for a Ronnie Milsap-themed giveaway.
How did this new record come about?
It started with my manager going to RCA in New York to check on my catalog to see if they still wanted to administer it. They said, “What is Ronnie doing now?” My manager said, “He’s got a new album.” They said, “We don’t know what it is, but we want it.”
We told them the list of songs we had, and I had stumbled across a new song, “Summer #17,” written by a 21-year old here in town called Sam Hunter. I heard it and thought I’d get in the studio and see how it worked for me. So I sang it, did backgrounds on it, played it for Sam and he said, “I think that’s your next hit,” and I said, “I hope you’re right.”
After I got “Summer #17,” I decided I wanted to do songs that were my favorite when I was a teenager. I put the song list together, sang all my favorites, and I’d like to be crazy enough to think that’s going to work.
So you listened to a lot of different styles growing up.
Oh yeah, but there was a lot of country in there. Coming to Nashville to sing country was not a stretch for me at all. I loved a lot of country singers. When I was living in Memphis, I heard Mel Street on the radio playing “Borrowed Angel,” and within a year’s time, I was playing with him on a bill with George Jones and Tammy Wynette. It’s amazing how things can change.
How has your blindness affected you as an artist?
I’ve been so lucky in that I went to the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh when I was young. They taught me Braille at six, violin at seven, piano at eight.
Nowadays it isn’t hard for me to work up a song. I sit here at the computer and I type up the lyrics; then I hit “Ctrl-T,” which translates it into Braille, and then I print it on my Braille embosser. Put those in a notebook and you’re ready to go.
A lot of times I’ll sit at home at the piano and work up songs; if I like the way a song is going, I make sure to put it in the next session.
How did you end up in Nashville?
I graduated from high school and they said, “You did so well, we can pay for you to go to college if you want to go.”
I said, “I want to become a professional musician.” They said, “We don’t want you to do that. Why don’t you become a teacher or lawyer?” I didn’t want to do that, so I left North Carolina and went to Atlanta. I met Ray Charles in his dressing room, where I was playing the piano and said “Ray, you are truly the high priest. I love your records. I’ve got a dilemma, and maybe you can tell me your opinion. People want me to become something other than a professional musician.” He said, “Well, Ronald, it’s become apparent to me that music is where your heart is, and you’ve always got to follow your heart.”
So I got an early contract in New York with Florence Greenberg and Scepter Records in 1965. They had Dionne Warwick, The Shirelles, folks like that. I cut a record and my first Billboard entry was in the fall of that year with “Never Had it So Good,” written by Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson. Ray Charles heard that record and told me he liked it, especially the B-side, which was “Let’s Go Get Stoned.” He said, “I like that song so much, I’m going to record it myself.”
So much for me maybe getting a second single out of that record.
My wife Joyce and I were at the Continental Hyatt House in L.A. when my wife Joyce met Charley Pride in the elevator. I was waiting in my room for breakfast when the phone rang. I pick it up and there’s a voice singing, “Is anybody goin’ to San Antone?” I said, “I don’t know who you are, but you do a great impression of Charley Pride.” He laughed and said, “Ronnie, I am Charley Pride, and I’m coming to your show tonight at the Whiskey A Go Go.”
He heard me sing and told me that I needed to move to Nashville. I told him I wouldn’t have a job if I moved, and he said to look up his manager, Jack Johnson, to help me out. So all of a sudden I had this job presented to me. There was a showroom on the roof of Roger Miller’s King of the Road Hotel, and I got a job playing there five nights a week.
Then I started focusing on working on a demo that I could take to different labels. In 1973, Jack took a demo over to the head of RCA and Jerry Bradley–Owen Bradley’s son–said, “We know Ronnie Milsap, he’s an R&B and rock and roll singer; he’s not a country singer.”
Jack played them the tape, and Jerry said, “You know what? That son of a bitch can sing country. Let’s give him a year and see what he can do.” And how many years ago was that?
Signing with RCA seemed so right. I recorded the right songs, I had the studio knowhow, and I couldn’t have gotten any better than Jerry Bradley. The label had an artist relations person back then, and he said, “If you do what we tell you at RCA, you’ll have a 20-year career.” And he was right.
After you started getting hits, did you maintain your friendships with Ray and Charley?
Once I started getting some hits, Ray and I did some shows together. We would sit back to back at pianos and sing these songs together. On one big night we played for President Reagan. Ray was just a great singer and I loved getting to work with him.
All those years of making country records. I’ve done it for so long I don’t think people realize what a long career I’ve had. We’re all going to have a shot at doing what we do, we’re all going to live and die and I’m just thankful that I’ve had the chance to do all the things I’ve done. Blindness never really ruined anything for me. I was schooled and I knew what to do. I knew how to read Braille, I know how to use a computer – it’s all been just fine.
How would you describe your sound?
When Joe Galante was at RCA, he said, “What you need to understand is that you are a multiformat artist.” A lot of people don’t like that. I think they think “crossover” is a bad word. He said “Being a multiformat artist is going to boost your sales because you have all these different people listening who are going to buy your records.” And they did.
Do you feel like that making multiformat/crossover music is delaying your Hall of Fame induction?
I don’t know, but I will say that I definitely want to be in the Hall of Fame. I’ve been doing this a long time and I deserve to be there. If I’m not there this year, I guess I’ll cry. I mentioned that to Brenda Lee and she said “Crying is always good.”
I want to be there, but I can’t make that happen. It’s not like there’s a political move you can do. I asked my producer friend how I could do this and he said “You just live your life the way you’ve been doing and it’ll happen.”
A lot of people think I’m already in the Hall, but I’m not. I hope we can change that. That would certainly be the payoff after being in country music all these years.
Is making records and touring still exciting for you, or have you been doing it so long that it’s old hat?
It’s very exciting! I guess they’re probably considered more classic country now, but I love all of those records I made. In some ways, they’re like my children. I love making records, I love calling people up to talk about the records and figuring out how we’re going to sell more.
When I lived in Memphis, I got to play on sessions with Elvis, Dusty Springfield, and a lot of different artists. I got to see how a studio really worked, and I watched what everyone did. Back then it was all analog, with tape. I always loved the smell of tape. It smelled like success. Now I have my own studio on Music Row and I learned that digital is where it’s at. The digital world is so convenient that I don’t think I’d go back to recording on tape again.
How long did it take to record the new album?
Not long. Maybe three weeks. We got the list of songs, went into the studio to do the tracking, went over to my friend’s house and listened to what we had and redid the parts I wanted to sing again. I brought it to a friend of mine who’s a mixing engineer and he put it all together. He just mixed a new Ray Price record, too. We mastered it here in Nashville, it into RCA and they were ready to go. March 18 is the date that it’s going to be available on iTunes, Amazon, or wherever people buy their music nowadays.
How did you end up singing with Mandy Barnett on “Make Up”?
I was looking for a duet partner, and my producer said, “The two best voices in Nashville are Mandy Barnett and Ronnie Milsap – you should sing together.” So I called and asked her if she’d do it, and she came into the studio and sang. It turned out really good; I told her, “We’re like the new Conway and Loretta!” She’s a tremendous singer.
What’s the hardest part of what you do?
I think trying to interface with the record company to make sure we’re doing everything we can to be successful. If it means we have to go on QVC, we go on QVC. It all comes down to having a great team of people working with you. The whole thing of trying to stay in tune so the record company thinks they’re getting everything they ought to have and whatever that translates to on the radio, I love that. I love to chase that. I’m a radio nut; I stay up all night listening to the radio.
What are you listening to now?
I listen to “Coast to Coast AM” with George Noory. That used to be Art Bell’s show. I listen to that every night. It’s a lot of fun. I’ve always listened to WSM here in Nashville for as long as I can remember. Growing up as a child, I discovered that if I added more wire to my radio antenna, I could pick up WSM in the daytime. Now you don’t have to worry about that; put it on your iPhone. It’s pretty amazing.
What’s next for you?
We’re going out on the 40/40 Vision Tour. I think a lot of folks think that artists have it so easy, that we don’t have to do much beside show up, but that’s not really true. There’s a lot of hard work.
Are there any projects you still want to do?
Oh yeah. I’m open to trying any collaboration. I had a collaboration years back with Patti LaBelle that was just exceptional. I wanted to mimic that with Mandy Barnett. I’ve always wanted to play with Elton John at the Bridgestone Arena here in Nashville. I’ve always wanted to record with Elton. I know the song I would sing, “Philadelphia Freedom.” I’d love to do that and know it was a video and that folks could actually see it.
One thing I’ve learned is that it’s not enough to focus on audio. This is the world of images that we’re living in now.
When all of this is done, how do you want to be remembered?
As an artist who had his heart and soul in what he was doing. And if you could say one thing about Ronnie Milsap, it would be that he was believable. When he sang, you believed every word of it. That’s important to me.
Ralph Stanley Turns 87; Reba, Loretta, and Bobby Bare to Play Johnny Cash Music Fest; New Album Releases
- Ralph Stanley (who turns 87 today) celebrated his birthday with a concert last Saturday.
- Singer Penny DeHaven passed away on Sunday. She was 65.
- Bluegrass Today reports that Craig Wood, who was arrested for abducting and murdering 10-year old Hailey Owens, was part of the Springfield, Missouri bluegrass scene. Local music store The Acoustic Shoppe is raising funds for the Hailey Owens Memorial Fund if you’d like to donate.
- Brennen Leigh and Noel McKay played “Breaking Up is Easy” for CMT Edge.
- In April, Reba McEntire, Kenny Rogers, and The Band Perry will appear at Celebrity Fight Night, which, as it turns out, is a charity event and not an actual boxing match, so you won’t get to see Reba—Fight Night’s longtime emcee –TKO both Perry brothers even though we all know she totally could.
- Reba, Bobby Bare, and Loretta Lynn will headline the fourth annual Johnny Cash Music Festival on August 15 in Jonesboro, Arkansas.
- Creative Loafing Atlanta takes a look at Alejandro Escovedo’s “punk melting pot.”
- Davis Inman (American Songwriter) selected five Chicago songwriters you need to hear. I’m digging Matt Campbell.
- Trisha Yearwood told the Chicago Sun-Times about her solo tour and her marriage, which is “so truly happy it makes you want to puke.”
- Audio restoration engineer Michael Graves, who’s worked for labels like the historically-focused Dust-to-Digital, talks about his work in this interesting piece broadcast last week on WABE.
- The 2013 MusiCares Person of the Year concert saluting Bruce Springsteen will be released on DVD March 25; it includes performances by Neil Young, Jackson Browne, and Kenny Chesney.
- American Songwriter premiered Alana Amram & The Rough Gems’ “People Like to Talk.”
- Robert Loss wrote a fine feature on Lydia Loveless for PopMatters.
- Maggie Rose is the American Songwriter Writer of the Week.
- Dierks Bentley discusses Riser with Chuck Dauphin of The 615.
- “Folkboat soon will be making another run/The Folkboat promises something for everyone.”
- Guitarist Grant Gordy has left the David Grisman Quintet; Gordy, who is based in New York City, is now playing in several different projects, including a band with Darol Anger and Joe Walsh.
- This week’s album releases (thank you for supporting E145 by purchasing music through our affiliate links below):
Dierks Bentley – Riser
Levi Lowrey – Levi Lowrey
D. Charles Speer & The Helix – Doubled Exposure
The Far West – Any Day Now
Wyatt Easterling – Goodbye-Hello
David G. Smith – One House
Cowboy Dave – Driven Man
- A DVD:
- And a couple books:
Patrick Huber, Steve Goodson and David M. Anderson (editors) – The Hank Williams Reader
Michael Streissguth – Outlaw: Waylon, Willie, Kris, and the Renegades of Nashville (now in paperback)
Dunn, Lambert Announce New Albums; “Seven Spanish Angels” Used as Evidence in Murder Trial; New Music Videos
- It looks as if Bill Monroe and Tammy Wynette may be on their very own postage stamps in the future.
- Jewly Hight interviewed Eleni Mandell about her new album, Let’s Fly a Kite, for CMT Edge. An excerpt: “It’s really hard to express how much it meant to hear other people do my songs — and do them so well and from such a loving place. Also, my peers that I really respect, to have their respect … it made me feel legitimate because I’ve never had mainstream success in the music business.”
- Brad Paisley collaborated with The Doobie Brothers during Sony Music Nashville’s CRS concert aboard the General Jackson showboat.
- Watch Little Big Town and George Strait perform “You Look So Good in Love” together.
- A tragic accident killed one and injured seven members of the film crew shooting a scene on a railroad trestle for the Gregg Allman biopic, Midnight Rider.
- Blake Shelton unveiled 22 dates for his Ten Times Crazier Tour.
- Miranda Lambert’s next album will be called Platinum.
- Actress/singer Lucy Hale will release her debut album, Road Between, on June 3.
- Ben Briley, a top 13 contestant on this season of American Idol, has country roots. His great-grandmother, Kitty Cora Cline, was the first female soloist to perform on the Grand Ole Opry.
- Scott Borchetta is keeping it classy.
- Dolly Parton split from Porter Wagoner 40 years ago this month.
- The piquant C.M. Wilcox shines a spotlight on web series Searching for Taylor Swift.
- Ronnie Dunn’s new album, Peace Love and Country Music, drops on April 8. You can listen to “Romeo and Juliet” here.
- Meet Palmer Lee.
- Dierks Bentley to Peter Cooper: “Riser is the cornerstone of the record. That’s the guy I’d like to be. Like my dad. I look out in the crowd every night and see regular folks who have to get up, take kids to school and pay bills under tremendous economic stress. It’s that idea of rising up for these times, of being a rock for your family. Of being a real man with real responsibilities.”
- Ray Charles and Willie Nelson’s “Seven Spanish Angels” has been entered as evidence in a murder trial.
- Krystal Keith performed “Down Into Muddy Water” on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson last week.
- Chris Janson will be releasing an EP called Take It to the Bank on February 25.
- New music videos from the past week or so:
Dierks Bentley – “Bourbon in Kentucky”
O’Shea – “It Never Goes Away”
The Infamous Stringdusters – “Let It Go”
Cassadee Pope – “I Wish I Could Break Your Heart”
Liza Anne – “The Colder Months”
Brothers Osborne – “Let’s Go There”
Blake Shelton – “Doin’ What She Likes”
Little Big Town – “Sober”
Rascal Flatts – “Rewind”
Rosanne Cash – “Etta’s Tune”
Amelia White – “Ghetto”
Katie Brianna – “Dark Side of the Morning”
Livy Jeanne – “Wrong Side of the Dirt”
Sundy Best – “Until I Met You”
The Black Lillies – “Smokestack Lady”
Scott Miller – “How Am I Ever Gonna Be Me?”
Susan Toney – “The Trail of Light and Dark”
Stone Jack Jones – “Petey’s Song”
I Draw Slow – “Valentine”
I’ve got a slew of very worthwhile new roots music material to bring to your attention in this catch-up column, some recently released and some just about to come out, and I’ll just get right at it, by the batch:
African-American women really mixing it up
This is one ripe season for provocative, engaging new records that sound good, from members of a singer-songwriter demographic that’s too often underrepresented in roots music coverage. Banjo-, cello- and guitar-playing Leyla McCalla’s debut album Vari-Colored Songs will get a lot of play at our house. It’s a salute to the late, music-loving poet Langston Hughes, with songs she’s built on some of his unrecorded, pungent bluesy and narrative lyrics, plus some musical turns from her own Haitian forebears, and musical and vocal backup from her friends in the Carolina Chocolate Drops. The self-titled new CD from the Kenyan born, Seattle-based singer-songwriter Naomi Wachira keeps it simple and direct; she marries tightly crafted, thoughtful lyrics about love and faith (“It’s an honor and a privilege when I can say I’m alive”) with infectious African and American rhythms; she references Tracy Chapman and Miriam Makeba as influences—and you can hear that. Ursula Ricks’ My Street is the belated, rich recording debut of a Baltimore grandma with a deep, horn-like voice that fits somewhere between Nina Simone and Al Green (not bad company) with 1970s soul-influenced horn and string backed arrangements of her own observant songs. People often refer to the dependably charming Catherine Russell as a jazz singer, given her family ties to New Orleans jazz history, but as her new release Bring It Back shows once again, she can sing most anything—and might. There are indeed horn-backed swing era tunes that swing—but also blues derived from Ida Cox vaudeville and down home Wynonie Harris R&B jump.
Americana artists with rhythm
They don’t always major in that, you know. But Amelia White does, on her new collection Old Postcard (out March 4), which (yes; true) has sweet, pointed lyrics about family and dreams and Nashville, but jumps out at you for its hooky song structures and polished, enveloping Americana/pop sounds– ably contributed to by such East Nashville instrumental stalwarts as Pete Finney, Tim Carroll, Jon Byrd and Anne McCue. Traditional roots music veteran Dirk Powell—the fiddle and banjo ace called on to record with everyone from Levon Helm to Irma Thomas and Jack White, has delivered one of my favorite albums of this young year in Walking Through Clay, which is everything you might want a rolling, rocking Appalachia-Cajun roots rock album to be. His singing’s as strong as the expected instrumental chops on display. The debut, self-titled CD by young Parker Millsap instantly establishes him as someone to watch—and to hear. He writes fresh, pointed, sometimes acerbic storytelling songs about the Pentecostal/Oklahoma Plains world he grew up in; they move. Fans of Jason Isbell and John Fullbright should check this new artist out; I suspect that his name will soon come up in that company. Less common than country stars returning to bluegrass roots, habitually excellent bluegrass singer-songwriter Donna Ulisse in her new release Showin’ My Roots, returns to the mainstream country of Dolly, Loretta and Tammy she’d focused on earlier, but with ace bluegrass backing, and it’s a pleasure throughout. And the many fans of Moot Davis’s brand of updated, energetic honky tonk will be pleased, once again, with his Kenny Vaughan-produced new release, Goin’ in Hot, which will be out in April.
Blues to choose
Blues Hall of Famer Joe Louis Walker is remarkably dependable about coming up with albums that vary urban blues, R&B, gospel and rock in ways that don’t get tired; that’s true again with his new CD Hornet’s Nest, which moves easily and engagingly through fresh, grungy new modern blues numbers of his own devising (often co-written with the talented Hambridge and Fleming pair that wrote for recent James Cotton and Buddy Guy outings), plus turns on ‘50s R&B and even the Stones’ “Ride On, Baby.” James “Boogaloo” Bolden, the Houston singer-horn player who’s led B.B. King’s band for over 30 years, has a rarity, a true multi-talent, multi-vocalist (both sexes), guitar, keyboard and horn blues band at work on the new CD No News “Jus’ the Blues.” It’s thick, immaculate, and soulful.
In YouTube world there’s not the continuous release of notable DVDs that there was when I was doing regular roots music video columns for No Depression magazine, then American Songwriter, but there are two new ones that matter, with more on them of great note than you’d want to download performance by performance anyway. The Guitar Artistry of Doc Watson, on Rounder/Vestapol, adds to an already formidable line-up of Doc videos the Stefan Grossman-run line’s put out, but this one is truly career spanning and features prime Watson all through the years doing—as he did—old time country, folk, rockabilly and blues. Duets with son Merle are among them, and none repeat performances of earlier collections. What could be better? Watch, too for the mid-March release of You Are There, on Shanachie DVD, a very welcome addition to their previous cullings from the rightly celebrated color Gannaway Opry star films of the 1950s, this time, focusing on more traditional artists—1950s Bill Monroe, the Louvin Brothers (very rare), Sam & Kirk McGee, and Grandpa Jones among them, plus, as a bonus, all of the Hank Williams Kate Smith TV show appearances.
Jason Mellard’s important book Progressive Country is not specifically about outlaw music making in 1970s Austin or the lineup at Armadillo World Headquarters; it places that scene and the players in it–hippies and hillbillies, politicos and football coaches alike—in looking at how the ‘70s changed the world’s perception, and Texans’ own perceptions, of what a “Texas man” was and signifies, before and after the ‘cosmic cowboys” moment. It’s a cultural and social history, in which the music, self-evidently, plays a key part, and those who want to understand more about how and why that scene happened and how it’s mattered will find the book illuminating. Nashville’s Tamara Saviano, manager, consultant and record producer for the likes of Kris Kristofferson and Guy Clark, takes a touching and gutsy, often-surprising look back at her sometimes wrenching coming of age in her memoir The Most Beautiful Girl. Music shapes the story of her pre-music fame life and almost as much as a trying, intense family relationships. Recommended.
- CraigR.: I beg everyone to watch the music( if you can call it that)video for Florida Georgia Line with Luke Bryan. …
- Roger: That Don Williams cover of Sing Me Back Home sounds great - have to check out that new CD.
- Gene Cross, Jr.: A very pretty song. I sure look forward to being able to buy the complete CD tomorrow. I am a …
- Kanenrake Stacey: I always wondered why RCA gave up on her so fast, I'm glad to know that it was probably because …
- bob: Great interview of an impressive young lady. I'll have to check out that Blues album when it comes out.
- Jack Pliskin: Oh it's good to hear some real country music being made in this day and age. Don Williams is simply a …
- darol anger: This band is not one you're likely to hear out on the fester or club circuit. It's a rare and …
- Livewire: So that's the interview Best listen to the album and decide for yourself. It was slated in UK's Country Music People Magazine A …
- Stormy: A little more glam rock than New Wave, but here is Kenneth Brian covering David Bowie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJhfD77QOLY
- Jack Williams: Forgot this one: Richard Thompson - Tempted (Squeeze)