- Crosspicking legend and Bluegrass Hall of Famer George Shuffler passed away yesterday at the age of 88.
- Dave Lamb, of folk band Brown Bird, has died of leukemia. He was 35.
- Country music made the The New York Times following the ACM Awards. Read the story – “Young, Rich and Ruling Radio, Country Walks a Broader Line” — here.
- Rascal Flatts admitted to lip-syncing their ACM Awards performance.
- Get the story behind “I May Hate Myself in the Morning.”
- The Infamous Stringdusters played “I’ll Get Away” for Folk Alley.
- The tracklisting of Miranda Lambert’s new record, Platinum, includes the Dixie and Tom T. Hall song “All That’s Left.” Guests on the album include The Time Jumpers and Carrie Underwood.
- Don Rigsby and David Thorn are working on a new duets project.
- The Chicago Tribune posted a Q&A with Lindi Ortega.
- Jim Lauderdale discusses his favorite album, Gram Parsons’ Grievous Angel, in a new episode of Jeremy Dylan’s podcast.
- Delightful fashion blog Go Fug Yourself detailed the sartorial missteps of Sunday night’s ACM Awards.
- Stream the deluxe edition of Emmylou Harris’ Wrecking Ball. Harris discusses the album in this Chicago Sun-Times article.
- Give a listen to Laurie Lewis’ fab story song “Barstow.”
- The Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame and Museum, located at Dollywood, celebrates its 15th birthday this year.
- Elizabeth Cook appears on Bob Wayne’s “20 Miles to Juarez.”
- This week’s album releases:
Emmylou Harris – Wrecking Ball (deluxe edition)
Martina McBride – Everlasting
Carlene Carter – Carter Girl
Greg Smith & The Broken English – Ramblin’ Road
Ronnie Dunn – Peace, Love and Country Music
Joan Osborne – Love and Hate
Linda Ronstadt – Duets
- ACM Award results:
Entertainer of the Year: George Strait
Male Vocalist of the Year: Jason Aldean
Female Vocalist of the Year: Miranda Lambert
Vocal Group of the Year: The Band Perry
Album of the Year: Kacey Musgraves – Same Trailer Different Park
Video of the Year: “Highway Don’t Care,” Tim McGraw with Taylor Swift and Keith Urban
Vocal Event of the Year: “We Were Us,” Keith Urban and Miranda Lambert
Vocal Duo of the Year: Florida Georgia Line
Song of the Year: “I Drive Your Truck,” Lee Brice
Single Record of the Year: “Mama’s Broken Heart,” Miranda Lambert
Crystal Milestone Award: Merle Haggard
- Jesse Winchester is in hospice care, according to an update his son posted to Facebook a few minutes ago.
- Merle Haggard had to cancel a show late last week with a mild case of pneumonia.
- Emily West unveiled a new song called “Made for the Radio.”
- Billboard.com previewed a cut from Ronnie Dunn’s new album.
- Charley Pride was voted as the 37th most influential artist in CMT’s All-Time Top 40: Artist’s Choice countdown.
- Josh Thompson donated his long hair to Locks of Love.
- Keep a Hypnotic Eye out for a new Tom Petty album by the same name this summer.
- Brett Eldredge has vowed to get eaten by a shark go shark diving if his new single goes to number one.
- Meet The Shook Twins.
- Martina McBride is being highlighted in an upcoming Nancy comic strip.
- My Kind of Country is shining their spotlight on Chris Hillman and The Desert Rose Band this month.
- The enigmatic C.M. Wilcox has a new Quotable Country column up over at CountryCalifornia.com.
- Charlie Daniels performed “Tangled up in Blue” on Fox News.
- The Swon Brothers will make their Grand Ole Opry debut on April 12. (via press release)
- Wade Hayes talked with Country Weekly about his second bout with cancer.
- Our friend Stephen Deusner interviewed Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek for CMT Edge. An excerpt: “We didn’t have anything in mind when we recorded. We just wanted it to be a good version of who we are as a band. We set up in the studio just like we did on previous records — the three of us in a room separated by about 15 or 20 feet, surrounded by a bunch of great mics. There’s fewer overdubs than there were on the past record. It seemed like the songs were there, and we wanted to speak on our own without adding too much extra stuff. Also, we didn’t have very much time. Just 11 days. We’ve never spent that amount of time on a record. We’ve always had the luxury of working on it for a couple of months. We had to show up knowing the songs and hit the ground running, which was fun.”
- Taylor Swift’s Shanghai concert sold out in less than a minute.
- James House has a brand new project coming out soon called Broken Glass, Twisted Steel.
- Linda Ronstadt is too ill from her battle with Parkinson’s to travel to her Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
- The Small Town Pistols cover the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song for Country Weekly.
- New Nashville indie label Rocket Tone Records has signed the son of Dionne Warwick, Buck 22, as their first “country format” artist. He’s the guy that did the remixed version of “Achy Breaky 2” with Billy Ray Cyrus.
- Corb Lund, Charley Pride, Brandi Carlile and Jason Isbell headline what could be the most unfortunately-named music festival ever, The Red Ants Pants Fest in Montana.
- Michelle Branch has teamed up with Silverchair’s Ben Gillies for an upcoming collaboration.
- Kansas Country Music Hall of Fame member Dustin L. Hunt passed away at the age of 43.
- Lady Antebellum and Stevie Nicks have released a studio version of “Golden” to iTunes.
- New music videos from the past week or so:
TJ Broscoff – “Falling Down”
St. Paul & The Broken Bones – “Half the City”
Luke Bryan – “Play It Again”
Cyndi Harvell – “Flood”
Emily Wolfe – “Violent Veins”
Riley Etheridge – “Another Time, Another Place” (featuring Sara Watkins)
Kyle Park – “Long Distance Relationship”
Brandon Rhyder – “Leave”
Lost & Nameless – “Empty Spaces”
Lexi James – “Stop”
The Avett Brothers – “Morning Song”
The Randy Rogers Band – “Too Late for Goodbye”
Jesse and Noah – “You Could Have Had It All”
Sheryl Crow – “Callin’ Me When I’m Lonely”
- Johnny Cash’s Out Among the Stars debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Albums chart, selling 54,000 units in its first week. This is Cash’s second posthumous chart-topper.
- People has added a country music section to their website.
- Dolly Parton is playing Glastonbury this summer.
- Lyle Lovett performed on Conan. (warning: autoplay)
- Gladys Flatt, Lester’s wife, passed away on March 31. She was 98.
- Arthur Smith, who composed “Guitar Boogie” and “Feuding Banjos,” aka “Dueling Banjos,” passed away yesterday at the age of 93.
- From The L.A. Times: “ACM and CMA square off in awards show showdown.”
- The Lonesome River Band signed with the Mountain Home Music Company; the band is returning to the studio this month and hopes to have a new album out in the summer.
- Music with a slow tempo, like country, can increase cows’ “lactational performance,” according to this report from The William H. Miner Agricultural Research Institute. (Yeah, it’s kind of a slow news day.)
- Emmylou Harris discusses Wrecking Ball (which is getting a deluxe reissue next week) in this L.A. Times article.
- Paul Grein of Yahoo Music counts down “Country Music’s Oddest Chart-Toppers.”
- Miranda Lambert on her new album, Platinum: “I’ll still shoot a two-timing man if I need to, but I’m not just burning houses down anymore. I have more to sing about.”
- CMT Edge posted The Avett Brothers’ “Morning Song” video.
- Jewly Hight interviewed Infamous Stringduster Chris Pandolfi.
- Tim McGraw will release his new album, Sundown Heaven Town, on September 16. Does Tim McGraw know what a “sundown town” was?
- Nate Rau of The Tennessean profiled Dualtone Records, home to acts like Shovels & Rope and The Lumineers.
- The Austin Chronicle premiered The Ghost Wolves’ “Shotgun Pistol Grip.”
- Watch Eric Church’s new short film, San Destino Rising: Movimento De Dos.
- TheBoot.com reports that Blake Shelton just set a new record: “Shelton’s latest single, ‘Doin’ What She Likes,’ has scored him his 11th consecutive No. 1 country hit, setting a record since 1990, when Nielsen Soundscan began tracking hits. Shelton passes up Brad Paisley, who has held the record he scored with his eighth No. 1 in 2006 with ‘Waitin’ On a Woman.’ Paisley went on to grab a ninth hit with ‘Start a Band’ in 2008, and a 10th in 2009 with ‘Then.’”
- Social Distortion’s Jonny “Two Bags” Wickersham talks about his new roots rock record, Salvation Town, in this Q&A.
- Yahoo posted some videos of Della Mae at SXSW.
- Let’s hope whoever replaces David Letterman on the late night scene is as much a supporter of country and roots music as he has been over the years.
- Here’s Nickel Creek’s Tonight Show performance.
- Leah Turner will release a self-titled EP on May 6.
These days it seems as though Oklahoma’s chief export is Americana singer-songwriters. Here are a few of our favorite rising stars from the Sooner State.
5. John Moreland
If you haven’t heard John Moreland’s name before, you might have heard his music on Sons of Anarchy (with his beard and tattoos, Moreland could easily be mistaken for one of the show’s bikers). His In the Throes album, released last summer, was an under-the-radar gem full of starkly beautiful alt-country.
4. JD McPherson
McPherson’s scorching, retro rock and roll was catapulted onto the national scene when Rounder Records re-released his damn good Signs and Signifiers record. McPherson’s music is best experienced at one of his sweat-drenched live shows; if he plays your town, make attendance a priority.
3. Carter Sampson
With deeply personal lyrics and a bell-clear voice, Sampson is reminiscent of a young Lori McKenna. Her last record, Mockingbird Sing, was released nearly three years ago; let’s hope this means a new album is currently in the works.
2. Parker Millsap
Millsap’s self-titled debut, which was released earlier this year, is stunning, full of vivid, well-realized characters straight out of a Southern Gothic short story collection and the occasional banjo string garrote. At only 21, Millsap has a bright, long future in front of him. It’ll be exciting to watch him continue to progress.
1. John Fullbright
Over the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to catch this spellbinding singer-songwriter in several tiny clubs, but there’s a good chance he won’t be playing those clubs much longer, especially once folks get their ears on his fantastic sophomore record, Songs (out late next month). Here’s a cut from the new album:
Eli Young Band Plays Conan; CMHOF to Reveal New Expansion; Carolina Chocolate Drops to Play Chicago Blues Fest
- Dierks Bentley and Sheryl Crow, Lee Brice, Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts, Brad Paisley, and Darius Rucker have all been added to the ACM Awards’ lineup of performers. Trisha Yearwood is…only presenting. Sigh. (via press release)
- On Record Store Day, Tompkins Square Records will reissue Dillard Chandler’s 1975 LP, The End of an Old Folk Song. Listen to one of the tracks here.
- Stream Carlene Carter’s new record, Carter Girl.
- Check out Rodney Crowell’s “Fever on the Bayou,” a song from his new record, Tarpaper Sky.
- USAToday.com premiered Amy LaVere’s “Rabbit.”
- CMT is actually going to air some country music television: a Johnny Cash show called American Rebel, the eight-hour documentary series They Called Us Outlaws: Cosmic Cowboys, Honky Tonk Heroes and the Rise of Redneck Rock, and Urban Legend: When a Nation Went Country, which will look at the Urban Cowboy craze of the early ‘80s. They’ll follow these shows with Party Down South and Swamp Pawn.
- Charlie Daniels talks Bob Dylan in this interview with CMT Edge’s Calvin Gilbert.
- Bluegrass family band Gold Heart has returned to the studio.
- Don Everly on his late brother, Phil: “I’m not over it. I really feel sad. I think about him every day. I always thought about him every day, even when we were not speaking to each other. It still just shocks me that he’s gone. “He was a great singer, Phil…We did that all our lives — it’s almost like we could read each other’s minds when we sang.”
- The Elizabethan Session delivers folk music influenced by the sounds and social issues prevalent in 16th century England.
- The Carolina Chocolate Drops, Bettye LaVette, and Dr. John are a few of the acts slated to play the Chicago Blues Festival this June.
- Mary Sarah and Merle Haggard teamed up to duet on “The Fightin’ Side of Me.”
- The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum will officially reveal its new expansion on April 15. Vince Gill, Lee Ann Womack, Buddy Miller, and Ricky Skaggs will perform at the opening ceremony. (via press release)
- Randy Lewis of The L.A. Times reviewed The Mavericks’ Tuesday night show in Solana Beach. An excerpt: The band’s sound is magnificently diverse, and it was projected in a vast improvement over the poor mix the group received in last year’s stop at the El Rey in L.A. But perhaps the most remarkable impression from this performance is the sense that 25 years in, the Mavericks not only have fully hit their stride but they also seem to still be on the upswing.
- Stream Hurray for the Riff Raff’s concert at Lincoln Center beginning tonight at 8 p.m. EST.
Buck Owens, Louvin Brothers Added to National Recording Registry; Kacey Musgraves & Katy Perry to Tape CMT Crossroads; Vanguard Names RSD Reissues
- On April 4 at 11 p.m. EST, Yahoo Music will stream an Easton Corbin concert.
- Jesse Keith Whitley will host the Keith Whitley Homecoming Concert in Sandy Hook, Kentucky on May 9.
- Congrats to our pal Jeremy Dylan, who was named to the Americana Music Association’s Australia Americana Advisory Group. Dylan, a filmmaker, directed a fine Jim Lauderdale documentary called The King of Broken Hearts.
- On Record Store Day, Vanguard Records will reissue Big Mama Thornton’s Sassy Mama, Doc Watson’s Southbound, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott’s Jack Elliott, and Joan Baez’s Blessed Are. (via press release)
- Watching St. Paul and the Broken Bones will lift your spirits today.
- Buck Owens’ Carnegie Hall Concert with Buck Owens and His Buckaroos, The Louvin Brothers’ “When I Stop Dreaming,” Mance Lipscomb’s Texas Sharecropper and Songster, The Everly Brothers’ “Cathy’s Clown,” Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son,” and Linda Ronstadt’s Heart Like a Wheel were among the 25 new entries selected for induction into the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry.
- An excerpt from Mary Gauthier’s letter to a young songwriter: Songwriting is a noble calling that requires more than talent and perseverance. It requires courage. If you are willing to face yourself and honestly reveal in your songs what you’ve seen in that unveiling of yourself, then you have a chance of writing songs that will outlive you. What can we gain by walking on the moon and planets if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages, and it is the job of the artist. The object of art is not to make salable products. It is to save one’s self, and to be a part of saving us all. Either we tell our story, or our story tells us.
- Check out the title track to Moot Davis’ new record, Goin’ in Hot.
- Chris Parton spoke with Jonny Two Bags about his new roots rock album, Salvation Town.
- Dale Watson will appear in a film called Yellow Rose. Saving Country Music has more details.
- Kacey Musgraves and pop starKaty Perry are taping an episode of CMT Crossroads later this month; it is scheduled to premiere in June.
- This month’s free Blue Ridge Outdoors Trail Mix includes songs by Bryan Sutton, Darol Anger, Kathy Kallick, Will Kimbrough, and more.
- Bettye LaVette, Allen Toussaint, and John Doe helped honor Paul Simon Monday night at Carnegie Hall.
- Watch Gregg Allman, Vince Gill, and Zac Brown play a fierce version of “Midnight Rider.“ (warning: autoplay)
- The world’s largest (only?) public banjo sculpture is currently under construction at the Great British Banjo Company’s Norwich workshop; the 150-foot-tall piece will be displayed near the A47 Southern Bypass upon its completion.
- Nickel Creek will be on The Tonight Show this evening.
morondrunk college freshman, in the back of a police car after getting arrested for driving under the influence, requested that the officers put on the local country station. The kid proceeded to sing along to Florida Georgia Line and Blake Shelton, which might be a more accurate test of intoxication than a Breathalyzer.
- Kevin Kinney (Drivin’ N’ Cryin’) talks about his work on Archer in this blog post he wrote for American Songwriter.
Engine 145 is proud to serve as the official online media partner for seventh annual Golf & Guitars golf tournament and benefit concert, scheduled for May 19-20 at Haggin Oaks in Sacramento, California.
The two day event includes Monday night singer-songwriter showcase for golfers and VIPs featuring Erin Enderlin, Logan Brill, Jason Eady, Johnny Bulford, Rhett Akins, Thomas Rhett, Hannah Blaylock, Matt Jenkins, Ira Dean, Chris Roberts, Trevor Rosen, and Matt Ramsey, while the Tuesday night concert lineup includes David Nail, Eric Paslay, Dustin Lynch, The Cadillac Three, The Swon Brothers, Craig Campbell, Montgomery Gentry, Love & Theft, Chuck Wicks, and Frankie Ballard.
Golf & Guitars is a whole lot of fun and raises approximately $100,000 each year to donate to worthwhile organizations. The funds raised during this year’s event will be split between the Morton Golf Foundation, which brings the game of golf to youth, disabled, and under-served communities in Northern California, and the non-profit charity of the winning musician’s choice.
A little closer to the event, we’re going to host a ticket giveaway, so stay tuned.
Austin City Limits Hall of Fame to Induct Willie Nelson; Kasey Chambers Returns to the Studio; New Album Releases
- Willie Nelson and Stevie Ray Vaughan are the inaugural inductees into the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame. Buddy Guy, Lyle Lovett, and more will perform at the induction ceremony on April 26.
- Kasey Chambers is back in the studio working on a solo album.
- If you were still deciding between the ACM Awards broadcast and Game of Thrones’ fourth season premiere, this might tip the scales in favor of the latter: Blake Shelton and Shakira will perform together at the Awards. (via press release)
- Then again, George Strait and Miranda Lambert will salute Merle Haggard during the ACM Awards with a medley that includes “The Bottle Let Me Down” and “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive.”
- The Haden Triplets played an NPR Tiny Desk Concert.
- The Band Perry signed a publishing deal with Sony/ATV Nashville.
- Chuck Mead was featured on NPR’s Weekend Edition.
- The L.A Times premiered Joe Henry’s “Lead Me On” from forthcoming album Invisible Hour, which comes out June 3.
- Nickel Creek was the subject of a New York Times feature.
- WYPR broadcast a piece on Baltimore’s banjo history (some of the first commercially-produced banjos were made there in the 1840s). There’s also a new banjo exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Industry.
- Willie Watson talked about his new record and solo career on WBHM. Listen here.
- Yahoo Music premiered a track from alt-country band Vaudeville Etiquette.
- A handful of Nashville actors will embark on a three city mini-tour this spring.
- Bluegrass Mass is coming to Shelby, North Carolina later this month thanks in part to The Earl Scruggs Center and noted five-string enthusiast Jesus.
- Truth & Salvage Co. played a few for CMT’s Concrete Country.
- Here’s a clip from The Milk Carton Kids’ new DVD, Live from Lincoln Theatre, which comes out April 29.
- Two-step at the 10 best dance halls in Texas.
- Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, and Carrie Underwood will help salute Linda Ronstadt at her induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 10.
- This week’s album releases (if you dig the daily news roundups and the other content posted on E145, please help support the site by purchasing your music through these affiliate links):
Nickel Creek – A Dotted Line
Charlie Daniels Band – Off the Grid: Doin’ It Dylan
Jonny Two Bags – Salvation Town
Donna Lynn Caskey – Nameless Heart
Monroeville – Can’t Put Me Out
Detour – Going Nowhere Fast
Infamous Stringdusters – Let It Go
Jon Langford & Skull Orchard – Here Be Monsters
The Robert Cray Band – In My Soul
Jeff Black – Folklore
Dan + Shay – Where It All Began
Leon Russell – Life Journey
John Sieger with Greg Koch – A Walk in the Park
Truckstop Honeymoon – The Madness of Happiness
Carrie Newcomer – A Permeable Life
Josh Thompson –Turn It Up
Various Artists – Looking Into You: A Tribute to Jackson Browne
Various Artists – Working Man’s Poet: A Tribute to Merle Haggard
Omnivore to Release Hank Williams’ Garden Spot Programs; Juno Award Winners Announced; New Music Videos
- The Juno Awards were held Sunday night. Brett Kissel took home the Breakthrough Artist of the Year Award, Dean Brody’s Crop Circles was named Country Album of the Year, and Justin Rutledge’s Valleyheart won the Roots & Traditional Album of the Year (Solo) Award.
- Out May 20 on Omnivore: Hank Williams’ The Garden Spot Programs 1950, a collection of fully restored performances; Williams’ biographer, Colin Escott, penned the liner notes. (via press release)
- Tim McGraw came in at #38 on CMT’s All-Time Top 40: Artist’s Choice list.
- Peter Cooper did a wonderful piece on the many influences of Charlie Daniels.
- The ever-mirthful C.M. Wilcox has a new Quotable Country column up over at Country California.
- Jason Aldean sings Merle Haggard’s “Going Where the Lonely Go” on forthcoming tribute record Working Man’s Poet. Listen here.
- Russell Crowe and Jimmy Fallon performed “Folsom Prison Blues” on The Tonight Show.
- Our old The 9513 buddy Stephen Deusner interviewed Desert Noises’ lead singer, Kyle Henderson, about the band’s new album, 27 Ways, and why you should listen to it half-naked.
- CMT’s Calvin Gilbert reviewed the iHeartRadio Country Festival: “[The festival] was similar in format to the nightly concerts at the CMA Music Festival in Nashville. Or for those who haven’t attended those concerts in Nashville, it was sort of like an awards show except there were no mind-numbing acceptance speeches and, fortunately, the artists were able to perform more than one or two songs.”
- Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Marcus Hummon’s Passion Cantana will premiere in Nashville on April 4; it stars former One Flew South and Summerlin Road singer Chris Roberts. Hummon also was featured in a Tennessean article about his son, rising star Levi Hummon.
- A series of small club concerts this year put on by Josh Abbott, Wade Bowen, Kristian Bush, Tyler Farr, Kyle Park, Chase Rice, Thomas Rhett, Chris Stapleton, Josh Thompson, Randy Rogers Band and The Swon Brothers have collectively raised more than $36,000 for the ACM Lifting Lives Foundation.
- Columbia Nashville signed a strategic partnership agreement with Chase Rice.
- My Kind of Country’s Jonathan Pappalardo says Sara Evans’ new album “exposes a hidden truth of her career – that she was never that artistic at all, just a trend follower who happened to come of age at a time when good quality songs were still the mainstay of mainstream Nashville. With that era firmly in the rearview mirror, we’re left with a singer resorting to whatever she can to find a platform, and the results are more than a little desperate.”
- The Boot’s Sterling Whitaker interviewed Mickey Gilley about his first tour since he was paralyzed in a freak moving accident a few years ago. An excerpt: “I can’t play the piano yet, because my hands haven’t recovered totally, but they’re better. So I don’t know if I’ll ever play the piano again — the doctors said I have a 50-50 shot at maybe playing the piano again, but it’s not really required, because I’ve got a seven-piece band.”
- The six-piece bluegrass band, Detour, will release digital album Going Nowhere Fast on Mountain Fever Records this week.
- Cindy Watts interviewed Brett Eldredge for The Tennessean.
- Brad Paisley will guest-star on the CBS television show, The Crazy Ones.
- Radio.com posted an interview with the guys from Rascal Flatts about what to expect from their upcoming album, “Rewind.”
- Brantley Gilbert’s “Bottoms Up” was certified gold by the RIAA.
- Saving Country Music provided an update on the Wayne Mills shooting, four months after the tragic incident.
- New music videos from the past week or so:
Radney Foster – “Whose Heart You Wreck (Ode to the Muse)”
Aleyce Simmonds – “Stronger”
Tracy Lawrence – “Lie”
Christie Lamb – “Manhunt”
Joe Bachman – “Lookatchu”
Matt Skinner Band – “Ashes to Ashes”
Jordan McIntosh – “That Girl”
Hugh Bob & The Hustle – “Blame Me”
The Tillers – “Old Westside”
The Henry Girls – “The Weather”
Nick Lawrence – “Roughneck”
Luke Bryan – “She Get Me High”
Miranda Lambert – “Automatic”
Cody Bryan Band – “When We Were Made”
Last column, I alerted you to the new Shanachie DVD release You Are There, since released, which puts some of the hard-to-find and legitimately collected filmed performances of traditionalist country artists such as the Louvin Brothers and Sam & Kirk McGee on one disc. Those performances were culled from the 92 half hours of what remain, without a doubt, the greatest collection of classic country film ever put in the can and televised—the full color films shot in Nashville by movie producer Al Gannaway circa 1954-56 and televised in 143 local television markets at the time, and again and again later, as Stars of the Grand Ole Opry, Stars of Country Music or just The Country Show, depending on a working contract or lack thereof with the Opry.
The original Gannaway films’ content has now been acquired by Larry Black’s Gabriel Entertainment, the same outfit that puts out the casual get-together Country Family Reunion videos and TV shows. (They have an excellent all-star Simply Bluegrass DVD set of those just out, for example.) Their new expansively-titled DVD set, Country’s Family Reunion Presents Golden Years: Grand Ole Opry Stars of the Fifties, collects 30 of the Gannaway episodes on 10 DVD discs. At its best, this digital transfer from 1960s-era videotape of the films delivers the most stunning looking and sounding versions of the material that have been available. Another plus, for those who’ve had access to some of the programs previously: the episodes chosen for this release are less regularly seen ones, in my experience, including performances by Cowboy Copas, Martha Carson, Justin Tubb, Lew Childre and the young Wilburn Brothers, in addition to the key stars of the films usually seen—Ernest Tubb, Ray Price, Jimmy Dickens, Carl Smith, Faron Young, Webb Pierce, Jean Shepard, Goldie Hill, Bill Monroe, June Carter and the latter day Carter family, Chet Atkins, Minnie Pearl and Rod Brasfield.
The $150 price tag may sound steep, but it’s less expensive on a per-show/pay hour basis than was the vast bulk VHS tape release that was the last purchasable version. For a sampling of what I’m talking about, here’s the online clips ad they’ve put up—unsolicited and unpaid for, just to be clear, but illustrative:
That’s all great, and I trust the set will do well, and there will be sequels coming. But it is also, in its limitations, a reminder that it’s about time that some more serious, even systematic attention be paid to the preservation and restoration of historic country music footage.
Despite the amazing prescience Gannaway showed in filming this material on crystalline 35mm color film with Hollywood crews, at a moment when general availability of color TV was still a decade away, the handling of the original footage after that was not nearly so careful—and it shows. For repeated airplay use and variations, pieces of episodes were cut into others, and nobody has ever put the puzzle pieces all back where they started. If original film was scratched up or the color had gone off-tone before the films were transferred to tape in the Sixties—those problems were transferred to the broadcast video tapes duplicated since. Someone, at some point, thought it would be nice to add yellow subtitles identifying the performers (often, oddly, just after the announcers introduce them), but did it crudely, so those episodes have a general yellow tinge to them throughout. (1955 June Carter, married to Carl Smith, is identified as “June Carter Cash.”) Worse, the sorts of imaginations that thought Hank Williams’ recordings would be more “modern” with strings sloshed over them after the fact got hold of some of these Gannaway episodes too, and layered in “modern-like” video inserts of hands playing steel guitar, electric guitar or piano over existing scenes—anonymous hands clearly not those of the Chet Atkins or Texas Troubadour Billy Byrd or Moon Mullican on camera, which are injected repeatedly with, if my ears don’t deceive me, additional interfering audio actually piled on later as well.
These films are indispensible as records of the great artists who appear on them, and as artifacts of country as it was in that moment and, not incidentally, how Nashville chose to portray itself on-screen at that time. To do them justice—no matter who owns the current commercial rights, which can always be accounted for –serious restoration work is needed, involving rounding up cleanest possible versions of the episodes for use of the best case versions (shot by shot!), digital removal of scratches, color correction, and preservation for the future. That costs and demands attention—and it’s not likely to be purely commercial or nostalgic motivations that will get the job done at this point. It will demand taking the visual side of country music more seriously—handling as careful as any great audio recording discography or library—by archives, the likes of the National Endowment for the Arts, potential future commercial producers, and more.
The very existence of sites like this, where I can readily link to video and audio to make a point, is one reason that it’s time for investment in this area. Those of us who care are delighted to be able to show and tell what we’re talking about right along with all those words. (The Gannaway films could use some serious context-setting notes and commentary, incidentally, not provided in the current packaging.)
Another example of how this multimedia approach to telling the stories matters: Mike Bloomfield, some of you will know, was an American guitar player, Chicago-born, who, against considerable biographical odds, immersed himself in blues music, and beginning in the mid-1960s, introduced a substantial part of a generation to the music of the African-American predecessors he loved, emulated, studied with and played with. He was the dynamic, energetic and influential lead guitarist in the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, the horn-bearing band the Electric Flag with Buddy Miles, and the guitarist you hear on Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited, “Like a Rolling Stone” included. He had decidedly mixed feelings about being a rock star and lived a jagged life that ended too soon, which calls for some explanation and affected his music— reasons that the inclusion of Bob Sarles’ bio film “Sweet Blues” in the new, immensely pleasurable and informative 3-CD/1 DVD Sony Legacy release produced by Mike’s sometime musical partner Al Kooper, Michael Bloomfield: From His Head to His Heart to His Hands, is so welcome.
Multimedia expansion is doing all of us who write about music new opportunities—the best among us included. If you’ve not got hold of the new “enhanced” digital editions of Peter Gurlanick’s seminal roots music books Lost Highway and Feel Like Going Home, which take up Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams, Jr., Merle Haggard and Charlie Rich, as well as Howlin’ Wolf, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Sam Phillips, I highly recommend you do—not least for the addition of some of Peter’s original audio interviews with these icons, and related video clips as well.
Some day, most musical stories will be told that way. I suggest that we need to start paying more serious attention to the visual side now, so the historic material will be there when it’s called for.
- Daniel Mullins: Mr. Mazor- In your opinion, who do you think will be/should be inducted into the Hall on April 22nd?
- Barry Mazor: My own suggestion would be that it probably wouldn't pay off to read those sorts of things into Kyle Young's …
- A.B.: Barry's article was good. The quote from Mr Young mentioning Ralph Stanley is making me speculate though. He was probably …
- Janice Brooks: got this album early this morning and added Frankie Please for now.
- Daniel Mullins: I agree 100%. This is definitely one of Croweel's strongest albums. You can't help but feel more confident about yourself …
- Juli Thanki: David, yep, I'd say it's his best since The Houston Kid; though I think I like the songwriting on here …
- henry: He has a great story about "Fever on the Bayou," which I'm sure he told you about how long the …
- Jonathan Pappalardo: Incredible album, exceptional review. Totally agree that this is his finest work in more than a decade.
- David Cantwell: I can't wait to hear this, Juli. Just curious... When you say his best in more than a decade, I'm …
- Joe Mekler: Not only is this a fun tune with an unusual form but it is politically appropriate for the present times!