Conway Twitty Gets Marker on Miss. Country Music Trail; Bluebird Cafe Celebrates 30 Years; New Music Videos

Ken Morton, Jr. | June 4th, 2012

  • Thoughts and prayers go out to Dierks Bentley and rocker-turned-bluegrass artist Tommy Shaw,  who both lost parents over the weekend.
  • Charley Pride was named an honorary member of the Saskatchewan First Nation. His Cree name is Big Eagle.
  • Don’t get Neil Young started on mp3s: “We live in the digital age and, unfortunately, it’s degrading our music, not improving it,” [Young] said in January, speaking at a conference held by Speakeasy’s sister blog All Things D.
  • George Jones’ home is for sale if you’ve got a few million bucks to spare.
  • Chely Wright believes that Nashville has frozen her out of country music. From an interview with CBS: “It’s not my belief that I should be performing on every awards show. … Now it’s the new Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood and Lady Antebellum, that’s a natural part of entertaining. (But) there’s an institutionalized friendship within country music, once you’re in, once you’re one of us, you’re always invited to certain things to present or be a part of it or chair a committee for the Country Music Hall of Fame, which I used to do things like that. She continued, “And so, it’s…a rejection mostly because I would like to hear a country music artist, the big ones, not just say, ‘Well, I like Chely. I like her even though she’s gay.’ I need a country artist who is a big deal, like Jay-Z in his community; He came forward and said, ‘I believe in equality for all.’ I’m struggling because I have not heard that from the big stars in country music.” 
  • Naomi Judd will be hosting a new show on Sirius/XM Radio.
  • Alabama Bluegrass Hall of Famer James Fletcher passed away at the age of 80. He played with Faron Young in his long career as a musician.
  • Conway Twitty was the latest star to receive a marker on the Mississippi Country Music Trail. The marker was erected on Thursday in his hometown of Friars Point.
  • Matt Bjorke’s Top 12 Albums of 2012 (thus far) include some gems like Jason Eady and Kellie Pickler. What are your thoughts on the rest?
  • Nashville’s Bluebird Café is kicking off their 30th Anniversary celebration this week.
  • Hank Williams, Jr. has released the first single off of his upcoming album.
  • The Houston Press has an interview with Michael Martin Murphey where they talk about the intersections of bluegrass music and cowboy music: “A tremendous number of black slaves, after they were released after the Civil War, left the South in disgust because nobody gave them any capital. They had nothing. They finally passed an act that gave them 40 acres and a mule, but they had no capital. So what are you going to do to survive if you can’t buy seed and can’t buy anything to farm with, but you’ve got a government mule and 40 acres? Well, what a lot of them did was they sold the 40 acres and got on the mule and went to Texas and became cowboys.”
  • William Vanderbilt, Bill Anderson’s manager, passed away at 57.
  • New music videos from the last couple of weeks or so:

Zac Brown Band – “Uncaged (Live)”

Terri Clark – “Wrecking Ball”

Julie Roberts – “Sweet Carolina”

Lee Brice – “Hard to Love”

Big & Rich – “That’s Why I Pray” 

Small Town Pistols – “Color Blind” 

Dierks Bentley – “Set Fire to the Rain

Dierks Bentley – “5-1-5-0” 

Rita Wilson – “Please Come to Boston”

Kelly Clarkson – “Dark Side”

Little Big Town – “Pontoon”

David Nail – “Someone Like You”

Dean Brody – “Bob Marley”

Shooter Jennings – “The Real Me” 

Payton Rae – “Stomp the Fire Out”

Jerrod Niemann – “Shinin’ on Me”

Phil Vassar – “Don’t Miss Your Life”

Kip Moore – “Hey, Pretty Girl”

Lilly of the West – “Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring”

Rodney Atkins – “He’s Mine”

ORBO and the Longshots – “Highway Tears” 

Tim Dugger – “God for a Day”

Clint Black – “She Won’t Let Go” 

Wade Bowen – “Say Anything”

Greg Bates – “Did It for the Girl” 

Matthew Mayfield – “Ring of Fire”

Jason Heath & The Greedy Souls – “California Wine”

Vicki Vann – “Reckless Heart” 

 

 

  1. Baron Lane
    June 4, 2012 at 11:13 am

    I wonder how much of Chely Wright’s struggle comes from Nashville’s industrial bigotry against gays and how much stems from her releasing a crappy album?

  2. SamB
    June 4, 2012 at 11:39 am

    Her album was great, one of the best of 2010. Doesn’t really fit in with the current pop-country Nashville sound, but it’s an excellent album.

  3. Ken Morton, Jr.
    June 4, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    I would tend to agree with SamB. Chely’s album was a terrific blend of singer/songwriter/Americana… that couldn’t be further from what country radio is playing if it tried. My personal belief was that it was her finest album of her career, actually. A quick peek at some other artists that were on the charts at the same time “Single White Female” hit #1 in 1999 include Collin Raye, Billy Ray Cyrus, Michael Peterson, Aaron Tippin, John Michael Montgomery, Andy Griggs, Mark Chesnutt, SHEDaisy, Sammy Kershaw, Chad Brock, Lila McCann and The Wilkinsons. Each had arguably just as much popularity as Chely Wright back in that day but would have an equally difficult time getting airplay and award show invitations now. I bring up those names because I don’t believe “the industry”- depending on what your definition of what that even means- really is a cruel mistress. At some point, your 15 minutes in the radio spotlight is up and no matter your sex, your sexual orientation, or any other personal definer can have much impact thereafter. Can that artist make some terrific music after that fact? They do all the time. (Some could argue that the lack of label involvement allows a creativity that brings out the best in artists.) Could a big artist come out in support of Chely’s lifestyle? Certainly. Would it ease her own personal deep feelings of “freeze-out?” Possibly. Would it impact her career on radio and in record sales at this point? I’d be very surprised.

  4. Jon
    June 4, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    Could a big artist come out in support of Chely’s lifestyle? Certainly. Would it ease her own personal deep feelings of “freeze-out?” Possibly. Would it impact her career on radio and in record sales at this point? I’d be very surprised.

    I don’t think Wright was talking about radio and record sales. She was talking about participation in other aspects of the industry; she mentions a few (awards show appearances, service on committees, etc.). And while I don’t know that having a “big name” coming out with a Chely Wright endorsement would make much of a difference, I do think it’s pretty naive to think that her coming out as a gay woman has had no impact on her participation in the industry as a whole.

  5. Ken Morton, Jr.
    June 4, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    Jon, would social consciousness or public awareness have any bearing on Chely being included in some of those industry events? Could an argument be made that her announcement raised her profile more than any music release could have? And lastly, if you believe her reveal had a negative impact on her career- specifically in country music- what do you think the crux of the bias comes from? Social conservativeness from the south? The inability of any big industry decision-makers to take a risk?

  6. Arlene
    June 4, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    She may well have been excluded from some activities because she came out but I’m curious as to how Chely Wright assesses who is or isn’t a “big” country artist. Dolly Parton, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and Emmylou Harris, Hall-of-Famers all, have given interviews supporting gay rights, gay marriage and/or the repeal of DOMA.

  7. nm
    June 4, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    I do not know Chely Wright. This is pure speculation on my part. But when you let your ex-boyfriend find out from reading your book that you’re gay because you didn’t bother breaking the news to him in person, you may have a problem maintaining relationships in general, and that may have an impact on being included in the sort of activities she mentions.

    Arlene, I assume that by a “big” artist Wright means someone who routinely goes platinum now. And, ya know, pretty much the last artist to be public about gay rights while at the top of a career was Garth Brooks. So she could be, I think, right about the difference the people at the top of the charts can make on the official industry reaction to her.

  8. Arlene
    June 4, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    NM- I mentioned the public statements of four members of the CMHOF, even though none are still at the top of most end-of-year sales charts, because Chely Wright’s quote specifically refers to her alleged exclusion from being “invited to…be a part of…or chair a committee for the Country Music Hall of Fame….”

    If she’s “only” referring to artists who “routinely” go platinum now, that may well be a statistically insignificant sample size. How many people fall into that category?

  9. bob
    June 4, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    Tonight’s 9 pm Bluebird 30th Anniversary Show is “a Songwriter’s Tribute to Garth Brooks with Pat Alger, Tony Arata, Kent Blazy, Victoria Shaw and Kim Williams – all writers who have written with, and for, Bluebird discovery, Garth Brooks”. The show sold out last Monday morning within 5 minutes. Seating capacity is only about 100. The late Tuesday & Wednesday shows this week are also sold out.

  10. nm
    June 4, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    Arlene–

    I’m referring to Wright’s complaint that she should be “performing on every awards show.” The networks, the awarding organizations, and the labels have input into who performs on those shows. My impression is that current sales has a lot to do with the decisions, and that the opinions of current large sellers would carry more weight than those of artists who sold more some decades back.

    Clearly, you’re right that current sales considerations wouldn’t be as significant for chairing a committee for the HoF.

  11. Rick
    June 4, 2012 at 10:47 pm

    Elizabeth Cook does such a great job with covering classic country songs like “Columbus Stockade Blues” that an album full of such gems is far overdue. I think that at least 20 tracks would be about right! (lol)

    That is one heck of a list of new music videos! I still say a symbol to denote attractive female artists in skimpy clothing would be appreciated…

    I agree with Neil Young about MP3’s to a point. If they were all sold at a minimum bitrate of 320 kps, I wouldn’t mind so much. Unfortunately Amazon nowadays often encodes the songs with a variable bitrate to reduce file size that further degrades fidelity! Another big step in the wrong direction.

    Yesterday attendees at LA’s Grand Ole Echo show were treated to an extended set of modernized covers of classic country songs from the 1950’s and 60’s. What makes this unusual was that it was Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiflett who was doing the singing and leading the band! Chris has good taste in country classics with song choices like “Walking The Floor Over You”, “Live Fast Love Hard Die Young”, “You’re Still On My Mind”, “Pop A Top”, and Wynn Stewart’s “Playboy” among many others. I think Chris’ Foo Fighter fans that showed up didn’t have a clue as to what he was singing! (lol)

  12. Rick
    June 4, 2012 at 11:39 pm

    There were some nice songs in that video list, mostly from the lesser known artists who aren’t on major labels. So the Canadian Wilkinson offspring are now the “Small Town Pistols” huh? That song was fine right up until it went totally bombastic like a typical AirHead Country Nashville product. Oh well…

    The highlight picks of the litter include Bulgarian bluegrass/gypsy jazzer Lilly Drumeva (ie Lilly of the West), ORBO and The Longshots, Jason Heath and the Greedy Souls (they need to locate their own young version of Augie Meyers though to complete their sound), and the cutie Vicki Vann who pulls off a nice Patsy Cline sounding number in “Reckless Heart”. Good stuff!

  13. Jeremy Dylan
    June 5, 2012 at 8:47 am

    I’m referring to Wright’s complaint that she should be “performing on every awards show.”

    NM, she explicitly says that she doesn’t think she should be performing on every awards show.

  14. luckyoldsun
    June 5, 2012 at 9:48 am

    JD–
    Hey, but he did manage to capture the words “performing on every awards show” inside quotation marks!

  15. Baron Lane
    June 5, 2012 at 10:37 am

    I respectfully disagree with my fellow commenters. I think Cheley’s “Lifted Off the Ground” is a middling affair never fully committing to the pop-country sound where she made her bones or pop-folk, where she might find a more sympathetic ear and openness for her role as a Gay right advocate.

    Everyone knows that music city serves a demographic that trends right of center. Wright was happy to feed that demo with songs like “Bumper of My S.U.V.” when it served her financial interest.

    I champion Wright’s decision to proudly be who she is, but don’t expect music city to alienate it’s audience because of her decision. Instead work on your craft and look over the growing Americana genre. Sure she’s not going to make the $$$ she was making but she can belong to a community that counts lesbians, like Mary Gauthier and Brandi Carlile, among their ranks.

    They don’t have to rail about acceptance, they just concentrate on making great music.

  16. Jon
    June 5, 2012 at 10:56 am

    That post is wrong in so many ways that I don’t have the time to enumerate them. Although I will point out that, given that there is apparent disagreement as to the musical value of Wright’s latest album, advising her to “work on [her] craft” is probably gratuitous and definitely patronizing. Especially from a writer who uses “it’s” where he should use “its.” Work on your craft, pal!

  17. idlewildsouth
    June 5, 2012 at 10:57 am

    I’m sure there are those that don’t like Chely Wright because she came out of the closet. I for one have very strong opinions about homosexuality, most of which Chely would not care to hear. You don’t any further right than where I am. That being said, my favorite artists are typically as far left as I am right. Darrell Scott and I would probably not be friends were we to hang out, but that doesn’t keep him from being my favorite artist of all time.

    Were Chely to have experienced a situation like the Dixie Chicks, I would be willing to accept that it is because of her sexual orientation, but given that it isn’t, I just don’t buy that she’s been shunned for sexual orientation.

    I realize that countrys demographic is middle aged women, but that’s not what Chely is claiming to want. She claims she wants acceptance from within the industry. Well, living in Nashville and knowing a fair amount of people that are in the industry, I can say it’s hard to believe she wears a scarlet letter around this town.

  18. nm
    June 5, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Jeremy, that’s right. I was reading too fast. I still think that Wright is saying that support (or her personally, or of lesbians and gays generally) from current country hitmakers would change things for her (personally and/or professionally) in a way that support from stars of previous decades does not.

  19. Brenda Barrett
    June 5, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    I’m not sure why Chely is throwing the Country Music Hall of Fame into the mix with her comments. As far as I know, the only ‘committees’ at the hall of fame are part of the museum’s board, and I think that all of the board members are current industry and community leaders, and the occasional contemporary or HOF-caliber artist. Once upon a time Chely was a contemporary artist, but the fact is that she hasn’t charted for years. I believe she’s not asked to participate in industry events for the same reason that Rick Trevino, Collin Raye, and 100 other artists aren’t. I would absolutely abhor it if coming out impacted Chely’s career negatively, and I wish more people would have the courage to speak out and be true to themselves, but I really think the industry is not embracing her because her 15 minutes are up.

  20. Jon
    June 5, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    I think folks might be taking Ms Wright as having been more considered in her comments than she actually was.

    She may well have been excluded from some activities because she came out …

    I’d be surprised if that weren’t the case, and so I’m inclined to cut her a little slack in the precision department.

  21. Barry Mazor
    June 5, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    Yep; look, I know Chely, and I think that interview was pretty much off the top of her head. I hear her attempting to make it clear that she knows about the “15 minutes” factor, and generational change (which she surely does) and look, she’s inevitably more aware than anybody of where she’s been on the charts and when. I think she was even striving (while rambling) for some nuance and balance there, to an extent the simplified headline on the interview and marketing of the documentary might not make clear.

    All that said–I don’t doubt or question her testimony about her own experience at all. She did serve on industry committees, up front in charity events, appearances for the military and lots of things smart and interested country performers do when there’s some mileage behind them or sooner–and there’s certainly less of all of that for her now.

    (One factor the clip doesn’t get to, or make much of, though, is that she’s also relocated to New York, by choice, which no doubt makes some difference she’s got to be aware of how “go to” anybody is in Nashville.)

  22. luckyoldsun
    June 6, 2012 at 1:41 am

    All Chely really needs is a song.

    I wrote one for her. It’s called “The Rear Window of My Volvo.” It’s about how she drove through Music City with a Gay Pride sticker and a “Vegans Are Sexy” sticker on the back of her car and got honked at and cused at by a homophobic, misogynistic guy driving an Escalade and with a “USMC” cap on his head.

    Once she records and releases this, things will start to turn around for Chely and she’ll be back in the industry’s good graces in no time. There’s nothing that a good song won’t cure.

  23. Jon
    June 6, 2012 at 10:24 am

    It takes some work to be more offensive than Rick.

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