John Rich Makes ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ Cast; The Steel Wheels Ask Fans For Help; Eric Brace/Peter Cooper Produce Tom T. Hall Tribute

Brody Vercher | January 17th, 2011

  • It’s official: John Rich will be on the upcoming season of Celebrity Apprentice.
  • Austin Music Source’s Michael Corcoran on Friday night’s George Strait/Reba McEntire/Lee Ann Womack show, which set a record for the Erwin Center:

    Though this seemed like a double headlined show on paper, Strait and his aptly named Ace In the Hole Band, the best in country music, reduced McEntire to an opening act with a spendid tour-opening set that found the heroic frontman rotating between microphones at each corner of a stage set up in the middle of the arena. I’ve reviewed about half a dozen Strait shows through the years and have never heard the 58-year-old Pearsall native sing with more caressing character than on Friday night. “Ocean Front Property” found him coming off like Nashville’s Sinatra, better in his fifties than he was in his thirties. And without the throat-coating help of Jack Daniels.

  • Stream Wanda Jackson‘s new album, The Party Ain’t Over, in its entirety at NPR.
  • In Country Universe’s countdown of the 100 greatest men of country music, Gary Allan placed #96.

    Smoke Rings in the Dark, released in 1999, struck a deep chord with country music listeners. The title track, reminiscent of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game”, only made it to #12, but it sold him more records than his previous two top ten hits combined. As the album powered its way to platinum, radio finally embraced Allan, as the final single from the set, “Right Where I Need to Be”, became his first top five hit.

  • Today’s Texas Music Matters song of the day is a Butch Hancock performance of the Joe Ely song “Indian Cowboy” recorded at the KUT studios last week.
  • In her writeup of Gary P. Nunn‘s “London Homesick Blues” video, Music Fog’s Jessie Scott mentioned something about an upcoming Tom T. Hall tribute album produced by Eric Brace and Peter Cooper.
  • Country California: Quotable Country – 01/16/11 Edition
  • Amanda Shires – “When You Need a Train it Never Comes” (via @TwangNation)

  • Donald Teplyske on Big Country Bluegrass:

    Vocalist Jeff Michaels, who also handles the fiddle chores, has a voice that evokes both the charming country, nasal elements of Lester Flatt and the piercing, lonesome sound of Del McCoury.

  • Sunny Sweeney‘s new, five-song EP is scheduled to be released tomorrow. Previews for all five songs and more can be streamed on her MySpace.
  • Music Fog posted a video from New Country Rehab, a new Canadian band that describes its sound as “outlaw indie country.” Here’s three songs from the group’s self-titled debut, which was released last week.
  • The Boston Globe‘s Marc Hirsh covered the Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt show at Wilbur Theater last Thursday:

    If the overall casualness limited the number of high points like that one, it provided a charm that never faltered. At one point, Lovett asked why Hiatt kept writing songs after so many years. Hiatt’s answer was simple and humble: “Trying to do a better job.’’

  • Melodic Sunburst’s Carolyn Dixon believes the world needs more Steel Wheels, and I’m inclined to agree — the band’s album Red Wing was one of my favorite releases last year. In an effort to maintain touring, they’re asking for donations to help raise money for a new van.
  • Happy MLK Day.

  1. Miss Leslie
    January 17, 2011 at 11:11 am

    Glad to see the label is at least releasing an EP for Sunny. Hope it does well for her – the single “From A Table Away” has done well and hope it’s a preview of what’s to come for her.

  2. Rick
    January 17, 2011 at 11:25 am

    Sunny already has a full album in the can for Republic Nashville, so I don’t quite grasp why they are only releasing half of it? On the other hand they did pick the best songs for the EP! I really hope “Drink Myself Single” becomes a radio single at some point. The most traditional sounding track “Amy” was a co-write by Sunny with her Texas BFF Brennen Leigh.

    Wanda Jackson performed on the Grand Ole Opry Saturday night and it was a hoot. Jack White has assembled a top notch band to back Wanda on the tour they are starting in order to promote the new album he produced for Wanda that comes out later this month. Ashley Monroe is one of the featured back-up singers in this band. By the time I found out about the LA concert date it was already sold out. Oh well…

    Wow, what happened to Amanda Shires’ strawberry blonde hair color? Crikey!

  3. Drew
    January 17, 2011 at 11:47 am

    Been waiting forever for Sunny Sweeney to release another album… and now it’s just a 5-song EP? And we’ve heard 2 of them. So there’s 3 new songs to look forward to… awesome. Very disappointing…

  4. Ollie
    January 17, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    As for the Tom T. Hall tribute album, last June at a Patty Griffin/Buddy Miller concert, that I attended, after singing a great version of “That’s How I Got to Memphis,” Buddy Miller mentioned that he had just recorded in Nashville “Sneaky Snake” and that Patty Griffin had just recorded “I Love (Little Baby Ducks)” for a covers album of childrens’ songs written by Tom T. Hall.

  5. J.R. Journey
    January 17, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    I’m still a bit baffled as to why Sunny Sweeney isn’t getting a full album release either. Her first album got the full release treatment without the benefit of a hit single. Now she’s got one and the label is still playing it so close to the vest. I wish I could understand it … I do agree with Rick that they picked the best songs, except I may have swapped out ‘Helluva Heart’ for ‘Mean As You’.

  6. Barry Mazor
    January 17, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Eric and Peter talked about the project during their streaming webcast house concert Friday night. (I had the pleasure of being there.) And yes, that is the Tom T. children’s song tribute. From what I hear about it, it should be good, and fun. Even for actual kids.

  7. Erik
    January 17, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    No one, and I mean no one could reduce Reba McEntire to an opening act – especially not George Strait. I wonder what the hell that reviewer was smoking. (if anybody sees it fit to comment on, this is all IMO.)

  8. Jon
    January 17, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    Yeah, I really enjoyed our time at the Blythe Bluegrass Festival – for one thing, David Peterson & 1946 (the band this time out: Mike Compton, Dave Talbot, Shad Cobb, Mike Bub) were on fire – but I hated to have to miss Eric’s thing. And I’m glad to hear the “cheesy” (according to some) side of Tom T.’s work is getting tributized. Loved doing “Sneaky Snake” with him on Song Of The Mountains!

  9. Troy
    January 17, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    A bit random but I just found out recently of this country singer from Netherlands that I like so I thought I would share it here. Her name is Ilse Delange. It’s has more of a country-pop sound to it but heres one of her more recent song so incredbile

  10. Rick
    January 17, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    Troy, if you like Dutch gals, then my recommendation is Caro Emerald! She’s not country by any stretch, but what she is is just plain fun! Here’s her playful video for her 2010 Dutch pop chart smash hit “Back It Up”:

    Back onto Sunny Sweeney for a moment! Here’s what Rita Ballou had to say to all her fans today about Sunny’s EP:

    “It looks like Sunny Sweeny’s EP is coming on out on Tuesday. I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE Sunny. I can’t wait to buy it and I hope you guys do too. I have never seen her live but it is on my “to do” list for this year. I personally love stalking her on Facebook and I dig her so much because she seems very wacky like me and even tonight she called the guy on the plane next to her a douchebag. I wanna hang with her. Sunny, if you are out there…call me! Love ya, mean it.” (lol)

  11. Troy
    January 17, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    Thanks Rick I don’t really follow Dutch musician that much. To many different markets to keep up with but my favorite besides US and Uk is the Swedish music scene.

  12. Jon
    January 17, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    Nice, Troy – I read your post, and DeLange’s name sounded familiar. A little poking around led me to figure it out: she made a good record of a Julie Miller song, “I Still Cry,” that April Verch cut on her Take Me Back album a few years ago, when I was working in her band. Good stuff.

  13. Ollie
    January 17, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    Unfortunately, New West Records hasn’t released it as part of their Live From Austin series of DVDs and CDs but in 2000, a singer/songwriter episode of Austin City Limits was broadcast with Emmylou Harris, Dave Matthews, Patty Griffin and Buddy and Julie Miller. On this episode, Julie Miller performed “I Still Cry” with Patty Griffin providing haunting harmony vocals. If you ever get the chance, try to watch this show– their rendition of “I Still Cry” was absolutely stunning. It was one of those moments that make me remember all over again why I love music so much.

  14. Troy
    January 17, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    Yes, I liked that song by her. It seems like she very succesful in the Netherlands and she getting ready to releashe her music to the Uk which is how I found out about her.

  15. Sam G.
    January 17, 2011 at 9:59 pm

    Ilse DeLange released an EP of John Hiatt covers some time ago. I accidentally lost it in an iPod sync mishap a few years back, but she did a great job on “Have a Little Faith in Me.” I always dug her voice.

  16. luckyoldsun
    January 18, 2011 at 12:35 am

    John Rich will probably try to fire Trump.

  17. WAYNOE
    January 18, 2011 at 9:13 am

    @Lucky – I was waiting to see who would be the first to bash Rich. I think that is the only reason this website mentions him.

  18. The Confessor
    January 18, 2011 at 9:25 am

    I generally reserve my bashing for Rich for when he does something markedly stupid… like the gay-bashing comments that first introduced me to his less savory side, or his well-publicized, hypocritical visits to strip clubs despite his “son of a preacher man” persona, or his drunkenness, or his rowdiness when drunk.

    Or reportedly “mentoring” the JaneDear Girls. Given my impression of their first single, that would also qualify.

  19. stormy
    January 18, 2011 at 9:32 am

    I generally reserve my bashing for Rich for when he does something markedly stupid…

    Like going on a reality show where contestants compete to see who can bring the most crazy?

  20. The Confessor
    January 18, 2011 at 10:03 am

    Trace Adkins appeared on (I think) the last installment of Celebrity Apprentice, reportedly brought very little crazy, finished in second place, earned money and awareness for a juvenile food allergy charity, and (temporarily) increased his public profile enough to gain some legitimate crossover airplay for his next single, “You’re Gonna Miss This”

    …which, though actually a pretty well-written and well-sung song, lacked novelty and infectiousness that made “Honky-Tonk-Badonkadonk” something of a natural crossover before.

    In short, while I have little doubt John Rich will bring the crazy to his performance, I’ll reserve my active ridicule until he actually does.

  21. Brody Vercher
    January 18, 2011 at 10:13 am

    Don’t be so reasonable, Confessor, you know that don’t fly ’round here.

  22. PaulaW
    January 18, 2011 at 10:30 am

    LOL @ Brody! :-)

  23. stormy
    January 18, 2011 at 10:44 am

    Trace Adkins appeared on (I think) the last installment of Celebrity Apprentice, reportedly brought very little crazy, finished in second place,

    But that was pretty much so they could set him up to be the antagonist to eventual winner Piers Morgan. If they had been going on merrit, Carol Alt would have been second.

  24. luckyoldsun
    January 18, 2011 at 2:14 pm


    Are you really that humorless/sensitive that you perceive my one-line comment as Rich-bashing?

  25. WAYNOE
    January 18, 2011 at 3:13 pm


    I deeply regret such a nonsensical reply to your post and ask for a 1,000 pardons of your good nature to forgive my mischaracterization of your good intentions.

  26. Leeann Ward
    January 18, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    I wish John Rich could fire Trump.

  27. WAYNOE
    January 18, 2011 at 7:06 pm


    Agree with you there!

  28. Ben Foster
    January 18, 2011 at 7:12 pm

    Thanks for the NPR link! I’ve been listening to the new Wanda Jackson album, and I’m really enjoying it.

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