Red Simpson Named HoF’s New Poet & Prophet; Billy Joe Foster Passes Away; Miranda Lambert to Perform at Grammys

Juli Thanki | January 24th, 2013

  • Billy Joe Foster, who played with Bill Monroe, Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Special Edition, and Country Gazette passed away at the age of 51.
  • Red Simpson is the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s newest “Poet and Prophet.” He’ll take part in an in-depth interview and performance at the HoF on February 23.
  • This week’s Nashville Scene cover story, written by Edd Hurt, is about Cowboy Jack Clement. It’s a lengthy read that’s well worth your time.
  • Ronnie McCoury talks with Dru Willis of The State Journal-Register about The Travelin’ McCourys and the “family business.”
  • Noam Pikelny and his former banjo teacher, Greg Cahill (Special Consensus) are both up for Grammys this year. Chrissie Dickinson of The Chicago Tribune wrote a feature about the two of them and their relationship. An excerpt: Pikelny found Cahill after an article in the publication Banjo Newsletter included the address of Cahill’s Skokie post office box. “I was in disbelief that the greatest bluegrass banjo player in this part of the country could be in this same little suburb,” Pikelny says. “I sent Greg a letter. He wrote back immediately. I started taking lessons. He was one of the most influential mentors I’ve ever gotten to work with. He taught me the basics of really great musicianship, not just being a good banjo player. He taught me the importance of being able to create something on my own.”
  • Chet Flippo new Nashville Skyline column is about reasons for musical optimism in 2013, including CMT’s Next Women of Country campaign and NYC’s new country radio station.
  • Taylor Swift is Rapunzel in a new Disney ad shot by Annie Leibovitz.
  • Miranda Lambert will perform at the Grammy Awards next month.
  • Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Dwight Yoakam, Lyle Lovett, Kris Kristofferson, Reba, and John Doe made Chris Gray’s list of “Bizarre Acting Roles by 20 Famous Musicians.”
  • Chely Wright is pregnant with twins. She and wife Lauren Blitzer-Wright will welcome the new additions in June.
  • Saving Country Music calls out Blake Shelton for making the following comment: If I am “Male Vocalist of the Year” that must mean that I’m one of those people now that gets to decide if it moves forward and if it moves on. Country music has to evolve in order to survive. Nobody wants to listen to their grandpa’s music. And I don’t care how many of these old farts around Nashville going, “My God, that ain’t country!” Well that’s because you don’t buy records anymore, jackass. The kids do, and they don’t want to buy the music you were buying.
  • Concert special ACM Presents: Tim McGraw’s Superstar Summer Night will be taped in April and broadcast at a later date on CBS. The show will include “handpicked artists and friends of the fifteen time ACM Award winner across country, pop, and rock genres in addition to a few surprise special guests from the worlds of film and television.”
  • Jack White talks about his Charley Patton project on an episode of All Songs Considered.
  • Alan Scherstuhl on Brad Paisley and “Southern Comfort Zone”: Paisley, like most of today’s male country stars, is an ace re-assurer, committed to telling his audience that, no matter how much time we spend staring at flickering screens, our lives right now still stand in the tradition of all that hard work and integrity our nation ascribes to previous generations. Unlike other country stars, though, Paisley is as optimistic about the future as he is enthralled with the past. Like a TED talker or a barker working outside a Worlds Fair, Paisley has welcomed his fans to the future.
  • Tate Stevens, the country singing winner of The X Factor, will debut new song “Holler If You’re with Me” as “part of a Pepsi clip to debut during the Grammys, with a full music video available online immediately afterward.” 
  • Teea Goans is posting a song a day until Valentine’s Day. Today’s is her duet with Jamie Dailey, “That’s Just Me Loving You,” from her 2012 record, That’s Just Me.
  1. Jon
    January 24, 2013 at 10:40 am

    “That’s Just Me Loving You” was written by my buddy and sometimes co-writer, Lisa Shaffer, along with Jerry Salley. Great song. And thanks for the pointer to Chrissie’s fine piece on Noam and Greg.

  2. Ben Foster
    January 24, 2013 at 11:22 am

    “That’s Just Me Loving You” is my favorite song on Teea’s album. It makes me happy.

  3. Luckyoldsun
    January 24, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    Red Simpson is the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s newest “Poet and Prophet.”

    Funny, the wave of truck-driving songs in the’ 60s and ’70s were about the men who actually make their living driving big rigs across the country and hauling the products that drive the economy. The current wave of truck songs seems to be largely about people who think that bragging about their personal trucks proves that they’re country.

  4. Jon
    January 24, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    Ben, you should checck out Darin & Brooke Aldridge’s version.

  5. CraigR.
    January 24, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    Blake Shelton has always been very direct and honest. That I respect. And I agree that country music has to evolve. But one of the major problems with new country singers is their lack of respect toward the history of country music. Do you think Taylor Swift knows who Jimmy Rogers was? Or for that matter Roger Miller. Does Jason Aldean see that his attitude music was what made Hank, Sr. and Wanda Jackson stars? When was the last time Luke Bryan thanked Conway Twitty? Blake Shelton may have won some awards, but like Charlie Rich, I would love to light up the envelope they came in. Disrespect is different than honesty. Mr. “Honey Bee” hasn’t learned that lesson.

  6. nm
    January 24, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    I know who Jimmie Rodgers was, though I’m not sure about Jimmy Rogers…. And I know why it was more than a little bit ironic that Charlie Rich, of all people, thought John Denver wasn’t traditionally country enough. Every generation gets older and thinks the kids are little punks, and every generation forgets a little about the older generations, too. I don’t have a problem with that.

    The question these days is not whether country music is changing (duh) or ought to change (equally duh). The question is whether it changes in ways that keep it distinguishable as a genre.

  7. Jon
    January 24, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    How does presumptively not knowing who Jimmy Rogers (sic) was constitute evidence of a lack of respect toward the history of country music? And exactly why does such a lack of respect – to the extent that it actually exists – constitute a problem?

    NM, doesn’t every generation also wonder whether the music’s changed in ways that make it indistinguishable from other genres, too?

  8. nm
    January 24, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    Jon, I’m sure every generation does. But right now, if there were to be a “country-rap” or “country-pop” movement analogous to the “country-rock” wave of the 1970s, what identifiable aspect of country would get taken into those other genres? List songs?

  9. Jon
    January 24, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    That seems like an awfully indirect way of looking at it. But why wouldn’t pedal steel guitars, or banjos, or fiddles, or modular song structures built around chords and melodies as opposed to beats and grooves, or the presence of acoustic guitars on virtually every track, or mixes that put background vocals in the back, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc. count? Or invocations of Hank and Merle? Or, yeah, songs about pickup trucks and living in the country and raising kids?

    The fact is that there are millions of people – tens of millions, probably hundreds of millions – who can watch a show like the Grammy awards and easily pick out the country artists from rap, or hip-hop, or pop, or rock artists, or tune around their radio dials and easily pick out the country stations. So why do supposed country music aficionados claim to have such a hard time doing the same thing?

  10. Mike Wimmer
    January 24, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    Blake’s comments show a fundamental lack of understanding of why so many people are critical of modern Country music. It has nothing to do with how it sounds, most critics could care less if the banjo and fiddle are turned down and it has more electric guitar. The problem is so many of the songs are poorly written. This includes quite a few of the songs Blake has recorded over the last 5 years or so.

    I dont need every artist on the radio to sound like Dale Watson, I really like Dale Watson, but I dont need 20 of them. What I do need is more writers and artists and labels who can allow artists and writers capable of creating great art a seat at the table. Right now you have so many artists and writers trying to ape the Peach Pickers it has gotten stale to downright sickening.

  11. Jon
    January 24, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    “…most critics could care less if the banjo and fiddle are turned down and it has more electric guitar.”

    Taken a poll, have you?

    I just don’t understand why anyone would feel a need to dress his or her critique – no matter its nature – with a spurious claim of mass agreement. If most critics cared passionately whether the banjo and fiddle are turned down, would that persuade you to change your mind about what the problem is?

  12. Ben Foster
    January 24, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    Thanks for the tip, Jon. I just listened to Darin and Brooke Aldridge’s version of the song, and it’s great.

  13. Luckyoldsun
    January 24, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    Hey, I listen on occasion to Hank–both Snow and Williams–and Jimmie and ET and Foley–and I listen to more current artists–like Dale and Wayne the Train and Junior Brown–who know who those greats were.

    But I’m not going to complain because Jason Aldean or Taylor Swift or some other current artist may not be familiar with them. Would anybody care whether Beyonce knows Johnny Ray from Sugar Ray or Leslie Gore from Tipper Gore?

    The world’s gonna keep spinning whether you like it or not.

    (By the way, I’d be willing to bet Hunter Hayes could give a concert tonight of just Jimmie and Hank and ET songs, if he wanted to–but I don’t think that would make me want to buy his current album.)

  14. nm
    January 25, 2013 at 11:42 am

    That seems like an awfully indirect way of looking at it.

    I don’t think so. YMMV.

    But why wouldn’t pedal steel guitars, or banjos, or fiddles, or modular song structures built around chords and melodies as opposed to beats and grooves, or the presence of acoustic guitars on virtually every track, or mixes that put background vocals in the back, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc. count?

    Because most of those things are becoming less characteristic of contemporary country music than they once were.

  15. Jon
    January 25, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    “Because most of those things are becoming less characteristic of contemporary country music than they once were.”

    Compared to other genres, they certainly are still plenty characteristic, especially if one is unwilling to allow what’s played on the 2% of country radio stations that report to the big charts to delimit contemporary country music. And some of them, like song structure or vocal mixes, are most certainly characteristic of even that slice of contemporary country music – again, especially compared to other genres.

    Besides, I don’t see why it would be necessary for someone creating “country-rap” to rely exclusively or even mainly on the most widely exhibited characteristics of contemporary country music as opposed to any others.

    To me, this explanation merely underlines the indirect nature of the approach. If you want to know whether a genre is identifiable, why not look at whether masses of people can identify it? That’s neither hypothetical nor indirect, and it has the advantage of using a wider lens than just how it sounds, which – as we all know – has never been sufficient to cover the scope of what’s been called country music for as long as it’s existed as a genre.

  16. Mike Wimmer
    January 25, 2013 at 11:32 pm

    Jon, I honestly could care less about most critics comments, there is a select group I tend to trust, but that;s about it.

    My point was that I really do think the main critical outcry about current Country music is less about it’s sonic evolution and more it’s lyrical evolution. I wasnt trying to stick words into people’s mouths, but my main complaint about the songs Blake and others are recording is that they just arent very good songs. They are boring, say nothing and are designed to be nothing but background noise as people sludge through their jobs.

    What attracted me to Country music in the first place is it always seemed like one of the genres that had something to say. Tom T. Hall, Bob McDill, Hank Cochran, Shel Silverstein, etc. had something to say and there was depth and meaning in their words. The song writing is what attracted me to Country Music and more and more it feels like the current group of Music Row favorites are just meaningless, thoughtless filler.

    Thankfully we live in an age where music we love is just a click away.

  17. Jon
    January 26, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    “My point was that I really do think the main critical outcry about current Country music is less about it’s sonic evolution and more it’s lyrical evolution. I wasnt trying to stick words into people’s mouths, but my main complaint about the songs Blake and others are recording is that they just arent very good songs.”

    And my point was that you don’t need to make dubious statements about what other people’s complaints about current country music are. You’re an authority on what your complaint is, and you articulate it pretty well; on what and how widely shared others’ complaints are, not so much.

  18. BRUCE
    January 26, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    “Jon, I honestly could care less about most critics comments, there is a select group I tend to trust, but that;s about it.”

    The only critic I listen to is me. My taste in music and what I buy is for my own pleasure regardless of what some supposed expert says about it.

    I have never understood the arena of music critique. To think that one would choose what they like based upon another party’s thoughts is completely foreign to me.

    I do not claim to be an expert on other’s opinions because frankly I don’t give a damn.

  19. Luckyoldsun
    January 26, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    “The only critic I listen to is me. ”

    Who has time to listen to everything?

    I’ve gotten turned on to certain artists from reading reviews–Chris Knight, Dale Watson, Don Walser, Corb Lund, Rosie Flores are a handful. (On the other hand, I’ve also bought some discs based on positive reviews and flung them out the window of my car at 70 mph after one listen–i.e. Bruce Robison, Buddy Miller).

    Hey, you win some, you lose some.

  20. bob
    January 27, 2013 at 9:49 am

    Agree with Bruce’s comment: “The only critic I listen to is me. My taste in music and what I buy is for my own pleasure regardless of what some supposed expert says about it.”

    About 30 years ago a friend referred me to a quote by the famous Russian playwright and short story writer Anton Chekhov. In a letter he wrote in 1890, Chekhov said:
    “When people talk to me of what is artistic and inartistic, of what is dramatic and not dramatic, of tendency, realism, and so on, I am bewildered, hesitatingly assent, and answer with banal half-truths not worth a brass farthing. I divide all works into two classes: those I like and those I don’t. I have no other criterion, and if you ask me why I like Shakespeare and don’t like Zlatovratsky, I don’t venture to answer.” The quote can be found in “The Selected Letters of Anton Chekhov” edited and with an Introduction by Lillian Hellman.

  21. Barry Mazor
    January 27, 2013 at 10:22 am

    Chekhov, you may notice, said those distinctions were not his job. He did not say they were nobody else’s.

  22. Jon
    January 27, 2013 at 11:54 am

    Well. A critic who thinks the job consists solely, or even mainly, of telling people whether she or he likes something doesn’t really understand the job. And someone who says that he or she pays no attention to critics because he or she doesn’t care whether anyone else likes something doesn’t really understand it, either.

  23. Barry Mazor
    January 27, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    At this point, there are an awful lot of people who’ve never been exposed to anyting like clarifying, exploring criticism of any of the arts at all enough to see any point to it, or to many writers with the tools to show why a reader might want to bother with the commentary after all.

    What’s generally being derided as “criticism” if, of course, just thumbs up/thumbs down reviewing–and the less detailed, the more likely it’s out there. And as the internet proves every day, there’s not much qualification for that.Meanwhile, “being critical” suggests “saying negative things about this or that” to many, as well, from which the notion that critics are out there intent on tearing down art or artists has spread.

    Any critic worth a dime and time is out there (including here) trying to expand response to art (like, say, country music, for instance) and to shed some light on how to appreciate it more–including a way to think critically about it that’s constructive. It takes some education and some talents and every now and then, even some insight. Nobody has to read it, or like it, it just needs to be meaningful and engaging enough to some people will.

    And then there’s a different question: what readers and audience members critics like to pay attention to.. But never mind that.

  24. Ken Morton, Jr.
    January 27, 2013 at 10:40 pm

    I came across an old quote posted yesterday on another site called RockCritics.com that seemed appropriate to this discussion here at Engine 145:

    “There is another thing, really the most important of all. We should expect love. Corny? Not at all. The best critics love the art they criticize, become impassioned advocates of work which turns them on and dedicated enemies of the fake, the puerile and the dull. I would rather read someone who loves music and lives for it than the heaviest brain’s analysis. And that kind of criticism is the hardest to write.”

    - Ralph J. Gleason, “Perspectives: Pitfalls For the Critics,” Rolling Stone, March 29, 1973

    Anyone that listens to music quickly learns what they like and what they don’t like- that’s simply personal opinion. For me, the desire to critically write about music comes from my absolute amazement when it’s done well. The passion for music forced me to have to question/analyze/deconstruct that which I felt fell short and explain why so that I could better seek out more of what I loved. Sharing that with like-minded individuals came second. The critique simply was an extension of the passion and love I have for what I think is the good stuff.

    In many ways, the critique itself is not much different than the piece of art that we are analyzing. Readers are going to weigh in on whether they like it or not based on its own engaging merits, the point(s) it makes and the strength of its argument. Done well, it can sway and move the reader. Done poorly, as Barry alluded to, it just consists of thumbs and stars.

  25. Jon
    January 27, 2013 at 11:16 pm

    “In many ways, the critique itself is not much different than the piece of art that we are analyzing.”

    As someone who’s had a good deal of experience as a music critic and as a musician, I disagree. Not saying one’s better than the other, but in my experience, they’re different in almost every respect.

    Also, I think Gleason’s wrong – or, better, misleading. I think advocacy of work which turns critics on is, other things being equal, a far more important job than being an enemy of work which doesn’t. And I would far rather read a thoughtful and dispassionate analysis than anything from someone who, no matter how much he or she loves music and lives for it, is has nothing to offer beyond that enthusiasm.

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