It was late Saturday night, early Sunday morning, roughly midnight Central time, and a press release was sent out across the wires from the Kenny Chesney camp. It seemed like a very strange time to send out a press release, but Kenny Chesney’s peeps had a story they wanted to get out to the public, or more specifically, a story they wanted to be out ahead of.
These guys exude a good time. The second song on the album laments “Sad Bastard Music” and reminds folks the best way to mend a broken heart is to get back on the horse and on with life. It’s a reminder that music doesn’t always have to be deep to be good. It just doesn’t always have to make you feel stupid for listening like so much of the mainstream fun-loving material.
With the recent loss of bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley, country superstar Merle Haggard, songwriting great Freddy Powers, and Bakersfield’s Red Simpson, the amount of artists who are still around that can truly say they were there at the very start of the formation of country and bluegrass is getting anemically slim.
“I remember we were doing our first tour, somewhere probably like a Red Roof Inn or Howard Johnson’s,” Sturgill explains. “I almost killed myself getting out of the shower to write it down. It was right before we were going to check out and leave. And I had to literally like jump out of the shower and I slipped.”
Ralph Stanley, one of the last living legends in both the country and bluegrass world, has passed away. This was the word Thursday evening (6-23) from his grandson and protege Nathan Stanley. “My heart is broken into pieces. My papaw, my dad, and the greatest man in the world, Dr. Ralph Stanley has went home to be with Jesus just a few minutes ago.”
Usually such a list is only reserved for the worst songs at the halfway pole of a given year, but 2016 has been especially lush with heartbreakily bad efforts, including from some artists who tend to be on the right side of the good music/ bad music divide. So before we really take the gloves off, let’s reflect back on 2016 biggest disappointments in the album category.
Luke Bell has a bright future in music … if he wants to. And that might be the biggest question remaining. This self-titled debut will be all brand new to most, and by the grace of some really amazing songs, his audience will continue to swell. Keeping his authenticity and voice will be the challenge.
Along with all the other accolades Chris Stapleton has received over the past year, you can add gold and platinum certifications for his version of the country music classic, “Tennessee Whiskey” to the pile. Written by Dean Dillon and Linda Hargrove, first recorded by David Allan Coe in 1981, and then turned into a Top 5 hit song for George Jones.
One of the most creatively-rambunctious artists in the history of country music, a well-respected and prolific songwriter, and one of the best friends artists like Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard ever had, has passed away. Freddy Powers, known for so many contributions, but known best as an aficionado of country jazz passed away on Tuesday, June 21st.
If you’re rounding out a list of the current artists who are helping to save country music, you better damn well make sure Kelsey Waldon makes it on there or the whole enterprise is bunk. Her 2014 record The Goldmine was a badass collection of classic country tunes that had fans of traditional country singing her praise.
It says a lot about where country music is, and where Wheeler Walker Jr. is going, that his show at Austin’s new Grizzly Hall was one of the most highly-anticipated country shows in Austin in months. Bloggers, radio DJ’s, and even Texas country artist Sam Riggs turned out to see what all of the hype was about surrounding the country’s newest raunch artist.
Willie Nelson, along with Neil Young, John Mellencamp, and Dave Matthews are the board members for the Farm Aid organization first launched in 1985, and all four will be performing at this year’s event being held in Bristow, Virginia at Jiffy Lube Live on September 17th. Along with the four headliners, this year’s Farm Aid features an impressive list of country music talent.
There are now so many versions of standards from the American country, bluegrass, and old time songbook, it is an art and discipline in itself to find ways to squeeze new life out of old songs, and one so few have mastered. It’s fun for artists to play cover songs, but it’s rare that it results in anything exceptional or original for the audience these days.