Browsing articles from "April, 2012"

Eric Church Wants It Both Ways

April 30, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  79 Comments

So once again Eric Church has accomplished the open mouth, insert foot trick in an attempt to prove to all of us just how much of an “Outlaw” he is. In the latest edition of The Rolling Stone, not the last one with Obama on the cover, or the other one with Obama on the cover, but the newest one with Obama on the cover, Eric Church twists off on Blake Shelton, dropping F-bombs, and saying Blake is “not an artist” for his role on NBC’s American Idol answer “The Voice”:

It’s become American Idol gone mad. Honestly, if Blake Shelton and Cee Lo Green fucking turn around in a red chair, you get a deal? That’s crazy. I don’t know what would make an artist do that. You’re not an artist…If I was concerned about my legacy, there’s no fucking way I would ever sit there [and be a reality-show judge]. Once your career becomes something other than the music, then that’s what it is. I’ll never make that mistake. I don’t care if I fucking starve.

Then Eric Church turned his evil eye veiled behind his signature aviators on the current state of the institution of rock n’ roll.

Rock & Roll has been very emo or whatever the fuck. It’s very hipster. We played Lollapalooza and I was stunned at how pussy 90 percent of those bands were. Nobody’s loud. It’s all very fuckin’ Peter, Paul and Mary shit.

On the surface, what Eric Church said about Blake Shelton and “The Voice” is spot on. The problem is that Eric Church, whose very much a product of the same machine Blake Shelton originates from, is the one throwing the punches. Eric Church is on tour right now with the official country music douche Brantley Gilbert for crying out loud. He wants to be considered an “Outlaw”, but he takes every opportunity to be part of the big corporate country music machine by performing at award shows. If Eric Church has such a problem with Blake Shelton, why did he perform his song “Springsteen” at last month’s ACM Awards, that were hosted by, guess who… Blake Shelton.

As Blake’s wife Miranda Lambert pointed out through Twitter, she took Eric out on tour with her in 2010. “Thanks Eric Church for saying I’m not a real artist,” she tweeted. “You’re welcome for the tour in 2010.”

Erich Church wants it both ways. He wants to be considered the “new Outlaw” of country music, but he wants to still use the same pop country machine he criticizes to get success. And when exactly did calling out other performers make you an Outlaw? I sure don’t remember Willie or Waylon doing that in their Outlaw days. I remember Waylon skipping the award shows, not making self-aggrandizing videos to help drum up votes from fans. And if you can’t do anything but play music to be an artist, does that mean Outlaws Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson are disqualified because they acted in movies?

This is the same thing Eric Church has been doing for years. The difference now though is Eric Church is no longer playing a club circuit or even a theater circuit. He’s selling out arenas. He’s a bona fide top tier country music star. I am amazed that his last album Chief released last July is still #4 on the Billboard country charts, and was the greatest gainer last week, helped by his big hit “Springsteen.”

But bad habits die hard, and he’s still acting like he has to insult people to get noticed. So many people have their conspiracy theories of how Taylor Swift came to power in country, floating stories about her dad buying her career, and warehouses full of CD’s purchase to drive SoundScan numbers to get her album in the charts. But in truth her big break came when Eric was on tour with Rascal Flatts. Yeah, again, not very “Outlaw”. After repeatedly ignoring Flatts’ requests to not play as loud and to respect the time slot they had given him, since after all, they were giving Eric Church an opportunity, he got kicked off the tour, opening up a space for the up-and-coming Taylor Swift to benefit from the exposure.

Even if I may agree with some of the things Eric Church says, its hard to believe him. I don’t want him representing the dissent against corporate country music, because he’s part of corporate country music, and he fights dirty.

Lastly, this Rolling Stone article should be taken with a little suspicion. The financially-struggling outlet has a history of taking comments out of context, printing comments that were meant to be off-record, and at times publishing outright fictitious stories to help drive buzz and viral events, just like with what has happened with this story where everywhere you turn, people are talking about it. For example there was the story pitting Kris Kristofferson against Toby Keith that both sides say is completely fictitious, or the article that got Gen. Stanley McChrystal fired. Don’t be surprised if Eric in the coming days comes out and says that his comments were misconstrued in one way or another.


As I anticipated, Eric Church has released a statement through The Boot, saying his comments in The Rolling Stone were “misunderstood.”

“The comment I made to Rolling Stone was part of a larger commentary on these types of reality television shows and the perception they create, not the artists involved with the shows themselves,” Eric clarifies. “The shows make it appear that artists can shortcut their way to success. There are a lot of artists due to their own perseverance that have gone on to be successful after appearing on these shows, but the real obstacles come after the cameras stop rolling. Every artist has to follow up television appearances with dedication towards their craft, but these shows tend to gloss over that part and make it seem like you can be ordained into stardom. I have a problem with those perceived shortcuts, not just in the music industry. Many people have come to think they can just wake up and have things handed to them.

“This piece was never intended to tear down any individual, and I apologize to anybody I offended in trying to shed light on this issue.


Why The Country HOF Should Own The Grand Ole Opry

April 30, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  10 Comments

Let me start this off by admitting this is somewhat of a hairbrained idea, and that the chances of it actually happening are slim. Talking about the Country Music Hall of Fame buying The Grand Ole Opry is the music version of fantasy football. However what makes the idea interesting is how perfect it would be, and it is nurtured along by the ever so slight, but nonetheless present possibility that it could actually happen, or happen in some partial measure, some day.

The Grand Ole Opry is the most revered and important institution in country music, charged with preserving the history of country music and the legacies of its performers, while still remaining a relevant institution by showcasing today’s talent. Country music, The Grand Ole Opry, and the city of Nashville are all tied at the hip. If it wasn’t for country music, The Grand Ole Opry would have never existed. Without the The Grand Ole Opry, Nashville may have never become country music’s home. Without Nashville and The Grand Ole Opry, country music may have never become a dominant American music genre.

Why Gaylord is a Bad Fit for The Opry, and The Country Music HOF is a Good One

The problem with The Grand Ole Opry is that it is owned by a public company, Gaylord Entertainment, who is beholden to shareholders and profit margins before the Grand Ole Opry’s charter of preserving the roots and traditions of country music. Gaylord’s ownership fits in the classic modern dilemma for the American investor. With money tied up into investments, we all demand not only profit, but growth from our companies. To achieve this profit and growth, corporations like Gaylord must must deliver less and take more, ostensibly robbing investors of what they desire to eventually be repaid back in dividends and stock appreciation.

The Country Music Hall of Fame on the other hand is a private, not-for-profit institution that subsists on admission fees to The Hall and special events, retail sales in its gift shop and cafe, renting of its spaces, and donations. The Country HOF has no need to show profit or growth, only a balanced, sustainable budget, insulating it from trend chasing, austere cost cutting campaigns, and other corporate bureaucratic trappings of public entities.

The Ryman Auditorium, the "Mother Church of Country Music"

The fundamental problem with The Grand Ole Opry is it was built on a business model constructed in the early 20th Century, when radio was the dominant media, and real estate and talent were cheap. The promise of The Opry to its performers has always been that if they give to The Opry during the heyday of their career, The Opry will be there to support them in the twilight of their career. But unfortunately this handshake-like, loose relationship does not translate to the modern, HR-style corporate policies that Gaylord must operate under. This has resulted in lawsuits and bad publicity like in the Stonewall Jackson age discrimination case and others.

Under Gaylord ownership, The Grand Ole Opry can only worry about the preservation of country music history and values in ways that also can fit in Gaylord’s business model and turn profit and growth. Part of Gaylord’s management structure and executives do not have backgrounds in country music, rendering them uninformed and/or out-of-touch with the public demands of the unique Opry institution.

What is The Grand Ole Opry?

The business consists of five major assets:

  • The copyrighted “Grand Ole Opry” name.
  • Local radio station WSM in Nashville.
  • The Opry radio show broadcast on WSM, and their live performances at The Ryman and Opry House.
  • The Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville.
  • The Grand Ole Opry House 9 miles east of downtown Nashville.

Would Gaylord Entertainment be sellers?

Over the last 15 years, Gaylord Entertainment has dramatically shifted their business model from a broadcast and entertainment company, to a hospitality resort-holdings, real estate-based model. Gaylord used to own over 10 local television stations, as well as CMT (Country Music Television), TNN (The Nashville Network), WKY Radio in Oklahoma City, The Daily Oklahoman newspaper, and the massive Acuff-Rose music publishing firm (now Sony ATV), and other broadcasting and entertainment assets. All of these have now been sold off, with The Opry’s WSM the only remaining broadcasting arm of the business.

Today Gaylord’s core business is its 5 resorts and convention centers in Nashville, Orlando, Grapevine, TX (Dallas), National Harbor, MD, and Denver (scheduled to open 2014), as well as other real estate assets including the Wildhorse Saloon in downtown Nashville, and the General Jackson riverboat. The way The Grand Ole Opry fits into Gaylord’s structure is not as a country music institution or a broadcast entity, but as a tourist destination.

If you take away the real estate and tourist component from The Grand Ole Opry, the Opry franchise sticks out like a sore thumb in the current Gaylord Entertainment business structure. One of the reasons Gaylord may be reluctant to sell or otherwise part with its Grand Ole Opry assets is because of the very lucrative naming rights that come with the Opry/WSM franchise. “The Grand Ole Opry” is one of the most powerful brands in the city of Nashville, and is tied to their Opryland Resort, and was previously-tied to the Gaylord-owned Opryland USA theme park that closed in 1997 that later became the Opry Mills shopping mall. A new theme park partnering Gaylord with Dolly Parton is now scheduled to open in 2014 adjacent to the Opryland Resort.

Why Would The Country HOF Be Buyers?

As an entity whose purpose is to preserve the roots and history of country music, and one that is not beholden to public shareholders or profitability, the Country Music Hall of Fame is a perfect fit for The Grand Ole Opry. Furthermore, whether the Country HOF wants to be a buyer, they may have no choice but to be a buyer to preserve The Grand Ole Opry as an institution long term. Radio, especially country radio, continues to be a dwindling asset with declining revenues and listeners. The sale of WSM and The Grand Ole Opry as a radio show to an entity that can maintain the institution on a not-for-profit basis may be the only way long-term for the asset of the Grand Ole Opry radio show to be sustained.

Historic RCA Studio 'B" is 1 1/2 miles from the Hall of Fame, but ferries museum visitors back and forth

There is precedent for the Hall of Fame purchasing or taking control of satellite properties or assets, as well as partnering with other entities. The Hall of Fame is already working closely with the Nashville Convention Center being constructed across the street from it, and eventually the two buildings will be joined with the Hall of Fame expanding into a collaborative use of space with the Convention Center. Another great example is the old RCA Studio B that is now part of the Hall of Fame despite being located 1 1/2 miles west, on Music Row. The Hall currently shuttles museum attendees back and forth to the studio’s location as part of their tour.

Comparatively the Ryman Auditorium, the original home of The Grand Ole Opry, also dubbed the “Country Music Mother Church” and where the Opry still holds winter shows, is only a few blocks from the Hall of Fame. In many ways the Hall of Fame’s stewardship of The Ryman seems perfect, and in line with its charter to preserve country music’s history. The Ryman was virtually abandoned for over 20 years after the Opry House was opened in 1974.

A Partial Sale

As unlikely as any sale or exchange of ownership of The Grand Ole Opry may or may not be, it is significantly more likely that a partial sale or split of the Opry assets could occur. Gaylord is probably less likely to sell its Opry real estate assets of The Grand Ole Opry House and The Ryman since real estate is Gaylord’s new core business, but these properties could be split, or leased to The Hall of Fame or another entity as part of the sale of WSM and The Opry radio show.

Maybe the most coveted asset of The Grand Ole Opry to Gaylord, the precious naming rights, might could be negotiated in a lease or partial ownership arrangement. Either the Opry name could be retained by Gaylord and leased to the Hall of Fame, or they could be given or sold to the Hall of Fame and then leased back to Gaylord for use in their Nashville properties. The naming rights are probably the most difficult portion of the dilemma of how to divest Gaylord from The Grand Ole Opry, and probably the main reason The Opry has not been spun off or sold yet like all of Gaylord’s other media assets.

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However unlikely it might be that The Country Music Hall of Fame would buy The Grand Ole Opry, the likelihood that Gaylord Broadcasting would be sellers is somewhere between likely and inevitable, especially if the difficult naming rights issue can be resolved with the new owners. The list of other potential new owners if The Hall of Fame is eliminated is limitless, but in the changing world of media where radio’s relevance and revenue is declining, this might just plunge the Grand Ole Opry into a foster care situation where it is bounced back and forth in the portfolios of companies that care even less for its history and significance than Gaylord does until it is eventually liquidated.

Pointing up from the top of the dome of the Country Music Hall of Fame is a radio antenna, with a corresponding antenna pointing down into the center of the Hall’s rotunda, symbolizing the importance of WSM and The Grand Ole Opry radio program to the formation and continued success of country music. How fitting it would be if that antenna actually broadcast the station and program it was built to symbolize, with its base being the circular Hall itself lined with bronze plaques of its inductees and the eternal question “Will The Circle Be Unbroken?” The Hall of Fame taking stewardship of the most reverent of country music institutions in The Grand Ole Opry may be the only way the answer to that “Will The Circle Be Unbroken?” question continues to be “No”.


Jason Eady’s “AM Country Heaven” Is Country Music

April 29, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  13 Comments

What do we mean when we say “country” music? Well take a listen to Mississippi native and Texas transplant Jason Eady‘s new album AM Country Heaven, and that should give you the strongest of all possible clues.

And what do people mean when they say “Texas” country? This album isn’t a bad example of that either. With the help from a virtual who’s who of Texas-based studio musicians, including Redd Volkaert and Earl Poole Ball from Austin’s legendary “Heybale” talent collective, and joined by steel guitar maestro Lloyd Maines, the Texas sound is all over this album. And regardless of whose name is on the front, AM Country Heaven was very much a collaborative effort between Eady and songwriter Kevin Welch.

With no mincing of the country style or mixing it with rock or punk or even taking the often gimmicky “neo-traditionalist” road, Jason Eady does his best to rage at the dying of the traditional country light by being as steadfast and straightforward with his country approach as possible. And the classic approach doesn’t just include the musicians and sonic structures, it is extended deeply into the themes and words of the songs, from the punchy country protest song “AM Country Heaven”, to the drinking and heartbreak songs that make up the body of this album.

I miss the days when the women were ugly and the men were all forty years old. Because you had to say something for the people to listen, now they just do what they’re told … They sing about Jesus and they sing about Jones and they sing of American pride. But they’re all too damn clean and polished like stones and they won’t sing about cheating or lies.

Well Jason will, and does in AM Country Heaven unabashedly.

Where I distance from a lot of other music writers and fans who have been heralding this album since its release is in the project’s originality.

Quite a few of these songs are built around themes and lines that have been used in country many times before. For example, when Clint Black a dozen years ago delivered the line about how “…it’s enough to drive a drinking man to stop and take a think,” it seemed so fresh and inventive. In 1999, Roger Wallace put out a great album called Hillbilly Heights whose lead off song was also called “Wishful Drinking” that since has become one of Roger’s signature songs (and as was pointed out in the comments, Adam Lee also published a “Wishful Drinking” song in 2010). So when you take that same lyrical turn and song title and pose it yet again here, it just lacks a potency. Does that mean that Jason Eady stole this element? Of course not. But to the well-seasoned country music ear who over over the years has built up a tolerance to such lines, there is no cleverness left to keep you engaged.

And similar things can be said said for AM Country Heaven‘s “Water Into Wine” written by Scott Copeland. The irony of using Jesus’s saintly Galilee trick to talk about partaking in the sin of drinking has been done many times before. “Man On A Mountain” is one of the best songs on the album, with its bluegrass approach and Patty Loveless‘ fantastic contribution in the duet, but how many times has this “Oh we’re lovers from two two different backgrounds, can we pull this off?” approach been done? Even the song “AM Country Heaven” one of the best selections on the CD is a song that’s been done a dozen times over the last dozen years, with Dale Watson and many others calling out Music Row’s dirty business.

Granted, not all the songs carry this burden. “Longer Walk In The Rain” is an excellent composition, maybe one of the best Eady’s ever penned. It’s not just classic country, it is a classic, period. But it’s a slow song amongst many other waltzes and ballads, and this exposes another issue with this album, which is a lack of energy or youth; the same argument made by many pop and mainstream fans that oppose classic country.

But just when I was beginning to feel burdened on how to get right with this album, I realized what Jason Eady was trying to do here. When somebody wants to make a classic country album, what do they do? They turn down the drums, they go to waltz time, they emphasize the steel guitar and fiddle, just as has been done here. But sometimes the lyrics and themes are an afterthought. Sometimes they carry a positive pop love story that’s so counter-intuitive to how classic country worked, or sometimes they over-glorifying whiskey, the devil, and cocaine, counter to country’s traditional values. Or sometimes the lyrics get hokey with “aw shucks partner” type outmoded anachronisms.

Jason Eady’s attempt on AM Country Heaven was to not rehash classic country themes in his songs, but pay them forward to a generation or an audience whose likely never heard them before. Hardcore country music fans may hear this stuff as cliche, but in a world dominated by cliche mainstream country radio, a song about wishful drinking is original to them.

In the end though I wish Jason would have stayed a little farther from such obvious themes and lines in some of the songs, and understood that in the underground and independent country world, the “hard country” approach is commonplace. Is it really a commentary on the caliber of an album when we tout how country it is, or is it a commentary on the current state of country music?

But I would never argue against this album and can’t name you a bad song on it. If you truly like country music, you should give it a long hard try because in the ideal world, Jason Eady’s AM Country Heaven would be in heavy rotation on the FM. And if it was, country music would be much better off for it.

1 1/2 of 2 guns up.

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Purchase AM Country Heaven from Jason Eady

Preview & Purchase Tracks from Amazon


Sunday Valley Becomes ‘Sturgill Simpson & High Top Mountain Boys’

April 27, 2012 - By Trigger  //  News  //  16 Comments

Sturgill Simpson

There’s been a lot of flux in the independent country world over the last few days. The first bombshell was that bass player, de-facto manager, and right hand man of Whitey Morgan for years, Jeremy Mackinder was leaving Whitey’s band The 78′s.

Now Sturgill Simpson, the dynamic force behind the band Sunday Valley, who is on the tail end of completing what Sturgill hopes to be his breakthrough album, has decided to go with a name change to “Sturgill Simpson & The High Top Mountain Boys” out of respect to the side players who are no longer with the band. From Sunday Valley’s Facebook Page:

Welp kids,…Lord knows it’s been a long road with a great many tears of joy and sadness and some very hard lessons learned but I know I speak for all four original members of Sunday Valley when I say we gave it everything we had and then some. Out of respect and honor for Billy, Gerald, & Eddie and the sacrifices we all have made for this thing over the years, I could never under any circumstances feel good about continuing my musical journey under the Sunday Valley name.

There are no words I can think of that would possibly express our love and appreciation for you all and your support over the last 8 years…it means more than you could ever know. New band, new sound, new album coming very soon…as they say, the next chapter is always better, that’s why we turn the page.

“To the wind and on to heaven…”

I would not characterize this as a breakup. The side men of Sunday Valley have been in a state of flux over the last few years. It is always difficult to run under a band name instead of the individual’s name when a band is really one person’s musical vision instead of a collaboration between a group of people like in the traditional band setup. This new name allows the spotlight to be on Sturgill Simpson where it belongs, while also preserving the legacy of the side players that have made up “Sunday Valley” over the years.

The only potential drama here is that all the burgeoning momentum that was building behind the name “Sunday Valley” has to now traverse the sometimes shaky ground of a name change. At the same time, it is better to make the change now instead of after the new album comes out and even more momentum builds behind a doomed band name.

“I am attempting to make what I believe to be the purest, most uncompromising Hard Country album anyone has heard in 30 years,” Sturgill tells Saving Country Music, “And it will be an effort to revitalize the neo-traditional movement spearheaded by two of my idols and fellow Kentuckians (Skaggs & Whitley) back in the 80′s. This record is coming straight from my heart and it is both an effort to pay homage to my family and the music they raised me on as well as my own attempt to return in my heart to a home that no longer exists.”

“High Top Mountain is located near the Kentucky River on Stray Branch in Breathitt County, Kentucky and is home to High Top Cemetery, the final resting place of many past generations of my family.”

Sunday Valley may be gone, but the constant is still Sturgill’s singular talent as a songwriter, performer, and guitar player, and as long as that remains in place, the music will sound great under any name.


The Brotherhood Between Hank3 and Marty Stuart

April 26, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  19 Comments

They say it’s a shame you can’t pick your family like you can pick your friends, but who would have ever picked the hellraising Hank Williams III and the holy cross-clad Marty Stuart to be buddies. But that’s exactly what they have been for years now, and the relationship has resulted in in some great music for the fans of both men.

I love him, he’s like my brother. Shelton is like family to me. I support him in everything he’s doing,Marty told The Boot when talking to them about his just-released album Nashville Vol. 1 – Tear The Woodpile Down.

The last track of the album is a Hank Williams Sr. gospel song originally recorded under the pseudonym “Luke The Drifter.” Hank3 and Marty first performed it as a duet on RFD-TV’s “Marty Stuart Show.” As Marty explained to The Nashville Scene, getting Hank3 to perform one of his grandfather’s songs is sort of a feat. The youngest Hank has staked his career on trying to stay out of the shadows of his famous father and grandfather. It might have been a suit from Hank Sr. that Stuart had as part of his vast country music archive he keeps in a warehouse in Nashville that helped seal the deal.

“I knew that that side of him is one that has been, you know, pressed upon him: ‘You go down grandpa alley.’ And I didn’t want to be one of the guilty ones for that. But I simply asked him if he would even consider coming to do a Hank song on [The Marty Stuart Show]. He was in the mood to do it. So he came out to the warehouse to rehearse with me, and I showed him one of his grandpa’s old suits. … He just peeled off in the middle of the office and put it on, and it fit! He showed up on that TV show and came around the corner, and everybody just lost their breath.”

When it came time to record Stuart’s new album, Marty liked the collaboration so much he asked Hank3 to do it again in the studio. But this wasn’t the first time the two men collaborated on a recording. Hank3′s 2008 album Damn Right, Rebel Proud included Marty Stuart on mandolin and some lead guitar, proving that Hank3 is not the only one of the two men willing to work outside of their comfort zone.

“They can bring Assjack next time,” Marty Stuart laughs.

Listen to a studio version of “A Picture From Life’s Other Side”


Luke Bryan’s Tailgates & Tanlines (Review & Roast)

April 25, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  44 Comments

Did you ever wonder what it would sound like if a performing artist with absolutely no qualms or reservations spread their arms wide in a succumbing posture and completely forfeited their Will to a record label saying, “Okay Music Row, do your worst! I’ll do anything. Mold me, shape me, I’m your monkey. Make me a star! “? We’ll that is exactly what you get with Luke Bryan and his gawd awful album Tailgates and Tanlines.

I will stop short of saying this is the worst country music album of all time. I still reserve that dubious distinction for Justin Moore’s Outlaws Like Me, but Tailgates and Tanlines starts off with possibly the worst song in the annals of country music in the booty anthem “Country Girl (Shake It For Me)”. Positively nothing more than a pop dance song with a banjo, Luke Bryan commands country girls to “shake it” for the birds, the bees, for the crickets and the critters and the catfish swimming down deep in the creek, for the gerbils crawling way up his rectum to massage his prostate… oh wait, he left that line out, but you get the point. This song is like a frozen sledge hammer to the balls of anybody who has any sort of musical taste or dignity.

The most current single from the album “Drunk On You” is an anthem for culturally-repressed suburban boys to vomit into the floorboards of their Scions to. It starts off like an Enya sleep induction CD, and then launches into lyrics like:“Girl you make my speakers go “boom boom’…that kinda thing makes a man go ‘uh hoom.’” I have it on good authority that Luke Bryan co-wrote this song with the gay teletubby in a BMI cubicle on Music Row before heading down to the local high school to hand out free prophylactics. I know, weird story, but 100% true.

That leads into “Too Damn Young” about awkward adolescent sex. She was young. He was dumb. It was summer. Fill in the blank. I can’t wait for the follow up to this song on his next album, “I’m Only 17 But The State Is Already Garnishing My Dairy Queen Wages for Back Child Support”; purportedly it’s a duet with Lionel Ritchie.

Next up is “I Don’t Want This Night To End”, and yet again we have a song about a girl, and booze, and dancing to the radio and getting it on. This whole album is a country cliche to begin with, but in a brilliant stroke of idiocracy, it has the profound gymnastic ability to create it’s own universe of cliches and worn out themes by only the 5th track.

Inexplicably, “You Don’t Know Jack” is about Jack Daniels. I mean, like we couldn’t see that coming. A song about Jack Daniels that has “Jack” in the title? How fucking clever. You know, I could have never guessed without even listening to this dumbass album that a song called “You Don’t Know Jack” would be about Jack fucking Daniels. Splendid Luke! How original!

What else do we have on this stupid album. Oh! “I Know You’re Gonna Be There” is an absolute riot, a jilted doucher instruction manual of how to make your stupid ex-girlfriend jealous by feigning interest in another woman. “Muckalee Creek Water” is the ultra-charged laundry list song of the album that talks about Luke Bryan hiding moonshine bottles in cypress stumps, when we all know damn well this V-neck-wearing priss would eek at the sight of a dead cricket in his record label’s accounting office.

“Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye” is actually not a bad song, but of course that means radio won’t touch it, and my Auto-tune radar was going wild in the way the tone changes have such sharp edges.

The thing is with Luke Bryan and a lot of these manufactured pop stars, they did not get here by complete accident. Many of them had to work hard at some point, and at least had to have moderate talents to get them to this level. Luke Bryan is not a bad singer, and has a unique enough voice to do something good with. But instead he chose to use it for the forces of evil, shlogging out pop country fop instead of something with substance and heart.

Listen Luke, seriously. Man to metrosexual country douche. Don’t let Music Row make you into their musical monkey. You’re better than this man. Going platinum with an album like Tailgates & Tanlines isn’t success, it is a colossal failure of your human spirit, and the more the album succeeds, the more you’ve failed. You’re not an artist right now, you’re an automaton. Break out man, be yourself, show some self respect, dig down deep and find what you have to say and say it.

And even if that means you lose all your shiny expensive things and you have to go back to working some shitty job, if someday your in some lonely coffee shop singing your own songs, ones you wrote from the heart, and you have one moment that touches one other person, one soul, and it makes one bit of difference in that person’s life, that will be worth way more than all the riches this album has brought you. Trust me.

Two guns down on Tailgates and Tanlines.


Thank God For Marty Stuart (Nashville Vol. 1 Review)

April 24, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  35 Comments

Whatever your country music question is, Marty Stuart is the answer.

Are you looking for more twang? Look to Marty Stuart. Do you want music that respects the roots? You want Marty Stuart. Are you searching for that one artist that can appeal to the young, to the old, to the hardcore country fans, to fans of country from the outside looking in, and whose appeal spans from gospel fans to punk kids? Then Marty Stuart is your man.

Marty Stuart is on an amazing roll ladies and gentlemen. What he’s doing right now with lead guitar player “Cousin” Kenny Vaughan and The Fabulous Superlatives is stuff that legends are made of. You know those periods in an artists’ career that you look back on like they can’t do wrong, churning out amazing songs and albums one after another? Hank Jr. from Whiskey Bent & Hell Bound to The Pressure Is On, Willie & Waylon after they’d shaken loose from the grips of RCA in the mid 70′s. That’s the kind of epic and influential period were in the midst of right now with Marty Stuart, and what a blessing it is to realize this and to be able to experience it all in the present instead of trying to relive it through the past.

Everything is firing on all cylinders, from Marty’s live show, to The Marty Stuart Show on RFD-TV, to his last album The Ghost Train, to now Nashville Vol. 1 – Tear The Woodpile Down. Say what you want about the Marty Stuart of the past, and who knows what the future will hold, but right now, as simply as it can be said, Marty Stuart is single handedly saving country music.

And this is no accident. Oh no. Marty knows exactly what he’s doing, and he knows exactly why it needs to be done. At some point he identified the need and then decided to roll up his sleeves, reach down deep into the roots of the music, and resurrect them with such fervor that nobody could ever accuse the music of being boring or outmoded or in need of progress.

First and foremost this is guitar music. Over-twangy, too-loud, sexy, dirty, evil, beautiful, in-your-face, unapologetic guitar music punching and kicking its way into you by-God American country soul until sitting down or standing still is no option. The dueling Telecaster work between Marty and Kenny Vaughan is something so tasteful and technically superior, it transcends the entire country genre to elevate these two men and the groove they evoke into the guitar god stratus.

Songs like “Tear The Woodpile Down”, the instrumental “Hollywood Boogie”, and the mandolin-driven “Truck Drivers’ Blues” (which you have to listen closely for the Mick Jagger-like “Uh!” in the intro) have the stones enough to make country converts out of rock fans. Marty’s gospel fan club may not want to hear it characterized like this, but there’s sex embedded in this music from its swagger. Its got balls, and don’t be thrown off by the silver hair, Marty brings a young, enthusiastic approach, winding you up in the intros, and then letting you go like a spinning top in a swirl of dizzying, Jerry Reed-style close guitar harmonies and hot lick tradeoffs.

But all this is just noise without the gift of good songwriting. Even the slow songs bring such passion, conveyed in the studio in no less measure than they would be live. That is what you get in songs like the subtle, but stabbing indictment of Music City “Sundown in Nashville” written by Dwayne Warwick, and sad songs like the Stuart-penned run that takes you toward the end of the album from “Going, Going, Gone” to “A Song of Sadness”. I can’t help but hear a little of the Dwight Yoakam, West Coast approach in these songs, and in the tear-jerking, swinging waltz “A Matter of Time”, the usually-composed and perfect Marty Stuart let’s his voice crack with emotion in one of the most stirring vocal performances I’ve heard from the man. With every one of The Fabulous Superlatives boasting superlative abilities at composing and performing harmonies, the only way to characterize the caliber of vocal performances on this album is “unfair.”

Something else remarkable about Nashville Vol. 1 is how similar it is to his previous The Ghost Train. Traditionally this is an unwise decision, but when you’re in such a groove and hitting on all cylinders, why shake it up? At some point the need for change will present itself, but for right now ride that groove until it’s worn out. What Marty has found with The Fabulous Superlatives is too good not to.

One of the great things about Marty Stuart is that he can be all things to all people. The gospel crowd can’t help but love him. Mainstream and young fans can’t help but pick up on the guitar work if they’re exposed to it. And even the punk and heavy metal country converts can find what they’re looking for here. Marty helps point them the way by including Hank Williams III on the final track, “Pictures From Life’s Other Side” written by Hank Sr. A perfect gospel tune sung with such heart and grace by both men, it chills your bones with the stark, ancient country language portraying a haunting, unveiled moral. Even without the loud Tele or the original songwriting that defines most of this album, this might be one of the album’s best tracks.

But let me waste no more time slaving away with mortal words trying to describe this music, just go listen. Get this album, listen to it loud and frequently, and save your country soul.

Thank God for Marty Stuart! (Please, somebody put that on a T-shirt. I’d buy two.)

Two guns way up!

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Preview & Purchase Tracks of Nashville, Vol. 1 – Tear The Woodpile Down

You can also listen to four complete songs, including the duet with Hank3 on Soundcloud.


“Go Ready” Bands in Country Music Right Now

April 23, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  59 Comments

Hellbound Glory

Hollywood seems obsessed with finding talent among the masses with their silly reality show contests like American Idol and The Voice, when in reality there’s a boatload of talent just sitting there waiting to be discovered right under their surgically-crafted, cosmetically-sculptured noses. But of course they don’t want to actually find any talent, because then what would they have to sell commercials for boner pills and high fructose corn syrup in the next season?

So here’s a list of some bands that are go ready, right now, no excuses. These are not fey, artsy acts, goat worshipers, or punk gone country screamo shows. These are performers that even using Music Row’s shallow approach to music, are marketable, young, hip, with hit-caliber songs ready for country radio, excellent live shows, and would immediately improve the quality and appeal of the genre.

This is just my list, admittedly short, so if you have another artist in mind, please use the comments section to share. And no, this is not about selling out stadiums, it is about creating financial sustainability for talented artists that deserve it.

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Sunday Valley

If music was roulette and Sunday Valley were a square, I’d push my pile of chips and bet on them all in. Sturgill Simpson and the boys are in the studio as we speak making the “Album of their dreams” as Sturg puts it, that will include a guest appearance by Hargus “Pig” Robbins among others, just announced as a 2012 inductee to the Country Music Hall of Fame. But what puts this band over the top is their live performance that harkens back to how one must have felt when Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughn took the stage before their break: an unbelievable, dynamic, jaw-dropping experience that leaves you awe-stricken from the combination of originality and sheer talent. Buy your Sunday Valley stock now and watch it rise.

“2012 will be the year of Sunday Valley”. –that’s my quote.

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Hellbound Glory

Hellbound Glory stock has been slowly rising over the last few years, but is still nowhere near where it needs to be. Leroy Virgil is like the Chris LeDoux and Keith Whitley of our time all wrapped up into one. The sideways smile, the legendary-caliber songwriting, there’s no excuses why Hellbound Glory shouldn’t be selling out mid-sized venues and making a fair living playing the type of country music that country music needs. At the least Music Row is a fool for not poaching the Hellbound Glory discography and Leroy Virgil’s brain for his songwriting gold to slot with their already established artists. Every day that goes by that Hellbound Glory remains mired in the underground is another day that country music isn’t putting its best foot forward, and is not making the best case of why it is an important, relevant genre.

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Turnpike Troubadours

One of the best bands to see live, and Red Dirt DJ’s will tell you songs like “Every Girl” are great for radio. They have a new album coming out on May 8th called Goodbye Normal Street, and let’s hope this is the one that puts them over the top, and past the boundaries of the Texoma corridor. Unlike some of the other artists on this list who find themselves in their mid 30′s, where it feels like the window could be closing for them in the coming years, the Troubadour’s window feels like it is just opening. Potential has always been one of their best assets. Now it’s time for that potential to be cashed in for solid growth and success.

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Whitey Morgan & The 78′s

When the question is posed of who is gonna fill the shoes of the true Outlaws and honky-tonkers, from the ones passed on like Waylon and Paycheck, to the ones going gray like Dale Watson and Marty Stuart, trust me, the answer is not going to be Justin Moore. Whitey Morgan & Co. are the true connection, the current torch bearers of the ballsy, twang-heavy true country sound that would expose all the pop country laundry list fluff from the first listen if only given a chance. Similar to how Bloodshot Records label mate Justin Townes Earle has popped in the last few years, now it is Whitey’s turn. Dues have been been paid. Now it’s time to cash in.

Young Up-And-Comers to Keep an Eye On

Paige Anderson

Paige Anderson’s ceiling is limitless. Amazing voice with natural pitch and control, and a highly skilled flat-picking guitar player, there’s nothing naturally holding Paige back. And as one of the young leaders in West Coast bluegrass circuits, and the leader of her family’s band “Anderson Family Bluegrass”, she’s shown the ambition and drive an artist needs in this competitive music environment.  Young, beautiful, talented, there’s no excuses here, Paige Anderson is ripe to capture America’s heart.

Wyatt Maxwell

Another heartthrob and superpicker bound for great heights and who started out in a family band, Mad Max & The Wild Ones. A natural leader, he’s been out before paying dues by playing lead guitar for the legendary Wayne “The Train” Hancock and can slide into just about any band or vintage style of music and make it shine. The look and technique are all there, but what puts Wyatt into elite company is his sense of style and taste. As a guitar player or as a band leader, the sky is the limit for young Maxwell.

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Another name I must mention is Ruby Jane, who will unmistakably be huge in music someday, so unmistakably in fact it doesn’t even seem germane to put her on this list. She has moved more into the jazz and singer/songwriter world in recent months and years after her time touring with Willie Nelson and Asleep At The Wheel, but is still a name all lovers of great music should keep up with.

Also the beautiful and talented Rachel Brooke may be a little fey for the wide masses, but her voice and talent is nonetheless undeniable. Just like how Emmylou Harris was the hottest commodity in female harmony singers to put on your album for so many years, Rachel could fulfill this role with the pain in her voice and such mastery of taste and control, while exposing her great original songs to the greater world.


Axl Rose Blowup Shows Importance of Hall of Fame Purity

April 20, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  15 Comments

Last week, Axl Rose became an enemy to some, and a folk hero to many when he not-so-politely declined his induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as part of the original lineup of Guns & Roses, and then went on further to question the legitimacy of the whole institution, it’s funding, it’s voting practices and how it justifies its mandate of deciding who gets to be deemed the most important Rock & Rollers of all time.

I still don’t exactly know what the Hall is or how or why it makes money, where the money goes, who chooses the voters and why anyone or this board, out of all the artists in the world that have contributed to this genre, officially “rock” enough to be in the Hall?

By Axl being willing to sacrifice a little bit of his legacy, he solidified it for all time by proving he is one of the most devout rock & rollers of them all, and what a sham of an institution the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has become in many people’s eyes. Some consider the Rock & Roll HOF a sham because The Beastie Boys, or even Axl’s Guns & Roses were inducted into it before the Canadian band Rush. Others think it’s a sham because Madonna and many others were inducted at all.

Was/is Madonna rock & roll? How about Hank Williams or Johnny Cash who are both inductees? Johnny Cash a little…maybe. Could you see The Beatles and Led Zepplin being members of the Country Music Hall of Fame based solely on their importance in music? Elvis is in the Country Music HOF, but this was in consideration of his deep rockabilly, gospel, and Tennessee roots.

Axl Rose Declines Grand Ole Opry Induction

In the end, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame isn’t illegitimate because of who has been inducted into their institution, it’s illegitimate because it is an institution, formed around a genre of music whose roots are in rebelling against institutions. Conversely, where the Rock & Roll HOF found its fundamental weakness is where the Country Music HOF finds its strength, as an institution representing a genre of music whose fabric is built around the preservation of institutions and traditions.

The Country HOF has also done its rock & roll counterpart one better by keeping its list of inductees fiercely exclusive, not pandering to every petition drive or pretty name who might meet the requirements, being inclusive with their coverage of all aspects of the genre (their new exhibit on California Country being a great example), and being transparent in their operations, financing, and voting system.

Nothing But Respect for the Country Music Hall of Fame

Make no mistake, The Country Music Hall of Fame is not perfect, but it is better at preserving its purity than many other country music institutions, like The Grand Ole Opry for example, or even country music itself. Country music fans should be peacock proud of their Hall of Fame, but at the same time take wisdom from Axl Rose’s words, and the mistakes made from its Rock & Roll counterpart. Radio formats, awards shows, TV specials, they all must dabble with the here and now that doesn’t have the benefit of time to prove whether the content is worthy of recognition or not. But with a Hall of Fame, purity must be preserved at all times for the institution to remain strong.

Axl Rose, along with the Sex Pistols’ Johnny Rotten may have been some of the first to refuse their Rock & Roll HOF inductions, but after witnessing the success of their decisions, it’s easy to assume they will not be the last. Let’s hope that the Country Music Hall of Fame does not begin to be known for who requests to remain outside of its round walls, but for who’ve been granted the exclusive and distinct honor of being welcomed within.


Album Review – Lone Wolf OMB “A Walk in My Pause”

April 19, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  12 Comments

Katy bar the door and baton down the hatches folks because Lone Wolf, the Italian, trilingual, pizza spinning, gator wrestling, globe trotting, banjo plucking, banjo building, wild-assed Floridian from up North via Costa Rica has a new album headed your way. Warn the neighbors downstairs, cause it’s about to get loud and feet will be stomping!

At this mature stage in the evolution of American music, it is extremely rare to hear something with a wholly unique approach. And to have that approach come from just one man and a very traditional, primitive instrument makes it even more exceptional. The combination of tempo and original technique derived from the clawhammer banjo style swirl for the most dizzying, disarming music experience imaginable when Lone Wolf is cued.

In some respects, it will be impossible for Lone Wolf to ever top his first album, because with music this visceral and this original, you can never go back to that initial virgin experience of the first listen. This presented a challenge. After the euphoria subsides from the abandon that Lone Wolf’s music evokes in the human conscious, growth and maturity must must continue to keep you locked in, and that is exactly what you find with A Walk In My Pause.

Working within the very limited confines of what one man can can make his fingers, feet, and pie hole do all at once, Lone Wolf opened up some new sounds and new modes to keep his music alive and engaging. The song “Bored” features Bruno using a slide on the banjo strings. “Lost Love” shows that he can play slow songs too, and the track has very gypsy caravan feel. When you get to “The Storm of ’92″ about Hurricane Andrew, Lone Wolf is just flat showing off that he’s got more banjo tricks than an elevator full of Steve Martins.

The more accessible work from Lone Wolf still may be his first album, because this one necessitated such a maturing to stay relevant, but I wouldn’t recommend you get one or the other, I would recommend you get both. My one beef is that on some of the slow songs, there’s timing issues. It seems every “one man band” has timing issues, even the big name of Scott H. Biram. But these songs are just too good to not get the timing right.

As a builder of world famous Gold Tone banjos, Bruno must have a unique insight into how to pull the magic out of these messes of wood and strings. It’s not banjo playing, it’s banjo communion. No, Lone Wolf is not one of those artists we can listen to and then shake our fists at country radio for not giving a shot, he’s likely too fey, too good for mass consumption or appeal.

However it’s artists like this, that while sitting on their back porch any given afternoon may break new ground, forge new discoveries, push the banjo envelope to new heights. Like the Starship Enterprise, going where no banjo has gone before, motivating and inspiring other banjo players to push themselves as well, and at the same time creating a body of work that exposes techniques and riffs others can borrow from.

Lone Wolf and A Walk In My Pause is like an alchemist’s journal into the depths of the banjo craft that we all get to peer into and be awed by the mastery.

1 3/4 of 2 guns up.

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Purchase A Walk In My Pause on Bandcamp

Note: The song in this video talks about making a video in it, and then the video is a video about making a video. I told you this is Starship Enterprise type stuff.



TNN – The Nashville Network to Return – Updated

April 18, 2012 - By Trigger  //  News  //  71 Comments

The fight to preserve classic country and present it to a new generation of fans may just have become a lot easier. After 12 years off the air, the original TNN, “The Nashville Network” has just announced it is coming back this summer, and is committed to “true country music.”

***UPDATE***UPDATE*** (10-29-12)

TNN has just announced through press release that they will be officially returning November 1st, and their flagship will be WSMV-TV, Nashville’s NBC affiliate. It will be available over-the-air on channel 4.2 as well as on Charter channel 91. TNN will also be added to Comcast in November.

Matt Winn, Vice President of TNN said in a press release, “Finding the right partner to be the flagship station of The Nashville Network has been our top priority. Our decision to name WSMV the network’s hometown affiliate was based on the station’s award winning news team and the station’s leadership in the Nashville market. We are pleased to have WSMV be the home of The Nashville Network.”

TNN has also announced an affiliation with ABC 33/40 stations WCFT/WJSU/WBMA in Birmingham, AL (DMA 42). WCFT/WJSU/WBMA. They will begin broadcasting TNN on Nov. 1st as well.

TNN ran for 17 years from 1983 to 2000 until Viacom, which owns CMT, MTV, CBS, and many other networks, morphed the country music, outdoor lifestyle, and family entertainment channel into Spike, leaving many traditional and classic country fans underserved. The new TNN will be a sister network to My Family TV, TUFF TV, PBJ, MyCarTV and Frost Great Outdoors, and Luken Communications’ Retro Television (RTV).

This time, instead of a cable network, TNN will be a digital broadcast station, meaning it would be picked up by affiliates. The programming will be a mix of digitally-restored classic content from the TNN archive, with contemporary shows mixed in. Shows already scheduled to be a part of the TNN lineup include: Memories of the Grand Ole Opry, Crook & Chase, Celebrity Kitchen, The Country Vibe, Music City Tonight and Larry’s Country Diner.

The original announcement about TNN’s return was made at the 2012 NAB show in Las Vegas. Television and radio personalities Lorianne Crook and Charlie Chase teamed with Luken Communications and Jim Owens Entertainment to acquire the rights to the TNN brand.

Follow TNN on Twitter


Record Store Day 2012 Country Music Field Guide

April 17, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  9 Comments

This Saturday, April 21st with be the 2012 installment of Record Store Day, the annual event started in 2007 to help the struggling independent record store. As the event has grown over the years, artists and labels have stepped up to help with the event, releasing dozens of limited-edition collectible pieces of vinyl to entice the public into their local mom and pop’s.

Country I am embarrassed to say was one of the last genres to get behind Record Store Day, with last year the only country representation of note being a Justin Townes Earle 7″, and a bunch of Hank Williams III re-issues on colored vinyl. Well I’m happy to report 2012 will go down as the year when country came busting through the Record Store Day scene with full representation, with so many projects being released taking stock of it all can be dizzying. So here is your 2012 Country Music Record Store Day Field Guide.

Complete list of Record Store Day Releases

Find a Participating Record Store

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Blitzen Trapper

Hey Joe b/w Skirts on Fire

Format: 7″ 45
Label: Sub Pop

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Bonnie Prince Billy (Will Oldham)


Format: 10″ LP
Label: Spiritual Pajamas

The great Leon Russell’s “Hummingbird” anchors this new 10 inch, and Bonny and his assembled cast of LA musicians render it an exercise in contrast. Using Russell’s famed Shelter Records soundboard for this one-off session–with its memories of Petty and Cale, and now owned by one Jonathan Wilson–Bonny introduces a pallet of musical soundscapes including the keys of “Farmer” Dave Scher, the porch-stomp grooves of Entrance Band rhythm section Paz and Derek and the claps of a thousand hands before letting the song “fly away” in a breeze of soulful psychedelia that stretches nearly twice the original’s length.

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Buck Owens

Colouring Book w/flexi disc

Format: Book
Label: Omnivore

“Act Naturally”
“Together Again”
“I’ve Got A Tiger By The Tail”
“Crying Time”

Original Buck Owens Coloring Book. Commissioned by Buck Owens in 1970, these original, uncirculated vintage coloring books include a new 4-track flexidisc and download card.

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Caitlin Rose

Piledriver Waltz

Format: 7″ 45
Label: Domino
Release type: RSD Limited Run / Regional Focus Release

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Justin Townes Earle

Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now

Format: 7″ 45
Label: Bloodshot

“Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now”
“Sneaky Feelings”

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Lydia Loveless

Bad Way To Go

Format: 7″ 45
Label: Bloodshot
Release type: RSD Limited Run / Regional Focus Release

“Bad Way To Go”

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Pistol Annies

Hell on Heels

Format: LP
Label: RCA Nashville

The first vinyl release of the 2011 debut from the group formed by Miranda Lambert, Angaleena Presley and Ashley Monroe.

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Ralph Stanley

Single Girl / Little Birdie

Format: LP
Label: Tompkins Square
Release type: RSD Limited Run / Regional Focus Release

“Single Girl”
“Little Birdie”

500 limited-edition copies.

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Ricky Skaggs & Tony Rice

Skaggs & Rice

Format: LP
Label: Sugar Hill

“Bury Me Beneath the Weeping Willow”
“Mansions For Me”
“More Pretty Girls Than One”
“Memories of Mother and Dad”
“Where The Soul of Man Never Dies”
“Talk About Suffering”
“Will the Roses Bloom (Where She Lies Sleeping)”
“Tennessee Blues”
“The Old Crossroads”
“Have You Someone (In Heaven Awaiting)

This heartwarming collection, featuring classic bluegrass tunes and traditional folk songs done in the close-harmony duet style, still stands as a high-water mark for both men.

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Ryan Adams

Heartbreak A Stranger / Black Sheets Of Rain

Format: 7″ 45
Label: PAXAM

Format: 7” colored vinyl

“Heartbreak A Stranger”
“Black Sheets Of Rain”

Two Bob Mould covers recorded at November’s “See A Little Light” Bob Mould Tribute Show at Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles, California.

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Sara Watkins w/ Fiona Apple / The Everly Brothers

You’re The One I Love

Format: 7″ 45
Label: Warner Bros

Format: 7″ olive green and black splatter

Everly Brothers’ “You’re The One I Love” and a cover of the same song by Sara Watkins featuring Fiona Apple

Another in the Side by Side series created exclusively for Record Store Day featuring an original track (this time The Everly Brothers’ “You’re The One I Love” backed by a cover from another artist (this time Sara Watkins featuring Fiona Apple)

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The Civil Wars

Billie Jean

Format: 7″ 45
Label: Columbia Records U.K.

“Billie Jean (Live)”
“Sour Times (Live)”

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Live at Amoeba

Format: CD
Label: Sensibility Music LLC

“Tip of My Tongue”
“Forget Me Not”
“From This Valley”
“20 Years”
“I’ve Got This Friend”
“Billie Jean”
“Dance Me to the End of Love”

Limited Edition One Time Pressing EP/CD Live at Amoeba – EP by Grammy Award Winners and Indie Sensations, The Civil Wars, recorded live in Hollywood on June 14, 2011. Exclusive for Record Store Day 2012. (A Portion Of The Cost Of This Title Goes Directly To Support Record Store Day)

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Townes Van Zandt

At My Window

Format: LP
Label: Sugar Hill

“Snowin’ on Raton”
“Blue Wind Blew”
“At My Window”
“For the Sake of the Song”
“Ain’t Leaving For Your Love”
“Buckskin Stallion Blues”
“Little Sundance #2″
“Still Lookin’ For You”
“Gone, Gone Blues”
“The Catfish Song”

The first and best album the late Texas singer-songwriter made for Sugar Hill, this set contains classics as “Snowing on Raton” and “Buckskin Stallion Blues”.

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Uncle Tupelo

Format: 7″ Vinyl Box Set
Label: Sony

3×7″ box set

“I Got Drunk/Sin City,”

“Gun/I Wanna Destroy You,”

“Uncle Tupelo Sauget Wind/Looking For A Way Out (acoustic), :Take My Word”

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No Depression

Format: LP
Release type: ‘RSD First’ Release

180 Gram vinyl

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March 16-20, 1992

Format: LP
Release type: ‘RSD First’ Release

180 Gram Vinyl

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Still Feel Gone

Format: LP
Release type: ‘RSD First’ Release

180 gram vinyl


Joey Allcorn: No Consent on Hank3′s “Long Gone Daddy”

April 17, 2012 - By Trigger  //  News  //  49 Comments

Today is the released date of Long Gone Daddy, an album Curb Records is releasing that contains outtakes from early in Hank Williams III‘s career when he was under contract with the label. Most of the material on the album has been released previously, on compilations or tribute albums or bootlegs. One of the songs, “This Ain’t Montgomery” was written and co-performed by Joey Allcorn from Columbus, GA, and originally appeared on Allcorn’s album, 50 Years Too Late.

Hank3, whose had a long-standing feud with Curb Record that has continued well after his contract ended in December of 2010 has come out publicly against the release, and has been instructing his fans to not purchase the album, but to bootleg and share it. He’s also been vocal about a few folks he feels betrayed him as part of the Long Gone Daddy release, saying through Facebook:

I hope you Hellbilly’s and Hellbetty’s notice the other 2 guys I stood by when they were nothin are now Curb records alter boys! I hope ya’ll dont waste your hard earned dollers on there backstabbin bs either…

Hank3 has never named who these two people are, but it has been assumed by many that one of them is Joey Allcorn, who apparently had a falling out with Hank3 at some point in the mid to late 2000′s. According to a press release released today by Allcorn, he had no more consent from Curb to release his song “This Ain’t Montgomery” than Hank3 did.

In October of 2006, I released my debut record, “Fifty Years Too Late.” Featured
on this album was “This Ain’t Montgomery,” a highlight among the songs
because it refers to the by-gone era of Hank Williams, Sr., and was recorded
with his grandson, who was, at that time, under contract with Curb Records. I was
honored to have him record this song with me, and I appreciate his association,
and the support it provided me in the early part of my career.

However, in order to obtain Curb’s permission to legally use his name in association
with my project, a release was signed granting the label reciprocal rights to include the
master recording of that song on any two future albums, and stating that no consent
would be required by either party in order for that to take place. To that end, I was
notified in January of this year that Curb Records would be exercising it’s right under
that contract/release and was planning to include “This Ain’t Montgomery” on “Long
Gone Daddy.” No permission was granted because again, legally, none was required
under the terms of the contract.

However Hank3′s issue with Joey Allcorn may not just be that Joey did or did not give his consent to the release of “This Ain’t Montgomery”, but that Allcorn did not challenge the release. In the press release, Allcorn talks about how he is “humbled” to have the song released on Long Gone Daddy.

I am humbled that a song I wrote and recorded at such an early stage in my career has been released on a project by a major label. I believe it’s still the dream of most artists and songwriters to achieve this goal, which allows their music to reach a large and diversified audience. Also, as a songwriter, I am honored to be a part of a project that includes songs by writers I greatly admire, such as Hank Williams, Sr., Merle Haggard, and Waylon Jennings.

Allcorn has a new album titled Nothing Left To Prove scheduled to be released later this year. Hank3 has an upcoming tour in May.


Visual artist Keith Neltner, who did the artwork for Long Gone Daddy, as well as previous Hank3 albums Straight to Hell and Damn Right, Rebel Proud, has requested that Saving Country Music release this statement. Neltner has been rumored to be the other individual Hank3 referred to along with Joey Allcorn as “Curb Records’ alter boys.”

First, I’m extremely proud and grateful of the collaboration I had with Shelton for nearly a decade. In 1999 we started working together, as he was emerging as a country artist. The influences as the music and art evolved together created an impressive legacy of work. In 2010 there was a decision to part ways, copyright and licensing issues couldn’t be resolved.
At the same time I’m a working artist and I have lights to keep on, so being hired by a client I’ve worked with since 2005 just makes sense. Curb already had a schedule for the release, regardless of who created the artwork so I wanted to represent the visual look of the album in a positive direction that gave the collection of songs its due.
Even the most devote fan has no idea how deep the rift between Curb and Shelton runs, I simply don’t have a dog in that fight. I hope new and old fans can enjoy the collection and I wish Shelton the best.

Progress vs. Traditionalism in Country Music

April 16, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  39 Comments

The war vs. pop influences and progress in country music, and the purity yearned for by the traditional elements of the genre is almost as old as the genre itself. The introduction of electric instruments on The Grand Ole Opry stage, drummers in country outfits, it was all met with stiff resistance from purists in their time. Steel guitar might be one of the most identifiably “country” elements in music, but think what shock must have ran through traditionalists’ minds in the late 40′s when the appeal of this strange electrified sound was brought back from Polynesia by WWII GI’s.

This continuous country music cold war tends to go hot periodically, as it did over the last couple of weeks. The ACM Awards, a following brushup pitting Miranda Lambert and Justin Moore against Ashton Kutcher, followed by a prominent Fox News story on the matter, had the old standard battle lines being cast, and like most battles in the culture war these days, both sides being defined by extremes as opposed to a more true measure of feelings, creating a polarized environment where little understanding could be garnered.

So in an attempt to power through the rhetoric, here is a cool-headed attempt to explain some of the differences between the traditional and mainstream mindsets, a detailed look at the term “progress” and how it relates to country music, and how it all relates to radio, still the most important medium for relaying country music to listeners.

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“There needs to be more old stuff on country radio”


“Nobody wants to hear that old stuff on country radio”

Country radio is the real battleground in the country music war. Radio programming is reflected at country awards shows, and that is why they become battlegrounds as well. When the argument is made that more older music, or more traditional-sounding new music needs to be on country radio, the reaction from mainstream and pop country fans usually is that country music needs to “progress” (see below) and that the old stuff is outdated.

You can’t argue taste when it comes to music, but it is impossible to argue against statistics, and the statistics released by Edison Research at the Country Radio Seminar in Nashville this February conclusively state that country radio is on a dramatic downhill trend, and that one of the reasons is because country music’s big traditionalist demographics are being undeserved.

Conversely, traditionalists that think that pop country has no place on country radio and that they should only play Hank, Cash, Willie, and Waylon are doing just as much of a disservice. By saying the current radio formula needs to swing in the complete opposite direction and wholesale eliminate pop influences, they negatively typecast the more common pragmatic traditionalist argument that is simply looking for balance. Country music and radio has always had pop influences, even in the 50′s, and it must continue to. A complete flip of the radio format would in turn disenfranchise the mainstream audience and put radio on just as much of an unsustainable path.

That is why balance and quality is what must be strived for on country radio. As Edison Research pointed out, at this moment there is an imbalance towards the pop or mainstream. Something commonly misunderstood by mainstream fans is that just because something is “traditional” country doesn’t mean it needs to be classic or “old”. There are scores of traditional, neo-traditional, post-punk, and progressive country artists putting out relevant, commercially-viable music receiving little or no mainstream radio play. Touching on all of country’s current styles, along with paying homage to its roots with a classic song or two, with an overall emphasis of showcasing the the best and most appealing music the genre has to offer is the way radio, and in turn country music, can preserve its viability as a medium.

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“Country music must progress”

This is the argument commonly made by pop country fans whenever traditionalists and purists push back on pop, rap, or other influences entering the genre. However “pop” doesn’t necessarily translate into progression. It many times results in regression. You can have progress in country music while still keeping the music firmly attached to its roots. That exact formula was what “alt-country” was founded on, with artists like Uncle Tupelo, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, and Bela Fleck. A term often used in exchange for “alt-country” is “progressive country”. Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Townes Van Zandt were also labeled as progressive country in their day.

One of the reasons progressive country came into existence is because the progressive approach was met with resistance from both the pop-oriented, commercial influences of the country music business, and traditionalists. But many alt-country artists went in the alt direction in the 80′s because they were embarrassed of the way country’s roots were being treated by the mainstream country genre. And the mainstream, by not showcasing or attempting to re-intergrate the tremendous talent gravitating to the alt-country world, found itself in one of its darkest periods in regards to both commercial success and artistic appeal.

Today there are many great country artists with progressive approaches to the music, yet they must compete with pop, and now hip-hop oriented “country” acts that many times frame country music in a submissive role to these other genres and are leading to the formation of a mono-genre.

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“Tradition is important in country music”

More than in any other genre of music, tradition and a tie to the roots of the music is a vital element that makes country music work. My favorite illustration of this is to compare it to religions, and compare country music to the Jewish faith. Anybody can be Christian or Muslim as long as they are believers in that faith, but being Jewish is just as much a culture and a bloodline as it is a belief.

Country is a roots genre that other genres are derived from, with a pure bloodline running through its past, just like the blues. Rock & roll for example has always been an amalgam of blues, rockabilly, country, and other influences. Hip-hop was founded on borrowing beats and modes from other genres. Country did draw from other influences too, but it also ties its traditions into its sonic structures and lyrical themes with the nostalgia and reflection found in its songs. The traditions and roots are fundamental elements of the style, just like the rapping of hip-hop, or the back beat of rock & roll.

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Without the tradition and roots of country in the music, it begins to fall apart as an art form. Without any pop or other outside influences in country, it begins to lose its commercial viability. The war for the heart of country music will continue on, but what must not is the imbalance favoring pop that has paralleled the most daunting and undeniable decline in the country music industry in its history.


Album Review – Trampled by Turtles “Stars & Satellites”

April 15, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  16 Comments

Trampled by Turtles from Duluth, MN are one of these creeper bands, just like The Avett Brothers were. Somebody hands you one of their CD’s during their formative years, then you go to see them live a few times, first there’s only a few people there, then there’s a decent crowd their next time through town, and then a few years later they’re packing theaters and creating national and international buzz. Trampled by Turtles have flat out blown up on our asses, debuting videos on CMT and selling out theater shows, while still being true to their original approach. That’s what happens when you have good guys putting out great songs and great albums and developing a sound that is familiar enough that it’s easy to get comfortable and acquainted with, but different enough to separate it from the din of string band parody in this the 12th year of the 2000′s.

After 8 years of dedication and 6 albums, Trampled by Turtles have proven not just flash-in-the-pan stardom, but old-fashioned hard work can lead to music success. It’s good to see the old moral from the tortoise stand true. Apparently slow and steady can still indeed win the race.

Much of their success came from the strength of their 2010 album Palomino, which struck such a great balance between excellent, melodic songwriting for the alt-country, NPR crowd, and balls-out string jams that got the attention of both the post punk and bluegrass worlds. Stars and Satellites generally has the similar progressive string band approach of their previous albums, but especially through the first few listens, the mellowness of the project is one of the first things that strikes you.

When you actually step back and count the songs, there’s just as many high-adrenaline, up-tempo songs as in previous offerings. Maybe it’s simply in the track order, or maybe in subtle changes in the fast songs or that the slower songs are even slower, but the up-tempo attack that created the important contrast between fast and slow that is seminal to the Trampled by Turtles sound is just not as obvious here, at least initially.

Speed can be a very tricky element in these string bands. It can be their greatest asset, and their worst enemy. The fast songs are easy to like, what the crowd is going to gravitate towards, and what garners them easy attention. But the core fans who actually listen for lyrical composition and soul will crave the slow ones, and the slow songs many times are what gives a string band their substance. If a band like Trampled by Turtles is on stage and asks the audience if they want to hear a fast or slow song, nearly every time the chant will be for a fast one, not understanding the contrast of the slow songs is what makes the fast ones so appealing. And the up-tempo may not always be in concert with the feel of the players on stage, or the heart of the songwriter during composition time.

This may be further emphasized in the construction of Trampled by Turtles, who get typecast easily as a bluegrass band, while bluegrass purists may thumb their nose at them for their progressive style. The Turtles’ players are all very skilled, but some of their style for their fast songs has developed to convey sheer speed as opposed to showcasing technical prowess at a quick tempo. And some specific things, like how the banjo player flat picks instead of finger picking or clawhammering, and how the bass is neither upright or electric, but a shoulder strap acoustic, casts them in this unfamiliar gray area for people who like more predictability in their string band presentation.

In the end though, tempo and style are just elements of music meant to help convey the heart of a song, and when you peel back expectations or predisposed tastes and listen to the songs on Stars and Satellites, it’s hard to find anything but beauty. As slow and sleepy as this album may seem at first, it’s a challenge to find a song on this album you can truly say is “bad” or even that’s too slow for what the heart of the song calls for. And even if there was a sacrifice in tempo, it was in the name of advancement in the subtly of composition and deeper attention to songwriting that Stars and Satellites boasts. That is a tradeoff any true music fan would take every time.

The songs of Stars and Satellites strike excellent balance and show why Trampled by Turtles are worthy of the elevated notoriety they have been enjoying. “Midnight on the Interstate” is magical in its breadth and space, painting the visual picture of a star-struck panoram and the smallness it can inflict on a human soul. “Alone” is the album’s single and first video, and is a masterpiece of emotional evocation employing masterful spiritual rise through sonic aptitude and wisdom. “Risk” is where the speed addicts get their fill, as the Turtles slam out notes in a complete visceral instrumental experience.

In the end, yes, I would say this album is more mellow than what you might be expecting, but it doesn’t mean that every single song on here isn’t worth your undivided attention, or that Trampled by Turtles are attempting to adapt to their newfound success by trying to be more docile or by implementing the NPR effect. It probably has more to do with where songwriter and frontman Dave Simonett was when he wrote these songs and how they turned out when fleshed out with the other players.

Through excellence and honesty and drive, Trampled by Turtles have defied the odds and risen above the bitterness and obscurity that plague many great underground roots troupes, to begin to find the proper-sized audience that their excellent music is worthy of. One can only hope that Stars and Satellites has the mustard, the speed to allow that audience to sustain and grow. Then again, didn’t we heed the moral of the old fable that speed is subjective? For what it’s worth, my money is on the tortoise.

1 3/4 of 2 guns up.

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Billy Joe Shaver to Release “Live at Billy Bob’s Texas”

April 13, 2012 - By Trigger  //  News  //  10 Comments

Country music songwriting legend and original Outlaw Billy Joe Shaver will be releasing a loaded 20-song CD package with companion DVD called Live at Billy Bob’s Texas on July 17th, recorded in the “World’s Largest Honky Tonk”. This will be Shaver’s first album in five years after winning a court battle for aggravated assault in April of 2010, and heart surgery in May of 2010, and after taking some time off from touring due to a shoulder issue.

From The Press Release:

The fully loaded special package includes 20 live renditions of some of his most notable compositions on an audio CD and DVD as well as two bonus tracks, and is the first set of new concert recordings since 1995 to be issued to the public. Included among Shaver classics and favorites are two new songs: “Wacko From Waco” (co-written with his longtime friend Willie Nelson) and “The Git Go,” proving that his muse remains as fertile as ever.

A studio version of “Wacko from Waco” was originally released in February 2011 by Shaver independently, and then was released in October as precursor to this Live at Billy Bob’s album.

As a songwriter, Shaver’s songs have been recorded by Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Kris Kristofferson, The Allman Brothers, Bobby Bare, BR549, Elvis Presley, John Anderson, George Jones, Tex Ritter, and Patty Loveless amongst others. Waylon’s landmark album Honky Tonk Heroes included all Billy Joe Shaver songs except for one.

Billy Joe Shaver will be the 42nd artist to release a “Live at Billy Bob’s” album, company that includes David Allan Coe, Willie Nelson, and Merle Haggard. He recorded the album with his young, rocking band guitarist Jeremy Woodall, drummer Jason Lynn McKenzie, and bassist Matt Davis. Even at 72, Shaver still delivers a very high energy set, punctuated by his punching and personality on stage.

Some of the Shaver songs to be included on Live at Billy Bob’s are:

  • Heart of Texas
  • Georgia on a Fast Train
  • Honky Tonk Heroes
  • Old Chunk of Coal
  • Live Forever
  • Old Five and Dimers
  • That’s What She Said Last Night
  • Black Rose
  • Hottest Thing in Town
  • Thunderbird
  • Good Old USA
  • I Couldn’t Be Me Without You
  • Star in My Heart (a Capella)
  • You Can’t Beat Jesus Christ
  • Wacko From Waco (studio bonus)
  • The Git Go (studio bonus)


Axl Rose Declines Grand Ole Opry Induction

April 11, 2012 - By Trigger  //  News  //  16 Comments

The day after Vince Gill surprised Keith Urban with an invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry at his “All For The Hall” benefit concert for the Country Music Hall of Fame, apparently Vince handed out another surprise invitation, this one to none other than the frontman and sole remaining founding member of Guns & Roses, Axl Rose.

Vince Gill, the emissary for handing out induction invitations for the landmark country music institution, apparently surprised Axl at his Los Angeles residence this afternoon as ginger-headed rocker was hanging kilts out on a clothesline in his backyard. Vince reportedly arrived less than an hour after Axl submitted a letter to the Los Angeles Times refusing to be inducted into the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame in a ceremony this Saturday, and Axl became irate with the country star.

“Mr. Rose apparently accused Vince Gill of quote: ‘Dancing with Mr. Brownstone’ if he thought he would ever join the Opry, and that they should reinstate Hank Williams before anyone else,” says Sgt. Garero of the Los Angeles Police Department. “Mr. Rose then allegedly smashed Mr. Gill’s signature spectacles that he values at $700.”

Sgt. Garero says officers were sent to the property, and that the investigation was ongoing.

When the Grand Ole Opry was approached to explain why they would want to make Axl Rose a member, Opry spokesperson Meredith Frankenfurter explained:

It makes perfect sense when you think about it. Axl Rose and Guns & Roses have way more songs that resemble country music than anything our last two inductees of Rascal Flatts or Keith Urban do. Go back and listen to GNR songs like “Yesterdays” and “Patience”. Even in their harder rock songs like “Paradise City” if you listen to the introduction and the backbone of the song, it’s way more country than Keith Urban. You could make the case that Axl Rose is more country than most of what you hear on country radio today.

Frankenfurter went on to explain that the honor also was meant to commemorate Axl’s and Guns & Roses’ influence on what she called the Opry’s current “hair highlights” class of Urban & Rascal Flatts, as well as on the genre itself.

Look, when you get right down to it, mainstream country music these days from acts like Rascal Flatts and Keith Urban is really nothing more than 80′s arena rock. What better way to pay tribute to Axl Rose for his contributions to modern country than an Opry induction.

Interviewed at LAX waiting for a flight back to Nashville, Vince Gill said he took Axl’s aggression as a “definite NO” to the Opry’s invitation.

Vince Gill’s optometrist could not be reached for comment.

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Similar News: Hank Williams Sr. Inducted Into Rascal Flatts


Aaron Lewis of Staind’s “Endless Summer”

April 11, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  34 Comments

Isn’t Arron Lewis bored yet and ready to return to butt rock? Apparently not, as he told The Tennessean late last week he’s planning to release a “very country” album in June. What does “very country” mean? If his previous song “Country Boy” is any indication, it will be songs with laundry list country lyrics, and that’s exactly what you get with his new single “Endless Summer” just released to the always gullible and complicit entity known as country radio.

Since Aaron Lewis doesn’t know shit about country music, we can’t expect him to stray too far from The 6 Pop Country Song Formulas, but someone forgot to tell Arron Lewis it looks dumb when you publish the “Summer Song” formula verbatim without filling in any of the blanks to complete the ruse. Didn’t they at least have Mad Libs in the power elitist, ultra-affluent area code 413 hamlet of Longmeadow, Mass. where he grew up?

In this dumb, unremarkable song, Aaron does do two pretty remarkable things. The first is he name drops Jason Aldean of all people. That’s right, designer jeans fashionista Jason Aldean is now cool enough to name drop in a song when you’re a struggling, aging rocker grasping, clawing for any tiny bit of mainstream relevancy or attention. And then after Aaron says how proud he is that his girls sing along to Jason Aldean, he calls out Miley Cyrus, saying, “It makes me smile just a little bit because it’s not a Miley Cyrus song.”

Miley Cyrus is a colossal trainwreck as well, but at least she is true to herself. A couple of years ago when she was interviewed by Parade, Miley said she is steering clear of country because country “feels so contrived on many levels.” Guess who Miley is talking about Aaron, she’s talking about your genre-hopping ass, the transparency of your stupid summer song, and your designer jeans model buddy Jason Aldean.

I wonder if Lewis will have Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit sit in with him like he did on “Outside”.

I can see through you Arron, see your true colors. Inside you’re ugly, ugly like Miley.

Actually I thought Miley did a decent job covering Bob Dylan’s legendary “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” for the Chimes of Freedom Compilation. I’d take it over anything from Aaron Lewis any day.

Two guns down!


Album Review – McDougall – A Few Towns More

April 11, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  3 Comments

Scott McDougall from Portland, OR might be the last of the true Romantic-era troubadours: a bardic-like, almost fantasy character that arrives in town with a bass drum on his back and guitar in hand, and sets up at the local pub to sing songs, spin tales, slay lonesome moments, and save the spiritually repressed before whisking out of town like something out of a dream. The puffy beard, the cherubic features, his skill with wit, instrument, and lyric delivered with a wisp of Renaissance flair, he’s like an archetype pulled right out of the glossy illustrations of childhood fable.

Like most of McDougall’s music, A Few Towns More is a travelogue, with cautionary tales of the ill-fated life intermixed. “Come along,” he says, and then takes all of us chumps more weighted down by life’s priorities on his journey spanning both geography and personal exploration.

The album starts off with an evocation of the warmth and fellowship of one of those late-night pub scenes alluded to above called “Coleraine”, where this folk-based one man band gets some help from friends with chants and claps. “Evening Tide” is where McDougall shows off his inner Bob Dylan, in a sweet and slow composition laid out so eloquently it sticks to memory with ease.

McDougall is skilled, but not a superpicker, and he knows how to use this to his advantage. Instrumentals like “Ask That Pretty Girl To Be My Wife” and “Cuttin’ The Grass/ Tom & Willy Go To Town” (I presume about fellow troubadours Tom VandenAvond and Willy “Tea” Taylor) dazzle you with an authenticity that would be lost if they were just some excuse for technical showboating. Instead the speechless wonder of the songs really helps capture the magic of the moments alluded to by their titles.

The gospel offering “When God Dips His Love In My Heart” is when McDougall’s skill at singing is shown off, but the epic “The Travels of Frederick Tolls – Part 2″ is the standout track of the album; starting off with the Celtic flavor McDougall brings to much of his banjo and guitar playing, and then morphing into a sonic and thematic anthem, encapsulating all of McDougall’s tricks and trades and philosophies into one song with the power to change a life’s perspective.

Always my concern with McDougall is accessibility, a concern I doubt he’s concerned with personally as he traverses the country, singing his songs to any willing audience from paying crowds to porch parties. The album’s send off track, “Ready, Begin” includes one of the most modern-sounding rhythms I’ve heard McDougall employ, and his loud, ringing play on the bass drum in songs like “Cuttin’ The Grass” may suck people in from the simple visceral joy of the rhythm. McDougall uses bass drum not just to keep the beat like many one man bands, but to add a whole new rhythm dimension to the music.

A Few Towns More is a journey worth taking.

1 3/4 of 2 guns up.

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Purchase A Few Towns More on Bandcamp

(will be available on Amazon, iTunes, CD Baby soon)


Let’s Remember Willie Nelson for More Than Marijuana

April 10, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  21 Comments

Today it was announced that a new statue of Willie Nelson will be erected in Austin, TX, commemorating the country music legend whose career now spans over 50 years. The bronze statue is a gift from the not-for-profit organization Capitol Area Statues. It stands 8-feet tall and weighs 1 ton, at a cost of about $300,000. It was created by sculptor Clint Shields, who told The Rolling Stone he had a difficult task of making sure he represented all the eras of Willie, from the Outlaw of the 70′s, to the face of Farm Aid in the 80′s, to today.

The statue will sit at the base of the stairs to ACL Live’s Moody Theater where Austin City Limits is taped, at the W Austin Hotel downtown. The statue was initially unveiled to a small group in Austin on November 14th (see image of statue), but the public unveiling will happen the same day Willie Nelson and many other artists are scheduled to perform at the “We Walk The Line” tribute commemorating Johnny Cash’s 80th birthday on April 20th, aka 4/20. The statue will also officially be unveiled at 4:20 PM “as a nod to the country star’s reputation as a stoner.”

As Saving Country Music pointed out last August, asking if Willie Nelson was becoming a “pot punchline”:

Willie Nelson is an American treasure, one of the worlds greatest pacifists, an advocate for farmers, biofuels, and countless other causes, as well as being one of the most revered living American artists, and one of the greatest country music legends of all time. His album Red Headed Stranger is disputably the greatest, most important country album ever. But as time goes on, what Willie seems to be best known for is a guy who happens to smoke pot.

…what I am concerned with is that Willie’s weed identity is trumping, if not marginalizing the other accomplishments of one of our country’s elder statesmen, including his marijuana advocacy work…If marijuana was legal, it would simply be a footnote to Willie’s legacy, like a baseball player’s favorite ice cream.

The 4/20 unveiling of the Willie Nelson statue happens to be a convenient date when Willie and other music dignitaries will already be in attendance at the Moody Theater, but unveiling it right at 4:20 PM reinforces what Willie Nelson’s legacy is becoming in the eyes of popular culture.

Statue creator Clint Shields said that while creating the likeness, he was concerned about the statue’s impact “especially a younger generation (that) grew fond of him during his more mature years.” Willie Nelson’s songs have long since left radio. He can’t be found on country awards shows. There’s no Willie Nelson videos on MTV or CMT. The way most of the younger generation and popular culture interface with Willie Nelson is through TMZ stories about his marijuana arrests, collaborations with Snoop Dogg on stoner songs, and stories like The Rolling Stone article above that mentions little about his music or other accomplishments.

Willie Nelson’s music, his legendary albums like Red Headed Stranger, Wanted: The Outlaws, and Stardust all constitute his musical legacy. His work with Farm Aid, and for biofeuls, world peace, environmentalism, and marijuana advocacy constitute his world legacy. Willie’s pot legacy is only his pop legacy, irrelevant in the face of such a reverent and inspiring life of work. To perpetuate a typecasting of Willie Nelson in the frame of an ironic joke at such a memorable moment as the unveiling of an eternal tribute seems like an unnecessary reduction of his legacy.

Some may want to commemorate Willie Nelson’s “reputation as a stoner”, but I choose to remember him as so much more, like his reputation as a world-class musician, a fighter for artists’ independence, an advocate for peace, and a spiritual inspiration.

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