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Pop country’s official pretty boy Luke Bryan got caught red handed Tuesday night (7-10-12) at the Major League All-Star Game gaining advantage from a substance applied on his hand like Gaylord Perry dressing a spitball. Yes, Luke Bryan had plenty of time for multiple applications of his chemical tan and to have a team of dwarves squeeze him into his designer skinny jeans, but couldn’t be bothered to actually memorize the words to our National Anthem.
As he stood in the middle of Kauffman Stadium, holding the microphone in a very curious, gingerly manner, he could clearly be witnessed receiving aid from words written on his paw. Some theorists have surmised that he was actually checking his watch to time the song’s climax with the stealth bomber flyover, but both times when he peers towards his hand he clearly turns the face of his watch away from him (the direction of the face and buckle of the watch are clearly visible). So yeah, this theory is a slow dribbler that rolls foul. And if his intention was to time the song with the flyover just right, he whiffed here too because the bomber clearly flew over before the song was over.
Aside from not knowing the words to a song most third graders could scratch out with their Husky pencils by heart, his performance was actually next to flawless. But once again when country is given the opportunity to showcase itself on a national scale, to a national audience, it strikes out.
Luke Bryan through his Twitter account admitted writing down a “few key words” on his hand and apologized to anyone offended.
Morning everyone. I really wanna explain the national anthem performance from last night…I had a few keys words written down to insure myself that I wouldn’t mess up. I just wanted to do my best. I promise it was from the heart…If I offended anyone with my approach I sincerely apologize. Anytime I sing the anthem it is an honor and my heart beats out of my chest…I did check my watch because I knew the stealth bomber would fly over 2 minutes in and I knew a started a little late…Being a part of the all star game was amazing and I look forward to the next time I can perform the anthem. Thanks y’all. Love ya.
In an unexpected nugget of news that has my music pants going crazy, The Rolling Stone has just announced that Wanda Jackson will be releasing a new album entitled Unfinished Business on October 9th, and that the album’s producer will be none other than Saving Country Music’s 2011 Artist of the Year Justin Townes Earle.
“I’ve had a wonderful time working with Wanda and creating this new record,” Earle says in the video below. “Hopefully everyboy’s going to enjoy it…well I know they will. They don’t really have a choice, do they?”
This will be Wanda Jackson’s 31st studio album and will be released on Sugar Hill Records. Wanda will turn 75 two weeks after Unfinished Business will be released, yet she’s showing no signs of slowing down. She released The Party Ain’t Over in early 2011 with another famous artist/producer in Jack White.
“From day one I really liked Justin’s idea to take me back to my roots and make a record of country, blues, and rockabilly songs,” Jackson told Rolling Stone. “The band was extra tight and great to work with during the whole process. The record just sounds terrific and I’m hoping that my fans enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed making it.”
What a treasure this album is.
I’ll spare you the lengthy diatribe about what shame it is that Billy Don Burns isn’t a more heralded and recognized elder of the greater country music community. But rest assured, he should be. When you’ve produced albums for Johnny Paycheck and Merle Haggard, and had Willie Nelson cut your songs and appear on your albums, you deserve to be thrown a few more bones than what Billy Don has found at his feet. But you don’t need to drop names to know what a one-of-a-kind talent Billy Don Burns is, all you have to do is listen.
Then again, the demons that have pursued Billy Don throughout his life and career, dogging his successes with lapses into addiction and destitution make the start and stutter nature of his career understandable. Those battles are also what have fueled and elevated his status as a songwriter in certain circles. He’s deity-like to the people who know and love him, yet the general public is unfamiliar with the name (though they may recognize music he’s written or produced). Billy Don Burns is a force behind the music.
There are great songwriters, and then there are songwriters that define the apogee of the craft, songwriters like Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt…and Billy Don Burns. There are songs on Nights When I’m Sober that will rip at your heart like nothing else. There’s a great variety on the album with sweet songs and fun songs. And where Billy Don elevates the stakes is in the production and approach to each composition. With producer/guitar player Aaron Rodgers, they reinvigorate the late-era, rock-infused Outlaw sound that had Haggard and Paycheck seeking Billy Don’s services.
Aside from maybe Tom Waits, Hank Williams and a few others, I have never heard an artist be able to pull as much emotion out of a composition as Billy Don Burns does by slowing everything down in the tear-jerking songs that constitute the backbone of this album. “Is He the Writer?” and “Stranger” are two excellent selections that work in the traditional Keith Whitley-style self-referential method that calls on both wit and irony to drive home a tragic story. “When Lonesome Comes Around” is a lot more of a loose arrangement, and takes “darkness” to all new depths as Billy Don tells the story of a man inviting in illusion as the one last antidote to alleviate chronic sorrow.
The dark songs are counterbalanced with some really warm offerings, specifically “Gaylor Creek Church” about the by-gone culture of community churches and the warmth they instilled in a child’s soul, and “Wouldn’t Have It Any Other Way” with its fun acoustic lead-in and lead-out and its positive take to life on the road. “Wouldn’t Have It…” is awfully fetching and probably constitutes the “hit” of the album. Night’s When I’m Sober is always on the move, with the motorcycle story “Born to Ride” and the touring tale “Aaron Rodgers and Me”.
What elevates this album the most, the intangible of Nights When I’m Sober is the authenticity Billy Don Burns can approach these songs with. The battle will rage on forever about if songwriters and performers have to live what they sing and write about to be authentic, but with Billy Don, the point is moot.
In the song “Is He the Writer?” Billy Don mentions the classic tale of the artist cutting off his ear to suffer so he can draw inspiration. Many artists and their fans love this romantic notion of art and inspiration, but few artists have the commitment to see it through. You get the sense that with Billy Don, if times were tough, he wouldn’t hesitate looking for a fillet knife, and that he’s done the rough equivalent of cutting his ear off many times before, and will again before it’s all over.
Billy Don Burn’s albums Train Called Lonesome and Heroes, Friends, & Other Troubled Souls are also worth picking up, but I think one could make the case for Night’s When I’m Sober being Billy Don’s defining release.
Two guns up!
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The following videos showcase songs from Nights When I’m Sober with luthier Richard Peek making a gas can banjo in the background.
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