- The Guardian's 10 Best Albums incl. Sturgill, Tami Neilson, Jason Eady
- Hear Unreleased Joe Ely and Linda Ronstadt duet "Where Is My Love"
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- Houston Press: Is Country Music Ready For Sturgill Simpson?
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- Eric Church's "The Outsiders" Goes Platinum
- Fatal South by Southwest Crash Brings First Wave of Lawsuits
- New Song from Cody Canada and the Departed "Easy"
- New York Times Runs Obituary on Outlaw Lawyer Neil Reshen
- Country Weekly's Top 10 Albums Incl. Sturgill, Old Crow, Billy Joe Shaver
- Nashville Scene Rips Into American Country Countdown Awards
- Ardent Studios Founder John Fry Dies at 69
- Windowing New Music May Not Goose Sales, Study Shows
- Engineer and Producer John Hampton Dies
- Famous Nashville Backup Singer Millie Kirkham Dies at 91
- Proof How Much The Music Industry Has Changed In The Last Ten Years
- NY Times' Jon Caramanica's Top 10 Albums Includes Sturgill Simpson
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Country music in 2014, personified. Drunk, unruly, and making an ass of itself on stage.
Add to the list of stage falls, mass arrests, “mass casualty” events, performers getting beamed in the head with flying beer bottles, rape, and even death, we now have a woman hurling on Dierks Bentley, appropriately, as she’s singing along to his smash hit “Drunk on a Plane.” Jokes about paper bags in backseat pockets and the awkwardness of airline lavatories even seem a little too obvious here. This is just plain old life imitating art—except in country music in 2014, there’s never any consequences to seven days a week of endless partying.
The incident happened Thursday, November 13th at the GIANT Center in Hershey, PA as Dierks though it would be cute to bring some folks dressed as flight attendants out on the edge of the stage “runway” for a little singalong of his recent CMA Award-winning song. Unfortunately for Dierks, one of the flight attendants was concealing a gut full of ugly that wouldn’t be held back.
“Did that just happen?” someone squeals from the crowd. Yes. Yes, it just did. When the unexpected carry on liquid spilled, it sent the performance in a tailspin, but eventually Dierks rallied, saying, “They all know why she’s puking up on the stage.” Maybe because she’s really, really drunk (though some reports say it had less to do with drunkedness, and more to do with stage fright). Then Dierks calls for “Cleanup on aisle six.” It also appears like the vomit incident on stage stimulated some others to lose their lunch in the crowd, which is known to happen.
Yuck it up, fuzzballs.
The past 24 hours has seen some big signings by some worthy artists to record labels. Here’s a rundown:
The old-school throwback St. Louis singing and strumming song man Pokey LaFarge has signed to the prestigious Rounder Records, announced Wednesday (11-12). Pokey, who has released six albums since his self-released debut in 2006, and who most recently recorded an album for Jack White’s Third Man Records in 2013, has found what he hopes to be a more permanent home on a record label who’s known for releasing albums by Willie Nelson, Robert Plant, Ricky Skaggs, Del McCoury, Alison Krauss, and dozens more since its inception in 1970 as a predominantly roots label.
“Needless to say, it is a true honor to begin this new relationship with Rounder and be counted among so many champions of American music, past and present,” was the message posted on Pokey’s website. At the present, no word of when Pokey’s Rounder debut might hit shelves, but an announcement should be coming soon.
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Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band has signed with Yazoo Records, and have announced their new album called So Delicious will be delivered on February 17th, 2015. The slide guitar maestro backed by wife Breezy on washboard and drummer Ben Russell is known for busting his ass on stage and playing over 250 dates a year. This will be the Indiana-based outfit’s eighth release.
“Yazoo was my favorite record label growing up,” Rev. Peyton says. “For fans of old country blues and all manner of early American music, they are the quintessential label. And for me, it’s like being on the same label as Charley Patton and ‘Mississippi’ John Hurt. To think that Yazoo believes we are authentic enough to stand with the other people in their catalog means a lot.”
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The honky tonkin’, rock and rollin’, Birmingham, Alabama-bred gritty and greasy Banditos have signed to insurgent country label Bloodshot Records as of Wednesday (11-12) with an album rumored to be on the way for early 2015.
“Back in March we saw Nashville-via-Birmingham, AL group Banditos at one of those fly-by-night, hole-in-the-wall bars that sprout like skunkweed on Sixth Street in Austin, TX during the height of SXSW crazy,” says Bloodshot. “The sound system at this place was a painful mix of all treble and reverb; and the noises oozing out of the PA during another band’s set were not unlike the distorted echoes of the soundtrack to Suspiria (and not in a good way). We wish we were kidding. Then the six-piece Banditos took the stage, and even though they themselves were a little intimidating – all hair, denim, and stoic determination – the sounds they managed to conjure from two overworked speakers were fresh, raw, and spectacular.”
Now the Banditos will join a roster which includes Wayne “The Train” Hancock, Lydia Loveless, Scott H. Biram, and launched the careers of Ryan Adams, Neko Case, Justin Townes Earle, and others.
Near the end of 2013, Saving Country Music rewarded Jason Isbell’s live streaming set on August 13th from the Austin City Limit’s stage as the #2 live event in all of 2013. “I admit, it seems strange to put a streaming event such as this on this list, and so high up no less,” was said at the time. “But if you witnessed it, you would know why…It was Jason Isbell’s songs and his songwriting that made so many online watchers walk away with one of those feelings you get after watching a stellar movie—where your mind gets so immersed in the experience it is hard to return to the real world.”
Now Jason Isbell’s entire Austin City Limits set will be released to DVD on November 25th via Isbell’s Southeastern Records, and will include his entire 15-song performance, not just the abbreviated 6-song version that aired with Neko Case during the ACL episode on PBS. The new DVD includes two of the most important moments from the performance left off the broadcast—the 9-minute version of “Danko/Manuel” and the cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking.”
The DVD also includes many songs from Jason Isbell’s award-winning Southeastern album that was recently crowed Album of the Year by the Americana Music Association, including the Americana Song of the Year “Cover Me Up.” Songs from earlier in Isbell’s career, like the Drive By Truckers staple “Outfit” and “Decoration Day” are also included. Isbell’s had one stellar run lately, including selling out three consecutive shows at Nashville’s acclaimed Ryman Auditorium in October with his backing band The 400 Unit.
Jason Isbell: Live at Austin City Limits is available for pre-order, and has to be considered an essential for most any roots fan.
Flying Over Water
Go It Alone
Cover Me Up
Can’t You Hear Me Knocking
Director Marc Abraham, Tom Barnett as Gas Station Attendant, Richard L. Jackson as Gas Station Owner/ Justice of the Peace, Elizabeth Olsen as Audrey Williams, and Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams. From Richard L. Jackson Facebook page.
The Hank Williams biopic I Saw The Light is currently shooting in Shreveport, Louisiana, and we’re beginning to get the first glimpses of the set and some of the actors in their costumes, while details of some of the specific cast members continue to emerge.
Word has come down that actor Fred Parker Jr., known for his work on the horror film The Eves as well as numerous other television and movie roles has been cast to play country music legend Faron Young. Faron was a songwriter and a performer, a friend of Hank’s, and the love interest of Billie Jean Eshliman, who Faron introduced to Hank, and eventually became Hank’s second wife and widow. The part of Billie Jean has been cast to Maddie Hasson. Faron Young was born in Shreveport, and started out as a pop singer. But when he saw Hank Williams receive nine encores on The Louisiana Hayride, he decided to switch to country. Faron committed suicide in 1996.
Actor Casey Bond, a baseball player turned actor known for his role in Moneyball, will be playing fiddle player Jerry Rivers—one of the most important figures in Hank’s Drifting Cowboy Band. Rivers played on virtually all of Hank’s recordings after 1950, and was a close personal friend of Hank’s, going on hunting trips with the singer, and even acting as his personal manager for a while. Eventually Hank’s drinking drove Jerry Rivers from Hank’s band, but he continued to play with Hank right up to his death. Rivers was scheduled to play with Hank on the New Years show in 1953 Hank never made it to, dying en route. Just like Hank, Rivers got caught up in a Winter storm and never made it to the show.
Additionally a camera crew from KTBS Channel 3 in Shreveport was allowed on the I Saw The Light set and spoke briefly with Tom Hiddleston. Anchor Devon Patton took his picture with Hiddleston, giving us the best glimpse of Hiddleston as Hank in period clothing.
The parts of Fred Rose and Hank’s mom were also cast recently. I Saw The Light is being produced and directed by Marc Abraham, who also adapted the screenplay from Colin Escott’s Hank Williams biography. The movie is set to be released in 2015.
Hank Williams III, the grandson of Hank Williams, has been a vocal opponent of the pick of the British-born Tom Hiddleston to play his grandfather. Last week, actor Austin Haley who is cast to play a character “Dwayne” was critical of Hank3, saying, “As far as Hank3 is concerned. Hell I wouldn’t even got to him for advice on music much less on who should make a movie.”
Video from KTBS:
Photo via Devon Patton
Loretta Lynn’s last album, 2004′s Van Lear Rose wasn’t just one of the most important albums of Loretta’s storied career, it was one of the most important country albums in the entirety of the oughts. Produced by Jack White, it was the comeback album of comeback albums, and received wide critical acclaim, including two Grammy Awards. It holds a resounding 97 rating on Metacritic.
But since the success of Van Lear Rose, Loretta has entered in the largest absent period for albums in her career. Perhaps not wanting to test fate and instead ride out the success of Van Lear Rose as long as she could, ten years have passed since she released the storied album. But all of that is about to change.
It has just been announced that Loretta has inked a five album deal with Sony’s catalog album imprint Legacy Recordings, with a new album expected to be released some time next year. Legacy is the same Sony imprint that has been finding great success releasing albums from Willie Nelson during the silver era of his career.
Ten years may have passed, but for seven of them Loretta has been at work in the famous Johnny Cash Cabin Studios in Hendersonville, TN on new music that “travels back and explores Loretta’s musical history, from the Appalachian folk songs and gospel music she learned as a child, to new interpretations of her classic hits and country standards, to songs newly-written for the project.” Helping Loretta with the project has been Loretta’s daughter, Patsy L. Russell, and John Carter Cash, son of Johnny Cash and June Carter, and the operator/caretaker of the Cash Cabin Studios.
Loretta’s new collection of music is said to include “intimate new performances, the way they might’ve sounded growing up in the 1930s and Forties in Butcher Hollow [Holler].” She’s said to have over 90 songs recorded.
“Me and Shawn Camp have been writing some songs together,” Lynn told The Nashville Scene in September. “He’s a good little writer, and I’ve been busy recording. I cut 90-some songs. I did all my biggest ones over again, and I cut some old-timey story songs like Mommy taught me when I was in Kentucky. Like this guy that got mad at his girlfriend because she got in a bad way with him — you know, pregnant. Well, he killed her and threw her in the bottom of the Ohio River. Tied a railroad steel around her neck! When somebody would do something like that, people would write about it.”
Loretta has been enjoying a resurgence of interest lately, making the Legacy Recordings signing and new music somewhat timely. In September, Loretta received a Lifetime Achievement Award in Songwriting from the Americana Music Awards. Then at the 2014 CMA Awards, she performed with Kacey Musgraves on a duet of Loretta’s song “You’re Looking At Country.”
Loretta will join a list of country music legacy acts like Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, and Billy Joe Shaver who’ve released successful albums landing in the top of the country music charts as country fans continue to search for the classic sound of country.
Here’s a remake of the Conway Twitty/Loretta Lynn duet “After The Fire Is Gone” Loretta worked on recently with Jeff Bates.
Two of the last remaining important pieces in the cast of the upcoming biopic on the life of Hank Williams entitled I Saw The Light have been revealed.
Cherry Jones, best known for her Emmy-winning performance as a female President in the Fox series 24, and a five-time Tony award nominee for her work in stage performances on Broadway like The Heiress and Doubt, has been cast as Jessie Lillybelle “Lillie” Skipper Williams, otherwise known as Hank’s mother. Lillie ran a boarding house where Hank Williams grew up, which some accounts have being more of a brothel. With Hank’s father gone often working for the railroad company, and then being injured on the job and permanently hospitalized, Lillie Williams was Hank’s primary parental influence. She also encouraged Hank’s early musical development, giving meals to street performer Rufus “Tee-Tot” Payne in exchange for guitar lessons.
Bradley Whitford, known for his work on The West Wing will be playing songwriter and music publisher Fred Rose. Fred was inducted into the inaugural class of the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961 along with Hank Williams, and wrote or co-wrote some of Hank’s most memorable songs, including “I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive,” “Settin’ The Woods on Fire,” “Kaw-Liga,” and “Crazy Heart.” Fred Rose founded the famous Acuff/Rose publishing company with performer Roy Acuff, and set the standard for music publishing that is still in practice today. Rose was also a mentor and friend of Hank Williams, and that relationship will undoubtedly be seminal to the I Saw The Light script.
Cherry Jones and Bradley Whitford will be joining British actor Tom Hiddleston playing Hank Williams in the film, Elizabeth Olsen playing Audrey Williams, Maddie Hasson as Billie Jean Horton, and four more actors announced in important roles.
Hank Williams III, the grandson of Hank Williams, has been a vocal opponent of the pick of the British-born Tom Hiddleston to play his grandfather. Last week, actor Austin Haley who is cast to play a character “Dwayne” was critical of Hank3, saying, “As far as Hank3 is concerned. Hell I wouldn’t even got to him for advice on music much less on who should make a movie.”
I Saw The Light is being produced and directed by Marc Abraham, who also adapted the screenplay from Colin Escott’s Hank Williams biography. The movie is currently shooting in Shreveport, Louisiana, and is set to be released in 2015.
What do pencils and music have in common? Apparently a lot more than it would appear on the surface. And Palomino, the company responsible for bringing the legendary Blackwing Pencil back from the dead has now launched a music wing and record label, signing Willy “Tea” Taylor, noted songwriter, co-frontman of the Oakdale, CA-based Good Luck Thrift Store Outfit, and Saving Country Music’s 2011 Song of the Year winner, as their very first artist. “Blackwing is more than just a pencil,” is one of the company’s mottos. And they prove this with this unexpected, but strangely-intuitive signing.
“I believe in the benefits of living a creative lifestyle. That’s the spirit that Blackwing embodies so it was really a no brainer,” says Willy Tea Taylor. “I’m really pumped about the whole project.”
Willy Tea is currently in Nashville, and will be recording a new album beginning tomorrow November 5th with Grammy-winning engineer Phil Harris, and producer Michael Witcher, known for working with Dolly Parton, Dwight Yoakam, and many others. They will be assembling a cast of world class musicians to back Willy Tea, who is considered by Saving Country Music and others as one of the greatest, and most unheralded songwriters of our generation.
“As a strong supporter of the arts, we wanted to give deserving artists a chance to introduce their music to an audience that shares the same passion as they do,” says Blackwing Music’s Grant Christensen. “We are stoked to be working with Willy Tea, Michael Witcher and so many great musicians to produce the first album under the Blackwing Music imprint.”
The yet-to-be titled album is slated to be released in March 2015 at the moment, with pre-sales beginning later in November. A portion of the proceeds from the album will go to the Blackwing Foundation.
What are Blackwing pencils, and what’s the big deal about them? As Palomino states, “Established in 1930 and revived in 2010, Blackwing pencils are a high-end line of California Incense-cedar pencils made with Japanese graphite cores and a lacquer finish. These pencils have been used by some of the most famous artists and writers of all time including Grammy, Emmy, Pulitzer and Academy Award winners over several decades.”
You can also listen to another noted songwriter, Andrew Combs, talking about the pencils below.
Willy Tea Taylor:
Rejoice Southern rock fans. If you’re looking for a refill of your favorite poison, Atlanta, Georgia’s formidable Southern rock outfit Blackberry Smoke has just announced they have a brand new album on the way called Holding All The Roses, due on shelves from Rounder Records on February 10th, 2015. It’s the followup to 2012′s acclaimed The Whippoorwill, and their first with Rounder. “I think that this record does a really good job of conveying what we do and what we’re about,” says singer, frontman, and songwriter Charlie Starr.
Holding All The Roses is also the band’s first record with noted producer, mixer, and musician Brendan O’Brien, best known for his work with The Black Crowes, Pearl Jam, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Bruce Springsteen to name a few. Brendan was the producer the band had always wanted to work with. “We didn’t go in and overthink any of the arrangements of the songs with preproduction,” Starr told Lagniappe Weekly in early October. “We just talked on the phone and we went in the studio. We did it and eight days later, we were finished.”
Blackberry decided to go with Rounder after Zac Brown’s Southern Ground label which released The Whippoorwill wasn’t working out. “Southern Ground kind of got shook up, and Zac kind of dissolved it for a while. It was a shame, because he’s our friend. It’s a shame to see a friend have something that doesn’t or didn’t work.”
Starr says listeners can expect more contrast on Holding All The Roses, with more harder-edged material, but also more laid-back material on the 12-track album. “People who enjoyed the ride of ‘The Whippoorwill’ and the way those songs flowed, these are more up and down.”
The band, which is currently in Europe, is also planning to tour the album hard and heavy, including a tour with Leon Virgil Bowers in March.
“The plan for this record is to go out and play as much as we can, and just take it to the people,” Charlie Starr continues. “There’s so much that’s out of your hands when you release a record, but that’s the part that we can control. That, and making an effort to make a better record every time.”
Holding All The Roses is currently available of pre-order, including in limited-edition red vinyl.
Holding All The Roses Track List:
1. Let Me Help You (Find the Door)
2. Holding All the Roses
3. Living in the Song
4. Rock and Roll Again
5. Woman in the Moon
6. Too High
7. Wish in One Hand
8. Randolph County Farewell
9. Payback’s a Bitch
10. Lay It All on Me
11. No Way Back to Eden
12. Fire in the Hole
Hellbound Glory, the raucous Reno, Nevada-based country band is no more, and the band’s long-time frontman and songwriter has taken on a new moniker.
R.I.P. Hellbound Glory and Leroy Virgil, and hello Leon Virgil Bowers.
The band had the internet buzzing on October 1st when they announced that Hellbound Glory would be killed off. “31 more nights… till the death of Hellbound Glory” the band stated, leaving fans of the resurgent country outfit wondering what the hell would be happening next. Then on Halloween, friends and family gathered at the at the Buckhorn Lodge in Pioneer, California to lay Hellbound Glory to rest, complete with a Hellbound Glory flag-draped coffin symbolizing the death of a music era that saw the band play hundreds of shows coast to coast, tour with Kid Rock and Leon Russell, and release some of the best independent country songs in the last decade.
The rest of Halloween weekend left fans wondering what was going to happen next. Then on Monday (11-3), a new website was launched and the name Leon Virgil Bowers, the given name of Leroy Virgil, emerged as the new incarnation of Hellbound Glory.
Leon Virgil Bowers has been the only permanent member of Hellbound Glory since the band’s inception in 2008. The band’s first two albums Scumbag Country and Old Highs & New Lows became landmarks of independent/underground country music and still remain testaments to Leroy’s prowess as a frontman and songwriter, along with his newer albums, 2011′s Damaged Goods, and the recent 2014 LP called LV, named after Leon’s initials.
A name change is something that worked very successfully for Sturgill Simpson when he dropped the Sunday Valley moniker. Sturgill’s name change is considered one of the keys to his meteoric rise. Country music is mostly a solo name business, and for some reason bands working under an individual’s name tend to do better.
“I’ve actually considered it a lot. We’ve talked about it,” Leon said when Saving Country Music interviewed him in May and asked him about going with his own name in the future. But he also showed reluctance at the time to drop the Hellbound Glory name. “There’s so much momentum going with Hellbound Glory and I’ve got so many years of work into it. Within a week or two of moving to Reno, I’d written the song and turned it into a band name. So it’s been something I’m stuck with. Part of me would like a change.”
But don’t throw dirt on the grave of Hellbound Glory just yet. “We tried to kill it, but it looks like the spirit of Hellbound Glory will live on,” the band posted through social network. As they allude, the music of Hellbound Glory will continue to be enjoyed by fans. And who knows, maybe the name will be resurrected in the future. But with Leroy’s greatest asset being one of the premier songwriters of the independent world, working under his own name may just be the right decision to help get his music to the wider audience it deserves.
This story has been updated (see below).
The potential sale of the Big Machine Label Group—home of Taylor Swift, Florida Georgia Line, Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts, Brantley Gilbert, and many more—just got a whole lot more interesting, and now has sprouted tentacles that could have major implications across the entire music landscape as Taylor Swift has unexpectedly pulled her complete catalog from Spotify.
Murmurings of an impending Big Machine sale first surfaced in a Hits Daily Double column posted on October 23rd, and were expounded upon by Saving Country Music on October 27th. Subsequently The New York Post released a story on November 1st reinforcing the presence of behind-the-scenes chatter on an impending sale. Reports have Big Machine President and CEO Scott Borchetta asking $200 million for the label group that includes the subsidiary labels Valory Music, NASH Icon, and joint ventures with Universal Republic Records, Republic Records Nashville and Dot Records. Big Machine is an independent label distributed by Universal Music Group—one of the parties rumored to be interested in purchasing the star heavy label.
From the beginning, the lynchpin of any deal has been centered around superstar Taylor Swift who has one more album to release with Big Machine before the expiration of her contract. Making matters that much more intriguing, and potentially making the value of Big Machine never greater, is the development that Taylor Swift’s new album 1989 released on October 27th has become nothing short of a historic commercial blockbuster. Preliminary sales numbers have 1989 selling 1.3 million copies in its first week—the best one week sales performance for any album since Eminem’s The Eminem Show released in May of 2002. When taking into account the flight from physical sales and now even digital downloads in the face of streaming services such as Spotify, this sales feat is nothing short of miraculous.
One of the factors being given credit for Taylor Swift’s tour de force in sales is the Spotify embargo she usually puts on her releases for the first 60 days to stimulate more album sales. Scott Borchetta told Rolling Stone near the release of Taylor Swift’s Red in 2012. “Why shouldn’t we learn from the movie business? They have theatrical releases, cable releases. There are certain tiers. If we just throw out everything we have, we’re done.”
Scott Borchetta had mostly held pat to this Spotify approach until recently. Releases by other Big Machine artists in the last few months such as Tim McGraw and Florida Georgia Line were released straight to Spotify, though Brantley Gilbert’s Just As I Am released in May did not, holding to the 60 day embargo. Sales for Brantely’s album where much higher than most industry experts expected, and the album has now sold over 600,000 copies—this from an artist who is not considered to be on country music’s top tier.
Taylor Swift’s 1989 did not appear on Spotify upon release, though the lead single “Shake It Off” was available. Then the shocking news came down Monday morning that Taylor Swift’s entire discography was pulled from the Spotify network, singles and all.
“We love Taylor Swift, and our more than 40 million users love her even more,” Spotify posted Monday morning after her music disappeared. “We hope she’ll change her mind and join us in building a new music economy that works for everyone. We believe fans should be able to listen to music wherever and whenever they want, and that artists have an absolute right to be paid for their work and protected from piracy. That’s why we pay nearly 70% of our revenue back to the music community.”
Billboard on Monday also posted quotes from a Spotify employee with “intimate knowledge of the situation” saying, “This came as a complete surprise. Big Machine is in the process of selling itself, and that can’t be forgotten here. [They're looking to] increase the multiple for the sale of that company. Scott Borchetta is a very old-school thinker. He’s wrong.”
However there may be an element of spin going on from Spotify, or multiple elements of spin. Though Spotify is trying to link the Big Machine sale to Taylor Swift pulling her music, every other Big Machine artist still has all of their music available through the streaming service.
Also in Spotify’s official comments, they speak more specifically about the philosophical and financial dilemma Spotify is posing to the music industry at large. “We believe…artists have an absolute right to be paid for their work and protected from piracy. That’s why we pay nearly 70% of our revenue back to the music community.” Why would Spotify bring up this point if the concern was the Big Machine sale and not Swift seeing the financial benefit for herself and other artists at large by exiting the streamer? Also, is Scott Borchetta though to be an “old-school thinker”? Most in the industry consider Borchetta the opposite, and it very well could have been Swift’s decision, not Borchetta’s, to pull the catalog from Spotify.
In a Taylor Swift op-ed from the Wall Street Journal posted in July, she said, “Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for. It’s my opinion that music should not be free.”
The impact of Taylor Swift removing her music from Spotify, especially after she just revealed herself as the biggest artist of the last decade-plus and possibly of a generation, cannot be overstated. This could be the moment of leadership music has been waiting for that spurs other artists to stand up to the incremental loss of revenue presented by the streaming paradigm, and it could also have a big impact on Spotify’s standing in the marketplace. Or it could simply mean you can’t stream Swift on Spotify. Either way, the implications of Swift’s decision should be watched very closely, and could have big reverberations throughout music.
Whether the Spotify decision is linked at all to Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine sale is difficult to determine without access to the specifics of any deal. But to be sure, 1989‘s resounding commercial success is necessitating a shift of perspective on how music is sold in America, and the standing of Big Machine Records as one of the most important and influential labels in music today.
Meanwhile streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, and others continue to have issues showing how their business model can become profitable, with some looking to negotiate the royalties paid to artists down even more.
***UPDATE (11-4): According to Scott Borchetta of the Big Machine Label Group, the company is not up for sale. Borchetta told All Access, “If you notice, any time we put a Taylor album out this little item comes up again. We are not for sale, but Taylor’s great new album ‘1989’ is!” Of course, companies are notorious for refuting any sale rumors … until they eventually sell. So this should be taken into consideration. As should the fact that if it is true that Big Machine is not up for sale, this would refute the Spotify insider who told Billboard the Big Machine sale has to do with Swift pulling her music.
If 2013 was the “Year of the Woman” in country music, 2014 may go down as the “Year of the Fall.” Along with a troika of notable tumbles by Luke Bryan in 2014, Garth Brooks has now bit it on a couple of occasions during his comeback tour. It first happened on Friday, September 5th as his “Garth Experience” was just getting under way in Chicago. The 52-year-old entertainer took a spill and stopped himself only inches from going off the edge of the stage like his hat did. Then this Friday during his Halloween show in Lexington, KY at the Rupp Arena, Brooks took another tumble, but this one involved some extenuating circumstances.
Garth’s stage setup on the tour has more gadgets than a Swiss Army knife. It breathes fire, shoots lasers, belches smoke, has retractable video screens, endless lights, and a glowing “orb” as a centerpiece. Apparently another feature of the stage is some sort of conveyor belt-type device, or a couple of them running opposite ways that work like a suped-up people mover at an airport, rushing Garth from one side of the stage to the other.
While in the midst of singing his cover of Aerosmith’s “Fever” from his 1995 album Fresh Horses, it appears Garths loses his footing on the one conveyor belt, making him accidentally put his foot on the other conveyor belt running the opposite way, and ends up sending him careening out of control. Luckily he recovered quick enough to strike a pre-planned Run-D.M.C. crossed-arm pose with his fiddle player to finish the song.
Earlier that morning, Garth was in Nashville giving music press and industry insiders a sneak peak at his new album Man Against Machine scheduled to be released on November 11th. “Anybody who knows us knows we’ve never named an album after a song, but for some reason this is how it’s been for us since the start of thinking about coming back into music. A lot of things have changed and it’s all up hill,” Garth said. In this instance, it appears the machine won out against man.
Brooklyn-based alternative roots band O’Death were the unfortunate recipients of an early Halloween trick on Thursday night (10-30) when their entire tour van and trailer were stolen after their show at Los Angeles’s famous The Echo venue with Guy Blakeslee and Lonesome Leash. The band is now stranded in LA with no vehicle, no musical gear, and 17-date nationwide tour booked ahead of them, including a stop at Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Fest. They’re looking for any and all help finding their stolen van or help getting back on their feet.
O’Death was formed in 2003 and combines elements of folk, bluegrass, country, and punk music. They’re named after the old traditional folk tune.
“Our van and trailer full of gear appear to have been stolen from The Good Nite Inn in Buena Park, CA, after our show at The Echo in Los Angeles,” the band posted. “The trailer and van are both maroon. Our gear is kind of crappy, so good luck to anyone trying to resale – you’ve done a very bad thing that is not even lucrative.” The van has New York plates, # ELU 6981
Subsequently the band had to cancel their Halloween show at Pappy & Harriet’s in Pioneertown, CA and set up a Go Fund Me account to help them raise funds to resume the tour. “Pretty much everything we have as a band collective is gone. Except our friends and family. People have already been so supportive, but we are stranded 3000 miles from home with 17 shows left on our schedule. So we are going to reach out now and ask for help. Of the financial variety. Thanks in advance to all who can contribute and all who can repost.”
The band is currently still stuck at the Good Nite Inn in Buena Park, CA. People can also contribute by sending directly through Paypal to david.rogersberry at gmail dot com.
Though most of these instances end in tragedy, when Radney Foster had 10 guitars stolen in September, he was able to recover most of the stolen items after a studious fan found them in a resale shop.
On Wednesday night, baseball fans were treated to a World Series Game 7 pitting the Kansas City Royals against the visiting San Francisco Giants. San Francisco starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner came out of the bullpen and pitched the final innings just three days after pitching a complete game to help secure the Giants their third World Series victory in five years in what many are calling a historic pitching performance. Bumgarner was later named the World Series MVP.
After the game, the party raged and the champagne poured inside the San Francisco clubhouse as the team celebrated the victory, and according to multiple witnesses, surging country music artist Sturgill Simpson found his way onto the victory soundtrack.
Though hip-hop was playing when the players were giving each other the boisterous champagne shower as the cameras were rolling, according to Brian Murphy and Paul McCaffrey of the Murph and Mac sports talk morning show on San Francisco’s KNBR 680 AM, Sturgill Simpson was the preferred choice of one San Francisco pitcher. The radio hosts were in Kansas City covering the World Series and the locker room celebration, and told the story this morning (10-30) on their radio show of how pitcher Jake Peavy hijacked the stereo and started playing Sturgill. Murph and Mac said it was new music to them, but that it made them fast fans.
A relative unknown just a few years ago, Sturgill Simpson’s recent release Metamodern Sounds in Country Music has become both a critical and commercial success, defying the odds for an independent artist who receives virtually no mainstream radio play. Relying mostly on word of mouth, his music which offers a counterbalance to the current trends of mainstream country music has won fans over across the country, and kept his music in the Billboard and iTunes charts well after his latest album’s May 13th release. Sturgill was named the Americana Music Association’s Emerging Artist of the Year in September.
On Tuesday, Sturgill played The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. He also recently sat down with Joe Rogan for an extended interview, which also stimulated an upsurge in Sturgill interest.
The I Saw The Light biopic on the life of Hank Williams is currently being shot in and around Shreveport, Louisiana, and the town is all abuzz from numerous scenes being filmed at local landmarks and road closures diverting traffic from areas the production company has set up shop for the day. Information and pictures from the set have been slow in coming for curious fans hoping to get a glimpse of what they might expect from the movie that is set to be released some time in 2015, but one of the actors, Austin Haley, who is playing “Dwayne” in the film has offered his initial take on how the movie is going, and how the film’s director Marc Abraham, and lead Tom Hiddleston (playing Hank) are faring with the task.
“This production is operating like a well oiled machine. From bottom to top,” Haley said on IMDb. “Marc Abraham is an incredible producer/director. His DP has been nominated for 2 academy awards and is about to get a lifetime achievement award. The rest of the cast and crew are very experienced and gracious. I’m not sure how exactly this will end up, borrowing no tragedy striking the set. But this is Marc Abraham’s time to shine. He has produced/directed over 40 films. This project will have legs (long lanky Hiddleston legs) and may even be considered for a nomination from the academy. Just seems that way from the feel of the set. Working on a special project.”
Austin Haley appeared on the Soap Opera Series’ Another World from 1995-1996, and played Zack Austin on One Life to Live from 1997 to 2000. He also appeared in the movies The Kings of Brooklyn (2004) and Chasing the White Dragon (2008). Haley also offered his assessment of Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams—a pick that has caused some controversy, especially with Hank’s grandson Hank Williams III, or Hank3.
“Tom came into the make trailer, sat and played for us. The hair on the back of my neck stood up (which was good for stylist she could cut it then)… As far as Hank3 is concerned. Hell I wouldn’t even got to him for advice on music much less on who should make a movie. Marc Abraham is in Film Making not ‘wet dream’ making. McConaughey is a great actor. But no one would sit in the theatre thinking ‘hey that is Hank Sr.’. You couldn’t separate the actor from the story. I guess that’s what makes Marc a great story teller. He got Tom on his way up. In 5 years couldn’t get Tom. He will be to big too. Plus McConaughey is too old.”
Hank3 has openly criticized the casting of the British-born Tom Hiddleston for the Hank Williams role, believing an American would be more fit for the position. Though he initially proffered up Mathew McConaughey as a possible replacement, he has since explained it was simply an example of a Southern-born American who may be a better fit, not a specific suggestion. Hank3 says he was never contacted by the production company to offer any suggestions or guidance to the movie.
“There’s two Hank Williams walking this earth right now,” Hank3 said to Saving Country Music in September, referring to himself and his father Hank Williams Jr.—neither of which were consulted on the film. Americana artist Rodney Crowell has been working as the primary music consultant to the movie and Tom Hiddleston on how to pull off the role of Hank.
“For some reason, this is really bothering me,” continues Hank3. “I don’t know why. I don’t have anything to lose or gain from it. But for the approach that is happening with this movie is just not sitting right with me. And it’s not just me. There’s a lot of people I talk to out there that just don’t understand it. And this isn’t about Tom [Hiddleston]. This is about the choice. I’m not out to diss his acting or anything like that… I guess I’m so vocal about it because I care, and I want to see the best movie made.”
Austin Haley went on to praise all the actors working on the movie, including the leading ladies Maddie Hasson playing Billie Jean, and Elizabeth Olsen playing Audrey Williams. “And all the supporting Actresses and Actors… All generous and professional… An army is only as good as its General. Marc Abraham is a dam fine leader and brings an attitude of pin point vision and kindness. Which translates to the rest of this unit.”
John Carter Cash—the only child of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, and a producer, songwriter, and performer in his own right—was arrested after stripping down to his underwear at the Deer Lake Airport in Newfoundland in Canada Monday afternoon (10-27). John Carter had been in Newfoundland on a hunting trip. According to police reports, Cash appeared to be drunk during the incident, or “suffering from a medical condition,” but it was later determined that he was indeed intoxicated.
Deer Lake Police were called to the airport at about 2:10 PM on Monday by airport security. Security personnel had already convinced John Carter to put his clothes back on by the time police arrived on the scene, but Cash was still arrested and detained for a period stemming from the incident. Very few people witnessed the incident according to reports. Cash was apparently cooperative with police, and due to no prior arrests, no charges were filed against him. He was detained by police until Tuesday when he was declared sober, and reportedly caught a flight back to Tennessee where Cash lives.
John Carter Cash missed his initial flight back to Tennessee, but there’s been no word if the stripping incident caused him to miss his flight, or if he had already missed it when the incident occurred. Though it could be surmised that John Carter Cash’s stripping incident could have been the result of requests by security to remove personal objects for screening, no such information corroborating this scenario has been made available. John Carter Cash has not publicly acknowledged the incident at the time of this report.
John Carter Cash is a beloved member of the country and Americana music community, and is one of the principle representatives of the Johnny Cash estate. He has no significant prior run-ins with the law.
Nashville’s and country music’s most influential record label is reportedly getting ready to be put up for sale according to a new report from Hits Daily Double, and Taylor Swift’s 1989 album release and pending contract situation could have a big impact on it. $200 million dollars is said to be the asking price for Scott Borchetta’s prized possession.
Despite being a big label with many famous artist and significant subsidiaries, the Big Machine Label Group remains independently owned, operating through distribution deals with Republic Records in the United States, and Universal Music Group internationally. Along with Taylor Swift, the label group is the home of Florida Georgia Line, The Band Perry, Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts, Justin Moore, Reba McEntire, and many more.
This is not the first time Big Machine has been rumored to be up for sale. In 2011, Sony was reportedly in negotiations to acquire the label for the same sum of $200 million, and they weren’t the only ones showing interest. Big Machine’s distribution partners Universal Music Group were also rumored to be considering entering a bid on the label.
Key to this new deal would be Taylor Swift according to reports, who after the release of 1989 will owe Big Machine one more record before being free of her contract. Whether Scott Borchetta can re-sign the mega-star, or whether she will decide to run her own labeling and distribution similar to how she does with booking and management remains in question. “Swift’s valuation will be far more meaningful for Borchetta if he can re-sign her, because she’s clearly the jewel in Borchetta’s crown,” says Hits Daily Double. “The fact of the matter is that Borchetta must bring Swift with him in order to make his company truly attractive in the eyes of prospective bidders.”
Taylor Swift is considered one of the biggest artists, if not the biggest artist of this generation, and many of the early estimates of how many albums 1989 could sell have her becoming 2014′s first Platinum-selling act, denoting 1 million albums sold. Her last album Red debuted with 1.2 million in sales on the way to marking over 4 million units moved, but this was two years ago before music streaming took over in earnest. Others are wondering if Swift moving from country to pop will put a dent in her sales from loyal country fans.
Also interesting, and something that has gone virtually unreported is that Borchetta recently dropped his moratorium on releasing albums to Spotify, Rhapsody, and other streaming service until after a certain time period. “We’re not putting the brand-new releases on Spotify,” Borchetta told Rolling Stone near the release of Taylor Swift’s Red in 2012. “Why shouldn’t we learn from the movie business? They have theatrical releases, cable releases. There are certain tiers. If we just throw out everything we have, we’re done.” But recent Big Machine releases from Tim McGraw and Florida Georgia Line were available immediately on Spotify. So far, Swift’s 1989 released officially on 10-27 has not surfaced on the streaming service, though her first single “Shake It Off” is available. The Spotify quotient could cause cause Swift’s album sales numbers to be more robust compared to other 2014 releases that went straight to streaming.
Another question appears to be the standing of both Scott Borchetta and Taylor Swift in the greater country community. Swift leaving country may have ruffled the feathers of Big Machine’s Music Row bunk mates who also may fill the roster of prospective buyers. Meanwhile Borchetta has been making waves of his own on Music Row, with his aggressive practices angering some in the business. Borchetta tends to play by his own rules as opposed to the unspoken writs of the Music Row oligarchy. His big deals with iHeartMedia (formerly Clear Channel) on radio play rights, Cumulus Media with NASH Icon, producer Dr. Luke with writing and production work, and similar deals have Borchetta running circles around his Nashville competition, and leaving some with a sour taste.
The Big Machine Label Group was founded by President and CEO Scott Borchetta in 2005 after he left DreamWorks Records, and includes the subsidiary labels Valory Music Group, Dot Records, NASH Icon, and a joint venture with Universal Republic Records, Republic Records Nashville. The label began as a partnership with Toby Keith, but Keith dropped his affiliation with Big Machine in 2006 to start his own Show Dog-Universal label. Keith still owns a stake in Big Machine however, and this is one of the reasons he remains the highest-paid entertainer in country music. Taylor Swift’s father, Scott Swift, also owns a stake in Big Machine. Taylor Swift was Big Machine’s first signing.
Fans of rough and tumble recording artist Ryan Bingham will be happy to hear that he will be releasing his latest record Fear and Saturday Night through his own label Axter Bingham Records on January 20th, 2015. It will be the once Lost Highway Records-signed Oscar-winning rodeo-bred songwriter’s follow up to 2012′s Tomorrowland, and his fifth album overall.
“On this album I find myself back in a more hopeful place and the songs are more stripped down musically,” Bingham says to The Wall Street Journal. “Each album seems to be about whatever I have gone through in my life previous to recording it.”
Bingham recorded the album with producer Jim Scott, well known for his work with Wilco, Tom Petty, and The Dixie Chicks. The twelve songs of Fear and Saturday Night were written in seclusion. Bingham sequestered himself in an Airstream trailer in the California mountains without electricity or phone service, and drew inspiration from his tale-riddled and troubled life performing in rodeos and watching his mother drink herself to death and his father commit suicide.
His song “The Weary Kind” won an Oscar for its part on the soundtrack of the movie Crazy Heart, but there’s nothing glitzy and Bingham’s past, or his style. His songs are punctuated with a gravely voice that has an authenticity you can’t fake. Fear and Saturday Night was mostly recorded live, and includes contributions from members of the rock band Rose Hill Drive.
Ahead of the new album, Bingham has released a new single “Broken Heart Tattoos” (listen below).
Fear and Saturday Night Track List:
1. “Nobody Knows My Trouble”
2. “Broken Heart Tattoos”
3. “Top Shelf Drug”
4. “Island in the Sky”
5. “Adventures of You and Me”
6. “Fear and Saturday Night”
7. “My Diamond Is Too Rough”
9. “Snow Falls in June”
11. “Hands of Time”
12. “Gun Fightin Man”
That’s right, don’t rub your eyes or adjust your monitors. Justin Townes Earle, who just released his latest album Single Mothers on September 9th, is doing a quick turnaround and releasing yet another brand new full length album Absent Fathers on January 13th, 2015—a companion to his September release that takes its theme from the Single Mothers title track.
Fans who’ve been paying close attention to the second-generation performer (Earle’s absent father was alt-country performer Steve Earle) shouldn’t be too surprised at this announcement. On numerous occasions Justin Townes Earle alluded that a double album was on the way before Single Mothers was announced. After Justin resolved his five album contract with Bloodshot Records, he found himself in the midst of an intense battle with the British-based label Communion Records owned in part by Ben Lovett, otherwise known as the accordion and keyboard player of Mumford & Sons. According to Earle, the company expected him to turn in 30 songs per his contract, which the label could then par down into an album release. Earle refused, and eventually parted ways with Communion, signing with California-based label Vagrant Records and announcing the release of Single Mothers.
Justin’s idea of a double album to make up for the lost time while battling with Communion was apparently scrubbed for two close releases because of the logistical issues of a double release. As Earle explained to American Songwriter in August, “There are more songs, maybe for something later early next year, or something. I’m pushing for something, but we’ll see what happens. They were recorded all at the same time, it’s not that they didn’t make the record, it was just easier to put out a regular record, a double is a little more complicated.” Apparently Justin got his wish, and we’ll be hearing the rest of the songs come January.
Earle has received critical acclaim for his music and songwriting since releasing the Yuma EP in 2007. In 2009 he won the Americana Music Award for New and Emerging Artist of the Year, and won Saving Country Music’s Album of the Year in 2009 for Midnight At The Movies, as well as SCM’s 2011 Artist of the Year.
Absent Fathers Track List:
1. Farther From Me
3. Least I Got The Blues
4. Call Ya Momma
5. Day and Night
6. Round the Bend
7. When the One You Love Loses Faith
8. Slow Monday
9. Someone Will Pay
10. Looking For A Place To Land
Tuesday morning, Reba McEntire appeared on Cumulus Media’s NASH-branded country music flagship broadcast America’s Morning Show to make a big announcement, and as speculated upon in the days before, Reba told the world she was the inaugural signee with Scott Borchetta’s and Cumulus Media’s joint record label NASH Icon—an endeavor that looks to put once high flying and still commercially relevant mature talent back on the airwaves, and back to a position of prominence in the mainstream.
The move was anticipated because Reba has worked with Scott Borchetta and the Big Machine Label Group in the past under the Valory Music imprint. Reba’s last two albums, Keep On Loving You and All The Women I Am were released under the Starstruck/Valory label, and Reba also appeared on a compilation released by Big Machine recently. Reba has sold over 80 million records worldwide, has a successful television acting career, and is seen as a large asset for the NASH Icon venture to build from.
Big Machine CEO Scott Borchetta was on site for the announcement, and said he has been trying to convince Reba to record a new album for the past three years, which she recently agreed to. Working with producers Tony Brown and James Stroud, Reba says she has 11 songs already recorded for the album, and “three more to record that I have found. I’m always trying to beat out what I have already, so we just keep looking.”
Reba also made a point of making the signing not just about her being a more mature artist, but being a woman. “It’s been kind of a weird time in country music for females, I would say, and it’s in a trend now that I’m hoping is going to be more female friendly, for personal reasons,” said Reba.
Later Reba spoke to Country Weekly about being NASH Icon’s first. “I’m very pleased to be the first artist signed to Nash Icon. I think that’s a huge honor that they selected me and asked me to be a part of it. I always like that part ’cause with the folks I get to work with and help me find the songs and get in and record with the musicians, after the songwriters have done such a great job, now it’s my turn to get out there and do what I love to do.”
The announcement comes during a period of good news surrounding NASH Icon. It was revealed earlier in October that the new NASH Icon affiliate in Nashville was beating the once high flying and thought to be unbeatable Bobby Bones in his home market in ratings. Great intrigue has surrounded NASH Icon because of its potential ability to split the country music format in two—something country has resisted for years. The split, which appears to be currently underway, would see a new format with older country music from the 80′s and 90′s returning to the airwaves, along with new music from more mature artists such as Reba.
An important and beloved member of the Texas Music Scene passed away unexpectedly on Monday morning (10-20). Singer and songwriter Ronny Spears had just played a show at Hank’s in McKinney, TX with frequent collaborator and dear friend Robby White on Saturday night, and 36 hours later fans were shocked to hear of his passing. It was White who told Ronny Spears’ many fans the terrible news this morning. “My heart is broken. My partner, my best pal Ronny Spears passed away suddenly this morning. I’m shocked and devastated. I miss him already.”
Ronny Spears was a fixture of the Texas country songwriter circuit in north Texas and beyond, sharing the stage over his career with Willie Nelson, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Radney Foster, Robert Earl Keen, Chris Wall, 1100 Springs, The Dixie Chicks, Charlie Robison, Bill Kirchen, Jack Ingram, Geronimo Trevino, Donny Ray Ford, Deryl Dodd, and many more. Ronny was raised by his father after his parents divorced and Ronnie’s father took him from his mother’s custody for fear of his upbringing. Spears grew up in Frisco, TX and studied at Southwest Texas State College (now Texas State University), regularly finding himself at odds with his father who didn’t want him pursuing music as a career. But Ronny persevered, playing in bands such as The River’s Edge and Liberty Valance and striking out as a solo performer and frequent collaborator with other songwriters like Ray Wylie Hubbard, Brian Burns, and later in life the aforementioned Robby White.
It was during a performance with Ray Wylie Hubbard in 1989 that Ronny Spears had his career epiphany. As they were performing on stage together, Ray Wylie turned to Ronny and said, “Quit playing copy songs,” and this is the moment Ronny Spears began to take his songwriting seriously. Spears spent some time in Nashville, but found it not to his liking and headed back to Texas. His music was always balanced with day jobs and family life. Ronny made sure to take care of his familial commitments first but the quality of his music at his night and weekend gigs did not suffer.
White & Spears was Ronnie Spears’ most recent pursuit with Robby White, playing regularly in the north Texas area. Spears once told Buddy Magazine, “The music Robby White does is Texas music, our vocals fall together, and it’s like we know each other like the backs of our hands.”
Ronny Spears album Modern Day Outlaw is considered a cult favorite, and his frequent appearances will be missed by the north Texas music community and beyond.
RIP Ronny Spears.
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