The troika of Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, and Chris Stapleton isn’t the only gaggle making waves in country music and giving folks hope for the future. All signed to major labels and making more traditionally-oriented country fans salivate for what the future may have in store are Jon Pardi, William Michael Morgan and 23-year-old Illinois native Mo Pitney.
Finally we get some forward movement on one of the most anticipated mainstream traditional albums in a good while. Curb Records-signed singer and songwriter Mo Pitney will release his debut album ‘Behind This Guitar’ featuring 10 of 12 co-written songs by Pitney himself, and contributions from folks we though the rest of Nashville had forgotten.
Whether it will actually happen or not remains to be seen, but if country music in the mainstream decides to swing back more towards the traditional side, many of Music Row’s major labels will be ready to take advantage with a new generation of young, fresh, and traditionally-leaning talent already signed to contracts, already getting experience on the road and on big stages, and even finding some success with singles.
Ladies and gentlemen, we now live in a world where not even King George remains relevant on country radio. Isn’t that the sad, ever present revelation of the living—that time marches on, and no matter how important something was in the past, the present moves forward, callously at times, and the greatest of efforts are relegated to moments of fond reminiscing.
We knew George Strait couldn’t keep from stirring for too long. Though he played his final shows as a touring artist in 2014 on his way to racking up astronomical numbers for his farewell junket and finding himself being named Entertainer of the Year by both the CMA and ACM Awards for the effort, you had to know he wouldn’t sit tight for good.
It’s hard to believe it has been six years and over 100 episodes since the RFD-TV music show first came on the air, but since its debut it has risen right up there with The Marty Stuart Show, Music City Roots, and a select few others for places to go searching for the talent that still embodies the true spirit of country music, and hasn’t forgotten about all the greats still around singing and playing country the way it was intended to be.
The latest appetizer dangled out there by Curb is an acoustic version of a song called “I Met Merle Haggard Today.” Pretty self explanatory and plenty entertaining, it’s the true account of Mo meeting one of his country music heroes for the first time. It’s a simple little song, but it shows you that Mo’s commitment to authentic country music isn’t just a marketing angle.
Hear ye hear ye all you old farts, all of you jackasses, all of you oldies who fall under Blake Shelton’s ire for only wanting to listen to grandpa’s music. Jim Ed Brown, the country music legend and Grand Ole Opry icon, known fondly for much of his career as a member of the family band The Browns, has released his first solo record in over 40 years, and he beat lung Cancer to do it.
Out of the 67 current members of the Opry, only 25 of them fulfilled their 10 appearance obligation, and three of those died during the year. 11 members didn’t make any appearances at all. But what may be more interesting is who is appearing on the Opry to take up the slack. Of the Top 11 performing members at the Grand Ole Opry in 2014, the average age was 79-years-old.
Bill Anderson, Blake Shelton, Bobby Osborne, Brad Paisley, Byron Fay, Carrie Underwood, Chris Jansen, Connie Smith, Craig Morgan, Darius Rucker, Elizabeth Cook, George Hamilton IV, Jean Shepard, Jeannie Seely, Jesse McReynolds, Jim Ed Brown, Jimmy C. Newman, John Conley, Little Big Town, Little Jimmy Dickens, Lorrie Morgan, Mike Snider, Old Crow Medicine Show, Pete Fisher, Rascal Flatts, Riders In The Sky, Sarah Darling, The Grand Ole Opry, The Henningsens, The Whites, Vince Gill, WSM
If you’re looking for names to populate your most anticipated projects to be released in 2015, putting Mo Pitney at or near the top would be a savvy choice. With a one in a million country voice conveyed in a smoothness we haven’t heard since Don Williams, Mo Pitney is a chill-inducing traditional country artist with a succulent pentameter and delivery, and a songwriter’s pen engorged with stories.
Jamey Johnson will be releasing “The Christmas Song,” But that’s not where the goodies stop from the songwriter. Announced today, November 24th, Jamey Johnson is starting his own record label called Big Gassed Records. The first release will be the Christmas EP, but there will be much more music on the way. “From now on, as soon as I can get it written and recorded, we will make it available,” says Johnson.
Willie Nelson, who just released his latest record Band of Brothers on June 17th though Sony’s Legacy Recordings, has crested at the very top spot on Billboard’s Country Music Album’s chart, landing at #1. It is Willie’s first #1 in 28 years, since his 1986 album The Promiseland. It is also his second-best showing ever on Billboard’s all genre Billboard 200 chart, coming in at #6.
Let’s face it. Willie Nelson could take his sweaty, old man-smelling headband off, slingshot it out to center stage, and it would still be more enriching than what most of modern country radio has to offer. Simply the tone of his voice immediately puts the inertia of nearly a century of noble contributions to country music behind whatever he does.
Willie Nelson’s next album Band of Brothers is set to be released June 17th, and his latest original song in a legendary, if not unparalleled songwriting career is simply called “The Wall.” Band of Brothers breaks from Willie’s recent output of albums of mostly covers by including nine Nelson-penned tracks as part of the 14-track album.
Tuesday was the release of Jerrod Niemann’s dumb new album High Noon, and before we’ve even had a chance to really delve into just how much of a mockery it makes of country music, Niemann’s already out there on the defensive, preaching to us how country “purists” really don’t know what the hell country music is all about, and how he’s just carrying on the traditions of Willie and Waylon.
Bill Anderson, Bill Monroe, Donkey, Eddy Arnold, Ferlin Husky, Florida Georgia Line, Fred Rose, Hank Williams, Hank Williams Jr., High Noon, I Can Drink To That All NIght, Jerrod Niemann, Loretta Lynn, Ralph Mooney, Red Headed Stranger, Roy Acuff, Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw Shania Twain, Waylon Jennings, Willie and Waylon, Willie Nelson
This is going to be a long one. So for those short of attention, let me summarize by saying that compared to most of the independent/Outlaw/underground country I am used to listening to and reviewing, this album is somewhere between mediocre and average. But compared to the rest of the material coming from major labels in Nashville, this album is remarkable.