Browsing articles tagged with " Dale Watson"
Jul
9

Want to Meet Shooter Jennings? That Will Be $85.

July 9, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  187 Comments

shooter-jennings If you needed any more proof that The Svengali of Country Music, one Shooter Jennings is all about creating a cult of personality and pursuing his name as product, just sit back and appreciate that in this recessionary economy when many artists are slashing ticket prices and making themselves more accessible, Shooter is now asking his hard working fans for $85 simply for the opportunity to shake his hand right before his show and walk away with a tote bag. Yes, quite a hefty price tag for someone who has recently been touting himself as a proponent for independent, grassroots music.

Announced a few days ago, “VIP meet & greet packages” are being offered at many of Shooter’s upcoming appearances, including at the Muddy Roots Festival this late August. What do you get for your $85? A T-shirt, a tote bag, 5 guitar picks (that grand total will cost Shooter less than $12-$15 wholesale), and this is my favorite one, an “Invitation to pre-show private shopping experience.” That’s right folks, for your hard earned $85, you get the exclusive opportunity to spend even more money on Shooter’s merch. What you don’t get for $85? Actual admittance to the show. That will cost you extra. So will the tacked on fees for buying the VIP ticket. After a transaction and convenience fee, the actual cost for a Shooter photo op is $90.64.

Meet & Greet Package: Muddy Roots Festival

shooter-jennings-vip

For an artist of Shooter’s size, and even ones many steps above him on the music food chain, this type of arrogant cash grab from fans is absolutely unparalleled. Furthermore, Shooter Jennings specifically asking to be dealt with in this manner of privilege at the Muddy Roots Festival is a complete insult to the standing culture and spirit of that particular festival, and all grassroots festivals for that matter. One of the things that makes grassroots festivals such an enjoyable experience is that nobody is above anyone, there are no VIP perks, and fans and artists interact freely.

Even more curious, the Muddy Roots Festival is one of the few events that Shooter has decided to purposely promote this $85 package for.

shooter-jennings-facebook-meet-greet

In May of 2011, SCM interviewed the Galaz brothers who are the promoters of Muddy Roots. They spoke specifically about the access the festival gives fans to the artists:

Anthony: The fans and bands were together. There was no barricade, no barrier, no VIP sections backstage. And that’s what gave the people who made the pilgrimage to Cookeville from whatever state or country such an experience, because all the bands they listen to, they could just go up and talk to them and hang out with them. There’s was nobody that was “too cool.” There were no pedestals.

Jason: I like that, there were no pedestals. It wasn’t, “Hey, there’s rock stars, let’s look at them, but we can’t talk or touch them.”

In August of 2011, SCM interviewed Zale Schoenborn, the promoter of the Pickathon Festival in Portland that this year is featuring Dale Watson, Wayne Hancock, Sturgill Simpson, Caleb Klauder, and many other country acts in a diverse lineup. Zale spoke specifically on how separating artists from fans and setting up VIP perks erodes the festival experience for everyone.

We designed the (Pickathon) space to where you come in and relate to the space without a lot of barriers. And that includes the artists. We don’t wall them off, we don’t have VIP sections, but we do create some communal spaces, and when the artists come out they’re part of the audience. It’s very common sense type stuff. It’s like what you would do if you were hosting people at your house. When people are planning it from X’s and O’s, those decisions about the human element fall to the numbers side. It’s unfortunate because those little things are what people tend to take away.

At last year’s Muddy Roots fest, the 86-year-old country music icon Ralph Stanley stayed after his set and signed every piece of memorabilia brought before him, and took pictures with anyone that wanted one, with no time limit, and no money changing hands for the autographs or photos. So did many of the other bands that played the festival. At Pickathon, after each performer plays, they go to a designated merch area where fans can get memorabilia signed and take pictures with the artists.

The meet and greet marketing tool is traditionally only reserved for large corporate country music festivals and top headliner names way beyond the sphere of Shooter Jennings who is a mid-level club draw at best. Many artists selling out arenas don’t even ask for this type of cash for meet and greets, if they even give their fans the option at all. Many times the meet and greet is for certain members of a fan club or an artist’s message board who have proved their fandom over the years. Even Taylor Swift has a system that rewards the loyalty of fans instead of wealth. At each concert, Swift has a team of people that fan out across the venue looking for attendees that show the most spirit, and hand select them for a free meet and greet opportunity after the show.

Kid Rock made headlines recently announcing he was charging only $20 for tickets for his summer tour, and was also working with venues and promoters to lower prices on food, beverages, and merchandise. “It’s gotten out of hand, price of concerts, the price of entertainment, period,” Kid Rock says. “I’ve been very fortunate, I’ve always tried to keep prices what I think are fair, and I’ve always said I’m proud that I can walk around with my head held high and look someone in the eye, knowing that I haven’t taken an un-honest dollar from a working man. I make a lot of money, I can take a pay cut. All my friends are taking pay cuts, that are in unions, that are farming in Alabama, whatever it is. I can surely take a pay cut, too.”

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Expect the next thing from Shooter to be an explanation of how this was all the result of a snafu between him and his marketing arm, or that he will offer even more incentives now, drop the price, or donate the proceeds to charity, and make a big point of shaking people’s hands at shows who didn’t pay the exorbitant fee, because like all of Shooter’s gross missteps, they’re always followed by a cavalcade of excuses and explanations that his surrogates, sycophants, and toadies always believe, while his underlying approach to selling himself as product and using the names of others as stepping stones remains the same.

Like I have always said to independent and underground music entities, you don’t need Shooter Jennings, Shooter Jennings needs you. Like a politician, Shooter has been out kissing babies. Taking artists out to Chuck E Cheese and buying bloggers drinks, playing artists on his radio show and shaking hands with fans over the last few years was simply setup to an opportunity to cash out on the backs of well-meaning underground roots artists, fans, and entities. And if this latest evidence doesn’t prove this to Shooter apologists, nothing will.


I once heard the worse thing a man could do is draw a hungry crowd
Tell everyone his name, pride, and confidence, but leaving out his doubt
I’m not sure I bought those words, when I was young I knew most everything
These words have never meant as much to anyone, as they now mean to me


!!!Bonus!!!Bonus!!!

Since Saving Country Music is in tune with the plight of the common man, and know many of Shooter’s fans would love to get their picture with him but can’t pay the exorbitant fee, we are manufacturing a life-sized, transportable photo-op of the picture below, to be provided at Shooter Jennings’ live performances. Poor, hapless Shooter fans and their friends can simply stick their faces through the provided holes, and have the next best thing to getting their picture taken with the Country Music Svengali himself. And it’s all free! (sorry, no tote bags will be given away)

shooter-jennings-photo-op


***UPDATE***UPDATE***UPDATE***UPDATE***

(7-11-13 9:20 PM CDT): Shooter Jennings and/or his management have decided to drop the offer of VIP packages at festivals. As I said above, “Expect the next thing from Shooter to be an explanation of how this was all the result of a snafu between him and his marketing arm,” and on cue, Shooter surrogate Jon Hensley explains, “There was a miscommunication between myself and the company that makes these VIP upgrades possible.”  You can read Jon Hensley’s entire statement below.

With no malice or mincing of words, I commend Shooter Jennings and/or his management for seeing that these VIP upgrades at grassroots festivals were unfair, unfeasible, and against the spirit of independent country and roots music. Though I still believe the price Shooter is asking for his VIP upgrade is egregious and unparalleled for an artist his size, and that the whole culture of VIP treatment has no place in independent roots music, the elimination of the option for festivals helps preserve the camaraderie and the independent spirit that makes these festivals so enjoyable for fans, and gives them a unique experience in music where all patrons are treated equal.

Jon Hensley’s statement:

Just to clarify…we are not offering any VIP ticket upgrades at any festival Shooter Jennings is playing this year or any year. There was a miscommunication between myself and the company that makes these VIP upgrades possible. But, they will ONLY be available for club and theater dates. To any son of a bitch that has a problem with us offering these upgrades you should talk to any of the fans that have actually purchased one. Ask them if they felt like their money was well spent. It is totally laughable that some stupid asshole hiding behind a computer thinks he has the right to tell Shooter’s fans how they should or should not spend their own hard earned money. This is a business and at the end of the day we all have to make smart business decisions to survive. Offering an optional concert ticket upgrade to loyal fans is not wrong or unheard of and no matter what anybody thinks about it we will continue to offer the upgrades until the world comes to an end. And, if any “blogger” has a problem with them they can address it face to face. All you have to do is purchase the ticket upgrade and see us at the meet and greet.

My response:

I have no problem meeting someone face to face and explaining my grievances with Shooter’s VIP package, but to act like not doing this initially is some sort of move of cowardice is pretty high school. Where is Jon Hensley at the moment? Is he within driving distance? I don;t have a problem meeting him, but maybe the matter is more practical to deal with through the miracle of internet. Also, nobody is hiding behind a screen. Last weekend I was out in public at Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic for 12 straight hours. I’ve been at 4 of the last 5 Pickathon Festivals, the last 2 Muddy Roots Festivals, SXSW a dozen or so times, and live events on a regular basis. If someone wants to come and speak to me in person, I am very accessible, wherever I am. And I don;t say anything on this website that I wouldn’t say to anyone’s “face.”

Jun
25

David Letterman Reaching Out To Support Roots Artists

June 25, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  36 Comments

dale-watson-david-lettermanWith such a glut of great roots music material starving for bigger outlets, it was only a matter of time before new avenues began to spring up to meet the demands of both substantive artists looking for more love, and salivating fans seeking something real. Surprisingly, television has become one of those new outlets, with shows like ABC’s Nashville featuring artists that never before would be given a shot in prime time, and late night perennial David Letterman giving a leg up to artists who previously had never been afforded a national television opportunity.

And Letterman’s recent run of supporting independent country and roots artists like Ray Wylie Hubbard, Dale Watson, Shovels & Rope, and many more is not the result of some crack team of publicists and booking agents working together to peddle these artists to the right people, it is coming from David Letterman himself listening to these artists and wanting them to be featured on the show. In other words, David Letterman is a fan of roots music, of artists like Dale Watson and Ray Wylie Hubbard, and is reaching out to them, wanting to give them an opportunity, just like he did last night (6-24) to Austin, TX’s Dale Watson.

“I don’t remember exactly if Dave heard Dale on Sirius XM or on “All Things Considered,” but it was one of the two, and they called us up and said, ‘We want Dale Watson on the show, and we want him to play “I Lie When I Drink.”‘ explains Beth Friend of Red House Records–the label that released Dale Watson’s latest album El Rancho Azul. “It was such a surprise because you try for years to get the attention of people, and then all of a sudden you receive a phone call from them. It’s a really happy story for us. We love Dale.”

ray-wylie-hubbard-david-lettermanRay Wylie Hubbard tells a similar story, how it was Letterman reaching out to them, not vice versa, and that Letterman requested Ray play a specific song.

“About 4 months ago my booking agent receives a phone call and this girl said she was Jennifer from Worldwide Pants, and Dave would like to know if Ray would do his show.” Hubbard explains. “She didn’t know what Worldwide Pants was so she goes, “Dave who?” And Jennifer goes, “Dave Letterman, January 9th.” And the booking agent goes, “Well let me make sure he’s not playing a happy hour gig in Waco, those things are hard to re-schedule.” So Dave said he wanted us to play the song “Mother Blues” but we only had 3 minutes and 35 seconds. So we take out a couple of verses and then we get up there and after we finish and he says, “Thank you, goodnight,” he asks if we’ll do “Screw You, We’re From Texas.” And I said, “Man, you’re from Indiana.” And he said, “Yeah, but I like the attitude.” So we did the extra song for the website which was really really cool of him.”

The opportunity to get to play to a national audience is one thing, but when Letterman is not simply announcing the band slotted to play, but one he purposely sought out from a sincere love of the music, this is the type of endorsement that can not only give an artist more exposure, but can give them a sense of validation that this craft they have been working at for years is worthy of a greater audience.

“Once people hear the music, they love it.” says Beth Friend from Red House. “They just need the opportunity.”

Jun
2

Eric Strickland Does It Again On “I’m Bad For You”

June 2, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  16 Comments

Over the last few months we have finally begun to see a few success stories be made of some excellent songwriters that sat under the radar for way too long—folks like Sturgill Simpson and Leroy Virgil of Hellbound Glory. If you were looking for another name of a songwriter that’s been criminally overlooked for too long, and has that uncompromising honky tonk sound like Dale Watson and Whitey Morgan, then the man you seek is North Carolina’s Eric Strickland, and his backing band The ‘B’ Sides.

Eric Strickland is Country with a capital ‘C’ and couldn’t make a bad album if he tried. He may be more locally-oriented than the other big names in honky tonk music, but gives up nothing to his more well-known comrades when it comes to cutting songs and records.

eric-strickland-im-bad-for-youAt the heart of Strickland’s appeal is his ability to take what on the surface may seem like tired, clichè country themes, and give them a fresh, new feel. Take “whiskey” for example, maybe the most worn out word in country music. His last album Honky Tonk Till I Die ends with the song “Drinkin’ Whiskey” that went on to be nominated for SCM’s 2012 Song of the Year. Strickland starts off I’m Bad For You right where the last album ended, with the excellent booze-drenched “The Whiskey Seems To Always Change My Mind,” pulling you in with its walking bass line in the chorus and cutting, true lyrics.

Strickland serenades even harder stuff later on the album with another standout, the chicken-picking “Methamphetamines.” This leads into the album’s best ballad, “Brandy On My Mind” written by ‘B’ side guitarist and harmonizer Gary Braddy. The song “I’m Bad For You” is another great honky tonk classic belted out with just as much bravado as honesty.

The album concludes in two rousing live tracks–a real treat because as Eric Strickland fans can attest, as good as his albums are, his live show may even be better. His backing band The ‘B’ Sides are more seasoned than some bands that play 280 shows per year. All you you need to do is listen to their rendition of Little Richard’s “Lucille” and you’ll hear it for yourself. It’s got some of those moments that make it feel like a feather is being raked on the back of your neck. It’s followed by an excellent live version of “18 Wheel of Hell On The Highway” from Eric’s last album.

One concern with I’m Bad For You is that after the first song, the album slows the tempo down, and stays there for quite a while. No song is bad, but this doesn’t really allow the album to suck you in. But with the overall line up of stellar songs on this album, it rivals any other released so far in 2013.

Real deal, true blood, hard driving, but daring to be sweet in moments, Eric Strickland and The ‘B’ Sides are doing their part to save country music. Now it’s time to do your part by giving them your ear and attention.

Two guns up.

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Preview & Purchase Tracks from I’m Bad For You

Apr
16

Record Store Day 2013 Country Music Field Guide

April 16, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  9 Comments

record-store-day-2013

This Saturday, April 20th is the 2013 installment of Record Store Day–the annual event started in 2007 to help struggling independent record stores. As the event has grown over the years and has expanded to include an event on Black Friday before Christmas, artists and labels have stepped up to help with the cause, releasing limited-edition collectible pieces of vinyl to entice the public into visiting their local mom and pop music sellers.

2013 has some juicy releases, including some super rare Willie Nelson demo sessions, a split with Waylon Jennings and the Old 97′s, some cool live albums from Gram Parsons and Sarah Jarosz, and a re-issue of Justin Townes Earle’s first album, the Yuma EP. The below list are Record Store Day’s country and country-ish releases in alphabetical order.

Complete List of Record Store Day Releases

Find A Participating Record Store

chet-atkins-black-jack-rsdChet Atkins

Black Jack EP
Format: 7″ Vinyl
Label: SUNDAZED
Release type: RSD Exclusive Release
More Info:

Previously unreleased recordings by this guitar master

Midnight, Boo Boo Stick Beat, Blackjack, Blue Moon of Kentucky

avett-brothers-randy-travis-rsdThe Avett Brothers and Randy Travis

Music From CMT Crossroads

Format: 7″ Vinyl
Label: Warner Music Nashville
Release type: RSD Exclusive Release
More Info:

Limited edition split single. Randy Travis covers the Avett Brothers’ “February”, The Avett Brothers covers the Randy Travis song, “Three Wooden Crosses.

the-band-last-waltz-rsdThe Band

The Last Waltz

Format: 12″ Vinyl
Label: Rhino
Release type: RSD Exclusive Release
More Info:

3 180 Gram LPs, Numbered RSD Edition. All original packaging with Embossing and two foils. All original inner sleeves plus 12-page booklet. Out of print for more than a decade.

Created with The GIMPBlitzen Trapper

Blitzen Trapper Deluxe Reissue

Format: 12″ Vinyl
Label: LidKerCow, LTD
Release type: RSD Exclusive Release
More Info:

Blitzen Trapper’s debut album from 2003 will be available for the first time on vinyl in celebration of it’s 10th Anniversary.  The record was remastered by Bruce Barielle and the lacquers were cut by Jeff Powell at Ardent Studios in Memphis, TN.  A very limited edition run, the record is pressed on 180g vinyl with a free digital download of the entire record with five previously unheard bonus tracks from the original sessions.

calexico-rsdCalexico

Spiritoso

Format: 12″ Vinyl
Label: Anti/Epitaph
Release type: RSD Exclusive Release

Includes songs from ALGIERS as well as the Calexico catalog recorded live in Germany in June 2012 with the Radio Symphonic Orchestra Vienna and the Deutsches Filmorchester Babelsberg.

kasey-chambers-shane-nicholson-rattlin-bones-rsdKasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson

Rattlin Bones

Format: 12″ Vinyl
Label: Sugar Hill
Release type: RSD Exclusive Release
More Info:

A staple of the Americana genre, this release marks the first collaboration for these Australian husband-and-wife superstars. First time on vinyl.

charlie-poole-and-the-highlandersCharlie Poole With The Highlanders

Complete Paramount and Brunswick Recordings

Format: 12″ Vinyl
Label: Tompkins Square
Release type: RSD Exclusive Release
More Info:

All sides recorded in New York, 1929. Liner notes by Poole authority Kinney Rorrer

dale-watson-record-store-dayDale Watson

I Lie When I Drink

Format: 45 Vinyl
Label: Red House
Release type: RSD Exclusive Release
More Info:

Featuring fan-favorite songs “I Lie When I Drink” and “Thanks To Tequila,” 3,500 copies of the record were pressed on high quality red vinyl. The free 45 is only available at select independent record stores on Record Store Day.

elizabeth-cook-jason-isbellElizabeth Cook & Jason Isbell

Tecumseh Valley b/w Pancho & Lefty

Format: 7″ Vinyl
Label: 31 Tigers
Release type: RSD Exclusive Release
More Info:

“Tecumseh Valley” b/w “Pancho & Lefty”

Studio versions of both artists covering Townes Van Zandt. They originally performed these songs on Late Night with David Letterman

mike-cooley-too-pretty-to-workMike Cooley

Too Pretty To Work

Format: 7″ Vinyl
Label: Cooley Records
Release type: RSD Exclusive Release
More Info:

Record Store Day 7″ featuring 2 live tracks recorded at shows in 2012.

1 – Self Destructive Zones (3:36)
2 – Get Downtown (3:12)

justin-townes-earle-yumaJustin Townes Earle

Yuma

Format: 10″ Vinyl
Label: Bloodshot Records
Release type: RSD Exclusive Release
More Info:

Previously released debut EP from Justin Townes Earle, now on vinyl for the first time. 10″ vinyl. Colored vinyl (opaque gold). Limited to 1000 copies, for RSD.

The Ghost of Virginia, You Can’t Leave, Yuma, I Don’t Care, Let the Waters Rise, A Desolate Angels Blues

Alejandro Escovedo/Chris Scruggs

78 rpm 10

Format: 10″ Vinyl
Label: Plowboy Records
Release type: RSD Exclusive Release
More Info:

78 rpm 10″ A/B single release of two covers of Eddy Arnold standards by Alejandro Escovedo (A side) and Chris Scruggs (B side) for upcoming “You Don’t Know Me: Rediscovering Eddy Arnold” album project due in May 2013

a side : “It’s a Sin” by Alejandro Escovedo – B side: “Just A Little Lovin’ (Will Go A Long Way” by Chris Scruggs

Patty Griffin

Ohio
Format: 7″ Vinyl
Label: New West
Release type: RSD Exclusive Release
More Info:

This is a single A-side 7” pressed on heavyweight vinyl.  The vinyl is black, hand-numbered 1-500, and Patty will sign Side B on 25 of the records, which will be randomly distributed. This song is from her forthcoming album, American Kid, due out 5/14/13. This will come in an all white sleeve with a stamped logo and a stickered UPC.

sarah-jarosz-live-at-the-troubadourSarah Jarosz

Live At The Troubadour

Label: Sugar Hill
Release type: ‘RSD First’ Release
More Info:

Recorded in August of 2012, Live at the Troubadour finds the Grammy-nominated acoustic wunderkind in pristine form and marks Jarosz’s debut live recording.
TRACK LISTING: 1. Tell Me True 2. Kathy’s Song 3. Mansineedof 4. Shankill Butchers 5. Broussard’s Lament

jd-mcpherson-fire-bugJ.D. McPherson

Fire Bug

Format: 7″ Vinyl
Label: Concord
Release type: RSD Exclusive Release
More Info:

SIDE A: Fire Bug / SIDE B: A Gentle Awakening

tift-merritt-markingsTift Merritt

Markings

Format: 12″ Vinyl
Label: Yep Roc
Release type: RSD Exclusive Release
More Info:

4-song 12″ featuring an unreleased track, a live track and two acoustic tracks from Traveling Alone. Covered with a tactile cross-stitched/embroidered record cover.

mumford-sons-live-at-bull-mooseMumford & Sons

Live at Bull Moose

Format: 10″ Vinyl
Label: Glassnote
Release type: RSD Exclusive Release
More Info:

“”"I Will Wait”" “”Ghosts That We Knew”" “”Where Are You Now”" “”Awake My Soul”" — 3 or 4 songs from their bull moose instore – CD version”

Willie Nelson

Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die

Format: 7″ Vinyl
Label: Legacy
Release type: RSD Exclusive Release
More Info:

7″ Green Colored Vinyl, Numbered.

Side A – feat guest vocals by Snoop Dogg, Jamey Johnson & Kris Kristofferson
Side B – previously unreleased Willie solo version

WillieNelsonCrazyVinyl.inddWillie Nelson

Crazy: The Demo Sessions

Format: 12″ Vinyl
Label: Sugar Hill
Release type: RSD Exclusive Release
More Info:

When Willie first got to Nashville he cut some demos for Ray Price and Hal Smith’s publishing company, Pamper Music. Though these cuts were used to pitch songs to artists (including ‘Crazy’ for Patsy Cline) and producers, many weren’t released. These 1960-1966 tracks are raw, real and really good, clearly the work of an artist/songwriter headed for stardom.

old-97-waylon-jenningsOld 97s and Waylon Jennings

Old 97s/Waylon Jennings

Format: 7″ Vinyl
Label: Omnivore Recordings
Release type: RSD Exclusive Release
More Info:

2 x 7″ Two tracks from Old 97s sessions with Waylon Jennings, and two additional Old 97s demo tracks. Cover art by Jon Langford of the Mekons and Waco Brothers, and famed painter of country icons.– Iron Road, The Other Shoe, Visiting Hours (1996 demo), Fireflies Take 2 (1996 demo)

Gram Parsons

Gram Parsons & The Fallen Angels-Live 1973 7

Format: 7″ Vinyl
Label: SIERRA
Release type: RSD Exclusive Release
More Info:

Originally released in 1982 as a bonus 7″ EP to Sierra Records “Live 1973″ LP release of Gram Parsons with Emmylou Harris with full color sleeve.

Side One: Medley- Bony Moronie, 40 Days, Almost Grown  Side Two: Conversations, Doing It in the Bus, Broken EBS Box, Hot Burrito #1

Richard Thompson

Salford Sunday

Format: 7″ Vinyl
Label: New West
Release type: RSD Exclusive Release
More Info:

This is a single A-side 7” pressed on heavyweight vinyl.  This song is off of the releaseElectric (2/5/13). The vinyl is black, hand-numbered 1-500. Richard will sign Side B on 25 of the records, which will be distributed randomly.

yonder-mountain-string-bandYonder Mountain String Band

Yonder Mountain String Band

Format: 12″ Vinyl
Label: Vanguard
Release type: RSD Exclusive Release
More Info:

Available for the first time on vinyl.

Feb
15

Papa Joe’s, Dorsett 221 Truck Stop, & The Snake Farm

February 15, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  10 Comments

Interstate 35 runs like a zipper down the gut of Texas, and acts like an unofficial border where the American South meets the West. The highway is also a musical corridor, being the main conduit in and out of Austin, TX, aka the “Live Music Capitol of the World.” Willie Nelson’s hometown of Abbott resides right beside I-35, and so did his massive truck stop/music venue/and museum called Willie’s Place near the town of Carl’s Corner, that has since been retrofitted into a much less impressive and generic Petro station.

Carl’s Corner also was the home to a few of Willie’s famous 4th of July picnics, and a place many musicians made a habit of stopping at over the years. Same can be said for the Czech Stop bakery in West, TX a few miles down I-35 from Carl’s Corners, with many autographed photos of famous musicians lining its walls.

Up and down that ribbon of I-35 are places that have been regaled in song by the musicians who’ve passed by them or had memorable experiences there. Some of these places take on the lore of those songs until they become living monuments of the songs themselves. Here are a few.

Papa Joe’s from Dale Watson / Whitey Morgan & The 78′s “Where Do You Want It?”

papa-joes

1505 Interstate 35, Waco, TX, 76705

The best country songs write themselves, and that’s what happened when Billy Joe Shaver shot a man behind Papa Joe’s Texas Saloon, just south of Waco on the Interstate 35 access road. On March 31st, 2007, Billy Joe was in Papa Joe’s drinking when a man by the name of Billy Bryant Coker came up to Shaver and stirred Shaver’s drink with a knife. After some words were exchanged, Shaver decided it was time to leave, and Billy Coker followed. Out in the parking lot, Billy Joe Shaver was overheard asking Coker, “Where do you want it?” while brandishing a handgun. Shaver later testified in court he actually said, “Why do you want to do this?” to Coker, but eventually Shaver shot Billy Coker in the face and the news made it down to Austin where Dale Watson decided to write a song about it.

“We were making jokes about what kind of song he’d write about this ’cause he writes songs about everything,” says Gloria Tambling, the owner of Papa Joe’s that’s been an I-35 landmark for around for 19 years.

Billy Coker’s wound was not life-threatening, and Shaver was arrested on April 2nd, 2007 for aggravated assault, later to be found not guilty for acting in self-defense in a trial that saw Willie Nelson called as a character witness. Dale Watson wrote the song, but Whitey Morgan & The 78′s were the first to cut it on their self-titled album with Dale’s blessing. Dale’s latest album El Rancho Azul includes his version.


Dorsett 221 Truck Stop from Scott H. Biram’s “Truck Driver”

dorestt-221-truck-stop

15201 I H 35 Buda, TX 78610

Off of Scott H. Biram’s 2005 record Dirty Old One Man Band is one of his signature songs called “Truck Driver.” Whenever Hiram Biram plays the song live, he dedicates it to “all of the truck drivers down there at the Dorsett 221 Truck Stop in Buda, TX.” Yes, the Dorsett 221 Truck Stop actually exists, or at least it did until 2005 when it was closed down. Opened in 1979 just south of Austin and right on I-35, Dorsett 221 was a trucker’s favorite and was famous for its chicken fried steak, breakfast tacos, and because it was built to look like a castle with parapets and corner towers.

Started by Tim and Lenora Dorsett, it was operated by their four sons who each were in charge of a specific part of the truck stop. The restaurant was a nice place for families to come and eat, but as time went on Dorsett 221 became somewhat famous for its crop of lot lizards that could be found lounging around. The existence of “glory holes” that Scott Biram refers to in “Truck Driver” could not be independently verified, but over time Dorsett 221 became one of central Texas’s most famous truck stops for its endearing character, and the characters it attracted.

It all went downhill for Dorsett 221 when a fire was started in one of the restrooms. During the restoration process, the four sons quarreled on how to proceed. Eventually one son took sole possession of the embattled truck stop and decided to close it. But the memory of Dorsett 221 still lives in Scott H. Biram’s song, and can still be seen on the side of the east side of the interstate as you’re passing through Buda, TX.


The Snake Farm from Ray Wylie Hubbard’s “Snake Farm”

ray-wylie-hubbard-snake-farm

5640 Ih 35 S New Braunfels, TX 78132 – Photo courtesy mysanantonio.com

Did you hear what Scott H. Biram also referenced in the song above, and what shirt he was wearing? Yes there actually is a Snake Farm, and it went by the simple name “Snake Farm” for many of its 40 years in operation until settling on the much more docile, “Animal World and Snake Farm Zoo.” Located right off the Interstate 35 access road, the strange attraction and Texas landmark opened in 1967 (when I-35 was still Route 81) and currently sees around 400,000 annual visitors perusing its more than 200 species of snakes. The Snake Farm now features other exotic animals in its petting zoo and outdoor area, including monkeys, lemurs, hyenas, parrots, and a pond filled with alligators and crocodiles.

dee-dee-ramon-snake-farmRay Wylie Hubbbard’s album from 2006 is named Snake Farm, and includes the song “Snake Farm,” but Hubbard wasn’t the first musical homage to the reptile house. The Ramones discovered the Snake Farm when on tour in Texas in the late 70′s, and regularly wore Snake Farm T-shirts as part of their garb on and off stage. Oh, and did you notice the name of the female character in Hubbard’s “Snake Farm”? Yes, the Snake Farm has truly come full circle, and coils its way down the spine of good American music as an indelible artifact.

Feb
7

Dale Watson Introduces The “Ameripolitan” Genre

February 7, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  45 Comments

dale-watsonOn February 4th, Outlaw Magazine published an interview with Dale Watson where the Texas-based honky-tonk singer submitted his plan for how to deal with the problem of what to call “country music” since, according to Dale, that term has been co-opted and irreversibly corrupted by Music Row in Nashville. Dale’s been throwing around his “Ameripolitan” term for years, but as Outlaw Magazine finds out, Dale is now working to organize behind the name.

“I’ve felt for a long time that the nomenclature, not just the name but the entire genre was successfully changed right under our noses and we couldn’t stop it,” Dale tells Outlaw Magazine’s Brandy Lee Dixon. “There is absolutely no way to get Nashville to stop calling their music country. They believe that it is a natural progression of country music and it’s theirs. I thought if our music is going to be allowed to grow it needs a new genre. Americana is original music with prominent rock influence, Ameripolitan is original music with prominent ROOTS influence.”

When asked why we should abandon the “country” term and not fight for it, Dale responded…

“Nashville has that term and it has been forever tainted. The reason I insisted that the new name NOT have the word country in it, is because it would always be thought of as a step child to Nashville Country.We need to start fresh. Also it’s not just about traditional country music either. Ameripolitan embraces Rockabilly, Western Swing, Hillbilly, Honky Tonk, Soloist, Duos and Instrumentalist. I think they all relate to each other and share the same roots whereas New Country has it’s roots planted in mid air and came from someones wallet.”

The main idea behind Dale’s Ameripolitan at the moment is the formation of an Ameripolitan awards show that would transpire in February 2014 in Austin, TX. The awards would be voted on by three divisions: 1) Fans. 2) Industry. 3) 100 Ameripolitan “captains.” More specific rules and a website are currently in development.

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Saving Country Music’s thoughts on Ameripolitan.

ameripolitan-rootsTo begin by playing a little devil’s advocate, Ameripolitan could be a slightly confusing term. “politan” as a suffix means “city,” and “city” is the antonym of “country.” The suffix “politain” has also been used before in country in the term “countrypolitan.”

Countrypolitan was an offshoot of The Nashville Sound created in the 1960′s that featured heavy, polished production with strings and choruses. Countrypolitan was producer Billy Sherrill’s version of The Nashville Sound that competed directly with Outlaw country, similarly to how The Nashville Sound competed with The Bakersfield Sound.

The term “Ameripolitan” may lead some to think that the roots of Ameripolitan music are in country’s countrypolitan past. Countrypolitan showcased artists like Charlie Rich and Charley Pride, as opposed to Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson that rebelled against the polished countrypolitan sound.

At the same time, one lesson we’ve learned over the years of trying to find a new name for true country music is that no term is going to be perfect. You just have to find one that fits, and go with it. Americana continues to fight to define itself (or to defy definition), yet it has seen tremendous growth over the last few years and has built remarkable consensus and infrastructure despite the ambiguity. A term Saving Country music once can up with, “Anti-Country” had its baggage too. In the end, to hold back the idea of unifying the music under a common term until a perfect term can be agreed upon is probably not smart, because that perfect term may not exist.

Shooter Jennings’ now defunct “XXX,” though not in the same sonic vein as “Ameripolitan” sonically, was a logistical mess and caused fracturing and chaos in the country music underground it was meant to unite. After its initial formation over two years ago, Shooter’s givememyxxx.com website was only updated twice in a 1 1/2 year period, and now the site is completely offline, neglected like the lark many charged Shooter would treat XXX as when it was initially proposed. The idea created more drama and infighting than consensus, and never even came close to forming the nationwide “XXX” radio format that was at the heart of the idea.

The other issue is the idea of relinquishing the term “country” to Music Row. I would be lying if I said this is something that I am comfortable with. At the same time I can’t see why Ameripolitan can’t move forward while the battle rages on for the heart of country music in a different theater. The fight for country music has always been one to transpire on multiple fronts, and Ameripolitan might create the infrastructure and strength in numbers true country needs to finally create a counter-balance or a legitimate alternative to Music Row.

A lot is still to be determined, but Dale Watson’s leadership has created an opportunity. By giving Ameripolitan a 1 year lead time to form a system gives Ameripolitan the benefit of a broad, unrushed perspective. By setting simple guidelines to make sure Ameripolitan’s formation has constructive input from fans, the industry, and a select group of people who will keep a watchful eye on the purity and direction of the term gives it strength and a pathway to consensus building.

Ameripolitain will not be perfect, but nothing is except the airbrushed faces and Auto-tuned voices of Music Row, and who wants to hear or see that? We should all move forward with an air of pragmatism and an understanding that discussion and constructive criticism is necessary to creating a healthy environment, but I don’t see any reason not to give Ameripolitan a chance to develop.

Download FREE “Ameripolitan” Music Sampler

Feb
4

Women At Forefront of Country Music Evolution

February 4, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  82 Comments

“Country must evolve” is the way it is sold to the country music public when pop and hip-hop influences are invited into the country music fold. What these folks fail to point out is that country has been trying to evolve for 30 some odd years right under their noses, and instead of incorporating this creativity and innovation into country that could spurn a broadening of the country music tent, these artist who’ve crafted ways to both respect the roots of country yet push them forward have been excommunicated for years to alt-country, and are now being gobbled up by the all-encompassing “Americana” term, robbing country of some of the most premium talent the roots world has to offer.

And when you look at the gaggle of artists that are combining the country roots of the past with the present and future, it tends to be strong, beautiful, and talented women leading that charge. Where the trend started may depend on who you ask. I would point to Emmylou Harris‘s Wrecking Ball era with the atmospheric approach, but I’m sure some other jumping off points could be found. Lucinda Williams, Gillian Welch, Neko Case, and Iris Dement certainly deserve some credit as well. The men of progressive country, like Béla Fleck and the current-era Punch Brothers are impressive specimens of musical aptitude no doubt, but tend to lack the accessibility the women are able to display without compromising artistic expression or prowess.

Many of these women started out as young promising talents, many specifically as musicians, before being forced out by the mainstream country genre that seems to be obsessed with male machismo and the women that pander to it. There are strong women in country no doubt, but in the progressive country world, strong women rule the roost.

Are you looking for true progress and evolution in country music? Look no further than the list of women below.

sara-watkinsSara Watkins

The former fiddle player with Chris Thile (The Punch Brothers) in Nickel Creek, Sara put out an excellent progressive country album in 2012 called Sun Midnight Sun that showcased progressive elements mixed with classic country roots influences, maybe best displayed in the opening instrumental track, “The Foothills.” Sara shined amongst the boys, but away from them, she bloomed.

Amanda Shires

As the gentler half of the Americana super couple with Jason Isbell (I think they also secretly fight crime in their free time), Amanda Shires was a country music fiddle prodigy that veered toward Americana as she matured. Amanda has become a major influence of how to integrate a true love and passion for country’s roots with a new-school, progressive understanding of where roots music is going. You couldn’t take the country out of her voice if you tried, and integrating it with an atmospheric approach to music stimulates sheer wonder.

kacey-musgravesKacey Musgraves

With her song “Merry Go ‘Round” stuck in the Billboard charts for what seems like an eternity, and a summer tour coming up with Kenny Chesney, Kacey Musgraves proves that progressive country can be commercially viable if it is only given a chance. Kacey Musgraves gives you hope for country music, and the non-conforminst, non-formulaic music that she composes.

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First Aid Kit

This sister duo from Sweden is an example of how country is missing out on a lot of commercial potential and the possibility of creating beach heads in other countries and cultures. Seen as pop stars in Scandinavia, their ability to conjure up the close harmonic bliss of The Carter Family in songs that still communicate new-school, relevant sensibilities, First Aid Kit can appeal to country fans of all ages.

rachel-brookeRachel Brooke

The “Queen of Underground Country” whose risen with her last album A Killer’s Dream to become one of Americana’s most promising upcoming women, Rachel’s timeless voice could be a tireless resource for country music on her own music, and as a contributor to the music of others. Influenced just as much by Hank Williams and The Carter Family as Tom Waits and The Beach Boys, Rachel Brooke proves there’s still many avenues under the “country” umbrella still left to explore.

Caitlin Rose

Coming from a strong songwriting pedigree (hit maker Liz Rose is her mother), Caitlin Rose and her singular voice is capable of stunning the listener, while their heart is captured by Caitlin’s sincere stories. Steel guitar and a strong country background mixed with influences from the indie rock world create Caitlin’s unique approach that is only limited in commercial success by the power brokers on Music Row letting it through.

abigail-washburnAbigail Washburn

Like Amanda Shires and Sara Watkins, Abigail Washburn is a musician first; a master of the clawhammer banjo discipline who steered toward the more progressive side of country as she came up through the ranks. Starting off in the all-girl quartet Uncle Earl on Rounder Records, and then releasing her first solo album Song of the Traveling Daughter produced by Béla Fleck, Washburn is an example of how country instrumentation and a more reserved, intelligent approach can intermix into a sustainable future for country music that integrates more refined listeners.

Ruby Jane

Yet another young female fiddle prodigy who was the youngest invited fiddle player ever on the Grand Ole Opry, she grew up sharing the stage with Willie Nelson, Asleep At The Wheel, and Dale Watson. Ruby has now moved to the more progressive side of the roots world as possibly one of the one of the most-talented violin players in the world. Her potential is endless.

jolie-hollandJolie Holland

The smoky, jazzy, Houston, TX native with a unique voice has an impressive catalog of songs that illustrate the heavy handed, yet spatial mark of progressive country. A founding member of the Be Good Tanya’s, Jolie Holland is the artist other progressive country artists listen to, winning the praises of many of her peers, including fellow ANTI label mate, Tom Waits.

Paige Anderson

Another young, up-and-coming artist whose worth watching, Paige has played for years in her family band Anderson Family Bluegrass as a front person and a flat-picking guitar maestro. Her latest project with her brother and sister called The Fearless Kin just released a new EP. Having played the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival and on Chuck Ragan’s “Revival Tour,” Paige Anderson is versatile if nothing else, and when it comes to writing songs, she pulls from a varying tapestry of influences–the mark of the progressive country approach.

sarah-jaroszSarah Jarosz

The Austin, TX native has already signed to Sugar Hill Records and been nominated for a Grammy at only 21. A superb talent on the mandolin that can also handle the banjo, guitar, and just about anything with strings, her debut album Song Up In Her Head featured Chris Thile, Stuart Duncan, Darrell Scoot, and Jerry Douglas. Béla Fleck appeared on her follow up, Follow Me Down. An excellent songwriter, Sarah has a bright future in the realm of progressive country.
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Other women helping to evolve country music: Zoe Muth, Lydia Loveless, Lindi Ortega, The Trishas, Kasey Chambers, Brandi Carlile, Star Anna, The Secret Sisters, Those Darlins….

Who are some other women leading the evolution of country?

Jan
29

Review – Dale Watson & His Lonestars “El Rancho Azul”

January 29, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  13 Comments

dale-watsonIf there’s one guy you can count on in country music, it is Dale Watson. No, he’s not going to lick his proverbial finger and stick it in the air to find out what to say or what to play. He’s going to be himself no matter how much money it makes him, or how many enemies he garners. Suave, slick, super-cool and confident. Maybe even a little bit arrogant. But he can afford to be, because the ghosts of country music have his back.

Take when Blake Shelton decided to make some disparaging comments about the “old farts and jackasses” that populate Dale’s side of the country music world. Dale and his Lone Stars were mere ticks away from having to embark on a 20-day European tour, and Dale figures out how to squeeze out an anti-Blake song and post a video for it before his boarding time at ATX. No Mr. TSA officer, that ain’t a six shooter setting off the metal detector, those are Dale’s big steel cajones hanging down in his Texas tweeds.

You know what you’re going to get with a Dale Watson album–good old-fashioned honest-to-goodness honky tonk country music. He never veers off the path too far. There was his last album, the Cash-esque Sun Sessions, and the long-rumored Dale/Elvis concept album Dalevis that apparently is finally going to see the light in February. But a Dale Watson album usually holds few surprises. You aren’t going to see him in hipster glasses chasing the uke and Theremin craze to expose a lot of “vulnerability” in his music. Dale Watson is all about keeping the honky tonk traditions alive, and that is what he channels in El Ranco Azul.

dale-watson-el-rancho-azulBred for dancing, El Rancho Azul is taken straight out of the honky tonks Dale Watson plays 8 nights a week while home in Austin. Drinking and heartache are the prevailing themes, and maybe not just because this is a country album, but because Dale just recently went through a breakup and a divorce himself. “I Lie When I Drink” and “I Drink to Remember” reinforce the idea that these eternal country themes will never wear thin, while Dale’s supple country drawl delivered with breadth, emotion and control breathe new life into old, familiar narratives.

Maybe Dale is being sarcastic, but one of the fun songs on the album is “We’re Gonna Get Married,” chased by one of the album’s standouts, the tearful and touching “Daughter’s Wedding Song.” Then it’s on to two songs whose purpose for dancing is thinly veiled, “Quick Quick Slow Slow,” and “Slow Quick Quick” meant for two-stepping and waltzing respectively. Then it’s on to more drinking songs, then a few more drinking songs, and another drinking song to close the album out. But the direction never feels stale because of Dale’s country gold voice, and the little bits of character Dale adds to each one of his compositions.

Another El Rancho Azul offering worth note is “Where Do You Want It?” A story song about the time Billy Joe Shaver shot a man at the Papa Joe’s Bar in Waco, TX, it originally was given to Whitey Morgan & The 78′s. Since it has become one of Whitey’s signatures, the Dale version may come across a little strange to an ear used to the other, but nonetheless it is a cool edition to this song’s legacy from its original writer.

My concern about Dale has always been that he writes so many songs and releases so many albums, not one song or one album stands out as a signature. At the same time, it’s hard to find a bad Dale Watson album or song. You certainly won’t find one here with El Rancho Azul, only the genuine, real deal country music that Music Row has forgotten, and all of Blake Shelton’s “old farts and jackasses” crave.

1 3/4 of 2 guns up.

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Preview & Purchase Tracks from El Rancho Azul

Jan
29

Dale Watson’s Long-Awaited “Dalevis” Is Finally Here

January 29, 2013 - By Trigger  //  News  //  12 Comments

dalevis-dale-watsonFor years fans of Dale Watson have been anticipating an album release from a Dale’s alter ego called “Dalevis,” a mix of Dale and Elvis. Well friends and neighbors, the wait is over. Dalevis is now officially available digitally, with physical copies to be made available in mid February. It includes 12 new songs recorded at the legendary Sun Studio in Memphis. Along with Dale, the album also features Chris Crepps on upright bass, and Mike Bernal on drums among others.

This is not the first Dalevis album Dale Watson has released. As he told Saving Country Music in October of 2011, “Back in 2000 I did a Christmas record there (Sun Studios). I didn’t make a big deal about recording at Sun, it’s just what we did. Then I did a little vanity project I just sold off the stage, 1,000 copies of a thing called “Dalevis”, kind of like what Chris Isaak is doing, but raw, more in the style of old Sun.”

Dale Watson’s last record The Sun Sessions was recorded at Sun with a distinct Johnny Cash vibe. “Elvis and Johnny were the biggest influences on me of the Sun folks. When I wrote the songs I kept that in mind.”

Dale’s latest release El Rancho Azul is also being released today (1-29-13).

Purchase Dalevis from Dale Watson

Track List:

1. Big Frank
2. I Love Too Much
3. That’s All
4. It Was Us
5. Lord I’m Proud
6. Color Me Gone
7. Forever Valentine
8. Rich In Love
9. You Can’t Undo The Wrong
10. I’m Gonna Start Livin’
11. You’ll Cry Too
12. Hit The Road

Jan
23

Blake Shelton Calls Classic Country Fans “Old Farts” & “Jackasses”

January 23, 2013 - By Trigger  //  News  //  569 Comments

blake-sheltonThe reigning Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year and reality TV personality Blake Shelton made some disparaging remarks about traditional country fans in a recent interview with GAC as part of their Backstory series. The “Hillbilly Bone” singer and judge on NBC’s The Voice made the remarks as part of an update to the original GAC Backstory episode to include more information on Blake Shelton’s continued success. In connection with Blake’s first CMA for “Male Vocalist of the Year” award in 2010, Blake Shelton said,

If I am “Male Vocalist of the Year” that must mean that I’m one of those people now that gets to decide if it moves forward and if it moves on. Country music has to evolve in order to survive. Nobody wants to listen to their grandpa’s music. And I don’t care how many of these old farts around Nashville going, “My God, that ain’t country!” Well that’s because you don’t buy records anymore, jackass. The kids do, and they don’t want to buy the music you were buying.

The new version of Blake Shelton’s GAC Backstory aired first in mid December 2012, and will be airing numerous times in February.

Blake Shelton’s comments are not only hurtful to classic and traditional country fans, they are incorrect. According to a study of country radio conducted by Edison Research and released during last year’s Country Radio Seminar in Nashville, listeners actually want more classic country on radio, and the lack of it has been given credit for the contraction being experienced in the radio format. Edison Research President Larry Rosin last February said,

I believe that we as an industry have really made a mistake in our conception of our own stations. While many people don’t want to listen to classic country music, some still do, and we’ve let them float away…We run the risk that we just are more and more pleasing to fewer and fewer people until all we are is ecstatically pleasing a tiny, unsustainable number of people.”

Blake Shelton also specifically mention “records,” but statistics shows that older music listeners are the ones that still by music in physical formats, while younger listeners (aka “kids”) tend to download music illegally, stream it at very low margins for artists and their labels, or purchase individual songs.

Furthermore Blake Shelton brought up the common misconception that classic and traditional country fans do not want country music to evolve. Though this may be true for some traditional fans, as Saving Country Music pointed out in a piece titled Progress Vs. Traditionalism in Country Music, the progression of country music while still keeping it tied to its roots is the foundation of Americana which has benefited from tremendous growth over the last few years.

Blake Shelton has landed in hot water before for making inflammatory comments, especially on his infamous Twitter account. In May of 2011 Blake got in trouble for seemingly advocating violence against gays by re-writing the words to a Shania Twain song. The singer later apologized.

****UPDATE****UPDATE****UPDATE****UPDATE****

1-24-13 (11:43 AM CST): Country music legend Ray Price has just responded to Blake Shelton’s comments through his Facebook page.

It’s a shame that I have spend 63 years in this business trying to introduce music to a larger audience and to make it easier for the younger artists who are coming behind me. Every now and then some young artist will record a rock and roll type song , have a hit first time out with kids only. This is why you see stars come with a few hits only and then just fade away believing they are God’s answer to the world. This guy sounds like in his own mind that his head is so large no hat ever made will fit him. Stupidity Reigns Supreme!!!!!!! Ray Price (CHIEF “OLD FART” & JACKASS”) ” P.S. YOU SHOULD BE SO LUCKY AS US OLD-TIMERS. CHECK BACK IN 63 YEARS (THE YEAR 2075) AND LET US KNOW HOW YOUR NAME AND YOUR MUSIC WILL BE REMEMBERED. – Ray Price

1-24-13 (11:55 AM CST): After receiving numerous comments and posts of this story and others, Blake Shelton took down one of his Facebook fan pages. SCM is also attempting to confirm reports that numerous radio stations are pulling Blake Shelton songs from their rotation. SCM also asks that people be respectful to Blake in their comments.

1-24 -13 (4:14 PM CST): Blake Shelton has responded through Twitter:

Whoa!!! I heard I offended one of my all time favorite artists Ray Price by my statement “Nobody wants to listen to their grandpas music”..And probably some other things from that same interview on GAC Backstory.. I hate that I upset him.. The truth is my statement was and STILL Is about how we as the new generation of country artists have to keep re-inventing country music to keep it popular. Just EXACTLY… The way Mr. Price did along hid journey as a main stream country artist.. Pushing the boundaries with his records. “For The Goodtimes” Perfect example with the introduction of a bigger orchestrated sound in country music.. It was new and awesome!!! I absolutely have no doubt I could have worded it better(as always ha!) and I apologize to Mr. Price and any other heroes of mine that it may offended.. I meant every word I said. Country music is my life and it’s future AND past is important to me. I’ll put my Lo(v)e and respect and knowledge About it up against anybody out there… ANYBODY…

1-24-13 (5:56 PM CST): Ray Stevens has also joined the fray saying, “I just heard Blake Shelton’s remarks about ‘old farts and jackasses’ and all I want to know is how he found out the title to my next single because it’s been a closely guarded secret here at the ‘Home.’ It will be available on vinyl or 8-Track at your nearest Tower Records store.” Brandon Fulson beat Ray to it though, recording a song “Old Farts and Jackasses.”

Dale Watson has also chimed in: “Ray price is the best voice in country music period !!!! And some supremely Mediocrre voice like this fuck Blake Shelton should whince!” He is the Lance Armstrong of country music !! HYPE, Mr. Miranda Lambert!”

1-25-13 (11:31 AM CST):

A few of Blake Shelton’s music peers have risen up to defend him. Martina McBride posted on Twitter, “Just catching up on this. We all know where your heart is Blake. Love you.” Chris Young posted on Twitter, “Love what you meant by your quote buddy. Know how much you love country music history. Love your music brother and who you are.”

Dale Watson has written a new song inspired by Blake Shelton’s comments

1-26-13 (3:14 PM CST): Country Music Hall of Famer and Blake Shelton friend Bobby Braddock weighed in on Facebook saying in part:

I think his point recently was that to be viable, country music has to keep reinventing itself. It’s clear from his statements that he’s terribly sorry that he’s offended his heroes like Ray Price. I think what’s controversial is not what he said but the way he said it. That was just Blake being Blake, going for the outrageous and trying to get a rise out of people.

1-26-13 (4:24 PM CST): Jean Shepard is the latest to chime in, saying, ““We’ve got a young man in country music who has made some pretty dumb statements lately. What did he say? That traditional country music is for old farts and jack-you-know-whats? Well, I guess that makes me an old fart. I love country music. I won’t tell you what his name is….but his initials is BS….and he’s full of it!”

Ray Price’s Facebook page was apparently blocked because of his Blake Shelton comments. “HELLO FOLKS, SINCE I MADE THE COMMENT ABOUT BLAKE SHELTON, FACEBOOK HAS BLOCKED ME FOR 30 DAYS FROM ACCEPTING FRIENDS REQUESTS.

1-29-13 (10:41 AM): In response to Blake Shelton’s comments, Willie Nelson has renamed his current tour the “Old Farts & Jackass” tour. Also, on the 26th, Ray Price accepted Blake Shelton;s apology, saying in part, “I HAVE ACCEPTED BLAKE SHELTON’S APOLOGY TO ME PERSONALLY. I think Blake is a fine young man with a big future in Country Music. I AGREE that he should be given a chance to restore his credibility with the MILLIONS OF FANS who were deeply offended by those HURTFUL WORDS AND RENAMING US ALL AS…..well, you know what he said. I would regret it if the words I have spoken would in any way harm Blake personally or his career and his chances for the future.”

2-1-13 (12:20 CST): Country Weekly reports that Blake Shelton met with Ray Price prior to Ray’s performance at the Choctaw Casino Resort in Durant, Oklahoma on Thursday (1-31). Price also invited Blake Shelton up on stage where he warmly introduced him to the audience. Durant is about an hour from where Blake Shelton lives with Miranda Lambert, who also attended the Ray Price performance. See Photo of Blake, Ray, and Miranda. and Photo on Ray’s Bus

2-6-13 (8:20 CST): Joe Don Rooney of Rascal Flatts has weighed in on Blake Shelton’s comments, saying in part, “Country music does have to evolve and it has evolved to where it is, and it’s going to keep evolving into whatever it’s going to be. I think that’s kind of his point, from my side, being serious, he’s kind of right. But, he didn’t have to be so edgy about it.”

Evangelist Records has posted a new “official” video for Dale Watson’s song “Old Farts & Jackasses.”

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Blake Shelton’s comments can be seen at the very end of this video. UPDATE: THE VIDEO OF BLAKE SHELTON MAKING THE COMMENTS HAS BEEN REMOVED DUE TO COPYRIGHT CLAIM.

 

Thanks to Greg Morris for the tip on this story.

Jan
22

ANTI-Nashville / Music Row / Pop Country Song Compendium

January 22, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  120 Comments

secede-from-pop-countryAnti-Nashville, anti-Music Row, and anti-pop country songs have a long and proud tradition in country music that stretches almost all the way back to the beginning of the genre. As long as there’s been country music, there’s been folks arguing about how to define it, what it should sound like, and speaking out when they think it’s going in the wrong direction.

The amount and the approach of protest songs seems to parallel the trends in country music. When the genre begins to move more in a pop direction, country’s traditional artists pipe up in song. After compiling this list, it was clear the majority of them were written around the early 2000′s. This was the heyday for anti-Nashville sentiment, though there’s been a recent rash of new anti songs here recently.

Let’s look back at some of the most memorable country music protest songs, and below that is a semi-complete list of all of the protest songs we could aggregate from around the web in no certain order. If you see one that is left off, please pipe up in the comments section, and if it is a song whose existence can be verified, we’ll add it to the list. And the song needs to be at least somewhat “country,” and needs to be mostly about speaking out; not just a line or two in a song. And no, this doesn’t include parodies.

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Dale Watson – Country My Ass, Nashville Rash, Real Country Song

Maybe the king of the country protest warrior poets, Dale Watson’s arsenal of anti-Nashville songs rivals anyone’s. All three of his big ones appear on his 2002 album Live in London…England. He’s since moved on somewhat from his early 2000′s orneriness, though you can still hear light jabs at Music Row in most all of Dale’s 20+ albums.

Larry Cordle – Murder on Music Row

Arguably the most successful country protest song of all time, it was written by Larry Cordle and Larry Shell, and originally appeared on an album of the same name with Cordle’s band Lonesome Standard Time in 1999. It was made popular as a duet between Alan Jackson and George Strait, first being performed on the 1999 CMA Awards, then awarded the 2000 Vocal Event of the Year award by the CMA, and then winning the CMA Song of the Year in 2001. “Murder On Music Row” was never officially released as a single, but still charted #38 on Billboard’s country chart. In 2006, Dierks Bentley and George Jones recorded a version of the song only made available on a Cracker Barrel compilation.

Hank Williams III – Trashville, Dick in Dixie, The Grand Ole Opry (Ain’t So Grand)

Probably the loudest and the most foul-mouthed of the anti-Nashville bunch, the grandson of Hank Williams pulls no punches. No, “Dick in Dixie” ain’t about a guy named Richard, nor is that what Hank3 suggests Jimmy Martin would tell the current Opry managers all to “suck” if he were still around in the song “The Grand Ole Opry (Ain’t So Grand).” Immature or not, Hank3 made tremendous strides in raising awareness about many of the issues arising in Music City.

Waylon Jennings – Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?

One of the earliest country protest songs and possibly the most potent. With two chords and the truth, Waylon lays the wisdom down thick about how country music had lost its way in 1975 while in the midst of the “Nashville Sound” era. The song became a #1 hit, and spent 16 weeks on the Billboard country chart. It remains one of Waylon’s most signature songs, and the standard bearer for country protest songs, with the lyrical theme being reworked many times (and many replacing Hank’s name with Waylon’s) in modern songs of protest. Waylon was not known as a prolific songwriter, but he wrote this one himself.

Other Waylon Protest Songs: If Ol’ Hank Could Only See Us Now, Nashville Bum, Nashville Rebel

Darrell Scott / The Dixie Chicks – Long Time Gone

Everyone got so swept up in the political blowup surrounding The Dixie Chicks, they forgot they were a serious, substantive country roots group. Their excellent album Home included the most commercially successful country protest song of all time, and the 2nd best in chart performance, only rivaled by Waylon’s “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way.” Written by Darrell Scott and originally appearing on the album Real Time with Tim O’Brien, the song tells the story of a farm boy that moves to Nashville, become disenfranchised, and moves back. It became a #2 hit on Billboard’s country chart, and #7 on Billboard’s Hot 100.

The bridge begins the protest portion of the song, followed by the pointed 3rd verse: “Listen to the radio, they hear what’s cooking, but the music ain’t got no soul. Now they sound tired but they don’t sound Haggard. They’ve got money but they don’t have Cash. They’ve got Jr. but they don’t have Hank…”

George Jones- Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?

The most subtle of the protest songs, George Jones asks who will fill the shoes of all the country greats of the past. It was the title track on his 1985 release from Epic Records, and reached #3 on the Billboard country charts, written by Max D. Barnes and  Troy Harold Seals. The song was also accompanied by a great video.

List of Songs of Country Protest

  • Tom T. Hall – The Last Country Song
  • Hank Williams Jr. – Old Nashville Cowboy
  • Eleven Hundred Springs – Hank Williams Wouldn’t Make It Now in Nashville, Tennessee
  • Josh Abbott Band – I’ll Sing About Mine
  • Robbie Fulks – Fuck This Town
  • Dough Sahm – Oh No, Not Another One
  • John Hartford – Tear Down The Grand Ole Opry
  • BR549 – Movin’ The Country, A-1 On The Jukebox
  • Jesse Dayton – Hey Nashvegas!
  • Alan Jackson – Three Minute Positive Not Too Country Up-Tempo Love Song

 

  • Jason & The Scorchers – Greetings From Nashville
  • Cory Morrow – Nashville Blues
  • The Carter Family III – Maybelle’s Guitar
  • Willie Nelson – Sad Songs & Waltzes, Write Your Own Songs
  • Sturgill Simpson – Life Ain’t Fair & The World Is Mean
  • David Frizzell & Bobby Bare – Cowboy Hat
  • Vince Gill – Young Man’s Town
  • Jason Eady – AM Country Heaven
  • Brad Paisley, Bill Anderson, Buck Owens, George Jones – Too Country
  • Dallas Wayne – If That’s Country

 

  • Marty Stuart – Tip Your Hat (not really a protest song, but very close)
  • Brigitte London – Mr. Nashville
  • Hellbound Glory – Waylon Never Done It Their Way
  • Jello Biafra & Mojo Nixon – Let’s Burn Ole Nashville Down
  • Shooter Jennings – Outlaw You, Solid Country Gold, Put The ‘O’ Back In Country
  • The Waco Brothers – Death of Country Music
  • JB Beverley & The Wayward Drifters – Dark Bar & A Juke Box
  • Barbara Mandrell – I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool
  • Tom VandenAvond – Wreck of a Fine Man
  • Cross Canadian Ragweed – Anywhere But Here, Record Exec.

 

  • The Geezenslaws – Bad Rock and Roll
  • Austin Cunningham – 15 Songs
  • Corey Smith – If That’s Country
  • Houston Marchman – Viet Nashville
  • Kenneth Brian – Something’s Wrong with the Juke Box, Nashville Line
  • Laney Strickland – Ca$hville
  • The Hackensaw Boys – Nashville
  • Jamie Richards – I Guess They’ve Never Been to Texas
  • Those Poor Bastards – Radio Country
  • The Rounders – That Ole Jukebox

 

  • Joey Allcorn – In Nashville, Tennessee; This Ain’t Montgomery
  • Brent Amaker & The Rodeo – Sissy New Age Cowboy
  • Joe Buck Yourself – Music City’s Dead
  • Emily Herring & Henpecked – Has Country Gone To Hell
  • Heather Myles – Nashville’s Gone Hollywood
  • The Skeeters – Country Pop
  • Erik Koskanen Band – Ain’t No Honky Tonks
  • The Gin Palace Jesters – Nashville Penny
  • Tommy Alverson – Purty Boys
  • Ronnie Hymes – Dueling Kazoo (a Finger for Trashville)

 

  • John D. Hale Band – Outlaw Groove
  • Bobby Bare  – Rough on the Living
  • Marty Stuart – Sundown in Nashville
  • Merle Haggard – Too Much Boogie Woogie
  • Josh Thompson – Too Country
  • Daryl Singletary – I Still Sing This Way
  • Gary Gibson – I’ve Had All of Nashville I Can Stand
  • John Anderson – Takin’ The Country Back
  • Keith Whitley – Buck
  • George Jones – Billy B. Bad

 

  • Will Hoge & Wade Bowen – Song Nobody Will Hear
  • Jackson Taylor & The Sinners – Country Song
  • Jarrod Birmingham – Where’d You Go Country Music
  • Reckless Kelly – New Moon Over Nashville
  • Red Eye Junction – Living Proof
  • Rebel Son- Stereo
  • Lance Miller – The Beach
  • Audrey Auld – The Next Big Nothing
  • Pale Horse – Outlaw Breed
  • Lummox – New Country

 

  • Tim Hus – Country Music Lament
  • Tex Schutz – Put The Country Back in the Music (and the Rock Back in the Ground)
  • Roger Alan Wade – Jingle Jangle Angel
  • The Deep Dark Woods – The Won’t Last Long
  • Tom Russell – The Death of Jimmy Martin
  • Jamey Johnson – The Last Cowboy
  • Jerry Kilgore – Ain’t Got One Honky Tonk
  • Whitey Morgan & The 78′s – If It Ain’t Broke
  • The Divorcees – You Ain’t Gettin’ My Country
  • Wesley Dennis – Country Enough
  • Rodney Hayden – Goodbye Country Music
  • Davey Smith – Country Went to Hell
  • Ernie Clifton – Goodby Country Music Hall of Fame
Jan
7

New Dale Watson Album “El Rancho Azul”

January 7, 2013 - By Trigger  //  News  //  14 Comments

dale-watson-rancho-azul2013 is already shaping up to be an excellent year for real country music, with some of the heavy hitters slating new releases before we even hit Easter. Just announced, Dale Watson and his Lone Stars have a brand new album titled El Rancho Azul to be released January 29th through Red House Records, featured 14 original songs and being touted as his “honkiest tonkiest” album yet of his 21-album career.

Recorded at Willie Nelson’s legendary Pedernales Studio in Austin, Dale used his own band of Chris Crepps on upright bass, Mike Bernal on drums, Don “Don Don” Pawlak on pedal steel, with Danny Levin sitting in on piano and fiddle.

Originally it was announced that the album would be titled I Lie When I Drink (the opening track) when the first single from the album “Daughter’s Wedding Song” was released in late August of 2012. “I’m often asked to recommend a song for the father/daughter dance,” Dale says. “I usually say Merle Haggard’s ‘Farmers Daughter.’ The only problem is that, in the song, the mother is gone. So one day I told this couple I would write one special for the dance. While writing, I drew on my two daughters for inspiration and started crying halfway through it. I figured if it hit my heart strings, maybe it’ll hit the heart strings of fathers and daughters everywhere.”

The recently-divorced Dale takes the listener on a journey through love and heartache in El Rancho Azul. As you can expect with Dale spending most of his time entertaining Texas two-steppers in Austin’s dancehall haunts like The Broken Spoke, the album includes some songs written specifically for dancing. “Quick Quick Slow Slow” is a two-step tune, while the following “Quick Slow Slow” is a waltz.

dale-watson-lonestarsLook for the Saving Country Music review coming soon!

Pre-order El Rancho Azul from Amazon

1. I Lie When I Drink
2. Where Do You Want It
3. I Drink to Remember
4. Cowboy Boots
5. We’re Gonna Get Married
6. Daughter’s Wedding Song
7. Quick Quick Slow Slow
8. Slow Quick Quick
9. Give Me More Kisses
10. Drink Drink Drink
11. I Can’t Be Satisfied
12. I Hate to Drink Alone
13. Smokey Old Bar
14. Thanks to Tequila
Dec
13

The Greatest Underground Country Albums of All Time

December 13, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  81 Comments

By request, here is my list of the greatest underground country albums of all time.

The underground country movement started roughly in the mid 90′s on lower Broadway in Nashville that at the time was a run down part of town. Young musicians from around the country, some from punk backgrounds, came together from their mutual love of authentic country music to create a counterbalance to the pop country that was prevailing on Music Row a few blocks west.

Underground country started with mostly neo-traditionalists like Wayne “The Train” Hancock, Big Sandy, and Dale Watson, but spread to the punk and heavy metal world through acts like Hank Williams III and Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers. This list does not just consider the appeal of these albums, but also the influence they had on other underground artists and albums, and on country music and music in general.

Please understand that this list is just for underground country albums. This means artists better defined by the Deep Blues like Scott H. Biram or Possessed by Paul James, or Texas artists like James Hand or Ray Wylie Hubbard, or country artists who may work on the fringes of underground country but would not necessarily be considered underground like BR549 or Roger Alan Wade, are not included. Americana acts are not included. This is strictly underground country’s opportunity to bask in the spotlight.

Please feel free to leave your own list below.

16.  The Boomswagglers- Bootleg Beginnings – 2011

This very well may be the most authentic album of music put out in the modern era for any genre. The Boomswagglers have always been and continue to be more myth than reality, with original Boomswaggler Lawson Bennett long gone and a cavalcade of replacements shuffling in an out with Spencer Cornett. Even if they never put out another album, The Boomswagglers made their mark, and it is a deep one.

“The music is wildly entertaining and deceptively deep. If you’re going to be a Boomswagglers song, someone’s got to die, and likely a woman. Some may find this silly, monotonous, or even offensive, but you have to listen beyond the lyrics, and unlock the carnal wisdom that is hidden in these songs.” (read full review)

15. JB Beverley & The Wayward DriftersDark Bar & A Juke Box2006

Dark Bar & A Juke Box was an instant underground country classic, and so was the anti Music Row song that the album got its name from. JB and his Wayward Drifters grit out a superb selection of songs displaying taste, restraint, and a sincere appreciation for the roots of country music, which may have surprised some who knew JB more for his work with heavy metal bands like The Murder Junkies and the Little White Pills. Dark Bar & A Juke Box also boasts appearances from the famous son and grandson of a country music royal family, who due to contractual issues had to work incognito (wink wink).

14. Lucky Tubb & The Modern Day Troubadours – Del Gaucho – 2011

Some (including Lucky himself) may point to Hillbilly Fever as being the seminal Lucky Tubb album with its big budget and appearances by Wayne “The Train” Hancock. But Del Gaucho is where Lucky Tubb came into his own, found his sound, and the unique musical flavor only he has to offer the world. Dirty, rowdy, rocking, but still steadfastly neo-traditionalist country, Del Gaucho scores off the charts when it comes to style points. When you’re talking about some of the greatest neo-traditional country albums and artists of all time, Lucky Tubb and Del Gaucho deserve to be in that conversation.

13- Bob Wayne & The Outlaw CarniesBlood to Dust – 2008

They say you have your whole life to write your first album, and what makes Bob Wayne’s Blood to Dust so special is how true and touching he told his life’s story through song. His subsequent albums aren’t too shabby either, but with signature songs like “Blood to Dust”, “Road Bound”, and “27 Years”, this still stands out as his signature album, and a signature album of the underground country movement. It was performed, produced, and recorded by an all-star cast of contributors that included Donnie Herron, Joe Buck and Andy Gibson, and brought Bob Wayne out from behind-the-scenes as Hank3′s guitar tech, and made him one of the movement’s most well-known songwriters and performers.

12. Jayke Orvis – It’s All Been Said – 2010

This is the album that launched Farmageddon Records, and that launched Jayke Orvis as a formidable, premier front man in underground country. One of the founding members of the now legendary .357 String Band, Jayke was asked to leave the band because of irreconcilable differences and almost immediately began touring with The Goddamn Gallows and trying to make this album happen. The result was a slick, tightly-crafted LP showcasing excellent songwriting and instrumentation. From ballads to blazing instrumentals, Jayke Orvis has proved himself to be one of the singular talents of underground country roots.

11. Lonesome Wyatt & Rachel BrookeA Bitter Harvest – 2009

This album was destined to become an underground country classic. The mad genius music mind of Lonesome Wyatt of the Gothic country duo Those Poor Bastards has the uncanny ability to procure the absolute most appropriate sounds to evoke the desired dark mood in his music. Then you combine that with one of the best voices not just in underground country, but in all of music in Rachel Brooke, and magic was bound to happen. The creativity on A Bitter Harvest is spellbinding. More of an artistic endeavor than a toe tapper, Lonesome Wyatt and Rachel create a soundtrack to human emotion and despair. For people looking for a place for country music to evolve, A Bitter Harvest shows how you can take authentic country themes and an appreciation for the roots of the music, and envelop it in layers of textural color culled from the wide experience of human sounds.

10. Justin Townes EarleMidnight At The Movies – 2009

Midnight At The Movies was Saving Country Music’s 2009 Album of the Year. Today it would be difficult to characterize Justin Townes Earle as underground country because the quality of this album launched him into the inner sanctum of Americana.

“Justin Townes Earle has done an awesome thing with this album; he has figured out a way to unite all the displaced elements that make up the alternative to mainstream Nashville country, while still staying somewhat accessible to the mainstream folks as well. You might even catch the bluegrass folks nodding their head while listening to it. Folkies like it, and there’s a few tunes blues people can get into. This isn’t just the REAL country album of the year, it is the “Alt-country” album of the year and the “Americana” album of the year.” (read full review)

9. Slackeye Slim - El Santo Grial, La Pistola Piadosa – 2011

El Santo Grial was Saving Country Music’s 2011 Album of the Year.

“Every once in a while, an album comes along that changes everything. It’s an album that inspires other albums, and dynamic shifts in tastes and approach throughout a sector of music, while at the same time dashing the dreams of other artists, as the purity and originality are way too much to attempt to rival. Slackeye Slim’s El Santo Grial, La Pistola Piadosa is one of those albums.

“El Santo Grial is a masterpiece, exquisitely produced, arranged, and performed. This is a patient, uncompromising album. You can tell time was never introduced into this project as a goal. The goal was to flesh out Slackeye’s vision without ever settling for second best, and that goal was accomplished.” (read full review)

8. Wayne “The Train” HancockThat’s What Daddy Wants – 1997

Thunderstorms & Neon Signs is the Wayne Hancock album most people gravitate towards as their favorite because it was their first, and the first to showcase Wayne Hancock’s unique blend of country, Western Swing, rockabilly, and blues. But pound for pound, That’s What Daddy Wants is just as good of an offering, boasting some of The Train’s signature songs like “87 Southbound” and “Johnny Law”. Wayne Hancock has never put out a bad album, and distinguishing between them is difficult. But it’s not difficult to say that the underground country movement would have not had as much class if That’s What Daddy Wants hadn’t seen the light of day.

7. .357 String Band – Fire & Hail – 2008

“They were all the absolute best possible musicians you could find at their respective positions, each challenging each other, pushing each other to keep up with the band’s demands for artistic excellence in both instrumental technique and creative composition.

“Listening back now at Fire & Hail, with so much talent in one place, no wonder the project was untenable, and no wonder the respective players have moved on to become their own trees instead of respective branches of the same project. Still, the loss of .357 String Band may go down as underground country’s greatest tragedy.” (read full review)

6. Hank Williams III - Lovesick, Broke, & Driftin’ – 2002

BR549 and Wayne “The Train” Hancock spearheaded the neo-traditionalist movement in the mid 90′s, but Hank Williams III was the one to carry it into the oughts and introduce it to a brand new crop of fans he brought along from his dabblings in the punk/heavy metal world. After having to tow the line somewhat for his first album Risin’ Outlaw, Hank3 was unleashed and able to showcase his own songwriting, heavily influenced by Wayne Hancock and Hank3′s famous grandfather, but still all his own. His voice was wickedly pure with a heart wrenching yodel and commanding range. The songwriting was simple, but powerful. This is a masterpiece, and remains an essential title of the neo-traditionalist era.

5. Hellbound GloryOld Highs & New Lows – 2010

Hellbound Glory had already been around for years, but they burst into the underground with this magnificent, hard country album highlighted by head man Leroy Virgil’s world class songwriting. Despite the “hell” in their name and the hard language in their songs, Hellbound Glory hadn’t gone through any retooling as post punk refugees. They were pure country through and through and Old Highs & New Lows combined excellent Outlaw-style bar stompers and ballads with some of the most wit-filled songwriting since Keith Whitley. As far as honky tonk albums go, it may be years before this one is trumped. And when it is, it might be Leroy Virgil and Hellbound Glory doing the trumping.

4. Dale WatsonLive in London…England – 2002

Dale comes out on stage and starts slinging guitars, cutting classics, and speaking the truth. Before Dale was the hometown boy and house band for Austin, he was pissed off and willing to sing about it. Dale’s anti-Nashville classics “Real Country Song”, “Nashville Rash”, and “Country My Ass” can all be found here, but Live in London isn’t all pissing and moaning. Songs like “Ain’t That Livin’” showed off Dale’s superlative voice and suave style. Honky tonk albums are sometimes hard to make because it is hard to capture that live, sweaty energy in the recorded context. So what better way to solve that problem than making a live one? Live in London remains the best Dale album to date.

3. Th’ Legendary Shack ShakersCockadoodledon’t – 2003

This was one of the first albums to bust out of the burgeoning music scene on lower Broadway in Nashville where one can argue the undergorund country movement started. It showed the world what kind of mayhem could be created by mixing country, blues, and punk music together without compromising taste and soul. It is the album which acts as a guidepost to the eclectic, yet intuitive and inter-related mix of influences that you will find in underground country: honest to goodness appreciation to the roots of American music, with a punk attitude and approach. And if you ever wondered why Joe Buck is considered part of underground country, appreciate that he played most of the music on Cockadoodledon’t.

2. Wayne “The Train” HancockThunderstorms & Neon Signs – 1995

There are two albums that you can look back on an make a serious case that if they did not exist, underground country music may not exist–the album below this one on this list, and Wayne Hancock’s Thunderstorm & Neon Signs. There are two types of music artists: originators and imitators. Sometimes imitators can be very successful, and very creative artists themselves. But it always takes the originators to set the plate for the imitators to do what they do. Thunderstorms & Neon Signs was an original album from one of America’s most original country roots artists of all time. It doesn’t get much better or more influential than this.

1. Hank Williams IIIStraight to Hell – 2006

This album isn’t underground country’s Red Headed Stranger. It isn’t underground country’s Honky Tonk Heroes. It is both. It is the album that both was a novel concept, a breakthrough sonically and lyrically, and had a massive impact on the business side of music, for artists winning control of their music and inspiring and showing artists how to do it themselves. The deposed son of country music royalty had taken on a major Nashville label, and won, and all while being one of the first to successfully bridge the energy and approach of punk and heavy metal music with traditional country, all while keeping the music solidly country in nature.

It was the first album to be put out through the CMA with a Parental Advisory sticker. It was the first to ever be recorded outside of a traditional studio setting. Of course only a select few were paying attention, but it broke through many barriers that to this day have changed music in significant ways, sonically and behind the scenes.

The approach also had wide-ranging impacts outside of underground country and country music in general, to rock music and punk and heavy metal, inspiring thousands of rock kids to put down their electric guitars and AC/DC records, and pick up banjos and Johnny Cash records. The impact on mainstream music may have not been seen, but it was felt, and just like all great albums, it’s legacy will grow and be more appreciated and understood as the future unfolds.

Dec
8

Peewee Moore is “Making Sure The Story’s Being Told”

December 8, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  6 Comments

The last time I talked about Peewee Moore at length, he’d recently arrived in Austin, TX and was just getting his hands dirty in the country scene of the world’s “Live Music Capitol.” Now he’s a mainstay of Austin’s honky tonk music circuit along such names as Roger Wallace, The Carper Family, Jim Stringer, and the El Capitan Dale Watson. Any given night you might see Peewee haunting the stages of The Continental Club, Ginny’s Little Longhorn, and The Whitehorse Saloon with his permanently-haggard raccoon eyes, and his Tele riddled with battle wounds slung over his shoulder.

Peewee will never get too far away from his Chattanooga roots though with that unmistakable and thick northwest Georgia, southeast Tennessee accent. Just like fellow Chattanooga native son Husky Burnette, Peewee played lead guitar back in the day for the Choo Choo City’s country music patron saint, Roger Alan Wade. With Roger, and with his first band The Tennessee Rounders, Peewee cut his mold as a hard country, honky tonking Outlaw, way before that term would be so horrifically subverted by Music City pretty boy carpetbaggers looking to distract you from their slick, arena rock songs and silver spoon upbringings.

I initially had a little trouble getting into Making Sure The Story’s Being Told, I think because the first three songs came from such a similar vein: describing Peewee’s hardtack life as a traveling musician. Maybe I thought he was talking a little too much shop, but over time and taken individually, all three songs revealed themselves as worthy, especially the slow and plodding “Worn Out Old Guitar”, and specifically the line, “When you ain’t in the spotlight, you’re all stuck in a van.” Peewee Moore is the real deal, which means he’s not perfect. He’s like the personification of the American struggle, and that’s why he fits right into sensibilities of real music fans so well.

Further on the album revealed that it was brimming with variety. For my two cents, the best song on the album is the brilliant “Beneath The Cold, Cold Ground” where Peewee’s excellent guitar work sends your mind reeling around an infectious chord groove, while his vocals reach the sweet spot of his tone before distorting into a growl for emphasis. This is followed in order with the very fun and well-written foot stomper “Running Moonshine”.

“Samuel Colt & His Cartridge Gun” is probably the biggest surprise of the album, with its intelligent story craft brought to life with a tasteful trumpet part. “So They Call You An Outlaw” is not what you may think from the title. Instead of directly calling out fake Outlaws, Peewee gets crafty by conveying that “Outlaw” is not a term you can bestow on yourself, but must be given to you by others; and how that’s not necessarily a glamorous or fortuitous as some would have you believe.

These honky tonk albums are hard ones to make in 2012. Everyone else in country is trying to carve their niche, bending and blending genres and doing any manner of outlandish things to get folks to pay attention to them in a glutted music world. Meanwhile the charge of the honky tonk musician is to keep the traditions alive through purity. When it comes to artists like Peewee, I wonder if they wouldn’t be better off mixing in a few songs from other artists on their albums instead of writing all their own material; adding their best cuts of with the best cuts of others to bolster a project.

At the same time, what makes Peewee Moore distinct is that he plays his own leads and writes his own songs with a gutsy, lunch pail approach. Peewee Moore may never be big, but you can always count on him being Peewee. And for those not distracted by image or hype, that authenticity is what makes him special.

1 1/2 of 2 guns up.

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Making Sure The Story’s Being Told was released July 28th. It is only available at Peewee Moore shows at the moment, or by contacting Peewee at Peewee Moore at Yahoo dot com. Check back for online availability.

Nov
27

Why Underground Country Music Is Dying (A Treatise)

November 27, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  111 Comments

Unknown Hinson

On Saturday November 17th, two of the most important acts in underground country played what very well could be their final shows. Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers, a band that was there at the very beginning of underground country and the revitalization of the lower Broadway in Nashville announced they are calling it quits after 16 years, at least for now, playing their final show at Nashville’s Mercy Lounge. Meanwhile in Covington, Kentucky, Unknown Hinson, one of underground country’s greatest ambassadors from his work on Cartoon Network’s Squidbillies, played his final show as a touring act after 17 years, saying he was done, “Period.”

Both these acts had their specific reasons for calling it quits, and certainly the door is open for them to return. And for JD Wilkes, the long-time front man of The Shack Shakers, he still has his Dirt Daubers routine which has apparently retooled to a more electric sound. But you add these huge, high-profile, highly-important artists leaving on top of bands like .357 String Band dissolving, Sunday Valley re-aligning, and Leroy Virgil losing all his original players in Hellbound Glory, and all of a sudden underground country feels like it’s fighting a war of attrition, and losing.

I have been struggling to write this article for almost two years, but have been putting it off because there’s some hard things to say, and I didn’t want to “talk down” a movement that was already trying to deal with pretty alarming trends. But I think that especially now, zooming out and trying to be honest and critical in a constructive way is important, because there is positively no doubt that underground country is dying, and has been for years.

Why? Here are some ideas.

An aging fan base and aging artists

There are exceptions of course, but if you look at who comprises the underground country movement, it is predominantly people in their 30′s, and people from lower incomes. And what do people do in their 30′s? They settle down, they get married and have kids, they get better and more stable jobs, they buy houses. This gives them less time to spend partying, hanging out on the internet talking about music, going to shows on weeknights. In your 30′s, instead of being able to hit every underground country show rolling through town, you have to pick that one show a month you want to attend and pay a babysitter.

The same goes for the artists making underground country music. As they age, their motivations to keep working at music that doesn’t seem to want to stick commercially begin to fade. Health concerns begin to become an issue, and not being able to afford health insurance is a real concern. This was one of the primary issues facing the Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers. Yearning for more stability is a recurring theme in the attrition underground country is facing in its talent roster, from banjo player Joe Huber of the .357 String Band, to drummer Chico from Hellbound Glory.

Something else worth noting is the large sect of sober people who make up underground country, in both the artist and fan ranks. Over time, some people must move away from the music and party scenes to find their sobriety, and others may just not identify any more with music that tends to have foundations in a party lifestyle.

Meanwhile the infusion of youth into underground country is anemic. There are some exceptions. The Boomswagglers from Texas and The Slaughter Daughters are promising, young bands, and artists like Lucky Tubb and Wayne Hancock have been integrating side musicians into the scene for some time. But they rarely stick, partly because of a general lack of support. Any younger musician if they’re smart doesn’t attempt to start their rise in underground country, which seems to be trending down and never had much long-term infrastructure to begin with. They look towards Americana, or the Texas/Red Dirt scene, or bluegrass, where the support is much easier to count on.

A Lack of Leadership

Since the beginning of underground country, if you looked at the top of the pyramid you saw Hank Williams III, and that is still the case in regards to records sales and concert tickets sold in any given year. But in 2008, Hank3 took over a year off from the road, and shortly after he started touring again, he stopped carrying opening bands. Then he put out a succession of albums of questionable quality, and all of a sudden a career on the rise has been stagnant for going on 5 years, and same goes for the the scene that revolves around it.

It was not Saving Country Music or Free Hank III, or even MySpace that comprised the first information portal about underground country. It was Hank3′s “Cussin’ Board” forum. And people didn’t go there just for Hank3 news, but news about all the underground country bands, with artists like JB Beverley and Rachel Brooke participating in the discussions regularly. These days, the “Cussin’ Board” feels like a ghost town compared to its vibrant past.

Shooter Jennings has stepped up in the last two years to attempt to fill the leadership vacuum left by Hank3, and has done some positive things and had some marginal success. But his polarization has kept him from completing the task of becoming a solid leader everyone can look up to. Similarly, where Hank3 was once the most unifying factor in underground country, his obvious step back from the “scene” has now made him a polarizing figure as well, questionably capable of taking back the reigns of underground country even if he was motivated to, and which he’s shown positively no signs of wanting to do. I can’t blame Hank3 for wanting to take a step back, because there were so many people wanting to take from him, believing his name was their stepping stone to success.

Leadership must come from the artists, and it must come from the music first, and that is Shooter Jennings’ inherent problem. This was illustrated when he cut the “Drinking Side of Country” duet with Bucky Covington, or on his industrial rock album Black Ribbons. Whether you like these Shooter projects or not, they illustrate his lack of consistency that has lead to his ineptness as a leader of underground country, and his acute polarization that reaches as far as Eric Church fans, and fans of his father. Hank3 never professed himself a leader. He led by example, and used causes like Reinstate Hank to lead the charge of taking country music back.

The Scene Has Replaced The Movement

Causes

One of the reasons an underground of country music was founded was from a wide ranging dissent about the direction of country music. This dissent is where the varying range of musical styles united, taking the country punk of Hank3, the neo-traditional approach of Wayne Hancock, the Texas/Outlaw country of Dale Watson, the bluegrass of the .357 String Band, the blues of Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers, and the Gothic country of Those Poor Bastards and piling them all together in the overall underground country movement. It was united by issues, like the reinstatement of Hank Williams to the Grand Ole Opry, the opening and extension of the Williams Family Exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame, the fight for creative freedom of artists from record labels, and the fight against the infiltration of pop on country radio.

Now these issues that defined, united, and energized the country music underground are seen as tired, if not counter-productive or annoying to many in the underground population. When issues arose with the sale of the Grand Ole Opry to Marriott International, or the changing of Billboard’s chart rules, the underground met them with apathy, if not anger at them being offered up as relevant to their music world. Issues are what made outreach possible for underground country, and now exclusivity seems to be what is yearned for by the majority of underground country fans. The “we have our music, screw the masses” attitude is what prevails, taking away one of the primary promotional tools for independent-minded underground ideals to reach out to other country music fans who also might be feeling disenfranchised with the mainstream.

Scenes and Cliques

Image and exclusivity seem to be the important dynamics in today’s country music underground, dragging on the commercial viability of the music, and making it hard for outsiders to integrate with the underground country culture. Though some on the outside looking in may enjoy the music, they may not understand the verbiage, anecdotes, and style that seem to be important with “fitting in” to the underground. So as long-time underground country fans taper off because of age, no new blood is there to take their place.

Facebook has also narrowed the perspectives of underground country fans, making them feel like how you present yourself is more important than what you do. An unhealthy culture of cloistered, inbred cross-promotion prevails through underground country, where small cliques of fans and bands have formed around labels, blogs, and podcasts, catering content to a select few.

These cliques promote each other within the clique, and at times may branch out farther to the “scene,” but rarely reach new blood because they are based on narrow perspectives and anecdotal experiences. It’s an “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine” culture where quality and creativity are lightly regarded compared to political importance in the scene. And if you don’t participate in this culture of narrow, ineffective promotion of the other people in the scene or clique, you risk being ostracized. Intention is measured over effectiveness. These cliques and their differences have also given rise to eternal conflict, with the bigger overall “Shooter fans vs. Hank3 fans” splitting underground country squarely in half.

Saving Country Music, and I specifically have at times enhanced or enabled unnecessary “scene” drama, and this has potentially affected the fate of underground country adversely.

There are lot’s of entities in underground country and roots who attempt to promote music that seem to get lost in promoting their branding and merch first, and the music second. There are many general reasons underground country is dying, but the specific one is lack of money. Underground country is funded by the $40 hoodie, and this creates a paradox for the music that is supposed to be the focus.

Though there is lots of talk about shared responsibility for keeping underground music alive, and there’s many folks who re-post bulletins on Facebook, take pictures and videos of shows, run podcasts, or boutique “labels” attempting to make a difference in the music, the effect is confined to cliques and micro-scenes, and is more catered to serving the few and propagating image and branding.

For example the Pickathon Festival in Portland that caters to a wide variety of independent roots movements, including underground country, boasts over 300 volunteers annually. The Muddy Roots Festival, which almost exclusively caters to underground country and roots had roughly a dozen volunteers this last year, with multiple people who signed up to volunteer to get discounted or free tickets either not working their shifts, walking off their shifts, or generally being unhelpful. Pickathon’s issues with people sneaking onto the site are marginal. Muddy Roots’ issues of people sneaking on site without paying are major. The most helpful volunteers at the 2012 Muddy Roots were a representative from a hair gel sponsor, and the Voodoo Kings Car Club who have very few ties to the music.

There seems to be little understanding that if bands, labels, and festivals are going to continue to exist, there must be a shared sacrifice from the fans. And not just symbolic sacrifice, but substantive  efforts to offer real support to the entities making the music happen. Without any corporate funding, that’s how an underground music movement works.

A Lack of Creativity

Underground country was founded on creativity. The creativity found on albums such as Hank3′s Straight to Hell, Wayne Hancock’s Thunderstorms & Neon Signs, Dale Watson’s Live in London, and Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers’ Cockadoodledon’t is what caused a country music underground to form in the first place. In the mid 2000′s, you could confidently say that the creativity in underground country outlasted that of the mainstream per capita. These days underground country is mired in trying to recapture that creativity, in a practice that lends to the aping of styles and the rehashing of themes. Capturing a “punk gone country,” “honky tonk Outlaw”, or “old-time” aesthetic seems more important than carving out a new creative niche like the originators of underground country did.

Meanwhile any true creativity existing in underground country quickly evolves beyond it to greener pastures in Texas country or Americana, like Justin Townes Earle did. The lack of infrastructure, the presence of scenesters, and the general disorganization of the underground dissuades talented artist from associating themselves with it. Americana, Red Dirt, Texas, and West Coast circuits offer much more hospitable and palatable scenes, while underground country generally discourages cross-pollination with these kindred, independent-minded movements, misunderstanding them as either mainstream, or too high-minded for the music they like.

The Positives

Europe

A step removed from the influence of the scene, Europe continues to thrive and grow their support for underground country. There seems to be more general thankfulness that underground country music exists in Europe, and a stronger focus on the music itself instead of the scene that surrounds it. There’s more support, more of a volunteering attitude, and more of a willingness to help make the music happen by the fans. Europe continues to be the most commercially-viable place for many underground country bands to tour and sell albums, and that support is continuing to grow.

A Few Breakout Bands

Bands like Larry & His Flask, Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, and The Goddamn Gallows have found some decent success over the past few years playing on some bigger tours like The Warped Tour and opening for The Reverend Horton Heat. Bob Wayne has found traction in Europe and domestically being singed with label Century Media. Justin Townes Earle is now a big concert draw, and Scott Biram is getting his music played on television shows.

But many of these artists are moving on from the traditional underground country infrastructure to find their success, and others like Leroy Virgil and Sturgill Simpson still seem to be one step behind where their creative potential should be taking them commercially.

Festival & Touring Infrastructure

This is something underground country was lacking for years, and now has a healthy dose of. Unfortunately rising gas prices and dwindling crowds sometimes means it’s too little too late for some bands. The reason Unknown Hinson says he quit touring was because it was costing him too much money.

There are more festivals in all shapes and sizes catering to underground country and roots than ever before. But again, with a dwindling fan base, these different festivals are competing with each other for the same anemic and contracting population.

The Deep Blues

The Deep Blues seems to be on a more sustainable path, and also seems to be able to divest itself from the drama that is confounding underground country. However since it shares much of the same infrastructure as underground country, the issues in underground country can bleed over to the deep blues as well. There is better sustainability in Deep Blues, but the growth is still marginal. In many ways, the Deep Blues is the only thing keeping underground country alive, and that could hinder Deep Blues from moving forward as it drags underground country along.

What Can Be Done To Save Underground Country

To save underground country there must be a renewed interest in finding and developing younger bands, attracting younger fans, and focusing on talent and creativity over forming exclusive scenes. “Young” should not be mistaken for the same connotations it carries in mainstream country. Talent and creativity should still remain key, as well as trying to reach the folks that “get it.” But if underground country wants to continue to remain a viable part of the overall country music landscape, it must recruit new bands and new listeners to replace the natural contraction within its population.

Underground country must quit being so reactionary about the outside world. It must diversify. It must find common ground, common struggle, and common tastes with Americana, Red Dirt, and Texas music, and promote its best and brightest talent to those worlds and then reciprocate. It must stick to its founding principles of preserving the roots of the music and fighting for creative control for artists, and seize on the opportunities current events create to promote those principles to the rest of the music world, promoting the music of underground country by proxy.

It needs leadership, big bands, breakout albums and songs that breathe new fervor into the movement. It needs and end to the “I got mine” mentality.

And it needs it now, before it ends up like Communism: a great idea whose devil is in the application.

 

Nov
1

A Critical Time in Country Music

November 1, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  38 Comments

In the natural history of the Earth, there’s a period known to biologists as The Cambrian Explosion. It was an era when the rate of evolution accelerated so rapidly that even Charles Darwin, the father of the evolutionary theory, admits it stands as one of the main objections to his findings on natural selection. In a relatively short period of time compared to the rest of evolution, the animal world was completely re-organized, leading eventually to the modern animal structure we live in today.

Over the last few months, and the last few weeks specifically, we have been going through a country music Cambrian Explosion of sorts, with massive, earth-moving events completely re-shaping the style and infrastructure of a genre that has been around for over 70 years. Arguably there’s been more significant events in a short period than any other time in country’s history.

Even the way downtown Nashville looks is changing, with the massive Music City Center being erected, the Songwriters and Musician’s Hall of Fame being swapped as part of the project, a water park that was supposed to be built in partnership with Dolly Parton falling apart because of  Gaylord’s sale, and Ryman Hospitality putting the naming rights to The Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Mother Church, The Ryman Auditorium, up for bid. Downtown Nashville, the holy land of country music, is being revamped from the inside out just like the music business that it’s home to.

And this doesn’t even begin to take into consideration the sonic changes to country music, from the hyper-driven pop songs from Taylor Swift dominating the charts, to the intrusion and mainstream acceptance of country rap, and the increased exposure of all of country music’s drama in the new popular television show Nashville.

Aside from Taylor Swift’s first CMA win for Entertainer of the Year in 2009, virtually all the major events a country music historian may use to erect a timeline of how country became what we will know it to be in the future have happened in very recent memory. It’s human habit to think you’re always living in the most important, critical time in whatever it is you’re following, but in this case, the concern seems to have merit.

But one of the things I find most curious about the recent string of current events is how it has been received in certain sectors of the country music population. The country music underground was virtually birthed out of the rapid move to pop in country that was ushered in around the late 90′s, early 2000′s. Without the fervor and dissension around the direction of Music Row and mainstream country music, there may have never been as strong of support for acts like BR549, Hank Williams III, and Dale Watson. For a decade the underground was the sector of country music organizing against the intrusion of pop in country and trying to preserve country’s roots.

But where are those voices now? As these historic issues have been presenting themselves one after another in recent months, Saving Country Music has not only had to work overtime to at least attempt to cover them from an independent viewpoint (let alone attempt to organize against them), but to fight off a strange form of active apathy that militantly wants to not give a shit.

Meanwhile where is there support for attempting to preserve the roots of the music coming from? Carrie Underwood fans of all places. Carrie Underwood fans! They have been making front page headlines for being against Billboard’s new chart rules, even when as Billboard’s Editorial Director Bill Werde points out, Carrie Underwood could very easily be one of the beneficiary’s of the new system. Carrie’s fans’ reaction wasn’t based soley on their self interests, but for better interests for the entire country genre.

The Billboard issue has had massive reverberations throughout the music industry, with fans of R&B, rap, and rock up in arms that artists with “Crossover” pop appeal are virtually entrenched in the top positions on Billboard’s charts. Spin called the new rules “clueless.” The biggest paper in the world, The New York Times interviewed me to get my point of view, even though many of my readers found the issue boresome.

One thing that did not happen that was anticipated with Billboard’s new rules is a complete Taylor Swift dominance of the country song chart, like Mumford & Sons did when they released their new album. Why? Partly because Swift and her label Big Machine purposely limited the sale of her new album Red to certain outlets. For example, the album couldn’t be bought on Amazon until a week after its release, and Scott Borchetta refuses to make the album available on Spotify, Rhapsody, and other streaming services that are now counted in Billboard’s song charts.

So what does all this mean? It means that the elements of country music that used to keep it in check with its roots increasingly don’t care any more. Like refugees, they’re retreating to their little independent scenes and micro-scenes, and forming an elitist “we have ours, screw the masses” bent. But that’s the same flawed logic of saying, “I have a job, who cares if my neighbor does?” Eventually, the creatively-bankrupt nature of mainstream music is destined to creep into your world.

Meanwhile Music Row and the big money forces in Nashville can do whatever they want without fear of retribution or reprisal from the roots of the genre. Carrie Underwood fans? They can be managed; cast them off as crazy. That Saving Country Music guy? He’s a self-absorbed wacko whose losing relevancy.

At the CMA Awards, we could have a country rap song win Song of the Year, and a girl with a song that they purposely made to be pop, and purposely did not release a country version win Entertainer of the Year, and the howls will be half as much as when Eddie Rabbit released “I Love A Rainy Night” in 1981.

It’s no longer cool to criticize what is happening to country music. In fact, it’s now cool to not criticize what’s happening, and to criticize the folks that are.

So what’s the solution? Honestly I don’t know. I wish I had a red bow to tie this article up nicely with, but I don’t. All I know is that the commercial forces aiming to restructure country music into America’s predominant pop genre have never been better poised to do so. Little is stopping them.

Oct
17

ABC’s “Nashville” Cast’s Real Life Counterparts

October 17, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  39 Comments

Like most fictional characters in popular culture, the characters of ABC’s new drama Nashville are probably based more on stereotypes than real-life folks. But for fun, let’s see if we can’t match up who the real-life inspiration is for the principals of the Nashville cast, and through the experiment see if the show really does represent all aspects of the Nashville music scene.

Nashville Character: Rayna Jaymes

Real Life Counterpart(s): Reba McEntire and/or Martina McBride

“Well you can kiss my decision as it’s walking out the door.”

Aging country pop queen concerned about her sagging skin has to worry about the kiddos running under foot and the budding buxom starlet on the rise trying to trample her career. On the outside she sticks to her principles, but on the inside she will do whatever she can to save her stardom.

Nashville Character: Juliette Barnes

Real Life Counterpart: Taylor Swift? No, girl from Dale Watson’s “Country My Ass”

“Oh, I’m always nice.”

Out of all of the Nashville characters, this is probably the one most based on a stereotype instead of an actual person. The creators of the show have said Juliette is not supposed to be Taylor Swift. Swift is seen as the proper, good girl who doesn’t use Auto-tune, while Juliette Barnes nails anything she can to get ahead except the proper note. The mold that fits Juliette Barns perfectly can be found in a Dale Watson song. “She can’t sing a lick, and in a bucket, she couldn’t carry her tune. She’s pretty as a picture, and she sure has a nice set of…wits. And she misses her producer that seduced her–I mean produced her a hit.”

Nashville Character: Lamar Wyatt

Real Life Counterpart: Mike Curb

“That’s alright if you see me as your enemy. Don’t you be foolish enough to make that a two-way street. ‘Cause my enemies don’t fare too damn well.”

Just like Mike Curb using the money he usurped from country music artists to spread his name all across Nashville under the guise of charity and civic duty, Lamar Wyatt wants a new baseball stadium and is willing to use his money and influence to appoint a puppet mayor of Nashville that he can use to run the city through behind-the-scenes. These old-guard aristocratic megalomaniacs are like two peas in a pod.

Nashville Character: Scarlett O’Connor

Real Life Counterpart: Caitlin Rose

“They’re just poems, not songs.”

A reluctant, timid songwriter that lacks nothing in talent either as a writer or performer, that when coaxed into action can rear back and command a crowd with both passion and skill.

Nashville Character: Gunnar Scott

Real Life Counterpart: Justin Townes Earle

“I guess I’m just naturally suspicious of anyone that confident.”

Long, lanky, a songwriter, and a gentleman (as opposed to the “punk country” Avery Barkley), he’s more Americana than country, symbolizing the new independent approach to Nashville that emphasizes artistic appeal and substance as opposed to commercial success.

Nashville Character: Avery Barkley

Real Life Counterpart: Ryan Adams

“It’s kind of an alt-country punk, but more cerebral.”

Dangerous sideburns and a confident swagger, the chicks swoon over him and his bad boy persona and rock star attitude. But watch out, he’ll probably do them wrong.

Nashville Character: Deacon Claybourne

Real Life Counterpart: David Rawlings

“I promise to not use it as a coaster.”

The consummate loyal sideman whose an excellent guitar player and an accomplished songwriter himself. A true music good guy whose willing to lurk in the shadows most of the time to allow good music to come to life. Whether there’s something romantic going on with the boss or not, it’s easy to assume there is.

Nashville Character: Glenn – Juliette Barnes’ Manager

Real Life Counterpart: A Young Scott Borchetta

“Take the money and run.”

Savvy, slick, new-school business man who Svengali’s a young starlet into signing with him so he can springboard to a seven-figure music executive career in the coming years. Glenn is a Scott Borchetta starter kit.

 

Aug
24

New Dale Watson Single & “I Lie When I Drink” Album Coming

August 24, 2012 - By Trigger  //  News  //  12 Comments

If there’s one thing you can expect from Dale Watson, it’s a new album on the way. With 21 major albums under his belt in 17 years, the iconic pompadoured Texas music legend has been nothing less than prolific.

His last album The Sun Sessions with its Johnny Cash-infused vibe came out in October of 2011 so you’d figure it’s about time for him to release some new material, and that’s exactly what he’ll do on Monday (8-27) when he debuts his new single “Daughter’s Wedding Song”; the first single from his upcoming album I Lie When I Drink due out in early 2013.

“I’m often asked to recommend a song for the father/daughter dance,” Dale says. “I usually say Merle Haggard’s “Farmers Daughter.’” The only problem is that, in the song, the mother is gone. So one day I told this couple I would write one special for the dance. While writing, I drew on my two daughters for inspiration and started crying halfway through it. I figured if it hit my heart strings, maybe it’ll hit the heart strings of fathers and daughters everywhere.”

Like The Sun Sessions, I Lie When I Drink will be released on Red House Records. And for those that can’t wait for some Dale, he will be playing at the Muddy Roots Festival in Cookeville, TN Friday night (8-31), right after Little Jimmy Dickens, and right before Wayne “The Train” Hancock.

Here’s Dale performing the song “I Lie When I Drink”

May
17

ABC’s New “Nashville” Drama Could Have Big Impact

May 17, 2012 - By Trigger  //  News  //  29 Comments

ABC has announced that a new TV drama called Nashville has been picked up for their Fall season. The show intimately involves Nashville’s mainstream music scene, with former Friday Night Lights actress Connie Britton portraying an aging country star trying not to be overtaken by the up-and-coming young starlet Hayden Panettiere from NBC’s Heroes. The pilot was written by Callie Khouri of Thelma & Louise fame and shot in Nashville last month.

A look at the trailer for the series seems to hint that Nashville will follow a similar story to the 2010 country music movie Country Strong starring Gwyneth Paltrow, though Nashville may even get more specific and more salacious, with the young Hayden Panettiere nailing anything not tied down, and producers mentioning Auto-tune out in the open. The themes and characters look like they could have been ripped out of a Dale Watson song or a story on Saving Country Music.

The biggest difference between Country Strong and Nashville will be that the TV version dramatizing country music’s eternal culture war will have to fill hour-long segments for a whole season. Old vs. young, twang vs. pop may be explored with greater detail than ever before, though many times television dramas as they age (hospital dramas for example) tend to veer away from the hard information that creates their setting, and focus more on love threads and side stories between characters.

It will take the airing of the show to really flesh out what Nashville‘s impact will be on the greater country music world, but just from watching the trailer it is safe to say that country music’s culture war has gone mainstream, a development that has been evolving for a while now. The idea that country’s aging talent is being unfairly pushed aside and its roots being neglected for the crossover flavor of the month is no longer a fringe, underground idea. It now goes without saying, and to Nashville‘s similarity to Country Strong, it may even be cliche.

This also speaks to the commercialization of the anti-Nashville sentiment. A few years ago, Music Row and Nashville’s major labels saw this anti-Nashville trend growing, and to commercialize it and reintegrate those fans they launched a new generation of “Outlaws” with songs complaining about pop stars and how nothing on the radio is country anymore, in songs that ironically sound way more like rock and originate from the same labels as the pop country performers do. Nashville could be the television version of anti-Nashville monetization. That leads us to who the big money is behind the Nashville series: Gaylord Entertaiment.

Gaylord is the owner of The Grand Ole Opry (which is featured prominently in the pilot) and many other core Nashville country music and non-music institutions, and reportedly is a big producer and financier of Nashville. Anyone concerned about what impact this series may have on country music and the city of Nashville should focus in on this relationship first.

The Grand Ole Opry stage is one of the biggest theaters in the country music culture war, with constant battles being fought over who deserves stage time and membership to country’s most important institution. It could be argued that without the drama Gaylord has already created through its management of The Opry, the Nashville series would not be possible. It seems only appropriate that the initial conflict between the series’ two main characters in the pilot happens at The Opry. Instead of answering or resolving the issues many country fans and performing artists have with the way The Opry is run, they appear to be using it as plot for a television show.

It is in the portrayal of the cultural divide that polarizes country music where it will be deemed if the Nashville series’ impact will be positive or not on country music, on The Grand Ole Opry, and on the city of Nashville. It appears from the pilot that a mayoral race is involved, so Nashville’s political dynamic will be part of the drama as well. As someone who grew up in Dallas, I can attest to how a single television series can create very strong, and sometimes very negative stereotypes about a city and its people that sometimes takes generations to erode and unwind afterwards.

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UPDATE 10/09/12: Scott Borchetta and his Big Machine label continue to empire build in Music City. They have signed an exclusive deal with ABC to market the music from Nashville.

Music has to feel organic, appropriate and authentic when it is paired with on-camera visuals,” said Scott Borchetta in a statement about the deal. “When I saw the pilot for ‘Nashville,’ I knew instantly we needed to be part of it. Not only does our partnership make sense given how closely the show reflects the nature of the music business, but the show’s talent has created some incredible music.”

The music on the show is being produced by industry powerhouse T Bone Burnett. Some of the original songs for the series have been written by The Civil Wars, Lucinda Williams, and Elvis Costello.

Saving Country Music will be keeping a close eye on Nashville.

May
10

Vintage Album Review – Roger Wallace’s ‘Hillbilly Heights’

May 10, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  17 Comments

In 1999, a true underground in country music was coming into form. Neo-traditionalists and country punks moved into lower Broadway in Nashville, revitalizing the area and establishing a home base for young, like-minded musicians offering up an alternative to whatever was going on a mile away on Music Row. BR549‘s residency at Robert’s Western World was in full swing, and Layla’s Bluegrass Inn was up and running with bands like Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers and Hillbilly Casino.

Then the grandson of Hank Williams put out a debut album with a neo-traditional style that featured three songs from an Austin, TX artist named Wayne “The Train” Hancock, taking the country music underground transcontinental. Along with Dale Watson, another superb Austin, TX performer, this three-headed monster started rattling the cage of the country music world, gnashing their teeth at Nashville and name dropping each other in songs and on stage.

Amongst all the bustle and big names in 1999, another superlative Austin talent released a debut album a little more quietly. The idea that there’s an amazing, world-class music talent on every corner of Austin, TX is not a myth, and Roger Wallace is a testament to that. But what many of Austin’s legendary local artists don’t have that Roger Wallace does is that one album, that one work that stands out from the crowd and withstands the test of time.

Named for the semi-famous Austin apartment complex he was living in at the time, Hillbilly Heights is a timeless treasure of country music. This album could be put out today, or in 1975, and its music would still sound just as fresh and engaging and speak to everyday lives as it did in 1999. If space aliens came down and asked me to choose one album that represented country music, after shitting myself from the shock of being accosted by aliens, I very well may hand them over a copy of Hillbilly Heights, worried that a Hank Williams album from the 50′s may be too classic for their taste, or a more modern album too pop.

But like so many of these Austin country music stars, self-promotion and the world outside of the Austin corridor is an afterthought with Roger, and that is how Hillbilly Heights and Roger have remained obscure to so many outside of Texas. A check of Roger’s website shows he hasn’t updated his show dates since George W. has his legs propped up in Oval Office. Austin becomes so comfortable for many musicians, it’s hard for them to leave or focus their energy elsewhere.

Hillbilly Heights is an album of instant classics. Populated with 9 Wallace originals and a smart batch of covers, it never slips up, never reveals a bad moment, it just keeps giving pure classic country gold. The formula for making good classic country these days is to get it to sound like the old stuff, yet to bring fresh themes and approaches to the songs. That’s easier said than done, but exactly what Roger Wallace does, like with the song “Don’t Nobody Love Me (Like My Baby)” that starts out as a good love song, but then reveals itself to be an even greater murder ballad.

I wouldn’t call Roger’s voice “big”, but what do all the ladies tell us? Roger’s size doesn’t matter because of how he uses it, with an acute sense of inflection and timing in his pentameter to squeeze the ultimate amount of pain and suffering out of his stories. And like Roger displays in his original “Nobody But Me”, he can go way up there in the register to really bring out the sorrow in a song. Writing songs that compliment your vocal strengths is something most artists struggle with. This is one of Roger’s greatest assets. Even in 1999, Roger was carrying an aged pain in his voice well beyond his years, yet he delivers it with a smoothness and confidence.

The late 90′s, early 2000′s here ten years later feel like the golden-era of the classic country resurgence, with some fans of Hank3 wishing he’d go back in that era, with Wayne Hancock fans finally wearing out their copies of Thunderstorms & Neon Signs, Dale Watson never reaching the same energy of Live in London again, and BR549 long since defunct. If you wish you could go back in time and re-live those same feelings or find out what you missed, Roger Wallace and Hillbilly Heights is where to start.

Today Roger Wallace can be seen on virtually any night of the week in Austin, plying his craft at legendary venues like The Continental Club, The Broken Spoke, and Ginny’s Little Longhorn, the same haunts Dale Watson keeps residence at when he’s in town as well. So why doesn’t he receive the same recognition as Dale and others nationally? One can’t say, but one listen to Hillbilly Heights will tell you that Roger Wallace is world class.

Two Guns Up!

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Preview & Purchase Tracks from Hillbilly Heights

Red Eye Gravy
MacMillan Guitars
Bobby Joe Owens
Old Soul Radio Show
Hillgrass Bluebilly
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