Browsing articles tagged with " Johnny Cash"
Jan
6

Craig Wayne Boyd’s “My Baby’s Got A Smile On Her Face”

January 6, 2015 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  26 Comments

craig-wayne-boyd-my-babys-got-a-smile-on-her-face

Ah yes, Craig Wayne Boyd, reigning champion of NBC’s singing competition The Voice, padawan of Blake Shelton, and touted by many to be the next great hope for traditional country returning to the mainstream. But to accomplish any of this, he was going to have to successfully hurdle the recent history of winners of The Voice of melting right back into abject obscurity after their big win. The Voice was a bit more savvy this time however, or someone was, learning from the show’s previous track record, and helped Boyd out by releasing his first single called “My Baby’s Got A Smile On Her Face” while the memory of the big win was still in the mind of viewers.

Signed to Scott Borchetta’s and Big Machine’s Dot Records imprint, Boyd has seemingly transitioned from amateur reality show contestant to full-fledged professional performer fairly seamlessly. This development also sees Scott Borchetta entering the reality show performer space with both feet, since he’s already signed up to be the mentor on American Idol and committed to sign the eventual winner of the upcoming season. Borchetta might be making the power move to monopolize this television reality show talent. And if his initial results with Craig Wayne Boyd are any indication, the strategy could be quite successful for him.

Boyd’s “My Baby’s Got A Smile On Her Face” became only the second single to debut at #1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart ever. The other #1 debut was Garth Brooks’ “More Than A Memory” from 2007. This development had the media going crazy, ready to annoint Craig as the genre’s next superstar. And this is just the beginning of Craig’s chart success. He was able to get Johnny Cash’s “I Walk The Line” all the way to #1 on Billboard’s Digital Songs chart, and #15 on the Hot Country Songs chart earlier in December. Boyd also took the old Gospel standard “Old Rugged Cross” to #7 on the charts, and Merle Haggard’s “Workin’ Man Blues” to #37 previously, bolstered by the social media bonanza that ensues through The Voice voting system that also rewards contestants for iTunes sales performance.

All of this bodes very well for Boyd bucking the trend of being a blowout in the professional ranks after the big win on The Voice. But looking at the charts the week after the release of these songs, and it exposes the boom and bust, super-famous-and-immediately-obscure-again nature of these reality show contestants. Where “My Baby’s Got A Smile On Her Face” was making history on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart last week, this week it has completely dropped out of the Top 25. Poof, it’s gone. Sales of the song dropped a whopping 94% in its second week, from 99,000 to 6,000. And this same fate was met by all of the other Boyd chart successes. The hyper attention of The Voice just doesn’t hold up over a multi-week time scale; it is exposed by it.

What “My Baby’s Got A Smile On Her Face” also doesn’t deliver on is the promise of Craig Wayne Boyd bringing a more traditional sound to the table he says is inspired by the likes of Merle Haggard and Hank Jr. “My Baby’s Got A Smile On Her Face” is very, very pedestrian, with a pallid, and predicable rock guitar sonic base, and a simplistic lyrical offering indicative of adult contemporary Keith Urban-style safeness. The only country instrumentation comes in at the 1:20 mark when a fiddle briefly shows up, while the lyrics never trend toward anything country-themed. The song is not bad as much as it’s just superfluous and forgettable, paralleling the chart trend that saw such a precipitous fall off.

With all the hoopla around the Craig Wayne Boyd win, the question kept being if new music after the show would hold up to the hype. It’s just one song, but so far it hasn’t. Boyd also had no hand in writing the song, despite this being one of his selling points. It was penned by Mark Marchetti and Stephanie Jones, and produced by Blake Shelton.

This is going to sound like complete poppycock to many, but studying musical performance for many years, you begin to notice that when artists are singing with forced emotion, they raise their eyebrows. And when artists are performing with true earnestness and emotion, their eyebrows lower and bear down. In the video for “My Baby’s Got A Smile On Her Face,” Craig Wayne Boy’s eyebrows are reaching for the sky, and the scenes reinforce the song’s sort of clean, safe, adult contemporary style.

Yes it’s just one song, and 1st singles tend to reach for the widest audience while Boyd’s eventual album cuts may deliver on the promise of a more traditional sound from the (potentially) burgeoning star. But “My Baby’s Got A Smile On Her Face” is as forgettable as The Voice the week after the finale.

1 1/4 of 2 Guns Down.

Jan
3

Album Review – Roger Alan Wade’s “Bad News Knockin’”

January 3, 2015 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  34 Comments

roger-alan-wadeOnce again Roger Alan Wade makes his case for being one of the most criminally-underrated songwriters of our generation, releasing his newest album Bad News Knockin’ right before the end of 2014 through Johnny Knoxville Records, and rocketing himself near the top for the most notable songwriting efforts for all of last year.

As Roger will say himself, “Thank God for nepotism,” but the truth is Wade was making a name for himself from his own sweat as a songwriter in Nashville well before his crazy first cousin Johnny Knoxville was getting zapped by cattle prods, or putting Wade’s songs in his successful series of Jackass movies. The fact the two first cousins are famous (or in Wade’s case, mostly famous), is purely coincidental, and though Roger Alan Wade may not have the legacy and recognition of the Guy Clark’s and John Prine’s to the outside world (at least not yet), to others he’s a mastermind, and he continues to bolster his catalog from an undying hunger to match the licks of his songwriting heroes with each new release.

If there was a theme to Bad News Knockin’, contentment would be it. Don’t bother Wade with your schemes of how to get him to the big time, or pity him that he never made it there before. Wade is perfectly content with releasing acoustic albums that just feature him and his guitar, instead of sticking his nose in the hustle of trying to get recognized by releasing big production records, or by trying to pry the closed doors of Nashville open to land some commercially-oriented cuts in the current miserable climate.

Back in the day working for a publisher, Roger Alan Wade racked up selected songwriting credits with legends like Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, George Jones, Hank Williams Jr., and Johnny Cash, including Hank Jr.’s #1 “Country State of Mind” from 1986. He’s been there and done that, had opportunities to rub elbows with his heroes, had some successes many songwriters and performers only dream of, and is happy now to just write songs for himself and for those who care to listen. He’ll call up his fellow Knoxville native Peewee Moore to play some lead guitar with him on a local TV or radio station, or leave town for a short stint of shows from time to time. Otherwise, he’s cool with staying at home and sewing his craft, and hoping to entice enough people to listen to keep his simple life of privacy and family afloat.

As RAW says on one of Bad News Knockin‘s offerings,

I just want me a yellow house in the country, way back off the highway
A swing on a screened-in front porch, a hammock in the hickory shade
I guess success to some folks, ain’t the same as it is for me
I’d count myself one wealthy man, for a yellow house in the country

roger-alan-wade-bad-news-knockinFollowing this theme, Bad News Knockin’ feels like a very personal album from Wade, even more so than his recent releases like DeGuello Motel and Southbound Train that strike a much deeper chord compared to some of his earlier albums at the height of the Jackass era—albums that featured songs like the irreverent “Butt Ugly Slut” or “Fryin’ Bacon Nekkid.” In the new song “Years Ago,” Wade expends no effort to make his personal story into fiction, while “I Lived The Life” once again sounds a thankful chord for what he’s been able to accomplish in his career.

I lived the life, I chased the dream. Even if I could, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Been more than worth, the sacrifice. Don’t cry for me, I lived the life.

Bad News Knockin’ is reflective, but Roger’s not ready to be put out to the songwriting pasture just yet. “Red Shoes Blues” ingeniously makes use of women’s obsession with footwear into a form of flattery that will fit snug with many female listeners. He takes an older song of his called “Warm Spanish Wine” from an era when others were trying to make him into a marketable commodity, and makes it soar despite the stripped-down approach, marking not just one of the best songs, but one of the best performances of this album.

And despite the stern, almost defiant countenance Wade sports on the cover with the beads of sweat bubbling on his brow like Johnny Cash at San Quentin, and the title which seems to hint this album might be brazen and hard-edged, there’s multiple gospel moments on Bad News Knockin’; something that Wade continues to call on more and more as he ages. Using witty allusions and biblical locations to deftly craft songs that are more than just preachy sermons, these religious tunes showcase Wade’s songwriting skills just as much as his secular material.

The Roger Alan Wade proponent in me still wishes Roger had the drive to flesh out his music a little bit more to make the job of enticing folks to listen a little easier. But if you’re not intimidated to listening to the prototype, the songwriter in the raw, the words and wood and wire of an original inspiration and story and nothing more, the Roger Alan Wade experience can be quite a fulfilling one.

1 3/4 of 2 Guns Up.

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Preview & Purchase Tracks from Bad News Knockin’

Jan
1

Bass Player & Writer of “Long Tall Texan” Henry Strzelecki Passes Away

January 1, 2015 - By Trigger  //  News  //  11 Comments

henry-strzeleckiTragic news out of Nashville where where prolific and beloved bass player Henry Strzelecki has passed away after being struck by a vehicle while out for a walk Monday, December 22nd. Strzelecki experienced severe injuries including major head trauma in the accident, and was in a coma over the holidays. He eventually passed away from the injuries on December 30th.

“Needless to say, this Christmas has brought a new perspective for our family,” said Henry’s niece Heather Barnes, speaking for the family. “At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what present you got, or how the turkey tastes, it matters who you’re with. Look around at your loved ones and appreciate them for who they are. They are the best presents you’ll ever get.”

Henry Strzelecki was an elite bass player in country music, playing in Hee Haw’s “Million Dollar Band,” the “Nashville Superpickers,” and over his storied career, playing bass for Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Chet Atkins, Loretta Lynn, Ray Charles, Roy Orbison, Jim Reeves, Boxcar Willie, George Strait, Elvis, Charlie Rich, and many more. Some noted studio sessions that involved Henry Strzelecki include Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde, and Roy Orbison’s iconic song “Pretty Woman.” Strzelecki also played on the very last recording session with Louis Armstrong in Nashville produced by “Cowboy” Jack Clement.

Strzelecki was originally from Birmingham, Alabama, graduated from Jones Valley High School in 1958, and began playing country music in his teen years, recording with Baker Knight on Decca Records and playing in a group called The Four Flickers with his brother Larry. He also had a publishing and production company in Nashville and was nominated for Bassman of the Year at the 23rd Academy of Country Music Awards.

But the most identifiable contribution by Henry Strzelecki might have not involved his bass playing, but his songwriting. Strzelecki was the songwriter for the novelty song “Long Tall Texan,” first performed by The Four Flickers in 1959, and later recorded and released by artists such as The Beach Boys, Lyle Lovett, and many more. The catchy comedy tune has been tickling funny bones for over 50 years, and promises to continue to do so for years to come.

A “Celebration of Life” will be held for Henry on January 17th at 2 PM at the Pennington United Methodist Church in Nashville.

RIP Henry Strzelecki

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Singing with Jim Reeves

Henry Strzelecki’s “Long Tall Texan”

Dec
29

The Biggest Stories of 2014

December 29, 2014 - By Trigger  //  News  //  10 Comments

2014 was a year of great flux in country music. Where 2013 was dominated by public feuds and outcries by many country performers about the direction of the music, 2014 became the year things began to be done about many of the problems plaguing the genre. With Bro-Country as the battleground, the fight to return some balance to the country format began to make headway, and many of the initiatives launched in 2014, and many of the partnerships made and trends started may affect country music in profound ways in the coming years. Meanwhile 2014 was also a particularly violent year when it came to concerts and beyond, and saw the emergence and re-emergence of artists who will be very important to country music moving forward.

Following are the eleven biggest news stories of 2014. PLEASE NOTE: These are chosen and the order picked by two major factors 1) The importance of the story 2) The amount of traffic and interest in the story evidenced through analytical data on Saving Country Music, sometimes aggregated over multiple stories on the same subject if they exist.

Click on the orange, underlined fields to be taken to the specific stories.


#11 Legendary Artists Setting Records on Billboard’s Albums Charts

willie-nelson-band-of-brothersAs artists whose fandoms represent one of the last bastions of the public that actually buy albums, legendary performers like Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, and even Billy Joe Shaver set records in 2014 on Billboard’s album charts. Unfortunately new chart rules will likely put a damper on the fun for 2015, but the year that past saw older artists receiving renewed recognition.

Willie Nelson’s Band of Brothers album became his first #1 in 28 years, and his highest showing ever on Billboard’s all genre Billboard 200 chart, coming in at #6. Dolly Parton’s May release Blue Smoke gave Dolly her first Top 10 on the Billboard 200 of her entire career when she came in at #6. She also charted at #2 on the Country Albums chart. Johnny Cash’s posthumous release of his lost album Out Among The Stars also saw surprising chart success, debuting at #1 in country, and #3 on the Billboard 200. And Billy Joe Shaver charted for the first time ever, with Long In The Tooth coming in at #19 on the Country Albums chart.


#10 The Wayne Mills Autopsy Report Released

wayne-mills-2The autopsy of slain country music artist Wayne Mills was released, revealing that the star was shot in the back of the head from a far range by bar owner Chris Ferrell, who is currently awaiting trial on 2nd degree murder charges. The autopsy revealed Wayne Mills had also sustained multiple injuries as part of the incident. Wayne’s 4th and 5th ribs were broken, and he had abrasions on his forehead, temple, scalp (unassociated with the gunshot), and contusions on his chest, arms, forearms, left thigh, and right knee.

The summary of the autopsy states,

Autopsy findings are significant for an entrance gunshot wound on the posterior parietal scalp with fragment exit and injury to scalp, skull, and brain. A bullet is recovered in association with this gunshot wound. Associated injuries include scalp, subdural, and subarachnoid hemorrhage, fractures to the right frontal and parietal bones, cortical and white matter contusions of the brain, and hemorrhage throughout the wound path. Other injuries include abrasions of the left side of the forehead, left temple, posterior occipital scalp, and abdomen, left-sided rib fractures, and contusions of the lateral chest, arms, forearms, left thigh, and right knee. Evidence of therapy and tissue procurement is noted.

The cause of death is a gunshot wound of the head, and the manner of death is homicide.

Read Full Report


#9 A Drunk Toby Keith Blows Show in Indiana

toby-keith-red-solo-cupOn September 13th, Toby Keith made a tour stop at the Klipsch Music Center in Noblesville, Indiana just outside of Indianapolis on his “Shut Up & Hold On” tour, and according to many of the concert goers, Toby was too drunk to perform, put on a terrible show, and some fans demanded their money back. A cavalcade of attendees took to Twitter and Facebook to complain about Toby Keith forgetting words, and generally stumbling through his performance.

Later video emerged of Toby Keith stumbling through a rendition of “Courtesy of the Red, White, & Blue.” Keith can be clearly heard heavily slurring his words and at times trailing off, until at the end of the line, “So we can sleep in peace at night when we lay down our heads,” he descends into an inaudible garble, inspiring the videographer to exclaim, “Oh God!”. Toby Keith and his publicist refused to acknowledge the incident despite it becoming a big story on local Indianapolis news channels.


#8 Male Country Stars Come Out As Gay

ty-herndonCountry star Ty Herndon—known for his handful of mid 90′s hits such as “What Mattered Most,” “I Want My Goodbye Back,” and “Living In A Moment”—came out as gay on November 20th, making him the first openly gay male country music star in the mainstream in the history of the genre. Herndon says one of the things that motivated him coming out was seeing Kacey Musgraves win the CMA Song of the Year for “Follow Your Arrow,” saying that he welled up in tears at the win. “I felt so proud of my city. I hope that trend continues; I pray it does.” Ty’s decision also motivated former child country star Billy Gilman to come out as gay in a five minute video.

However one of the most interesting narratives to come out of the coming out announcements was just how much of a non-story it was. Aside from being the lead story on Entertainment Tonight and touching off mild interest on the internet, the announcements seemed to come as a shock to very few, and didn’t stimulate the type of vitriol some expected from the traditionally conservative music format. It still take a more active and mainstream male country artists coming out while he was still commercially relevant to see if country has finally moved on from its perceived gay stigma.

It was also revealed in 2014 that Brandy Clark was gay, but she took a more subtle and respectful approach to the sensitive subject.


#7 New Hank Williams “I Saw The Light” Biopic Announced

tom-hiddleston-hank-3It was big enough news that the long-awaited biopic covering the life of Hank Williams was coming, and that the producers were setting out to make it the definitive movie work on the Hillbilly Shakespeare based off of Colin Escott’s acclaimed biography, with fully-licensed rights to use the original music for the film from Sony ATV. But then as the cast began to be revealed, and specifically that British-born actor Tom Hiddleston would be the one portraying Hank, controversy brewed about the selection of a non-Southerner, especially with Hank’s grandson, Hank Williams III, who publicly criticized the casting.

Then when a video was released of Hiddleston singing some of the Hank Williams songs he’s expected to perform live in the film at a festival with mentor Rodney Crowell, the controversy started anew. Nonetheless, the movie rolled on, shooting in Shreveport, Louisiana beginning in late October and lasting for about six weeks. With a release date roughly scheduled for late 2015, and big expectations for the film as a potential Oscar contender, I Saw The Light might be one of the biggest news stories of 2015 as well.


#6 The Rise of Sturgill Simpson

sturgill-simpson-metamodern-sounds-in-country-musicThe rise of Sturgill Simpson could be classified as meteoric, and his dramatic ascent in 2014—from being picked up by Zac Brown Band as an opener, to playing Letterman and The Tonight Show, to being put at the top on many end-of-year lists and receiving a Grammy nomination—is virtually unparalleled in the modern country music world for an independent artist. His 2014 album Metamodern Sound in Country Music has captured the imaginations of many, and given them hope about the future of the country genre. And maybe most importantly, Sturgill Simpson has made fans wonder where he might be headed in 2015 and beyond.

READ: The Big Lessons of Sturgill Simpson’s Success


#5 The Return of Garth Brooks

garth-brooksWhen the best selling artist in country music ever, and the 3rd highest-selling artist of all time comes out of retirement after 15 years away, it is going to cause some reverberations, and that’s exactly what Garth Brooks did when he officially announced a new album and a world tour at a July 10th press conference in Nashville. But Garth’s return hasn’t been all triumphant and pretty. It started off with a debacle in Dublin, when five planned shows were cut down to three by local authorities, resulting in Garth Brooks canceling all of the scheduled performances for which an entire custom-made video presentation and stage setup had been procured and shipped to Ireland on 18 semi-trailers.

Subsequently the sales of Garth’s comeback album Man Against Machine started off fairly lackluster, though being the savvy marketeer Garth Brooks is, sales have stayed strong through the Christmas buying season and are beginning to accumulate into decent numbers. Meanwhile despite Garth’s first single “People Loving People” flopping on radio, he’s selling out live shows left and right, and regularly for multiple dates in the same location as people flock to take in the live Garth experience.

Garth’s return has not been without its setbacks and shortcomings, but his presence has still been felt strongly throughout the country music world, and he promises to remain an important figure in the genre moving forward.


#4 SCM Declares Florida Georgia Line’s Anything Goes the Worst Album Ever

florida-georgia-line-anything-goesThough maybe not a big “story” in the greater country music world, it was the most-read story on Saving Country Music in history, and by a wide margin, being liked and shared on Facebook over 75,000 times, tweeted nearly 700 times, receiving almost 500 comments, and being viewed nearly 500,000 times.

Anything Goes can slay all comers when it comes to its heretofore unattainable degree of peerless suckitude. In a word, this album is bullshit. Never before has such a refined collection of strident clichés been concentrated in one insidious mass. Never before have the lyrics to an album evidenced such narrowcasted pseudo-mindless incoherent drivel. Never before have such disparate and diseased influences been married so haphazardly in a profound vacuum of taste, and never have all of these atrocities been platooned together to be proffered to the public without someone, anyone with any bit of conscience and in a position of power putting a stop to this poisoning of the listening public.

“Not to get all old man on your ass, but most of the time I don’t even understand what the hell these dudes are saying. Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard have their own language, partial to the most grammatically-challenged and stupefying vocabulary lurking in the dankest sewers of the English dialect, but not residing firmly in any specific one of them so no truly proper translation can be obtained. It’s like Pig Latin for douchewads—understood by them and them only. And only with the perfect deficiency of brain cells will their concoction of Ebonics, metrosexual douche speak, and stagnant gene pool rural jargon become anything resembling coherent to the human ear.”

Read Full Review


#3 Violence, Arrests, Medical Issues, and Death at Country Music Concerts

pittsburgh-trash-luke-bryan-5The summer of 2014 at country music’s mainstream concerts became one big rolling narrative about fights, arrests, hospitalizations, rape, stabbings, and even two deaths, all which occurred in a few short months during the height of country’s outdoor concert season. It almost felt like the media was embellishing all the violence with the way each week was punctuated with a new headline. “55 People Were Arrested, and 22 Hospitalized” in what local authorities characterized as a “mass casualty” event at a Keith Urban concert in Massachusetts on July 26th. Once again an annual event in Pittsburgh at Heinz Field resulted in huge amounts of trash, as well as many arrests and hospitalizations, even though the event the previous year had drawn large amounts of negative media coverage for similar problems.

Three people were stabbed at We Fest in Minnesota, a woman was gang raped at Michigan’s Faster Horses Festival, a drunk driver ran over a police officer at a Jason Aldean concert in Hartford, and amongst a myriad of other disturbing reports at country concerts, a man was found dead in a dumpster after Jason Aldean’s Cleveland concert, thought to be the cause of over intoxication, and another man died at a Hank Jr. concert after he was shoved and his head hit the concrete, though it was later determined it was likely by accident and not foul play.

Meanwhile the artists were not immune from injury themselves. Luke Bryan had three stage falls in 2014, Garth Brooks had two, Tim McGraw violently slapped a woman who ripped off a portion of his jeans, and Dustin Lynch got hit in the face with a full can of beer. 2014 was eventful at country concerts to say the least, making many wonder if it is the depravity in the music leading to such behavior. Without question 2015 will be one to watch to see if the country concert issues improve, or worsen.


#2 NASH Icon & The Impending Country Radio Format Split

nash-iconWho would have ever dreamed, even at the beginning of 2014, that we could be faced with a scenario where the radio format for country music would be splitting in two, and this action would see the return of many of the older names and songs so unceremoniously shuffled to the side in the mainstream format in recent years? Heretofore the trend has been for country music to become more young, and more current every year, shoving older artists and music aside, even when they continue to prove their commercial viability. Research from radio analysts had been telling country radio for years they were shooting themselves in the foot by abandoning more classic-sounding music, and finally in 2014, they began to listen.

Two huge entities, not traditionally considered friends of traditional country music in Cumulus Media and Big Machine Records, joined forces to launch NASH Icon—a new radio format that includes older country music alongside newer music, and a record label that is looking to add new life to the careers of forgotten artists. Meanwhile simply the idea of NASH Icon stimulated other radio stations to adopt a more “classic” country format. Garth-FM (later The Hawk) was launched, and so was Hank FM, and many other country stations oriented towards older country music, fueling speculation that the movement will eventually stimulate a split of the country format. Furthermore, the NASH Icon affiliate in Nashville is consistently beating its mainstream competitors, including Bobby Bones’ home of WSIX.

Now Cumulus is even planning to add a NASH Classics format. Though none of these stations might be the cup of tea for the most hardened of traditional country listeners, it is a step in the right direction, and breeding a renewed love in more classic-sounding country music we haven’t seen in years. The impending radio format split might very well be the biggest development in the effort to save country music in many years.


#1 The Rise and Fall of Bro-Country

bro-country-rip2014 started off with so-called “Bro-Country” as all the rage in popular country music, and ended with Bro-Country still somewhat relevant, but heavily on the wane and declining to a whimper while an anti Bro-Country tune in the form of Maddie & Tae’s “Girl In A Country Song” shattered all manner of records by becoming a #1 hit on country radio.

In late September, Saving Country Music wrote an obituary for Bro-Country, saying in part,

“On Monday, September 22nd, the subset of American country music known to many by its nickname ‘Bro-Country,’ died at its home in Nashville, TN. It was three-years-old. Bro-Country is survived by its family and close friends, including Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean, Brantley Gilbert, Cole Swindell, Chase Rice, Thomas Rhett, Dallas Davidson, and dozens of other lesser-known country music artists and songwriters. Though the specific cause of death has yet to be ruled on by the local medical examiner, preliminary findings appear to show that Bro-Country had been exhaustively over-utilized over the last few months and years until it finally passed away from overexposure. Bro-Country’s death is definitely being considered the result of ‘foul play.’”

Read Full Bro-Country Obituary

 

Dec
22

Craig Wayne Boyd’s New Challenge: Abject Obscurity

December 22, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  38 Comments

craig-wayne-boydNBC’s hit singing competition The Voice crowned a new champion last week, and for the first time in the competition’s history, the winner is a country male. Craig Wayne Boyd slayed all comers on his way to being crowned the Season 7 victor, and now goes about the task of doing the distinction justice by trying to become a successful country music star beyond the spotlight of the television franchise. But as we’ve seen from the previous winners of The Voice, the challenge of overcoming obscurity in a crowded entertainment world isn’t resolved as the winner of a reality show, it is just beginning.

It’s a slightly unfair characterization that the winners of these reality shows don’t really put the work in like average Joe artists who have to climb their way up the ladder to earn a living in music. Though it’s condensed during the run of a television season, reality show contestants are put through a grindstone and unparalleled vetting process many in the mainstream of music could never persevere through and end up on top. In the case of Craig Wayne Boyd, he actually did do his time hitting the honky tonks, playing empty bar rooms, and trying to make it in music the hard way before being selected by The Voice. But his hardest challenge might still lie ahead. Because if he’s to become a successful music star as a champion of The Voice, he’d arguably the the first in the show’s history.

Forget that The Voice is one of the highest-rated shows on NBC, and one of the most popular shows in all of television. The legacy of the competition is for the winners to sink right back down into obscurity after the season finale. And in fairness, this is the fate befalling many of the recent winners of American Idol as well. This is the same thing Saving Country Music pointed out in May when another country artist, a more traditional country artist named Jake Worthington made it to The Voice finale.

Have you ever heard of Justin Guarini? How about Diana DeGarmo? Blake Lewis, anybody? Or how about Lee DeWyze? Does Dia Frampton ring a bell with anyone? Anyone? … Great for this kid [Jake Worthington], and great that good, real country music is being exposed to the masses through him. But how many times have we been through this exercise with one of these reality show contestants, wondering if they are the ones that will rise out of the unclean masses to save country music with big reality show exposure? …  But the reason that The ‘X’ Factor was canceled, the reason that ‘American Idol’ has seen dramatically-declining ratings, and ‘The Voice’ has remained stagnant, is because these competitions cannot consistently deliver winners that truly are American Idols, or that truly define “The Voice” of a generation.

Has anyone heard from Jake Worthington lately? And that was only back in May when Worthington made it to the very end of the show. But this is another problem for The Voice and its finalists: doubling up on the seasons—something mainstay judge Blake Shelton has complained about publicly. It creates even more winners crammed into the crowded talent field looking to become franchise stars.

On Thursday, TMZ ran a story on Craig Wayne Boyd under the dubious pretense that he was avoiding his fans. Whether it’s true or not (or God forbid, Mr. Boyd had somewhere to be and couldn’t spend a half hour taking selfies with gawking celebrity crotch sniffers), the underlying poke of the TMZ story is that nobody on the TMZ staff knew who the hell Craig Wayne Boyd was. And this was only 48 hours after his huge win on one of America’s most-watched TV shows. “All right, it’s that dude who just won ‘The Voice!’ What’s his name again, John Wayne Gasy?” the commentator chides at the beginning, and Boyd’s nondescript easy-to-forget name and likeness becomes the running gag throughout the piece.

These reality singing competitions have become so woefully inept at launching true stars, everywhere you turn, this is the punchline. And the reason it’s so funny is because it’s so true.

fake-martina-craig-wayne-boyd

Craig Wayne Boyd accomplished some things for true country music no other contestant on The Voice, or really any other reality competition has done before. His raising of awareness of Wayne Mills with his late season tribute to his old mentor was as touching as it was effective. Putting a Johnny Cash song back on the Billboard charts—a place it hadn’t been in over three decades—is also and accomplishment Craig Wayne Boys deserves credit for.

But now the lofty weight of obscurity has been firmly ensconced back above Craig Wayne Boyd’s head once again, and though his win on The Voice will always be a notch on his belt, he will have to go out there and prove his muster as a performer in the big scary mainstream country music world all over again. In the end, it’s all about the music, and Craig Wayne Boyd must prove it with successful albums and singles. Because not only will few be impressed by his win on The Voice, few will even remember it.

Dec
11

It’s Just Corb Lund & These Ponies (For Christmas This Year)

December 11, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  12 Comments

corb-lund-christmas

It’s Corb Lund’s strong ties to the authentic agrarian lifestyle on the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rocky Mountains that gives his music a lived-in perspective unique to a man who has his calloused fingers deep in what he sings about, and then marries these sentiments with his cunning use of language indicative of the old cowboy poets that has made Corb a country music treasure beyond Alberta and his Canadian homeland. Only a man who’s experienced the rigors and the loneliness of real ranch life can write formidable songs like the aching “September” or the humorous “Cows Around” found on his 2012 studio release Cabin Fever, and now he intermingles the inherent forlornness of life with the very true realities of equestrian duties in the new Christmas song “Just Me and These Ponies (for Christmas This Year).”

an-americana-christmas-001Christmas music is such a dicey proposition, and the farther you get away from the festive frau into either the gruffy country gut where sleigh bells sound grating, or the anti commercialization-leaning commoners of independent and Americana music, you tend to find even less reception for the annual December earaches. But none of this deterred New West Records from commissioning many of their own artists like John Prine, Emmylou Harris, Valerie June, and Nikki Lane, along with unwrapping some cataloged material from people like Johnny Cash and The Band to comprise the An Americana Christmas album released for this new holiday season. Corb Lund takes the point in promoting the album release with this new single, and a new video for his particular selection.

“Just Me and These Ponies” is a Christmas song for people who do not like Christmas songs, but still like country music and Corb Lund. And if you do happen to dig on a little ring ting tingling, you might find something to appreciate here too, even if the mood and perspective Corb works in is a dour one. Land locked in snow in the great frozen north, with plans either not laid or canceled for all of his familial cohorts, Corb tells the story of the lonely rancher trying to find some semblance of companionship from his stable of trusty steeds during a frigid Christmas holiday. Though the song is certainly written from some of Lund’s own experiences, the vessel of the story is an 80-year-old man snowed into his wooden ranch home. The music rises to to meet the passive emotional direst in the words with strings and comparably aching chord movements, while any sleigh bells are relegated to the extremities of the very beginning and end, almost as irony, or to further draw out the emotional tinge of the composition.

“Just Me and These Ponies” also utilizes a well-crafted video that contrasts the upper crust tuxedoed appearance of Corb in an antiseptic television studio, while an old man manning the wooden stables out in the cold ponders his lonely Yuletide fate.

It may not give Bing Crosby or Roy Rogers a run for their money, but “Just Me and These Ponies” might find warm company in the hearts of those who loathe such caroling, or don’t have any company of their own. And like all great Christmas songs, it may do so for years to come.

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Preview & Purchase Tracks from An Americana Christmas

Dec
10

Craig Wayne Boyd Puts Johnny Cash Back in the Charts

December 10, 2014 - By Trigger  //  News  //  33 Comments

craig-wayne-boydSay what you want about NBC’s reality show singing competition The Voice, or even one of this season’s top contestants Craig Wayne Boyd, but there’s no disputing now that his high-flying run towards the season finale of the show has resulted in an unexpected boost for The Man in Black. The former padawan of slain Outlaw music artist Wayne Mills—just like his current coach on the show Blake Shelton—Craig Wayne Boyd has called upon classic country material for the competition on numerous occasions, including on November 24th when he sang Johnny Cash’s “I Walk The Line” during the Top 10 live show. The song was done in tribute to Wayne Mills, who was killed just over a year ago by a bar owner who is awaiting trial on 2nd degree murder charges.

Craig Wayne Boyd’s performance was already charged enough with the emotion of the moment and the memory of Wayne hanging in the air, but now Boyd’s rendition of “I Walk The Line” has catapulted him, and Johnny Cash by proxy, to the top of the country music charts, aided by The Voice voting system which gives contestants credit if they register on the iTunes chart.

craig-wayne-boyd-johnny-cash-walk-the-line-001Right now “I Walk The Line” performed by Craig Wayne Boyd, and first written and recorded by Johnny Cash at Sun Studios in 1956, sits at the #1 spot on Billboard’s Country Digital Songs chart, beating out the big current singles right now from Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean, and Sam Hunt. The Country Digital Songs chart compiles the week’s most-downloaded songs as determined by Nielsen SoundScan.

craig-wayne-boyd-i-walk-the-line-hot-country-songsMaybe even more significant and historic, Craig Wayne Boyd’s “I Walk The Line” also came in at #15 on Billboard’s all-encompassing Hot Country Songs chart. The last time Johnny Cash himself had a song on the chart at all was in 2003 when his cover of Trent Reznor’s “Hurt” made it to #56. The last time Johnny Cash had a song in the Top 15 of the Hot Country Songs chart was 1981 with “The Barron.” Cash was also part of The Highwaymen’s #1 hit “Highwayman” in 1985.

Undoubtedly Craig Wayne Boyd’s version of  “I Walk The Line” will experience a precipitous free fall in the charts in the coming weeks, but not after it’s found its way onto scores of digital devices and been heard by millions of listeners. The efficacy of these singing shows at launching artists or making any material change in the music world is easy to call into question. But with Craig Wayne Boyd and “I Walk The Line,” there’s no questioning he was able to do a solid for the Man in Black not seen in a very long time.

Dec
3

The Top 100 Americana Albums Played on Radio in 2014

December 3, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Podcasting/Radio  //  11 Comments

americana-music-awards-associationThough 2014 still has another month to go, the end of November traditionally marks the end of the radio calendar in music, allowing us to look back and see who had the greatest impact on the format throughout the year. The Americana Music Association has just unveiled their list for the most played albums in 2014, and there’s quite a few surprises, and quite a few names traditionally considered country filling out the ranks.

Rosanne Cash leads all participants with her album The River & The Thread, followed by the much-anticipated comeback album from progressive bluegrass group Nickel Creek called A Dotted Line. Up-and-comers Nikki Lane, Lake Street Dive, and Shovels & Rope also made the Top 10, while Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music came in at #10 on the list.

Along with many of the well-recognized Americana names, country greats like Willie Nelson came in at #14, Johnny Cash at #32, Billy Joe Shaver at #42, Ray Benson at #67, Marty Stuart at #79, and Dolly Parton at #92. Americana stalwart Jim Lauderdale was the only name with multiple entries, with albums coming in at both #58 and #98.

The Americana airplay numbers are aggregated from 70 terrestrial radio stations, nationally syndicated radio shows, Sirius/XM satellite radio, and internet radio stations to come up with the final tallies.

Top 100 Most-Played Albums in Americana

  1. Rosanne Cash – The River & The Thread
  2. Nickel Creek – A Dotted Line
  3. Rodney Crowell – Tarpaper Sky
  4. Hard Working Americans – Hard Working Americans
  5. Old Crow Medicine Show – Remedy
  6. Nikki Lane – All Or Nothin’
  7. Lake Street Dive – Bad Self Portraits
  8. Shovels And Rope – Swimmin’ Time
  9. John Hiatt – Terms Of My Surrender
  10. Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds In Country Music
  11. Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin – Common Ground
  12. St. Paul & The Broken Bones – Half The City
  13. Parker Millsap – Parker Millsap
  14. Willie Nelson – Band Of Brothers
  15. Paul Thorn – Too Blessed To Be Stressed
  16. Lucinda Williams – Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone
  17. Trampled By Turtles – Wild Animals
  18. Various – A Tribute To Jackson Browne – Looking Into You
  19. Keb Mo – BLUESAmericana
  20. Secret Sisters – Put Your Needle Down
  21. John Fullbright – Songs
  22. Amos Lee – Mountains Of Sorrow, Rivers Of Song
  23. Jamestown Revival – Utah
  24. Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison – Our Year
  25. Jason Eady – Daylight & Dark
  26. Infamous Stringdusters – Let It Go
  27. Chuck Mead – Free State Serenade
  28. Sarah Jarosz – Build Me Up From Bones
  29. Billie Joe & Norah Jones – Foreverly
  30. Justin Townes Earle – Single Mothers
  31. Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams
  32. Johnny Cash – Out Among The Stars
  33. First Aid Kit – Stay Gold
  34. Carlene Carter- Carter Girl
  35. Devil Makes Three – I’m A Stranger Here
  36. Red Molly – The Red Album
  37. Duhks – Beyond The Blue
  38. Mastersons – Good Luck Charm
  39. Will Hoge – Never Give In
  40. Blackie and the Rodeo Kings – South
  41. Puss N Boots – No Fools, No Fun
  42. Billy Joe Shaver – Long In The Tooth
  43. Brandy Clark – 12 Stories
  44. Drive-By Truckers – English Oceans
  45. Carolina Story – Chapter Two
  46. Lee Ann Womack – The Way I’m Livin’
  47. Will Kimbrough – Sideshow Love
  48. Irene Kelley – Pennsylvania Coal
  49. Trigger Hippy – Trigger Hippy
  50. Shakey Graves – And The War Came
  51. Carolina Story – Chapter One
  52. Hurray For The Riff Raff – Small Town Heroes
  53. Chuck Prophet – Night Surfer
  54. Girls Guns & Glory – Good Luck
  55. Howlin’ Brothers – Trouble
  56. Blue Highway – The Game
  57. Amy LaVere – Runaway’s Diary
  58. Jim Lauderdale – I’m A Song
  59. Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – Give The People What They Want
  60. Black Prairie – Fortune
  61. Ruthie Foster – Promise Of A Brand New Day
  62. Whiskey Myers – Early Morning Shakes
  63. Robert Ellis – The Lights From The Chemical Plant
  64. Suzy Bogguss – Lucky
  65. Seth Walker – Sky Still Blue
  66. Felice Brothers – Favorite Waitress
  67. Ray Benson – A Little Piece
  68. Scott Miller – Big Big World
  69. String Cheese Incident – Song In My Head
  70. Lydia Loveless – Somewhere Else
  71. Mingo Fishtrap – On Time
  72. Haden Triplets – Haden Triplets
  73. Robert Cray Band – In My Soul
  74. Mike Farris – Shine For All The People
  75. Tommy Malone – Poor Boy
  76. Zoe Muth – World Of Strangers
  77. Greg Trooper – Incident on Willow Street
  78. Charlie Robison – High Life
  79. Marty Stuart – Saturday Night/Sunday Morning
  80. Various – Inside Llewyn Davis – Inside Llewyn Davis
  81. Old 97s – Most Messed Up
  82. Chris Smither – Still On The Levee
  83. Various – A Tribute To Born in the USA – Dead Man’s Town
  84. Deep Dark Woods – Jubilee
  85. Rod Picott – Hang Your Hopes On A Crooked Nail
  86. Steve Martin And The Steep Canyon Rangers – LIVE featuring Edie Brickell
  87. Janiva Magness  – Original
  88. Otis Gibbs – Souvenirs Of A Misspent Youth
  89. Avett Brothers – Magpie And The Dandelion
  90. Candi Staton – Life Happens
  91. Blue Rodeo – In Our Nature
  92. Dolly Parton – Blue Smoke
  93. Head And The Heart – Let’s Be Still
  94. Peter Mulvey – Silver Ladder
  95. John Mellencamp – Plain Spoken
  96. Laura Cantrell – No Way There From Here
  97. Band Of Heathens – Sunday Morning Record
  98. Jim Lauderdale  – Black Roses
  99. Mary Gauthier – Trouble & Love
  100. Hannah Aldridge – Razor Wire  

 

Nov
30

Roger Alan Wade to Release New Album “Bad News Knockin’”

November 30, 2014 - By Trigger  //  News  //  4 Comments

roger-alan-wade-bad-news-knockinSongwriter, Sirius XM DJ, and country music elder Roger Alan Wade will release his sixth studio album Bad News Knockin’ via Johnny Knoxville Records on December 16th, 2014. Produced by Knoxville and recorded by Dan Creech at Revolving Blackbird Sound in Santa Monica, CA, like most of Wade’s music the new album will feature just Roger, his guitar, and his original songs. Johnny Knoxville and Wade host the weekly Big Ass Happy Family Jubilee on Sirius XM’s Outlaw Country together.

“He inspires me constantly and he’s a tough taskmaster,” Roger said recently about Johnny Knoxville as producer on the Otis Gibbs Thanks For Giving A Damn podcast. “He’ll put up with anything as long as he knows you’re giving it your all. If he thinks you’re slacking man he’s got too much to do to waste his time. I love the way we make records…The only way we know when it’s good is when Knoxville gets chill bumps. Otherwise you keep it going. But if you do it one time and he gets chill bumps, don’t ask to do it again.”

Roger Alan Wade and Johnny Knoxville are first cousins, and Knoxville regularly features Wade’s humor-tinged songs in his movies. But when it comes to his studio albums, Wade can get deadly serious, and draws inspiration from songwriters like Guy Clark, John Prine, and Kris Kristofferson. His 2010 record DeGuello Motel won Saving Country Music 2010 Album of the Year, and his 2012 album Southbound Train was another standout songwriting effort.

“Beige cubicles spook me man,” Wade said to Otis Gibbs about Music Row’s current songwriting environment. “There’s so much about that I don’t understand. I’m not knocking it, I’m not making any judgements. I’m just saying it don’t work for me. Man I like writing them on the run. I like finding that place, wherever it may be, that you’re just holding the pen and it’s coming through you…I strive to be as honest with myself and others, especially when it comes down to asking them to listen to my song. If they’re going to give me three minutes of their life, I want them to know what’s on my mind, and what’s in my heart. And I’m not asking them to agree with me or like it, but you are telling them that it comes with one guarantee, that it’s honest. It may suck, but it’s honest.”

A fixture of the Chattanooga music scene, Wade has written songs recorded by George Jones, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and the #1 song by Hank Williams Jr. “Country State of Mind.”

Pre-Order Roger Alan Wade’s Bad News Knockin’

Bad News Knockin’ Track List:

  1. Bad News Knockin’
  2. Blame It All on the Roses
  3. Lonesome Sunday Blues
  4. Waitin’ on the Hummingbird
  5. The Ballad of Shine Marley
  6. Warm Spanish Wine
  7. Georgia Blues
  8. Yellow House in the Country
  9. Years Ago
  10. Things I Benn Blamed For
  11. I Lived the Life
  12. Red Shoes Blues
  13. Peace of Mind

Nov
24

NBC’s “The Voice” & Craig Wayne Boyd Tribute Wayne Mills

November 24, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  13 Comments

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UPDATE: Craig Wayne Boyd Puts Johnny Cash Back in the Charts with “I Walk The Line”

One year ago Sunday, 11-23, Outlaw country artist and songwriter Wayne Mills was killed—shot in the back of the head at the Pit & Barrel Bar in Nashville, TN. Now almost a year to the day of Wayne Mills’ death, one of the many artists that Wayne Mills mentored on their way up the ranks paid a touching tribute to the fallen star on Monday night’s (11-24) episode of NBC’s reality singing competition The Voice, arguably the most recognition the fiercely-independent Mills received his entire career.

Country rocker Craig Wayne Boyd from Mesquite, TX had previously shared the stage with Wayne Mills, as well as with mutual friend Jamey Johnson many times, but has been given the opportunity of his life by finding himself in the Top 10 of this year’s The Voice competition. Originally chosen by Blake Shelton and then stolen by judge Gwen Stefani, Craig Wayne Boyd was later stolen back by Blake Shelton. This was only appropriate, because Blake Shelton too was mentored by Wayne Mills early on in his career. While a struggling performer just trying to gain attention, Wayne Mills let Blake Shelton open for him and showed him the ropes of how to make it in country music. Though Wayne Mills is not considered a household name, many of the young artists he helped shepherd, like Blake Shelton, Craig Wayne Boyd, and Taylor Hicks, have gone on to great things. Wayne Mills was the prototype.

On Monday night’s episode, before Craig Wayne Boyd’s performance of Johnny Cash’s “I Walk The Line,” Craig Wayne took a replica of the now famous  “WM” necklace that Wayne Mills wore at all times (see above picture) from Wayne’s widow Carol, and presented it to Wayne’s former pupil, Blake Shelton. The circle was now completed, and then Craig Wayne Boyd sang “I Walk The Line” in a ballad style in tribute to Wayne Mills as eyes watered on the live set and in homes across the country.

“I’m not a country girl but I could see right away with you that you were a star,” his former coach Gwen Stefani said. Pharrell said, “I remember when you first came across the stage. I thought to myself that man is super sure of himself. There is nothing like coming across an artist who knows who they are.” Blake Shelton simply called the performance “magic.”

Craig Wayne Boyd has been doing very well on the competition, hitting #1 on the iTunes Country Chart last week. On Tuesday, the results of Monday’s voting will be revealed to see if the country singer will continue in the competition. Meanwhile the elevation the legacy of Wayne Mills received through The Voice presentation is something that cannot be overvalued. Even a year after his passing, the Wayne Mills influence lingers in some of the highest echelons of popular music.

READ: The Death of Wayne Mills – One Year Later

The video below shows the Wayne Mills moment. The video below that is a better quality performance of Craig Wayne Boyd’s performance.

Nov
20

Leon Virgil Bowers Leads Star-Studded Cash Cabin Singalong

November 20, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  27 Comments

leon-vrigil-bowers-jd-wilkes-amanda-isbell-jason-isbellLeon Virgil Bowers, JD Wilkes (back to camera), Rico from Helbound, Amanda Isbell, Jason Isbell

In September of 2012, Blake Judd of JuddFilms brought a camera crew to the famous Cash Cabin Studio in Hendersonville, TN to shoot a pilot episode for a television series that has never been aired. Meant to be aired late at night, similar to the late-night musical variety show The Midnight Special that was broadcast on NBC from 1972 to 1981, the idea was to take well-known established artists, worthy undiscovered musicians and songwriters, and stick them all in Johnny Cash’s legendary cabin with an open bar, and set the camera’s rolling.

Developed by Shooter Jennings and JuddFilms, Shooter Jennings’ Midnight Special had little to no rules. Pickers and songwriters organically decided what they wanted to play, and people joined in if they wished. The idea was to capture collaborative magic, while using the names of larger artists to help expose smaller ones. The names assembled in the Cash Cabin include mainstream country artists like Kellie Pickler and John Anderson, Americana names like Jason Isbell and Leroy Powell, and underground artists such as Leon Virgil Bowers (formerly Leroy Virgil of Hellbound Glory), and Col. JD Wilkes of Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers.

In the below video obtained by Saving Country Music from Judd Films, it finds Leon Virgil Bowers leading the Cash Cabin in a rendition of Garth Brooks’ “Two of a Kind.” The woman blowing in Bowers’ ear in the early portion is Leon’s wife who is known to request the song whenever she sees Leon with a guitar in his hand. Joining Leon is a stupidly-dizzying amount of music talent, including Jason Isbell, Amanda Isbell (Shires), Col. JD Wilkes, Jessica Wilkes, Scott Icenogle on bass, Rico from Hellbound Glory on slide guitar, while Shooter Jennings, Sarah Gayle Meech, John Carter Cash, Leroy Powell, Joey Allcorn, some pretty girls, and who knows else sway along and offer harmony vocals. It’s a crazy roundtable of talent, while top notch video cameras and studio-quality sound capture the entire thing.

Even more interesting is there’s apparently much more from where this video came from, with footage being captured all day, and John Anderson, Kellie Pickler, and others joining in, including Kellie doing Kitty Wells’ “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” to be released on December 4th. No word on what ever happened to this series, but it is definitely interesting to see all this talent in one place.

Nov
15

Tami Neilson Positively Dazzles with New “Dynamite!” Album

November 15, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  35 Comments

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Alright, before we get too deep into this matter, just understand that you’re going to want to be purchasing this album. It’s my job to sit here and gab at you for a while about it and explain why, and I’m flattered that you would entertain this notion and read the proceeding words. But you pretty much just need to get this album and thank me later.

What I’m trying to impart to you here is this might be the best record released in 2014 by any artist whose last name doesn’t rhyme with Pimpson. Who’s even heard of Tami Neilson? I sure as hell hadn’t. But apparently she won the New Zealand Music Award for “Best Country Album” in 2009, 2010, and 2011. Who knew? Sorry, but by happenstance I let my dues to the New Zealand Music Association lapse in 2008 and they ceased sending me newsletters. But here we are in 2014, and I almost feel like I owe an apology to the sainted Saving Country Music reader for not cluing you in on Tami Neilson prior to this moment.

That’s right, New Zealand has country artists, and if you thought that the folks there only listened to the Lord of the Rings soundtrack on repeat, you’re sorely mistaken. Let’s not just summarily lump New Zealand in with Australian country music either, but truth be known, that entire quadrant of the globe deserves more credit for their country music contributions than it regularly gets. Rugged, rural country produces the sound of a strained heart that is universal in its appeal regardless of what hemisphere it originates in.

But it just happens to be that Tami Neilson originally originated from North America. And get this, she even has country music skins on the wall. Growing up in Canada, Tami played in the Neilson Family Band that toured regularly and even opened for Johnny Cash and others. More recently she’s played with Emmylou Harris and Pokey LaFarge. But let’s not pretend that Tami is one of these artists you have to associate with other more well-known names just to get you interested. Her music speaks for itself.

tami-nelson-dynamiteYour brain is going to want to file Tami Neilson into the rockabilly lobe initially because of the angry bangs she’s rocking on the album cover and the rockabilly-ish opening track “Walk (Back To Your Arms),” and no doubt there’s a healthy dollop of that old school rock and roll vibe in her sound. But country is the most resounding influence on her new record Dynamite! released in March, and quite honestly her offerings dwarf many, if not most of the contributions from artists residing in country music’s native geography.

Frankly, I’m a little intimidated about where to start raining praises on this record, but let’s begin with Tami’s voice. Like a country music genetic experiment gone good, Tami Neilson sounds like the result of Patsy Cline and Wanda Jackson having a baby. Blow off everything else if you wish, but Dynamite! might be the best vocal performance turned in for quite a while. The song “Cry Over You” is downright shiver inducing, and shows itself as a strong contender for Song of the Year.

That leads us into a discussion on the sheer style of Tami’s music. This is totally a country throwback old-school 1950′s record with no tone or sentiment offered foreign to this time, and no anachronism overlooked. At the same time the songs are timeless, speaking to the modern heart as universally as they would have if they were released 60+ years ago. A big hand needs to be given to producers Ben Edwards and Delaney Davidson, the latter known for touring the U.S. regularly with Possessed by Paul James. So many albums try to evoke the throwback sound with close approximations of vintage tones and by simply relying on tubes and tape instead of true interpretations of styles. Just like Tami’s singing, if nothing else, Dynamite! might be one of the best-produced albums in recent memory. And not just in the tones, but in the instrumental performances themselves—the arrangements, the classic electric guitar, the pedal steel and fiddle. It’s all so splendidly compiled and blended to inflict the intended mood.

But you know how modern country fans love to complain about music that sounds just like grandpa’s. That’s where Tami Neilson’s songwriting comes in, making Dynamite! so much more than just a cool nostalgia record. Like any good country album, there’s moments where the songs simply pound at your emotional capacitors and make you relent; songs like “You Lie,” “Running To You,” and “Whiskey and Kisses.” Take these songs and overlay them with a hip-hop beat and they would still work brilliantly. Yes, there’s a lot of interpretation of style instead of originality on this album with songs like “Texas” that could have been ripped out of Patsy Cline’s song chronology, or “Woo Hoo,” which is just fun silliness. But a song like “Running To You” exhibits a lot of deep compositional brilliance.

There may be some songs here that are just simply fun, but there’s not a slouch in the entire bunch. And this album goes by so fast, like a succulent daydream you wake up too early from and try to fall back asleep to recapture. Luckily this isn’t 1954 and we have the aid of a repeat button.

Can’t say enough here. This is a good one, and a late edition to the albums that are being considered as the best in country music in 2014.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to delve into the rest of her catalog.

Two Guns Way Up!

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Purchase Tami Neilson’s Dynamite! from BandCamp

Nov
7

Loretta Lynn Signs with Sony – New Album On The Way

November 7, 2014 - By Trigger  //  News  //  11 Comments

loretta-lynnLoretta Lynn’s last album, 2004′s Van Lear Rose wasn’t just one of the most important albums of Loretta’s storied career, it was one of the most important country albums in the entirety of the oughts. Produced by Jack White, it was the comeback album of comeback albums, and received wide critical acclaim, including two Grammy Awards. It holds a resounding 97 rating on Metacritic.

But since the success of Van Lear Rose, Loretta has entered in the largest absent period for albums in her career. Perhaps not wanting to test fate and instead ride out the success of Van Lear Rose as long as she could, ten years have passed since she released the storied album. But all of that is about to change.

It has just been announced that Loretta has inked a five album deal with Sony’s catalog album imprint Legacy Recordings, with a new album expected to be released some time next year. Legacy is the same Sony imprint that has been finding great success releasing albums from Willie Nelson during the silver era of his career.

Ten years may have passed, but for seven of them Loretta has been at work in the famous Johnny Cash Cabin Studios in Hendersonville, TN on new music that “travels back and explores Loretta’s musical history, from the Appalachian folk songs and gospel music she learned as a child, to new interpretations of her classic hits and country standards, to songs newly-written for the project.” Helping Loretta with the project has been Loretta’s daughter, Patsy L. Russell, and John Carter Cash, son of Johnny Cash and June Carter, and the operator/caretaker of the Cash Cabin Studios.

Loretta’s new collection of music is said to include “intimate new performances, the way they might’ve sounded growing up in the 1930s and Forties in Butcher Hollow [Holler].” She’s said to have over 90 songs recorded.

“Me and Shawn Camp have been writing some songs together,” Lynn told The Nashville Scene in September. “He’s a good little writer, and I’ve been busy recording. I cut 90-some songs. I did all my biggest ones over again, and I cut some old-timey story songs like Mommy taught me when I was in Kentucky. Like this guy that got mad at his girlfriend because she got in a bad way with him — you know, pregnant. Well, he killed her and threw her in the bottom of the Ohio River. Tied a railroad steel around her neck! When somebody would do something like that, people would write about it.”

Loretta has been enjoying a resurgence of interest lately, making the Legacy Recordings signing and new music somewhat timely. In September, Loretta received a Lifetime Achievement Award in Songwriting from the Americana Music Awards. Then at the 2014 CMA Awards, she performed with Kacey Musgraves on a duet of Loretta’s song “You’re Looking At Country.”

Loretta will join a list of country music legacy acts like Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, and Billy Joe Shaver who’ve released successful albums landing in the top of the country music charts as country fans continue to search for the classic sound of country.

Here’s a remake of the Conway Twitty/Loretta Lynn duet “After The Fire Is Gone” Loretta worked on recently with Jeff Bates.

Nov
6

Vince Gill Has One Hell of a Good Week

November 6, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  42 Comments

vince-gillWho would have thought that Vince Gill would emerge as one of the big winners in country music over the past seven days, culminating in last night’s 48th Annual CMA Awards? Who even knew that the CMA was still paying attention to Vince, who once did a stint manning the hosting duties for the show for a dozen years during his heyday. But that’s the thing about Vince Gill. His accomplishments sort of creep up on you because he’s so refreshingly understated, honest, and humble.

You may do a double take to learn that Vince once won the CMA’s Male Vocalist of the Year five years straight between 1991 and 1995, and two of those years won Entertainer of the Year. Yes, this was during the heart of Garth-mania. You might be surprised to hear he’s won 20 Grammy Awards. But over the past seven days, the recognition Vince has received might top many of his other accolades because of its personal nature.

Last Wednesday, October 29th, Vince gill was in Oklahoma City at his alma mater, Northwest Classen High School, attending an unveiling of a 9 1/2-foot statue and plaque erected to commemorate the school’s most famous graduate. What did Vince Gill have to say?

“If you’re kind, life is going to be just great. I told somebody, I was joking, I said, ‘Oh, great, they’re going to put a statue up of me, and kids are going to go out there and put cigarettes out on my face.’ Maybe it’s too tall. But more than anything, I hope that where that statue sits that it’s not too much about who’s on that statue but just that it’s a place where you go out and be nice to each other.”

Then Tuesday night, the night before the CMA Awards, Gill was honored at the BMI offices on Music Row with the BMI Icon Award. BMI’s annual ceremony honoring songwriters is the oldest in the business, and past recipients of the Icon Award include Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard, and Kris Kristofferson. “I look at the past recipients of this award, and it’s pretty heavy,” Gill said. “It’s amazing people. There are so many people who mentored me and inspired me, and it’s a little overwhelming.”

Then at Wednesday’s CMA Awards, nobody was expecting Vince Gill to be honored. Nobody knew they had put together a video package with artists paying tribute to him as far ranging as Taylor Swift and Merle Haggard, making Vince weepy when Merle referred to Vince as a “friend,” and that the CMA’s had minted an Irving Waugh Award of Excellence trophy for the guitar player, tenor singer, and songwriter. Who even knew an Irving Waugh Award existed? Johnny Cash was the only other performer to receive the award. It was the moment the CMA made good on all the hard work Vince had put in over the years for the presentation, and all the contributions he’d accumulated to country music over the years.

Vince’s 26 million albums sold have bought him a lot of butter and beans, and all those CMA’s and Grammys sure must feel nice. But to be honored at his most humble beginnings by his high school, by his distinguished peers at BMI, and then the industry at large during the genre’s biggest night of the year, sure must feel good for ol’ Vince. Hopefully it reminds him that he’s not forgotten, and that country music still needs artists like him.

READ: Vince Gill & Alan Jackson Show How To Grow Old Gracefully in Country

Oct
31

Halloween Review: Those Poor Bastards’ “Vicious Losers”

October 31, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  14 Comments

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Less country music Christmas albums, and more country music Halloween albums I say. And if a cottage industry happened to crop up for spooky country music every October, it would stand to reason Madison, Wisconsin’s Those Poor Bastards would have the market cornered. Beware interlopers and carpetbaggers, these bastards have been purveyors of their self-described “Country Doom” for over a decade, dealing out an unlucky 13 albums to date, including their latest dreadful offering Vicious Losers freshly-exhumed just this Halloween month. And that doesn’t include the more ghost and goblin-oriented side project of Those Poor Bastard’s principal member Lonesome Wyatt called The Holy Spooks, whose multiple releases include Ghost Ballads and Halloween is Here released last year.

But Those Poor Bastards is not some Disney version of “H E double hockey stick” horror, and this is not some seasonal pursuit. Lonesome Wyatt and The Minister have become the kings of Gothic country over their terrible tenure, and are made to be imbibed in year round. The duo’s dark and artistic oriented music draws directly from country music’s formative years and the exploration of sin, guilt, depravity, and death that were very much at the heart of these tunes—I’m speaking of artists like The Carter Family, The Louvin Brothers, and even Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, where sin and redemption weren’t polar opposites, but separated by a thin membrane that the forces of good and evil were constantly at war trying to pull you across. Then all of this was cast in a mood of desperation from the death, hopelessness, and chronic poverty that gripped country music’s Appalachian homeland in the late 1800′s and early 1900′s, and still lingers throughout the hills and hollers of that region today.

Imagine condensing the dark sentiments from all of these early country pioneers together, and adding a few new methods of composition and sound from more modern apparitions such as Tom Waits and Nick Cave, and you have a sound that however niche it might be, has cast a wide net of loyal parishioners all over the world who collect Those Poor Bastards’ short run colored vinyl projects and pour over their artistically-oriented music as fine art, no matter how hauntingly it may screech and moan to get its dreadful point across.

those-poor-bastards-vicious-losersPart of the pleasure in Those Poor Bastards is to try and glean the moral and motivations of their music. As disturbed as it clearly presents itself from song one, there is also a profound sense of morality, economic justice, and concern for the lost souls of modern men confined to the rat race that punctuates any Those Poor Bastards’ effort. But don’t think that recuses them from delving into the temptations of sin or the unsettled recesses of the brain where where silent killers and psychopaths in all of us await. Whether you’re truly disturbed, or simply love to immerse yourself in that dark side of humanity inherent in us all by design, Those Poor Bastards can be a vessel for your journey.

Those Poor Bastards have already amassed a fine catalog that defines Gothic country, including songs like “Behold Black Sheep,” “With Hell So Near,” “Crooked Man,” “The Dust Storm,” their cover of Johnny Cash’s “I Walk The Line,” and “Pills I Took” once covered by Hank Williams III. Vicious Losers now adds another 13 songs to their repertoire, ranging from the raging, serrated and harsh “I Am Lost” opening track, to the simple clawhammer banjo driven “Strange Dark Night,” or the quieted 40-seconds of “Big Trees.”

Words and textures are one in the same with Those Poor Bastards, and one thing Lonesome Wyatt can never get enough credit for is his prowess as a vocalist that is virtually unparalleled this side of Tom Waits in conveying mood and character with such range. Vicious Losers has a couple of songs where Lonesome Wyatt puts on a clinic, shape-shifting between his evil growl, his bass-heavy belly voice, and a clear and eerily beautiful high range whose total breadth on the tone scale would best most any of mainstream country’s top singers. The song “Lonely Man” is a perfect example of this.

“Give Me Drugs” is a cautionary tale to America’s pill problem, but to balance becoming too preachy, it is followed up by the unhinged and ribald “Dolled Up.” Vicious Losers ends with an 11-minute noise opus called “Today I Saw My Funeral;” a song that could have been written by The Carter Family, beginning as a primitive country ballad whose refrain then floats in and out as the song descends into an extended foray of disturbed noises. Another hallmark of Those Poor Bastards is Lonesome Wyatt’s ear for the everyday sounds of life that trigger dark memories. This song on loop would be the perfect ambient noise for your neighborhood’s haunted house.

On second thought, I don’t know that I want all of the country artists who are inclined to make Christmas records deciding instead to dip their toes in the Gothic country realm. Those Poor Bastards have it covered just fine.

- – - – - – - – - – - -

Purchase Vicious Losers from Those Poor Bastards

Preview & Purchase Tracks from Amazon

Oct
28

Intoxicated John Carter Cash Arrested for Stripping at Airport

October 28, 2014 - By Trigger  //  News  //  27 Comments

john-carter-cashJohn Carter Cash—the only child of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, and a producer, songwriter, and performer in his own right—was arrested after stripping down to his underwear at the Deer Lake Airport in Newfoundland in Canada Monday afternoon (10-27). John Carter had been in Newfoundland on a hunting trip. According to police reports, Cash appeared to be drunk during the incident, or “suffering from a medical condition,” but it was later determined that he was indeed intoxicated.

Deer Lake Police were called to the airport at about 2:10 PM on Monday by airport security. Security personnel had already convinced John Carter to put his clothes back on by the time police arrived on the scene, but Cash was still arrested and detained for a period stemming from the incident. Very few people witnessed the incident according to reports. Cash was apparently cooperative with police, and due to no prior arrests, no charges were filed against him. He was detained by police until Tuesday when he was declared sober, and reportedly caught a flight back to Tennessee where Cash lives.

John Carter Cash missed his initial flight back to Tennessee, but there’s been no word if the stripping incident caused him to miss his flight, or if he had already missed it when the incident occurred. Though it could be surmised that John Carter Cash’s stripping incident could have been the result of requests by security to remove personal objects for screening, no such information corroborating this scenario has been made available. John Carter Cash has not publicly acknowledged the incident at the time of this report.

John Carter Cash is a beloved member of the country and Americana music community, and is one of the principle representatives of the Johnny Cash estate. He has no significant prior run-ins with the law.

Oct
20

Florida Georgia Line’s “Anything Goes” is the Worst Album Ever

October 20, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Down with Pop Country  //  476 Comments

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Congratulations Justin Moore and Outlaws Like Me, you’re officially off the hot seat. Because right here, right now, I am unilaterally declaring that Florida Georgia Line’s new album Anything Goes is the worst album ever released in the history of country music. Ever. Including Florida Georgia Line’s first album Here’s To The Good Times, including anything else you can muster from the mainstream, including a 4-track recording made by a head trauma victim in a walk-in closet with a Casiotone keyboard and an out-of-tune banjo. Anything Goes can slay all comers when it comes to its heretofore unattainable degree of peerless suckitude.

In a word, this album is bullshit. Never before has such a refined collection of strident clichés been concentrated in one insidious mass. Never before have the lyrics to an album evidenced such narrowcasted pseudo-mindless incoherent drivel. Never before have such disparate and diseased influences been married so haphazardly in a profound vacuum of taste, and never have all of these atrocities been platooned together to be proffered to the public without someone, anyone with any bit of conscience and in a position of power putting a stop to this poisoning of the listening public.

Not to get all old man on your ass, but most of the time I don’t even understand what the hell these dudes are saying. Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard have their own language, partial to the most grammatically-challenged and stupefying vocabulary lurking in the dankest sewers of the English dialect, but not residing firmly in any specific one of them so no truly proper translation can be obtained. It’s like Pig Latin for douchewads—understood by them and them only. And only with the perfect deficiency of brain cells will their concoction of Ebonics, metrosexual douche speak, and stagnant gene pool rural jargon become anything resembling coherent to the human ear.

florida-georgia-line-anything-goesForget the already ultra-concentrated and extremely-narrow breadth of modern mainstream country music’s laundry list songwriting legacy, Florida Georgia Line has devised a way to inexplicably make it even more attenuated and terrible. “Girl, alcoholic beverage, truck, river or lake”— that’s pretty much the alpha and omega of the Anything Goes building blocks. Most of these songs have more songwriters than they do basic lyrical themes, with an average of four cooks per diarrhetic serving, and one song that boasts five songwriters and still struggles to pen anything that comes close to a complete sentence or a comprehensible thought.

Shiny objects and fire also seem to excite and distract Florida Georgia Line and fill them with a profound sense of wonder, and so soliloquies to these things also show up occasionally, as does the word “good.” They really like that word.

“Got on my smell good.
Got a bottle of feel good.
Shined up my wheels good.
You’re looking real good.”

That verse pretty much sums up this entire album. And no, these are not lyrics to the song that is actually titled “Good Good.” Needless to say, any moments involving depth, sorrow, self-reflection, doubt, or evolved thinking in any capacity have been unceremoniously scrubbed from this project entirely, save for one song, “Dirt,” which only works to anger the blood even more because it proves that these morons are capable of so much more. A song like “Sippin’ On Fire” tries to cobble together some semblance of a love story, but bogs down like all these songs do in focusing on the material objects and consumables inadvertently on hand in situations instead of the honest sentiments being felt between two people. Women and “love” are compared to alcoholic beverages and other material objects, and vice versa more times than I care to count on this album, as if they are interchangeable in stature in the human experience.

Another song that would have been decent if only Florida Georgia Line didn’t figure out how to screw it up is “Bumpin’ The Night.” Despite the title alluding to the listener being in store for yet another demonstration of shallowness, the song displays a compositional depth that is both surprising and enriching, even though what passes for steel guitar is so transmogrified by the EDM production, it’s hardly noticeable. There’s nothing wrong with fun, feel good songs themselves. But in such a void of anything striking even close to variety, an otherwise decent song like “Bumpin’ The Night” suffers demonstrably amongst its peers.

florida-georgia-lineAnd talk about going to the cliché well too many times, there’s a song on this album called “Angel” that I kid you not is built around the often sarcastically-used pick up line “Did it hurt when you fell from the sky?” Any woman who hears this line coming from any man has my personal blessing to immediately spray them in the face with mace and knee them in the nuts. The idea that these knuckleheads think that this line is “sweet” just speaks to the depravity of self-awareness they suffer from in an irrevocable degree.

There really is a toxic concentration of bad songs on Anything Goes, and it is all punctuated on the final track “Every Night” where the hyper-everything that riddles this album somehow gets heightened even more as Florida Georgia Line explain they don’t need the weekend because every night for them is a wild, raging good time. This personifies the diabolical sameness of this album, where it’s just a contiguous string of carefree party references and virtually nothing else, almost throwing caution to the wind and daring fate to make a mockery of this project over the long perspective of time, if they’re not openly cashing out on the franchise in the face of the obvious dying of a trend.

I would call it country rap, but even that would give this album more definition than it truly carries. I would call it pop, but even that world would not stand for such vacuousness. And once again the listener is left steadfastly perplexed at what Brian Kelley (the short-haired one) actually does in this band beyond singing one verse of “Dirt” and a few random backup lines so heavily Auto-tuned you can’t tell for sure it’s him.

Everybody knows where Florida Georgia Line is going to lead. Scott Borchetta must know it. Their producer Joey Moi, formerly of Nickelback must know it. Their manager Kevin Zaruk, also formerly of Nickelback, apparently knows it, and admitted as much in a recent Billboard interview. “It’s bizarre because I know so many people who say they can’t stand them but listen to Nickelback and go to their shows. This is a band that sold hundreds of thousands of dollars in merchandise, and to this day, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a person with a Nickelback T-shirt on walking the streets anywhere in the world. I don’t know what it is, but for whatever reason it became cool to hate Nickelback, and once that trend took off, it exploded. What I’ve definitely talked to [FGL’s] Brian [Kelley] and Tyler [Hubbard] about is that whenever anybody becomes successful in any business, there’s people that get jealous.”

This is the problem. Florida Georgia Line and their fans will read a review like this, and truly believe that jealousy and nothing else is at the heart of the criticism, and will point to their “success” as proof of this. But Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, George Strait, and so many more were wildly successful in their time too, and also faced criticism, but never to the degree of criticism Florida Georgia Line is faced with. The music of these legends withstood the test of time, while artists like Nickelback, Billy Ray Cyrus, New Kids On The Block, and MC Hammer were also wildly successful in their time, but now their music is nowhere to be seen besides as a novelty, or listened to as irony or nostalgia.

READ: Florida Georgia Line’s “Sun Daze” (a semi-rant)

It is Florida Georgia Line’s destiny to go down as a laughing stock, to be the next Nickelback, where their fans hide their T-shirts and shun them, tearing them down just as vehemently and quickly as they artificially propped them up. Their sophomore album and a song like “Dirt” was their one opportunity to change that destiny and be known for something more. But instead they super concentrated what makes them bad as either a last cash-grabbing hurrah, or as a misguided miscalculation that their polarizing nature is due to the insecurities of others instead of a true concern about substance and sustainability. Point to current attendance numbers and call the haters jealous all you want. All one has to do is point to Nickelback as an example of why this doesn’t work in the long term.

Florida Georgia Line and Anything Goes are an embarrassment to country music.

Two Guns Way Down!

Oct
19

Jesus Drop Kicks Paul Craft (Through The Goalposts of Life)

October 19, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  6 Comments

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You press most any theologian, and they will expound upon the theory that God has the most profound sense of humor … if you just know where to look for it. Whether this was in play when country music songwriter Paul Craft decided to write the song “Drop Kick Me Jesus (Through The Goalposts Of Life),” whether it was more centered upon a social commentary about the state of religion in America where the most holy of days is decidedly overrun by the dominance of the National Football League, or whether the song was meant to mean different things to different people—like most great songs are—it tickled the funny bone and said something profound that could have never been communicated through any other medium than humor.

Time Magazine once said that the song “sounds like a writing assignment by an eighth-grader who has just learned about metaphors.” But what do those pointy-nosed intellectuals really know about country music, and the legacy of wry humor that was personified in artists like Roger Miller, John Hartford, and Shel Silverstein? Don’t they know Johnny Cash’s biggest hit of all time was “A Boy Named Sue”? That song won the Grammy for Best Country Song in 1970. “Drop Kick Me Jesus” was nominated for a Grammy seven years later when country music performer Bobby Bare released it in 1976. Only seems right for the world’s only Christian football waltz.

Drop-kick me, Jesus, through the goalposts of life 
End over end, neither left nor the right
Straight through the heart of them righteous uprights
Drop-kick me, Jesus, through the goalposts of life

Make me, oh, make me, Lord, more than I am
Make me a piece in your master game plan
Free from the earthly temptations below
I’ve got the will, Lord, if you got the toe.

Songwriter Paul Craft might be perturbed by the idea of a novelty song defining his career, or perhaps he’d laugh. But his contributions to country music go much farther than you average songwriter’s field goal range. Just this week, Saving Country Music published a list of The Greatest Hank Williams Tribute Songs of All Time, and right near the top was Paul Craft’s “Hank Williams, You Wrote My Life,” recorded by Moe Bandy. Craft scored a #1 in 1991 by way of Mark Chesnutt’s recording of “Brother Jukebox.” And another country music artist known for his comedic leanings, Ray Stevens, cut Craft’s humorous song “It’s Me Again, Margaret” in 1984.

Paul Craft also penned a number of famous bluegrass songs, and he wrote nearly all of his songs by himself. In the liner notes of one of his own albums, Craft once asserted, “Back then you didn’t need to tell anyone you wrote a song ‘by yourself.’ This was before the current Nashville practice of ‘co-writing.’ Some of the reasons for this activity I can only guess at. But I can’t help feeling that if Ernest Hemingway had been forced to ‘co-write’ ‘The Sun Also Rises,’ it wouldn’t be the same book and that would be a shame.”

Any great humorist will tell you that one of the vital keys to the craft is timing. And timing is many times where you can spy the work of the divine. In the 4th quarter of of Paul Craft’s life, with the final seconds ticking down and the game on the line, the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame lined up for a field goal, split the uprights, an made Paul Craft a winner when they inducted him into the institution on October 6th, 2014. Less than two weeks later, on Saturday, 10-18, when much of America was sitting on their couches enjoying the college version of the American pastime, Paul Craft quietly passed away in Nashville after slowly failing health over the past few years. He was 76-years-old.

Paul Craft was not the household name some of his songs made of more famous performers, but both his humor and his heartfelt sentiments remain both endowed in the hearts of listeners, and as relevant (and grin-inducing) as ever.

A lowly bench warmer I’m contented to be
Until the time when you have need of me
The flash on the big scoreboard signs from on high
The big Super Bowl way up in the sky

Drop-kick me, Jesus, through the goalposts of life…

Oct
15

The Greatest Hank Williams Tribute Songs of All Time

October 15, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  42 Comments

hank-williamsHank Williams was the greatest country music singer and songwriter to ever walk the face of the Earth. And if you don’t believe that, just listen to how his fellow country music performers feel about his contributions to the music. Here is a list of the greatest Hank Williams tribute songs of all time.

Ground Rules:

  1. The song has to be a true Hank tribute from stem to stern, not just mention Hank.
  2. The song has to be mostly about Hank, meaning no “Hank & Lefty” because that’s about both men equally (but still a good song).
  3. This is not meant to be an absolute unabridged and unequivocally complete master list of Hank tributes without one single omission. If you see a worthy Hank tribute not mentioned, by all means, please share, because that is the point of this, NOT to be a “Where’s Waldo?” exercise where people go combing through looking for missing songs so you can navigate to the comments and bust my chops with comments that start with “You forgot…” and end with “…this site is completely illegitimate” just because I forgot to mention some unpublished Hank tribute from a local singer in your town. The point is to hopefully to be exposed to a few new songs that will entertain you as a Hank fan.
  4. No order to these songs is intended or implied. Because this could stretch on forever, I tried to prioritize certain songs. But they are all great Hank tributes.

“Hank Williams’ Ghost” – Darrell Scott

Off of Darrell Scott’s 2006 album Invisible Man, the song went on to be nominated for the 2007 Song of the Year by the Americana Music Awards. Excellent video as well with many Hank Williams landmarks featured.


“Hank’s Cadillac” – Ashley Monroe

Written by Ashley Monroe at the tender age of 17, “Hank’s Cadillac” is Ashley attesting she would have figured out a way to keep Hank alive if she had been on his now famous “Last Ride.”


“If He Came Back Again” – The Highwaymen

Though this song was recorded to be included on the final Highwaymen album The Road Goes On Forever, it didn’t make the final cut initially. However when the album was re-issued, it was finally released, and today it remains one of the album’s most popular tracks and a beautiful tribute, despite the somewhat wonky harmonies in the chorus by the cantankerous Highwaymen. Written by Barry Alfonso and Craig Bickhardt.


“Talkin’ To Hank” – Mark Chesnutt

“I saw a shotgun and a guitar and a six-pack of beer
A sign on the front door said ‘Guess, who lives here’
An old red bone hound that looked older than time
And an old man that’s sure he was only twenty-nine”

Released in 1992, the original album version featured George Jones on guest vocals. Written by Bobby Harden.


“Long White Cadillac” – Dwight Yoakam & Dave Alvin

Originally written by Dave Alvin of The Blasters, while Dwight Yoakam was on tour opening for the band early in his career, he heard the song and recorded it himself in 1989.


“Hank Williams, You Wrote My Life” – Moe Bandy

The title track off of Moe Bandy’s 1976 album, it was written by Nashville Songwriter Hall of Fame inductee Paul Craft. One of the most recognizable Hank tributes.


“The Ride” – David Allan Coe

Arguably the most chilling tribute to Hank, co-writer Gary Gentry once told Billboard, “There’s a mysterious magic connected with this song that spells cold chills, leading me to believe that it was meant to be and that David Allan Coe was meant to record it.” He swears when he went to look up the date of when Hank Williams died while writing the song, he opened the book to the exact page where the date was found, and that once when performing the song at the Grand Ole Opry House, as soon as he said the name “Hank” in the last verse, the lights and power went out in the building. “The Ride” was also written by J.B. Detterline Jr., and was released by David Allan Coe in February of 1983. It is also one of the most commercially-successful Hank tributes, coming in at #4 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart.


“Midnight in Montgomery” – Alan Jackson

Another commercially-successful Hank tribute hit, it tells the story of Alan Jackson visiting the graves of Hank before headlining a New Years Eve show and seeing Hank’s ghost. The song hit #3 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, and Jackson co-wrote the song with Don Sampson. “Midnight in Montgomery” also had a successful video that won the CMA Video of the Year in 1992.


*”The Life Story of Hank Williams” – Hawkshaw Hawkins

As much as a storyteller song as a tribute, it features Hawkshaw Hawkins talking in segments about Hank’s life. It was released in February of 1953, and co-written by Louie Innis. Hankshaw Hawkins would die unexpectedly himself in the same plane crash that killed Patsy Cline on March 5th, 1963.


 “The Night Hank Williams Came To Town” – Johnny Cash w/ Waylon Jennings

From 1987′s Johnny Cash Is Coming To Town album produced by Jack Clement.


“The Death of Hank Williams” – Jack Cardwell

This was the very first Hank Williams tribute song ever written. As Hank fan and traditional country performer Joey Allcorn explained to Saving Country Music surrounding the release of his album Midnight: The Death of Hank Williams:

To me it was an interesting song because it was the very first Hank Williams tribute. Nowadays, doing a Hank Williams tribute is just sort of par for the course. This particular song that we’re centering the project around, it just captures a very basic feeling that happens after some sort of tragic event. The lyrics that are on display [in the museum] tell a similar story, because it was a woman in Montgomery who heard the words on the radio as a child, and they meant so much to her that she wrote them down. If you go to the Hank museum, they’re still sitting there by Hank’s Cadillac. It’s the handwritten lyrics of this little girl wrote after hearing this song, and when she was upset or sad.

Joey Allcorn performing:


“If You Don’t Like Hank Williams” – Kris Kristofferson

Off of Kristofferson’s 1976 Monument recording Surreal Thing, the song was also included on Hank Williams Jr.’s album Habits Old & New in 1980. The song finds Kris Kristofferson in rare form, with a bowed out chest making bold proclamations.


“The Conversation” – Hank Williams Jr. & Waylon Jennings

One of the most unique collaborations in country music history with Ol’ Hank as the conversation piece, it was was released on Hank Jr.’s 1979 album Whiskey Bent & Hell Bound album first, but showed up on Waylon’s Waylon & Company a few years later. “The Conversation”—written by Waylon, Jr., and Waylon’s long-time drummer Ritchie Albright, was one of the very first country music songs to feature a video. It was a Top 15 hit.


“Hank” Jason Boland & The Stragglers

The first song on their 2009 self-titled LP.

“You don’t like my music, you don’t like my songs
You say you wanna party, you say you wanna rock and roll
That carbon copy music don’t mean a damn to me
Hank Williams wouldn’t make it now in Nashville, Tennessee”


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

The seminal Hank Williams tribute, and the seminal country music protest song all wrapped up into one. It was released in August of 1975 and became a #1 hit. Not three chords and the truth—two chords and the truth.

• “Hank, It Will Never Be The Same Without You” – Ernest Tubb

• “The Great Hank” – Robert Earl Keen (About Hank in drag)

• “Things Change” – Tim McGraw

• “When You Died At Twenty-Nine” – Slaid Cleaves

• “Alcohol & Pills” – Fred Eaglesmith

• “If Ol’ Hank Could Only See Us Now” – Waylon Jennings

• “Hank Williams Syndrome” – Waylon Jennings

• “Hank’s Song” – Ferlin Husky

“Tramp On Your Street” – George Jones

• “Rollin’ and Ramblin’” – Emmylou Harris

 

A Selection of Other Great Hank Williams Tributes:

 

  • “A Tribute to Hank Williams, My Buddy” – Luke McDaniels
  • “Hank” – Her Make Believe Band
  • “Here’s To Hank” – Stonewall Jackson
  • “Hank Williams Sings The Bules No More” – Jimmie Logsdon
  • “Hank, You Still Make Me Cry” – Boxcar Willie
  • “Hats Off To Hank” – Buzz Carson
  • “Hank, You Tried To Tell Me” – Johnny Paycheck
  • “I Had A Talk With A Man Last Night” – Vernon Oxford
  • “Hank Williams Isn’t Dead” – Duke Denver and Jeffrey Null
  • “Hank Williams Will Live Forever” – Johnny and Jack
  • “The Night I Met Hank Williams” – Lee Guthrie

 

  • “I Long To Hear Hank Williams Sing The Blues” – Jim Murphy
  • “The Life of Hank Williams” – Rick and Thel Carey
  • “A Legend Froze in Time” – David Church
  • “I Couldn’t Sleep for Thinkin’ Of Hank Williams” – Henry McCullough
  • “Everybody Likes a Hank Williams Song” – Tim Hus
  • “Curse of Hank” – Tim Hus
  • “Ghost of Hank Williams” – Kentucky Headhunters
  • “Ghost of Hank Williams” – David Allan Coe
  • “Has Anybody Here Seen Hank?” – The Waterboys
  • “Tribute to Hank Williams” – Tim Hardin

 

  • “Crank The Hank” – Dallas Wayne
  • “The Ballad of Hank Williams” – Hank Williams Jr. and Don Helms
  • “Ol’ Hank’s Lovesick Blues” – Gary Stewart
  • “Daddy (I Need You Tonight)” – Hank Williams Jr.
  • “Everybody Wants To Be Hank Williams” – Larry Boone
  • “Montgomery In The Rain” – Steve Young (also covered by Hank Jr.)
  • “The Car Hank Died In” – The Austin Lounge Lizards
  • “I Feel Like Hank Williams Tonight” – Jerry Jeff Walker
  • “This Ain’t Montgomery” – Hank III and Joey Allcorn
  • “Mission From Hank” – Aaron Tippin

 

Oct
13

Hall of Fame Announces ‘Dylan, Cash, & The Nashville Cats’ Exhibit

October 13, 2014 - By Trigger  //  News  //  2 Comments

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The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, TN has announced what will be their next major two-year exhibit to replace the current Bakersfield Sound exhibit in the museum’s largest revolving exhibit space. It will be called Dylan, Cash, & The Nashville Cats, and it will primarily focus on folk songwriting icon Bob Dylan, Country Music Hall of Famer and Legend Johnny Cash, and the “Nashville Cats,” which include many of Nashville’s unheralded studio musicians from the late 60′s, early 70′s era.

country-music-hall-of-fameThe exhibit will take on a The Johnny Cash Show vibe—the Cash-hosted prime time television show where Johnny Cash famously collaborated with Bob Dylan on stage. Cash later appeared on Dylan’s landmark Nashville Skyline album which opened up Music City to an entirely new generation of musicians and songwriters. The exhibit is scheduled to open up on March 27th, 2015 for a proposed two-year run.

“Nashville has always been a more nuanced music center than it commonly gets credit for,” says museum director Kyle Young. “And the same thing could be said for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. We strive to tell the full story of country music’s evolving history using a mix of provocative learning experiences, and this exhibit is a great opportunity to talk about the early confluence of country and rock. Dylan recorded Blonde on Blonde, John Wesley Harding, and Nashville Skyline here. The Byrds made Sweetheart of the Rodeo, Neil Young recorded Harvest, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band created Will the Circle Be Unbroken. Albums like these had a profound influence on popular music as well as establishing Nashville as a music hub and cool southern city with a sense of place.”

Here is how the Country Music Hall of Fame breaks down what people can expect from this three-pronged exhibit:

Bob Dylan
While recording his album Highway 61 Revisited in 1965, Dylan was in New York working with producer Bob Johnston, a former Nashville resident who hired multi-instrumentalist Charlie McCoy to lead sessions in Nashville. McCoy attended one of Dylan’s New York sessions and was invited to play guitar on “Desolation Row.”

Taken with McCoy’s musicianship, Dylan was encouraged by Johnston to record in Nashville where there were other musicians as skilled as McCoy. Dylan took Johnston’s advice and arrived in Nashville in 1966 to make Blonde on Blonde, one of the great achievements of Dylan’s long career and a benchmark of American popular music. Dylan returned to Nashville to record John Wesley Harding, Nashville Skyline, and portions of Self Portrait.

Johnny Cash
Having met several years before, and having cemented their friendship at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival, Dylan and Johnny Cash were reunited in Nashville, in February 1969. Dylan already had recorded most of Nashville Skyline when he and Cash went into the studio. They cut more than a dozen duets in two days. “Girl from the North Country” appeared on Nashville Skyline, and Cash wrote Grammy-winning liner notes for the album.
Later that same year, Cash began hosting a weekly show for ABC. The Johnny Cash Show was shot at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium and became an outlet through which country artists and folk, pop and rock musicians could reach new audiences. Dylan and Joni Mitchell were guests on the first show, and Ronstadt, James Taylor, Young, Lightfoot and Eric Clapton’s Derek & the Dominos appeared on subsequent shows.

Nashville Cats
Many artists who followed Dylan’s lead and made the pilgrimage to Nashville to record or appear on Cash’s show were rewarded with the opportunity to work with world-class musicians. In several cases, the experiment yielded some of the artists’ most successful or influential albums, thanks to the accomplished players drawn from a core group of Nashville studio musicians including David Briggs, Kenny Buttrey, Fred Carter Jr., Charlie Daniels, Pete Drake, Mac Gayden, Lloyd Green, Ben Keith, Grady Martin, Charlie McCoy, Wayne Moss, Weldon Myrick, Norbert Putnam, Jerry Reed, Pig Robbins, and Buddy Spicher, among others.

In the political climate of the era, Nashville’s mainstream country recordings were perceived as the music of the conservative South, overtly slick and commercial. In stark contrast were the folk-oriented, politically charged songs coming from Baez, Buffy Sainte-Marie and other left-leaning artists who looked past their differences to work with Nashville’s accomplished musicians.
This is not primarily a story of cultural or political divisions, but rather of people coming together from very different backgrounds and moving past perceived divisions to find common ground through music.

Between 1966 and 1974, while contributing to countless country music classics, Nashville session musicians also played on landmark pop and rock songs such as Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35” and “Lay Lady Lay”; Young’s “Heart of Gold”; the Byrds’ “Hickory Wind”; Ronstadt’s “Long Long Time”; Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer”; Cohen’s “Bird on a Wire”; Cale’s “Crazy Mama”; Baez’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”; and McCartney’s “Sally G.”

Dylan, Cash, and the Nashville Cats opens March 27, 2015, and runs through December 31, 2016. It will be accompanied by a series of educational programs, including live performances, panel discussions, films, instrument demonstrations and more. The exhibition will follow the nearly three-year run of The Bakersfield Sound: Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and California Country, which closes December 31.

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