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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).”
Christmas 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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Say 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.
Right 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.
Maybe 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.
Though 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
- Rosanne Cash – The River & The Thread
- Nickel Creek – A Dotted Line
- Rodney Crowell – Tarpaper Sky
- Hard Working Americans – Hard Working Americans
- Old Crow Medicine Show – Remedy
- Nikki Lane – All Or Nothin’
- Lake Street Dive – Bad Self Portraits
- Shovels And Rope – Swimmin’ Time
- John Hiatt – Terms Of My Surrender
- Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds In Country Music
- Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin – Common Ground
- St. Paul & The Broken Bones – Half The City
- Parker Millsap – Parker Millsap
- Willie Nelson – Band Of Brothers
- Paul Thorn – Too Blessed To Be Stressed
- Lucinda Williams – Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone
- Trampled By Turtles – Wild Animals
- Various – A Tribute To Jackson Browne – Looking Into You
- Keb Mo – BLUESAmericana
- Secret Sisters – Put Your Needle Down
- John Fullbright – Songs
- Amos Lee – Mountains Of Sorrow, Rivers Of Song
- Jamestown Revival – Utah
- Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison – Our Year
- Jason Eady – Daylight & Dark
- Infamous Stringdusters – Let It Go
- Chuck Mead – Free State Serenade
- Sarah Jarosz – Build Me Up From Bones
- Billie Joe & Norah Jones – Foreverly
- Justin Townes Earle – Single Mothers
- Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams
- Johnny Cash – Out Among The Stars
- First Aid Kit – Stay Gold
- Carlene Carter- Carter Girl
- Devil Makes Three – I’m A Stranger Here
- Red Molly – The Red Album
- Duhks – Beyond The Blue
- Mastersons – Good Luck Charm
- Will Hoge – Never Give In
- Blackie and the Rodeo Kings – South
- Puss N Boots – No Fools, No Fun
- Billy Joe Shaver – Long In The Tooth
- Brandy Clark – 12 Stories
- Drive-By Truckers – English Oceans
- Carolina Story – Chapter Two
- Lee Ann Womack – The Way I’m Livin’
- Will Kimbrough – Sideshow Love
- Irene Kelley – Pennsylvania Coal
- Trigger Hippy – Trigger Hippy
- Shakey Graves – And The War Came
- Carolina Story – Chapter One
- Hurray For The Riff Raff – Small Town Heroes
- Chuck Prophet – Night Surfer
- Girls Guns & Glory – Good Luck
- Howlin’ Brothers – Trouble
- Blue Highway – The Game
- Amy LaVere – Runaway’s Diary
- Jim Lauderdale – I’m A Song
- Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings – Give The People What They Want
- Black Prairie – Fortune
- Ruthie Foster – Promise Of A Brand New Day
- Whiskey Myers – Early Morning Shakes
- Robert Ellis – The Lights From The Chemical Plant
- Suzy Bogguss – Lucky
- Seth Walker – Sky Still Blue
- Felice Brothers – Favorite Waitress
- Ray Benson – A Little Piece
- Scott Miller – Big Big World
- String Cheese Incident – Song In My Head
- Lydia Loveless – Somewhere Else
- Mingo Fishtrap – On Time
- Haden Triplets – Haden Triplets
- Robert Cray Band – In My Soul
- Mike Farris – Shine For All The People
- Tommy Malone – Poor Boy
- Zoe Muth – World Of Strangers
- Greg Trooper – Incident on Willow Street
- Charlie Robison – High Life
- Marty Stuart – Saturday Night/Sunday Morning
- Various – Inside Llewyn Davis – Inside Llewyn Davis
- Old 97s – Most Messed Up
- Chris Smither – Still On The Levee
- Various – A Tribute To Born in the USA – Dead Man’s Town
- Deep Dark Woods – Jubilee
- Rod Picott – Hang Your Hopes On A Crooked Nail
- Steve Martin And The Steep Canyon Rangers – LIVE featuring Edie Brickell
- Janiva Magness – Original
- Otis Gibbs – Souvenirs Of A Misspent Youth
- Avett Brothers – Magpie And The Dandelion
- Candi Staton – Life Happens
- Blue Rodeo – In Our Nature
- Dolly Parton – Blue Smoke
- Head And The Heart – Let’s Be Still
- Peter Mulvey – Silver Ladder
- John Mellencamp – Plain Spoken
- Laura Cantrell – No Way There From Here
- Band Of Heathens – Sunday Morning Record
- Jim Lauderdale – Black Roses
- Mary Gauthier – Trouble & Love
- Hannah Aldridge – Razor Wire
Songwriter, 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.”
Bad News Knockin’ Track List:
- Bad News Knockin’
- Blame It All on the Roses
- Lonesome Sunday Blues
- Waitin’ on the Hummingbird
- The Ballad of Shine Marley
- Warm Spanish Wine
- Georgia Blues
- Yellow House in the Country
- Years Ago
- Things I Benn Blamed For
- I Lived the Life
- Red Shoes Blues
- Peace of Mind
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.
The video below shows the Wayne Mills moment. The video below that is a better quality performance of Craig Wayne Boyd’s performance.
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.
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.
Your 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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Loretta Lynn’s last album, 2004′s Van Lear Rose wasn’t just one of the most important albums of Loretta’s storied career, it was one of the most important country albums in the entirety of the oughts. Produced by Jack White, it was the comeback album of comeback albums, and received wide critical acclaim, including two Grammy Awards. It holds a resounding 97 rating on Metacritic.
But since the success of Van Lear Rose, Loretta has entered in the largest absent period for albums in her career. Perhaps not wanting to test fate and instead ride out the success of Van Lear Rose as long as she could, ten years have passed since she released the storied album. But all of that is about to change.
It has just been announced that Loretta has inked a five album deal with Sony’s catalog album imprint Legacy Recordings, with a new album expected to be released some time next year. Legacy is the same Sony imprint that has been finding great success releasing albums from Willie Nelson during the silver era of his career.
Ten years may have passed, but for seven of them Loretta has been at work in the famous Johnny Cash Cabin Studios in Hendersonville, TN on new music that “travels back and explores Loretta’s musical history, from the Appalachian folk songs and gospel music she learned as a child, to new interpretations of her classic hits and country standards, to songs newly-written for the project.” Helping Loretta with the project has been Loretta’s daughter, Patsy L. Russell, and John Carter Cash, son of Johnny Cash and June Carter, and the operator/caretaker of the Cash Cabin Studios.
Loretta’s new collection of music is said to include “intimate new performances, the way they might’ve sounded growing up in the 1930s and Forties in Butcher Hollow [Holler].” She’s said to have over 90 songs recorded.
“Me and Shawn Camp have been writing some songs together,” Lynn told The Nashville Scene in September. “He’s a good little writer, and I’ve been busy recording. I cut 90-some songs. I did all my biggest ones over again, and I cut some old-timey story songs like Mommy taught me when I was in Kentucky. Like this guy that got mad at his girlfriend because she got in a bad way with him — you know, pregnant. Well, he killed her and threw her in the bottom of the Ohio River. Tied a railroad steel around her neck! When somebody would do something like that, people would write about it.”
Loretta has been enjoying a resurgence of interest lately, making the Legacy Recordings signing and new music somewhat timely. In September, Loretta received a Lifetime Achievement Award in Songwriting from the Americana Music Awards. Then at the 2014 CMA Awards, she performed with Kacey Musgraves on a duet of Loretta’s song “You’re Looking At Country.”
Loretta will join a list of country music legacy acts like Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, and Billy Joe Shaver who’ve released successful albums landing in the top of the country music charts as country fans continue to search for the classic sound of country.
Here’s a remake of the Conway Twitty/Loretta Lynn duet “After The Fire Is Gone” Loretta worked on recently with Jeff Bates.
Who 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.
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.
Part 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.
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John Carter Cash—the only child of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, and a producer, songwriter, and performer in his own right—was arrested after stripping down to his underwear at the Deer Lake Airport in Newfoundland in Canada Monday afternoon (10-27). John Carter had been in Newfoundland on a hunting trip. According to police reports, Cash appeared to be drunk during the incident, or “suffering from a medical condition,” but it was later determined that he was indeed intoxicated.
Deer Lake Police were called to the airport at about 2:10 PM on Monday by airport security. Security personnel had already convinced John Carter to put his clothes back on by the time police arrived on the scene, but Cash was still arrested and detained for a period stemming from the incident. Very few people witnessed the incident according to reports. Cash was apparently cooperative with police, and due to no prior arrests, no charges were filed against him. He was detained by police until Tuesday when he was declared sober, and reportedly caught a flight back to Tennessee where Cash lives.
John Carter Cash missed his initial flight back to Tennessee, but there’s been no word if the stripping incident caused him to miss his flight, or if he had already missed it when the incident occurred. Though it could be surmised that John Carter Cash’s stripping incident could have been the result of requests by security to remove personal objects for screening, no such information corroborating this scenario has been made available. John Carter Cash has not publicly acknowledged the incident at the time of this report.
John Carter Cash is a beloved member of the country and Americana music community, and is one of the principle representatives of the Johnny Cash estate. He has no significant prior run-ins with the law.
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.
Forget 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.
And 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.
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!
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…
Hank 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.
- The song has to be a true Hank tribute from stem to stern, not just mention Hank.
- The song has to be mostly about Hank, meaning no “Hank & Lefty” because that’s about both men equally (but still a good song).
- 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.
- 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
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.
The 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:
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.
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.
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.
The third important role in the new Hank Williams biopic I Saw The Light has been cast. 19-year-old Maddie Hasson from New Bern, North Carolina, who previously played Willa Monday in the Fox TV show The Finder, and currently co-stars in the ABC Family show Twisted has been cast in the role of Billie Jean Eshliman—later known as Billie Jean Horton—Hank’s second wife and an important woman in country music lore.
Though Audrey Williams (to be played by Elizabeth Olsen) is the woman buried next to Hank Williams and is most famous for being Hank’s wife, Billie Jean is officially Hank’s widow and played a critical role in the singer’s final months. From Bossier City, LA, Billie Jean was first introduced to Hank by another famous country singer, Faron Young who was dating Billie Jean at the time. She was just 19-years-old, and in October of 1952, Billie Jean and Hank Williams were married in a private ceremony in Louisiana. Later they repeated their vows at two concerts on the stage of the Municipal Auditorium in New Orleans for large crowds.
Three short months later, Hank Williams was dead. He passed away on News Years Day, 1953. Later in 1953, Billie Jean Williams married country music star Johnny Horton, who died in a car wreck in 1960, making Billie Jean a famous country music widow for a second time. For a short period, Billie Jean also had a relationship with Johnny Cash while he was still married to his first wife Vivian Liberto. The famous country music wife had a recording career of her own for a period, and had a Top 40 country record with “Ocean of Tears” in 1961. Billie Jean was a vocal promoter of the legacies of her two famous husbands for years, including gathering up songs from Johnny Horton after he died and compiling them into new releases. She is one of the few important figures to be portrayed in the new film who is still alive.
Billie Jean Horton had a public battle with MGM over the making of the first Hank Williams movie, Your Cheatin’ Heart from 1964. She took exception to how she was portrayed and as being married to Hank Williams illegitimately, and sued the studio.
“That movie portrayed me as a harlot. It grossed $44 million, but I shut ‘em down,” the fiery Billie Jean told The Gadsden Times in 1975. “They had lawyers stacked on top of one another, but I whupped ‘em all over town. They just weren’t ready for Billie Jean. Yeah, the movie portrayed me as a harlot, but there they were in court looking at my marriage certificate with mine and Hank’s signature on it.”
Billie Jean apparently won the lawsuit.
Some controversy has swirled over the I Saw The Light biopic, specifically from the grandson of Hank Williams, Hank3, who believes British actor Tom Hiddleston is not fit to play the role of Hank for the movie. I Saw The Light is scheduled to start filming in late October, and to be released in 2015.
Rotblatt-Amrany Rendition of Johnny Cash “The Man In Black” Statue
1969 was considered by some to be the greatest year for music the world has ever seen with the gathering at Woodstock and the high tide for the counter-culture. But it wasn’t the Beatles who sold the most music in 1969, nor was it Jimi Hendrix or Janis Joplin. It was Johnny Cash, partly due to two now legendary prison albums the Man in Black released during the time period that revitalized his struggling career, starting with At Folsom Prison released in 1968—a live recording from Johnny Cash’s two performances at Folsom Prison on January 13th, 1968. 13 years before, Johnny Cash had already immortalized the prison with his song “Folsom Prison Blues,” and now the town of Folsom, California is paying back Cash for putting the city on the map.
“People around the world know Folsom because of that very famous song,” Folsom Mayor Kerri Howell told The Sacramento Bee.
Over the weekend, Johnny Cash’s daughter Rosanne Cash ventured out to Folsom, CA to cut the ribbon at the new Johnny Cash Trail and Overpass, which includes a pedestrian and bike bridge that replicates the castle-style guard towers of Folsom Prison’s east gate. The $3.8 million-dollar overpass at Folsom Lake Crossing Rd. and East Natoma St. will eventually connect a 2.5-mile trail named in tribute to Johnny Cash, and connect to a larger trail network that snakes around Folsom Prison, Folsom Lake, and Folsom’s City Hall. And this is just where the City of Folsom’s plans begin for their Johnny Cash-themed trail.
After the 2.5 mile trail is complete, planners want to create a 2-acre park beside the trail and overpass that will include numerous Cash-themed works of art, including a guitar-style piece of art that will be on the ground and stretch out into a nearby street, a large guitar pick-style pedestal that will include a map of the Johnny Cash trail, a “Ring of Fire” display consisting of swirling red guitar pick-style pieces, and most impressively, a 50-foot steel monument called “The Man in Black,” designed by Gary Tillery in conjunction with The Fine Art Studio of Rotblatt-Amrany that will light up with flames at night. Planners in Folsom solicited the public for ideas and proposals of how to best memorialize Johnny Cash, and out of 32 final entries, they whittled it down to two winners.
The idea for the Johnny Cash-themed trail, park, and public art came from Senior Planner Jim Konopka, who thought it was the perfect way to utilize the property around the famed prison. Though public funds paid for the pedestrian overpass and trail, city planners believed private donations would be more suitable for the art projects, so the city is planning a $3 million fundraising drive to pay for the final additions.
“He was good for the city, and the city was good for him,” Robert Goss, Folsom’s Parks and Recreation director told The Sacramento Bee.
Folsom State Prison, opened in 1880, is still in operation and houses just under 2,500 inmates. Out of all of Johnny Cash’s albums, At Folsom Prison is his best selling album of all time.
This story has been updated.
Waylon fans and collectible enthusiasts from around the country and world made their way to the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, AZ or tuned in online to a 2,000-item estate liquidation from the Arizona homestead of the late Waylon Jennings. The auction was conducted by Guernsey’s of New York who compiled over 500 lots that included many pictures of Waylon and his friends, gold & platinum records and other trophies accumulated over his storied career, many music instruments including personal guitars and amplifiers, personal effects like watches and sunglasses, clothing, and reams of paper material of Waylon’s lyrics and other musings.
Bidding began at 1 PM Pacific time, and started with the pictures Waylon had accumulated over his lifetime. The most desirable lot of pictures turned out to be a lot of four vintage photos from the set of the movie Stagecoach that included pictures with Johnny Cash, and one with Waylon shooting the bird from inside a stagecoach.
PLEASE NOTE: The sale prices should be considered preliminary and may not take into consideration certain factors. As soon as sale prices are finalized and confirmed, they will be updated here.
Out of the gold & platinum records and the trophies, the most sought-after of the collection was the gold record for The Highwaymen which fetched $6,000. 17 new trophies had been added to the auction recently from what was originally advertised, including a 1998 Chettie Award that went for $2,250.
Out of Waylon’s musical instruments, his two personal 1940′s Martin guitars brought $26,000, and $22,500 respectively, while a 1985 acoustic-electric Alvarez guitar fetched $10,000—much higher than original auction estimates. However auctioneers had a difficult time getting bidders interested in the numerous Fender amplifiers from Waylon’s personal collection, with most of the Twin Reverb models going for well under estimates, and for less than $1,000.
The crown jewel of the auction was the 1958 Ariel Cyclone motorcycle once owned by Waylon’s mentor Buddy Holly that was then given to Waylon on his birthday in 1979 by the former members of Buddy’s backing band The Crickets. It sold for $457,500. Some initial reports had the motorcycle not selling at a high bid of $375,000 that did not meet the reserve, but Saving Country Music has confirmed with the auction house the sale of the bike and the price. The other high bid in the auction was for a desk given to Waylon by Johnny Cash that sold for $70,000.
As for other items of interest, a letter from Johnny Cash to Waylon went for $2,750, the note from John Lennon to Waylon went for $7,500, and a robe given to Waylon by Muhammad Ali landed $5,000.
Proceeds from the auction went to benefit the Phoenix Children’s Hospital.
Here’s a run down of some of the most important and interesting items from the auction:
1958 Ariel Cyclone Motorcycle. $457,500. (Read More)
Photograph of Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash Rollerskating. $750
Waylon’s GED Plaque from the State of Oklahoma Earned on April 14th, 1991 at 52. $1,200
Gold Record for The Highwaymen Record from 1986. $6,000
1946 Martin D28 Herringbone Guitar. $26,000.
1943 Martin Guitar 00021. $22,500
“Little” Jimmy Dickens Dobro Resonator Guitar. $12,000
Gold RWN Necklace for Waylon, Ritchie Albright, & Neil Reshen. $1,800
Howard 23 Jewel Pocket Watch on Chain. $10,000
Golden Badge from Davidson County (Nashville) Sheriff. $2,500
Rare Autographed Copy of an Early Waylon Jennings LP, JD’s. $1,100.
Hank Williams’ Custom-Made Nudie Cowboy Boots. $8,000.
Muhammad Ali’s Ring Robe Presented to Waylon by Ali (Read More). $5,000.
Letter From Johnny Cash to Waylon Jennings (Read More). $2,750.
Willie Nelson’s Braids, Given to Waylon. $31,250.
Armadillo World Headquarters Poster w/ Commander Cody & Willie Nelson. $900.
Partner Desk Given to Waylon from Johnny Cash in 1985. $70,000.
Original Contract Forming The Highwaymen. $18,000.
Letter from John Lennon to Waylon Jennings (Read More). $7,500.
Waylon’s Rolex Submariner Wristwatch. $25,000.
It was November of 1985. Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash—long-time friends who traced their intertwined stories all the way back to when they shared an apartment together just outside of Nashville—were as close as ever, and sharing the stage as part of the supergroup The Highwaymen with Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson. The song “Highwayman” had been one of 1985′s biggest hits, cresting at #1 and holding on the Billboard charts for 20 weeks on its way to becoming a Top 5 song of the entire year.
Amidst their success, Waylon had agreed to be a part of a “roasting” in Georgia to benefit the Spina Bifida Association of Atlanta, and all of his fellow Highwaymen, including Johnny Cash and his wife June Carter Cash were scheduled to attend. Reporter Jack “Hawkeye” Hurst wrote briefly about the event on November 28th, 1985, and placed Johnny and June in Atlanta with Waylon, because that is where they were supposed to be according to the billing. But in truth Johnny and June were not there; they were in Jamaica. The Cash’s had a home called “Cinnamon Hill” on the Caribbean island which Waylon and his wife Jessi often visited, and while hiding away in their Jamaican home, Johnny and June missed the Atlanta roast. How do we know this?
As part of the liquidation of Waylon’s Arizona estate currently underway, a letter from Johnny Cash to Waylon has been made public for the first time. To make it up to Waylon for not attending the roast, Johnny Cash (or someone on his behalf) took to a typewriter, and in the spirit of a proper roasting, wrote a letter to Waylon that was equally apologetic for missing the event as it was pointedly sarcastic toward his old friend.
The Johnny Cash letter to Waylon Jennings is a testament to the friendship and closeness the two men shared, and the respect each man felt for respective wives.
The letter, along with hundreds of personal effects, including reams of other written paper matter, is scheduled to be auctioned off by Guernsey’s Auctioneers on Sunday, Oct. 5th.
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Waylon, this roast shouldn’t hurt you too much tonight, because your brain is already fried. Seriously, I wanted to be there so bad, but I have been told that the only way to get from Jamaica to Atlanta is to travel. I sincerely hope you will accept this honest reason. We miss you and Shooter. Did you ever find out who Shooter’s mother is . . . . . I love you, Jessi, don’t I June? Jessi, you are one of the few truly great women I have met in my entire life. As soon as we get home, we want you to find Waylon’s clothes that he is going to wear that day, then show him where the car keys are, and come to see us. Waylon, I love you, don’t I God? Just remember if you’re ever down to your last dollar, if all your old friends turn their backs on you, if you’re so low that you wish you could die, just remember, I’ll always be . . . . . . . . .
I don’t know how Marty Stuart does it. He’s like Gandalf on the back of his white steed, galloping here and there and everywhere in his pursuit to save country music. He’s scouring the country to secure important country music artifacts for preservation. He’s opening a cultural center in his hometown. He’s starring in The Marty Stuart Show and touring constantly. And here he is releasing a double album through his Superlatone record label.
Saturday Night / Sunday Morning unfolds just like its title implies. The first album is the secular country music fare you’ve come used to hearing from Marty Stuart with his mainstay backing band of recent years The Fabulous Superlatives, where the telecasters are loud and twangy, and the style is honky tonk and traditional. Then the second album unfolds very much like you would expect if you’ve heard Marty Stuart and the Superlatives perform their version of rocking country Gospel and a cappella compositions with their captivating four-part harmonies. It’s Gospel, but it’s Marty Stuart Gospel. It’s electric, with a vitality and energy not always heard in the discipline.
Like his mentor Johnny Cash, as Marty Stuart has grown older, he’s evidenced an increasingly deeper appreciation for Gospel music. Most any Marty Stuart album is going to boast a Gospel song or two, but with this release he takes the time to make an entire album of religiously-inspired music. Marty actually released another Gospel album called The Gospel Music of Marty Stuart somewhat quietly in April that includes live performances of many recognizable Gospel songs regularly performed on The Marty Stuart Show. But Saturday Night / Sunday Morning is Stuart putting his personal stamp on Gospel, and making sure to serve both sides of his fan base by not just including Gospel songs exclusively.
If you think about it, this strategy is pretty smart. Unfortunately, some listeners are turned off when they hear an album is only going to include religious material. You combine two albums together, and you can lead right into it since folks are already listening. It’s like your mother giving you sugar with the medicine. Next thing you know, you’re appreciating the Gospel music just as much as Marty’s other stuff, if not more.
Saturday Night / Sunday Morning should not be considered a concept album. There’s no deep-seated story with recurring characters or themes referenced throughout like Marty’s landmark concept album The Pilgrim from 1999. The two albums are more just a style and approach delineation, though like all of Marty’s music, there are still important themes and messages to heed, hard lessons learned, harrowing stories, and personal awakenings to be had amongst these 23 new tracks.
Marty gives us a lot of music to crunch through in this release, and a lot of notable appearances. Included on Saturday Night / Sunday Morning beyond the Fabulous Superlatives is Hall of Famer Hargus “Pig” Robbins on piano, who makes appearances throughout the Saturday Night album. Both Hargus and and Willie Nelson’s long-time harmonica player Mickey Raphael pretty much carry the second song “Geraldine.” The great Mavis Staples makes an important appearance to begin the Sunday Morning portion of the release, lending her vocal talents to the classic “Uncloudy Day.” And Evelyn Hubbard also shows up on the Gospel album. Who is Evelyn Hubbard you ask? Well she’s a pastor at the Commerce Missionary Baptist Church in Robinsonville, Mississippi of course.
Saturday Night / Sunday Morning begins with Marty Stuart reviving the sound that has graced his records since enlisting the Superlatives as his backing band. Though people talk about the great guitar-slinging frontmen of country music today like Brad Paisley and Keith Urban, the combination of Marty Stuart and “Cousin” Kenny Vaughan makes for about the best Telecaster-based country music you can find these days, and based not just off of technique, but off of tone and taste. Since Saturday Night is chased by Gospel, Marty and the boys put the pedal down on the first album and rarely let off. Think of old school honky tonk country rock.
The middle of this album gets just a little bit sleepy. There’s a decent amount of covers on this record, and in stretches you feel like Marty is doing a little too much interpreting of old song styles than offering more original-sounding material like on recent albums. But there’s not a slouch anywhere on this track list either.
Sunday Morning continuously builds toward the end of the album, to where the brilliant four part harmonies of Marty, “Cousin” Kenny, “Handsome” Harry Stinson, and “Apostle” Paul Martin unfold into some brilliant, and spine-tingling works of inspirational music. For years the foursome has been performing one of the best renditions of “Angels Rock Me To Sleep” ever bestowed to human ears, and we finally get a recorded version of this masterpiece. And the album resolves in the mostly-a cappella original “Heaven” that is so haunting and touching, it should be considered one of the essential recordings of Marty Stuart’s entire career.
Once again Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives prove they are at the core of keeping the traditions of country music alive, while doing so in a manner that is energetic, inviting, informed, and broad-based where people of all stripes—the Saturday night and Sunday morning people—can come together and enjoy the gift of good country music together.
1 3/4 of 2 Guns Up.
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