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.
Are you forlorn about what has happened to country music? Then look no further than Amber Digby.
Amber Digby’s gift is being able to hand select classic country songs from the past that never became full-on classics, but should have. And then with her band Midnight Flyer, Amber makes these songs classics by the power of her pure country voice. It’s part album making, part archeology dig, and then she adds a few newer offerings and self-penned songs to the mix for good measure. Helping her along the way is an A-list cast of contributors that includes duet partners Vince Gill and Randy Lindley, steel guitar player Lloyd Green, and piano playing Hall of Famer Hargus “Pig” Robbins, just to name a few.
It takes a certain amount of courage to make an album like The World You’re Living In–so unapologetically steeped in the traditions of country music, specifically many of the traditions that set Texas country apart from other classic sounds originating further east or west. Making an album that is so blind to trends or trade industry desires, without a care if 98.1 will show courtesy to it in their rotation is a sign of character from Amber and co-producer Justin Trevino. Besides, she’ll get plenty of love from the Texas country radio stations that matter. Amber Digby’s country music pedigree runs deep, instilling in her the inability to compromise. Her mother, father, and many other members of her immediate family were professional musicians, and an album like this only gets made when a sincere passion for the roots of country is ever-present.
The way to pull off making a successful classic country album these days is to make sure to include the right amount of spice. Amber Digby and company do this and show wisdom on The World You’re Living In in both the song selection and the style of approach for each track. They start with a breadth of material that goes from country Outlaw Johnny Paycheck’s “It Won’t Be Long (And I’ll Be Hating You)” all the way to the classic country pop of Lynn Anderson’s “How Can I Unlove You.” Throughout is a cohesion built from an insistence to build out from the fiddle/steel guitar/true country sound. Amber’s not afraid to mix it up though, like on her rendition of the Jack Greene/Connie Smith number “If It Ain’t Love (Let’s Leave It Alone)” where the Wah-Wah pedal makes an appearance and revives the late 70′s Jerry Reed funky country feel, keeping the album fresh and delivering one of the work’s funnest tracks.
It’s hard to gloss over the fact that Vince Gill thinks so highly of Amber Digby that he appears on this album in a duet of The Warren Brothers’ “The One I Can’t Live Without.” The two met backstage at The Grand Ole Opry when Amber introduced herself as a fawning fan, and was floored to find out Vince was a big fan of her. They ended up writing “One More Thing I’d Wished I’d Said” together– a track that appears on this album and Gill’s Guitar Slinger.
As with all classic country albums, you must preface it by saying that it’s probably not for everyone. But the world we’re living in would sound a lot better if The World You’re Living In was the industry standard for what country music was supposed to be.
1 3/4 of 2 guns up.
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(Carryin’ On is on sale right now for $6.99.)
I’ll be strait up honest with you. When it comes to Dale Watson, there is no bigger fan than your lovable, huggable Triggerman. However when it comes to his albums, it can be…well…hit and miss.
I thought with his last two albums, they had their moments, but the concept got in the way of the music. Surfing through the rest of his discography can be difficult. There’s so many albums, some of which are unavailable, others that you can only get in Europe. And all the time you see the question from newly christened Dale Watson disciples, “What are his best albums? Tell me where to start.” That is such a hard question. My answer is usually, Live in London, but it’s a live album, so does that really count?
So when Dale releases a new album, my expectations are tempered. Then it was revealed that Dale had used Nashville musicians while recording the album in Nashville. Things were not setting up well. Then an early reviewer lamented his polished approach to this album.
But I’ll tell you what people, I like this album. I like it a lot. This is the best Dale Watson album put out in years. It’s not groundbreaking, it won’t be an influential work. But for capturing the essence of what makes Dale Watson an artist for the ages, Carryin’ On does a better job than many of its predecessors.
Dale is a man of context. I saw him last year at Pickathon in the early afternoon on a concert stage, and the mood was lost. Dale is a honky tonker. And though he’s made a career out of anti-Nashville songs and sentiment, he’s always been slick in his live presentation. He’s a slick guy, with his slicked back hair, suave stance, and smooth guitar licks. His dirty albums were made that way without choice, or from bad decisions.
I wouldn’t want every Dale Watson album to sound as slick as Carryin’ On, but for this time and place, it’s near perfect. The standout in this album is Dale’s voice. He exhibits superlative control and wide wisdom singing his parts that come across confidently, without any sign of weakness or chipped paint even after years of honky tonkin’ and road doggin’. If Nashville had tried to strap an Auto-tuner to him, he would have fried the machine from the complexity of runs, and the diversity of volume and note changes just in a simple, short phrase. Nashville younguns take note of a master.
Nashville session players Lloyd Green, Pig Robbins, and Pete Wade do a bang up job fitting tones and textures to Dale’s songwriting, and rise to the occasion of accompanying Dale’s masterful vocal performances. Sure this is the Nashville sound, but it’s the Nashville sound of 20 years ago, giving it a uniqueness and heart that pulls a nostalgic feeling from the REAL country fan. There’s a lot of by-gone Merle Haggard and George Jones in this album that make it fit like a familiar ball cap, nice and snug into your little music world.
“Hey Brown Bottle” and “I’ll Show Ya” are instant Dale classics, destined to be requested without rest at Austin’s Continental Club or Broken Spoke for years to come, and together they bookmark the breath of Dale’s style and ability. Title track “Carryin’ On” grows on you like Dale’s smile that makes every woman wonder where his relationship status stands as he flashes it across a two-stepping floor full of Lone Star beer. And “Hello, I’m An Old Country Song” takes a more wise, but still pointed and poinignant approach to Dale’s protest of the direction of country, and will fit strongly beside “Nashville Rash” and others as a solid signature song.
There are some weakly-written songs here, but in most cases the simplicity of the songwriting is drowned by Dale’s dizzying vocals. Though “Flowers in Your Hair” offers little lyrically, your mind tends to focus on Dales voice and the words are forgiven or overlooked. One thing I didn’t like about the Nashville session approach was the drums. With your finger on fast forward through the weaker tracks, you wouldn’t notice it. But taken as a whole, the lack of any creativity or direction with the production keeps reminding me of when Ween as a gimmick went to Nashville and recorded 12 Golden Country Greats. More could have been done to separate the underlying sounds in this album to help set the individual tracks apart and keep it fresh throughout.
Still, this album works for me. Dale heard something in his head, set out to do it, and I think it was accomplished, and accomplished well. There are plenty of more raw-sounding Dale Watson albums out there. I am going to enjoy this one for what it brings to the table: some great new songs, a slick approach, and Dale’s spectacular voice now bottled in its purest form for eternity.
Two guns up!
You can preview tracks or purchase Carryin’ On by CLICKING HERE.
Dale Watson has ready a new album called Carryin’ On, and it will be released on August 24th via Koch Records.
Dale has made a country music career out of defying convention, but he defies his own convention with this new album. As discussed in Separating Music City From Music Row, the writer of “Nashville Rash” recorded the album at Nashville’s Hilltop Studios, and used legendary Nashville session players Lloyd Green, Hargus Robbins, and Pete Wade.
From The Tennessean:
“People say, ‘What are you doing? You hate Nashville. But I don’t hate Nashville. I hate what has been done to the music that I love, the music that came from Nashville and that was invented in Nashville. I’m 100 percent inspired by what Nashville was.”
Apparently Koch Records did not pick Dale, Dale picked them. He funded the album himself, and then sought out distribution.
“I knew the only way to make a record like this was to keep the labels out of it. I financed it myself. It cost me a lot of money, but I don’t do this for the money. This was the dream record for me. It’s been my dream to get a record done in this town, in Nashville, in the way I knew it could be done.”
Carryin’ On can be pre-ordered HERE, and as album artwork, track list and previews get populated, you should be able to find them there as well.
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