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Welp, that’s that. Gauging from the comments made in Rolling Stone‘s current country music special edition by the CEO of Big Machine Records aka the Country Music Antichrist Scott Borchetta, we can now put a period at the end of Taylor Swift’s pop country career. Finito. Done. End of story. Taylor Swift’s country run is in the books, and she’s now a pop star exclusively.
And for the love of God people, please don’t tell me she was never country to begin with. That goes without saying.
In the Rolling Stone article currently on newsstands, Scott Borchetta is quoted as saying that Swedish pop producer Max Martin, the man behind Taylor Swift’s last album Red‘s most pop-oriented material like “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and “I Knew You Were Trouble”, worked on “most of her” next album. Martin was the producer behind successful pop music franchises such as The Backstreet Boys, N’Sync, and Britney Spears before being brought onto the Swift team at Scott Borchetta’s behest. But Martin, along with his fellow Swedish collaborator Shellback, only worked on three of the sixteen total songs on Swift’s Red album, despite their footprint feeling much bigger because the partnership comprised the album’s two biggest singles.
Scott Borchetta says in the article about Swift’s new album, “Taylor fans are going to love it. Will country stations play a complete pop song just because it’s her? No.” This quote is then reinforced in a caption under a picture of Scott Borchetta and Taylor Swift together.
So much can be read into this quick statement from Borchetta. A man who is known for brevity and measuring his words, Borchetta alludes to us that there will be little, or potentially nothing about Taylor Swift’s new album, or at least the singles that will be targeted for radio, that country radio will find enticing; so much so that he predicts that a format that has moved so dramatically in a pop direction in the two years since Taylor’s last release, and especially in just the last six to nine months since a major Taylor Swift single, will still be completely unwelcoming to Taylor Swift’s new material. That is how pop it is. More pop than Jerrod Nieman’s “Drink To That All Night” or Luke Bryan’s “That’s My Kind Of Night”. More pop than “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”. If this estimate of Taylor Swift’s new material is accurate, and if country programmers will be able to resist the urge to play Taylor to audiences as her Big Machine-backed singles blow up on Top 40 stations, then yes, it truly is time for country to say bon voyage to Taylor.
Then Scott Borchetta tells Rolling Stone, “But when she comes to town, her friends at country radio will come and see her.” This seems to allude that Borchetta and Taylor Swift don’t think they even really need country radio anymore, they’re planning without it, and can trump radio politics with the strength of Taylor’s touring might. They care so little about the acceptance of Taylor’s music by country, they’re downright flippant, unconcerned about it. And clearly these quotes are buttering up the public so when Taylor releases her first purely pop single, it doesn’t come as a complete shock. Though would it anyway, given her track record with Red?
There’s a couple of other interesting nuggets from the same small portion of the Rolling Stone piece talking about Taylor’s new album. Though the premise of the conversation is about how Scott Borchetta, unlike many of his Music Row bunk mates, actually extends quite a bit of creative latitude and freedom to his artists, it is also reinforced in the article that it was Borchetta’s idea to bring big pop producer Max Martin into Taylor Swift’s creative process in the first place.
“He’s allowed me to evolve on my own one year at a time,” Swift says about Borchetta to Rolling Stone, but the very next line in the article says, “But he did urge her [Taylor] to collaborate with Max Martin on her last album.”
This Max Martin decision is the arguably the most important, most defining moment in Taylor Swift’s entire career up to this point, and interestingly enough, it wasn’t instigated by her. It was Scott Borchetta that made the decision to bring Max Martin in, and the result has been a big shift from substantive songwriting with country pop flavor, to the pop-only, vapid stylings of Max Martin, bringing in dub-step and other influences completely foreign to country music, and resulting in shallow compositions like “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” Of course Taylor Swift is not completely innocent in this dramatic, and defining career shift, but its origination point is undoubtedly Borchetta.
The story of Scott Borchetta barging in on Taylor Swift’s creative process during the making of Red in late 2012 was chronicled by Billboard:
āI said, āYou know, this song isnāt working yet.ā They both looked at me (Swift and Nathan Chapman) with a blank stare. ‘The chorus isnāt elevating like it needs to. Where youāre wanting to take the song, itās not going there. It needs a Max Martin type of lift.ā
ā¦ At that point Borchetta called Martin. Both Borchetta and Swift agree that it was a turning point for āRedā.
And it was a turning point in Taylor Swift’s entire career, putting her on a completely different path from what got her to where she was.
Who is Nathan Chapman that is referenced in the above quote? He is the producer who worked with Taylor Swift from day one, recording her first demos, and presiding over virtually all of her music up to Red, when a bevy of eight producers, including Chapman on certain songs, were brought in to work on, and in the Max Martin instances, co-write Taylor’s songs. Compare this to Swift’s previous album Speak Now where Swift wrote the entire album by herself, and produced it with help from Chapman alone.
We can’t assume that just because Max Martin has a majority stake in Taylor’s new album that there still won’t be moments of substance. The rules of the game are a little different in this instance. When Max Martin was brought in on Red, his sole purpose was to produce radio hits. Now, hypothetically, he will be employed to deal with a more diverse range of material. Still, it is concerning that Max Martin almost always insists on weaseling his way into a co-writing role of the songs he produces. This is what we saw with Red, and what we’ve seen with other Max Martin-involved projects.
What endeared Taylor Swift to America and had critics coming to her defense was the fact that however pop she was, her songs were sincere expressions from her directly. She was the superstar that was also the girl next door. The Max Martin material from Red shattered this perception, and also resulted in significantly less industry awards and accolades from both country music, and all-genre based awards. It also resulted in some of the biggest sales numbers of Taylor Swift’s career. Choosing to go with Max Martin is about trading commercial acceptance over artistic substance.
At the same time, a complete cutoff from the country music realm makes a lot of sense for Taylor Swift. What are the two biggest criticisms Taylor has faced over her career? That she can’t sing, and she’s not country. Since her debacle on the Grammy Awards with Stevie Nicks in 2010, Taylor has at least reined in her singing problems to some extent. And if she leaves country, this will put this long-suffering debate about if she’s country or not to bed for good.
So that’s good, right? Let Taylor Swift go. Let the pop world have her …. Except that she was one of the genre’s last female stars that could do battle with the men who have dominated the charts and radio, and despite the Max Martin-produced material from her last album and her early material that lacked maturity, Taylor Swift was one of the last vestiges of artistic substance mainstream country music could boast, even if she was in the genre artificially.
Country music lacks female talent. It can’t fill out the nominees for Female Vocalist of the Year at the CMA and ACM Awards even when Taylor Swift is included. All signs point to Taylor Swift wanting to shake free from her country music bonds, with the singles she released from Red, and now these quotes from Borchetta that in many respects don’t seem to be taking into account the realities of country radio. But there’s no guarantee country music is willing to play ball with Taylor Swift’s departure. Country music needs Taylor Swift, and it will be unwilling to forfeit the opportunity to have her sales and touring force fall under its umbrella without a fight.
If Taylor Swift is truly leaving country, it’s hard to declare a victory for country music here, or for Taylor Swift. Without the support of country, and with the presence of Max Martin, there’s likely going to be a lot less trophies adorning Taylor’s mantle. At the same time Taylor Swift is now free to do what she wants …. or what Max Martin wants to do with her.
- Taylor Swift will make an announcement about her new album in late July, or early August.
- The new album will be released in October, or early November.
- There will be at least one collaboration with Justin Timberlake on the new album.
- It will include about 15 to 18 songs.
- Despite Scott Borchetta’s rhetoric, country radio will still play Taylor Swift, and with a lack of other leading females to fill the spots, Swift will still get nominated for country music’s top female awards.
The wait by both Justin Townes Earle and his fans for new music is finally seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. Justin will be releasing his 5th studio album Single Mothers on September 9th on Vagrant Records—the California-based label that is also home to artists like Black Joe Lewis, Blitzen Trapper, Edward Sharpe, and PJ Harvey. The album will be the first from Justin since his last and final record with Chicago-based Bloodshot Records, Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now released in March of 2012.
After the resolution of Earle’s five-album Bloodshot contract, the son of Steve Earle and the namesake of Townes Van Zant found himself in the midst of an intense battle with the British-based label Communion Records owned in part by Ben Lovett, otherwise known as the accordion and keyboard player of Mumford & Sons. According to Earle, the company expected him to turn in 30 songs per his contract, which the label could then par down into an album release. The result was a December 15th Twitter tirade where Earle said, āI have now learned that you can never trust a bunch of babies that aināt worked a day in their lives. May Shane McGowan kick their asses. The only thing I hate about business is that itās frowned upon to pistol whip the competition. Tweets are gonna be angry for awhile. Just found out I wonāt be making a record for a while due to a bunch of pussies in an office. Never working with another record label.ā
Later, on December 18th, Earle continued, “āSo I am being told that I agreed to write 30 songs and let the label āhelpā make the record. That for sent even sound like me! Like I would ever let some little twit fucking comb through my work. And calling me a liar well them is fighting words. Anytime bitchās! … Let me make this clear! I have not, and never will write 30 songs in a year. That isnāt art itās vomit. I write a record. Quality matters not quantity! I deliver records in sequence and have a pretty good record so far. I donāt need the new kids giving me tips. Ladyās and gents. I will find a way to get new music out very soon. Will write and record a solo EP. Then Find some grown ups to work with.ā
Justin Townes Earle recently played the title track to Single Mothers on NPR’s Mountain Stage.
Earle has received critical acclaim for his music and songwriting since releasing the Yuma EP in 2007. In 2009 he won the Americana Music Award for New and Emerging Artist of the Year, and won Saving Country Music’s Album of the Year in 2009 for Midnight At The Movies, as well as SCM’s 2011 Artist of the Year.
Justin Townes Earle was also recently married.
Corb Lund, the current king of Canadian country (at least in this buckaroo’s estimation), will be releasing his latest studio incarnation called Counterfeit Blues to folks in The States on July 1st, and to those north of the border on June 17th. Counterfeit Blues will not be your average joe release though, it is a CD/DVD combo that captures Corb and his Hurtin’ Albertans live and on the floor within the confines of the legendary Sun Studios in Memphis, reprising some of Corb’s most well-known compositions in new recordings.
“It turned out really well,” says Corb about the new project. “Partly because we know the songs inside out and have played them live a thousand times and partly because recording at Sun is a very old fashioned, low-tech process that ends up sounding really great if you can pull it off. My band has been playing behind me for ten years or more, with all the same members so it was a great way to capture the live chemistry we’ve developed over many, many tours. You can’t fake that.”
Some lucky Canadians may have seen Corb Lund and his Sun recording session as part of a CMT Canada documentary (that didn’t air in The States) called Memphis Sun. That documentary is where the material for the DVD comes from, and it includes three previously-unheard/unseen bonus tracks that were not in the film.
If youāre looking for one modern-day Canadian who can stand tall in his boots and go toe to toe with the American born country legends, it would be Corb Lund. Whether youāre talking about Corb Lund the songwriter, Corb Lund the singer, or Corb Lund the performer, heās one of these five-tool musicians who can do it all. Growing up on a ranch in Southern Alberta, heās lived as an authentic country life as any.
Counterfeit Blues CD Tracklist:
1. Counterfeiters’ Blues
2. Good Copenhagen
3. Big Butch Bass Bull Fiddle
4. Hair In My Eyes Like A Highland Steer
5. Little Foothills Heaven
6. Five Dollar Bill
7. Buckin’ Horse Rider
8. Hurtin’ Albertan
9. (Gonna) Shine Up My Boots
10. Truck Got Stuck
11. Roughest Neck Around
12. Truth Comes Out
Memphis Sun DVD Tracklist:
1. Hurtin’ Albertan
2. No Roads Here
3. Little Foothills Heaven
4. Counterfeiters’ Blues
5. Roughest Neck Around
6. Big Butch Bass Bull Fiddle
7. Hair In My Eyes Like A Highland Steer
8. Truck Got Stuck
9. Truth Comes Out
10. Five Dollar Bill
11. Buckin’ Horse Rider (bonus)
12. Good Copenhagen (bonus)
13. (Gonna) Shine Up My Boots (bonus)
Distribution and publishing company Thirty Tigers has signed critically-acclaimed singer-songwriter Hayes Carll to work on a new album this fall, with hopes for an early 2015 release. Carll’s last album KMAG YOYO was released in February of 2011 through Lost Highway Records, as was his 2008 release Trouble in Mind. Both albums won him critical praise and solid commercial success, and Carll is now considered one of the mainstays of country/Americana touring channels, playing an average of 200 shows a year.
Thirty Tigers is unique in the record label business in letting artists own their own imprints with which to publish their own music. Hayes Carll’s Highway 87 will be the name under which the Houston native will release his first album in four years. Other notable Thirty Tigers artists include Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Ryan Bingham, Elizabeth Cook, and Trampled By Turtles. Hayes Carll adds another high caliber name to a company who is setting the new paradigm in music labels—one that fosters artists keeping control of their own music.
“Hayes is the rare artist that can make you laugh out loud, break your heart or turn a phrase that makes you shake your head in utter joy,” says Thirty Tigers President David Macias. “We feel proud that we get to go fight for him.”
Carll’s manager says, “Thirty Tigers is a great fitĀ for Hayes. Their business model allows him to maintainĀ control of his music. And,Ā he has manyĀ deep relationships within the company that go all the way back to his first album.”
It has been since September of 2010 that fans of CMA Award-winning country music star Jamey Johnson have heard new music from the singer and songwriter. His critically-acclaimed double album The Guitar Song has had to tide listeners over for a protracted period, from an artist that before had been quite prolific. Johnson did release another album in October of 2012, but it was a tribute album, Living For A Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran.
Since then fans have been in a fog about when new music could be expected from the Alabama native, or even the nature of his label status. Then in an interview with Rolling Stone published February 10th, 2013, Jamey Johnson spelled out in specific detail that he felt he was getting a raw deal from his long-time label, Mercury Records Nashville.
āFinancially speaking, they treat me worse than they ever did the Dixie Chicks,ā Johnson explained to Rolling Stone. āI feel pretty used by the music industry, in that my contracts are written in such a way that I donāt get paid. Itās time for us to regroup and itās time for us to look at these contracts. The problem is, I donāt trust any of the people that Iāve worked with so far. I believe theyāve all hidden the truth from me or lied to me or deceived me in one way or another. Because the end result is that no matter what they said or did or what they said they did, I didnāt get paidā¦ As a musician I never studied music law. I canāt even read the contracts Iāve signed. But Iām fairly sure they donāt say what I thought they said.”
Beyond The Dixie Chick’s public blackballing from country music after making disparaging comments about then President George W. Bush, they also were part of their own contract dispute, and claimed they didn’t get paid properly for their music. Jamey also explained that the ordeal had put a damper on his desire to write songs.
Well, I wish I could tell you that I am writing. Iām not. I wish I could tell you Iām gonna go home next week and record another album. Itās not likely to happen. We havenāt reached such a gridlock that we canāt continue to do work with them in the future. But we canāt do anything right now until that gets resolved.
Well apparently it has been, though initially the nature of that resolution still left us with more questions. While playing the Mahaffey Theater at the Progress Energy Center in St. Petersburg, FL on January 17th of this year, Jamey Johnson said to the crowd,
“Last time we did a show without a record deal was ’06. Tonight’s our first show without a record deal. And somehow we’re still on the same label. We just didn’t have nowhere else to go. They set it up where now we just don’t have to stay. And here’s one for all of our friends back at Mercury Records in Nashville, Tennessee.” (video below)
After the remarks, Jamey launched into the Waylon Jennings song, “Freedom To Stay.”
Jamey’s remarks would seem to allude that he’d stayed with the label, but also that he’d left it. Or that maybe they had restructured his deal so he could leave, but he decided to stay anyway. The comments seemed to create more questions than answers—more questions there had been before. But maybe that was Jamey’s intention.
So Saving Country Music, wanting to get to the bottom of Jamey’s contract status—called Mercury Records. This is a rough sketch of how the phone conversation went.Hello this is Trigger from Saving Country Music. I’m calling to see if I can ascertain the contract status of Jamey Johnson. Jamey who? I don’t know who that is. Jamey Johnson? I don’t know. Does he or she work here? Jamey Johnson. Is that a new artist or something? Won a CMA for Song of the Year? Wrote “Honky Tonk Badona Donk”? (going for the least common denominator in desperation) Huh. I’ve never heard that name. The rest of the staff is in a meeting. I will have to find out for you.
About 5 minutes later I receive a phone call back from Mercury Records Nashville.No. Jamey Johnson is no longer signed with us. So he didn’t restructure his deal or anything? He’s not signed to the label whatsoever? No. He was here, but he’s no longer signed with us. That’s all the information I can give you.
So there you go. Jamey Johnson has been stricken from the consciousness of Mercury Records Nashville and has moved on. Though this is no guarantee there’s new music coming from him, this certainly moves him one step closer.
Jamey’s remarks about his contract status can be seen at the 28:55 mark in the video below.
Tuesday was the release of Johnny Cash’s “lost” album Out Among The Stars that was discovered by Johnny’s son, John Carter Cash while organizing his father’s archived recorded material. Now according to the younger Cash, and legendary producer Rick Rubin who Cash worked with beginning in the mid 90′s during his American Recordings rebirth, there is still “four or five albums” worth of Johnny Cash material to be released. Though none of this material consists of cohesive albums like Out Among The Stars and is mostly the result of outtakes and alternative versions, it will be welcome by the loyal fans of the Man in Black whose appetite for Johnny’s music appears to be endless.
“There are a few things thatĀ are in the works right now,” John Carter Cash tells The Guardian. “Probably four or five albums if we wanted to releaseĀ everything. There may be three or four albums worth of American Recordings stuff,Ā but some of it may never see the light of day.ā
Lots of material from Cash’s American Recordings era has already been released posthumously, including the last two installments in the album series: 2006′s American V: A Hundred Highways, and 2010āsĀ American VI: Aināt No Grave. Also a box set called Unearthed was released with outtakes and alternative versions a few months after Johnny’s passing in 2003. āWe released the work we had beenĀ planning to release along with John [Carter Cash] and the idea of the ‘Unearthed’ boxset of outtakes was his idea,” says Rick Rubin. “We will probably put out additional ‘Unearthed’ material recorded since the last ‘Unearthed’ box, in keeping with Johnās wishes.ā
Along with American Recordings-era material, a 4-disc bootleg series of previous Johnny Cash material has also been released to the public posthumously, as well as expanded recordings from his legendary concerts at Folsom and San Quentin prisons. The sheer volume of materialĀ can be overwhelming for some fans wanting to put their ears on anything relating to Johnny Cash, but those still hungry for music from the Man in Black appear to be in store for new material for a while.
Announced on paste.com this morning, up-and-coming authentic country performer Sturgill Simpson will release his second solo studio album called Metamodern Sounds In Country Music on May 13th. Born in Kentucky, the former from man of Sunday Valley released his debut album High Top Mountain in 2013 to critical acclaim and was nominated for Saving Country Music’s Album of The Year. Sturgill went on to be named Saving Country Music’s Artist of the Year.
āMyriad worldly offeringsāreligion, drugs, and moreāall claim to be the omnipotent universal truth, but in my experience, love is the only certainty. That is what this record is about,” Simpson tells Paste.
The cover art is contributed by longtime Sturgill Simpson friend Jason Seiler, known for his illustration of Pope Francis for Time Magazine.
As part of the announcement, Sturgill has also released the first single from the album “Living The Dream” (listen below).
Track List for Metamodern Sounds In Country Music:
1.Turtles All the Way Down
2. Life of Sin
3. Living the Dream
5. Long White Line
6. The Promise
7. A Little Light
8. Just Let Go
9. It Aināt All Flowers
10. Pan Bowl (bonus track)
Pictures provided by Almost Out Of Gas.
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One of the questions that comes up often in country music is “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?” There’s a lot of industry country stars that would love to tell you they’re the ones, and they record songs, print up merch, and proselytize at every turn for their candidacy to fill in for the lost country greats. But beyond the glitz and the market-driven image campaigns that surround some of mainstream country’s “New Outlaws” is an artist like Whitey Morgan and his band The 78′s—a no frills, hard-charging honky tonk outfit that tours more than anyone and brings the twang and Outlaw bass beat to country night in and night out, garnering a deep and loyal grassroots following.
But it has been around three and a half years since Whitey Morgan released a record, and rumors of an unreleased live album have been out there for the better part of two. Whitey has recently been hanging around Texas, playing some shows and getting ready to make an appearance at Dale Watson’s inaugural Ameripolitan Awards show on Tuesday, February 18th, and I sat down with him before a Friday night show at The Rattle Inn in west Austin to catch up, and ask him the question Saving Country Music has been swamped with from readers over the last few months.
People ask me this all the time and so I’ll ask you: What can you tell us about new music from Whitey Morgan?
There’s definitely been some label things happening. I’m actually off Bloodshot [Records] now. That was of my doing. I’m a do-it-yourself kind of dude. I just felt like I can do all of this on my own. The next record is going to be huge. I bust my ass out on the road like almost no other band does, and everything I have is from that. It was just time for me to do something on my own and not give away too much of my money to someone who maybe wasn’t holding up their end of the deal. I’m sure they’ll argue with you on that, but that’s a record label. I have a great booking agent now and great management. I can release a record tomorrow, on my own. I have the distribution outside of a label, I have everything I need. So what do I need a label for?
What’s the story of this live album that’s been swirling out there for a while?
The live album has been done for a year and a half. That was part of the Bloodshot thing. As soon as the live album got finished and I gave it to them is when the talk started from my end that I didn’t want to be on the label any longer. Understandably, they recoiled and said “we’re not going to really release this until we resolve whatever is going to happen in this relationship first.” It will come out when it comes out, but I’ve already forgotten about it.
So a new album is in the works?
We just recorded in El Paso for five days at an unbelievable studio with an killer producer. We got three songs just about in the bag, and we’ll be back in May for seven or eight days, and try to finish up the rest of it. It’s a place called The Sonic Ranch. It’s like no other studio I’ve ever been in or even heard about. They have three live rooms and three control rooms, all on a 3,000-acre property. They have accommodations for I think up to 30 or 40 people in different haciendas. They have a staff that does your laundry and cooks every meal for you. My management is friends with the owners. I hate the studio, but I didn’t hate this studio. I didn’t feel like I was in this studio because I could leave and walk out the studio and be forty feet to my front door and it’s just me; I have my own little hotel room right there. Most studios you can’t do that. You’re stuck in there. You can go out to the parking lot and sit in the van.
Creativity is squashed by studios that don’t have that kind of environment. I almost don’t want to tell anyone about it because I don’t need any more musicians recording there than there already are. And the equipment is unreal. Not just the recording equipment, they have tele’s galore, amps, and everything. It’s unreal. Anything you want, they have it. And it’s all because a guy that has money is passionate about music and recording. To him, it’s the ultimate dream to have musicians come hang out at his place. He’s a great dude.
I’m excited. One of the songs we recorded is an old Bobby Bare tune called “That’s How I Got To Memphis”. We put that one down and I’m really excited about that tune. It’s a little different than my kind of sound. It’s kind of got that early 80′s era sound; it’s got that minor chord in there. It’s slick. I’m trying to move on without moving too far. I know what everybody wants, they want another classic, Waylon-ish sounding album. This one’s going to be a little different, but it’s not going to be that different. We’re doing a Waylon song. I’m not going to say what Waylon song we’re doing, because I don’t think anyone’s ever covered it so I’ll keep my mouth shut on that one. But that was another song we recorded and it’s probably the best thing I’ve ever recorded in my life. The three songs are already leaps and bounds better than the last two albums I did.
The plan is we’re probably going to do an EP, maybe 7 songs. The plan is just to record as much as we can over the next few years. Even if it’s not albums, put out a 7-inch here and there, digitally release two songs. Just keep it going. Never a six month stretch without new songs. And now that I’ve got the studio I want to go to, I can’t wait to just start putting music out, now that I’m able to do it legally.
Who is the producer?
His name is Ryan Hewitt. He’s one of those guys who’s been in a lot of sessions where he was either mixing or engineering or co-producing. He mixed a lot of the Johnny Cash stuff with Rick Rubin, he did The Avett Brothers last three albums. I’ve only ever produced my shit myself. Maybe five years ago I would have been more stubborn. But now, when he’d open his mouth about something, instead of just automatically being like “No, it’s got to be my way,” I think about it from someone else’s point of view and most of the time he’s right. We worked really well together.
How are The 78′s treating you?
The last time I saw you I said that was the best band I ever had. It’s even better now. The band right now, we all get along like brothers on stage and off and that’s never happened in the history of my band. Right now, every night I’m smiling, I’m having a good time. It’s been a while. I’m trying to live a little better. But when we went into the studio my anxiety was through the roof because it’s been a while and I only had a few songs prepared really. And it just jelled.
So you feel like things are going in the right direction. Can you see it in the crowds?
Oh yeah. We’re doubling, tripling, quadrupling every show we play. The internet stuff’s been going better. Everything’s been going better. I never go into a show and it’s disappointing. It’s the management and the booking, but really it’s all of it together. The fucking band is good. The old days, we’d be touring forever but it was a half-assed band. Like I’d have a fill-in drummer for eight shows. And the last year and a half to two years it’s been a fucking good band. I would go see this band.
You played Dale Watson’s new bar down in San Antonio recently. How was that?
Big T’s Roadhouse. It’s cool man, its like Little Ginny’s Longhorn Saloon, but out in the middle of nowhere. It’s even white and red, just like Little Ginny’s. About the same-sized joint. We played it on Sunday; it was Chicken Shit Bingo. It was cool, really cool.
I want to know about your guitar.
It was brand new in 2001 I believe. But it was black with white binding. I loved it, but I always wanted a tobacco burst Tele. That’s the look I always love is tobacco burst anything. So I stripped it down, repainted it, and the “WM” I painted it on there by taking some pin striping, masking it, and spraying it. Once the original frets wore out, instead of getting a fret job, I just bought a new neck. That’s the third neck I’ve had on it. It’s the U-shaped, big baseball bat neck, and it’s got new Grover tuners on it. I love it. I go to these vintage shops and pick up these 70′s tele’s and I’m like, “Oh this thing is so rad,” and then I play it and I say, “Mine plays better” because I made it exactly how I want it to play. I ended up using mine in the studio even though they had like six unbelievable tele’s there from the 60′s and 70′s.
The 78′s are Brett Robinson – Pedal Steel, Tony Dicello – Drums, Benny James Vermeylen – Guitar and Backing Vocal, and Alex Lyon – Bass.
The grandson of Hank Williams and the son of Hank Jr. is having to deal with yet another post-contract release from Curb records, this time called Rambin’ Man, slated for release on April 1st. Insert your April Fool’s jokes here. The album will include 8 tracks of outtakes, unreleased material, and cover songs Hank3 contributed to tribute albums and other projects during his Curb years. Most of the music is stuff Hank3 fans have already heard, repackaged to look like a new album.
Hank3 entered into a 6 album contract with Curb in the late 90ā²s after a child custody suit and a judge forced him to get a āreal jobā. Curb was able to stretch Hank3ā²s album count to 7 by releasing Hillbilly Joker in 2011; a āhellbillyā album Curb initially rejected, but released after Hank3 had fulfilled his contract at the end of 2010. Then Curb released an outtakes album in 2012 called Lone Gone Daddy that brought the total of Curb releases on Hank3′s 6-album contract to 8. Ramblin’ Man would make it 9.
With the news of the release of Long Gone Daddy, Hank3 fans knew Curb still had unreleased material from the 3rd generation star, because a cover of Johnny Paycheck’s “I’m The Only Hell (My Momma Ever Raised)” that was rejected on his Damn Right, Rebel Proud album had yet to surface. Though Curb decided at the time that the cover song was not fit for public consumption, similar to how they rejected Hank3′s Hillbilly Joker album altogether, they see perfectly fit to release the song now on this new record.
Hypothetically, Ramblin’ Man would be the last of Hank3′s material from the Curb era, though the inevitable “Greatest Hits” card has yet to be played by the label.
Some other interesting notes from the track list: “On My Own” was a song from Hank3′s previous Curb record Risin’ Outlaw. “Ramblin’ Man” is a song by Hank Williams that Hank3 once recorded a cover of with The Melvins, as was Merle Haggards “Okie From Muskogee”. “Fearless Boogie” is a ZZ Top song Hank3 once covered on the tribute Sharp Dressed Men. “Marijuana Blues” originally appeared on Rare Breed: The Songs of Peter LaFarge.
Hank3 has previously encouraged fans to burn these albums and share them instead of buy them. He’s also indicated intention to release new material in 2014.
Ramblin’ Man Track List:
- Ramblin’ Man
- Fearless Boogie
- Okie From Muskogee
- The Only Hell (My Momma Ever Raised)
- On My Own [Full Length Version]
- Marijuana Blues
- Hang On
- Runnin’ & Gunnin’
Billy Joe Shaver is getting ready to record and release his first studio album in 7 years, according to the 74-year-old Outlaw country songwriter and performer. Shaver released a couple of live albums last year, Live At Billy Bob’s Texas and the Live from Austin, TX: Austin City Limits – August 14, 1984, but this will be the first album of new material since his 2007 predominantly Christian album, Everybody’s Brother.
“Iām doing my first studio album in seven or eight years and Iāll be doing that I think December first, second or something like that,” Shaver told the Fort Stockton Pioneer ahead of a show in Alpine, TX.Ā “Hopefully getting it out in a couple of months. Itās all new too and differentā¦There are some political things. The songs are so different then whatās on the radio now. Itās either going to change things around or get kicked out. One or the other. Iām hoping that this here will, as a matter of fact I know it will, it’ll kick ass…it’s going to be a good one.”
Shaver, who got his big break in country music when Waylon Jennings’ breakout album Honky Tonk Heroes included all but one Shaver-written song, also couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do a little sabre rattling about the current state of country music.
“I feel like that Iām still doing the same thing I always did, it just got lost in the shuffle because all this new stuff came in. Thereās a lot of money behind these peopleā¦Itās just people trying to make money, thatās all it is and I canāt begrudge anybody for trying to make money. We’re all trying to make a living and do the best we can.Ā I feel that the art part of it just went out the window…but every once in awhile you will hear a good song. I canāt say that itās all bad, itās not. Itās just most of itās bad…It’s kind of gotten way out of hand right now I think, but the solid foundation is still there.”
Billy Joe Shaver has had a tumultuous last 7 years. After coming out of a period where his wife, his son and guitar player Eddy, and his mother all passed away in a span of 2 years, Shaver battled a bad shoulder injury, and charges stemming from a shooting at the Papa Joe’s bar near Waco in 2007 that resulted in an assault trial against the songwriter, and a song chronicling the event by Dale Watson called “Where Do You Want It?” Shaver was eventually acquitted when it was found he acted in self-defense, with help from character witnesses Willie Nelson and Robert Duvall.
***NOTE: This story has been updated.
Garth Brooks, who’s been making overtures recently about a country music comeback and new releases, will reportedly be releasing a box set called Blame It All On My Roots: Five Decades of Influences through Wal-Mart on November 28th. The initial announcement about the release was made briefly during Garth’s television special also entitled Blame It All On My Roots that aired Saturday night (11-9) on GAC. The box set will include 6 CD’s and two DVD’s, with 10 songs on each disc covering the various influences that went into Garth’s country career.
The project appears to be mirroring the theme of Garth’s recent shows in Las Vegas of exploring his roots through cover songs. Four discs will be entitled Country Classics, Classic Rock, Blue-Eyed Soul, and Melting Pot for their respective influences. Some of the songs that will be covered in the release include the classic Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn duet “After The Fire Is Gone” with wife Trisha Yearwood, Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Great Balls Of Fire,” Cat Stevens’ “Wild World,” and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson.”
Garth’s final show at Wynn Casino’s Encore Theater in Las Vegas is set to air as a CBS Special on November 28th.
Oh the irony that the man whose name is on the tip of many people’s tongues as the one who brought country music to its knees and made it more about money than music, could also be the man in the best position to ultimately help save it.
Yes ladies and gentlemen, I’m talking about Garth Brooks.
Over the past few weeks and months, Garth has been dropping hints to fans that the future will hold some big announcements, and big events. Last week he released the cryptic message, “The sevens have aligned. It has begunā¦ Thank you for believingā¦ love, g.” He also announced recently that he will be ending his Las Vegas residence, and that his last show on November 29th will be televised on CBS. Rumors and conjecture are swirling, but so far there has been little information that is either concrete or confirmed about Garth’s future.
In truth there’s a lot less mystery here than some would like you to believe. What’s going to happen is that here very soon, either on his November 29th TV special or shortly before or after, Garth will announce a new album, and plans for a subsequent arena/stadium tour in support, and it will all transpire in 2014. As much as Garth may want to get everybody buzzing with speculation and anticipation, this is exactly what he said he was going to do when he quote “retired” from country music in 2000. He said then that he wanted to take more time to be with his family, and that once his kiddos were done with school, he’d ponder a return. And lo and behold, his youngest daughter Allie is now 17, and scheduled to graduate High School this year. So yes, 7′s are aligning, or whatever.
This is 2013, and everything surrounding the name “Garth Brooks” has changed. If you’re taking to some social network channel to beam, “Hey you know what? With the crap that’s out there today in country music, Garth Brooks doesn’t even sound half that bad,” then you are already a couple of years behind the relevant opinion curve. Whatever Waylon Jennings said or didn’t say about Garth, pantyhose, and a certain element of foreplay that Garth was the equivalent to, it’s all virtually irrelevant at this point. The simple fact is Garth Brooks, despite a nearly 15-year absence from the full-time music hustle, is as poised as any to make major waves in the country music world, and to do so his way.
In many ways the 7′s have aligned for Garth, and not just because of the particulars of his personal life. Last year George Strait announced he would end full-time touring, and he’s making his final rounds on the arena/stadium circuit as we speak. Both Alan Jackson and Vince Gill have recently accepted their fate that they’re no longer top tier concert draws, and have gone in a more rootsy direction and taken their places as country music legacy acts. Even Kenny Chesney said recently he’s going to take a break from touring. All of this leaves a massive void in the country music touring realm for a big-drawing, well-established artist.
But just what shape will Garth’s triumphant return take? That is really the only question left to answer. We really don’t have much intel or insight into this subject this early in his phase of returning, but what I do feel confident in going on the record as saying is that I don’t see Garth getting involved in either the country rap or laundry list lyric craze, or any other current pop country trend. As much as Garth’s detractors hate to admit it, one of the reasons he retired, and one of the reasons his regrettable Chris Gains era reared its ugly head is because Garth was bored, and didn’t want to chase trends. Garth wanted to make his own trends, and his own music. Whatever Garth does, it will be true to Garth.
And Garth also won’t do anything unless he knows it’s going to be successful, both with its reception and its financial reward. He’s already voiced concerns about how the digital age will effect his ability to release music. If/when he does release music and go on tour, he will have all bets hedged, and it will be huge.
And even if Garth gets out on stage and acts like a jukebox of his Greatest Hits with some new material mixed in, this will offer such a stark contrast to country music’s current flavors, it will immediately constitute a positive counter-balance, swinging the scales in whatever degree back to the true sound of country music. Look at what Garth has been doing at his Vegas shows. He’s been stripping them back, just him and his acoustic guitar, playing songs from Merle Haggard and George Jones. I don’t expect to see this specifically from his reboot, but I do expect it to be traditional and substantive in nature compared to the current country mainstream. Garth isn’t going to be able to fool anyone. He can’t fit in Luke Bryan’s skinny jeans. He’s going to get out there and be Garth, and by the sheer draw of a man who’s bested only by Elvis in album sales in music history will create a dramatic amount of interest, and assert a tremendous amount of influence.
The Coal Miners Daughter and Country Music Hall of Famer Loretta Lynn has been forced to cancel a couple of weekend shows after cracking two ribs last weekend right before a big concert at her ranch in Hurricane Mills, TN. The 78-year-old was trying to get her guitar out of a closet when it apparently fell on her, forcing her into a dresser and breaking two of her ribs. She persevered through the pain for her big Labor Day show, not appreciating the severity of her injury, but has decided the pain is too unbearable to play two separate shows at Choctaw Casino Resorts in Oklahoma this weekend. Both shows have been rescheduled for December 29th and 30th.
“I’ve had to cancel my shows in Oklahoma this weekend. I hate more than anything to miss shows, but sometimes you just have to,” Loretta explained to her fans. “Iām like an accident waiting to happen these days. I was trying to get my guitar down out of my closest and the dang thing fell on top of me causing me to fall into my dresser. All this happened right before my big Labor Day Concert at my Ranch in Hurricane Mills. I didnāt know how bad I hurt myself until the next day. Come to find out I had broken two of my ribs. We are rescheduling the shows now.”
Loretta’s next set of shows, staring in Daytona Beach, FL on September 13th are still scheduled.
Even at 78, Loretta has been staying busy, telling Billboard Magazine recently that she wishes to collaborate with Jack White again. The pairing was responsible for Loretta’s landmark album Van Lear Rose in 2004. She also said she has three separate projects on the way—a Christmas album, a gospel album, and a collaboration with singer songwriter Shawn Camp on an album of mountain songs.
Texas singer/songwriter, one man band, multi-instrumentalist, Teacher of the Year, and dedicated husband and father Possessed by Paul James has announced that he will be releasing his next album There Will Be Nights When I’m Lonely on October 29th through Hillgrass Bluebilly Records. The follow up to his 2010 Independent Music Award-winning Feed The Family features 13 brand new original tracks recorded in Austin, TX.
Nights When I’m Lonely was recorded at Burns Audio by Grammy Awarded engineer Cris Burns, and features contributions by world-renown producer and steel-guitar player Lloyd Maines, legendary harmonica player Walter Daniels, Cary Ozanian and Darren Sluyter from The Weary Boys, and members of Austin-based band East Cameron Folkcore. Mastered by Jim Diamond (The White Stripes, The Fleshtones & more) and recorded in the spring and summer of this year, Night’s When I’m Lonely showcases Possessed by Paul James’s creative brilliance with more attention and effort than ever before, while taking great care to not suffocate, but enhance the magic that has made him one of the most coveted live solo performers throughout The United States and Europe.
Possessed by Paul James is a titan of the deep blues scene, a well-respected songwriter, a musician known equally for his prowess as a singer, fiddler, banjo and guitar player, and a leader of independent roots music. Drawing from blues, country, folk, and punk rock, Possessed by Paul James’s music has been described by many as more of a life-changing event than a musical experience. He channels the spirit of music through himself like none other on stage, and leaves crowds staggered.
By day Possessed by Paul James, aka Konrad Wert is an elementary school teacher working with developmentally disadvantaged children, and was awarded Teacher of the Year honors at his school last year, illustrating how music is just one way this gifted musician can touch lives.
There Will Be Nights When I’m Lonely can be pre-ordered now through the link below. It will also be available for pre-order on iTunes on October 1st.
- Songs We Used To Sing
- Back Down Here On Earth
- Where Does All The Time Go
- There Will Be Nights When I’m Lonely (Intro)
- There Will Be Nights When I’m Lonely
- Soy Muriendo
- 38 Year Old Cocktail Waitress
- 40 Days & 40 Nights
- Sweet But Bitter Life
- Pills Beneath Her Pillow
Hank Williams III has been on extended touring hiatus, one of the longest of his career, as his drummer Shawn “McNasty” Williams had surgery to repair a rotator cuff, reattach his bicep tendon, and remove bone spurs. But the grandson of Hank Williams has apparently been using the time well, writing and recording a big chunk of new material. He announced on his website this morning that he has two new albums on the way and 25 new songs written:
“I’m workin as hard as I can and as fast as I can to finish two records up. Right now I’m 25 songs deep in writin’ while playin’ guitar, singin’, doin’ my own drum tracks, then recording the other players. After that comes mixin’ it, master’n it, the artwork…Once all that is done it’ll be turned in. One is a country record…I’m not really sayin’ anything about the other record…As it looks right now, hopefully we can be on the road by May…“
In January drummer Shawn McWilliams said the “The green light was real close” in regards to his physical therapy regiment and recovery. “This has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through,” McWilliams said, “I can not wait to start playing.”
Hank3 released an unprecedented 4 albums on September 6th of 2011 after his production had been stymied by Curb Records for over 14 years. His initial plan was to focus on touring for years after, but the break in the action from his drummer’s injury means fans will be getting new material sooner than later. As always, Hank3 is recording in a DIY style, and will be releasing the records himself. As he told Saving Country Music in an interview:
Nowadays the independents have an opportunity they didnāt have 20 years ago. You donāt need a major label. All my new records are done on that same D1600 machine “Straight to Hell” was done on.
UPDATE 5/2/13: From Hank3′s website, “Artwork for the new releases is being finished up and after that, it will all be turned over for distribution. A release date will be posted when possible, as well as any tour dates, once a full schedule is confirmed.”
2013 is already shaping up to be an excellent year for real country music, with some of the heavy hitters slating new releases before we even hit Easter. Just announced, Dale Watson and his Lone Stars have a brand new album titled El Rancho Azul to be released January 29th through Red House Records, featured 14 original songs and being touted as his “honkiest tonkiest” album yet of his 21-album career.
Recorded at Willie Nelson’s legendary Pedernales Studio in Austin, Dale used his own band of Chris Crepps on upright bass, Mike Bernal on drums, Don “Don Don” Pawlak on pedal steel, with Danny Levin sitting in on piano and fiddle.
Originally it was announced that the album would be titled I Lie When I Drink (the opening track) when the first single from the album “Daughter’s Wedding Song” was released in late August of 2012. āIām often asked to recommend a song for the father/daughter dance,ā Dale says. āI usually say Merle Haggardās ‘Farmers Daughter.’ The only problem is that, in the song, the mother is gone. So one day I told this couple I would write one special for the dance.Ā While writing, I drew on my two daughters for inspiration and started crying halfway through it. I figured if it hit my heart strings, maybe itāll hit the heart strings of fathers and daughters everywhere.ā
The recently-divorced Dale takes the listener on a journey through love and heartache in El Rancho Azul. As you can expect with Dale spending most of his time entertaining Texas two-steppers in Austin’s dancehall haunts like The Broken Spoke, the album includes some songs written specifically for dancing. “Quick Quick Slow Slow” is a two-step tune, while the following “Quick Slow Slow” is a waltz.
|1. I Lie When I Drink|
|2. Where Do You Want It|
|3. I Drink to Remember|
|4. Cowboy Boots|
|5. We’re Gonna Get Married|
|6. Daughter’s Wedding Song|
|7. Quick Quick Slow Slow|
|8. Slow Quick Quick|
|9. Give Me More Kisses|
|10. Drink Drink Drink|
|11. I Can’t Be Satisfied|
|12. I Hate to Drink Alone|
|13. Smokey Old Bar|
|14. Thanks to Tequila|
The King of Juke Joint Swing, The Viper of Melody, one Wayne “The Train” Hancock will be releasing his first album in nearly 3 years on February 26th called Ride through Bloodshot Records.
“Well folks just wanted to let ya know I’m now a Double A Daddy (means I’m clean and sober),” Hancock announced on Saturday (1-4), referencing one of the signature songs from his first album Thunderstorms & Neon Signs. “Starting the New Year off with a new attitude! We got the new album coming out in Feb. and tours to follow. See ya all down the road.”
UPDATE: The title track and first single from ride has just been released! Listen below.
And that’s not the only new Wayne Hancock album out. On the day after Christmas, Bloodshot Records released Choice Cuts: Best of Wayne Hancock as part of the label’s digital-only series meant to give new fans an easy way to catch up on an artist, or old fans the ability to find an artist’s best songs in one place. Wayne’s Best Of also includes a rare duet track of his hit “Juke Joint Jumping” featuring Hank Williams III. Previously the track was only available on Bloodshot’s For A Decade of Sin compilation released in 2005.
Hancock has had substance and alcohol issues in the past. In June of 2011, Wayne entered rehab to help with his “long-term fight with addiction.”Ā But hopefully Wayne is on the right track now, and as the saying goes, THE TRAIN WILL ROLL ON.
Sitting on a shelf somewhere inside the Curb Records complex was an album called This Ain’t Country that Hank III had turned into them for release. The ensuing legal battle over the release of the album is where the cold war between Curb and Hank III became hot. Curb sat on the album, never releasing it, and refusing to allow Hank III to release it independently or on another label. Now Curb has decided to release it many years later, as well as possibly other shelved recordings as a title called Hillbilly Joker. It is due out April 5th, 2011 and can be pre-ordered through Amazon. It appears it will be available on vinyl, as well as CD & MP3.
This Ain’t Country would probably be best described as a blend of Hank III’s country band, and his heavy metal band Assjack. Hank III regularly performs a ‘Hellbilly’ set between the two distinctly different live sets, and the This Ain’t Country material takes from that middle set. This Ain’t Country has been distributed in the underground for years as a bootleg, and some of the songs appeared on Hank III’s heavy metal Assjack release. The name ‘Hillbilly Joker’ comes from This Ain’t Country’s opening track.
The album was recorded in the early 2000′s, and once Curb would not release it, an online petition was started that read in part:
Music is probably the most widespread form of expression throughout the world, crossing many boundaries of race, religion, and gender. When an artist is not allowed to have his or her voice heard because of oppression from those with different views, I consider this a sad and unrighteous act by those who wonāt let them speak out.
The purpose of this petition is to bring to light the voices of those people who would like to have a fair chance to listen to the recorded material by Hank Williams III and Assjack known as āThis Aināt Country.ā By having Curb Records release this material as an album available to us, the consumer, the true diversity and talent of the performing artists can finally be heard.
I believe that Curb records and fans of Hank Williams III would both benefit from the release if this proposal were accepted, the records would sell and the public would not be denied what we want to hear; itās the right thing to do financially and morally. Thank you.
Hypothetically this release is the resolution of this petition. I am very curious to find out what Hank III feels about this. He might be happy that it is finally getting released, or he may not appreciate Curb making money off of him now that he has left.
Hank III is saying “Don’t buy it, but get it some other way and burn the hell out of it and give it to everyone.”
The cover art and track list has also been added:
|1. Hillbilly Joker|
|2. I’m Drunk Again|
|3. Life Of Sin|
|4. 10 Feet Down|
|5. Pistol Packin’|
|6. Tennesse Driver|
|8. Now He’s Dead|
|9. Drink It, Drug It|
- – - – - – - – - – - – -
The female reincarnation of Hank Williams, one Rachel Brooke, has announced she will have a new album coming out this Fall called Down in the Barnyard. No specific release date yet, stay tuned.
This comes on the heels of some concert dates she will be sharing with Jayke Orvis coming up in late September, early October. The tour will also feature James Hunnicutt, and members of The Goddamn Gallows fleshing out the band.
“There are other projects in the works, including another album with Lonesome Wyatt, which I have also been working on. More info on that later!”
And she’s now drumming for a punk band called The Clots. AND she’s hot. Real hot. That’s makes Rachel Brooke officially cooler than everyone else in the world, and I hate her for it.
Here’s the concert dates so far, more coming:
- Sep 23 2010 8:00P Linnemans Milwaukee, WI
- Sep 24 2010 9:30P Bottoms Up Pekin, Illinois
- Sep 28 2010 8:00P Brass Rail Fort Wayne, IN
- Sep 30 2010 8:00P Handlebar Greenville, SC
- Oct 2 2010 8:00P Kung Fu Neck Tie Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Oct 5 2010 8:30P Belvedere’s Pittsburgh, PA
- Oct 6 2010 8:30P The Crooked I Erie, PA
Well after a long drought of Hank III news, now it’s coming hard and heavy. The latest is that his next album, and the first as an independent artist free of the iron claw of Curb Records, will be called Whiskey Hound With A Southern Sound, and is scheduled to be released in April 2011.
This info comes from Hank III’s Wikipedia page, and we all know Wikipedia can be a shaky source. But hell, I’ll run with it and if it turns out to be false, I’ll figure out a way to blame Toby Keith and Tim McGraw for it.
The timing would makes sense, as it was recently revealed right here that Hank III’s Curb contract is up on Dec. 31st, 2010. Hypothetically any music he writes or records between now and New Years would still be property of Curb, so a 4 month cushion would make sense. Hank III has said in interviews recently that he will first attempt to be a truly independent artist, and try to use his strong grass roots network and a distribution company to sell his music. But if this does not work, he is open to the idea of signing with another label. III has also mentioned wanting to release a heavy metal album as well shortly after the Curb contract is up.
Hank III recently said that Curb had been “holding me back creatively for years.” (read or listen to recent Hank III interviews)Now fans and critics of his recent albums will finally get to see what the Free Hank III has to offer. It will easily be his most anticipated release.
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