When speaking about pure, raw musical talent, there may not be a better specimen in the entire music world than violin player, and singer-songwriter Ruby Jane from Austin, TX. To know the girl is to know this to be true, and when she was tested on the road as part of Willie Nelson’s Family Band and Ray Benson’s Texas Swing outfit Asleep At The Wheel at the ripe age 14, Ruby proved herself to packed audiences night after night.
But raw talent can be hard to tame, hard to take from stage right to stage center, and hard to shape into a transferable commodity in 2013. Talent is no longer enough. There’s no collective will to put the best and brightest of society on a pedestal. And as the years tick towards an 18th birthday, the wonder a prodigy can evoke begins to diminish and originality must rise up to fill the void.
The most difficult time for a child music prodigy is that transition into musical adulthood. Ruby Jane, who’s now 19-years-old and graduated from High School, had big promises and bigger hopes of being backed by one big industry outfit or another that seemed to show up and fade throughout her career. You’d be a fool not to recognize the talent, but what to do with it? Where does it fit in the music world?
Then the mother of all bad luck scenarios played out on December 8th, 2011 in Houston, TX when Ruby and her mother were carjacked, held at gunpoint, had everything taken from them including all of Ruby’s music gear and merch and their phones and ID’s, and left on the side of the road in the middle of the night to fend for themselves.
But the world must keep turning, and in the aftermath of the tragedy, Ruby recorded an album called Celebrity (Empire of Emptiness). Though the theme and moral was spot on, and there were certainly shimmers of the superlative Ruby Jane talent we all knew was there, the album seemed to showcase a violin maestro trying to find her voice, both figuratively and literally, and the album had a foggy aspect to the final mixes, like it was hindered by a lack of good process. For some, the album spoke to them. But it seemed to fall short of the promise of what the world-class talent of Ruby Jane could achieve.
Celebrity (Empire of Emptiness) also solidified Ruby Jane’s departure from anything “country.” And who could blame her? With all that talent, why would you she want to be lumped in with the Florida Georgia Line’s of the world? Ruby’s talent is too great to be confined to one genre, but the departure meant the diminishing of the skins she had assembled during touring with Willie, being the youngest invited fiddler to ever play the Grand Ole Opry stage, and her other country accolades. It wasn’t that these accomplishments didn’t mean anything anymore, it’s that they just didn’t mean as much to the new music spheres she was now entering.
Meanwhile Austin did what Austin does, which is offer the safest of havens for any artist who can show promise and talent, while generally failing to develop or nurture that talent beyond the city limits, especially in days that have seen the epicenter of independent music shift demonstrably toward Nashville, while Austin seems to be precariously hanging onto its musical lineage as condominium complexes and hipsters encroach on Austin’s heart, and it’s traditional musical infrastructure focuses less on developing talent, and more on serving a wealthy elite.
But no matter how the deck is stacked, you would be a fool to bet against the talent of Ruby Jane. Despite all the hardships, the violin and the spirit preservers, and being a Ruby Jane follower, you inherently hold on to a sense that it is simply a matter of time before all the stars align and Ruby Jane’s ship comes in.
Not attached to an announcement of a new album or any other notable news, Ruby Jane has released a new single and a new video called “Ticket Out.” Written by Ruby, and produced by Mario Marchetti who’s worked with The Lumineers and some other notable names from the the pop world in the past, “Ticket Out” evokes a Lumineers-esque vibe with a heavy, woody bass beat and hand claps, but is centered mostly around the chorus hook “I’ll be your ticket it out of town” that grips the listener and sets a fun, positive mood in a song that has great energy and momentum.
Some may feel like the song is a little too simple, but Ruby’s violin is given its moments to shine and offer substance to the song, and Ruby’s songs have always been a tale of two approaches: Mind-blowing, composition-based, deftly-constructed instrumental pieces, and lighthearted singer-songwriter material.
The video, directed by Nyle Emerson, captures a day in the life of Austin’s young, hip culture, with a curly-mustached protagonist trying to shake his angst by courting a flame-haired food trailer chef on a trek to a swimming hole. With its still-shot animation, the “Ticket Out” video matches the mood and motion of the song and story, and illustrates great depth, attention, and heart.
Blame Willie Nelson, blame her Texas blood and her Mississippi spirit, but Ruby has always been an outlaw of sorts, wanting to do things her own way and carve her own path. But where good art can turn great is when an artist can see when their expressions can bloom and reach their full potential by getting other people involved, and people that have their best interests first. The Mario Marchetti collaboration on “Ticket Out” may not be the final solution to Ruby finding her place, or it might. We’ll just have to see. But it certainly is a step in the right direction.
I like it.
1 ¾ of 2 guns up. 4 of 5 stars.
Sex has been used to sell music almost since music became a commercial enterprise. From the shaking of Elvis’s hips, to Madonna’s “Sex” book, to Miley Cyrus doing all manner of gratuitous things with a foam finger on MTV’s Video Music Awards.
What seems especially sinister about the recent descent of artists like Miley Cyrus, Brittney Spears, and so many others is that they started out as child stars and young female role models, marketed towards children and young teenagers. Even when the artists become adults themselves, many times their fan bases continue to predominately hover around ages where being exposed to certain behavior is inappropriate, especially for impressionable young girls who look up to big music stars as role models. Miley Cyrus’s recent stage antics on MTV’s Video Music Awards included teddy bears as a primary part of the presentation, representing the blurring lines between age and the marketing of music to children and adults.
Maybe the ugliest part about Miley Cyrus’s turn for the worse is how predictable the whole scenario is. Cyrus was purposely being sensational to get people talking to eventually sell more music. By decrying her actions, we in turn are fulfilling her wish.
It’s hard not to fall for the idea that depravity and raunch is what rules the day in the modern popular music culture because that is what gets the lion’s share of attention. But in truth there’s plenty of positive female role models in music, from huge, internationally-known pop stars, to promising up-and-coming artists. Here is 8 of them from a cross section of well-known and up-and-coming talent. You are encouraged to share other examples in the comments section below.
Mandolin wizard and multi-instrumentalist Sarah Jarosz signed with Sugar Hill Records as a senior in high school, releasing her first album in 2009. Her song “Mansinneedof” was nominated for a Grammy Award in the category of Best Country Instrumental Performance, and despite having her career path well set in music, she decided to enroll in the prestigious New England Conservatory of Music after high school, recently graduating with honors. Her third album Build Me Up From Bones is set to be released on September 24th.
I just made half a thousand hardcore punk fans throw up into their keyboards, but the simple fact is Hayley Williams is one of the few artists heading a popular rock band that remains unrefined, original, and authentic, and this is even more phenomenal because she is a young woman facing the pressures to sell herself as product. Unlike other pop punk princesses such as Gwen Stephani or Avril Lavigne, Hayley has never sold out for widespread appeal, and remains in her original band despite the big payday that would probably await her with a solo career. Beyond all that, Hayley Williams is a role model because she is fiercely herself. She never sold herself as a sex symbol, and when the suits wanted her to go pop early in her career, she refused. Hayley shows young women that they can be themselves, even if that means being quirky, boyish, or downright strange. There’s a lot of character in this girl, and she also happens to be able to belt out some great Loretta Lynn….
A fiddle prodigy that became the youngest invited fiddle player to ever play the Grand Ole Opry stage, Ruby Jane went on to tour with Willie Nelson and Asleep At The Wheel at age 14. Ruby has been doing her part to set a positive example for younger female musicians for years, despite just graduating high school herself. She received the Daniel Pearl Memorial Violin in 2007, named after the famous journalist killed in Pakistan in 2002—given to artists who display both world-class musicianship, and world-class character. A recent talk she gave to students as part of the TED project is another example of Ruby Jane’s leadership.
You may not think of the inaugural winner of American Idol to be your typical role model, but despite residing firmly in the pop world, Kelly Clarkson has been a champion of being yourself and not being obsessed with image for the entirety of her career. Kelly capped off possibly the most popular quip after Miley Cyrus’s VMA performance on Twitter, calling the VMA performers “pitchy strippers.” In an interview with NPR, Clarkson once said, “I am not normal. Usually, people don’t weigh what I weigh. Usually people don’t go against the grain as a far as, ‘No, I don’t want this song from the most popular writer ever’ and it’s not because I don’t like the song. It’s because I would rather work with people that I want to work with.”
Paige Anderson is a flat-picking guitar maestro and the leader of her family band Anderson Family Bluegrass, as well as her new project, Paige Anderson & The Fearless Kin. A budding songwriter whose harmony singing and guitar skills rival any other female performer, Paige has proven to be a positive example for young women, and has proven her leadership skills as the Teen Ambassador for the California Bluegrass Association from 2007 to 2010. Look for this girl to be big in music in the coming years.
Sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg from Sweden are becoming international stars by crossing borders and language barriers, and by simply being themselves and sharing their bold, original songs with such confidence and grace. No Swedish bikini team antics are needed here, they simply lend their voices to song, and the sweetest harmonies heard on any shore come crying out to hungry ears.
The Church Sisters
The reason so many popular female artists feel the need to sensationalize themselves is many times to make up for a fundamental lack of talent and skill. True talent nurtured through hard work and dedication needs no window dressing, no bells and whistles for attention, and twin sisters Sarah and Savannah exemplify this with their sensational harmonies. From traditional country, to bluegrass and gospel, The Church Sisters display the type of wholesome talent that gives you hope for the future of music.
When we talk about the reduction of culture and the void of positive young female role models in music, it’s almost easy to forget that the biggest, best-selling pop star for the last two years running has been the bold and beautiful Adele. The flashy pop stars and their ever-present scandal may get all the tabloid attention, but when you look to the very top, Adele outlasts all the gimmicks, sex, and hype. If you need any more proof that substance can sell, and you don’t need sex or shock to get attention, there has never been a better example.
“Country must evolve” is the way it is sold to the country music public when pop and hip-hop influences are invited into the country music fold. What these folks fail to point out is that country has been trying to evolve for 30 some odd years right under their noses, and instead of incorporating this creativity and innovation into country that could spurn a broadening of the country music tent, these artist who’ve crafted ways to both respect the roots of country yet push them forward have been excommunicated for years to alt-country, and are now being gobbled up by the all-encompassing “Americana” term, robbing country of some of the most premium talent the roots world has to offer.
And when you look at the gaggle of artists that are combining the country roots of the past with the present and future, it tends to be strong, beautiful, and talented women leading that charge. Where the trend started may depend on who you ask. I would point to Emmylou Harris‘s Wrecking Ball era with the atmospheric approach, but I’m sure some other jumping off points could be found. Lucinda Williams, Gillian Welch, Neko Case, and Iris Dement certainly deserve some credit as well. The men of progressive country, like Béla Fleck and the current-era Punch Brothers are impressive specimens of musical aptitude no doubt, but tend to lack the accessibility the women are able to display without compromising artistic expression or prowess.
Many of these women started out as young promising talents, many specifically as musicians, before being forced out by the mainstream country genre that seems to be obsessed with male machismo and the women that pander to it. There are strong women in country no doubt, but in the progressive country world, strong women rule the roost.
Are you looking for true progress and evolution in country music? Look no further than the list of women below.
The former fiddle player with Chris Thile (The Punch Brothers) in Nickel Creek, Sara put out an excellent progressive country album in 2012 called Sun Midnight Sun that showcased progressive elements mixed with classic country roots influences, maybe best displayed in the opening instrumental track, “The Foothills.” Sara shined amongst the boys, but away from them, she bloomed.
As the gentler half of the Americana super couple with Jason Isbell (I think they also secretly fight crime in their free time), Amanda Shires was a country music fiddle prodigy that veered toward Americana as she matured. Amanda has become a major influence of how to integrate a true love and passion for country’s roots with a new-school, progressive understanding of where roots music is going. You couldn’t take the country out of her voice if you tried, and integrating it with an atmospheric approach to music stimulates sheer wonder.
With her song “Merry Go ‘Round” stuck in the Billboard charts for what seems like an eternity, and a summer tour coming up with Kenny Chesney, Kacey Musgraves proves that progressive country can be commercially viable if it is only given a chance. Kacey Musgraves gives you hope for country music, and the non-conforminst, non-formulaic music that she composes.
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This sister duo from Sweden is an example of how country is missing out on a lot of commercial potential and the possibility of creating beach heads in other countries and cultures. Seen as pop stars in Scandinavia, their ability to conjure up the close harmonic bliss of The Carter Family in songs that still communicate new-school, relevant sensibilities, First Aid Kit can appeal to country fans of all ages.
The “Queen of Underground Country” whose risen with her last album A Killer’s Dream to become one of Americana’s most promising upcoming women, Rachel’s timeless voice could be a tireless resource for country music on her own music, and as a contributor to the music of others. Influenced just as much by Hank Williams and The Carter Family as Tom Waits and The Beach Boys, Rachel Brooke proves there’s still many avenues under the “country” umbrella still left to explore.
Coming from a strong songwriting pedigree (hit maker Liz Rose is her mother), Caitlin Rose and her singular voice is capable of stunning the listener, while their heart is captured by Caitlin’s sincere stories. Steel guitar and a strong country background mixed with influences from the indie rock world create Caitlin’s unique approach that is only limited in commercial success by the power brokers on Music Row letting it through.
Like Amanda Shires and Sara Watkins, Abigail Washburn is a musician first; a master of the clawhammer banjo discipline who steered toward the more progressive side of country as she came up through the ranks. Starting off in the all-girl quartet Uncle Earl on Rounder Records, and then releasing her first solo album Song of the Traveling Daughter produced by Béla Fleck, Washburn is an example of how country instrumentation and a more reserved, intelligent approach can intermix into a sustainable future for country music that integrates more refined listeners.
Yet another young female fiddle prodigy who was the youngest invited fiddle player ever on the Grand Ole Opry, she grew up sharing the stage with Willie Nelson, Asleep At The Wheel, and Dale Watson. Ruby has now moved to the more progressive side of the roots world as possibly one of the one of the most-talented violin players in the world. Her potential is endless.
The smoky, jazzy, Houston, TX native with a unique voice has an impressive catalog of songs that illustrate the heavy handed, yet spatial mark of progressive country. A founding member of the Be Good Tanya’s, Jolie Holland is the artist other progressive country artists listen to, winning the praises of many of her peers, including fellow ANTI label mate, Tom Waits.
Another young, up-and-coming artist whose worth watching, Paige has played for years in her family band Anderson Family Bluegrass as a front person and a flat-picking guitar maestro. Her latest project with her brother and sister called The Fearless Kin just released a new EP. Having played the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival and on Chuck Ragan’s “Revival Tour,” Paige Anderson is versatile if nothing else, and when it comes to writing songs, she pulls from a varying tapestry of influences–the mark of the progressive country approach.
The Austin, TX native has already signed to Sugar Hill Records and been nominated for a Grammy at only 21. A superb talent on the mandolin that can also handle the banjo, guitar, and just about anything with strings, her debut album Song Up In Her Head featured Chris Thile, Stuart Duncan, Darrell Scoot, and Jerry Douglas. Béla Fleck appeared on her follow up, Follow Me Down. An excellent songwriter, Sarah has a bright future in the realm of progressive country.
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Other women helping to evolve country music: Zoe Muth, Lydia Loveless, Lindi Ortega, The Trishas, Kasey Chambers, Brandi Carlile, Star Anna, The Secret Sisters, Those Darlins….
Who are some other women leading the evolution of country?
Hollywood seems obsessed with finding talent among the masses with their silly reality show contests like American Idol and The Voice, when in reality there’s a boatload of talent just sitting there waiting to be discovered right under their surgically-crafted, cosmetically-sculptured noses. But of course they don’t want to actually find any talent, because then what would they have to sell commercials for boner pills and high fructose corn syrup in the next season?
So here’s a list of some bands that are go ready, right now, no excuses. These are not fey, artsy acts, goat worshipers, or punk gone country screamo shows. These are performers that even using Music Row’s shallow approach to music, are marketable, young, hip, with hit-caliber songs ready for country radio, excellent live shows, and would immediately improve the quality and appeal of the genre.
This is just my list, admittedly short, so if you have another artist in mind, please use the comments section to share. And no, this is not about selling out stadiums, it is about creating financial sustainability for talented artists that deserve it.
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If music was roulette and Sunday Valley were a square, I’d push my pile of chips and bet on them all in. Sturgill Simpson and the boys are in the studio as we speak making the “Album of their dreams” as Sturg puts it, that will include a guest appearance by Hargus “Pig” Robbins among others, just announced as a 2012 inductee to the Country Music Hall of Fame. But what puts this band over the top is their live performance that harkens back to how one must have felt when Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughn took the stage before their break: an unbelievable, dynamic, jaw-dropping experience that leaves you awe-stricken from the combination of originality and sheer talent. Buy your Sunday Valley stock now and watch it rise.
“2012 will be the year of Sunday Valley”. –that’s my quote.
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Hellbound Glory stock has been slowly rising over the last few years, but is still nowhere near where it needs to be. Leroy Virgil is like the Chris LeDoux and Keith Whitley of our time all wrapped up into one. The sideways smile, the legendary-caliber songwriting, there’s no excuses why Hellbound Glory shouldn’t be selling out mid-sized venues and making a fair living playing the type of country music that country music needs. At the least Music Row is a fool for not poaching the Hellbound Glory discography and Leroy Virgil’s brain for his songwriting gold to slot with their already established artists. Every day that goes by that Hellbound Glory remains mired in the underground is another day that country music isn’t putting its best foot forward, and is not making the best case of why it is an important, relevant genre.
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One of the best bands to see live, and Red Dirt DJ’s will tell you songs like “Every Girl” are great for radio. They have a new album coming out on May 8th called Goodbye Normal Street, and let’s hope this is the one that puts them over the top, and past the boundaries of the Texoma corridor. Unlike some of the other artists on this list who find themselves in their mid 30′s, where it feels like the window could be closing for them in the coming years, the Troubadour’s window feels like it is just opening. Potential has always been one of their best assets. Now it’s time for that potential to be cashed in for solid growth and success.
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When the question is posed of who is gonna fill the shoes of the true Outlaws and honky-tonkers, from the ones passed on like Waylon and Paycheck, to the ones going gray like Dale Watson and Marty Stuart, trust me, the answer is not going to be Justin Moore. Whitey Morgan & Co. are the true connection, the current torch bearers of the ballsy, twang-heavy true country sound that would expose all the pop country laundry list fluff from the first listen if only given a chance. Similar to how Bloodshot Records label mate Justin Townes Earle has popped in the last few years, now it is Whitey’s turn. Dues have been been paid. Now it’s time to cash in.
Young Up-And-Comers to Keep an Eye On
Paige Anderson’s ceiling is limitless. Amazing voice with natural pitch and control, and a highly skilled flat-picking guitar player, there’s nothing naturally holding Paige back. And as one of the young leaders in West Coast bluegrass circuits, and the leader of her family’s band “Anderson Family Bluegrass”, she’s shown the ambition and drive an artist needs in this competitive music environment. Young, beautiful, talented, there’s no excuses here, Paige Anderson is ripe to capture America’s heart.
Another heartthrob and superpicker bound for great heights and who started out in a family band, Mad Max & The Wild Ones. A natural leader, he’s been out before paying dues by playing lead guitar for the legendary Wayne “The Train” Hancock and can slide into just about any band or vintage style of music and make it shine. The look and technique are all there, but what puts Wyatt into elite company is his sense of style and taste. As a guitar player or as a band leader, the sky is the limit for young Maxwell.
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Another name I must mention is Ruby Jane, who will unmistakably be huge in music someday, so unmistakably in fact it doesn’t even seem germane to put her on this list. She has moved more into the jazz and singer/songwriter world in recent months and years after her time touring with Willie Nelson and Asleep At The Wheel, but is still a name all lovers of great music should keep up with.
Also the beautiful and talented Rachel Brooke may be a little fey for the wide masses, but her voice and talent is nonetheless undeniable. Just like how Emmylou Harris was the hottest commodity in female harmony singers to put on your album for so many years, Rachel could fulfill this role with the pain in her voice and such mastery of taste and control, while exposing her great original songs to the greater world.
Hillgrass Bluebilly Records, Muddy Roots Music, and savingcountrymusic.com, along with KVRX 91.7, The Real Deal KOOK 93.5, and Cracker Swamp Productions are excited to announce the complete lineup for XSXSW 5, or “Saving Muddy Hillgrass”, a two day event happening parallel with South by Southwest, the annual mid-March music festival in Austin, TX.
The “X” in XSXSW stands for the independent spirit of the event, attempting to re-create the original magic and focus of SXSW by bringing together artists, fans, media, and music management in a healthy environment free of the rigors that plague the modern-day SXSW landscape, and where music and people are the first focus.
XSXSW 5 will be showcasing talent from as far north as Michigan, as far west as California, as far east as Florida, and as far away as Australia, while also highlighting some of the best Texas talent, from the 17-year-old fiddle phenom Ruby Jane, to the legendary elder-statesman of authentic country music, James Hand. This is the 5th year of XSXSW, started by Hillgrass Bluebilly in 2008, and joined by Muddy Roots and Saving Country Music this year to create an event with even more local scope, and international impact.
Within the principle of putting people first, then music, and using music as a bridge to build community, XSXSW 5 is being held at Austin’s legendary Moose Lodge, an institution harkening back to a time where values and community were more closely cherished. The sprawling facilities will house 3 stages, a full bar, food, camping, plenty of easy and free parking, and lots of great music and good times.
The Moose Lodge is perfectly located for SXSW goers. It is outside of the madness that SXSW brings to Austin’s downtown corridor and the surrounding neighborhoods, making it the ideal destination for locals who want to enjoy great local and national music, but do not want to deal with the drama and headaches SXSW usually affords. Yet at the same time, it is mere minutes from downtown, making the short trek for hardcore SXSW attendees quick and simple.
And if you can’t make it there in person, the event will be broadcast LIVE at http://www.savingcountrymusic.com/live.
The artists and organizers of XSXSW 5 ask you to head over to the Austin Moose Lodge on March 16th & 17th to take in real, authentic roots music sung from the heart and from some of the best talent from around the country. XSXSW 5 is thrown with the idea that a song can change a life, and music can change the world. Come on by and see where a song takes you!
Admittance: Donations start at $10/day. Doors open at noon. Tickets at the door.
Main Stage – Friday 3/16 Presented by KVRX 91.7
- 2:45-3:15 – Moonhangers
- 3:15 – 4:15 – Chili Cold Blood
- 5:15-6:15 – Run On Sentence
- 7:00-7:45 – Old Gray Mule
- 8:30-9:15 – Rachel Brooke
- 10:00-10:45 – Owsley Brothers
- 11:30-12:30 – Possessed by Paul James
- 1:00 am – Restavrant
Cracker Swamp Stage - Friday 3/16 by KRVX 91.7
- 1:00 PM – 1:45 – Patrick’s Beard
- 2:00-2:45 – Farmer Barrett
- 4:15 – 5:15 – Pearls Mahone
- 6:15 – 7:00 – Lone Wolf OMB
- 7:45 – 8:30 – Captain Mudhole
- 9:15 – 10:00 – Husky Burnette
- 10:45 – 11:30 – James Leg
- 12:15 – 1:00 am – Soda
- 2:30-3:30 – Pearls Mahone
- 4:30-5:30 – Ruby Jane
- 6:30-7:30 – Hashknife Outfit
- 8:30-9:30 – Soda
- 10:30 – 12:00 James “Slim” Hand
- 1:00 AM – Sunday Valley
Saturday – Cracker Swamp Stage 3/17 by KOOK 93.5
- 1:30 – 2:30 – Water Tower (Bucket Boys)
- 3:30-4:30 – Rachel Brooke
- 5:30-6:30 – Lone Wolf OMB
- 7:30-8:30 – Calamity Cubes
- 9:30 – 10:30 – Hellbound Glory
- 12:00 – 1 AM – Tom VandenAvond
Stage 3 will be an outdoor stage where performers will be warming up, and jamming and collaborating with other artists. Stage 3 will be active only when there’s no performance on the main stage.
The Austin Moose Lodge is located in east Austin, minutes from downtown at 2103 E M Franklin Ave Austin, TX 78723, easily accessible from the airport by 183, and from downtown by either MLK Blvd or Manor Rd.
I think at this point it is pretty much a forgone conclusion that in 2012 we’re all going to die of death. You know, that whole Mayan thing. But I thought just to be on the safe side, just in case we all don’t die, we’ll probably want to listen to some music, so wouldn’t it be cool to know what some of your favorite artists have planned for 2012. So I asked them to tell us in their own words.
Leroy Virgil of Hellbound Glory is…
…working on a new project we’re just gonna call ‘merica. Gonna come out in chapters or volumes, haven’t decided. Songs about real ‘merica. Shitload of new songs. Also shit load of touring. Nationwide February and March.
…balancing two aging dogs, two little sons, 500 Elementary aged children, 4 chickens in coop & 1 debilitated claw toe while releasing a 10″ LP and new full length album. We also hope to be coming to your town whether in France, Tennessee or Canada. RAR RAR 2012!
Roger Alan Wade is…
…recording a new album, “The Last Request of Elijah Rose” – it’s a prequel to “Deguello Motel”. -I’ve got the songs written and just been playing them at home and sneaking a few in on shows getting ‘em broke in for the studio. This one feels good. And hittin’ the road a little more this coming year.
…going to put out a new album, spend thousands of miles on the road, and meet the girl of his dreams (not necessarily in that order).
Even as a child Ray Wylie Hubbard sensed the need for a hymnal for grifters. In 2012, he will release an album entitled “The Grifter’s Hymnal” consisting of 11 new original songs and a ringo starr cover; therefore fulfilling a life long quest and hopefully defying the Mayan calender.
Bob Wayne is…
…rollin till the wheels fall off …..(insert train whistle)!!! Yeeeehaaw!!!
Rachel Brooke is…
…heading back into the studio to release an analog full length record. And touring more. Also heading to the west coast where the 2012 earthquake will probably kill me.
Sturgill Simpson of Sunday Valley is…
…planning to win…period.
Ruby Jane is…
…going to remember the importance of loved ones and of being there for them no matter the circumstances. That is the most important thing I leaned from 2011.
…gonna play over 200 shows, just like we always do. See you at the honky tonk.
…already hard at work on a new release. We’re also hitting the road once the snow thaws. IN,IL,OK,AR,LA, and TX are up first. We’ll see ya this Spring!
Jayke Orvis is…
…hittin’ the studio, hittin’ Europe, and hittin’ Baby Genius in the penis.
Austin Lucas is…
…working on a follow up to “A New Home in the Old World”, tentatively with Tennessee legends Glossary as my backup band. I’ll also be heading into the studio with my family this summer for our first ever, official “Lucas Family Band” album. Heading out on the road in a few weeks.
James Hunnicutt is…
…going to kill the world with kindness in 2012 in a rootsy, metal sorta’ way
JB Beverley of the Wayward Drifters is…
…2012 is going to be a big one for me. I have the new Wayward Drifters record, my solo project, the Little White Pills, and Ghostdance. No rest for the weary nor the wicked!
Peewee Moore is…
…releasing his 2nd full length all original album in the Spring to be followed by a 100 + American City Support Tour.
…releasing their 2nd album in spring/early summer and will be touring the west coast, southwest, and southeast in early August and a possible movie appearance may occur if all goes well.
Slackeye Slim is…
… planning on doing a bunch of writing, and trying to get a band together in time for a summer tour of the US.
Lonesome Wyatt of Those Poor Bastards is…
…praying for the destruction of mankind and releasing many more hit songs.
Lone Wolf is…
…gonna be working on a new album which should be ready by February, touring the whole southeast with four other acts on a tour named “The Dukes of Juke Tour”, and also will be playing austin in march. His schedule is getting busier by the day…thats right folks, keep yer eyes and ears peeled cause the one man banjo speed demon may be coming to a town near you!!!!!!!!!
Derek Dunn is…
…putting out “Poisonous Serpents”, and touring around the U.S. and Europe.
Olds Sleeper is…
…releasing an album on Sunday, January 1, 2012 in preparation for the intended self-pocolypse of said year. “New Years Poem” will be free.
Willy Tea Taylor is…
…going to throw a perfect 9 innings during the wiffle ball game of his life.
In a very alarming story, 17-year-old fiddle phenom Ruby Jane and her mom JoBelle Smith were carjacked and held at gunpoint in Houston Thursday night (12-8-11) around midnight after a show at Dosey Doe with Paul Thorn.
As Jobelle pulled up to a friend’s condominium complex where they were staying the night, and rolled down the window to enter the gate code into the keypad, a man reached through the window and held a gun to JoBelle’s head. The man fled in their 2004 Chevy Trail Blazer, with all of Ruby Jane’s musical equipment, including a custom-made violin and mandolin, guitars, microphones, pedals, and Jobelle’s video and camera equipment, cell phones, jewelry, and then left the two girls on the side of the road, fleeing in their car. “I thought they were going to take Ruby,” Jobelle says.
Ruby Jane was a fiddle prodigy originally from Mississippi who was the youngest invited fiddle player to ever play the Grand Ole Opry. At age 14, she moved to Austin, TX, and began playing in Ray Benson’s Asleep At The Wheel where she met Willie Nelson and toured numerous times in Willie’s “Family Band.” She is now a singer/songwriter developing her own career as a solo artist with her own band.
Both Ruby Jane and Jobelle are fine, and are back in Austin where they live, though they had to cancel their show at Houston’s historic Anderson Fair tonight (Sat), and Ruby Jane is currently sick with the flu. Both Ruby and Jobelle had their cell phones stolen, and didn’t even have keys to their home when they arrived back in Austin.
The custom bond between a musician and their instruments can never be replaced. Ruby Jane had a custom violin made especially for her from Jonathan Cooper that is inscribed on the inside “Made for Ruby Jane,” and a custom-made mandolin from Michael Kelly. Below please find a list of the stolen instruments to be on the lookout for, and as more detailed information/pictures are made available, I will update the list.
A benefit has been set up for Ruby at Victory Grill in Austin on Saturday Dec. 17th from 7-10 PM featuring WhoDo, a band Ruby plays in. Her performance at Gruene Hall this Sunday (12-18) from 12:00-3:30 PM Central will also be a benefit, and will be broadcast LIVE here on SCM LIVE.
Last month Ruby Jane set up a Kickstarter campaign in an effort to record a new album, so folks can contribute there as well.
12-11 (2:30 PM CST) – Ruby’s 12-string guitar was found beside the dumpster of Mason’s Pawn Shop in Southeast Houston. That means the rest of the stuff is out there folks. Please keep an eye out! Updating the list of stolen items when the information is available.
12-11 (7:25 PM CST) – Ruby appeared as the top story on Austin’s ABC affiliate KVUE about the incident. Apparently the will have more about the story on their evening broadcast.
12-12 (7:45 PM CST) – Ruby’s 12-string guitar and their case full of merchandise were recovered from the Houston police, after being found near a pawn shop dumpster in Southeast Houston. Unfortunately a team of volunteers were unable to find any more items. An updated list of items still missing can be found below. 12-14 (10:45 AM CST) – A couple of new stories on the carjacking. Ruby Jane speaks to We Are Austin and goes into a little more detail about what occurred, and Austin Culture Map talks with JoBelle about being thankful for all the help they have received. They have also posted a new update to the Kickstarter page. 12-14 ( 1:00 PM CST) – A paypal donate button has been set up for folks who want to contribute to Ruby directly
List of Stolen Items:
- FOUND – Gray 2004 Chevy Trailblazer with Texas License plates “LGK 973″ w/ numerous bumper stickers
- Jonathan Cooper custom-made violin with the inscription “Made for Ruby Jane” (see pic below)
- Michael Kelly custom-made mandolin, dark reddish brown with inlaid head & neck (see pic below)
- FOUND – Gibson acoustic/electric 12-string guitar (see pic below)
- FOUND – Gray Neumann microphone in a gray case
- Beta 87 microphone
- Pedal board in big gray hard case, with 2 Red Eye DI boxes (see pic below), Boss Chromatic tuner, blue ABC switch, Silver AB switch
- Sony Video HandyCam, model NEX-VG10, serial S01-0124165-5 or XBJ7-V8VP-8PYE (see pic below)
- Nikon D-90 digital still camera, serial #3098020
- Pedal board with various pedals (more update soon)
- (More detailed info coming)
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(1-8-13) – Ruby Jane’s custom Jonathan Cooper violin has been found and recovered by Houston police. After receiving a tip from a Ruby Jane fan who saw the violin listed on Craigslist, Houston police contacted the seller, offered to purchase the violin, set up a meeting, and made an arrest. The suspect Sexton Holmes says he bought the violin from someone “down the street” from him for $45. Sexton spent the night in jail before posting bail. He is now awaiting trial, and Ruby Jane will be recovering her violin soon.
When I sat down to name the top 10 live performances of 2011 as seen through my eyes, I didn’t know what a mess I was making for myself, and it wasn’t until then that I realized what a power packed year for live music it has been. My 10 stretched to 15 fast, and I’m still leaving out acts like Hellbound Glory, Lucky Tubb, and Ray Wylie Hubbard. I will be the first to tell you that is bullsh, but the line had to be drawn somewhere.
Unlike the Album of the Year and Song of the Year, with my inability to see every live performance, this is simply based on my own experience. However live performances always go into consideration for other awards, like the three solid Hellbound Glory shows I saw were considered when nominating them for album of the year.
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I really enjoyed the Sundays each month that Ruby Jane played historic Gruene Hall down in the heart of Texas, but it was a random night at Austin’s Continental Club that gave rise to her standout performance of the year with composer Graham Reynolds. Ruby’s stellar musicianship and passion on fiddle is hard to match. The flourish at the end of this song was something to make the hair stand up on the back of your neck.
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This is what South by Southwest is designed to do: take people who are involved in the music business, and put them in front of the artists in intimate setting to bypass all the press release and preview track bullshit so you can decide if an artist is worthy of your attention or not. The Revolution Bar in gentrifying east Austin was the perfect place to catch an intimate performance by Austin Lucas, joined only by his sister Chloe who supplied sublime harmonies and banjo. His simple, honest, and heartfelt performance proved to me this was an artist I needed to bring into the Saving Country Music fold.
They screw up in the middle of this, and it is still awesome. Listen to how quiet it gets in the room at the end.
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Speaking of hushing rooms and heartfelt songwriting, by evoking character through his music like few others I’ve ever seen, Charlie Parr and his guitar suck you in with songs of heartache sung with immeasurable soul. Charlie doesn’t sing about subjects in third person, he becomes the subject of his songs in an uncanny channeling of character, and makes the story flesh and bone right before your eyes.
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Whitey Morgan played the Pickathon Festival as well and had two excellent sets, but the standout show for me happened back in Austin during Bloodshot Records’ annual showcase at the Red Eye Fly, where Whitey Morgan & The 78′s were booked as the headliners. The sound was positively awful that night. The Waco Brothers played their whole set with the only working speakers being their monitors on stage. Meanwhile Whitey and the boys were sitting in their van, passing a bottle and anticipating a train wreck by the time they took the stage.
Whitey climbed on stage and took no prisoners, cussing and swearing the stage hands straight before the even did anything wrong. Bloodshot owner Nan had her face in her hands, worried Whitey was about to make a scene when what he was really doing was making sure the ship was righted before they started, and trust me, after Whitey put the fear of God in everyone, it was. Then they delivered the best set I have seen them play, and playing the headliner spot of the Bloodshot Records showcase, that is when I knew Whitey Morgan & The 78′s had arrived.
Here they are sharing the stage with legendary Eddie Spaghetti of the Supersuckers.
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11. Micah Schnabel of Two Cow Garage – ninebullets.net SXSW Showcase
Maybe not country, but nonetheless mind blowing was Micah Schnabel, who when PA issues kept his band Two Car Garage from plugging in, he grabbed his acoustic and did the solo thing like few others can. This guy is one of the most authentically-passionate performers on stage I’ve ever seen. As I like to say: if Possessed By Paul James gives birth on stage, Micah Schnabel commits suicide on stage.
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I saw this same lineup, at the same place, two different times this year, and I still did not get my fill. The perfect traveling amalgam of music, it starts off with James Hunnicutt playing solo, then Jayke Orvis taking the stage with Hunnicutt, Fishgutz from The Gallows, and Joe Perreze on banjo making up the “Broken Band,” and then at some point they are all on stage as The Goddamn Gallows.
And then there’s fire.
Joined here on stage by Gary Lindsay.
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9. Slim Cessna’s Auto Club – SXSW Showcase @ Spiderhouse
For years, the two best bands to see live have been Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers and Denver, CO’s Slim Cessna’s Auto Club. In support of their new album Unentitled they made their way down to SXSW and played a set mixing their new pop mocking songs in with their long-time favorites. This band is mind blowing every time. (video is not the best; only one I could find from the show)
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In the middle of a nearly year-long hiatus from the road, Hank3 drove out to Austin for a one-off show at The Revival Festival, and it was a good one. Not having to save anything for the next day and having nothing to recover from the night before, and dragging the badass chicken-picking half-blind maestro Johnny Hiland with him out from Nashville, Hank3 threw down the best live show I’ve seen from him in the post-Joe Buck era. It was one for the ages.
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To see either of these bands alone is an opportunity you cannot pass up. But to put them together back to back was a music cream dream come true. These two bands and their dynamic frontmen were instrumental in the revival of lower Broadway in Nashville, and the same dynamic that gave rise to the abominable frontman of lower Broadway was on display Sunday night at Muddy Roots.
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Just about every one of Willie Nelson’s kids plays music in one capacity or another. How many do it well is another story. But Lukas Nelson and his band The Promise of the Real is the real deal my friends. Far beyond riding coattails or his daddy’s name, 2011 in many ways was a coming out party for Lukas Nelson, and his performance at the 2011 Willie’s 4th of July Picnic / Country Throwdown picnic proved why. The man simply stole the show.
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5.Various Artists – Muddy Roots Festival Late Night Jam
This might be the biggest live music memory of 2011, but without any specific artist to attribute it to, or any other real way to quantify it, I’m just not sure where to put it on this list. What I do know is when you get a legend like Wayne “The Train” Hancock leading JB Beverley, Banjer Dan, all of Hellbound Glory, and who knows else, it’s hard to leave it off the list. It may have not been pretty, but it certainly was legendary.
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4. Marty Stuart – Gruene Hall, Gruene, TX
This was the performance that convinced me that Marty Stuart might be the one to save country music (read full review). This wasn’t a punk gone country show, or a neo-traditional swing back bit, it was simply pure, true country, yet dripping with energy, an engaging nature, attitude, and gospel soul. And his band The Fabulous Superlatives might be one of the best collections of country talent ever assembled. Simply put, this was the best set of straightforward country I’ve seen in years.
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3. Possessed by Paul James – Muddy Roots Festival
First off, the fact that this moment sits at #3 for the year tells you just what a power packed year for music experiences in underground roots music 2011 has been, because really, this moment sets itself apart in the musical experiences of a lifetime.
I saw Possessed by Paul James play live 6 times from late 2010 until now, and in that period, I watched a rebirth of one of the most dynamic live performers I’ve ever seen. Voice issues put him on hiatus for a bit, and when he started performing again, there was a slight timidness, a lack of confidence in his new vocal reality he was struggling with. But over that period, the confidence and abandon came back in full force, to where now I cannot think of another solo performer I would place above him in ability and consistency. Possessed by Paul James delivers every time, and I have come to think of him as a true headliner, and a true legend in the live and recorded context. They say that Possessed By Paul James gives birth to his songs on stage. In 2011 we also saw a PPJ resurrection.
By the end of his Muddy Roots set, some folks were in tears, and everyone was talking about the mysterious burst of wind on that blisteringly hot day that hit the tent right as he began to play. Call that mysterious wind burst a sign of the divine, or quantify it by explaining the dramatic atmospheric wind shift that preceded a change from the hot weather to a tropical disturbance ushered in by Tropical Storm Lee that moved over middle Tennessee. Either way, PPJ channeled that energy through his music, and changed people’s lives.
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2. Sunday Valley – The Pickathon Festival, Portland, OR
I really don’t know what to say here, except that Sunday Valley was the best live band I discovered in 2011, and very possibly might be the best live band right now in all of country music. I know that may come across as a platitude, but I believe it, and to try and use words to describe their live experience almost seems insulting; you just have to experience it yourself. Sturgill Simpson is country’s version of Jimmy Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughan. Mark my words, 2012 might be the year of Sunday Valley and Sturgill Simpson. (read more in live review from Pickathon)
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1. Justin Townes Earle – The Parish, Austin, TX
I will start this off by saying I know some people will read this having also seen Justin Townes Earle at some point in 2011, and thinking I’m crazy for putting him here at the top spot. That is because JTE can be hit and miss live, because JTE has a drug and alcohol problem.
When I saw him live at SXSW in 2010, that is when I first recognized a sharp dropoff in the quality of his live show, and a few months later, called him out on it in connection with a rumored drug problem. Later that year in September, he got arrested in Indianapolis after tearing up a dressing room, and brawling with cops. Shortly therafter came a rehab stint, and by January of this year, he was back on tour. We know from subsequent stories that between now and January, JTE had another relapse with heroin, and a relapse while on tour in Australia, and I’ve heard mixed review of his live shows.
I am not omnipresent, so I can’t speak on all his performances, but in Austin, TX, Justin Townes Earle put on the performance of his lifetime. Nearly a year later, I still get chills as I sit here and write about it. Stone cold sober, having just been from hell and back, his own mortality and career hanging in the balance, Justin Townes Earle sang from the heart like nobody else I have ever seen, or possibly ever will see. Since the performance, I have had to come to grips with the fact that I may never be moved by another performance for the rest of my life, like the way I was moved that night. (read review)
I am very excited to announce a unique partnership between Saving Country Music, Hillgrass Bluebilly Records & Entertainment, and Muddy Roots Music (The Muddy Roots Festivals) to bring together the 5th Annual XSXSW showcase, aka XSXSW 5, as part of the annual mid-March gathering of the tribes in Austin, TX known as South By Southwest.
The idea is to create a larger and more robust footprint for underground country and roots music at what is the yearly premier music event for the independent music industry, held in the “Live Music Capital of the World.” Unfortunately over the years, SXSW has become more “industry” and less “independent” as the festival has grown, and it has become a logistical nightmare for bands and fans alike to attend. SXSW is in essence a “pay to play” event, asking for non-refundable money for artists to be considered for officially-sanctioned showcases, and the event overtakes the entire downtown corridor of Austin for official SXSW use.
The spirit behind XSXSW is to offer fans and artists an alternative to the SXSW madness, while still giving them the opportunity to take advantage of the massive collection of talent, resources, and networking capabilities SXSW affords, and unlike many SXSW events, it is completely open to the public. This is the 5th year Hillgrass Bluebilly has thrown the XSXSW event, and Saving Country Music and Muddy Roots are coming on board to give the showcase that much more support and impact. Previous XSXSW acts include Los Duggans, Left Lane Cruiser, Hillstomp, O’Death, Austin Lucas, & The Harmed Brothers.
And this is not just important to artists and people in and around Austin. XSXSW 5 will be a national event, with a national focus, yet still in the original spirit of SXSW of showcasing local talent next to national acts. For folks from Texas, the Southwest, or anywhere else that can’t make it to other big independent roots events like The Muddy Roots Festival, Farmageddon Fest, The Deep Blues Festival, etc., this might be your chance to take part in a large scale event. And for those that can’t make it at all, the event will be broadcast right here on SCM LIVE, giving rise to national, and international participation via the web.
And since the event is being held at The Austin Moose Lodge on the east side of town, just outside of the SXSW madness, it offers an alternative to Austin locals who regularly avoid the annual festivities because of the headache they create. Ample parking, huge indoor/outdoor facilities, 3 stages, yet not too far out of the city makes the Austin Moose Lodge the ideal location. And as Hillgrass Bluebilly founder Keith Mallette states, The Moose Lodge embodies:
…a revival of “lost America”, for our friends and family to have a place of our own. A place that IMPROVES & BUILDS FOR US as we bring them beautiful, exceptional music that you just flat out cant get anywhere else… and prove once again that you never know where a song might take you!
This initial lineup of bands is just the tip of the iceberg of what the two day event will include, but we wanted to make folks aware of what will transpire. Florida’s Cracker Swamp Productions is also involved, and other entities and sponsors will be coming on board soon. Stay tuned to Saving Country Music for more announcements and information on XSXSW 5 as March gets closer.
- Hellbound Glory
- James Hand
- Possessed by Paul James
- Rachel Brooke
- Husky Burnette
- Lone Wolf
- Ruby Jane
For years I’ve had the theory that one of the major problems facing country music is its inability to develop talent. Without a system in place to discover truly talented and unique artists and develop them into stars, it has made the genre weak, and open to infection from other genres, as current and new stars must reach out into other forms of music to stay relevant.
Now that mainstream country music has been seen as just another version of pop music by so many people for so long, my concern is that talented musicians are being turned off by the mere mention of the term ‘country’, seeing it as a genre without gravitas, obsessed with money and image, making it even more likely for the one-in-a-million music talent to stay away.
“We call ourselves a honky tonk band.” is how Bloodshot Records recording artist Whitey Morgan puts it. “You call yourselves country and people think you mean that shit they play on the radio.”
Ruby Jane, a 16-year-old music phenom who was the youngest invited fiddle player to ever play The Grand Ole Opry, and was touring with Asleep At The Wheel and Willie Nelson at age 14, iterated in a recent interview that she’s moved on from identifying with the mainstream country world. “I love what I used to do, but I’ve always listened to rock ‘n’ roll. I don’t really listen to that other stuff. I mean, I listen to bluegrass and country, I guess, but I’m not sitting at home listening to George Strait and Carrie Underwood all day.”
Justin Townes Earle is a little more pointed on the matter, saying recently on his always-entertaining Twitter feed: The reason I live in NYC and not in Nashville is coming through my walls right now in the form of shit country music! Some people!!! Fuck!!!” And later following up with, “I was born and raised in Nashville and just hate seeing my town defaced. It is still a great place full of great folks.”
The latter two artists were once featured in a group of four that I asked which one might be country music’s next savior. Regardless of their listening patterns or musical style, it appears that neither really wants a lot to do with the term ‘country’, a term that feels so embattled in circles of people that don’t want to be lumped in with Music Row’s mainstream fare, and want to be known for taste and quality above commercial appeal. Justin Townes Earle’s move to New York City seemed very symbolic when it happened, like he was doing everything he could to remove himself from the typecasting environment of his native Nashville.
And speaking of Townes Earle and New York, the title track from his recent album Harlem River Blues just won Song of the Year at the Americana Music Awards. ‘Americana’ seems to be the new chic term for artists whose music has country leanings, but who don’t want to be lumped in with the Jason Aldean’s of the world, just like “alt-country” was the hip term back in the 80′s and 90′s. Alt-country never had their own awards and infrastructure like Americana is attempting to cultivate, and over time, alt-country has morphed into almost a classic genre classification, because it almost implies an outmoded approach that few artists want to be associated with anymore.
One of the problems with Americana is when you look at the list of the Americana Awards 2011 nominees and winners, the names look like they are drawn from a very narrow perspective, zeroed in on the personal tastes of American Songwriter magazine and their readership. But where Americana has the advantage over country is that good artists who want to be appreciated for their creativity and talent don’t mind being called that.
So now not only is the term ‘country’ being diminished by being used to market mainstream pop, rock, and now even hip-hop music, it is also being diminished by top-flight talent fleeing from the term. This is why country is drafting actors and artists from other genres to “go country”, because talent from within, and talent tied to the roots of the music is leaving, or never coming. ‘Country’ used to be a big tent genre. Townes Van Zant certainly was more of a folk singer-songwriter, but never publicly ran from the ‘country’ term, and still fits the classic definition of ‘country’ today.
And parallels can be drawn with the fans of country music. Likely if you’re reading this right now, you’ve caught yourself saying, “Yeah, I like country, but not that type of country.” Just like artists, fans who want to be known for appreciating creativity and talent in music don’t always want to be associated with the ‘country’ term.
I would say country music is in trouble, but as public music education continues to be cut, there seems to be no end to the flow of people willing to consume bad music. The question is, where will this potential talent vacuum leave the term ‘country’ in the long term?
Recently a new website called ujam, which allows anybody and everybody to create and publish music, went “Public Alpha”. That’s right, now you, average Joe six-pack, can go online and have access to tools to live out your rock n’ roll fantasy. Have no talent? Can’t sing on pitch? Can’t play an instrument? That’s okay, ujam has pitch benders and programs to help you with that. In fact there motto is “No Musical Skills Required”.
Oh, and it’s all free.
Remember back in 2005, when studio-quality technology finally became accessible to the common musician? We all celebrated, because no longer the big companies that held the purse strings to studios were able to control the production of music. Then MySpace came along, and created completely independent channels for artists and bands to market and distribute their music, and socially network with their fans and create fan bases. YouTube afforded the marketing power of video.
But now we sit at the crossroads of the great technology paradigm. For all the music problems technology solved for artists and fans, it is now creating new ones, principally an astronomical glut in the sheer volume of music being produced, and then marketed specifically for commercial consumption on a global scale.
The simple fact is only a few select people are born with true musical talent or inspiration encoded into their DNA. Others can learn it as a trade, spending years of dedication perfecting the craft. And of course there’s variations in between. But the reason music is so enjoyable and inspiring to people is because it is something that not everyone can do, or do well. There’s a reason that the etymology of “magic” and “music” are very similar. So why is accessibility to musical talent a problem technology needs to solve, whether through Auto-tune, or this new ujam site? The enjoyability of music depends on its place as a minority in the collective talents of human society. Auto-tune opened up the potential for people who can’t sing to have a career in music. Now ujam, and the most certain-to-follow copycat and derivative programs, opens up the potential of music careers for everyone.
There is nothing wrong or dangerous with someone sitting at home on ujam tinkering with sounds for their own personal enjoyment or to share with friends, but the crux of the technology paradigm, where it interfaces with the adverse glut of music being produced, seems to be this sense of entitlement people have to be something big in the music business. Shows like American Idol perpetuate the idea that we might all be musical superstars. Judging the talent of superstars that have actually made it in music, one might say, “Well hell, I can do that. Taylor Swift can’t even sing on pitch.” Meanwhile actual music education is being slashed from school curriculums, replaced by a myopic focus on test scores, and in lieu of attempting to discover what each student’s true, unique talent is, and setting them on a course to pursue that.
Not everyone, and not every musician, has the right to national and international exposure in music. There is nothing wrong with being a good porch guitar picker, or open-mic star, or the guy that offers entertainment at the local bar every Friday night, or at the family reunion picnic once a year. All music used to begin local, where teachers and peers and such could offer constructive criticism and develop a unique musical identity based on local and regional culture and taste. Now some introvert in their mother’s basement might stumble upon a catchy rhythm or phrase, post it on YouTube, and be collecting 5-figure appearance fees within weeks. All while the one-in-a-million musical talents of our generation revel in obscurity or have to take menial jobs to survive. Sure, that’s one of those tough lessons of life, but as a music consumer, I’d rather hear Ruby Jane as opposed to Chocolate Rain.
Retired baby boomers en masse are using healthy retirement incomes to fund music endeavors with national and international aims. Parents are pushing their kids to become music stars before they reach puberty. 20-somethings are taking advantage of the ever-expanding gestation period of the human being in post-industrial societies to spend a decade after education pursuing an ill-conceived rock n’ roll fantasy.
Even money is now becoming inconsequential. Even if you throw a million dollars at promoting your cute teenage daughter who can sing some songs doesn’t guarantee you anything, because there are a dozen other parents doing the same thing, and just like everyone, they are vying for attention in the glut of musical-based content. What you need is some sensational viral phenomenon with opportunistic timing to piggy-back on a new technological or media format burst to get noticed. Talent, money, drive, dedication, skill, and inspiration are becoming more irrelevant by the second.
And what about the role of the music critic, the last tool for the music consumer to separate wheat from chaff? Lady Gaga calls them bullies. Taylor Swift thinks they’re mean. Like a six-year-old’s soccer game where parents are too scared to rule a winner just in case we bruise fragile little egos, if you criticize someone’s music, you’re not being constructive, you’re performing the intellectual equivalent of assault.
We all have a responsibility to ourselves and to society to try and figure out why we were put on this stupid planet, and what our singular contribution is. And I personally want to preserve the mystery of music. Even as a musician myself (though not a good one), I have no desire to marginalize it by running it through digital algorithms, or expand it through accessible tools. If you watch that ujam tutorial above, you’ll notice it even suggests notes according to the recognized 1-4-5 music progression (musicians know what I’m talking about), for the first time giving a practical example to my theory that eventually all “music” will be specifically formulated by computers to enact an optimized dopamine response in the human brain, making human musicians obsolete.
But I won’t be subscribing.
Let music be music, made by human hands. Or music may not be worth making anymore.
South by Southwest last year was my first full on experience with the event that brings over 8,000 bands from all over the world to Austin for 5 days of musical mayhem, and it went great. With proper pacing and maybe a little luck, I got everything out of the experience I could ever want. 2011 was one of those experiences you hear many people talk about that is proceeded by “…and I will never go back.” But now that I live near Austin, SXSW comes to me whether I want it to or not. I can’t fool myself into thinking those lineups will not tempt me back, and overall, there was more good than bad.
It started Wednesday at noon with a brief stop to watch Ruby Jane with her duo lineup, and then I headed to the “American Songwriter” showcase at Swan Dive, where I would spend the majority of the day. I got there just in time to catch the last two songs of Jessica Lea Mayfield, and then see an unfortunate incident between her and the guitarist for Apache Relay where some spit was swapped, but not in an affectionate manner. It was pretty appropriate to how the week would go. By happenstance I found myself sharing a couch in the back with Hayes Carll, who i’d just recently written a mixed album review for.
Triggerman: Hey, my name’s The Triggerman from savingcountrymusic.com
Hayes: Oh yeah, I just heard about that site the other day. That article.
But Hayes was a really cool guy. His set was just like I asserted in my review: fun with good songs and worth hearing. But Townes Van Zandt, he is not. I was also able to speak at length with Caitlin Rose, though unfortunately that interview might be lost. She was a highlight of the American Songwriter showcase, and of SXSW in general, and will likely get her own live review coming soon.
Next was Jason Isbell, who I just found hard to get into without a band and in such a big, crowded room. I was glad to see Amanda Shires with him on fiddle; that was a treat. Jason may have some good songs, but he is no Justin Townes Earle. He needs a band. The Civil Wars were an unexpected treat as well, though just like I tweeted afterwards, I have serious reservations that a duo that spends their whole set lovingly gazing into each other’s eyes has any staying power or deep appeal. It’s just too hokey, effeminate, and in the end inaccessible by most for admittedly bias and unfair reasons. Their vocal antics cannot be denied though. They were the best two singers I saw all week, and paired up they were better than the sum of their parts, but I walked away with question marks about their songwriting as they covered a nursery rhyme, and Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean”. They smacked of a trend.
Later that night found me out of the downtown corridor, and north at Spider House where I saw Slim Cessna’s Auto Club. I couldn’t add more accolades that what I gave them last year at SXSW, but putting aside the Austin bands I see frequently like Ruby Jane and Possessed by Paul James, they were the best performance I saw all week. Unfortunately I was only able to catch the last few songs of Otis Gibbs after Slim Cessna. What I saw was good, and reminded me a lot of a road warrior version of Roger Alan Wade.
Thursday I had to take a breather if I was to make it through the weekend, and so the only show I caught was Trampled by Turtles in the early evening. The showcase at Homeslice Pizza was running an hour late, and an over-served hipster dumped two full glasses on beer down the from of me as I stood in the packed parking lot. The Turtles were great, but not appreciably better than their albums, if that makes sense. Their albums are great, and their live set is great, but seeing some bands live raises their value.
Friday morning I tried to juggle too much, going back and forth from The Bloodshot Records Day Party, to Opal Divine’s for the TeXchromosome showcase for women artists. I did bump into Izzy Cox, and got to see Ted Russel Kamp perform with Robin Wiley, and Ted Russel gave me a copy of his new CD out in May. A morning blown in commuting back and forth was made up for by the Hillgrass Bluebilly XSXSW Showcase at Hole in the Wall north of downtown. The Harmed Brothers kicked the show off with a really cool unmiked, unplugged set in the middle of the bar. Soda and Shake It Like a Caveman brought two version of amazing muddy blues, and not particularly bluesy or country, but very good was Drag The River, who I had honestly never heard of until then. Very good, honest songwriting and good energy from Drag The River.
Possessed by Paul James headlined, and folks, Possessed is honestly becoming a top tier performer in the underground movement. I mean it is time to start including his name with people like Hank III, Wayne “The Train” Hancock, and Scott Biram. His set was dogged by technical problems, which seems to be common with him, and this resulted in him singing three songs a capella, but like always, the problems almost lend to the show, and create cool scenarios and moments that would have never been if everything went perfect. The Hillgrass showcase was also the first place I got to meet Jason and Anthony Galaz of The Muddy Roots Festival, and Autopsy IV of ninebullets.net.
And speaking of, Saturday started with a ninebullets.net showcase in east Austin, where I got to see the great Austin Lucas with his sister on banjo perform (video coming), and one of the best highlights of SXSW, Two Car Garage. Because there were logistics issues at the beginning of the showcase, Two Cow played an unplugged, acoustic set. It is not really country, but folks, this was some of the best, soulful songwriting I heard all week. You will be hearing more about Two Car from me soon.
Then it was on to the madness of downtown and Hellbound Glory at the Rusty Knuckles showcase. Hellbound was as spectacular as I could expect. Excellent energy, amazing songs, and they played a lot of new ones as well (video coming). I can’t emphasize enough that Hellbound Glory deserves top billing. They should be huge. Leroy Virgil is a genius country songwriter, and Chico is the best full-on drummer in country music right now.
Then I had to hike on foot all the way across town to the roof of the Whole Foods headquarters for a Ruby Jane show. It was worth the walk. Then it was back to downtown for the Bloodshot Records official showcase at Red Eye Fly. The night was dogged with sound issues, especially during the legendary Waco Brothers’ set, though they are so good and so fun, they can power through anything. Luckily they got the sound problems resolved before Ha Ha Tonka took the stage; one band that I swore I would spend more time with after last year’s Bloodshot showcase, and I will swear I will again. Excellent harmonies, fun energy, good songs, and a new album coming out next week.
Then Whitey Morgan & The 78′s capped SXSW 2011 off shortly after 1 AM, with a ball-crushing set of real deal, honky-tonk Outlaw country that included Eddie Spaghetti joining them on stage for Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried”. Last year right before SXSW is when it was announced that Whitey had signed with Bloodshot. A year later, they have arrived, and in a huge fashion, headlining the whole event.
If I were to take four big things from SXSW, that would be one of them: the arrival of Whitey Morgan & The 78′s as a premier, accepted, and loved honky tonk band. The other three would be the songwriting of Two Cow Garage, the continued badassedry of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club live, and the potential of Caitlin Rose.
(stay tuned for an upcoming video recap as well)
Despite my SXSW preview blogs being horrifically under-read, and misunderstood as boastful bragging pieces about what others can’t experience instead of creative ways to promote artists I may otherwise not be able to talk about, and despite Saving Country Music being eaten by Facebook, ripped in half by XXX, and the last vestiges of readers descending into pointless polarized rants about Hank III and Jamey Johnson that scare any thoughts of new readers away, I sally forth.
Stalkers, I present to you the Holy Grail of my upcoming SXSW movements: my master schedule. It is subject to change. Please if your down in Austin and happen to see I will be attending a show that you will also, don’t approach me, I’m not in the mood. And I’m packing.
Noon – The Ruby Jane Show – Lambert’s
2:30 – Interview w/ Caitlin Rose
3:10 – Just Added – Hayes Carll (as he sits beside me on the couch at Swan Dive)
4:00 – Caitlin Rose Performance – Swan Dive
4:30 – Just Added – Jason Isbell (former Drive By Truckers)
7:00 – Ruby Jane – Romeo’s
7:00 – O’Death – Red Eye Fly
9:00 – Slim Cessna’s Auto Club – Spider House
10:00 – Otis Gibbs – The Velveeta Room (If I can make it in time from Slim Cessna)
Noon – Brent Amaker & The Rodeo – Trophys
1:00-5:00 – Designated to time walk around and see artists I have never heard of.
6:00 – Trampled by Turtles – Homeslice Pizza
7:00-12:00 – Interview & walk around time.
1:00 AM – Scott H Biram – The Continental Club
12:00 – 4:00 Bloodshot Records Party – Yard Dog Art Studio
w/ Whitey Morgan & The 78′s, Eddie Spaghetti, Lydia Loveless, Maggie Bjorkland, more.
1:20-1:50 – Quick break from Bloodshot to see Ted Russell Kamp play w/ Robin Wiley @ TeXchromosome
2:00 – Back to Bloodshot Records Party
4:00 – Brigitte London – TeXchromosome @ Opal Divines
6:00 – Ruby Jane – TeXchromosome @ Opal Divines
8:00 – 2:00 AM – XSXSW Hillgrass Bluebilly Showcase w/ The Harmed Brothers, Shake It Like A Caveman, Willy Tea Taylor, Soda, Rose’s Pawn Shop, Austin Lucas, Tom VandenAvond, Drag The River, Chili Cold Blood, Possessed by Paul James
12:00 – 4:00 ninebullets.net Day Party @ Revolution Bar w/ Two Cow Garage, Have Gun Will Travel,
Glossary, Austin Lucas, Lee Bains, Kasey Anderson & The Honkies, The Only Sons
4:00 – Hellbound Glory – Rusty Knuckles Showcase @ Dirty Dog Saloon
6:00 – Ruby Jane – Whole Foods Roof
7:00 – 2:00 AM Bloodshot Official SXSW Showcase @ Red Eye Fly
Whitey Morgan & The 78′s, Eddie Spaghetti, Maggie Bjorkland, Ha Ha Tonka, Lydia Loveless
For those that have never been to SXSW, the whole thing is broken down into showcases. A showcase can be put on by a record label, a booking agency, a publicity agency, a radio station, a blog, it doesn’t matter. And where doesn’t matter either. Wherever there is space in or near downtown Austin, there’s a band playing. Bars and venues of course, but restaurants, street corners, even gas stations are all fair game. Find yourself a space and make it happen!
There are two major types of showcases, “official” SXSW showcases, and unofficial showcases. The official showcases can be hard to get into. You might need tickets, or wristbands or badges, or some combination thereof, and those things can cost exorbitant amounts of money. But many of the unofficial showcases are cheap or free, and some even offer free beer and free food. Last year I only paid to get into one of the dozen or so showcases I attended, and that was the very last one. This year will likely be the same.
A lot of the unofficial showcases might dub themselves as “anti-SXSW” “not-SXSW” or “XSXSW”. These are usually grassroots-based showcases that are against the industry takeover that has happened with SXSW over the years, and think the festival should focus more on the music.
Here’s the list of my Top 5 showcases I will be attending.
#1 Hillgrass Bluebilly’s 4th Annual XSXSW Showcase
This is the top showcase for me this year folks, from Hillgrass Bluebilly Records. It is a packed lineup at what is becoming the biggest anti-SXSW event in Austin. Check out this lineup, delivered on three stages over 5 hours:
8:35 – The Harmed Brothers // 9:20 – Shake It Like A Caveman // 9:40 – The Boomswagglers // 9:55 – Willy Tea Taylor // 10:05 – Rose’s Pawn Shop // 10:20 – Soda // 10:45 – Austin Lucas // 11:00 - Tom Vandenavond // 11:40 – Drag The River // 12:20 – Chili Cold Blood // 1:05 – Possessed by Paul James
#2 Bloodshot Records Showcases
Last year I planned my whole SXSW around the Bloodshot Records events, and that’s not a bad way to go about it. Boasting a lineup of Scott H Biram, Whitey Morgan & The 78′s, Eddie Spaghetti (of the Supersuckers), Jon Langford, Ha Ha Tonka, it’s hard to miss. It is also one of the few chances to see The Waco Brothers, who are never given enough credit for being there at the beginning of the “Death of Country” scene that creates the foundation of Bloodshot.
Last year the Bloodshot Showcases created two of my favorite moments of SXSW, 1) Whitey Morgan telling the story of how Dale Watson gave him the song “Where Do You Want It?” about Billy Joe Shaver’s shooting (watch video), and Chris Scruggs (BR549, Hank III, Bob Wayne, too many others to list) playing with Rosie Flores (watch video).
#3 ninebullets.net Showcases
When ninebullets.net published the lineup for not one, but two showcases, I was blown away. It made me think, why the hell doesn’t Saving Country Music have a showcase? Maybe next year folks, but for now I’m going to be enjoying the fruits of everyone else’s labors. More info on the ninebullets showcases.
#4 TeXchromosome – Women with Texas Spirit
Brigitte London & Ruby Jane at the same show!? This showcase is power packed with beautiful and talented women folks, and once I get there, I ain’t leaving! It goes down Friday the 18th.
12-12:30-Kim Monroe // 12:40-1:10- Janine Wilson // 1:20-1:50- Robin Wiley // 2-2:30-Bonny Holmes // 2:45-3:15 – Linda McRae// 3:30-4::00 Mandy Marie Luke // 4:00-4:30 – Brigitte London // 4:45 -5:45-Temple Ray & The Mastersons // 6-6:40 – Ruby Jane // 6:55 -7:35 – Jess Klein // 7:45-8:25 – Penny Jo Pullus // 8:30-9:10 -Lisa Morales // 9:20-10:30 -Lissa Hattersley & The Greezy Wheels Family Band
#5 Rusty Knuckles Showcase
This will be my first chance to see Hellbound Glory, and I wouldn’t miss it for anything. Click here for more info.
And an act of quiet desperation from the music industry.
On Tuesday it was reported that Academy Award winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow was fielding offers for a record deal to record a “country pop” album, and later that she had signed a $900,000 deal with Atlantic Records.
I am quite astonished with this in so many different ways I don’t even know where to start. Actually I do. How about with the fact that Gwyneth, across multiple platforms, including movie, radio, and performance, and from a critical and commercial standpoint, has already failed in country music.
The movie “Country Strong”, which is the impetus for this whole country music career, was a colossal critical and commercial failure. Though the soundtrack of the movie made it all the way to #2 on Billboard’s country charts, the sountrack’s lead “Country Strong” single recorded by Paltrow charted a paltry #30. The latest single “Me and Tennessee”, a duet with Tim McGraw, is being universally panned by critics, and sits at #41 on the charts, while the “Country Strong” movie can’t be found in a theater near you.
The Gwyneth signing is like a “go down gambling” move from a dying industry that is incapable of developing real talent, but they’re laying their bet on a table they know is rigged. And when will this album come out at the best estimate? 6 months? Christmas? 2012? Will there even be a music industry left to release this when the release date comes? Is there any chance that unless this is a top 5 country album that Atlantic would come even close to recouping their investment? I would have given her 20 grand and some singing lessons.
One surprising thing about all this is that Nashville has little to do with it. I’m sure they’ll use Nashville studios, songwriters, and session players, but Atlantic is not a top Music Row label. The closest thing they have to a country superstar is Kid Rock. Though maybe this is a symptom of another problem, that being the creation of a mono-genre.
And I don’t mean this to be a knock on Gwyneth, I will get her album when it comes out, and do my best to listen it it honestly and fairly, but the model right now for new country stars is to find, well, models, and push them out on stage with fingers crossed they can hold a tune. As much as I hate that mold, at 38 and rising, Gwyneth doesn’t fit that at all. By today’s pop standards, she’s tore up and irrelevant. It doesn’t make sense from pop country’s own perspective.
How about giving $100,000 respectively to Ruby Jane, Rachel Brooke, and Caitlin Rose, three young, beautiful, and talented singers that could actually offer a sustainable future for the industry instead of “the fat get fatter” focus that has put the industry in this position. $100 Grand a piece is fine. Gwyneth can keep the rest. Oh, and those girls can also write their own songs, though another alarming thing about this story is that some are reporting that Gwyneth will be doing her own writing. This smacks of a celebrity coming in to offer a “third for a word”, as I highlighted in this article, robbing more deserving songwriters of revenue.
I know what the thought is here though: take a name that is already a international franchise, and attach music to it, and cross market it through movies and television. Ironically though, after Gwyneth’s last performance on Glee earlier this week, I was flooded with comments and emails about how her Glee character “insulted” Tennessee:
I just read in the newspaper that 90 high school girls in a Memphis school district got pregnant within three months. I mean, it is Tennessee, but still!” said Paltrow’s character, subbing as a sex-ed teacher.
As pliable and gullible as the country music consumer is, they rejected Jessica Simpson, they rejected Trace Adkins’ awful “Brown Chicken, Brown Cow”, and they rejected the Dixie Chicks after making what in the end were very very innocuous political statements. Oh, and they rejected “Country Strong” as well. I don’t think a passing comment on Glee could affect her, but the Hollywood persona most certainly will. Taylor Swift has more country cred than Gwyneth Paltrow.
And then there is Gwyneth’s performance at The Oscars. She was introduced as a “Singing sensation” and “Country music’s newest star”, but then came out, and by the look on her own face, which showed frustration, and by the end absolute embarrassment, she delivered a performance that was somewhere between flat and flat-out awful. By the end she looked like she had swallowed a razor blade. How many times have we replayed this scenario out over and over from these recent, stupid award shows and Super Bowl performances, and Star Spangled Banner renditions. She can’t sing. Gwyneth Paltrow can’t sing.
Taylor Swift is about to release her song “Mean” as her next single. It is about an unnamed music critic, that some think might be me. The leading candidate though is a cat named Bob Lefsetz, a music industry writer, who famously said after Taylor bombed her performance at The Grammy’s with Stevie Nicks, that, “Now the whole world knows that Taylor Swift can’t sing,” and that it was over for her. Well Bob Lefsetz was wrong. Just like Taylor’s CMA for Entertainer of the Year proved that a pop star could make it in country, and spurned acts like Sugarland and Lady Antebellum to follow that mold, Taylor Swift’s recovery after her Grammy performance proves that you don’t even have to be able to sing to be a massive star in music.
Our singers can’t sing. No wonder our leaders can’t lead, your food gives you Cancer, the shit you buy at Wal-Mart breaks after a week, and oil is $100/barrel even though we’ve got so much of it glutting the system, they can’t build silos in Cushing, OK quick enough to deal with how quickly it is piling up.
I know you may think this is grandstanding, but read the quote at the top of the page, and every Saving Country Music page. When you take mediocrity, put it up on a marble pedestal, shine a hot spotlight on it, shower it with money, and command the masses to come worship in it’s shadow, this is the kind of shit you get.
Congratulations America, a new country music idol is born!
Next week down here in Austin, TX will be the great gathering of the tribes known as South by Southwest (commonly referred in type as SXSW). SXSW is like a huge music festival, on top of a huge music convention, on top of a film festival and industry seminar all wrapped into one. There’s no way to make you appreciate the scope of SXSW in the written word. It consumes an entire US city, from top to bottom, east to west, and is the greatest opportunity all year to see top notch bands in one place.
Not every one can be here, but I will be, and leading up to SXSW, I’ll do my best to get everyone ready for the big shindig, including everyone that cannot attend. As I prepare for it, cover it, and then wrap it up, I’ll try to encapsulate the experience for everyone, and through articles, pictures, videos, audio, and interviews, help you live the experience vicariously through me, and through osmosis hopefully turn you on to some great music. I am going to start by naming off my top 5 MUST SEE artists for anyone attending SXSW who is into roots music.
#1 Ruby Jane
This is it folks. In 2011, Ruby Jane is the best, most dynamic live performer on the earth planet, and if you’re down here and miss her, that’s grounds for having your music nerd membership revoked. And don’t take my word for it, wherever and whenever Ruby performs, people walk away in shock. That is why she was named the MVP of ACL Fest by The Austin Chronicle, and a Top 5 performer at Folk Alliance by No Depression. I’d recommend seeing her with the full band, but either way, you can’t pass up this opportunity. Since she doesn’t have a major album release yet, this is your only chance to experience the force of nature that is Ruby Jane. Simply put, she is the future of music.
Performances: Wed 16th: Noon-12:30 @ Lambert’s, 7-8 PM @ Romeos /// Friday 18th: 11:30-11:45 AM @ Four Seasons, 6-6:45 @ Opal Divines /// Saturday 2PM @ Hyde Park, 6-7 PM @ Whole Foods Roof, 1-1:50 AM Official SXSW showcase @ Driskill Hotel
This is another that is a must see in person, because no recorded format will ever do justice to the ridiculous spectacle that is a Possessed by Paul James show. The best way I’ve heard it described is that he doesn’t play songs, he gives birth to songs on stage. I have never seen a man so consumed by the spirit of music when he performs, and that same spellbinding effect is shared with the crowd. “It’s 50/50″ as Possessed says. You will leave this show on a high that will last weeks. His last album Feed The Family was also nominated for the Saving Country Music Album of the Year in 2010.
Performances: Hillgrass Bluebilly XSXSW Showcase Friday 18th @ Hole in the Wall 1 AM
Possessed by Paul James was nominated for Saving Country Music’s Album of the Year in 2010, but Hellbound Glory won it. Spectacular songwriting and a high energy show, this is the underground band that was so potent last year, they even got some attention from the mainstream. Leroy Virgil is an outright rising star. They are #1 on my personal “to see” list because I’ve never seen them live before. This is going to be fun!
Performances: Sat. 19th Rusty Knuckles Showcase @ Dirty Dog Bar 4:40 PM (And more. More info coming!)
Where do I even start with these guys, how do I describe them? I guess I could start off by pointing you to my review from last year’s SXSW, and after that just say that Slim Cessna’s Auto Club is a music experience all to itself. Country-ish, gothic-ish, it cannot be missed.
Performances: Tue 15th Panache Party @ Scoot Inn /// Wed 16th Anso Party @ Spider House /// Thur 17th Panache Showcase @ Red 7.
Here we go ladies and gentlemen! Bust out the bluegrass instruments and crank the volume and tempo to 10! Their latest release Palomino set my hair on fire the first time I heard it and I can’t wait to see them live for the first time. They are #2 on my personal list to see.
Performances: Tue 15th @ Bat Bar, Campfire Trails Official SXSW showcase, 11 PM /// Wed 16th @ The Stage on Sixth, Paste Magazine Party 3 PM /// Thur 17th @ Homeslice Pizza, 6 PM /// Thur 17th @ Swan Dive 11 PM
Other artists on my “Must See” list:
I just saw her recently opening for Justin Townes Earle, and wasn’t even wholeheartedly impressed. But something about Caitlin wildly intrigues me, her voice is sublime, her soul troubled, and I couldn’t live with passing up an opportunity to see her again. Hope to get an interview this time as well. She’ll be playing at the ninebullets.net showcase among other places.
Have been enjoying the catchy tunes from this Northwest band for years, and finally get a chance to see them live. Performances: 3/16 8pm VeVeeta Room (official sxsw). 3/17 Trophys Austin sxsw party (free) 5:30pm. 3/18 Austin Threadgills Burnside District Party 1:30pm. 3/19 KAOS RADIO 1pm.
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There’s many more where that came from, but these are my tops. And the best part about SXSW is discovering that band you’ve never heard of at at random showcase in a random bar.
Next up, my Top 5 showcases.
TONIGHT, Saturday (2-19) on Austin City Limits, PBS will be re-running the episode from 2009 of “Willie & The Wheel”, the mashup of Willie Nelson, and the legendary Western Swing band Asleep At The Wheel. At that time, my tip top, rising artist to watch right now Ruby Jane, was a member of “Willie & The Wheel” and performs and is showcased throughout the episode. Only 14-years-old at the time, she not only holds her own on a stage filled with legends like Willie Nelson, Ray Benson, Mickey Raphael, at times she steals the show! You can only imagine where her talent is now, two years later!
You don’t want to miss this episode, if not for Ruby Jane, than for Willie and Ray Benson, but if you do, you can watch the archive of the entire episode.
And then THIS SUNDAY, 2-20-2011, none other than Wayne “The Train” Hancock will be on Saving Country Music’s live streaming channel, aka SCM LIVE, for a streaming video concert, with his full touring band at 6 PM Central! That’s right folks!
This is a special edition of Jashie P’s Outlaw Radio, and it will be coming LIVE from Chicago. Hancock is in the midst of an upper Midwest swing (check dates below) and is stopping by for a performance and interview.
So after your done watching Dale Earnhart Jr. get his ass kicked at the Daytona 500, get a big bowl of popcorn, the refreshment of your choice, duct tape the kids to the bed post and get your ass over here for a FREE Wayne Hancock concert from Jashie P’s living room to yours!
Wayne Hancock tour dates:
The Brass Rail
Ft. Wayne IN
Grand Rapids MI
Oneida Bingo Casino
Green Bay WI
Oneida Bingo Casino
Green Bay WI
High Noon Saloon
In the last decade or so, music has become a vital part of The Super Bowl presentation. The halftime show and National Anthem have always been a hoopla for the event, but with the addition of a pre-game concert, a rendition of “America, The Beautiful” and countless other opportunities to cross-market music to one of the biggest audiences television boasts all year, the NFL has made music possibly the second biggest focus of the event to the game itself.
Maybe because I am a music nerd, I paid attention to each music event closely, maybe even more closely than the game. Of course, I’m not the first to report that Christina Aguilera flubbed the words to the National Anthem, and of course horrifically oversang. Forget how good or bad The Black Eyed Peas are to begin with, the audio presentation was terrible–the mix between the vocals and pre-recorded music–and of course there were no instruments to be found, until they were used as props for a marching band dance routine. So in essence, the American public was assembled in one of the most universally attentive moments all year to watch a glorified Karaoke performance.
Maybe all of this was because the music was an afterthought to the horrendously-overproduced stage and light show, with electrified shills and glowing gallivanters making the whole thing feel like a living, breathing cell phone app with no practical purpose whatsoever aside from bedazzling and distracting the American public from their debilitatingly mundane lives. What was Slash doing there? Why was Ozzy in a commercial with Justin Bieber? Follow the money folks.
I’m not surprised at the Christina flub, or the sheer lack off attention to the actual quality of the noise comprising the halftime music, because the American culture has now put such a premium on mediocrity that we expect it, celebrate it, and in some ways, even demand it. But lets just pretend for a second that the half time show and Anthem weren’t completely vomitous. Wouldn’t still half the country be angry at the performances regardless, because the choices for the performers were a slap in the face to their demographic?
Music used to be one of the things that united the American culture. Jazz at the turn of the century, then blues and rock n’ roll and Afro-pop helped integrate the American culture maybe just as much as Civil Rights laws and forced bussing to schools. We all came together in our appreciation of the patchwork musical landscape that spoke to both white and black, urban and rural, rich and poor, educated and uneducated alike. If there was any misunderstanding on a generalized scale, it was generational.
But now look at us. Music is just as much a part of the culture war as anything. It is a tool of it. As music coagulates into two super-genres of country and rap, split right down the lines of race, geography, ideology, religious beliefs, political leanings, and sometimes social status, our approach to music has become very reactionary. For sure, many times the music that individuals identify with has very little to do with how they actually live, but if the Black Eyed Peas start dancing around on your TV in their glittering cyborg outfits, or some old white dude who hasn’t had a hit since Joe Namath was playing gets up there with his gray-haired band, half of the country is going to cry foul, and blame the other half for bad taste.
The NFL didn’t end their string of criticism by ending their string of aging white legacy performers at halftime, they just moved the disenfranchised viewers to another demographic. No performer is going to appease everyone, or even over half of the viewers in this climate, because nothing left in the mainstream possesses enough quality to be universally appealing, and even if it was, the music ignorance of the American public would just render it obscure and inaccessible. And even if people did in secret like it on a majority scale, they may still retreat to their Twitter and Facebook accounts to dismiss it, simply because they feel that it does not fit their tribe mentality.
Toss aside the quality issues of this year’s Super Bowl performances for a moment, and just ask yourself, was there this much anger and resentment toward the halftime performers of the Super Bowl 15 years ago? The American public seems as divided about who plays at halftime as who they want to win on the field. Problem is, there’s no sportsmanship in the culture war, and nobody wins.
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My pick for next year’s National Anthem performer, Ruby Jane:
Yesterday I was sorting through all the amazing pictures on Ruby Jane’s new website, having my mind blown apart by all the big names that she has shared the stage with at one time or another (see some examples below) when lo and behold, a new video came down the pike from CBS News, featuring her sharing a stage with of all people, CBS’s main man in Washington, Bob Schieffer.
A few weeks ago Bob and Ruby joined forces to be the entertainment for an A-list charity benefit for SOME – So Others Might Eat. Believe it or not, Bob is a big country fan and has even written a few songs. Check it out:
Sometimes when I bring up Ruby Jane to people they say “she’s young, she needs to get out there, she will have her day,” but as it points out in that video, Ruby has been performing full time since she was 8, meaning for 8 years, longer than many of the other artists I cover here, and half of her whole life. Ruby already has been out there, and she has more skins on the wall than most artists twice her age.
But since this is Christmas, and the time of giving, I really want to focus in on what musicians give of themselves, and not just during the Holidays.
“The goal is to get out there with my music as much as possible and give the world something I think it needs right now.” is what Ruby said.
Ruby is giving the gift of music, and as you can see by Bob’s reaction to it, she doesn’t just entertain, she touches the people she plays for, and plays with. Bob and Ruby gave through their music, but they also gave their time. I’ve always thought that there is nothing more important that you can give than your time. Not money, not gifts. Time is the true gift of life, and how it is spend is a true measure of a man.
Time has been on the forefront of my mind lately, as Saving Country Music has been growing so fast that it commands the majority of it, but unfortunately it is not big enough yet where it can sustain or even fairly compensate me for the time I put into it. But then I think of all these musicians out there on the road, making financial sacrifices, and sacrifices in their personal lives to bring us the music that we love, and it makes me want to work even harder.
I also think of all of YOU, who come here and help feed my unhealthy obsession my giving me YOUR time, eyes, ears, attention, and opinions. Like I always say, the best thing that happens around here are YOUR comments and participation, I just try to light a spark. What makes us different from pop country fans is we devote out time to the artists we love. We offer up our couches, start podcasts, make videos. They just hand over a big wad of cold cash to see them on a jumbo screen 100 yards away.
So to all the rednecks, white trash, dirtyfoots, gutterpunks, hillbillies, hellbillies, and other hard luck stories, from the bottom of my heart, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, thank you so much for making Saving Country Music what it is! And never forget this is OUR website, YOUR website. We are Saving Country Music.
(PS: SCM LIVE will be broadcasting Ruby Jane’s show from Gruene Hall on Jan. 16th from 12:00 – 3:30 PM Central)
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Ruby Jane: youngest ever invited fiddle player to the Grand Ole Opry:
The Hackensaw Boys:
Dale Watson (playing Dale’s guitar)
Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel:
Lyle Lovett (with Ray Benson in back)
Blues Traveler (from ACL Fest):
With Robert Plant and Elvis Costello:
In the first part of my interview with Texas songwriting legend Ray Wylie Hubbard, we talked about how he wasn’t proud of the end result of the movie Last Rites of Ransom Pride of which he co-wrote. In the second part we turned out attention to more positive things, namely his latest album A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: There is no C) that is up for Saving Country Music’s Album of the Year.
Though Hubbard is know as a songwriter first, I was amazed at the scope of the production of Enlightenment, of which Ray had a heavy hand in. Ray’s also been producing albums for other artists lately, maybe becoming just as well-known and sought after for his studio work as his mastery of lyric writing. And at the same time, Ray is helping define the nexus between country and blues music for our generation. For a 63-year-old, he has an astounding amount of potency, and a wealth of fresh ideas.
Triggerman: How old are you Ray Wylie?
Ray Wylie Hubbard: I guess I’m getting old enough where I forgot how old I was. I think I’m 64. No, 63.
Triggerman: Here’s some lyrics from your new album : “She called me up one time and said let’s go get tattoos. I said well let me brush my teeth and find my shoes. She came down the street in a stolen Volkswagen. She smiled and said she decided on a crimson Chinese dragon.” So at 63-years-old, what are you doing writing lyrics like that?
Ray Wylie Hubbard: This album has a foot in both worlds. I feel very fortunate that I can write a fundamental hillbilly mountain gospel song about the Apocalypse, a song about resurrection, and get in a mindset where I can write it as I believe it. And also write songs like “Drunken Poet’s Dream” and “Opium.” I don’t know where it comes from. “Coming down the street in a stolen Volkswagen.” You can see that image and you can all of a sudden see this girl, this cool kinda sleazy girl, with a heart of gold though. You can see why this musician would love her and have respect for her, when maybe nobody else did.
Triggerman: A lot of times when artists get older they want to push, either they want to be more edgy, or maybe they just turn the distortion up on their guitar too loud, because they think that’s something that will keep them young and hip. What I was impressed with is that it doesn’t feel like that. It feels natural, like a progression. The other thing that’s interesting is the production. When you were younger you were known more as a singer/songwriter which is based heavily in lyricism.
Ray Wylie Hubbard: I’m fortunate to have worked with Lloyd Maines and Gurf Morlix, and from them, I think I learned grit, and groove, and tone and taste. Even if you’re gonna take a 1×12 and put it on two bricks and stomp on it with a combat boot like we did on “Enlightenment” it still has to sound cool, you know? It’s got to sound right, and I’m a great believer in tone. I can use an old Bell & Howell amp from the 50′s that they used to use to show movies with, or an old Supro with a burned out speaker. Because if you look back, the records that I like were old guys that didn’t put on new drum heads or change strings when they went to play, they just played with what was available, but they had a tone that is just beautiful. I think I care. I care about trying to write really good, unique songs that sounds sonically just cool. And playing with Gurf and George Reiff and Rick Richards makes it so easy.
Triggerman: You’re talking a lot about gear. I wonder how accessible it is, but in the album you talk about playing a lipstick pickup through a Fender Tweed. Or on another song you’re talking about how you’ve got a French Harp but it’s in the key of ‘C’ but the song is in the key of ‘G’. The way I kind of explain Ray Wylie to people is that back in the day, he was a musician that other musicians would listen to. So when you put those gear references in there is that for your own enjoyment? Do you chuckle thinking about other musicians? Or do you write what you know about?
Ray Wylie Hubbard: I have this incredible freedom that I can write about whatever I want to write about. I don’t have to worry about writing a hit song. I couldn’t if I tried, you know. That freedom, it also gives you the chance to be fearless in what you write about. I think to have that freedom to be fearless, just write not thinking about the future of the song, just put it in there. Well, nobody is going to know what a lipstick pickup is. Well, that’s not my problem. (laughing) Young kids come up to me and ask me about songwriting, and one of the first things I say is read The Grapes of Wrath, just don’t listen to “The Ghost of Tom Joad.” Go back and read, and find out where that came from. The deeper the roots, the stronger the branches.
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On Thursday night I had the pleasure of seeing Ray Wylie perform at Suzanna’s Kitchen in Wimberley, TX with his long-time drummer Rick Richards. Sitting in for the last few songs of the set was fiddler Ruby Jane.
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