One of the reasons we feel so surprised at Americana’s success and so many have been so slow to recognize it is because it has been a slow and steady process. Because of Americana’s model of sustainability, the revolution has been plodding, yet purposeful. And now it’s success is palpable, and measurable by industry-standard metrics.
“I think I was ahead of the curve honestly. Now if I tried to release that first record I would probably find a lot of homes for it. This was 2012-2013. It’s been a very progressive three years in terms of people searching harder to find sounds that maybe they’ve realized they’re missing.”
In January of 2016, Saving Country Music published an article explaining how 2016 Could Be 1975 All Over Again in country music—how an upsurge in more traditional and substantive talent and music could really take hold in country, from the independent realm to the mainstream. And that is exactly what we’ve seen as 2016 has progressed.
With absolutely no hyperbole intended, William Michael Morgan earning a #1 on country radio for his debut single “I Met A Girl” is a historic moment in country music. It’s a point in time when an undeniably traditional country song from an undeniably traditional country artist has topped the chart after a long vacancy for a traditionalist at the top spot.
On the Bobby Bones Show Thursday (9-15) morning (listen at the bottom), Bobby spoke to Aaron Lewis after his recent blowup at pop country artists, and what did he do? Aaron backpeddled and admitted he was playing to the crowd. Then Bobby Bones finished his segment with Aaron Lewis on Thursday by bringing up Saving Country Music in a strange context.
The reason much of country music, bluegrass, blues, folk, and other older genres are referred to as “roots” is because these vital influences to American music are the building blocks for most or all of the music people enjoy today. Before there was rock and roll, and before there was hip-hop, roots music paved the way for all popular music genres.
Now that some of the dust has settled since Sturgill Simpson made his inflammatory comments about the mistreatment of Merle Haggard on Monday (8-29), many others have taken the opportunity to weigh in on the matters on both sides of the country music cultural divide.
Preserving the roots of country is not always just about paying homage. Sometimes it is about sowing disharmony or speaking out in protest to help force country music back on the right path. Music Row and the country music industry will always be about money first. The artists are the ones who must take the lead and reign the business in.
The nominees for the 50th Annual CMA Awards have been announced, and Chris Stapleton, Eric Church, and newcomer Maren Morris lead the field each with five nominations. Stapleton continues to be the big surprise, picking up a nomination for the evening’s biggest prize, Entertainer of the Year, and four other nominations.
The Garden & Gun ‘New Outlaws’ issue seemed to illustrate the problem with many of today’s music periodicals that see the expanding interest in independent country music, but rely mostly on journalists and editors who only know country music from the outside looking in.
Well, this is a side of Sturgill Simpson we haven’t seen for a while. Last week, the ACM created a new award called the ‘Merle Haggard Spirit Award’ that was said to honor the contributions of Haggard by acknowledging artists who exemplify his uncompromising integrity and “singular vision in carving an indelible path in country music.”
Sturgill Simpson is currently in the running and being voted on by members of the Country Music Association for three of the 50th Anniversary presentation’s biggest prizes. Also surprising since she’s not on a major label, Margo Price has made the top 20 females being considered for Female Vocalist of the Year.
If you thought Sturgill Simpson’s and Stephen Colbert’s Waffle House duet “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Knuckleheads” was funny when they debuted it on national television in April, then the second installment will split your sides.
“I remember we were doing our first tour, somewhere probably like a Red Roof Inn or Howard Johnson’s,” Sturgill explains. “I almost killed myself getting out of the shower to write it down. It was right before we were going to check out and leave. And I had to literally like jump out of the shower and I slipped.”
Willie Nelson, along with Neil Young, John Mellencamp, and Dave Matthews are the board members for the Farm Aid organization first launched in 1985, and all four will be performing at this year’s event being held in Bristow, Virginia at Jiffy Lube Live on September 17th. Along with the four headliners, this year’s Farm Aid features an impressive list of country music talent.
Carlene Carter, Dave Matthews, Farm Aid, Jamey Johnson, John Mellencamp, Lukas Nelson & The Promise of the Real, Margo Price, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, Neil Young, Sturgill Simpson, Tim Reynolds, Willie Nelson
With no disrespect meant to the albums highlighted here, which represent the exception and not the rule, 2016 has begun where the second half of 2015 left off, where it feels like country and roots music across the board is out of ideas, and the search for music that truly enlivens the spirit is becoming harder. Nonetheless, there are still some excellent albums out there worth highlighting.
From opening for Dwight and Willie, to signing to Thirty Tigers, to now getting the opportunity to play big stages at Stagecoach in April, and Bonnaroo in June, the story of Luke Bell is shaping up to be very similar to that of Sturgill Simpson’s when his career was in its infant stages. But there’s still a lot of ground to cover.
Americana may not have a definitive, universally-recognized definition. But it now has it’s own classification on Billboard’s weekly album’s chart, which is a new layer of legitimacy for the genre if nothing else. Overall, it appears that the Billboard staff got it just about right.
If you’ve been waiting for the Sturgill Simpson tour to head your way behind his recent album A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, chances are you’ll be getting your wish soon. Tickets for most remaining shows in May and June are sold out. Many of the shows in Canada and the northern United States will go on sale on May 20th.
Believe it or not, you can draw a straight line between underground roots music, and Chris Stapleton becoming the most successful country music artist in the last two years in regards to awards and album sales. Let me explain how: