With over 200 artists playing AmericanaFest this third week of September, it can be a little bit intimidating for the folks either looking to attend in person, or experience the gathering vicariously through various social channels and video streams. So here is a curated list of artists battle tested and approved by Saving Country Music.
The Secret Sisters
The story goes that The Malpass Brothers were discovered by Merle Haggard after they played an opening gig for him in North Carolina. “Well they remind me a lot of myself and people that I knew when I was young,” says Merle. “They have their hearts into what we call ‘traditional’ country music. It’s valuable to me that we cultivate young talent for that kind of music.”
Each year when Saving Country Music sits down to compile the best songs, it’s done so with a solemn reverence and understanding that the idea embedded in a song has the power to change a life, and change the world. There are many songs out there that are a joy to listen to, but a Song of the Year must say something that can evoke shivers, and do so in a way nobody else has done before.
Don Williams, Everything's Gone, First Aid Kit, Garry Nicholson, Hellbound Glory, Hurray For The Riff Raff, I Lost You, Jim Lauderdale, Joseph Huber, Leon Virgil Bowers, Lloyd Maines, Lydia Loveless, Parker Milsap, Ray Benson, Streets of Aberdeen, Sturgill Simpson, Tami Neilson, The Body Electric, The Lonely Island, The Secret Sisters, Truck Stop Gospel, Turtles All the Way Down, Waitress Song, Wanchese & Manteo, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Willie Watson
Jamey Johnson will be releasing “The Christmas Song,” But that’s not where the goodies stop from the songwriter. Announced today, November 24th, Jamey Johnson is starting his own record label called Big Gassed Records. The first release will be the Christmas EP, but there will be much more music on the way. “From now on, as soon as I can get it written and recorded, we will make it available,” says Johnson.
When you navigate to jameyjohnson.com, it darn near takes the home page 15 seconds to load because the above banner proclaiming new music on the way is so damn big. Jamey’s fans aren’t complaining though. They’ve been waiting so long for new, original music from the songwriter, they’ll take any sign as a good one after a protracted legal battle.
So who could step up of in the country music vocal duo space who could duel with the heavyweights of the mainstream, and offer more substance to that category like The Civil Wars did? Of course there will only be one Civil Wars and nobody will be able to replace them completely, but here are some ideas who could have a similar impact.
Bruce & Kelly Show, Bruce Robison, Carolina Story, Dave Rawlings, First Aid Kit, Gillian Werlch, Jayke Orvis, Kacey Musgraves, Kellie Willie, Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison, Mandolin Orange, Shovels & Rope, Simon & Garfunkel, T Bone Burnett, Taylor Swift, The Cactus Blossoms, The Church Sisters, The Everly Brothers, The Lovin Brothers, The Milk Carton Kids, The Secret Sisters, The Urban Pioneers
Compared to albums, making picks of songs is such a tough, arbitrary business. This year seems especially tough, not because the field isn’t strong, but because many of the best moments are coming from unlikely sources, including a cadre of cover songs that despite the spirit of the “Best Songs” approach being about original compositions, seem almost criminal to omit.
Bob Wayne, Dierks Bentley, Don Williams, Eric Church, First Aid Kit, Hellbound Glory, I'll Be Here In The Morning, Jason Eady, John Fullbright, Karen Jonas, Kirsty Lee Akers, Leroy Virgil, Liberty Bell, Lonely Island, Matt Woods, Melody Williamson, Miranda Lambert, Parker Milsap, Red Eye Gravy, Streets of Aberdeen, Sturgill Simpson, Take Me Back, The Promise, The Secret Sisters, The Wall, There's No Country Here, Turtles All the Way Down, Willie Nelson, Willie Watson, Zoe Muth
Like the moan of the steel guitar or the cut of the banjo tone, there is just something about the precision and flow of sister harmonies that awaken something in the human spirit that is uncanny, and characteristic of the highest reaches of audio diversion. Considering the long and noble lineage of close sister harmonies, marked on its path by such noteworthy names…
Produced by T Bone Burnett, the new Secret Sisters album called Put Your Needle Down—the sister duo’s first record in nearly four years—was produced by T Bone Burnett. T Bone Burnett produced this sophomore effort, and lending his efforts in a production role was T Bone Burnett. T Bone Burnett, T Bone Burnett, T Bone Burnett.
Sturgill Simpson’s “High Top Mountain.” Jason Isbell’s “Southeastern.” Lindi Ortega’s “Tin Star.” Though these artists are from different locales, and the genres they represent are varied shades of the country music theme, they all have one thing in common: a virtually unnoticed and rarely heralded behind-the-scenes producer named Dave Cobb.
To All The Girls is Willie Nelson’s third album to come from his recent partnership with Sony’s Legacy Recordings, and the second to come out this year. The record features an ample 18 tracks, each constituting a duet with a female counterpart drawing from a wide swath of talent that includes both legacy names like Loretta Lynn and Emmylou Harris, and some new names like The Secret Sisters and Brandi Carlile.
Alison Krauss, Brandi Carlile, Buddy Cannon, Carrie Underwood, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Loretta Lynn, Mavis Staples, Paula Nelson, Shelby Lynne, The Secret Sisters, To All The Girls, Willie Nelson, Wynonna Judd
Whenever I find myself thirsting for inspiration, I tend to search out the blessed gift that is the harmonies of sister pairings. Any two great singers can harmonize, but few can match the instinct and tone of two blood relatives, making the artform seem as effortless as breath. Following is a list of singing sisters who never cease to inspire.
Anderson Family Bluegrass, Asleep at the Wheel, First Aid Kit, Marty Stuart, Merle Haggard, Paige Anderson, Paige Anderson and the Fearless Kin, Ricky Skaggs, T Bone Burnett, The Carter Family, The Church Sisters, The Louvin Brothers, The Marty Stuart Show, The Quebe Sisters, The Secret Sisters, The Shook Twins, The Staves