Browsing articles tagged with " Townes Van Zandt"
May
1

Could Luke Bryan’s Version of “Pancho & Lefty” Be a Hit?

May 1, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  39 Comments

luke-bryan-001On April Fool’s day, Broken Bow Records released a 20-track Merle Haggard Tribute called Working Man’s Poet, primarily as a showcase for the roster’s talent. Big Broken Bow acts like Jason Aldean, Thompson Square, and Dustin Lynch make multiple appearances on the collection, but one of the most heavily-touted songs from the album has been Luke Bryan’s version of “Pancho & Lefty” with Dierks Bentley. The approach of the track is said to to have been inspired by Mumford & Sons. “The original had a Spanish-Mexican flair,” Bryan explains. “We took a real different approach with it …. something with some edge that moves along pretty good. It’s an interesting take.”

The first question this song begged was, should this really be considered a Merle Haggard song? “Pancho & Lefty” was originally written and recorded by acclaimed Texas singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt. A later version appeared on an album of the same name that was a collaboration between Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson in 1983, but Willie sang most of the song, with Merle only contributing one verse.

Nonetheless, Luke Bryan’s version with Dierks made the cut, and subsequently drew the favorable ear of Mere’s son and Strangers guitar player Ben Haggard who appears on the tribute multiple times himself. “You know, Luke Bryan’s a great artist, but I never really listened to his stuff,” Ben told Country Weekly earlier this month. “I just listened to ‘Pancho and Lefty’ about five minutes ago and it blew me away. I’m in love with it.”

Ben went on to give his assessment of the tune if it was ever released to radio as a single. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a hit. It could be a monster—again.” The Willie & Merle version was a #1 in 1983. This begs the question, could Luke Bryan’s version of “Pancho & Lefty” really be released to radio as a single, and somehow become a hit all over again?

The one thing we know is right now, there’s no country star hotter than Luke Bryan. Luke is on a roll, scoring one huge hit single after another, with his latest “Play It Again” at #1, and his collaboration with Florida-Georgia Line called “This Is How We Roll” at #2 on Billboard’s country chart. If Luke and his management did decide to release the song to radio there’s a very good likelihood it would do well simply off of Luke’s name, and Dierks Bentley is a pretty hot commodity at the moment as well.

Combine that with the overwhelming cover success Darius Rucker recently had with Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Wagon Wheel,” and it’s not ridiculous to think that Luke’s “Pancho & Lefty” could become a hit, creating the same strange dichotomy “Wagon Wheel” did for independent country fans where you’re happy there’s a cool song getting played on the radio, but hesitant about the circumstances of how it got there. A Merle tribute song written by Townes Van Zandt topping the charts? Awesome. Performed by Luke Bryan? Not so much. And it turns out that there already has been a few spins of the song on MediaBase-monitored radio stations (a meager total of four, but still interesting for a cover song on a tribute album).

But don’t steal yourself for disappointment, or get your hopes up that “Pancho & Lefty” 3.0 will become the next “Wagon Wheel” and put the deceased Townes Van Zandt at the top of today’s country chart. As Saving Country Music’s go to guru for all things country radio Windmills Country points out, since the Merle Haggard tribute was released by Broken Bow, but Luke Bryan is a Capitol Records Nashville artist, it is unlikely that Luke’s song is the one they would release as a single, if they release any singles from the tribute. Releasing a single to mainstream country radio costs lots of money for labels to promote, and so it is unlikely that Broken Bow would do this for an artist on another roster, similar how it is less likely that Capitol Nashville would figure out how to release it as a single since it originated from Broken Bow.

The other issue is that Luke Bryan already has a slew of singles out there to radio doing very very well, and so does Dierks Bentley. Labels do not like having singles compete with each other, so if “Pancho & Lefty” was released, it would likely be well after Luke’s current albums are out of single material.

Nonetheless, it is certainly curious that the most lauded song on the album is Luke Bryan’s, especially since he’s not signed to Broken Bow. In the press releases and other promotional material, it is by far the most talked about track, and it could have been targeted by Broken Bow’s A&R as the best song to help sell the album to the public. Depending on the licensing behind the song, the track could also be selected to be released on a deluxe edition of Luke’s current album Crash My Party—a practice that a lot of labels are doing with artists to extend the release cycle, and making it more likely it could appear as a single. So who knows. It somewhat feels like fantasy football to talk about the track becoming a hit, but there is certainly a lot of chatter surrounding it. We very well might be seeing Luke Bryan shaking it to “Pancho & Lefty” in the future, for better or worse.

There’s no embeddable version of Luke Bryan’s version, so here’s the Willie & Merle’s original.

Mar
19

Don Williams’ “Reflections” Reminds Us of What’s Important

March 19, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  27 Comments

don-williams

We hear it all the time. It pursues us throughout our daily lives. It seems to be one of the eternal lessons of life. Yet no matter how much we all believe in the message and take it into our hearts, it is amazing how easily we stray from taking time, slowing down, and appreciating the important things in life and living in the moment. Because no matter how much you tell yourself how paramount this is, there’s an endless world of priorities and distractions awaiting you on your phone, on your computer, and on your television. You can preach the virtues of slowing down all you want, but the best way to drive the message home is by example, and this is what the wise-minded, and golden-throated guru of classic country music Don Williams does on his new album Reflections.

The message wouldn’t have so much meaning behind it if it wasn’t so obvious Don Williams practices what he preaches. He had his day of moving and shaking in the music business (5 CMA Male Vocalist Trophies & seventeen #1′s to be exact), and when it was obvious that the industry had put him out to pasture, he didn’t shake his fists in anger or reconfigure his image to appeal to the younger generation. He was appreciative of the time he spent in the spotlight, and stepped back to rest on his laurels and re-evaluate his priorities. Even now that he’s re-ignited his career of sorts by releasing two albums in the last three years, it seems like he’s doing it only as a dabbler; to get the devil out of him so to speak, so that music doesn’t pursue him in his mind as he tries to relax and revel in his golden years.

don-williams-reflectionsThis is the attitude and approach that Reflections is recorded with—slow and easy—like Don told his wife, “I’ll be back for supper,” and then went out for an afternoon to cut an album of songs that he believes in and lives by every day. Then as producers, engineers, and label people labored to get this record ready for release, it was the farthest thing from Don’s mind as he takes a late breakfast and heads out fishing.

Where Reflections outdoes his 2012 album And So It Goes is in the song selection. Don Williams can sing anything and make it gold, and one of his greatest assets is being able to sing a song that performed by any other artist would come across as sappy, and make it somewhat cool and more universally appealing. But there’s a little bit of swagger, a little bit of grit in some the songs of Reflections, not necessarily in the words, but just in the attitude. Selecting a song from Townes Van Zandt in “I’ll Be Here In The Morning”, and from Merle Haggard in “Sing Me Back Home” which refers to Merle’s stint in prison, gives this album some gravel, despite the otherwise smooth and subdued approach of the music. Yet these two famous covers still sit well within the theme of the album of appreciating the small things in life.

Reflections is much more than just the easy listening country it may appear to be on the surface. It’s an album with a message, and leads by example. Instead of whining about the state of country music, it does something about it.

The laid back, gentle-of-mind ease drips from this album like the sweetness of sun-drenched dew. Sometimes it’s simply implied, and other times it’s directly spoken, like in the appreciative and well-written “Working Man’s Son” or the song that ties the entire theme of Reflections together, “Back To The Simple Things.” Enough can’t be said either about the Townes cover “I’ll Be Here In The Morning”. Like when Willie and Merle took “Pancho & Lefty” to another level, Don Williams’ touch on this song immortalized it, and in a different time it would have been a super hit.

Reflections is the album we needed right here, right now. Not just from the perspective of saving country music, but the perspective of saving ourselves from the overwhelming onslaught of ensnaring technologies that rob the preciousness from life.

Two guns up.

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Purchase Reflections from Sugar Hill Records

Preview & Purchase Tracks on Amazon

Mar
10

10 Artists to Check Out Even If You’re Not Going to SXSW

March 10, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  19 Comments

Oh you poor little non-SXSW goers, you’re social network feeds are about to get positively inundated with South By Southwest information, riddling your psyche with scores of free music events you’re unfortunately missing out on, resulting in an experience for you somewhere between the teasings of a cruel temptress, and Chinese water torture.

So in the spirit of wanting to bridge the SXSW haves and have not’s, here’s a list of artists that all happen to be attending SXSW (and their appointed set times), but are worthy of being checked out more in-depth even if you can’t make it down to Austin, TX to get raped for parking and sit in lines for 7 hours a day.


Sturgill Simpson

Saving Country Music’s reigning Artist of the Year, this country music savior has a hot new album out in High Top Mountain, and another one on the way called Metamordern Sounds in Country Music out May 13th, and might be the most worthy up-and-coming country music personality to see at SXSW 2014. Sturgill Simpson is so good, even if you consider yourself more of an Americana or roots fan, he’s still worth checking out.

  • Sat. 15th 7PM, St David’s Historic Sanctuary, 304 E 7th St.


shakey-gravesShakey Graves

If anyone is showing up to SXSW with tons of positive momentum behind him, it would be Shakey. It probably helps that he cut his teeth in Austin, playing regularly at places like The White Horse and Hole in the Wall. He’s now reportedly transitioning from a solo act to a full band sound, and whether you get Shakey solo or Shakey 2.0, he’s certainly worth rerouting your SXSW itinerary to catch.

  • MONDAY, 3/10: 10:00pm – Spider House Ballroom (2906 Fruth St) – Mother Falcon’s All The Friends Ball
  • TUESDAY, 3/11: 6:30pm – KLRU Studio 6A (2504-B Whitis Ave) – Premiere screening of PBS documentary on Shakey Graves “Not Alone” + live performance
  • WEDNESDAY, 3/12: 1:00pm – Cedar St. Courtyard (208 W. 4th St) – FILTER/Lagunitas Party
  • THURSDAY, 3/13: 12:50pm – Weather Up (1808 E. Cesar Chavez) – Billy Reid Showcase
    4:00pm – Licha’s Cantina (1306 E. 6th St) – Audiotree Showcase
    7:25pm – Heartbreaker Banquet at Willie Nelson’s Luck, TX Ranch
  • FRIDAY, 3/14: 12:30pm – Spotify House (901 E. 6th St)
    5:05pm – The 512 (408 East 6th St) – Colorado Music Party
    1:00am – The Gatsby (708 E. 6th St) – Pandora / Americana Music Association Showcase (official SXSW)
  • SATURDAY, 3/15: 11:00pm – Holy Mountain Backyard (617 E. 7th St.) – New Frontier Touring Showcase (official SXSW)

possessed-by-paul-jamesPossessed by Paul James

The school teacher by day turned music savant by night will be plying his craft at SXSW on the heels of being featured on NPR and CMT, and ahead of an appearance at Pickathon and many other festivals this summer. This high-energy and enigmatic solo performer is spiraling up the music world staircase with songs that resonate deeply with fans from all across the roots music landscape.

  • Mon. 10th, 8:00 PM, Hotel Vegas, 1500 East 6th Street
  • Wed. 12th, 5:30 PM, ABGB, 1305 West Oltorf Street
  • Fri. 14th, 11:30 PM, Austin Moose Lodge XSXSW 7 2103 E M Franklin Ave.

 


Hurray for the Riff Raff

Hurry for the Riff Raff is Alynda Lee Segarra, and sometimes other accompanying musicians, who evoke the musical traditions of Appalachia with a newer, Americana approach mixed in. Critically acclaimed and a favorite of her musical peers and fans of songwriting and traditional music alike, she just released her latest album Small Town Heroes and will be one of the rising roots stars attending SXSW in 2014. Gillian Welch for a new generation.

  • Wed. 12th, Mello Johnny’s, 2:00 PM
  • Wed. 12th, Weather Up, 1808 E Cesar Chavez St., 5:50 PM
  • Fri. 14th, Hotel San Jose, 4:00 PM
  • Fri. 14th, The Gatsby, 10:00 PM


willie-watsonWillie Watson

This former and founding member of Old Crow Medicine Show is now out to make his own name as a solo folk singer, and will be attending SXSW ahead of the release of his David Rawlings-produced debut album Folk Singer, Vol. 1 out May 6th that features standard and obscure roots songs. Those who’ve followed string bands for a while will recognize the name, and most lovers of sincere music soon will with the way Willie Watson engages crowds and weaves his craft.

  • Wed. 12th, 11:00 PM, St. David’s Episcopal Church, 301 E. 8th St.
  • Thur. 13th, Heartbreaker Banquet, Luck, TX.

 


john-fullbrightJohn Fullbright

The former Turnpike Troubadour who surprised everyone in 2012 when his debut album From The Ground Up was nominated for a Grammy, John Fullbright is one of Americana’s brightest future stars and a top shelf songwriter to boot. And as you can see from his SXSW schedule, he’s willing to put the sweat equity into career. We all pray that the traffic sea parts for you often this week, John.

  • 3/11 – The Oklahoma Showcase @ The Buffalo Lounge (set time: 1:00am)
  • 3/12 – Thirty Tigers Showcase @ St. David’s Historic Sanctuary (set time: 12:00am)
  • 3/13 – Heartbreaker Banquet’s Chapel Stage @ Willie Nelson’s Ranch in Luck, TX (set time: 4:15pm)
  • 3/14 – Live Vibe Presents The Listening Room @ Winflo (set time: 1:15pm)
  • 3/14 – Sin City Social Club SXSW Bash @ St. Vincent’s (set time: 4:00pm)
  • 3/14 – Hill Country Live SXSW Showcase @ Saxon Pub (set time: 10:30pm)
  • 3/15 – Twangfest Party @ Broken Spoke (set time: 2:30pm)
  • 3/15 – Folk Alliance Showecase @ Threadgills (set time: 5:00pm)
  • 3/16 – Music City Texas Showcase @ G&S Lounge (set time: 6:30pm)

 


Steelism

One of the strangest projects you can probably partake in at SXSW that would still fall within the big tent of the “country” world, but also one of the coolest and most creative, is steel guitar player Spencer Cullum Jr.’s Steelism band. You may recognize Spencer, as well as Steelism guitar player Jeremy Fetzer from Caitlin Rose’s band. Essex-native Spencer Cullum has also played with Jonny Fritz, and many others from the current east Nashville scene. Others you may see fleshing out the Steelism lineup at any given time are Mike Rinne, Matt Rowland, Jon Radford, and Andrew Combs. Who said the steel guitar was dead?

  •  Wed. 12th, 11:00 PM, Tap Room at The Market, 311 Colorado St
  • Fri. 14th, 8:00 PM, Shotguns, 503 East 6th St.


robert-ellisRobert Ellis

Texas native and current Nashvillian Robert Ellis is certainly a candidate to take that critical acclaim baton from Jason Isbell and run with it as an artist who seems to effortlessly deliver songs with cutting emotional moments in an awe-inspiring display of deft creativity. His much-anticipated new album Lights From The Chemical Plant is full of those instances that give you shivers from their bold illustration of wit and self awareness.

  • Wed. 12th, 7:00 PM, Paste Party @ Swan Dive, 615 Red River Street
  • Thur. 13th, 5:20 PM, Weather Up, 1808 E Cesar Chavez St.
  • Thur. 13th 7:00 PM, Threadgills, 301 West Riverside Drive
  • Thur. 13th 8:00 PM, Red 7, 611 E 7th St
  • Fri. 14th, 5:00 PM, Hotel San Jose, 1316 S Congress Ave

 


lydia-lovelessLydia Loveless

Artists that just released albums seem to flock to SXSW light moths to the lamp, and such is the case for Bloodshot Record’s cowpunk princess Lydia Loveless that has many singing her praises after the release of her latest album Somewhere Else. Lydia Loveless isn’t just empowered, she’s uninhibited. Subtly and coyness are shades she rarely paints in. Instead she opens her mouth and the truth comes out unfettered, refreshingly honest, and many times, R-rated, revealing her sinful tendencies and struggles with self-admitted inadequacies that sometimes veer her towards self-destructive behavior.

  • Tue. 11th, 8:00 PM, Hole In The Wall
  • Wed. 12th, 10:00 PM, The Continental Club
  • Fri. 14th, Yard Dog Art Gallery
  • Thur. 13th, Noon, The Broken Spoke
  • Thur 13th. 2:00 PM, Swan Dive
  • Thur 13th, 6:30 PM, Hole In The Wall

 


robbie-fulksRobbie Fulks

With a gift for poetry like Townes Van Zandt, and a penchant for the whimsical, progressive approach to bluegrass akin to John Hartford, Robbie Fulks isn’t your typical up-and-coming SXSW attendee, but a wily veteran coming back for the action. His recent album Gone Away Backward from Bloodshot Records was a Saving Country Music Album of the Year candidate in 2013.

  • Wed. 12th, 9:00 PM, The Continental Club
  • Thur. 13th, 4:00 PM, The Broken Spoke
  • Fri. 14th, Yard Dog Art Gallery
  • Sat. 15th, 2:00 PM, Brooklyn Country Party @ Licha’s Cantina
Mar
4

Don Williams Covers Townes Van Zandt’s “I’ll Be Here In The Morning”

March 4, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  19 Comments

don-williams-reflectionsFor eight lonely years in the oughts we traversed the long, dark gulf between Don Williams releases, when country music’s “Gentle Giant” retired to his farm to live the same warm, reflective life referenced in many of his songs with such soothing presence. A Don Williams song is like being young again and wrapped in the loving, reassuring arms of a grandparent. Sure, there’s a few other country music artists that can play songs in the mid tempo and sing so quietly to where their voice is as delicate as the sides of a soap bubble. But nobody can do it while being as cool as Don Williams.

After releasing And So It Goes through Sugar Hill records in 2012, Don Williams has all of a sudden become downright prolific in the new decade, and his latest release Reflections is due out on Sugar Hill March 11th. Ahead of the release Don teases us with a new song, an adaptation of Texas songwriting legend Townes Van Zandt’s beautiful, disarming tune of love triumphing over freedom, “I’ll Be Here In The Morning.”

Released on Van Zandt’s first official studio record, 1968′s For The Sake Of The Song, “I’ll Be Here In The Morning” was counter to the popular “Ramblin’ Man” notions prevailing at the time in music with male musical characters issuing warnings to their lovers to not expect them to be around for long. The poetic ear the young Van Zandt displays in the song is highly worthy of recognition, even if the theme wasn’t popular or resonant in 1968. However “I’ll Be Here In The Morning,” just like Townes and Don Williams, proved to be timeless.

Recorded live (as can be seen below in the video), Don’s version does what Don Williams does, which is approach a song with such a gentle touch, it revives memory like the sunlight and the feel of the air at the change of seasons. Tasteful instrumentation, including light entrances by banjo, steel guitar, and harmonica embellish the recording, while a two-tone Waylon-esque bass beat drives the song and lead electric guitar indicative of a Mark Knopfler style, and classical acoustic guitar offer a break to Don’s effortless, caramel-swirled vocal tones, holding the words of Van Zandt’s work like a proud father holds his child for the first time.

Two guns up.

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Pre-Order Don Williams’s Reflections

You can also listen to another new Don Williams song “Talk Is Cheap” on Engine 145.

Feb
8

Heartworn Highways Revisited to be Released In Summer

February 8, 2014 - By Trigger  //  News  //  20 Comments

heartworn-highways-revisited

As first reported by Saving Country Music back in February of 2013 when the iconic Outlaw country documentary Heartworn Highways was being released digitally for the first time, a followup to the movie called Heartworn Highways Revisited featuring some of the artists in the original film along with new, up-and-coming artists has been in the works.

Jonny Fritz w/ David Allan Coe

Jonny Fritz w/ David Allan Coe

Directed by Wayne Price, with producer Brian Devine, and original Heartworn Highways producer Graham Leader, Heartworn Highways Revisited is reported to be in post production, with hopes it will be released later this summer. They have also released a trailer for the new film on their website, and have revealed the new cast that includes Guy Clark, David Allan Coe, and Steve Young from the original film, as well as newer artists Jonny Fritz, Deer Tick, Robert Ellis, Andrew Combs, Phil Hummer, Matraca Berg, John McCauley, Josh Hedley, Bobby Bare Jr., Langhorn Slim, Shelly Colvin, Justin Townes Earle, and Shovels & Rope.

Bobby Bare Jr. and Guy Clark

Bobby Bare Jr. and Guy Clark

Similar to how the original film captured Clark, Coe, Young, Townes Van Zandt, Larry Jon Wilson, Rodney Crowell, Charlie Daniels and others in intimate, concert, and recorded environments, the new film hopes to capture similar organic and authentic moments from this new slate of artists. The new film also has some scenes where the original cast members and the new cast members hang out, meet, and collaborate.

The original Heartworn Highways is given credit by many for setting the standards for a musical documentary. Filmed in late 1975 and early 1976, but not released until 1981, Heartworn Highways chronicles the country music Outlaw movement and some of its most important contributors in the infancy of their careers. Some of the scenes and music have gone on to become some of the most memorable moments of country music lore.

The original Heartworn Highways can be rented On Demand On Amazon and on iTunes.

Jan
28

Willie, Kris, & Merle Working on Musketeers Album

January 28, 2014 - By Trigger  //  News  //  15 Comments

willie-nelson-kris-kristofferson-merle-haggardAt the 56th Annual Grammy Awards Sunday night, country legends Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Merle Haggard performed a medley of songs together along with Blake Shelton, with the occasion being Kris Kristofferson receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award and having his first self-titled album inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. But this grouping wasn’t accidental, or an augmented version of the supergroup The Highwaymen that Willie and Kris were once a part of with Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings.

A long-planned, and even longer-rumored album and grouping of Willie, Merle, and Kris called “The Musketeers” has been in the works for years. Saving Country Music first reported on the potential supergroup in January of 2011 when the three men were assembled as part of Merle Haggard’s recognition by the Kennedy Center Honors. Haggard told Rolling Stone at the time:

We got to eat a little something together. We didn’t know what the hell this food was, but we thought it was funny. We (Merle and Willie) talked about doing that together, but with the presence of Kris, we talked about the three of us doing it. I’m sure if we’re healthy and live to do it, we’ll do it. We thought about the title: the Musketeers. You know, because there’s the three of us. We’ll come up with some little way of describing ourselves I guess and put it together into a show.

“The Musketeers” might just be a placeholder for the eventual name, but apparently the three Country Music Hall of Famers are still serious about the idea, and are working on music. When asked by Billboard before The Grammy Awards if a collaboration between the three men could be in the offing, Willie Nelson responded, “We’re working on one now.” When asked when fans could expect something, and if it could be this year, Willie responded, “As soon as we get it together. Could be.”

Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson have toured together in an acoustic show numerous times since 2009, and Willie Nelson worked with Merle Haggard in 2007 on the album Last of The Breed. Willie and Merle also collaborated on the Townes Van Zandt classic “Pancho & Lefty.”

Finally stimulating The Musketeers to go from talk to actual tracks might be the recent revelation from Kris Kristofferson that he’s beginning to experience memory issues.

Jan
11

Ke$ha & Pitbull Blend A Country Vibe Into “Timber” Hit

January 11, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  41 Comments

keha-pitbull-timberBack in July of 2012, I placed my chips on the square that said that sometime in the future pop star Ke$ha would be a big player in the country music realm, and that when she did, she would be huge. Ke$ha’s mom is country songwriter Pebe Sebert that wrote the #1 hit “Old Flames (Can’t Hold a Candle To You)” for Dolly Parton amongst other notable compositions, and Ke$ha has professed her love for country music, and specifically Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, and Townes Van Zandt.

It’s hard to call “Timber”—her current collaboration with Latin rapper Pitbull—a country song, but it’s just as hard to ignore that this song is trying to capture a country/Americana vibe through its production. In many respects, “Timber” is the perfect mono-genre specimen. Take a Latin hip-hop artist, an LA pop star via Nashville, inject elements of American country culture like harmonica, the line “swing your partner, ’round and ’round,” reinforce it in the video with choreographed line dancers wearing cutoffs carousing in a honky tonk with a jug band playing in the background, and you’ve got yourself a bona fide mono-genre master work.

And the results of their attempt to touch on every element of popular American culture without pigeonholing the song into any specific genre speak for themselves. “Timber” is now the #1 song in all of music, and it’s video has received 61 million+ hits at the the time of this posting. This is the kind of results that can be garnered when your music has no limits based on traditional lines of genre, culture, race, or even geography.

The video for “Timber” was shot in two primary locales. Pitbull’s portion of the was mostly filmed in The Bahamas, while Ke$ha caught a more country vibe by filming in a honky tonk in Miami and a ranch outside of the city limits. Horses, chickens, and bikini’ed Ke$ha chopping wood (a day’s work is never done, apparently) are all featured in the video, and so is, of all things, a relatively-obscure, but worthy-of-your-ear band from Orlando called The Bloody Jug Band.

The Bloody Jug Band is a true jug band (yes, they have a jug player) that features very traditional instrumentation around an otherwise very progressive Americana sound with a dark, macabre approach. At first glance one might think this is a gimmick band, but their compositions reveal great depth in both theme and structure, constituting their debut album Coffin Up Blood to be nominated for Saving Country Music’s Album of the Year in 2012.

Cragmire Peace

Cragmire Peace

“It was just one of those opportunities that fall in your lap,” says Bloody Jug Band frontman Cragmire Peace. “I got a call on a random weekday, and one of the producers of the video got me on the phone and said, ‘This is going to be a weird conversation.’ She went on to say they were looking for a jug band type of sensibility in the video—instrumentation of some of that old-timey music—because that’s what they considered fit well with the kind of Americana vibe of the song. And when they looked up jug bands, not only did we come up, but we’re also in Florida. So they pretty much loved the ready-made package.

“Everything in the video that we wore and played, down to the stickers on the washboard, that was all us and they had no problem with us being us in the video, which was one of our stipulations up front. If we were going to show up and do this, we were going to be ourselves, and they had no problem with that. They knew what they were getting.”

The inclusion of The Bloody Jug Band in the Ke$ha/Pitbull video speaks to just how far the video’s producers were willing to go to capture a country/Americana vibe in the shoot. “They could have easily cast four assholes to be extras in this video, and it wouldn’t have been The Bloody Jug Band and it wouldn’t have meant anything,” Cragmire Peace says. But they didn’t.  Though you would definitely have to categorize “Timber” as hip-hop or hip-pop first, producers were trying to be inclusive to the rising popularity of country music, and even bands like Mumford & Sons. At the same time, the use of The Bloody Jug Band speaks to another trend in music that is helping out many independent bands.

bloody-jug-band-kesha-pitbull-timber“You hear a lot about this in TV and the licensing of music,” Cragmire explains. “They figured out it was way cheaper and way more mutually beneficial to instead of having composers you hire for the music, to actually co-opt independent bands and put them in the credits. I think it is more typical in TV right now than it is in music, or popular music, but I think it opens the door for people. It’s a window into another type of music. “Timber” has sort of the Americana vibe to it, and that’s probably a little different for Ke$ha and Pittbull to have done. So the fact that they introduced into the listener’s ear, for people to realize that there’s dynamic music in this genre going on, I think it’s a great door opener for people to hopefully step through, and they can be turned on to this other type of music. And hopefully pop culture realizes that to take a chance on an independent band, and feature them in your video, or to use these bands in some other way, it helps the band out, it opens people’s eyes, and ultimately I think it’s not bad business.”

Cragmire Peace says he’s no fan of pop music, Ke$ha, Pitbull, or “Timber” specifically. “It’s easy to beat them up. But if it means more exposure for The Bloody Jug Band or Americana music, I don’t care what door they came through. The end result is what matters, not how they got there. Even if people don’t know who they’re looking at, if they’re somehow captivated for the 5 to 8 seconds that we’re actually in the video, then that’s cool. To be exposed this way but have people respond to it like they have, I think that’s very powerful and validating for any artist, but certainly what we’re trying to do with The Blood Jug Band.”

Meanwhile the resounding success of “Timber” likely means we can expect more blending of country/roots/Americana elements into pop and hip-hop music, while rap elements in country music are now a mainstay of the genre, and Jerrod Niemann’s recent single “Drink To That All Night” adds the world of EDM and dance music into the mix. The autonomy of American music genres remains in full retreat in mainstream music, and 2014 promises to be the most brave year yet for breaking rules, blending genres, and toppling borders.

(The Bloody Jug Band have a new EP out, Murder of Crows, and a new album planned for later this year.)

Dec
8

The White Buffalo’s “Shadows, Greys, and Evil Ways”

December 8, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  7 Comments

the-white-buffalo“Hey, have you heard of The White Buffalo?”

This is one of the questions that has plagued the second half of my 2013, as devotees of the shadowy, Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter pursue me, knowing what a sucker I am for narrative-based songwriting told through a thematic album. And that’s just what The White Buffalo, aka Jake Smith delivers in his latest record Shadows, Greys, and Evil Ways released in September.

But how would you know about him unless you have your nose buried deep in the soundtrack credits for Sons of Anarchy where he’s appeared several times, or were aware of his similar inclusion on the recent soundtrack for The Lone Ranger movie? The White Buffalo is about as independent as the enigmatic beast that lends to his pseudonym. Lots of artists would love to boast how they defy genre, but few can pull off the feat, borrowing from scattered influences instead of truly forging their own path like The White Buffalo does. He’s certainly roots, he’s somewhat country, but he’s 100% his own animal standing out from the herd.

Shadows, Greys, and Evil Ways is a concept album, and this is a fact Jake Smith is happy to share with his audience, along with a more in-depth explanation of the narrative, instead of letting you stumble into that truth like some artists find sport in doing. It follows the characters Jolene and Joe, their falling in love, the struggles of life that separate them in both body and spirit, and the sinister things this separation and life does to a man who struggles between sin and redemption.

Unlike some concept albums whose songs are linked through contiguous interludes or by referring back to certain global riffs or melodies, the songs of Shadows, Greys, and Evil Ways are fairly autonomous, especially at the beginning. Near the end, you being to latch on to some sonic similarities, but especially through the first few songs of the album, this record is not what you would call seamless. The albums starts of very sweet with “Shall We Go On” and “The Getaway,” but then turns unabashedly belligerent in the song “When I’m Gone” that’s like a dirty-mouthed underground country anthem.

the-white-buffalo-shadows-greys-evil-waysJake Smith is not afraid to shift gears and catch you off guard at any time in the album, yet the story remains linear throughout. One benefit to the autonomy the songs contain despite the concept is there’s quite a few songs on this album that can reside excellent on their own, including virtually every full track on the second half of the album.

Shadows, Greys, and Evil Ways is a creeper, especially if you don’t go into it knowing it is conceptualized. You recognize immediately there’s something cool here, but you may not be sure exactly what is going on, or what the overall appeal might be. Then after a few listens, despite the weight and artistry of the material, you begin to find the songs downright infectious. Nasty, viral grooves and hooks reveal themselves embedded in the content without jeopardizing the overall narrative that is the web holding the album together. The wit of the lyrics doesn’t wear off, it becomes enhanced as you to pick up on its subtleties, as the message of the story begins to reveal itself and you begin to identify and find empathy with the characters more and more.

By nature a concept album is harder to pull off because as an artist you must be beholden to the narrative instead of following your heart towards wherever inspiration grips you. But once the story finds its own path, the difficulty can be capturing it in the recorded format while the feelings are fresh, and doing justice to the story in the limiting confines of an audio record. Along on this journey with The White Buffalo are Jake Smith’s rhythm section Matt Lynot on drums, and Tommy Andrews on bass. The trio also calls on steel guitar, fiddle, cello, and keyboards in places to enhance the music that reaches towards Townes and Guy Clark in its lyrical depth, while referring to Tom Waits and Waylon Jennings sonically.

Shadows, Greys, and Evil Ways is as ambitious as it is accomplishing, and should be considered in the same breath as some of the best albums of 2013.

Two guns up.

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Sep
1

Robbie Fulks is Back with Stunning “Gone Away Backward”

September 1, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  8 Comments

robbie-fulksWith a gift for poetry like Townes Van Zandt, and a penchant for the whimsical, progressive approach to bluegrass akin to John Hartford, Robbie Fulks releases a stunningly entertaining, brilliantly-balanced, deep, yet instantly-engaging comeback album called Gone Away Backward through longtime associates Bloodshot Records.

You never know exactly what you’ll get with Robbie. It maybe be something along the lines of swing or rockabilly, like the style of one of his signature songs “Fuck This Town” (about where else but Nashville), or it may be a full album of Michael Jackson covers like his last release Happy. If you’re confused already, that is right where Robbie wants you; intrigued, guessing, and on your toes about what’s coming next, with the long-time Fulks fans following him since the first slew of late 90′s Bloodshot albums fully knowing whatever it is, it is going to be good.

What you get with Gone Away Backward is quite sensible and straightforward if there is such a thing from Robbie Fulks. Steeped in the roots of bluegrass and old time, this sparse, acoustic-only album offers a traditional sound that is brought up to modern-day relevancy by the staggeringly-cunning use of wit in Robbie’s verses. This is one of those albums you can cull a litany of quotes from, while not giving anything away sonically.

robbie-fulks-gone-away-backwardBuoyed by one amazing line after another, songs like “I’ll Trade You Money For Wine” and “Where I Fell” speak right to the heart of folks who take their music like medication. “Long I Ride” is possibly the album’s standout. It is one of those songs that feels like an instant old-time standard with its lack of chorus in favor of a recurring lyrical hook. “Imogene” evokes just as much Taj Mahal as it does traditional country, while two instrumentals “Snake Chapman’s Tune” and “Pacific Slope” come at just the right times on this albums to give it a warm, hearthy feel. “Sometimes The Grass Is Really Greener” again stuns you with the songwriting, with Fulks once again sliding back into his old habits of calling out the mainstream country establishment.

Now the record company man confessed he liked me, but he’d have to shave a few rough edges down.
Cut my hair like Brooks & Dunn, trade the banjo for some drums
Because no one would buy that old high lonesome sound.
 

“That’s Where I’m From” is one of those songs that is an example of how Music Row’s incessant laundry listing may make an otherwise great song lack listfulness, and “The Many Disguises of God” may meander a little too much for some listeners to glean its otherwise great message. But overall Gone Away Backward is a song-heavy album with very little need for track navigation. Fulks also does a sensational job at exploring his entire range and using dynamics to emphasize an otherwise average voice to where Gone Away Backward also turns in an above-par vocal performance.

Traditional country music may not appeal to the masses, but one of its best attributes is that it’s timeless, and always will be. Gone Away Backward will appeal to a wide swath of enlightened music listeners, from the old time, traditional, and bluegrass crowds, to the Americana and NPR upper crust, and to post punk roots fans with its cutting themes and adept acoustic styling. The message of Gone Away Backward as inferred in the title is one of the broken promises of fame, wealth, and the downfall of the city—drawing on the long-standing country yearning for simplicity, but contemporizing it with relevant language and themes. Like Woody Guthrie, Robbie Fulks uses an intelligent sense of perspective to canonize the common man and their eternal struggles.

And maybe most importantly, Gone Away Backward exudes a lot of leadership. This is a bold album, while still being sparse and simple. You can complain about how bad modern country music and Nashville are—and Robbie has done plenty of that in his time—or you can offer a healthy alternative. If you want an example of how traditional country music can still be relevant, fresh, and appealing in 2013, look no further than Robbie Fulks’ Gone Away Backward.

Two guns up!

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Purchase Gone Away Backward from Robbie Fulks

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Aug
11

Movie Review – “Shakespeare Was Big George Jones Fan”

August 11, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  1 Comment

shakespeare-was-a-big-george-jones-fan-movie-jack-clementIf one sets out to make a documentary about the recently passed “Cowboy” Jack Clement, it certainly can’t be straightforward. As long-time Jack Clement friend Walter Forbes observes, “Cowboy gets the most nervous I think when a parade is going all in a straight line. He just can’t stand it…There’s got to be something he can do to change the rhythm and mess that sucker up.”

It was with that spirit that Shakespeare Was A Big George Jones Fan: Cowboy Jack Clement’s Home Movies was made in 2005 to document Jack’s life, and the wild environment swirling around his legendary home studio, the “Cowboy Arms Hotel and Recording Spa.”

Like any good documentary film does, even if you don’t care who Jack Clement is, you do by the end, and take away from it the important information about the accomplishments in Jack’s life. But since Jack Clement was there during so many important and historic events in the chronology of country music and early rock and roll, and because he claims to have spent over a million dollars making home movies, Shakespeare Was A Big George Jones Fan delivers you so much more; particularly an astounding array of archived footage capturing candid and important moments with some of country music’s biggest stars and most important people.

Some examples are Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner singing together for the first time in 20 years, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Townes Van Zandt all hanging out in the same room, and Johnny Cash having a smoke with the Father of Country Music, A.P Carter. And this is all interwoven with other archived and never-seen-before footage like moments from 2 never-released and never-finished Jack Clement TV specials (one with special guests Waylon Jennings and Jessi Coulter), or Charley Pride playing the Astrodome in Houston. And for a little extra character, there are little snippets of Jack Clement talking to a sketch of William Shakespeare (who among other attributes, has the voice of Johnny Cash), that give even more insight into Jack Clement’s creative mettle.

Johnny Cash having a smoke with A.P. Carter

Johnny Cash having a smoke with A.P. Carter

The celebrities appearing in the film in various contexts include but are not limited to:

  • Johnny Cash
  • Waylon Jennings
  • Charley Pride
  • Porter Wagoner
  • Dolly Parton
  • John Prine
  • Kris Kristofferson
  • Bono
  • George Jones
  • Del McCoury
  • Jim Lauderdale
  • Jerry Lee Lewis
  • Sam Phillips
  • Marty Stuart
  • June Carter
  • Townes Van Zandt
  • Jessi Coulter

But there’s really not one complete, uninterrupted musical performance in the entire hour-long movie. That’s not what this is about. And it’s not even about conveying all the big details of of Jack Clement’s life—his work with Sam Phillips at Sun Studios helping to launch the careers of Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash, or his launching of Charley Pride and John Prine, or his work with Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings. It is about capturing the spirit of the man—the whimsy that he approached the creative process with, and how it was his spirit that coaxed out some of the most memorable recordings in country music history from some of its most memorable performers.

And though this film was released 8 years ago, it still does a poignant job at the end touching on the mortality that surrounded “Cowboy” Jack in later years, all the way up to his own passing. All his best friends—Sam Phillips, Waylon Jennings, and especially Johnny Cash—had all passed away, leaving Jack behind as the last of the breed.

Directed and produced by Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville, Shakespeare Was A Big George Jones Fan is one of the most entertaining, informing, and well-made documentaries on country music you can find, and rose to the challenge of chronicling a character who future generations will unfortunately only be able to know through music and film.

Two guns way up!

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Shakespeare Was Big George Jones Fan on Amazon On-Demand for $2.99

Aug
8

“Cowboy” Jack Clement Dies At 82

August 8, 2013 - By Trigger  //  News  //  10 Comments

cowboy-jack-clement-johnny-cash

Country Music Hall of Famer, legendary producer, songwriter, musician, and cosmic music man “Cowboy” Jack Clement has died according to the Nashville newspaper The Tennessean. Jack Clement was just inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame this year. He was 82.

Jack Clement got his start working at Sun Studios in Memphis under Sam Phillips while playing steel guitar in college. He would later use this important position to become a seminal figure in the formation of both country and rock and roll music in the mid 50′s. Sam Phillips hired Jack on as an engineer, and Jack would arrange such hits as Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” and write Cash’s “Ballad of a Teenage Queen.” Jack discovered Jerry Lee Lewis when Sam Phillips was away on vacation one time, and many of those early Sun Studios recordings have Jack Clement’s fingerprints on them.

the-cowboy-arms-and-recording-spaClement would later go on to operate a renowned studio out of his home called the “Cowboy Arms Hotel and Recording Spa.” Similar to Tompall Glaser’s “Hillbilly Central” studio, Jack Clement’s house became a symbol of country music’s Outlaw revolution, facilitating a relaxed environment where creativity and free expression were encouraged and cultivated with country music’s progressive artists—a sharp contrast to the authoritarian studios of Nashville’s Music Row. At Clement’s home studio, Waylon Jennings’ Dreaming My Dreams was produced and recorded, as well as albums by Johnny Cash, Townes Van Zandt, Charley Pride, John Prine, Bobby Bare, Dolly Parton, and many more. The studio was destroyed in a fire in late June of 2011, taking with it many priceless recordings and photographs.

Jack Clement’s mystique only grew over time. In 1987 he was asked by U2 to produce tracks at Sun Studios. Though Jack had no idea who U2 was at the time, he accepted. He also hosted a radio program on Sirius XM’s “Outlaw Country” station all they way up to his death. A 2005 documentary Shakespeare Was a Big George Jones Fan chronicled the environment of Clement’s Cowboy Arms Hotel and Recording Spa, and captured his cosmic approach to music that facilitated so many heirloom recordings from music masters.

Jack Clement was also an inductee to the Songwriters Hall of Fame, The Music City Walk of Fame, and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. He was considered a close friend and spiritual confidant to many country music performers.

He passed away in the remnants of the Cowboy Arms Hotel and Recording Spa this morning. Cowboy Jack was suffering from liver Cancer, and is survived by two children, a daughter, Alison, also a singer and writer, and a son, Niles, an engineer and photographer.

Aug
5

Rodney Crowell: New Country Artists “Missing The Boat”

August 5, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  19 Comments

Rodney Crowell at Cactus MusicOf all the people you could have picked to become an outspoken dissenter to the direction of country music, Rodney Crowell would have been pretty far down the list. Not that he doesn’t have the skins on the wall to say such things and have them carry weight, or that he doesn’t practice what he preaches when it comes to his own approach to music. Rodney is in the direct lineage of legacy-caliber songwriters like Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt, and came up playing in Emmylou Harris’s “Hot Band.” He and Emmylou recently released a duet’s album together, but he always seemed to be more of a reserved soul when it came to such things as saying country music is headed in the wrong direction.

Well he’s not being very reserved at the moment, taking his second opportunity in the last month to decry the direction of country in a recent interview:

I watch these young country artists come in and burst onto the scene, and I always have to remind myself that these artists didn’t experience Hank Williams Sr. or Big Joe Turner or Kris Kristofferson, who was able to bring the bedroom and sensual poetry into country music. These artists came from a different set of archetypal images. If I took the old school curmudgeon approach, I would say these guys are really missing the boat.

A couple of weeks ago, Crowell made similar disparaging remarks about the direction of country, carefully worded, coy, and cunning in the way the words cut right to the heart of the problem, saying in part:

Ever since country music entered the back door of main stream commerciality—most noticeably in the early sixties—the debate over who possesses the more noble heart, the purists or the popular entertainers has never stopped. (Remember the credibility scare of the late 80′s.) Generally speaking, the purists make the more timeless music.

Pop culture is a disposable culture, therefore it stands to reason that those who want the big bucks and the power are inclined to produce slick and disposable music. I don’t see anything wrong with artists getting rich by pigging out at the trough of poor taste.

Rodney Crowell may be no Dale Watson when it comes to the temper he brings to his country music dissent, but the more voices speaking out and reaching different audiences, the better. By saying many of today’s pop country artists are “missing the boat,” Crowell is showing the leadership country music needs to help right the ship.

Jul
26

When Guy Clark Releases An Album, You Stop, And Listen

July 26, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  8 Comments

Like a great sage that only speaks his wisdom once every few years, when Guy Clark releases an album, you stop down, and you listen.

Like the tone of Willie Nelson’s guitar or Johnny Cash’s voice, a Guy Clark song has become an ineffaceable institution of American music. Even if you’re only familiar with his songs though the performances of others, or songs he’s influenced by others, Guy Clark’s handiwork is embedded in the very ethos of what we know as songwriting in American music, even if that influence is imperceptible to the average listener. If you need any more evidence of the influence of Guy Clark, just appreciate he’s the only one that has the legitimate ability to claim himself the honorary fifth Highwayman, and that he was a primary influence on one of his best friends, Townes Van Zandt.

guy-clark-my-favorite-picture-of-youGuy Clark paid off his penances to the world through his song contributions many years ago. But like a wily old tinkerer who can’t stop tooling on those cars out in the yard, and finding new motivation to express himself from the recent passing of his wife and fellow songwriter Susanna, Guy Clark has released a very personal album called My Favorite Picture Of You, filled with reflection and forlornness, without forsaking the stories of rough characters and other country interludes that make a Guy Clark album very personal to his devout listeners.

A Guy Clark album, and a Guy Clark song doesn’t need much. Once he’s written the words down and sketched the shape with an acoustic guitar (that Guy Clark the luthier likely built himself), his job is pretty much done. Maybe bring in a few instrumental accompaniments and some harmony contributions from the bevy of famous female voices always willing to lend a harmony line to one of Clark’s empirical offerings, and you’re done. Don’t bother with drums or any of that nonsense, Guy Clark’s words and acoustic tones are clothing enough. This lends to his compositions doing what they do best: going out into the world, influencing other songs and songwriters, melding to the personal narratives of his listeners, and being graced with enough ambiguity where other performers can take Guy’s spark of inspiration and make the songs their own.

When you boil it all down, Guy Clark’s greatest gift is his ability to use words to describe feelings and memories that most humans are confounded in being able to express. Take the dichotomy of the hero for example, how they seem to lift us up as much as they disappoint us. “Heroes” from this latest album is not just another troop tribute, it is a testament to how the frailty of the human condition grips even the best among us. “The High Price of Inspiration” deals with another dichotomy; how many times we must suffer to find our muse. “Hell Bent On A Heartache” is one of those songs begging to be picked up and recorded by someone else with a full band, while a song like “Conrmeal Waltz” is just plain fun.

If you’re looking to get your face melted off, then you’ve come to the wrong place. But when you’re looking for world class songwriting, you can never go wrong with Guy Clark.

1 3/4 of 2 guns up.

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Apr
10

Country Music Hall of Fame Announces 2013 Inductees

April 10, 2013 - By Trigger  //  News  //  9 Comments

country-music-hall-of-fameThe Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, TN has just announced their 2013 inductees. The new members to country music’s most prestigious institution are “Cowboy” Jack Clement, Bobby Bare, and Kenny Rogers.

Honorary host Bill Anderson made the announcement from the Hall of Fame rotunda Wednesday morning (4-10). The Country Music Hall of Fame inductees are selected through a committee process appointed by the CMA. Since 2010, the selection process has been split up into three categories. 1) Modern Era (eligible for induction 20 years after they first achieve “national prominence”). 2) Veterans Era (eligible for induction 45 years after they first achieve “national prominence”). 3) Non-Performer, Songwriter, and Recording and/or Touring Musician active prior to 1980 (rotates every 3 years).


cowboy-jack-clement

Cowboy” Jack Clement (non-performer) is one of country music’s most legendary songwriters, producers, and personalities. Clement got his start at Sun Studios, helping record and produce the original hits for Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins. Later he would start his own home studio, where greats such as Waylon Jennings, Charley Pride, and Townes Van Zandt recorded with Clement in the producer’s role. He also wrote successful songs from Dolly Parton, Bobby Bare, and Jim Reeves. “I’ve been chosen for the Country Music Hall of Fame?” Clement said. “I thought I was already in the Hall of Fame, I could have gotten in there any time I wanted. Kyle [Young] (Hall of Fame President) gave me a key.”


bobby-bare

Bobby Bare (Veteran’s Era) is the original country music Outlaw. Bare was one of the very first to fight for creative freedom in country music, and also pushed the limits for lyrical content in country when he released the song “Streets of Baltimore” written by Tompall Glaser. Glaser recognized Jerry Reed in his speech at the announcement. “Reed played on every hit I ever had. He was kicking it in the ass.” His son Bobby Bare Jr. is also a musician.


kenny-rogers

Kenny Rogers (Modern Era) aka “The Gambler” is one of country music’s greatest ambassadors. Kenny became a country hitmaker beginning in the late 70′s with the song “Lucille.” His work in movies like The Gambler and Six Pack, as well as collaborations with Dolly Parton and Dottie West helped sell country to new fans and a new generation.

Read The Country Music Hall of Fame 2013 Inductee Press Release

Feb
12

Heartworn Highways Revisited – Answers from the Filmmakers

February 12, 2013 - By Trigger  //  News  //  12 Comments

heartworn-highwaysOn Sunday (2-10-13) the original filmmakers of the legendary Outlaw country documentary Heartworn Highways participated in an online chat where they answered questions from fans of the cult film originally released in 1981. After being out-of-print since a short run of DVD’s with bonus footage were sold in 2005, the film was finally made available for download and on-demand viewing on Christmas Day, 2012. Heartworn Highways editor Phillip Schopper and producer Graham Leader answered fan’s questions and let some interesting tidbits fly, including that a sequel of the film is currently in the works.

Will There Be a Heartworn Highways Sequel?

There is a new film that’s been made that’s inspired by Heartworn Highways called Heartworn Highways Revisited. It’s about a community of musicians inspired by the musicians in the original film. Three musicians will be in the sequel: David Allan Coe, Guy Clark and Steve Young.

Most of the film is in the can and is currently being assembled. We’d like to keep the musicians as a surprise. The film should be completed sometime this summer. –Graham Leader

What about the extra scenes that were on the 2005 DVD?

We are trying to figure an appropriate way and format to get the extras to you. I agree they are pretty incredible and make a movie almost all by themselves. However, we’ve always believed the film has to work as a film, which is to say it has to have a rhythm and be of a reasonable length. It was originally fairly heartbreaking to drop some of that material in order to make a film that would be commercially viable. We were very pleased to be able to make the DVD which allowed us to include some of our favorite moments.

Any plans for a new DVD or Blu-Ray release? Netflix?

We’ve only just released the film online and we’ll release the remastered DVD along with the bonus material when I find the right distributor. The reason it hasn’t been released online until now is because the system of distribution is still going through growing pains and does not necessarily make sense financially for the filmmakers. -Graham Leader

There are lots of reasons to have Netflix! Lots, I love it. But, alas, Heartworn is no longer available there. We hope it will be in the relatively near future in Blu-ray, with the extras –Phillip Schopper

What was the inspiration behind the film?

Jim’s (James Szalapski, director and photographer) friend from Minneapolis, Skinny Dennis Sanchez, who was a bass player who moved to LA and had become good friends with fellow musicians, including Guy Clark who was living there. Skinny turned Jim onto this music. And Jim loved the music and met with Guy and subsequently Townes and the rest of the people in the film. –Phillip Schopper

It grew out of the music of Guy, Townes and David. Everything else happened on the fly after we got there. -Graham Leader

How was it to work with Townes Van Zandt?

To be around Townes was to be seduced by him. Jim had to stay on his toes to capture Townes mercurial whit and genius. Filming was difficult because it was always so crazy around him. To know him was to love him. I saw him several times after the film in New York and London, but I never saw him back in Texas. There were times when Townes was utterly on top of his game and other times when it wasn’t so. – Graham Leader

Where is director James Szalapski now? And when did the film become popular?

Jim tragically passed away before Heartworn Highways was really discovered and before the notion of a DVD or before a DVD market existed. Nobody had any interest in the film until the DVD was released – it was completely underground until the release of the DVD.

How long did it take to film Heartworn Highways?

Once we decided to make the film, filming started the next month. Total of 5 weeks production and a little over a year in post-production.

Was it a difficult choice to allow footage from Heartworn Highways to be used in the Townes Van Zandt documentary Be Here To Love Me?

The footage Margret Brown (Be Here To Love Me director) used far exceeded and abused the understanding we had with her. To add insult to injury, neither Jim (Heartworn director) nor Heartworn Highways were properly credited. -Graham Leader

Where did the title “Heartworn Highways” come from?

Actually, while we were shooting the film the working title was New Country. But then when we were editing a yogurt came out that was called New Country. So we needed a new title. I actually invented the word “heartworn.” We felt the highways, trucks, etc were a real leitmotif and part of the heart of the film. The word just kind of sprang into my head as a combination of careworn and shopworn, a heart that has been well used or even over-used. A few years ago I heard from the Oxford English Dictionary that they were intending to include it in an upcoming edition. –Phillip Schopper

Feb
5

Heartworn Highways Documentary Now Available Online

February 5, 2013 - By Trigger  //  News  //  14 Comments

heartworn-highwaysThe legendary Outlaw country documentary Heartworn Highways, featuring Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, David Allan Coe, Rodney Crowell, Gamble Rogers, Steve Young, The Charlie Daniels Band, and many more, has finally been released completely remastered for digital on-demand viewing and download. Filmed in late 1975 and early 1976, but not released until 1981, Heartworn Highways captures the country music Outlaw movement and some of its most important contributors in the infancy of their careers. Some of the scenes and music have gone on to become some of the most memorable moments of country music lore.

The new remastered, online version of the film was released on December 25th, (2012), but because of the holidays, went virtually unnoticed. Original copies of Heartworn Highways, including copies of the 2005 DVD release regularly sell for $90 and over on eBay and Amazon, speaking to the wild demand for the movie. The DVD included additional scenes not in the original movie. The new remastered version is available on Amazon, iTunes, YouTube (see links below), and other online streaming services. The filmmakers released a statement on Christmas for the re-release.

As part of the small filmmaking team, this release is extremely special, one we’ve been cautiously anticipating a very long time. Despite the initial favorable reviews and enthusiastic response at festivals, our film did not make it at the theatrical box office when it was initially released over 30 years ago. Few people understood it back then. So, it has been deeply gratifying to watch the film, which somehow survived underground, until the DVD was released 10 years ago. There is now a burgeoning community of folks who love the film for its timeless pleasures, honest evocation of that moment in American history and of the lives & music of such extraordinary talent. Thanks to your awareness and support we have been able to digitally save and clean the original release negative so that today we can finally bring it to you fully remastered: here it is, Heartworn Highways, in HD and Stereo, enjoy & share it.

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays from Graham Leader, Producer, and Phillip Schopper, Editor.

On Sunday February 10th at 2 PM EST, the filmmakers will be participating in an online chat on Facebook about the film. A brand new trailer for the film can be seen below, followed by one of the film’s most iconic scenes.

Stay tuned for Saving Country Music’s review of the remastered Heartworn Highways.

Download or On Demand Heartworn Highways on Amazon

Download or On Demand on iTunes

Jul
10

Album Review – Billy Don Burns “Nights When I’m Sober”

July 10, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  13 Comments

What a treasure this album is.

I’ll spare you the lengthy diatribe about what shame it is that Billy Don Burns isn’t a more heralded and recognized elder of the greater country music community. But rest assured, he should be. When you’ve produced albums for Johnny Paycheck and Merle Haggard, and had Willie Nelson cut your songs and appear on your albums, you deserve to be thrown a few more bones than what Billy Don has found at his feet. But you don’t need to drop names to know what a one-of-a-kind talent Billy Don Burns is, all you have to do is listen.

Then again, the demons that have pursued Billy Don throughout his life and career, dogging his successes with lapses into addiction and destitution make the start and stutter nature of his career understandable. Those battles are also what have fueled and elevated his status as a songwriter in certain circles. He’s deity-like to the people who know and love him, yet the general public is unfamiliar with the name (though they may recognize music he’s written or produced). Billy Don Burns is a force behind the music.

There are great songwriters, and then there are songwriters that define the apogee of the craft, songwriters like Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt…and Billy Don Burns. There are songs on Nights When I’m Sober that will rip at your heart like nothing else. There’s a great variety on the album with sweet songs and fun songs. And where Billy Don elevates the stakes is in the production and approach to each composition. With producer/guitar player Aaron Rodgers, they reinvigorate the late-era, rock-infused Outlaw sound that had Haggard and Paycheck seeking Billy Don’s services.

Aside from maybe Tom Waits, Hank Williams and a few others, I have never heard an artist be able to pull as much emotion out of a composition as Billy Don Burns does by slowing everything down in the tear-jerking songs that constitute the backbone of this album. “Is He the Writer?” and “Stranger” are two excellent selections that work in the traditional Keith Whitley-style self-referential method that calls on both wit and irony to drive home a tragic story. “When Lonesome Comes Around” is a lot more of a loose arrangement, and takes “darkness” to all new depths as Billy Don tells the story of a man inviting in illusion as the one last antidote to alleviate chronic sorrow.

The dark songs are counterbalanced with some really warm offerings, specifically “Gaylor Creek Church” about the by-gone culture of community churches and the warmth they instilled in a child’s soul, and “Wouldn’t Have It Any Other Way” with its fun acoustic lead-in and lead-out and its positive take to life on the road. “Wouldn’t Have It…” is awfully fetching and probably constitutes the “hit” of the album. Night’s When I’m Sober is always on the move, with the motorcycle story “Born to Ride” and the touring tale “Aaron Rodgers and Me”.

What elevates this album the most, the intangible of Nights When I’m Sober is the authenticity Billy Don Burns can approach these songs with. The battle will rage on forever about if songwriters and performers have to live what they sing and write about to be authentic, but with Billy Don, the point is moot.

In the song “Is He the Writer?” Billy Don mentions the classic tale of the artist cutting off his ear to suffer so he can draw inspiration. Many artists and their fans love this romantic notion of art and inspiration, but few artists have the commitment to see it through. You get the sense that with Billy Don, if times were tough, he wouldn’t hesitate looking for a fillet knife, and that he’s done the rough equivalent of cutting his ear off many times before, and will again before it’s all over.

Billy Don Burn’s albums Train Called Lonesome and Heroes, Friends, & Other Troubled Souls are also worth picking up, but I think one could make the case for Night’s When I’m Sober being Billy Don’s defining release.

Two guns up!

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Purchase Nights When I’m Sober from Rusty Knuckles

The following videos showcase songs from Nights When I’m Sober with luthier Richard Peek making a gas can banjo in the background.

May
15

Review – Turnpike Troubadours “Goodbye Normal Street”

May 15, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  20 Comments

It would be the utmost of conceit to think that the Turnpike Troubadours are regular readers of this lowly internet outpost, and even if they were, that they’d heed any advice thrown their way by its overly-opinionated, obsessive proprietor. But I’ll be damned if many of the things I was hoping to hear from them that I iterated in my review of their last album materialized in this their third release, Goodbye Normal Street.

Call it a maturing or a coming into their own, but this album marks the most solid offering from this Oklahoma-based band yet, and a defining of their sound, their place in the music world, and as a band that music world should pay more serious attention to.

Goodbye Normal Street starts off a little deceptively, with two heavy, hard country songs that may hint this is the new direction they’re going in when in truth they’re just getting your attention. “Gin, Smoke & Lies” with its Queen-esque “We Will Rock You” opening beat and banjo lead-in let you have fair warning not to expect your usual sweet and safe mainstream fare from this release. “Before The Devil Knows Were Dead” builds out from the sharp wit of the title line to become a tribute to mortality with an approach that waxes towards an almost Hank3, Johnny Hiland-style heavy handed guitar solo.

After two soldier-themed songs “Southeastern Son” and “Blue Star”, the album settles in with the style of material you might more be expecting from the Troubadours, yet Goodbye Normal Street is more consistently boss throughout, devoid of some of the valleys of their previous offerings.

When you sit down and try to define it, one of the big differences between mainstream and independent music, or music that people listen to actively, and music people listen to just because it is there, is the presence of a love dialogue. Mainstream music usually works with very catchy, very transparent love themes that are easy to pick up on and identify with, while independent music tends to work more with internal dialogues, struggles and personal experiences, and worldly observations. Love songs can come across as so sacharrine to advanced music listeners, while traditional heartbreak songs about being “oh so lonesome” can be so cliche.

This has left a void for the love song in much of independent music, and this is where the Turnpike Truboadours and songwriter Evan Felker have found their niche. Sharp wit, self-reflection, specific references to characters and situations in an almost Townes or Robert Earl Keen-like storytelling approach imbibes this music with a freshness and engaging nature, revitalizing the old-fashioned love and heartbreak songs in the modern, independent context. “Good Lord Lorrie” gives us all a situation and characters to relate to. So does “Wrecked” and “Empty As A Drum.” The slow, heart-wrenching “Gone, Gone, Gone” may very well be a Song of the Year candidate. “Good Lord Lorrie” may be a runner up.

The Turnpike Troubadours make songs about love cool to listen to again. This is also their ace-in-the-hole, what makes them a band that could break out. They were also very patient with this release, waiting well over 2 years since their last album to let the songs come to them and the groove to materialize before heading into the studio. This band has such good momentum, there no need risking it for some arbitrary desire to present new music on an annual basis.

I’m not sure why I want to be so hard on the Turnpike Troubadours, especially since I like them so much. But as much as this album gives, I still feel like their best music is still ahead. As they get older, they’ll have to rely on even stronger songwriting and even a more defined style as opposed to the energy their live shows are punctuated with today, and this will likely be reflected in their studio work. Even with the strides Goodbye Normal Street takes to defining their sound, I still hear some searching for what the true Turnpike Troubadour sound is.

But I think you’d bee a fool if your a fan of good country music to pass this one up.

Goodbye Normal Street says goodbye to the silly love and heartbreak song formulas that saddle corporate FM, and says hello to how love songs and sad stories in country music should be.

Two guns up!

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Preview & Purchase Tracks from Goodbye Normal Street

 

Apr
17

Record Store Day 2012 Country Music Field Guide

April 17, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  9 Comments

This Saturday, April 21st with be the 2012 installment of Record Store Day, the annual event started in 2007 to help the struggling independent record store. As the event has grown over the years, artists and labels have stepped up to help with the event, releasing dozens of limited-edition collectible pieces of vinyl to entice the public into their local mom and pop’s.

Country I am embarrassed to say was one of the last genres to get behind Record Store Day, with last year the only country representation of note being a Justin Townes Earle 7″, and a bunch of Hank Williams III re-issues on colored vinyl. Well I’m happy to report 2012 will go down as the year when country came busting through the Record Store Day scene with full representation, with so many projects being released taking stock of it all can be dizzying. So here is your 2012 Country Music Record Store Day Field Guide.

Complete list of Record Store Day Releases

Find a Participating Record Store

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Blitzen Trapper

Hey Joe b/w Skirts on Fire

Format: 7″ 45
Label: Sub Pop

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Bonnie Prince Billy (Will Oldham)

Hummingbird

Format: 10″ LP
Label: Spiritual Pajamas

The great Leon Russell’s “Hummingbird” anchors this new 10 inch, and Bonny and his assembled cast of LA musicians render it an exercise in contrast. Using Russell’s famed Shelter Records soundboard for this one-off session–with its memories of Petty and Cale, and now owned by one Jonathan Wilson–Bonny introduces a pallet of musical soundscapes including the keys of “Farmer” Dave Scher, the porch-stomp grooves of Entrance Band rhythm section Paz and Derek and the claps of a thousand hands before letting the song “fly away” in a breeze of soulful psychedelia that stretches nearly twice the original’s length.

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Buck Owens

Colouring Book w/flexi disc

Format: Book
Label: Omnivore

Tracks:
“Act Naturally”
“Together Again”
“I’ve Got A Tiger By The Tail”
“Crying Time”

Original Buck Owens Coloring Book. Commissioned by Buck Owens in 1970, these original, uncirculated vintage coloring books include a new 4-track flexidisc and download card.

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Caitlin Rose

Piledriver Waltz

Format: 7″ 45
Label: Domino
Release type: RSD Limited Run / Regional Focus Release

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Justin Townes Earle

Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now

Format: 7″ 45
Label: Bloodshot

Tracks:
“Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now”
“Sneaky Feelings”

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Lydia Loveless

Bad Way To Go

Format: 7″ 45
Label: Bloodshot
Release type: RSD Limited Run / Regional Focus Release

Tracks:
“Bad Way To Go”
“Alison”

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Pistol Annies

Hell on Heels

Format: LP
Label: RCA Nashville

The first vinyl release of the 2011 debut from the group formed by Miranda Lambert, Angaleena Presley and Ashley Monroe.

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Ralph Stanley

Single Girl / Little Birdie

Format: LP
Label: Tompkins Square
Release type: RSD Limited Run / Regional Focus Release

Tracks:
“Single Girl”
“Little Birdie”

500 limited-edition copies.

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Ricky Skaggs & Tony Rice

Skaggs & Rice

Format: LP
Label: Sugar Hill

Tracks:
“Bury Me Beneath the Weeping Willow”
“Mansions For Me”
“More Pretty Girls Than One”
“Memories of Mother and Dad”
“Where The Soul of Man Never Dies”
“Talk About Suffering”
“Will the Roses Bloom (Where She Lies Sleeping)”
“Tennessee Blues”
“The Old Crossroads”
“Have You Someone (In Heaven Awaiting)

This heartwarming collection, featuring classic bluegrass tunes and traditional folk songs done in the close-harmony duet style, still stands as a high-water mark for both men.

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Ryan Adams

Heartbreak A Stranger / Black Sheets Of Rain

Format: 7″ 45
Label: PAXAM

Format: 7” colored vinyl

Tracks:
“Heartbreak A Stranger”
“Black Sheets Of Rain”

Two Bob Mould covers recorded at November’s “See A Little Light” Bob Mould Tribute Show at Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles, California.

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Sara Watkins w/ Fiona Apple / The Everly Brothers

You’re The One I Love

Format: 7″ 45
Label: Warner Bros

Format: 7″ olive green and black splatter

Tracks:
Everly Brothers’ “You’re The One I Love” and a cover of the same song by Sara Watkins featuring Fiona Apple

Another in the Side by Side series created exclusively for Record Store Day featuring an original track (this time The Everly Brothers’ “You’re The One I Love” backed by a cover from another artist (this time Sara Watkins featuring Fiona Apple)

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The Civil Wars

Billie Jean

Format: 7″ 45
Label: Columbia Records U.K.

Tracks:
“Billie Jean (Live)”
“Sour Times (Live)”

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Live at Amoeba

Format: CD
Label: Sensibility Music LLC

Tracks:
“Tip of My Tongue”
“Forget Me Not”
“From This Valley”
“20 Years”
“I’ve Got This Friend”
“Billie Jean”
“Dance Me to the End of Love”
“Disarm”

Limited Edition One Time Pressing EP/CD Live at Amoeba – EP by Grammy Award Winners and Indie Sensations, The Civil Wars, recorded live in Hollywood on June 14, 2011. Exclusive for Record Store Day 2012. (A Portion Of The Cost Of This Title Goes Directly To Support Record Store Day)

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Townes Van Zandt

At My Window

Format: LP
Label: Sugar Hill

Tracks:
“Snowin’ on Raton”
“Blue Wind Blew”
“At My Window”
“For the Sake of the Song”
“Ain’t Leaving For Your Love”
“Buckskin Stallion Blues”
“Little Sundance #2″
“Still Lookin’ For You”
“Gone, Gone Blues”
“The Catfish Song”

The first and best album the late Texas singer-songwriter made for Sugar Hill, this set contains classics as “Snowing on Raton” and “Buckskin Stallion Blues”.

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Uncle Tupelo

Format: 7″ Vinyl Box Set
Label: Sony

3×7″ box set

“I Got Drunk/Sin City,”

“Gun/I Wanna Destroy You,”

“Uncle Tupelo Sauget Wind/Looking For A Way Out (acoustic), :Take My Word”

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No Depression

Format: LP
Release type: ‘RSD First’ Release

180 Gram vinyl

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March 16-20, 1992

Format: LP
Release type: ‘RSD First’ Release

180 Gram Vinyl

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Still Feel Gone

Format: LP
Release type: ‘RSD First’ Release

180 gram vinyl

Nov
9

CMA 2011 Preview: We Were Wrong About Taylor Swift

November 9, 2011 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  90 Comments

I sit down to peck at my keyboard once again, fully knowing what I am about to say will be unpopular, if not downright blasphemous to many folks. But I’m not running a popularity contest here, and unlike many independent country “entities”, I don’t need to build a consensus or flatter people to propagate my brand. All I’m trying to do is keep myself sane in a mad world by asserting my honest, unfettered opinions, and hopefully I turn some folks on to some good music in the process, but it’s not always about that. Music is just the metaphor. In truth, Saving Country Music is about people.

You will find no harsher critic of Taylor Swift over the years than right here, me, The Triggerman. As a glittering teenage pop star with a mild voice, nobody has been more responsible for the homogenization of America’s most traditional music genre than Taylor Swift.  But tonight, when the biggest night in country music goes down, there will be no other performer, no other award nominee or winner, who deserves more recognition, or is as honest or sincere, as Taylor Swift.

As simply as I can put it, however we got here, however you want to quantify it, Taylor Swift is the best thing going on right now in mainstream country music, and it isn’t even fucking close. The fakery, the debaucherous over-calculated market-driven focus on financial gain is so rabid right now, it is a wonder how it stays so obtuse in the mainstream public consciousness. It is so bad, so sinister, that I can’t help but put all allegiances to genre and even taste aside, to trumpet the very last glimmer of hope that honesty can at least be given a fair shake in the mainstream world.

We were wrong about Taylor Swift. I was wrong about Taylor Swift. We were blinded by our prejudices. When Taylor Swift first came on to the scene, she sang cheesy teenage pop songs, and we chastised her for it, when in truth, she was doing what all the great songwriters from Hank Williams to Guy Clark to Townes Van Zandt did over the years: write what they knew about, what inspired them. She was a skinny, blond-haired little girl from an upper-middle-class Pennsylvania family. What else is she going to write about? And do we blame her personally for Music Row taking her music and elevating it to way beyond its intrinsic value? But when Taylor’s latest album Speak Now came out, she showed a dramatic elevation of maturity. She wrote every song on that album. By herself. Inspired by her own personal experiences of heartbreak, and of having the whole world turn against her for not being able to sing.

I’m a fighter, not a lover. And when Taylor Swift came on the scene, my inclination was to fight against her influence and popularity. But I always fight with respect, especially when respect is deserved. In the beginning, in my opinion, Taylor Swift did not deserve much respect. When she blew her performance with Stevie Nicks on The Grammy’s in 2009 and the world turned against her (Read my take on her Grammy performance), this was the first time I found true respect for Taylor. But not as an artist, as a human, because the next almost inevitable event that was going to happen to Taylor Swift was her absolute demise, as the same public that had propped her up on an unrealistic and undeserved pedestal was poised to tear her down, like they do so often with falling stars. It’s a classic narrative: pop star hits it big, pop star reveals they’re human, pop star is humiliated, and spit out of the asshole of the corporate culture machine to be the punch line of jokes until their swallowed by obscurity as quickly as they rose.

How often does that narrative play out when a big star makes a big mistake? 90% of the time? 95%? But I’ll be damned. Taylor Swift, Taylor fucking Swift, took society’s best shot, fell as hard as anyone, had the world turning against her, and somehow, within moments of being counted out, she picked herself up off the mat, brushed the hair out of her face, straightened her back, and of all things, wrote a song about the experience in the form of “Mean”, that is now up for Song of the Year. That doesn’t just illustrate good songcraft, that shows pluck. That shows guts. And goddamnit, as a fighter, you have to look at someone who takes the best shot the world can deliver to the ego, and then is fearless enough to return fire, and have nothing but respect.

Now I’ll be honest, I hate the song “Mean”. It might be the worst song on the Speak Now album. It’s jealous and bitter. In the song she tries to make fun of her accusers by saying someday she’ll be “living in a big ol’ city,” implying that she is something, and they, or we, are nothing. Taylor Swift does not deserve any more recognition than the rest of us for finding success in a corrupt business, or for winning trophies through a rigged system, or for writing a song that was an antithesis to the maturing trend present in her Speak Now songwriting. What she does deserve recognition for is inspiring scores of people through a song that shows how to take a negative experience and make something positive out of it.

Is “Mean” About Me? Or about Osama bin Laden?

And I don’t want to hear anybody say, “Well all that’s great, but you know what, her music still sucks and the music I like is great, so all the rest can go fuck themselves.”

No! No no no! This affects us all! This is important to all of us. Try saying that when you have a daughter, or a sister, or a niece, and you try to turn on the boob tube or the radio and find positive role models for them in adult culture. It is difficult to impossible. Our society is structured to turn our daughters into whores to keep an over-consumptive economic system in place. Bad culture creates bad people; the asshole on the help desk, or working at the restaurant.

I know there’s better role models for young girls out there than Taylor Swift, but see if you can get young girls to care about them, or how about those young girls who don’t have anyone looking to put positive role models in front of them? Think of all the vermin out there propagated by the Disney World of dysfunction.

And I can’t defend Taylor’s Cover Girl endorsement deals, or her $100+ concert tickets, or even many elements of her music. But goddammit, we’re losing here, on all fronts. Everywhere you look, the American ideal is crumbling around us. So why not be inspired by a little girl’s dream that became a reality in Taylor Swift? Why not celebrate honest, true songwriting? Why not celebrate young women who actually fucking respect themselves for a change?

And Taylor Swift is still not country, but I’m not sure I want to blame her for that any more. She was told she was country when she still thought Romeo and Juliet was a good subject to write a song about, and trusted the adults caretaking her career. Blame the country music anti-Christ Scott Borchetta for that.

And maybe she’s not country because she transcends genre. I’m not kidding. There’s songs on Speak Now that clock in at 6 and 7 minutes. As much as some want to scream at her for being a pop star, there was not one #1 song on Speak Now; it was too good, too in-depth in the songwriting for pop radio.

I might be putting myself on an island here, but I don’t care. There’s no more country music to save. Don’t you remember? Back in 2009 when Taylor won it all and we declared country music dead? Now I’m praying for a Taylor Swift sweep. I’ve got the pleated skirt on and the pom pom’s waving. Go Taylor go! Because Taylor Swift, Taylor fucking Swift, is the last hope that a shred of reality can remain in popular music, and more importantly, Taylor Swift is good people, and deserves it.

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