Browsing articles tagged with " Willie Nelson"
Jan
5

Jamey Johnson Offers New Song “Alabama Pines” for Free

January 5, 2015 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  22 Comments

jamey-johnsonBaby New Year all swaddled and cooing dropped a welcomed gift for traditional country fans on New Years Day while many people were busy boiling up New Year feasts and fixated on college football. Jamey Johnson, mere months removed from launching his own record label called Big Gassed Records, and on the heels of releasing a Christmas EP, offered a free song to his fans called “Alabama Pines” available through the Big Gassed Records website in exchange for your email information. The song is custom written for listening at the turn of the calendar, and the turning of pages in one’s life just as Jamey finds himself amidst as a newly-proclaimed independent artist.

I like bringing in a New Years Eve, sitting on a front porch swing,
washing down the black eyed peas with beer.
Back when playing all our favorite songs, back when chasing girls and leaving home
was all we ever wanted, now it’s clear. That I pined…
Of moving out to Nashville, just to find that I still be living with the Alabama Pines.

The first non-Christmas original song we’ve heard from Jamey since the release of his double album The Guitar Song in 2010, “Alabama Pines” begins with the tingle-inducing tone of a single acoustic guitar plucking in a style indicative of classic Willie Nelson, ambling languidly into a slow dance song where the simple drums and steel guitar don’t kick in until after the first minute, and the mood is one of reflection and restfulness. By humming the third stanza, Jamey adds an additional warmth to the composition, leading into a shortened, final chorus that leaves the listener with an emotional weight.

“From now on, as soon as I can get it written and recorded, we will make it available,” Johnson said about his new label when it was first announced, and were seeing those results with “Alabama Pines.” “I’m excited about the new label because it gives me freedom and control of my own releases and music. It lets me release my music to my fans when I’m ready. I will be able to put out a new song without it having to be on an album. I’m a songwriter. Sometimes I write songs that fit records, sometimes I write songs that fit other people’s records and sometimes I write songs that don’t fit anywhere.”

Though this method of releasing music may seem enticing to Jamey’s fans, how financially lucrative it will be for Big Gassed Records remains to be seen. By releasing the song on New Years and not really alerting anyone beyond Johnson’s social feeds, the song really hasn’t received much media acknowledgement or made its way to radio, despite being Jamey’s first real new song in nearly five years. And then there’s the question if it should even be considered a single, or just a promotional track as a “thank you” to fans.

It may give mention to New Years and was released on January 1st, but “Alabama Pines” is a song for all year, and includes a quality and depth indicative of when Jamey’s music defined the pinnacle for popular country’s critical and classic country quota.

Along with the song, Jamey Johnson also posted a handwritten letter explaining the inspiration for the tune.

It was January 1, 2000, and I had just moved to Nashville. Two pickup trucks of old second hand furniture, 2 Japanese Akitas I had recently busted out of the Montgomery humane shelter, and my best friend Luke Garner and I were loading into my new place – a duplex in the Hermitage. My New Years resolution was already fulfilled. Everything that had happened after that was bonus. “Alabama Pines” is my love letter to the time and place from whence I came.

Though the pace of “Alabama Pines” won’t jump-start the heart, and may lend to some complaining about the tediousness of some of Jamey’s tracks, the song is timely and resonant, and more than anything, shows that Jamey Johnson still has the licks that made him a decorated and beloved songwriter and performer before going on his half-decade hiatus from original recorded music.

This is country music the way it has always sounded, and the way it should sound.

1 3/4 of 2 Guns Up.

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Get Your Copy of “Alabama Pines” from Big Gassed Records

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Jan
4

Sturgill Simpson & Willie Nelson Ring in New Year at ACL

January 4, 2015 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  32 Comments

willie-nelson-sturgill-simpson-004“Mark my words. 2012 will be the year of Sunday Valley and Sturgill Simpson.”

This was the encapsulation of my thoughts after seeing Sturgill Simpson perform with his previous band at the Pickathon Festival in Portland in 2011, and naming the experience one of the best live performance of the year.

Then almost exactly a year later, and after Sturgill dumped the Sunday Valley name, and I saw him again at The Rattle Inn in west Austin, and once again he impressed. In the review I jeered myself for the 2012 prediction not coming true, yet doubled down on the idea that it eventually would.

“About this time last year, I was telling everybody that 2012 was going to be the year of Kentucky-born and Nashville-based singer / songwriter Sturgill Simpson. ‘Mark my words,’ I said…Now, sitting a stone’s throw from the end of 2012, it might be appropriate for me to eat those words. Or maybe even more appropriately, dig hard with the pen and overwrite that last ’2′ into a ’3.’ 2013 friends, mark my words! 2013 will be the year of Sturgill Simpson.”

Sturgill made reference to that show at The Rattle Inn when he took the stage at ACL Live in downtown Austin to a sold out audience on December 30th, sharing the bill with a man who Sturgill covered on his first solo album High Top Mountain, and whose bronze statue sits out front of the theater on a street that bears his name. That’s Willie Nelson I’m talking about for the folks not familiar with the Austin landscape. “There was like twelve people there,” Sturgill said of the Rattle Inn show to make reference to just how far he had come, and even that head count may have been a little embellished. “Here we are opening up for our heroes.”

When an artist reaches their 80′s it may be a little late to start a tradition. But they’re trying to make Willie Nelson playing ACL Live on New Year’s Eve into one, and with the interest in the event being such, boosters decided to add an extra day on the front side for more people to bask in the annual experience. Sturgill Simpson was tapped to be the opener for the occasion, though with Austin’s Amy Cook playing a short opening set, Sturgill being afforded a full hour performance, and a sense in the crowd that many were there to see Sturgill just as much as Willie, it had the feeling of a double billing.

Where the last time Sturgill made a stop in Austin he was sporting a conversion van stenching of the road, now there was a big primary blue tour bus idling across the street from The Moody Theater, driven from Nashville just for this event. The venue sits on the same sized footprint of its studio predecessor on the University of Texas campus blocks north of the current location, but features a mezzanine and upper balcony for much more capacity—something viewers may not be privy to when watching an Austin City Limits event on PBS. Still, not a seat in the house sits farther than 75 yards from the stage, making ideal sight lines from virtually any perch, despite the blacked-out nature of the theater’s interior not offering not much benefit aside from creating ideal conditions for the venue’s primary purpose of television tapings.

But the cameras were off on this night, and this allowed for a more relaxed and festive pre-New Years mood. The backstage portions of the Moody are quite cavernous, with staging areas to facilitate large stage works for theater productions, ample dressing rooms, a spacious cafeteria, and a couple of relaxed communal sitting areas. The lavatories right beside the backstage entrance smelled like they shared the same ventilation system as Willie & Co.’s congregating areas, as a contact high could be afforded if you dottled too long waiting for your chance at the paper towel dispenser.

After Amy Cook warmed up the crowd on a bitter cold night, the lights in the foyer flickered, and the gallery was packed by the time Sturgill took the stage. Tight and well-tuned from playing down-to-the-minute sets on tour with Zac Brown, Sturgill and the boys chewed through their songs like clockwork, with Simpson showing fire and animation, bounding across the large stage, stepping up on the drum riser, and punching the stops and ends of songs with his Martin acoustic’s head stock.

If Sturgill has to share the spotlight with anyone these days, it’s his guitar player Laur Joamets. “I had to go all the way to Eastern Europe to find a guitar player that plays country music,” Sturgill said to the crowd. “And I’m from Nashville.”

But there wasn’t a lot of chit chatting from Simpson, sometimes butting songs up right against each other, leaving no room for applause. This left ample space for all the important songs to be played, and some new concoctions, including a T. Rex tune incorporated into an Osborne Brothers song—the type of collaboration that has afforded Sturgill both fiery adoration and a few critics. Laur Joamets took numerous long instrumental breaks, and the crowd roared loudly when given the opportunity, including coming to their feet at the end of Sturgill’s impressive set.

Simpson’s voice sounded like it was made for the Moody Theater: rounded, bellowing, and bolstered with the weight of powerful stories behind it and an undying commitment to full effort from Sturgill the moment he takes the stage. One wouldn’t be surprised after experiencing the show if Sturgill’s voice was still echoing through that chamber, if only as ghosts of the mind, or if permanent fingerprints were left on the Moody’s walls from the performance.

After a well-apportioned intermission where the wisdom of the amount of bathroom facilities afforded to the new theater’s crowd was put to the test, Willie Nelson and his Family Band took the Austin City Limits stage like they have done so many countless times before, including for the pilot episode of what has become the longest-running live music show on television standing at some 40 years. The last few years have seen Willie’s age noticeably catching up to him, though when he decides to call on it, the flashes of high register runs or arpeggiated acoustic guitar brilliance can still be heard, though sometimes between broken phrasings and timing flubs. But to bask in Willie’s presence is what had drawn people to the performance, including some from out-of-state, and when the huge Texas flag was unfurled behind the stage and Willie struck that first chord of “Whiskey River,” the atmosphere was electric all the way through the final gospel singalong.

The only question left as Willie was singing “Will The Circle Be Unbroken,” “I’ll Fly Away” and other gospel standards was if we’d see Sturgill Simpson re-emerge to take advantage of the opportunity to share the stage with one of his biggest heroes, or would his bashful nature prevail. Nelson’s offspring, including daughter Amy Nelson, and the recently-emerging granddaughter Raelyn Nelson led a group of others of the Nelson clan out on stage to sing along with Papa Willie, but it took a while to coax Sturgill to join. Finally emerging on stage, his humility showed itself, and he was too busy looking awed by the short braided man standing a healthy elbow swing away from him to focus on finding the right pitch to actually lend anything to the performance. But that was fine, and the crowd re-welcomed Sturgill with a roar as the members of Sturgill’s band slowly joined him and the others on stage.

No more predictions are in order for Sturgill Simpson now, at least not at this very moment. 2014 finally was the year of Sturgill Simpson, validated by many opinions shared across the country music press corps building a consensus around him as the year’s critical success, and the holidays were a moment to sit back and reflect on this success and not worry about what may come next. But just like Willie in 1974 when he took the Austin City Limits stage, nobody could have imagined where he’d be bound from there. And looking at Sturgill, his future seems similarly promising and limitless.

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Jan
3

Album Review – Roger Alan Wade’s “Bad News Knockin’”

January 3, 2015 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  34 Comments

roger-alan-wadeOnce again Roger Alan Wade makes his case for being one of the most criminally-underrated songwriters of our generation, releasing his newest album Bad News Knockin’ right before the end of 2014 through Johnny Knoxville Records, and rocketing himself near the top for the most notable songwriting efforts for all of last year.

As Roger will say himself, “Thank God for nepotism,” but the truth is Wade was making a name for himself from his own sweat as a songwriter in Nashville well before his crazy first cousin Johnny Knoxville was getting zapped by cattle prods, or putting Wade’s songs in his successful series of Jackass movies. The fact the two first cousins are famous (or in Wade’s case, mostly famous), is purely coincidental, and though Roger Alan Wade may not have the legacy and recognition of the Guy Clark’s and John Prine’s to the outside world (at least not yet), to others he’s a mastermind, and he continues to bolster his catalog from an undying hunger to match the licks of his songwriting heroes with each new release.

If there was a theme to Bad News Knockin’, contentment would be it. Don’t bother Wade with your schemes of how to get him to the big time, or pity him that he never made it there before. Wade is perfectly content with releasing acoustic albums that just feature him and his guitar, instead of sticking his nose in the hustle of trying to get recognized by releasing big production records, or by trying to pry the closed doors of Nashville open to land some commercially-oriented cuts in the current miserable climate.

Back in the day working for a publisher, Roger Alan Wade racked up selected songwriting credits with legends like Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, George Jones, Hank Williams Jr., and Johnny Cash, including Hank Jr.’s #1 “Country State of Mind” from 1986. He’s been there and done that, had opportunities to rub elbows with his heroes, had some successes many songwriters and performers only dream of, and is happy now to just write songs for himself and for those who care to listen. He’ll call up his fellow Knoxville native Peewee Moore to play some lead guitar with him on a local TV or radio station, or leave town for a short stint of shows from time to time. Otherwise, he’s cool with staying at home and sewing his craft, and hoping to entice enough people to listen to keep his simple life of privacy and family afloat.

As RAW says on one of Bad News Knockin‘s offerings,

I just want me a yellow house in the country, way back off the highway
A swing on a screened-in front porch, a hammock in the hickory shade
I guess success to some folks, ain’t the same as it is for me
I’d count myself one wealthy man, for a yellow house in the country

roger-alan-wade-bad-news-knockinFollowing this theme, Bad News Knockin’ feels like a very personal album from Wade, even more so than his recent releases like DeGuello Motel and Southbound Train that strike a much deeper chord compared to some of his earlier albums at the height of the Jackass era—albums that featured songs like the irreverent “Butt Ugly Slut” or “Fryin’ Bacon Nekkid.” In the new song “Years Ago,” Wade expends no effort to make his personal story into fiction, while “I Lived The Life” once again sounds a thankful chord for what he’s been able to accomplish in his career.

I lived the life, I chased the dream. Even if I could, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Been more than worth, the sacrifice. Don’t cry for me, I lived the life.

Bad News Knockin’ is reflective, but Roger’s not ready to be put out to the songwriting pasture just yet. “Red Shoes Blues” ingeniously makes use of women’s obsession with footwear into a form of flattery that will fit snug with many female listeners. He takes an older song of his called “Warm Spanish Wine” from an era when others were trying to make him into a marketable commodity, and makes it soar despite the stripped-down approach, marking not just one of the best songs, but one of the best performances of this album.

And despite the stern, almost defiant countenance Wade sports on the cover with the beads of sweat bubbling on his brow like Johnny Cash at San Quentin, and the title which seems to hint this album might be brazen and hard-edged, there’s multiple gospel moments on Bad News Knockin’; something that Wade continues to call on more and more as he ages. Using witty allusions and biblical locations to deftly craft songs that are more than just preachy sermons, these religious tunes showcase Wade’s songwriting skills just as much as his secular material.

The Roger Alan Wade proponent in me still wishes Roger had the drive to flesh out his music a little bit more to make the job of enticing folks to listen a little easier. But if you’re not intimidated to listening to the prototype, the songwriter in the raw, the words and wood and wire of an original inspiration and story and nothing more, the Roger Alan Wade experience can be quite a fulfilling one.

1 3/4 of 2 Guns Up.

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Preview & Purchase Tracks from Bad News Knockin’

Jan
1

Bass Player & Writer of “Long Tall Texan” Henry Strzelecki Passes Away

January 1, 2015 - By Trigger  //  News  //  11 Comments

henry-strzeleckiTragic news out of Nashville where where prolific and beloved bass player Henry Strzelecki has passed away after being struck by a vehicle while out for a walk Monday, December 22nd. Strzelecki experienced severe injuries including major head trauma in the accident, and was in a coma over the holidays. He eventually passed away from the injuries on December 30th.

“Needless to say, this Christmas has brought a new perspective for our family,” said Henry’s niece Heather Barnes, speaking for the family. “At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what present you got, or how the turkey tastes, it matters who you’re with. Look around at your loved ones and appreciate them for who they are. They are the best presents you’ll ever get.”

Henry Strzelecki was an elite bass player in country music, playing in Hee Haw’s “Million Dollar Band,” the “Nashville Superpickers,” and over his storied career, playing bass for Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Chet Atkins, Loretta Lynn, Ray Charles, Roy Orbison, Jim Reeves, Boxcar Willie, George Strait, Elvis, Charlie Rich, and many more. Some noted studio sessions that involved Henry Strzelecki include Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde, and Roy Orbison’s iconic song “Pretty Woman.” Strzelecki also played on the very last recording session with Louis Armstrong in Nashville produced by “Cowboy” Jack Clement.

Strzelecki was originally from Birmingham, Alabama, graduated from Jones Valley High School in 1958, and began playing country music in his teen years, recording with Baker Knight on Decca Records and playing in a group called The Four Flickers with his brother Larry. He also had a publishing and production company in Nashville and was nominated for Bassman of the Year at the 23rd Academy of Country Music Awards.

But the most identifiable contribution by Henry Strzelecki might have not involved his bass playing, but his songwriting. Strzelecki was the songwriter for the novelty song “Long Tall Texan,” first performed by The Four Flickers in 1959, and later recorded and released by artists such as The Beach Boys, Lyle Lovett, and many more. The catchy comedy tune has been tickling funny bones for over 50 years, and promises to continue to do so for years to come.

A “Celebration of Life” will be held for Henry on January 17th at 2 PM at the Pennington United Methodist Church in Nashville.

RIP Henry Strzelecki

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Singing with Jim Reeves

Henry Strzelecki’s “Long Tall Texan”

Dec
29

The Biggest Stories of 2014

December 29, 2014 - By Trigger  //  News  //  10 Comments

2014 was a year of great flux in country music. Where 2013 was dominated by public feuds and outcries by many country performers about the direction of the music, 2014 became the year things began to be done about many of the problems plaguing the genre. With Bro-Country as the battleground, the fight to return some balance to the country format began to make headway, and many of the initiatives launched in 2014, and many of the partnerships made and trends started may affect country music in profound ways in the coming years. Meanwhile 2014 was also a particularly violent year when it came to concerts and beyond, and saw the emergence and re-emergence of artists who will be very important to country music moving forward.

Following are the eleven biggest news stories of 2014. PLEASE NOTE: These are chosen and the order picked by two major factors 1) The importance of the story 2) The amount of traffic and interest in the story evidenced through analytical data on Saving Country Music, sometimes aggregated over multiple stories on the same subject if they exist.

Click on the orange, underlined fields to be taken to the specific stories.


#11 Legendary Artists Setting Records on Billboard’s Albums Charts

willie-nelson-band-of-brothersAs artists whose fandoms represent one of the last bastions of the public that actually buy albums, legendary performers like Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, and even Billy Joe Shaver set records in 2014 on Billboard’s album charts. Unfortunately new chart rules will likely put a damper on the fun for 2015, but the year that past saw older artists receiving renewed recognition.

Willie Nelson’s Band of Brothers album became his first #1 in 28 years, and his highest showing ever on Billboard’s all genre Billboard 200 chart, coming in at #6. Dolly Parton’s May release Blue Smoke gave Dolly her first Top 10 on the Billboard 200 of her entire career when she came in at #6. She also charted at #2 on the Country Albums chart. Johnny Cash’s posthumous release of his lost album Out Among The Stars also saw surprising chart success, debuting at #1 in country, and #3 on the Billboard 200. And Billy Joe Shaver charted for the first time ever, with Long In The Tooth coming in at #19 on the Country Albums chart.


#10 The Wayne Mills Autopsy Report Released

wayne-mills-2The autopsy of slain country music artist Wayne Mills was released, revealing that the star was shot in the back of the head from a far range by bar owner Chris Ferrell, who is currently awaiting trial on 2nd degree murder charges. The autopsy revealed Wayne Mills had also sustained multiple injuries as part of the incident. Wayne’s 4th and 5th ribs were broken, and he had abrasions on his forehead, temple, scalp (unassociated with the gunshot), and contusions on his chest, arms, forearms, left thigh, and right knee.

The summary of the autopsy states,

Autopsy findings are significant for an entrance gunshot wound on the posterior parietal scalp with fragment exit and injury to scalp, skull, and brain. A bullet is recovered in association with this gunshot wound. Associated injuries include scalp, subdural, and subarachnoid hemorrhage, fractures to the right frontal and parietal bones, cortical and white matter contusions of the brain, and hemorrhage throughout the wound path. Other injuries include abrasions of the left side of the forehead, left temple, posterior occipital scalp, and abdomen, left-sided rib fractures, and contusions of the lateral chest, arms, forearms, left thigh, and right knee. Evidence of therapy and tissue procurement is noted.

The cause of death is a gunshot wound of the head, and the manner of death is homicide.

Read Full Report


#9 A Drunk Toby Keith Blows Show in Indiana

toby-keith-red-solo-cupOn September 13th, Toby Keith made a tour stop at the Klipsch Music Center in Noblesville, Indiana just outside of Indianapolis on his “Shut Up & Hold On” tour, and according to many of the concert goers, Toby was too drunk to perform, put on a terrible show, and some fans demanded their money back. A cavalcade of attendees took to Twitter and Facebook to complain about Toby Keith forgetting words, and generally stumbling through his performance.

Later video emerged of Toby Keith stumbling through a rendition of “Courtesy of the Red, White, & Blue.” Keith can be clearly heard heavily slurring his words and at times trailing off, until at the end of the line, “So we can sleep in peace at night when we lay down our heads,” he descends into an inaudible garble, inspiring the videographer to exclaim, “Oh God!”. Toby Keith and his publicist refused to acknowledge the incident despite it becoming a big story on local Indianapolis news channels.


#8 Male Country Stars Come Out As Gay

ty-herndonCountry star Ty Herndon—known for his handful of mid 90′s hits such as “What Mattered Most,” “I Want My Goodbye Back,” and “Living In A Moment”—came out as gay on November 20th, making him the first openly gay male country music star in the mainstream in the history of the genre. Herndon says one of the things that motivated him coming out was seeing Kacey Musgraves win the CMA Song of the Year for “Follow Your Arrow,” saying that he welled up in tears at the win. “I felt so proud of my city. I hope that trend continues; I pray it does.” Ty’s decision also motivated former child country star Billy Gilman to come out as gay in a five minute video.

However one of the most interesting narratives to come out of the coming out announcements was just how much of a non-story it was. Aside from being the lead story on Entertainment Tonight and touching off mild interest on the internet, the announcements seemed to come as a shock to very few, and didn’t stimulate the type of vitriol some expected from the traditionally conservative music format. It still take a more active and mainstream male country artists coming out while he was still commercially relevant to see if country has finally moved on from its perceived gay stigma.

It was also revealed in 2014 that Brandy Clark was gay, but she took a more subtle and respectful approach to the sensitive subject.


#7 New Hank Williams “I Saw The Light” Biopic Announced

tom-hiddleston-hank-3It was big enough news that the long-awaited biopic covering the life of Hank Williams was coming, and that the producers were setting out to make it the definitive movie work on the Hillbilly Shakespeare based off of Colin Escott’s acclaimed biography, with fully-licensed rights to use the original music for the film from Sony ATV. But then as the cast began to be revealed, and specifically that British-born actor Tom Hiddleston would be the one portraying Hank, controversy brewed about the selection of a non-Southerner, especially with Hank’s grandson, Hank Williams III, who publicly criticized the casting.

Then when a video was released of Hiddleston singing some of the Hank Williams songs he’s expected to perform live in the film at a festival with mentor Rodney Crowell, the controversy started anew. Nonetheless, the movie rolled on, shooting in Shreveport, Louisiana beginning in late October and lasting for about six weeks. With a release date roughly scheduled for late 2015, and big expectations for the film as a potential Oscar contender, I Saw The Light might be one of the biggest news stories of 2015 as well.


#6 The Rise of Sturgill Simpson

sturgill-simpson-metamodern-sounds-in-country-musicThe rise of Sturgill Simpson could be classified as meteoric, and his dramatic ascent in 2014—from being picked up by Zac Brown Band as an opener, to playing Letterman and The Tonight Show, to being put at the top on many end-of-year lists and receiving a Grammy nomination—is virtually unparalleled in the modern country music world for an independent artist. His 2014 album Metamodern Sound in Country Music has captured the imaginations of many, and given them hope about the future of the country genre. And maybe most importantly, Sturgill Simpson has made fans wonder where he might be headed in 2015 and beyond.

READ: The Big Lessons of Sturgill Simpson’s Success


#5 The Return of Garth Brooks

garth-brooksWhen the best selling artist in country music ever, and the 3rd highest-selling artist of all time comes out of retirement after 15 years away, it is going to cause some reverberations, and that’s exactly what Garth Brooks did when he officially announced a new album and a world tour at a July 10th press conference in Nashville. But Garth’s return hasn’t been all triumphant and pretty. It started off with a debacle in Dublin, when five planned shows were cut down to three by local authorities, resulting in Garth Brooks canceling all of the scheduled performances for which an entire custom-made video presentation and stage setup had been procured and shipped to Ireland on 18 semi-trailers.

Subsequently the sales of Garth’s comeback album Man Against Machine started off fairly lackluster, though being the savvy marketeer Garth Brooks is, sales have stayed strong through the Christmas buying season and are beginning to accumulate into decent numbers. Meanwhile despite Garth’s first single “People Loving People” flopping on radio, he’s selling out live shows left and right, and regularly for multiple dates in the same location as people flock to take in the live Garth experience.

Garth’s return has not been without its setbacks and shortcomings, but his presence has still been felt strongly throughout the country music world, and he promises to remain an important figure in the genre moving forward.


#4 SCM Declares Florida Georgia Line’s Anything Goes the Worst Album Ever

florida-georgia-line-anything-goesThough maybe not a big “story” in the greater country music world, it was the most-read story on Saving Country Music in history, and by a wide margin, being liked and shared on Facebook over 75,000 times, tweeted nearly 700 times, receiving almost 500 comments, and being viewed nearly 500,000 times.

Anything Goes can slay all comers when it comes to its heretofore unattainable degree of peerless suckitude. In a word, this album is bullshit. Never before has such a refined collection of strident clichés been concentrated in one insidious mass. Never before have the lyrics to an album evidenced such narrowcasted pseudo-mindless incoherent drivel. Never before have such disparate and diseased influences been married so haphazardly in a profound vacuum of taste, and never have all of these atrocities been platooned together to be proffered to the public without someone, anyone with any bit of conscience and in a position of power putting a stop to this poisoning of the listening public.

“Not to get all old man on your ass, but most of the time I don’t even understand what the hell these dudes are saying. Brian Kelley and Tyler Hubbard have their own language, partial to the most grammatically-challenged and stupefying vocabulary lurking in the dankest sewers of the English dialect, but not residing firmly in any specific one of them so no truly proper translation can be obtained. It’s like Pig Latin for douchewads—understood by them and them only. And only with the perfect deficiency of brain cells will their concoction of Ebonics, metrosexual douche speak, and stagnant gene pool rural jargon become anything resembling coherent to the human ear.”

Read Full Review


#3 Violence, Arrests, Medical Issues, and Death at Country Music Concerts

pittsburgh-trash-luke-bryan-5The summer of 2014 at country music’s mainstream concerts became one big rolling narrative about fights, arrests, hospitalizations, rape, stabbings, and even two deaths, all which occurred in a few short months during the height of country’s outdoor concert season. It almost felt like the media was embellishing all the violence with the way each week was punctuated with a new headline. “55 People Were Arrested, and 22 Hospitalized” in what local authorities characterized as a “mass casualty” event at a Keith Urban concert in Massachusetts on July 26th. Once again an annual event in Pittsburgh at Heinz Field resulted in huge amounts of trash, as well as many arrests and hospitalizations, even though the event the previous year had drawn large amounts of negative media coverage for similar problems.

Three people were stabbed at We Fest in Minnesota, a woman was gang raped at Michigan’s Faster Horses Festival, a drunk driver ran over a police officer at a Jason Aldean concert in Hartford, and amongst a myriad of other disturbing reports at country concerts, a man was found dead in a dumpster after Jason Aldean’s Cleveland concert, thought to be the cause of over intoxication, and another man died at a Hank Jr. concert after he was shoved and his head hit the concrete, though it was later determined it was likely by accident and not foul play.

Meanwhile the artists were not immune from injury themselves. Luke Bryan had three stage falls in 2014, Garth Brooks had two, Tim McGraw violently slapped a woman who ripped off a portion of his jeans, and Dustin Lynch got hit in the face with a full can of beer. 2014 was eventful at country concerts to say the least, making many wonder if it is the depravity in the music leading to such behavior. Without question 2015 will be one to watch to see if the country concert issues improve, or worsen.


#2 NASH Icon & The Impending Country Radio Format Split

nash-iconWho would have ever dreamed, even at the beginning of 2014, that we could be faced with a scenario where the radio format for country music would be splitting in two, and this action would see the return of many of the older names and songs so unceremoniously shuffled to the side in the mainstream format in recent years? Heretofore the trend has been for country music to become more young, and more current every year, shoving older artists and music aside, even when they continue to prove their commercial viability. Research from radio analysts had been telling country radio for years they were shooting themselves in the foot by abandoning more classic-sounding music, and finally in 2014, they began to listen.

Two huge entities, not traditionally considered friends of traditional country music in Cumulus Media and Big Machine Records, joined forces to launch NASH Icon—a new radio format that includes older country music alongside newer music, and a record label that is looking to add new life to the careers of forgotten artists. Meanwhile simply the idea of NASH Icon stimulated other radio stations to adopt a more “classic” country format. Garth-FM (later The Hawk) was launched, and so was Hank FM, and many other country stations oriented towards older country music, fueling speculation that the movement will eventually stimulate a split of the country format. Furthermore, the NASH Icon affiliate in Nashville is consistently beating its mainstream competitors, including Bobby Bones’ home of WSIX.

Now Cumulus is even planning to add a NASH Classics format. Though none of these stations might be the cup of tea for the most hardened of traditional country listeners, it is a step in the right direction, and breeding a renewed love in more classic-sounding country music we haven’t seen in years. The impending radio format split might very well be the biggest development in the effort to save country music in many years.


#1 The Rise and Fall of Bro-Country

bro-country-rip2014 started off with so-called “Bro-Country” as all the rage in popular country music, and ended with Bro-Country still somewhat relevant, but heavily on the wane and declining to a whimper while an anti Bro-Country tune in the form of Maddie & Tae’s “Girl In A Country Song” shattered all manner of records by becoming a #1 hit on country radio.

In late September, Saving Country Music wrote an obituary for Bro-Country, saying in part,

“On Monday, September 22nd, the subset of American country music known to many by its nickname ‘Bro-Country,’ died at its home in Nashville, TN. It was three-years-old. Bro-Country is survived by its family and close friends, including Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Jason Aldean, Brantley Gilbert, Cole Swindell, Chase Rice, Thomas Rhett, Dallas Davidson, and dozens of other lesser-known country music artists and songwriters. Though the specific cause of death has yet to be ruled on by the local medical examiner, preliminary findings appear to show that Bro-Country had been exhaustively over-utilized over the last few months and years until it finally passed away from overexposure. Bro-Country’s death is definitely being considered the result of ‘foul play.’”

Read Full Bro-Country Obituary

 

Dec
26

In Memoriam: 2014′s Fallen Country Music Greats

December 26, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  8 Comments

in-memorium-2014

2014 in country music did not see the passing of titans of the genre like we experienced in 2013 when George Jones, Ray Price, Tompall Glaser, and many more passed away, but was more the story of the vital side players, songwriters, session musicians, and storytellers who are so important to making the country music of others sound great.

Here is a list of some of the important people we lost in country music in 2014.


Will Indian – January 8th, 2014

will-indianCountry music has lost one of the most tasteful lead guitar players to ever fill a break. Will Indian, lead guitarist for country legend James Hand, as well as the guitarist for The Nortons, The Cornell Hurd Band, and many others, has passed after contracting a fatal infection last month. Will suffered from Hepatitis C. He died Wednesday night (1-8-14) according to his family.

Will Indian was the defining element of the James Hand sound, and so many other bands and artists that were fortunate to have him lend his guitar playing to them over the years. He was not a flashy or fast guitar player, but his taste was impeccable and unparalleled, and his use and appreciation for space, tone, and subtly in his playing is what won him wide appreciation amongst his peers. Indian toured the country and world with James Hand and others, and was a staple of legendary Austin venues like The Broken Spoke, the Saxon Pub, and Austin’s hottest new venue, The White Horse. In recent years, his illness kept him from playing on the road, but he remained a fixture of Austin clubs.


Steve Fromholz – January 19th, 2014

steve-fromholz1Fromholz was killed at the Flying B Ranch near Eldorado, about 40 miles south of San Angelo while preparing to go on a wild hog hunt. While moving a gun from one vehicle to another, the firearm fell to the ground because the lower portion of its case was unzipped, and the gun discharged, injuring Fromholz who later died at an Eldorado hospital.

Born in Temple, Texas on June 8, 1945, Fromholz rose to become a towering figure of words and music in his home state of Texas, and amongst his famous music friends. He wrote the song “I’d Have To Be Crazy” made popular by Willie Nelson, and also had songs recorded by Jerry Jeff Walker, Lyle Lovett, and John Denver amongst others.

Fromholz was also an actor, a playwright, a producer, and a poet; most notably being named the Poet Laureate of the State of Texas in 2007 by the Texas State Legislature. He was the author of several books, and a respected man of letters, leaving behind an indelible legacy of both chronicling and canonizing the unique experience of being a Texan.


James Alan Shelton – June 3rd, 2014

james-alan-sheltonRalph Stanley’s Clinch Mountain Boys lost their long-time lead guitarist and Ralph’s right hand man James Alan Shelton on June 3rd due to Cancer. He was 53-years-old. James Alan Shelton played lead guitar for Ralph Stanley for 20 years, first joining the Clinch Mountain Boys in 1994. But Shelton he also did so much more. For many years Ralph Stanley was known for wanting to handle his own affairs, but after gaining the trust of Stanley, James Shelton handled much of Stanley’s booking, publicity, and also acted as the band’s road manager and ambassador.

Shelton was born in Kingsport, TN, and raised on a tobacco farm just over the Virginia border near Gate City, listening to the bluegrass music of greats like Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, The Carter Family, and of course, The Stanley Brothers. He was a cross-picking style guitar player, and was known for his melodic approach that was more oriented toward respecting the style and structure of a tune as opposed to showing off his skill. His instrument was a 1946 D-28 Martin Herringbone, and he also had a Huss & Dalton signature series guitar named after him.

Upon the news of James Shelton’s passing, Ralph Stanley said “James Shelton gave me twenty years of dedicated years service as a Clinch Mountain Boy. He was always honest, dependable, and a very good man to travel with. I will surly miss him. He was a wonderful friend.”


Jimmy C. Newman “The Alligator Man” – June 21st, 2014

jimmy-c-newmanA Big Mamou, Louisiana native, Jimmy grew up on the cowboy sounds of Gene Autry, as well as Jimmie Rodgers, The Carter Family, and the Cajun music of the surrounding countryside. He was bilingual, and after finishing six years of schooling, dropped out to work on a farm before becoming part of the war workforce as a welder’s assistant where he met a man named J.D. Miller who got him into the music business. After first making it on The Louisiana Hayride, Newmann later became a fixture of The Grand Ole Opry for over 50 years, joining originally in 1956, a couple of years after landing his first big hit, “Cry, Cry Darling”. Newman was signed to Dot Records after being championed by Fred Rose, and had five Top 10 records in a row before landing his biggest hit in 1957, “A Fallen Star”, making it all the way to #2 on the charts, and crossing over to Billboard’s Hot 100.

Though Newman would have many more hits within the commercially-popular “Nashville Sound” of the time like “You’re Makin’ A Fool Out of Me”, “Grin And Bear It”, “A Lovely Work of Art’, “D.J. For A Day” which was the first hit written by Tom T. Hall, and arguably his last big hit, 1965′s “Artificial Rose”, starting in the early 60′s, Jimmy C. Newman started moving towards the Cajun sound that eventually would become the signature of his career, feeling like it was a more true expression of his roots. 1962′s “Alligator Man” wasn’t a huge hit at the time, but it would become Newman’s theme song, and a standard of his Opry sets later in life.


George Riddle – July 19th, 2014

george-riddleOver his long career in country music, George Riddle wrote songs for artists such as George Jones, Ray Charles, Faron Young, Tammy Wynette, Mickey Gilley, Del Reeves, Melba Montgomery, and Margie Singleton among others, and wrote 13 songs for George Jones alone. George Riddle also sang and performed his own songs, recording at various times for United Artists, Musicor, MGM, Starday, Marathon, and Roma Records, releasing seven full albums and multiple singles throughout his career. For 40 years, George Riddle was a regular on the Grand Ole Opry, backing up many of the biggest Opry stars. But he might be best known as the very first and original Jones Boy, backing George Jones up in what would later become George’s legendary band. When George Jones first started out, it was just him and George Riddle. And as they say, the rest is history.

George Riddle was born in Marion, Indiana September 1st ,1935, and graduated from Van Buren High School in 1953. He served in the United States Army from 1958 till 1960, then went to Nashville to pursue his dream of becoming a country and western singer. This is where he met George Jones and became one of country music’s marquee sidemen.


George Hamilton IV – September 17th, 2014

George-Hamilton-IVKnown as the “International Ambassador of Country Music” from his frequent travels performing the music abroad, and a 50 year member of the Grand Ole Opry, George Hamilton IV did as much for the promoting and preservation of country music as anyone. Starting off very early in his career as more of a teen idol with the million-selling hit “A Rose and a Baby Ruth,” Hamilton moved into the more folk and country realm, recording songs by Joni Mitchell and Gordon Lightfoot, and scoring a #1 hit on the country charts in 1963 with “Abilene.”

Later in Hamilton’s career when the commercial hits began to slow down, he broke down barriers between country music and the Communist grip on eastern Europe, playing in The Soviet Union and Soviet-controlled Czechoslovakia, even recording an album in Eastern Europe. He also played and performed in Africa, South America, all the time spreading the gospel of country music. Much of the appeal for traditional country music that can be found in Europe today can be traced back to George Hamilton IV.

George died of a heart attack at Saint Thomas Midtown Hospital in Nashville. He was 77-years-old.


Paul Craft – October 18th, 2014

paul-craftYou press most any theologian, and they will expound upon the theory that God has the most profound sense of humor … if you just know where to look for it. Whether this was in play when country music songwriter Paul Craft decided to write the song “Drop Kick Me Jesus (Through The Goalposts Of Life),” whether it was more centered upon a social commentary about the state of religion in America where the most holy of days is decidedly overrun by the dominance of the National Football League, or whether the song was meant to mean different things to different people—like most great songs are—it tickled the funny bone and said something profound that could have never been communicated through any other medium than humor.

Any great humorist will tell you that one of the vital keys to the craft is timing. And timing is many times where you can spy the work of the divine. In the 4th quarter of of Paul Craft’s life, with the final seconds ticking down and the game on the line, the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame lined up for a field goal, split the uprights, an made Paul Craft a winner when they inducted him into the institution on October 6th, 2014. Less than two weeks later, on Saturday, 10-18, when much of America was sitting on their couches enjoying the college version of the American pastime, Paul Craft quietly passed away in Nashville after slowly failing health over the past few years. He was 76-years-old.

Paul Craft was not the household name some of his songs made of more famous performers, but both his humor and his heartfelt sentiments remain both endowed in the hearts of listeners, and as relevant (and grin-inducing) as ever.


Ronny Spears – October 20th, 2014

ronny-spearsRonny Spears was a fixture of the Texas country songwriter circuit in north Texas and beyond, sharing the stage over his career with Willie Nelson, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Radney Foster, Robert Earl Keen, Chris Wall, 1100 Springs, The Dixie Chicks, Charlie Robison, Bill Kirchen, Jack Ingram, Geronimo Trevino, Donny Ray Ford, Deryl Dodd, and many more. Ronny was raised by his father after his parents divorced and Ronnie’s father took him from his mother’s custody for fear of his upbringing. Spears grew up in Frisco, TX and studied at Southwest Texas State College (now Texas State University), regularly finding himself at odds with his father who didn’t want him pursuing music as a career. But Ronny persevered, playing in bands such as The River’s Edge and Liberty Valance and striking out as a solo performer and frequent collaborator with other songwriters like Ray Wylie Hubbard, Brian Burns, and later in life the aforementioned Robby White.

It was during a performance with Ray Wylie Hubbard in 1989 that Ronny Spears had his career epiphany. As they were performing on stage together, Ray Wylie turned to Ronny and said, “Quit playing copy songs,” and this is the moment Ronny Spears began to take his songwriting seriously. Spears spent some time in Nashville, but found it not to his liking and headed back to Texas. His music was always balanced with day jobs and family life. Ronny made sure to take care of his familial commitments first but the quality of his music at his night and weekend gigs did not suffer.

Ronny Spears album Modern Day Outlaw is considered a cult favorite, and his frequent appearances will be missed by the north Texas music community and beyond.


Bob Montgomery – December 4th, 2014

bob-montgomeryBob Montgomery, most famous for being the teenage friend, songwriter, and duo partner of Buddy Holly, and for writing iconic country songs like “Back in Baby’s Arms” by Patsy Cline, and “Misty Blue” recorded by Eddy Arnold, Wilma Burgess, and many others, has died in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, after a struggle with Parkinson’s disease according to his son and fellow musician Kevin Montgomery. He was 77-years-old.

Montgomery was born in Lampasas, Texas on May 12th, 1937. His father was a carpenter, and the family moved to Lubbock when Bob was 12-years-old. It was there that Montgomery met Buddy Holly at the Hutchinson Junior High School in 1949. While attending high school together, they formed the duo “Buddy and Bob,” playing mostly bluegrass songs from bands like Flatt & Scruggs, with Holly playing banjo and mandolin.

In 1966, Montgomery became a staff producer for United Artists and worked with performers such as Bill Dees, Johnny Darrell, Buddy Knox, Del Reeves and Earl Richards, and later founded a publishing house in Nashville called House of Gold. “Publishing and producing have been my best areas,” Montgomery said in 2003. He produced the hit “Honey” with Bobby Goldsboro, published the song “Behind Closed Doors” by Charlie Rich, produced music from Marty Robbins later in his career, and the final album pairing up Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson called Clean Shirt in 1991.


Neil Reshen – December 6th, 2014

Neil-Waylon-Willie“There was a time when Neil fed me and Willie, and if it hadn’t been for him, I don’t know what we would have done. He helped us immeasurably. He got things for us that no country singer had ever gotten before. If we were going to become Outlaws, though we didn’t know that yet, we needed an Outlaw Lawyer, as Willie called him.

“Neil was perfect for the part. He was like a mad dog on a leash. When he got his teeth into something, he never let go.”

–Waylon Jennings

The lawyer who was at the very center of revolutionizing country music in the mid 70′s as part of the Outlaw movement with Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, Neil C. Reshen, passed away on Sunday, December 6th after a long battle with Altzeimer’s Disease. He was the man who negotiated Willie Nelson out of his RCA contract, and also helped negotiate the creative freedom for Waylon Jennings within RCA,  Neil was also the manager for musicians as far ranging as Miles Davis, Frank Zappa, David Allan Coe, and The Velvet Underground throughout his legendary and influential career. He was 75-years-old.


Dawn Sears – December 11th, 2014

dawn-searsDawn Sears, originally from East Grand Forks, Minnesota, became as a major label artist for Warner Bros. in 1990 after spending her early years touring the West and Midwest as a young adult. Her debut album, 1991′s What A Woman Wants to Hear had some minor success, but Sears decided to leave the country scene afterwards. This was when Vince Gill called up the accomplished vocalist and asked her to become a backup singer for him. Sears collaborated with Gill on his 1993 album I Still Believe In You and other Vince Gill projects, and signed with Decca Records and released Nothin’ But Good in 1994. Sears remained a fixture in Vince Gill’s touring band over the years, and also worked with Tracy Byrd, Patty Loveless, and many others.

Sears was experiencing a resurgence in her career lately, playing shows with The Time Jumpers reunited with Vince Gill, and she received an Ameripolitan Award for Western Swing Female in February of 2014. Sears performed at Dale Watson’s event with her head free of hair from the chemotherapy. “This is my very first award. Thank you,” Sears said while becoming very emotional. Dawn had also recently released a Christmas album.


Other Notable Deaths in the Greater Country World: 

  • Phil Everly of The Everly Brothers.
  • Pete Seeger – Legendary folk artist and songwriter.
  • Arthur Smith – Accomplished guitar and banjo player, most famous for writing “Dueling Banjos.”
  • Jesse Winchester – Folk singer and songwriter with heavy country music influence.
  • Ian McLagan – Austin fixture, former keyboard player for The Faces, and frequent contributor to country projects.
  • Bobby Keys – Saxophone player for The Rolling Stones, early Buddy Holly collaborator, and player on records from Lynyrd Skynyrd and Joe Ely.
  • Chip Young – Legendary Nashville session guitarist who played on “Jolene” and many other hits.
  • Larry Henley – Hit songwriter.
  • Weldon Myrick – Steel guitar player.
  • Lois Johnson – Country music singer.
  • Tommy Ramone – Member of The Ramones who also performed in the old-time band Uncle Monk.
Dec
19

Saving Country Music’s Best Videos of 2014

December 19, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  32 Comments

best-videos-scm-2014From crude videos taken on somebody’s phone, to full production videos with scripts and actors and sets, to animated shorts and everything in between, you never know what’s going to capture the imagination and become the perfect compliment to a song in the visual form. No question in the age of YouTube that there’s no dearth of material to oogle at, but what breaks through the crush of visual material to be called the best in 2014?


9. The Whiskey Shivers – “Free”

The Whiskey Shivers will probably never top the madness that is their video from 2011 for “Gimmie All Your Lovin’” that has now received over half a million views (still don’t know how the hell they made that), but their new video for “Free” off their self-titled album does its best to capture the band’s fun loving nature.

Directed & Edited by Rob Wadleigh
Director of Photography – Ryan Firth


8. Don Williams – “I’ll Be Here In The Morning”

The fortuitous call was made when Don Williams went into the studio to record his Saving Country Music Album of the Year-nominated Reflections, to fit out the studio with a camera crew and release the videos intermittently afterwards. The result has been some really excellent moments captured on film, but none better than when Don Williams covered this Townes Van Zandt classic.


7. Steelism – “Marfa Lights”

Yes, very silly, quirky, and maybe even hipster-ish, the video for sideman duo Steelism’s “Marfa Lights” still shows a lot of imagination and creativity in a unique approach. A fun watch.

Directed by Stewart Copeland.


6. Florida Georgia Line – “Dirt”

Act appalled all you want, but it deserves to be here. A lot of heart went into this video.

Director: Nigel Dick


5. Sturgill Simpson – “Turtles All The Way Down”

Despite what shallow listeners will tell you, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music is not a psychadelic record, but the video for “Turtles All The Way Down” certainly is.

Directed and edited by Graham Uhelski


4. First Aid Kit – “My Silver Lining”

Something that First Aid Kit has that virtually no other artist or band in the independent roots realm of a similar or bigger size can match is a library of videos that dazzle, entertain, and incite wonder like little else you can find. It’s an attention to video making as a creative medium in itself with no boundaries that gives their music an extra special love. The release of a new First Aid Kit video is grounds for an immediate stop down, and not just their tightly-woven and intricate big-production music videos with multiple scenes and settings that cast the duo in regal and awe-inducing moments, but with the sincerity and talent this sister duo from Sweden displays, even a short acoustic performance in a publishing office or a covered wayside is something that can enthrall and shuttle you off into a wormhole of escapism. After all, it was a simple video of the duo singing a Fleet Foxes cover that is given credit for launching their career.

Director: Elliott Sellers
Producer: Courtney Davies


3. Willie Watson – “Mexican Cowboy”

Sometimes the best videos are live ones that capture and moment in time and the character of the artist so perfectly, a big production could never do it justice. When former Old Crow Medicine Show member Willie Watson performs his traditional folk tunes, he becomes so immersed in character, so stern-faced an honest to the song, it is truly something to behold.

Filmed for The Bluegrass Situation at Counterpoint Records in Franklin Village, Los Angeles.

Directed and recorded by Ben Guzman


2. Ray Benson & Willie Nelson – “It Ain’t You”

The music, and both Ray Benson’s and Willie’s performances are chilling enough, but the video for “It Ain’t You” takes it a step further, fully understanding what’s at the heart of the song, and pulling out all the stops to not only do the song justice, but enhance the experience through the visual medium. The wisdom of knowing what the simple sight of Willie’s battle-worn hands can stir in the beholder, while crafting a way to capture the spirit of the long-time friendship between Ray and Willie so purely is worth watching even if the song itself doesn’t strike a particular chord with the listener. (read full review)

“It Ain’t You” was written by Waylon Jennings and Gary Nicholson.

Video directed by Aaron Brown of Onion Creek Productions.


1. The Tillers – “Willy Dear”

By choosing animation for the “Willy Dear” video, it enhances the imaginative qualities already inherent in the song, and allows the story to unfold without the anachronistic limitations of a live video. The simplicity of the animation aids in this process, while the vibrancy still present in the color and the expansiveness of the landscapes emphasizes the wonder in the story itself.

The video also helps fill in some of the gaps in the narrative that the verses didn’t have the capacity to carry. And best of all, it illustrates that “Willie Dear” is not really about Willie Thompson, his love Lizzy, or the tragedy that befell them because of mistaken circumstances. It is about old abandoned houses, and the stories they tell. (read full review)

Animation by Christof Heuer

Dec
7

“Outlaw Lawyer” Neil Reshen Has Passed Away

December 7, 2014 - By Trigger  //  News  //  10 Comments

Neil Waylon WillieNeil Reshen, Waylon Jennings, and Willie Nelson in a previously-unpublished photo supplied by the Reshen family.

“There was a time when Neil fed me and Willie, and if it hadn’t been for him, I don’t know what we would have done. He helped us immeasurably. He got things for us that no country singer had ever gotten before. If we were going to become Outlaws, though we didn’t know that yet, we needed an Outlaw Lawyer, as Willie called him.

“Neil was perfect for the part. He was like a mad dog on a leash. When he got his teeth into something, he never let go.”

–Waylon Jennings

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The lawyer who was at the very center of revolutionizing country music in the mid 70′s as part of the Outlaw movement with Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, has passed away. Neil C. Reshen, the man who negotiated Willie Nelson out of his RCA contract, and also helped negotiate the creative freedom for Waylon Jennings within RCA, passed away on Sunday, December 6th after a long battle with Altzeimer’s Disease. Neil was also the manager for musicians as far ranging as Miles Davis, Frank Zappa, David Allan Coe, and The Velvet Underground throughout his legendary and influential career. He was 75-years-old.

Neil Reshen’s impact on country music was enormous. Below is an obituary for Neil Reshen supplied to Saving Country by Reshen’s family.

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RIP Neil C. Reshen: March 3, 1939-December 6, 2014

Neil graduated from City College of New York and was a pioneer in the business management field of the music industry. Neil was the management backbone of the “Outlaw Country” movement which developed in the 1970s. He forced record companies to give Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings 100% artistic control over their music, allowing for such albums as Stardust (by Nelson) and I’ve Always Been Crazy (by Jennings) to be created. Over his career he also managed many musicians such as Miles Davis, Frank Zappa, The Mothers of Invention, Alice Cooper, Buddy Miles, David Allan Coe, Jessi Colter, Linda Ronstadt and The Stone Ponys, The Cowsills, Captain Beefheart, Bernard Purdie, Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, Tim Buckley and the Velvet Underground. Neil also managed artists and authors such as Peter Max, Andy Warhol, Olivia DeBernadinis, Roger Kahn, and Peter Golenbock and even the famous Creem Magazine and founder Barry Kramer.

In his later career he founded Benay Enterprises and managed many corporations and individuals with his partner and daughter, Dawn Reshen-Doty, who is now President of Benay.

Neil Reshen passed away Saturday December 6 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He is survived by his daughters Dawn Reshen-Doty of Danbury, CT and Amber Bezahler of Los Angeles, CA, Grandson Justin Slaughter Doty of Danbury, CT, Godson Olufemi Adedeji and ex-wife Barrie Adedeji, both of New York. He also leaves behind two brothers, Bruce Reshen of Fairfield, CT and Mark Reshen, of Hollywood, FL. He was predeceased by ex-wife Patricia Reshen.

Neil Reshen died once before, in 1959, when his parents sat Shiva over his marriage to first wife Barrie. Together they defied cultural norms and entered into a marriage that broke cultural and racial barriers. Neil was many times born again, living through two open-heart surgeries, colon cancer and many other ailments. The fuel for these many lives was friends, family, his children, and numerous German Shepherds.

As Neil was a great lover of dogs—always having at least three German shepherds in house at a time—donations may be made in his name to the Humane Society. A memorial service to celebrate his life will be held on January 7th, 2015 at the Plaza Jewish Community Chapel, 603 Amsterdam Avenue, NYC at 3 PM.

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Out of all of Neil’s accomplishments, his negotiation with RCA and Chet Atkins on behalf of Waylon Jennings might be his most legendary. As Waylon Jennings recalled in his autobiography:

It was down to a $25,000 sum, and they (RCA) were not going to give it to me. He (Neil) wanted it. We were setting there, not a word spoken, and the silence got unbearable. After a while I couldn’t take it anymore. “Chet,” I said, reaching over to a bowl on his desk, “where’d you get these peanuts?”

Neil glared at me. “Shut up, Waylon.”

You could hear a clock tick in the room. It got even quieter. Minutes passed. I rose up, never said a word, walked out. I went to the bathroom to take a leak. When I came back, Neil greeted me in the hall. “You’re a ******* genius,” he said.

“Walking out like that sewed it up. That was a $25,000 piss.” said Neil. “They asked me where you went and I told them I didn’t know. Waylon’s mad, I’m sure. He’s crazy. He’s liable to do anything. . . And that’s when they gave us the money.

Though Neil Reshen might not be a name everyone recognizes, you can make an honest case that without him, the “Outlaw” movement in country music never happens, and neither do many of the iconic albums, songs, and careers of that era.

RIP Neil C. Reshen (1939-2014)

Dec
7

Review – Willie Nelson & Sister Bobbie’s “December Day”

December 7, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  11 Comments

willie-nelson

Yes, if you thought Willie Nelson already released an album this year, you would be correct. It was called Band of Brothers, and without rigging the measuring stick because he’s a legend, or crossing my fingers behind my back, I can tell you it was one of the better albums released in all of country music in 2014. Consumers felt similarly, and Band of Brothers became a #1 record upon its release; Willie’s first #1 in 28 years, though under a system Billboard has now replaced with one taking into account streaming, which will likely see Willie and other legends who’ve had luck on the charts lately losing out to younger artists with stream happy fans.

But Willie was not done in 2014, and released Willie’s Stash, Vol. 1 December Day on 12/2. This is not a Christmas album as some may assume from the timing and title (and others have purchased believing it to be according to a couple of emails I’ve received), though it does have a very glowing, hearth-like feel, and the album is a family affair. The occasion surrounding December Day is to capture Willie with sister Bobbie Nelson—his long-time piano player—in a very intimate, stripped-down studio setting with producer Buddy Cannon presiding, and only a few more sparse accoutrements from Willie’s long-standing “Family Band.”

willie-nelson-sister-bobbie-december-dayLike the “Willie’s Stash, Vol. 1″ titling infers, this should be considered the other release, the more secondary release from Willie Nelson in 2014. Something for the hardcore fans instead of the masses so to speak, and you see this in the way Legacy has approached releasing this album—Willie’s fifth on the Sony catalog imprint. June’s Band of Brothers, Willie’s 2013 duet album To All The Girls…, and 2012′s Heroes all felt like primary releases with a big promotional push. December Day, and the 2013 release Let’s Face The Music And Dance—another release that also included many re-recorded songs—felt like bonus studio material for dedicated Willie lovers.

Interesting that with 2012′s Heroes, Sony apparently put the kibosh on the original album name Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die, but here make light of Willie’s well known use and advocacy of marijuana with the “stash” reference, however more veiled it might be. And if we ever will see a Volume 2 or if it’s just a formality to flesh out the title remains to be seen. But in 18 tracks and 20 total songs, December Day sees Willie reprising many of his originals—some well-known, some obscure—while also covering favorites from Irving Berlin, Django Reinhardt, and others. I wouldn’t consider December Day a country album in the traditional sense. It is more of a traditional pop album, where a crooner accompanied primarily by a piano would play standards, like a Tony Bennett record, only with more earthy tones from Willie’s more weathered voice and the sound of his famous Trigger guitar.

Though it says right there on the cover and in the track notations that this is mostly about Willie pairing with Sister Bobbie, long-time Nelson harmonica player Mickey Raphael plays a very important role on this record, adding his signature and tasteful textures on many of the tracks. Also interesting to note that we see Willie’s long-time bass player Bee Spears’ name appear in the credits. Bee passed away in an unfortunate accident in December of 2011, meaning some of this music has been laying around for a while, and predates Willie’s Legacy label deal. Billy English—the brother of drummer Paul English—also appears briefly, but overall December Day stands up to the billing of being primarily Willie and Bobbie.

bobbie-willie-nelsonThe excellent part about this album is the intimacy, and each track singled out is its own little gem. When news first came down of this project, I’d be lying if I didn’t say it set my eyes to rolling a little bit. Willie did such a great job with Heroes and Band of Brothers defying his age and adding to his legacy, I just don’t want to see his fan base taxed with too many auxiliary releases, especially to the point where listeners start ignoring them (see the 00′s). But when a video for “Who’ll Buy My Memories” was released (see below), my optimism perked up. The idea of getting a glimpse of how an evening at the Nelson Family residence may transpire when music is on the mind makes this something unique and special, even if we’ve heard these songs before.

However when you zoom out and listen to December Day cover to cover for all 20 songs, it does become a little bit tedious. Along with re-treading some songs he’s already re-treaded many times before (Willie might have recorded “Nuages” more times than Florida Georgia Line says “girl” in a hit single), Willie’s also put nearly all of his material that relies on minor keys and fey jazz-style chording that trips up the ear in one place with this album. When you add on top a general lack of body in the instrumentation, you end up with an album that is hard to call “accessible” as one of its attributes. Yes, it’s a “stash” of songs we’ve heard before done in a different way, but one I wouldn’t label as essential to anyone but dedicated Willie Nelson fans.

What December Day does deliver is a remarkable attention to tone, conveyed with such respectful care and taste, it’s like touching something pleasing but with your ears. Willie Nelson’s voice, though handsomely weathered, sounds strong and regal, like the knotty, intertwined resolve of an antique wooden cane only rendered more sturdy and character-etched by time. In fact you could call Nelson’s voice even more confident here than on Band of Brothers in places because he’s been singing these songs for so many years. His guitar Trigger meets similar results from not having to fight with a full band for attention, while the tinkling of keys by sister Bobbie comprises the foundation for every song. Mickey Raphael has some moments where he cuts his parts as smoothly as the sunrise crests the horizon, and overall despite a lack of originality of material, December Day delivers a tactically-pleasing experience if nothing else.

Recommended only for dedicated Willie fans, or people who love minimalist recordings of standards, but recommended nonetheless, Willie and Bobbie’s December Day “stash” makes for not a bad pre-holiday aperitif.

1 1/2 of 2 Guns Up.

- – - – - – - – - -

Preview & Purchase Willie’s Stash, Vol. 1 December Day

Dec
4

Songwriter, Producer, and Publisher Bob Montgomery Passes Away

December 4, 2014 - By Trigger  //  News  //  4 Comments

bob-montgomeryBob Montgomery, most famous for being the teenage friend, songwriter, and duo partner of Buddy Holly, and for writing iconic country songs like “Back in Baby’s Arms” by Patsy Cline, and “Misty Blue” recorded by Eddy Arnold, Wilma Burgess, and many others, has died in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, after a struggle with Parkinson’s disease according to his son and fellow musician Kevin Montgomery. He was 77-years-old.

Montgomery was born in Lampasas, Texas on May 12th, 1937. His father was a carpenter, and the family moved to Lubbock when Bob was 12-years-old. It was there that Montgomery met Buddy Holly at the Hutchinson Junior High School in 1949. While attending high school together, they formed the duo “Buddy and Bob,” playing mostly bluegrass songs from bands like Flatt & Scruggs, with Holly playing banjo and mandolin.

The duo wrote some songs together, though according to Bob, Buddy didn’t have much interest in writing songs initially, leaving Bob to write most of the duo’s original tunes. They played at local school dances and talent shows and on local radio. The duo’s songs like “Down The Line” and “Flower Of My Heart” became of great interest after Buddy Holly died in the now famous “The Day The Music Died” plane crash in 1959. According to Montgomery, it was an Elvis performance at Lubbock’s Cotton Club in 1955 the duo played that brought Buddy from bluegrass to rock and roll, and he never begrudged his former duo partner on the success he found without him when Decca wanted to sign Holly as a solo act. Montgomery went on to write some of Holly’s later songs, including “Heartbeat,” “Wishing” and “Love’s Made A Fool Of You.”

Bob Montgomery became an influential songwriter in country music and beyond when he moved to Nashville in 1959, quitting his job as an engineer at Norman Petty’s famous studio in Clovis, New Mexico.  His biggest song became “Misty Blue.”

“I was in my basement over in Madison around 1966 and Brenda Lee was a very hot recording artist, who was coming up to record in a few weeks,” Montgomery explained to Now Dig This. “I was trying to come up with something for her and then I wrote ‘Misty Blue’ in about 20 minutes. It was a gift and it was perfect for her, but she turned it down. (Laughs) Her producer Owen Bradley loved the song and as he couldn’t push her to do it, he cut it country on Wilma Burgess. I was disappointed at the time because Wilma wasn’t as hot as Brenda Lee, but it was a Number 1 country record so everything worked out fine. Eddy Arnold then cut it and he had both a Number 1 country single and a pop hit, and Joe Simon had a big R&B hit with it. Dorothy Moore cut the really big version and then it was a country hit again, this time for Billie Jo Spears. There are over 200 versions of ‘Misty Blue.’”

He also wrote “Wind Me Up” for Cliff Richard, “Two Of A Kind” recorded by both Roy Orbison and Sue Thompson, as well as songs by Bob Lunan and Mel Tillis. Along with being recorded by Patsy Cline, “Back In Baby’s Arms” was also the title track to Connie Smith’s 1969 album.

In 1966, Montgomery became a staff producer for United Artists and worked with performers such as Bill Dees, Johnny Darrell, Buddy Knox, Del Reeves and Earl Richards, and later founded a publishing house in Nashville called House of Gold. “Publishing and producing have been my best areas,” Montgomery said in 2003. He produced the hit “Honey” with Bobby Goldsboro, published the song “Behind Closed Doors” by Charlie Rich, produced music from Marty Robbins later in his career, and the final album pairing up Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson called Clean Shirt in 1991.

Later Montgomery fell out of favor with the country music business, saying, “It’s been a lot of fun and if something comes along that sounds exciting, I will do some more, but I haven’t heard anything lately that interests me. Country music has gone to hell in a hand-basket and the business is not what it was. I would hate to be starting out in the music business.”

“He was a good man,” son Kevin Montgomery posted on Facebook about his father Thursday afternoon. “Thanks Dad for pitching baseball with me………meant a lot. You left a mark on this world. Just turn on your radio…best listened to on AM dial…driving “Down the Line” on some highway where AM is the only option. Sleep well, Dad. We’ll miss you…”

Dec
4

The Country Ties of Ian McLagan & Bobby Keys

December 4, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  9 Comments

In the fall of 2012 when Ronnie Dunn (of Brooks & Dunn) was looking to write and record material for his upcoming album, he reached out to Texas music songwriting guru Ray Wylie Hubbard after falling in love with the gritty sound Hubbard imbibes on all his records. Dunn flew into Austin as Ray Wylie wrangled up an A-list of Austin musicians to to participate in a recording session that would give Dunn the authentic sound he was looking for, including reaching out to one cat named Ian McLagan—a 67-year-old keyboard player who was born in England but had permanently relocated to Austin in 1993, and spent many nights entertaining small crowds in bars around town, especially at the Lucky Lounge on 5th Street with his “Bump Band.” He was known to the greater world however as the keyboardist of the highly influential rock band Small Faces, and later Faces.

ian-mclagan“Started recording in Austin yesterday,” Ronnie Dunn boasted to his social network followers at the time. “TEXAS boys ripped it up !! Brad Rice, George Reiff, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Ian McLagan (Faces)….this is where the Rolling Stones ride with the Cowboys !!!! If you like your country raw and with a razor edged jangle….I found the ‘honey hole.’”

Along with being the go-to auxiliary keyboard player for the cream of the classic rock world, including numerous occasions with The Rolling Stones over the years, Ian McLagan played keys on Robert Earl Keen’s 1998 album Walking Distance, on John Hiatt’s Best Of album from the same year, on Slaid Cleaves’ Broke Down from 2000, Ray Wylie Hubbard’s Eternal and Lowdown, and entering into the 2000′s, albums from Bruce Robison, Kelly Willis, James McMurtry, Lucinda Williams, Chelle Rose, Mary Gauthier, Gurf Morlix, Jennifer Nettles’ (of Sugarland) 2014 solo album, and just about any recent album from Ray Wylie or Robert Earl Keen you can find. When you needed a keyboard player on a definitive Texas record, Ian McLagan was the first man you called.

Ian was also a solo artist and released ten studio albums, including United States with his Bump Band on June 17th, 2014 through Yep Rock. McLagan was excited about a long-rumored reunion tour of Faces coming together with iconic frontman Rod Stewart.

“We will be touring next year, and I’m very excited,” McLagan told Kevin Curtain of the Austin Chronicle in June. “The fact is we always wanted Rod to do it. Every single time we asked him, it didn’t work. This time, he wants to do it. So I hope and pray nothing happens between now and then, because it would be great.”

Ian McLagan died on Wednesday, December 3rd of a stroke at Brackenridge Hospital in Austin. He was 69-years-old.

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bobby-keysRock music lost another titan of the legendary auxiliary surrounding The Rolling Stones, Faces, and other similar projects in saxophone player Bobby Keys who passed away on Monday, December 2nd, of cirrhosis at his home in Franklin, Tennessee. Like Ian McLagan, though he was known mostly for his work with British-based rock bands, especially as The Rolling Stones’ studio and touring saxophone player on pretty much any song or tour the band ever played, he was born in the small town of Slaton, TX, just south and east of Lubbock, and one of his first gigs as a saxophonist was playing with Buddy Holly where he rubbed elbows with Holly understudy and friend Waylon Jennings.

When Waylon Jennings made his very first two studio recordings with Buddy Holly, “Jole Blon” and “When Sin Stops,” keys was present in the Clovis, New Mexico studio. Keys later joked the experience “threw my whole life down the toilet!”, meaning it sent him down the path of pursuing music as a living, and he never looked back.

Later in life Bobby Keys’ studio credits would include Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Second Helpings, John Hiatt’s Beneath This Gruff Exterior, and Joe Ely’s Lord of the Highway.

The Small Faces, and later Faces and The Rolling Stones defined the loose, gritty, sweaty sound of late 60′s, early 70′s classic rock that every artist wanted, but few could master. That sound found on Small Faces records, and Rolling Stones projects like Exile on Main St. and Sticky Fingers most certainly went on to influence the rugged, sweaty, and stripped down sound of the Outlaw movement in country of the same era, with similar sounding albums recorded by the touring bands of defiant frontman instead of the slick session players of Music Row—albums like Waylon’s Honky Tonk Heroes, and Willie Nelson’s Shotgun Willie.

When you wanted to evoke that timeless, gritty sound of the 70′s in your music, you reached out to sidemen like Ian McLagan and Bobby Keys to bring it back to life. Now that era will be that much harder to reach back to, but that much more treasured in the hearts of listeners.

RIP Ian McLagan (1945-2014) & Bobby Keys (1943-2014)

Dec
3

2014 Saving Country Music Song of the Year Nominees

December 3, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  83 Comments

2014-song-of-the-year-scm 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.

Parker Milsap had an excellent song this year called “Truck Stop Gospel,” and Jim Lauderdale‘s “I Lost You” pound for pound may be the most enjoyable song released all year. Willie Watson had numerous songs like “Mexican Cowboy” and “Keep It Clean” that while not originals, had the energy and approach of ones. There were epics like Joseph Huber‘s “Wanchese & Manteo,” or great performances like The Secret Sisters‘ “The Lonely Island.” But the nine songs below stood out from the rest in Saving Country Music’s humble opinion.

Audience participation is strongly encouraged, and will influence the outcome. Leave your opinions, write-in candidates, or other observations below in the comments section. This is not simply an up and down vote though. I make the final decision, so it is your job to convince me why the album you feel deserves to win is the right pick. The winner will be chosen in about a month.

READ: 2014 Saving Country Music Album of the Year Nominees


Don Williams  – “I’ll Be Here In The Morning” – from Reflections 

Townes Van Zandt and Don Williams team up to deliver one of the most disarming performances of 2014, taking a timeless composition, and bringing it to life again through an immortal voice. The warmth this performance coveys is astounding, and as can be seen in the video, it was recorded live. Great song from a great album. (read review)


Lydia Loveless – “Everything’s Gone” – from Somewhere Else

“Everything’s Gone” is Lydia’s crowning achievement thus far in her career, showing remarkable insight, and delivering a vocal performance that fills as much emotion as humanly possible into the vessel of a story—any more and it would fall apart under its own weight.

“Lord now I’m sick of seeing the fear in my family’s eyes. I need to find the man who put it there and set his life on fire.”


Ray Benson & Willie Nelson – “It Ain’t You” -  from A Little Piece

Originally written by Waylon Jennings with Gary Nicholson, “It Ain’t You” was never recorded, and was relatively unknown except to a select few for many years. When Asleep At The Wheel frontman Ray Benson was looking for material to release on his first solo album in a decade, the song was suggested to him by Sam “Lightnin’” Seifert who co-produced the effort with Lloyd Maines.

What the forces that would sway popular American music to only focus on youth fail to regard is where simply the tone of a voice and the visage of a legendary performer can evoke such a reverence and place such immeasurable weight of an entire remarkable career behind it that an immediate elevation of whatever music being performing occurs in a measure that could never be challenged by the simple exuberance of youth. “It Ain’t You” is exquisitely written, and makes one wonder how this song went unheard for so long. (read full review)


Tami Neilson – “Cry Over You” – from Dynamite!

It is said often that there’s no more standard songs being released that will withstand the test of time. Well Tami Neilson just released one, and punctuated it with a timeless vocal performance.


Sturgill Simpson – “Turtles All The Way Down” – from Metamodern Sounds

A polarizing song from its seeming questioning of faith and drug laws, “Turtles All The Way Down” speaks to the very core of what the Sturgill Simpson experience is all about: a forward-thinking, challenging approach to enhancing the senses by marking a crossroads between traditional country and a progressive approach.


Leon Virgil Bowers – “Streets of Aberdeen” – from LV

Leon Virgil Bowers (formerly of Hellbound Glory) continues to be America’s most undervalued songwriter, and someday the rest of the world is going to wake up to that fact. While Virgil is known most for his strong wit, weaving moments in songs that touch your heart and funny bone at the same time, this exploration of more in-depth storytelling by Leroy was a big success. And only appropriate that the song and video was cut in Aberdeen, in a building with ties to the story. (read more)


Hurray for the Riff Raff – “The Body Electric” -from Small Town Heroes

The legacy of the murder ballad is one of the very building blocks of country, bluegrass, and folk music, and never before has an artist taken that primordial idea and conveyed so much while saying very little. It awakens the defiance in the female condition, as an array of thoughts flow through the listener.


First Aid Kit – “Waitress Song” – from Stay Gold

First Aid Kit’s Stay Gold on any other year might be the album everyone is talking about, and in certain segments of the folk and Americana world, it still is. No album can top it in 2014 when it comes to harmonies and melody building, and it’s hard to pinpoint just one song where this is evidenced the best. But even amongst the towering compositions of the album like “My Silver Lining” and “Cedar Lane,” “The Waitress Song” is the one I kept coming back to. A strange song from the usually serious and regal Söderberg sisters, it starts off playful and silly with it’s fluttering “girls just want to have fun” line, but reveals later a lot of life truths and deep perspective swirling around the idea of walking away from ones self and starting over.

“It’s a dark, twisted road we are on. And we all have to walk it alone.”


Matt Woods – “Liberty Bell” – from Brushy Mountain

The question going into Matt Woods’ new album With Love From Brushy Mountain was if he could he match the magic he evoked in his song “Deadman’s Blues” that went on to win him Saving Country Music’s Song of the Year in 2013. The answer turned out to be “yes,” and the best evidence might be this soul-wrenching song that matches “Deadman’s Blues” punch for punch.

Nov
30

Roger Alan Wade to Release New Album “Bad News Knockin’”

November 30, 2014 - By Trigger  //  News  //  4 Comments

roger-alan-wade-bad-news-knockinSongwriter, Sirius XM DJ, and country music elder Roger Alan Wade will release his sixth studio album Bad News Knockin’ via Johnny Knoxville Records on December 16th, 2014. Produced by Knoxville and recorded by Dan Creech at Revolving Blackbird Sound in Santa Monica, CA, like most of Wade’s music the new album will feature just Roger, his guitar, and his original songs. Johnny Knoxville and Wade host the weekly Big Ass Happy Family Jubilee on Sirius XM’s Outlaw Country together.

“He inspires me constantly and he’s a tough taskmaster,” Roger said recently about Johnny Knoxville as producer on the Otis Gibbs Thanks For Giving A Damn podcast. “He’ll put up with anything as long as he knows you’re giving it your all. If he thinks you’re slacking man he’s got too much to do to waste his time. I love the way we make records…The only way we know when it’s good is when Knoxville gets chill bumps. Otherwise you keep it going. But if you do it one time and he gets chill bumps, don’t ask to do it again.”

Roger Alan Wade and Johnny Knoxville are first cousins, and Knoxville regularly features Wade’s humor-tinged songs in his movies. But when it comes to his studio albums, Wade can get deadly serious, and draws inspiration from songwriters like Guy Clark, John Prine, and Kris Kristofferson. His 2010 record DeGuello Motel won Saving Country Music 2010 Album of the Year, and his 2012 album Southbound Train was another standout songwriting effort.

“Beige cubicles spook me man,” Wade said to Otis Gibbs about Music Row’s current songwriting environment. “There’s so much about that I don’t understand. I’m not knocking it, I’m not making any judgements. I’m just saying it don’t work for me. Man I like writing them on the run. I like finding that place, wherever it may be, that you’re just holding the pen and it’s coming through you…I strive to be as honest with myself and others, especially when it comes down to asking them to listen to my song. If they’re going to give me three minutes of their life, I want them to know what’s on my mind, and what’s in my heart. And I’m not asking them to agree with me or like it, but you are telling them that it comes with one guarantee, that it’s honest. It may suck, but it’s honest.”

A fixture of the Chattanooga music scene, Wade has written songs recorded by George Jones, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and the #1 song by Hank Williams Jr. “Country State of Mind.”

Pre-Order Roger Alan Wade’s Bad News Knockin’

Bad News Knockin’ Track List:

  1. Bad News Knockin’
  2. Blame It All on the Roses
  3. Lonesome Sunday Blues
  4. Waitin’ on the Hummingbird
  5. The Ballad of Shine Marley
  6. Warm Spanish Wine
  7. Georgia Blues
  8. Yellow House in the Country
  9. Years Ago
  10. Things I Benn Blamed For
  11. I Lived the Life
  12. Red Shoes Blues
  13. Peace of Mind

Nov
28

Take a Tour of Willie Nelson’s Vintage Tour Bus

November 28, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  1 Comment

willie-bus-8

You may remember from early May when the sale of an old Willie Nelson tour bus on Craigslist erupted into its own viral event as pictures of the saloon-style interior with its custom wood paneling and crushed red velvet upholstery circled around the internet and a bidding war ensued for the piece of country music history. Originally nicknamed “Scout,” and later called “Me & Paul,” the 1983 Eagle tour bus was the rolling home for Willie Nelson’s long-time drummer and manager Paul English, purchased and customized with a Detroit Diesel engine, 3 separate rooms, a picture of Jimmie Rodgers and custom stained glass, and airbrushed designs on the sides and back.

The owner had purchased the bus three or four years before in Alabama and originally listed it on Craigslist for $29,999, hoping to at least recoup what he’d spent on his “hobby.” Eventually the bus sold for a whopping $80,000—gobbled up by a couple of private investors from Austin, TX. Taylor Perkins and Michael “Stix” Tashnick, one of which owns a company called Vintage Innovations that restores older vehicles and uses them for custom rentals, said they planned to restore the bus and use a portion of whatever proceeds to benefit Farm Aid.

“We are all huge Willie Nelson fans and have been our entire lives,” Taylor Perkins said at the time. “We felt this was a great way we could give something back to Willie, who has done so much for our state and the people in it.”

Now Taylor Perkins and Michael Tashnick have had their chance to restore and tastefully upgrade the bus, and it’s ready to serve as a fully immersive vintage country music experience for perspective renters. On the very first episode of Great American Country’s new show Celebrity Motor Homes that aired on November 26th, the “Me & Paul” bus was featured, giving country music enthusiasts an even more intimate glimpse into this piece of rolling piece of country lore.

Sorry GAC, I don’t think that rolling tray will see much “tobacco.”

Nov
19

Billboard’s New Album Chart Rules Will Affect Your Favorite Artists

November 19, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  26 Comments

billboardOn December 4th, Billboard will roll out new changes to their Billboard 200 album chart, and the effect will be big on some of your favorite music artists, including legends like Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton, and up-and-comers like Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell. The changes will be the first major overhaul to the album chart since 1991, and will send pop stars and artists whose fans favor streaming to much higher positions and allow them to stay there for longer, while artists whose fans prefer to buy physical, cohesive albums or downloads will be diminished.

As first explained by Saving Country Music in September, the new chart rules (dubbed initially as a ‘Consumption Chart’) take into consideration the streaming of songs when rating the overall impact of an album. 1,500 songs streams on services such as Spotify, Google Play, Beats, Rhapsody, the new YouTube Music Key, or any other streamers will count as the equivalent of one album sale, even if those streams are all for only one song. The chart change is meant to take into account the new reality of how music is consumed, and give a boost to artists whose albums get buried on Billboard album charts because of poor sales of cohesive albums.

A big differences between what was initially reported about the upcoming changes and what were highlighted in a New York Times feature on the charts posted late Wednesday (11-19) is that there won’t be an autonomous ‘Consumption Chart,’ but changes directly to the Billboard 200.

It is also left ambiguous at the moment if there will still be dedicated album charts that do not take into account streaming. Original reports had album charts remaining, but likely losing relevancy with the implementation of the new chart system. There’s also no news at the moment if the changes will also be implemented for Billboard’s genre specific album charts.

Recently we have seen older country artists such as Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, and Billy Joe Shaver set career chart records with their album releases because these artist’s older fan bases are one of the few demographics left that actually buy albums. But since these artist’s streaming footprint is significantly less, these new chart rules would see them fare significantly worse compared to the current system.

Same could be said for many independent artists like Old Crow Medicine Show, Sturgill Simpson or Jason Isbell, whose fan bases are more likely to buy physical albums to help support the artist. These artists have seen significant boosts from chart performances recently, and this will be diminished under the new system. Artists who rely heavily on vinyl sales like Jack White will also see diminishing returns from the new charting system.

Since these charts are used to gauge the importance and impact an artist has in the marketplace, a diminishing of these artists on the charts could affect their overall sales, or their acknowledgement by the industry. The new system will create even a greater discrepancy between the have’s and have not’s of music, and see more attention paid to the biggest artists, the biggest songs, and the biggest albums.

On the flip side, many artists who’ve arguably been treated poorly because their music depends mostly on streaming will benefit from the new system, and some change was probably warranted to account for consumers’ changing behavior. Also the chart will account for listening behaviors beyond the initial sale. Since streaming behavior happens for much longer after an album is released, it could give a more accurate portrayal of the importance of an album beyond the release date. But of course, there’s no way to gauge how many times a consumer who purchases a physical or downloaded copy listens after the purchase date, putting artists whose fans bases buy physical at a disadvantage, beyond getting a much bigger credit in the charts for the physical sale initially.

Some examples given of who would benefit under mock ups of the new chart system show artists such as EDM duo Disclosure and their album Settle going from #213 on the album chart based purely off of sales, all the way up to #64 based off of album equivalent streams and plays. That is a 149-spot difference just from the new reporting method. Another example is Katy Perry’s album Prism, which moved from #61 to #16 in early projections. But according to David Bakula of Nielson Soundscan—the company partnering with Billboard on the new chart formula—Taylor Swift’s new album 1989 would still be safe at #1 even though she has chosen to exit the streaming business on Spotify.

When Billboard implemented sweeping changes to their song chart configurations in October of 2012, it was predicted at the time by many that these changes would fundamentally modify the industry in historic ways, ushering in an era where popular American music would rapidly succumb to the monogenre, and distinctions of separate genres would slowly become irrelevant. Artists who did not occupy the “crossover” realm would see diminished significance, and popular music would all begin to sound the same.

Subsequently that is exactly what we have seen, and the fingerprints of Billboard 2012′s rules changes can be found all over malevolent trends in country music and beyond, including the rise of “Bro-Country,” the institution of rap and EDM elements in country in a widespread manner, and the continued struggles of the genre to support and develop female artists. The new rules have also affected Billboard’s rap charts and other genres, and have been aided by the addition of YouTube data in 2013.

Once the new charts are published on December 4th we’ll know more. But once again it is the little guy, the legend, and the up-and-comer that gets squeezed as the industry retools to face the new reality of music streaming.

Nov
18

Finally, New Music From Jamey Johnson, But …. {Sleigh Bells}

November 18, 2014 - By Trigger  //  News  //  18 Comments

jamey-johnson-new-music-coming-soon

(This article has been updated)

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, it’s about time the creative reigns on one of country music’s most successful modern day traditionalists were loosened.

jamey-johnson-the-christmas-songA Christmas album though? That may not be exactly what many Jamey Johnson fans were hoping to find under their country music Christmas tree. But others will find a treat in the new release nonetheless, and this does not mean a new album of non Holiday-oriented music still isn’t on the way.

Jamey Johnson’s The Christmas Song, a 5-song “genre-defying” Christmas album will arrive on store shelves December 9th. It includes Jamey’s take on four Christmas standards, collaborations with The Secret Sisters and Lily Meola, and an original Johnson-penned Christmas tune—the first original Jamey Johnson song released in over 4 years. The Christmas Song is being released through Jamey Johnson’s own record label Big Gassed Records.

jj xmas photo-1The album is described as, “four timeless holiday standards and a much-anticipated new Christmas song. The genre-defying collection could be describe as Trains, Trailers and Tikis, because it features traditional and jazz-inspired Christmas sounds reminiscent of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, an uplifting Hawaiian holiday feel and powerful country songs. Johnson is joined by The Secret Sisters on ‘Mele Kalikimaka (Hawaiian Christmas Song)’, while singer Lily Meola shares the microphone on ‘Baby, It s Cold Outside.’ In addition, Johnson offers his interpretation of ‘The Christmas Song’ and Willie Nelson’s ‘Pretty Paper.’ The award-winning songwriter was inspired to write a new song, ‘South Alabam Christmas,’ which ends with a lullaby to soothe anxious children to sleep on Christmas Eve.”

February of 2013 is when Johnson first let on that a contract dispute was the reason for his lack of creative output, telling Rolling Stone, “Financially speaking, they treat me worse than they ever did the Dixie Chicks. I feel pretty used by the music industry, in that my contracts are written in such a way that I don’t get paid I wish I could tell you that I am writing. I’m not. I wish I could tell you I’m gonna go home next week and record another album. It’s not likely to happen.” It then came out that Jamey’s issue was not with his label, Mercury Records, but with his publisher. The Christmas Song may tide thirsty fans over until a new full-length is ready to release.

Pre-Order Jamey Johnson’s The Christmas Song

TRACK LIST:

  • Baby It’s Cold Outside
  • Mele Kalikimaka
  • South Alabam Christmas
  • Pretty Paper
  • The Christmas Song
Nov
13

Pokey LaFarge, Rev. Peyton, & Banditos All Sign to Labels

November 13, 2014 - By Trigger  //  News  //  8 Comments

The past 24 hours has seen some big signings by some worthy artists to record labels. Here’s a rundown:

pokey-lafargeThe old-school throwback St. Louis singing and strumming song man Pokey LaFarge has signed to the prestigious Rounder Records, announced Wednesday (11-12). Pokey, who has released six albums since his self-released debut in 2006, and who most recently recorded an album for Jack White’s Third Man Records in 2013, has found what he hopes to be a more permanent home on a record label who’s known for releasing albums by Willie Nelson, Robert Plant, Ricky Skaggs, Del McCoury, Alison Krauss, and dozens more since its inception in 1970 as a predominantly roots label.

“Needless to say, it is a true honor to begin this new relationship with Rounder and be counted among so many champions of American music, past and present,” was the message posted on Pokey’s website. At the present, no word of when Pokey’s Rounder debut might hit shelves, but an announcement should be coming soon.

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reverend-peytons-big-damn-bandReverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band has signed with Yazoo Records, and have announced their new album called So Delicious will be delivered on February 17th, 2015. The slide guitar maestro backed by wife Breezy on washboard and drummer Ben Russell is known for busting his ass on stage and playing over 250 dates a year. This will be the Indiana-based outfit’s eighth release.

“Yazoo was my favorite record label growing up,” Rev. Peyton says. “For fans of old country blues and all manner of early American music, they are the quintessential label. And for me, it’s like being on the same label as Charley Patton and ‘Mississippi’ John Hurt. To think that Yazoo believes we are authentic enough to stand with the other people in their catalog means a lot.”

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The honky tonkin’, rock and rollin’, Birmingham, Alabama-bred gritty and greasy Banditos have signed to insurgent country label Bloodshot Records as of Wednesday (11-12) with an album rumored to be on the way for early 2015.

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“Back in March we saw Nashville-via-Birmingham, AL group Banditos at one of those fly-by-night, hole-in-the-wall bars that sprout like skunkweed on Sixth Street in Austin, TX during the height of SXSW crazy,” says Bloodshot. “The sound system at this place was a painful mix of all treble and reverb; and the noises oozing out of the PA during another band’s set were not unlike the distorted echoes of the soundtrack to Suspiria (and not in a good way). We wish we were kidding. Then the six-piece Banditos took the stage, and even though they themselves were a little intimidating – all hair, denim, and stoic determination – the sounds they managed to conjure from two overworked speakers were fresh, raw, and spectacular.”

Now the Banditos will join a roster which includes Wayne “The Train” Hancock, Lydia Loveless, Scott H. Biram, and launched the careers of Ryan Adams, Neko Case, Justin Townes Earle, and others.

 

Nov
8

Review – Adam Hood’s “Welcome to the Big World”

November 8, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  16 Comments

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It’s the fall of 2007, and a mother and daughter from the little town of Lindale in east Texas are driving through New Braunfels, TX, just south of Austin, known nationally as the home of the historic Gruene Hall, when their car breaks down. Instead of stressing out about it, they decide to get a hotel room and a drink, and stumble into a rustic old bar called Tavern In The Gruene.

It is a Tuesday night, and like most every Tuesday night at the Tavern In The Gruene, Texas singer songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard is doing his Roots and Branches radio show live on KNBT, showcasing songwriters from the Texas scene. On the stage is a well-seasoned, but somewhat obscure songwriter named Adam Hood from Opelika, Alabama. The two stranded travelers from Lindale listen intently to Adam’s songs and are so impressed, the daughter waits until after the show to talk to him and Adam gives her a copy of his current album.

After listening to Hood’s music and falling in love with it, the mother and daughter decide to book Adam Hood to play a birthday party in November in Chicago for the daughter. The mother’s name was Beverly Lambert, and her daughter had just released a CD of her own, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend the went on to be named the ACM Album of the Year. As you might have guessed, Miranda Lambert was the weary traveler who’d stumbled on to Adam Hood, and knew she’d just discovered songwriting gold.

miranda-lambert_adam-hood1Soon Adam Hood was signed with Carnival Music Publishing and Carnival Records, the baby of Miranda’s producer Frank Liddell—the man also known for producing records for Stoney LaRue, and being married to (and producing) Lee Ann Womack. It’s a small world, but Adam Hood soon became a big songwriting cog in it, moving to Nashville to work as a professional songwriter, and becoming one of the most prolific song contributors to the Texas scene, churning out signature tracks for Wade Bowen, the Josh Abbott Band, Whiskey Myers, and too many more to name, and even some songs for some bigger names like Little Big Town. Hood wrote “I’ll Sing About Mine” with Brian Keane that was nominated for Saving Country Music’s 2013 Song of the Year.

It’s because of both the prolific nature and aptitude of Adam Hood as a songwriter that you almost have to remind yourself that he’s a performer too, and a damn good one. Miranda brought Hood out on tour numerous times, as has Willie Nelson and Leon Russell. He’s currently touring with Jason Eady, who included one of Hood’s songs on his latest album Daylight & Dark. But since Adam Hood is the epitome of a songwriter who makes it look effortless—penning stories that wrench the heart and encapsulate sentiments so poignantly that his peers are flush with admiration and envy—Adam’s songwriting is where it all starts. Though as he says on a song on this new album, “It takes a whole lot of hard work to make it look easy.”

adam-hood-welcome-to-the-big-worldAdam Hood is not a native of Texas or Oklahoma, but he is an honorary member of the Texas country scene if there ever was one. And now that he’s officially called Frank Liddel’s Carnival Records quits, he’s back releasing his music independently and calling his own shots. Only appropriate then that he would release an album that is strikingly personal in a very palpable and meaningful manner, making the music hold a weight that it otherwise wouldn’t if it was a collection of disparate perspectives. Adam Hood has written plenty of songs for others. He wrote and recorded Welcome to the Big World for himself.

Starting out loud and heavy, Welcome To The Big World opens almost like a Will Hoge record—more rock than country, but with a country heart. Hoge wrote one of the songs for the album with Adam Hood, but it isn’t one of the beginning ones, it’s one of the more country offerings called “Postcards and Payphones” that helps anchor the more country and subdued second half of the album. The opening song “Don’t That Sound Like Love” takes a realistic, if not dystopian view of love in a very heavy bluesy style, followed up by the full tilt rocking “Trying To Write A Love Song.”

From there is where the album turns more personal, starting with title track that Hood wrote just as much for his daughter as for himself about dealing with life’s inherent struggles and trying to forge a positive attitude about things you can’t control. “Bar Band” is deceptively deep in its perspective, uniting all of America’s watering holes with the mood that can be found on any given Friday night when local musicians are providing the entertainment. “Whole Lot of Hard Work,” “Postcards and Payphones,” and “Way Too Long” is where Hood’s songwriting brilliance is revealed in full force, while the duet with Sunny Sweeney called “The Countriest” offers a simple and fun palette cleanser amongst Hood’s heavy hitting material. “He Did” written about Hood’s dad lands another gut punch, and despite all the other noteworthy songs on the album, “I Took A Train” bringing up the caboose feels like the most timeless, like an instant standard.

Adam Hood did his time on big stages, gave his shot to Nashville where he still haunts songwriting rounds with some of his friends, and his mark will forever be left on the music even if his pen fell silent tomorrow. But now he seems content with the world and his place in it.

It was a random performance at the Tavern In The Gruene that landed Adam Hood on the greater country music map, but the songwriter never left the spirit of the intimate performance and the conveyance of a personal feeling that spoke to Miranda Lambert that night, and still rings pure and potent in the 11 tracks of Welcome to the Big World.

1 3/4 of 2 Guns Up.

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Nov
6

Vince Gill Has One Hell of a Good Week

November 6, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  42 Comments

vince-gillWho would have thought that Vince Gill would emerge as one of the big winners in country music over the past seven days, culminating in last night’s 48th Annual CMA Awards? Who even knew that the CMA was still paying attention to Vince, who once did a stint manning the hosting duties for the show for a dozen years during his heyday. But that’s the thing about Vince Gill. His accomplishments sort of creep up on you because he’s so refreshingly understated, honest, and humble.

You may do a double take to learn that Vince once won the CMA’s Male Vocalist of the Year five years straight between 1991 and 1995, and two of those years won Entertainer of the Year. Yes, this was during the heart of Garth-mania. You might be surprised to hear he’s won 20 Grammy Awards. But over the past seven days, the recognition Vince has received might top many of his other accolades because of its personal nature.

Last Wednesday, October 29th, Vince gill was in Oklahoma City at his alma mater, Northwest Classen High School, attending an unveiling of a 9 1/2-foot statue and plaque erected to commemorate the school’s most famous graduate. What did Vince Gill have to say?

“If you’re kind, life is going to be just great. I told somebody, I was joking, I said, ‘Oh, great, they’re going to put a statue up of me, and kids are going to go out there and put cigarettes out on my face.’ Maybe it’s too tall. But more than anything, I hope that where that statue sits that it’s not too much about who’s on that statue but just that it’s a place where you go out and be nice to each other.”

Then Tuesday night, the night before the CMA Awards, Gill was honored at the BMI offices on Music Row with the BMI Icon Award. BMI’s annual ceremony honoring songwriters is the oldest in the business, and past recipients of the Icon Award include Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard, and Kris Kristofferson. “I look at the past recipients of this award, and it’s pretty heavy,” Gill said. “It’s amazing people. There are so many people who mentored me and inspired me, and it’s a little overwhelming.”

Then at Wednesday’s CMA Awards, nobody was expecting Vince Gill to be honored. Nobody knew they had put together a video package with artists paying tribute to him as far ranging as Taylor Swift and Merle Haggard, making Vince weepy when Merle referred to Vince as a “friend,” and that the CMA’s had minted an Irving Waugh Award of Excellence trophy for the guitar player, tenor singer, and songwriter. Who even knew an Irving Waugh Award existed? Johnny Cash was the only other performer to receive the award. It was the moment the CMA made good on all the hard work Vince had put in over the years for the presentation, and all the contributions he’d accumulated to country music over the years.

Vince’s 26 million albums sold have bought him a lot of butter and beans, and all those CMA’s and Grammys sure must feel nice. But to be honored at his most humble beginnings by his high school, by his distinguished peers at BMI, and then the industry at large during the genre’s biggest night of the year, sure must feel good for ol’ Vince. Hopefully it reminds him that he’s not forgotten, and that country music still needs artists like him.

READ: Vince Gill & Alan Jackson Show How To Grow Old Gracefully in Country

Nov
3

Wade Bowen Displays His Best in Self-Titled LP

November 3, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  25 Comments

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Some will tell you that when you get to the very top of Texas country it becomes difficult to tell the difference between it and Nashville. It’s true that with your foremost Texas acts like Eli Young Band, Randy Rogers Band, Josh Abbot Band, and Wade Bowen, there’s an element of pragmatism to their sound. Texas country has traditionalism plenty covered with artists like Aaron Watson and Jason Eady, but some of the bands will mix a fair bit of rock and roll flair into their music, and worry more about captivating an audience than capturing strict interpretations of country music’s traditions.

This however is not necessarily a knock on them. This in itself is a tradition of Texas country that can be traced back to Willie and Waylon. Some country artists who happen to be born in Texas leave for Nashville as soon as they can and never look back, and those are the ones who quickly become synonymous with Nashville instead of the Lone Star State. Others can’t stay gone from Texas no matter how hard they try. The suits in Nashville have just enough sense to understand that something truly special is going on in Texas and that they want to be a part of it, just like a lot of Texas acts know that to bust through the corrugated tin roof of Texas country, at some point you have to make the dreaded trek to Music Row.

I-40 is well-grooved with the rubber of Texas country acts coming and going. You’ll have a band try their hand at the Nashville thing, like the Josh Abbot Band, and meanwhile another is calling it quits and heading back home, like Wade Bowen. They meet up at a Chinese buffet in Little Rock and swap stories about pencil pushers who beat themselves up trying to tame the wanton talent of Texas with only marginal success. Texas country artists are nice enough to give anything a shot with an open mind, but stubborn enough to refuse to be pigeonholed. It’s the perfect formula to drive Music Row completely mad. But they’ll keep trying, because Texas artists are the ones with the authenticity they yearn for.

Wade Bowen tried his hand with the big boys, specifically BNA Records with his 2012 release The Given. It brought him a Top 10 country album, which is a career achievement he can be happy with. But now he’s back releasing albums independently. Almost as a playful parting shot of his experience with the big time, Bowen released a track called “Songs About Trucks” written by Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally ahead of this new album. Antagonistic and timely, it took Bowen’s star and made it shine even brighter. It was assumed (at least in some corners) the song was the lead single from this new album, but Bowen was wise to keep it off and leave it out there as its own animal. The acrimonious nature of “Songs About Trucks,” though justified and poignant, doesn’t really fit the mood and spirit of this project.

wade-bowen-self-titledAhead of this self-titled release, the buzz was immense. There was a sense this wasn’t going to be simply another Wade Bowen album—that his experiences of the last few years helped Wade see himself for who he really is, instead of who everyone else wants him to be.

Two songs in, and this album already delivers on any promises and expectations preceding it. “When I Woke Up Today” written by Bowen and Rodney Clawson is the type of song nobody has the balls to record anymore; songs that are both deep and sunny. And Bowen has something that trend chasers can never top, which is an established sound that immediately upon hearing it fills the listener with a warmth of familiarity. You pop this record in, and you’re immediately swept over by a change of perspective like the opening song portrays.

This is followed by “Sun Shines on a Dreamer” and a very similar mood-enhancing effect. Not just the lyrics, but the drums and bass on this song really emphasize the natural tension and resolution of the tune. Excellent arrangement and good writing makes this song one of the top standouts of the project. This album is marked by some really big songs—songs that tend go on to define a career. Yet another is the waltz-timed and mood heavy “West Texas Rain.” Count it amongst Wade’s greatest, written by Bowen with Travis Meadows.

Where you get into the material that some may say strays too near a commercial mindset, you come to a song like the up-tempo and rocking “When It’s Reckless” with its screaming guitar solos and rambunctious attitude. A couple of songs—”My California” and “Hungover”—take a smooth, almost R&B approach in the production, even though the heart of the story could still be considered a country song. The more country offerings are the solid “My Leona,” the aforementioned “West Texas Rain,” and one of the funnest moments of the album, “Honky Tonk Road,” which sees Randy Rogers, Cody Canada, and Sean McConnell each sing a verse. Other special guests on the album include Will Hoge on “When It’s Reckless” (which he co-wrote with Bowen), Sarah Buxton on “California,” and Vince Gill on “West Texas Rain.”

Releasing a self-titled album seven albums deep into your career is making a statement. “This is me,” Wade Bowen is saying, and with a cadre of great songs turned in on this album, “me” in regards to Wade Bowen is something worth listening to.

1 3/4 of 2 Guns Up.

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