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Kentucky’s 103.9 WRKA first created a stir over the Memorial Day weekend when they re-branded to the “All Garth, all the time” radio station GARTH-FM, playing Garth and Garth only on a 24 hour loop. Though it appeared to be what people in the radio business call “stunting”—where a radio station ahead of a format change plays the same song, or in this case, the same artist over and over to draw attention—the importance of WRKA’s move goes much deeper.
As hypothesized by many when GARTH-FM first hit the air, the radio station has arguably become the first in the country to adopt a new “classic” country format, first floated as an idea by radio trade publication writers, and first championed in public by the yet to be launched venture between the Big Machine Label Group and Cumulus Media called NASH Icons. The idea is to give a home to country artists that flourished in country music starting 25 years ago, when artists like Garth Brooks, Travis Tritt, and Clint Black first got their start; artists that have been all but abandoned by country radio. It all has country music and the radio world buzzing about a potential format split in country music, where Top-40 country and “classic” country stations could exists side by side.
On May 29th, Garth’s lawyers sent a cease and desist letter to WRKA, telling them to quit using Garth’s name to promote their station. They were still able to play Garth’s music, but this development may have forced WRKA to expedite their more long-term plans of becoming the country’s first station to reside in the “classic” 25-year window. On Monday morning, 103.9 rolled out their new format called “The Hawk – Louisville’s True Country.”
âThe country listener that became a fan in the 1990âs when country really exploded canât find those songs on the radio in Louisville right now,” says Operations Manager Shane Collins. “Itâs a whole segment of the audience thatâs being underserved. With the new 103.9 The Hawk, they can hear those big monster hits and artists all the time.â
Of course not everyone is happy with the move. The format the The Hawk replaced was one that played artists beyond the 25-year “classic” window; artists like Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash. But like it or hate it, 103.9 The Hawk will become the bellwether for country music’s potential new format, and there’s no doubt the rest of the country will be watching and listening to see how the new station is received.
Well it’s about time we had some established country artists take up the trend of country protest songs, and give modern country their what for. As the lead single from Billy Joe Shaver’s upcoming album Long In The Tooth scheduled for release on August 5th, the long-time, storied country Outlaw songwriter has teamed up with his old buddy Willie Nelson to release a duet called “It’s Hard to Be an Outlaw” that puts new school, fake country Outlaws and other country music interlopers in its crosshairs.Some super stars nowadays, gets too far off the ground Singing about the backroads, they never have been down They go and call it country, but that ain’t the way it sounds It’s enough to make a renegade want to terrorize the town Â
Though these types of protest songs have become standard fare, if not clichĂŠ in their own right these days, coming from the powerhouse pairing of Billy Joe Shaver and Willie Nelson makes this one especially memorable. In fact, according to Shaver, they could have gone a step further. “It’s not harsh enough, I don’t guess,” Shaver told Rolling Stone. “He and I both feel the same way about that. We text back and forth, and we figure we’re the only ones over 70 years old that text. I’m sure that’s not right, but I know Kris won’t. Kristofferson won’t do it. I mentioned this title to Willie and he said, ‘Man, you oughta write that.’”
“It’s just stupidity,” Shaver continues. “It’s like walking down a hall and seeing a Picasso and saying, ‘Damn, that thing’s old! Let’s throw it out.’ Fortunately, you can’t burn songs. You can burn pictures, but a song will live forever.”Â
Willie Nelson and Billy Joe Shaver have remained good friends since their early days as original country music Outlaws in the mid 70′s. When Shaver was on trial for shooting a man in self-defense in Waco, Willie Nelson showed up as a character witness. The title track of Willie Nelson’s 2012 album Heroes is about Billy Joe. And the two stars collaborated recently on another Billy Joe Shaver-penned duet, “Wacko From Waco“.
âI feel like that Iâm still doing the same thing I always did, it just got lost in the shuffle because all this new stuff came in,” Billy Joe told the Ft. Stockton Pioneer in November. “Thereâs a lot of money behind these peopleâŚItâs just people trying to make money, thatâs all it is and I canât begrudge anybody for trying to make money. Weâre all trying to make a living and do the best we can.Â I feel that the art part of it just went out the windowâŚbut every once in awhile you will hear a good song. I canât say that itâs all bad, itâs not. Itâs just most of itâs badâŚItâs kind of gotten way out of hand right now I think, but the solid foundation is still there.â
While premiering the new “It’s Hard to be An Outlaw” song, Billy Joe Shaver also mentions something about rapping on Long In The Tooth‘s title track. “I didn’t know it was that easy. I took a crank at it and went crazy and did it.”
Isn’t it interesting how we look upon Willie Nelson as such a saint of not just music or country music, but of the nation and world, and here he is releasing a song that instead of reveling in his accomplishments and resting on his laurels, catches the 81-year-old country legend looking back upon his past mistakes, self-deprecating and pensive, yet understanding how those mistakes made him the man he is today.
Willie Nelson’s next album Band of Brothers is set to be released June 17th, and his latest original song in a legendary, if not unparalleled songwriting career is simply called “The Wall.” Band of Brothers breaks from Willie’s recent output of albums of mostly covers by including nine Nelson-penned tracks as part of the 14-track album. The covers include Billy Joe Shaver’s “The Git Go” (a duet with Jamey Johnson), Vince Gill’s “Whenever You Come Around”, and “Songwriter” by Bill Anderson and Gordie Sampson. As with the last few Willie Nelson releases, the producer duties are being handled by Buddy Cannon.
Like the words, the chord selection of “The Wall” helps give rise to memory and reflection, and shows that Willie has lost little in his ability to convey a feeling in his advanced age. Long-time harmonica-playing compatriot Mickey Raphael adds the color to the composition, as does the familiar tone of Willie Nelson’s nylon string guitar in a rather stripped down track whose beat is kept with simple brushes that rest at the beginning of the chorus to give the song an extra little emphasis. Though Willie’s voice can sometimes be hit or miss in the live setting these days, it is as strong as ever here, holding that singular tone that looms so large in the ethos of classic country fans.
Where Willie Nelson’s two 2013 albums with Legacy Recordings—Let’s Face The Music and Dance, and To All The Girls…—felt somewhat like side projects, with little truly new material, Band of Brothers is already beginning to look more like 2012′s Heroes— Willie’s first with Legacy Recordings, and an album that very much felt like a retrenching.
The accompanying video for “The Wall” works counter-intuitively from the song, running down a list of all of Willie’s biggest accomplishments as Willie reflects, “I took on more than I could handle. I bit off more than I could chew, I hit the wall. I went off like a Roman candle. Burning everyone I knew, I hit the wall.”
With no discounts for age or sliding scales because of his legendary status, Willie Nelson’s “The Wall” still captures the heart and stirs the memory, and makes for quite an enjoyable piece of music.
Two guns up.
Want to own a piece of country music history? Well you can if you have at least $65,000 to get in on the bidding of a 1983 Eagle Greyhound-sized tour bus originally owned by Willie Nelson up for sale right now on the East Texas portion of Craigslist. The bus is one of two identical buses that were made for Willie’s road crew, and has had three other owners before the individual selling it now purchased it.
As can be seen in the pictures below, it is in very good shape, with velvet and wood interior—a top-notch touring coach when it was purchased and customized in 1983, including a 92 Detroit Diesel, a picture of Jimmie Rodgers, a plaque commemorating Paul English—Willie’s long-time drummer, manager, and right hand man—and airbrushed designs on the sides and back.
When the ad was posted, they had no idea the response would be so big. “It’s been non-stop,” the poster tells The Village Voice. He posted the ad for the non tech-savvy owner. “I’ve gotten calls from as far as Washington state and New York.” The current owner purchased it ‘three or four’ years ago after hearing about the bus being up for sale in Alabama, but is now ready to ‘give up the hobby.’”
The original asking price for the bus when it was initially listed on Sunday was $29,999. Since then a bidding war has ensued, and current high bidder is at $65,000. The owner says he will sell the bus this weekend.
It’s not Willie’s famed Honeysuckle Rose tour bus, but it is the next best thing.
UPDATE (5-4): According to owner Tom O’ Leary, the bus sold this weekend for over $80,000.
On April Fool’s day, Broken Bow Records released a 20-track Merle Haggard Tribute called Working Manâs Poet, primarily as a showcase for the roster’s talent. Big Broken Bow acts like Jason Aldean, Thompson Square, and Dustin Lynch make multiple appearances on the collection, but one of the most heavily-touted songs from the album has been Luke Bryan’s version of “Pancho & Lefty” with Dierks Bentley. The approach of the track is said to to have been inspired by Mumford & Sons. “The original had a Spanish-Mexican flair,” Bryan explains. “We took a real different approach with it âŚ. something with some edge that moves along pretty good. Itâs an interesting take.â
The first question this song begged was, should this really be considered a Merle Haggard song? “Pancho & Lefty” was originally written and recorded by acclaimed Texas singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt. A later version appeared on an album of the same name that was a collaboration between Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson in 1983, but Willie sang most of the song, with Merle only contributing one verse.
Nonetheless, Luke Bryan’s version with Dierks made the cut, and subsequently drew the favorable ear of Mere’s son and Strangers guitar player Ben Haggard who appears on the tribute multiple times himself. âYou know, Luke Bryanâs a great artist, but I never really listened to his stuff,” Ben told Country Weekly earlier this month. “I just listened to âPancho and Leftyâ about five minutes ago and it blew me away. Iâm in love with it.â
Ben went on to give his assessment of the tune if it was ever released to radio as a single. “I wouldnât be surprised if it was a hit. It could be a monsterâagain.âÂ The Willie & Merle version was a #1 in 1983. This begs the question, could Luke Bryan’s version of “Pancho & Lefty” really be released to radio as a single, and somehow become a hit all over again?
The one thing we know is right now, there’s no country star hotter than Luke Bryan. Luke is on a roll, scoring one huge hit single after another, with his latest “Play It Again” at #1, and his collaboration with Florida-Georgia Line called “This Is How We Roll” at #2 on Billboard’s country chart. If Luke and his management did decide to release the song to radio there’s a very good likelihood it would do well simply off of Luke’s name, and Dierks Bentley is a pretty hot commodity at the moment as well.
Combine that with the overwhelming cover success Darius Rucker recently had with Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Wagon Wheel,” and it’s not ridiculous to think that Luke’s “Pancho & Lefty” could become a hit, creating the same strange dichotomy “Wagon Wheel” did for independent country fans where you’re happy there’s a cool song getting played on the radio, but hesitant about the circumstances of how it got there. A Merle tribute song written by Townes Van Zandt topping the charts? Awesome. Performed by Luke Bryan? Not so much. And it turns out that there already has been a few spins of the song on MediaBase-monitored radio stations (a meager total of four, but still interesting for a cover song on a tribute album).
But don’t steal yourself for disappointment, or get your hopes up that “Pancho & Lefty” 3.0 will become the next “Wagon Wheel” and put the deceased Townes Van Zandt at the top of today’s country chart. As Saving Country Music’s go to guru for all things country radio Windmills Country points out, since the Merle Haggard tribute was released by Broken Bow, but Luke Bryan is a Capitol Records Nashville artist, it is unlikely that Luke’s song is the one they would release as a single, if they release any singles from the tribute. Releasing a single to mainstream country radio costs lots of money for labels to promote, and so it is unlikely that Broken Bow would do this for an artist on another roster, similar how it is less likely that Capitol Nashville would figure out how to release it as a single since it originated from Broken Bow.
The other issue is that Luke Bryan already has a slew of singles out there to radio doing very very well, and so does Dierks Bentley. Labels do not like having singles compete with each other, so if “Pancho & Lefty” was released, it would likely be well after Luke’s current albums are out of single material.
Nonetheless, it is certainly curious that the most lauded song on the album is Luke Bryan’s, especially since he’s not signed to Broken Bow. In the press releases and other promotional material, it is by far the most talked about track, and it could have been targeted by Broken Bow’s A&R as the best song to help sell the album to the public. Depending on the licensing behind the song, the track could also be selected to be released on a deluxe edition of Luke’s current album Crash My Party—a practice that a lot of labels are doing with artists to extend the release cycle, and making it more likely it could appear as a single. So who knows. It somewhat feels like fantasy football to talk about the track becoming a hit, but there is certainly a lot of chatter surrounding it. We very well might be seeing Luke Bryan shaking it to “Pancho & Lefty” in the future, for better or worse.
There’s no embeddable version of Luke Bryan’s version, so here’s the Willie & Merle’s original.
Not to go all Bobby Bones on your asses by pointing out the obvious about something upcoming and then taking a self-ingratiating victory lap when it comes to fruition, but just as I’ve been saying ever since the term “bro-country” was widely adopted by naysayers of the current male-dominated laundry list phenomenon in country music, eventually it would be co-opted by the very “bros” it was meant to call out, and be used as a term of endearment.
Well now ladies and gentlemen, we have reached that point, and in a big way.
The problem with the term “bro-country”, and why it has never been adopted by Saving Country Music was because it’s not really descriptive enough of what is wrong with the songs it’s being appointed to. The reason bros are bros is because they lack self-awareness, and call each other “bro” all the time. So when “bro-country” became the prevailing term for checklist country, it was only a matter of time before it went from an unsavory describer of a subset of country that pointy-nosed intellectuals look to bemoan, to the being adopted by the very douchebags it’s meant to demean.
Cases In Point (just a few, but there’s many more):
â˘Thomas Rhett, one of the leading songwriters and performers in the bro-country trend recently posted a “Bro-Country” Playlist on his official YouTube VEVO channel touting “The Best of Bro-Country” where you can sit back, press play, and listen to 41 straight minutes of songs like Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise”, Brantley Gilbert’s “Bottom’s Up”, Luke Bryan’s “That’s My Kind of Night”, or Thomas Rhett’s own “Get Me Some Of That”. Looks like Rhett has no problem with him or his contemporaries being called “bro-country.”
â˘On April 21st, Country Outfitter posted a playlist called “10 Bro-Country Songs For Summer” ; no, not to laugh at the trend, but to promote it. It showcases such sizzling summer anthems as “Ready Set Roll” by Chase Rice, “Drink To That All Night” by Jerrod Niemann, and “This Is How We Roll” by Florida Georgia Line. “Tropical getaways, ice cold beer and late nights sitting on the tailgate are just a few of the topics covered by many of country musicâs leading men,” Country Outfitter touts. “While we wait for the weather to decide its next move, weâve put together a heated playlist of bro-country songs for summer.”
â˘In a Florida Georgia Line review in The Edmonton Journal from April 15th titled “Florida Georgia Line Push Right Buttons with Bro Country“, writer Tom Murray gushes, “There were couples dancing in the upper terraces, rows of drunk bros in ball caps with fists extended, shouting themselves hoarse at nameless workday ghosts, and lots of selfies being taken. What more can be said?” He went on to give the band credit for their “reassembly of clichĂŠs,” and even had the guts to infer, “If Hank had been born in 1990, then you can be sure he would have done it this way as well, except maybe with Chuck D or Eric B on the remix, not Nelly.” Ugh.
â˘Not to be outdone, there is an entire radio station touting the virtues of bro-country, and even using it as the very definition of their format. KSTN in Stockton, CA decided to reformat in March, and named bro-country as their specific format. “The Bull”, as the station is being called, greeted the airwaves with their new format by playing 48 straight hours of Luke Bryan’s “Country Girl (Shake It For Me)” on continuous loop. Lawyers are looking into if this violated the Geneva Convention protocols on torture.
What Is a Better Alternative to Bro-Country?
Of course the problem with nicknames is you can’t pick them, they pick themselves, and bro-country has by far become the accepted nomenclature for songs by male country artists that spout the virtues of beer, trucks, back roads, tailgates, cutoffs, etc. etc. without any regard to narrative. But this trend isn’t anything new in pop country; only its dominance of the genre is, but even then you can go back many years to find its origination. Jason Aldean’s “Dirt Road Anthem” was definitely a bro-country song, and it was the biggest-selling country song in 2011.
Bro-country is simply a construct of pop country, just like country rap is. “Pop country” is a term that has always had negative connotations, especially amongst the artists that wear their tough exteriors proudly like the ones in the “bro-country” realm. Saving Country Music had been using the term “laundry list” for years to describe the type of listing off of country artifacts and signifiers that accompany a “bro-country” song. I remember being on a tour bus as part of the 2011 Country Throwdown/Willie Nelson 4th of July Picnic with a bunch of young songwriters, and being in the midst of a conversation about “checklist songs” that basically mirror the definition of “laundry list”.
But of course neither of these two terms will be adopted. Bro-country is here to stay, and destined to be adopted widespread by the very sots it was meant to criticize.
Sunday was 4/20, an unofficial holiday for marijuana smokers all around the world, and unfortunately one such reveler with a father famous for his fondness for pot found herself on the wrong side of the law. Paula Nelson, Willie Nelson’s 44-year-old daughter and front person for the Paula Nelson Band, was arrested on 4/20 in Menard County in central Texas when less than two ounces of marijuana was found on her person during a routine traffic stop by a Menard County deputy.
âA traffic stop was executed and drugs were found,â says Menard County Sheriff Buck Miller to Ft. Worth Weekly. Possession of less than two ounces of marijuana is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine. Paula has subsequently been released on bond. âLetâs just say Iâm writing a new song called âSpread âem, squat and cough.â” Paula joked on Facebook while posting a picture of her being handcuffed.
Paula Nelson has been a singer and songwriter much of her life, favoring a more rock and blues style compared to her father, but with country foundations from singers like Jessi Colter and Rita Coolidge. Her Paula Nelson Band has been together since 2004, and tours in Texas and around the US.
Two years ago on 4/20, Paula’s father, who’s a well-known advocate for marijuana law reform and legalization, had a statue dedicated to him in downtown Austin at 4:20 PM in front of the Austin City Limits’ Moody Theater. Willie was also busted for marijuana in Waco in 1994 when he pulled his car to the side of the road to take a nap, in a bust in 2006 in Louisiana, and in Sierra Blanca, Texas in 2010 at a border checkpoint.
Willie Nelson might be about to turn 81-years-old and be regarded as one of the world’s most famous living pacifists, but apparently hiding behind his friend-to-all disposition and grandfatherly sweetness is a mean roundhouse kick and lethal karate chop.
You may not see Willie step into the octagon anytime soon, but apparently he’s been training for 20 years in the art of Gong Kwon Yu Sul—a modern Korean martial arts system similar to Tae Kwon Do that “emphasizes the application of striking, locking and throwing techniques in practical, free-flowing fighting situations, rather than static situations.â Willie has been training in the art so long he will be awarded his 5th degree black belt in the discipline on April 28th in Austin—the day before his 81st birthday. Grand Master Sam Um of Austin will be doing the honors at his Master Martial Arts studio as part of a promotional event.
Willie Nelson has been studying martial arts most of his life, starting in Nashville when he was a burgeoning songwriter. “I got into some martial arts and kung fu,” Willie told Men’s Health Magazine last year. “I liked it. We used to offer kung fu lessons to the kids in town. Itâs good for you.â Apparently Willie trains on his famous tour bus The Honeysuckle Rose while on tour to pass the time and to stay healthy.
Speaking of tours, Willie is getting ready to embark on a landmark tour starting May 1st with Alison Krauss, Jerry Douglas, as well as select dates with Jason Isbell, Kacey Musgraves, and The Devil Makes Three.
Move over “World’s Most Interesting Man”, Willie Nelson might have you beat.
Younger Willie with Master Sam Um
Jackson Taylor & The Sinners are the best hard-driving country band you’ve never heard of. How do I know you’ve never heard of them? Because nobody has, except for the people that have, and as those people can attest, nobody has heard of them. Hell even when despite all their unknown-ness, they were somehow nominated for one of those Dale Watson Ameripolitan Awards a while back, at the awards banquet in February the presenter called them “JASON Taylor and the Sinners” when reading off the names of nominees. For the people in attendance who knew about the band, it seemed every bit appropriate. Why? Because nobody knows about them. Here they were amongst friends, and they were still unknown. “And the winner is…” the presenter then continued, and someone yelled out from the crowd, “Jason Taylor!” Unfortunately for them neither Jackson Taylor nor Jason Taylor won. But dammit, everyone in attendance that night will remember Jason Taylor from here on out, while Jackson Taylor remains sandwiched in some sort of weird no man’s land between Red Dirt,Â underground country, and Southern rock & roll.
It ain’t from a lack of sweat equity that Jackson Taylor & The Sinners aren’t any better known. They’ve paid their dues and then some. Maybe it’s because the uptight crowd that would usually get into their hard country sound don’t like the cussing, and the underground cusses don’t care to pay attention to anything outside of their Facebook feeds. But the jokes on them, because Jackson Taylor & The Sinners is one hell of a good time. Just ask the people who know about them.
Don’t take it that Jackson Taylor & The Sinners are like the sisters of the poor. They’ve had their days in the sun, and it certainly must be a proud achievement for them to be featured a part of the prestigious, critically-acclaimed, world-renown, and long-running album series called Live At Billy Bob’s Texas right beside names like Willie Nelson, David Allan Coe, Billy Joe Shaver, and on and on from there. Created by Rick Smith some years back and recorded at the “World’s Largest Honky Tonk” in Ft. Worth, it’s a high honor to be asked on the series even if you get up there on stage and lay an egg.
Luckily we don’t have to worry about that outcome with Jackson Taylor. They come out swinging like Joe Frasier with some of their most lethal haymakers right out of the gate like “Jack’s Drunk Again” and “Old Henry Rifle”. And when they’ve pinned you to the ropes only four songs in, they shift gears into some of their more subdued, songwriting material like “The Mirror” and “Sunset”.
Something cool to note about this set captured live in both excellent audio and full concert DVD is that it all transpired on July 27th, 2013, only a few months after the passing of the Ol’ Possum, Mr. George Jones. So despite this being very much a signature set of Sinner’s music, No Show is there in spirit and is given a healthy tip of the hat when they cover “He Stopped Loving Her Today” (capped off with some of Jackson’s alternative lyrics), as well as their song “No Show” early in the set.
Jackson Taylor is one of these guys you can’t take too seriously or you lose touch with the total enjoyment you can get from him, while at the same time he can be deceptively deep when you read between the lines, or when he performs a song like “Faulkner By Dashboard Lights”—a true and personal track from Jackson and one of the standouts from the set.
Can you really still be unknown and have your own Live At Billy Bob’s release? That wouldn’t seem right, and this 16-song disc/DVD combo that includes an interview with Jackson is probably the perfect introduction to a band for someone who isn’t scared off by the warning that Jackson isn’t shy about cussing a little and getting a little strange, or mixing some over-driven rock guitar into his country. But Jackson Taylor & The Sinners is still country no doubt with the Johnny Cash train beat behind most everything they do, and they do great justice to the weight behind the Live At Billy Bob’s stamp that marks this album’s cover.
1 3/4 of 2 guns up.
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Country music isn’t just a genre of music, it is a musical religion, a way of life, a cultural lineage passed down from generation to generation and preserved through the blood and bond of its performers and fans. That’s why it seems country music performers so very often tend to turn out to be the parents of country music performers themselves.
Let’s take a look at some of country music’s greatest sons and daughters.
Justin Townes Earle
Son of alt-country pioneer Steve Earle, and middle namesake of the man who was good friends with his father and considered one of the greatest songwriters ever, Justin Townes Earle has spent the last seven or so years trying to live up to the lofty expectations of both names, and has done so valiantly. Releasing a startling debut EP in 2007 called Yuma, Earle and his obsession with the craft of songwriting have led to critical success for the five albums he’s released through Bloodshot Records. Considered by many as one of the biggest names in the new generation of alt-country/Americana performers, Justin has done it not by being a chip off the old block, but by forging his own path.
Justin’s relationship with his father has been rocky over the years. Steve Earle left Justin and his mother when Justin was just 2-year-old, and the younger Earle had a tumultuous, troubled, and at times, drug-fueled childhood. But he has soldiered on to carry a name all his own.
The son of Willie Nelson’s long-time guitarist Jody Payne and Grammy Award-winning country music singer Sammi Smith, Waylon is named after his Godfather, Waylon Jennings. Raised by his aunt and uncle due to his parents’ heavy touring schedules, Payne attended seminary after high school and was on track to become a minister before catching the music bug. For a while Payne was part of the popular Eastbound and Down country night at the King King Club in Hollywood where performers would swap classic country songs. Payne later released the album The Drifter in 2004 through Republic Universal.
Music isn’t Waylon Payne’s only creative calling though. He may be known more as an actor than a musician. In the award-winning Johnny Cash film I Walk The Line, Payne played Jerry Lee Lewis. He also played country great Hank Garland in a small film called Crazy, along with making numerous television appearances, including on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.
Hank Williams III (or Hank3)Â
The grandson of Hank Williams and the son of Hank Jr., if there was ever a spitting image of country music’s first superstar, it would be him. He not only carries the visage and build of Hank Sr., but also the voice and writing style when he wants to go in that direction. The youngest Hank though has a hankering to delve into the wild side of music as well, and has released multiple punk albums during his career that has now stretched into two decades.
Hank3 started out playing drums and guitar in underground punk bands, with no real drive to be a part of the country music machine. But when a paternity suit put him in court, he decided to sign with Curb Records, and entered into a tumultuous period with the label that at the least resulted in multiple landmark records, including the neo-traditional country stalwart Lovesick, Broke, & Driftin’, and his double album opus Straight to Hell. Hank3 is now an independent artist, and carries on the family tradition of doing the music he wants and defying expectation.
The granddaughter of Hank Williams, daughter of Hank Jr., and half sister of Hank Williams III has had a somewhat strange musical journey, but one that has seen her bloom recently to become one of the leading females in country/Americana, keeping the music true to its roots while moving it forward.
Holly’s early career saw her sign to major labels like Universal South and Mercury Nashville, trying to break into the big time, but always seemingly with one foot in, and one foot out of that mainstream approach to music. She was also seriously injured in a near fatal crash in 2006 along with her sister Hilary who also is a performer. Then in February of 2013, Holly released The Highway independently, and since then has become a critical darling and a live performer not to miss. Though there were some that at times wondered if Holly was just a famous name, she’s proven recently that she’s so much more.
The son of Merle Haggard and an official member of Merle’s legendary backing band The Strangers, Ben is a chip off the old block when it comes to slinging Telecasters and perfecting the West Coast, twangy Bakersfield tradition of loud and electric country music. Patterned in the mold of the pioneer of the craft, the under-appreciated Roy Nichols, Ben can be seen plying his craft and staring at the back of his father on any given night out on the road. This isn’t just your usual slot filled by a family member on stage. Ben’s skills are regarded by his musician peers as being standalone from any famous name.
The only child of Waylon Jennings and Jessi Coulter, Shooter started his musical journey in the rock band Stargunn before signing with Universal South in 2005 and releasing his first country record, Put The ‘O’ Back In Country. He subsequently released two more country records infused with some Southern rock & roll before putting out his rock opus, the experimental album Black Ribbons. Shooter re-established his country roots with the 2012 album Family Man, followed up by 2013′s The Other Life.
Like many of country music’s famous sons and daughters, Shooter Jennings marches to his own drum, but always seems to come back to the country music fold.
Jubal Lee Young
Son of legendary Outlaw country songwriter and performer Steve Young (Lonesome, Onry & Mean, Seven Bridges Road), and songwriter Terrye Newkirk, Jubal Lee Young from Muskogee, Oklahoma put out an album in 2011 called Take It Home that included the song “There Ain’t No Outlaws Any More” that loudly proclaims, “Here comes another badass sellinâ Nashville rock and roll, long hair, denim and tattoos, lookinâ onâry and mean. Singinâ songs about that lonesome road, some of âem might even be true. But there ainât no outlaws anymoreâŚ”
Hank Williams Jr.
The most obvious and most successful of country music’s greatest sons, Hank Williams Jr. is very likely a future country music Hall of Famer, and has won multiple CMA Entertainer of the Year Awards and sold millions of albums. He started out his career as a virtual impersonator of his famous father, but rebelled against this preordained future to become so much more. Hank Jr. took a precipitous fall off of Ajax Mountain in Montana in 1975, landing on his face, and having to go through multiple surgeries before he could return to performing. And when he did, he quickly became known as “Rockin’” Randall Hank as he emerged with a sound that was just as much Southern rock as country.
In the mid 80′s, Hank Williams Jr. was one of country’s biggest stars, and now sits as a legend in the genre. He also is responsible for two other famous country offspring: Hank Williams III and Holly Williams, and a 2nd daughter Hilary Williams has also been a performer.
The only daughter of the country music super pairing of George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Georgette was said to have a recording contract on the day she was born. She recorded her first song at the ripe age of ten with her dad called “Daddy Come Home.” From there Georgette began singing backup for her mom, and she has gone on to become an accomplished songwriter and solo performer herself. Georgette has released numerous albums, including three for Heart of Texas Records. Her latest album Til I Can Make It On My Own is a tribute to her mother.
Georgette also appeared in the TV Series Sordid Lives and recorded numerous songs for the soundtrack, including Tammy Wynette tunes. She also recently released a memoir called The Three of Us: Growing Up with Tammy and George, Georgette Jones.
Daughter of David Allan Coe, Shelli was born in Nashville and raised in Austin, and appeared at the tender age of 3-years-old on her father’s Family Album project. She later worked as a backup singer for her father before landing in Branson, MO for a while where she performed in clubs, collaborated with other songwriters and appeared on the album Branson Songwriters Out in the Streets. Shelli subsequently returned to Austin where she is known to perform off and on. Her first full-length CD A Girl Like Me was released in 2010, and is worth a listen for folks that like traditional country music.
Surrounded by a bevy of musical siblings and one awfully famous father, the argument can be made that Lukas was the Willie offspring that received the most potent douse of Willie’s musical genes, and has a powerful voice to match his father’s. A dynamic, top-flight performer with a sound that trends much closer to rock than country, but still has an earthy, rootsy feel nonetheless, Lukas is on a fast track to becoming a superstar all his own.
From his towering leg kicks, to playing the guitar with his teeth, at only 23-years-old, Lukas could already be crowned as a guitar god. Leading his band The Promise of the Real, they’ve made waves in the music world on big tours. About the only thing holding the young star back is that rock music is in a weird spot right now, and guitar blazers are not what the masses are particularly looking for. But like his father, Lukas is not worried about anything but following his heart, and he promises to have a very bright future ahead of him with a tower of talent to draw from.
Son of Outlaw country legend Billy Joe Shaver, Eddie Shaver was one of the best country music guitar shredders to ever take the stage. Aside from being his fatherâs right hand man for many years, Eddie Shaver studied under Dickey Betts of The Allman Brothers, played with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Guy Clark, The Eagles, and was Dwight Yoakamâs guitar player for the first two years of Dwight’s career.
Itâs only because of Eddieâs untimely death that heâs not better known. He was scheduled to release his first solo album in 2001 when he died of a heroin overdose on New Years Eve of 2000. Though Billy Joe Shaver is known most for his songwriting, and Eddie as a guitar slinger, it only takes a glimpse at either to see that the musical talent runs very deep with the Shaver clan.
Though one might first think of June Carter as more of a mother of famous country artists instead of a daughter of them, June Carter is arguably the first daughter of country music. Her mother is “Mother” Maybelle Carter, given her nickname for being the mother of her performing daughters, and arguably the mother of country music. June began performing at the age of ten in 1939 as part of the landmark country outfit The Carter Family. It was through their mutual love of country music that she would eventually meet and fall in love with Johnny Cash, and the two went on to be one of country music’s powerhouse couples. June Carter was a muti-instrumentalist with a classic voice, and defines the nexus between country music’s primitive, classic, and modern eras.
It can be easy to overlook just what kind of impact Rosanne Cash has had on American music over the years. She seems to always be overshadowed by her father, by other famous sons and daughters of country legends, measured against them, and dogged by preceding labels that donât always allow her to be judged on her own merit, while her musical accomplishments veer towards being somewhat misunderstood because sheâs not always been nestled smack dab in the country realm as people want, expect, or anticipate.
But Rosanneâs critical and commercial accomplishments are far more than complimentary, they define a very successful career: Eleven #1 country singles, twenty-one Top 40 singles, and thirteen Grammy nominations is nothing to sniff at, and ultimately might at least get her mentions as a potential Hall of Fame inductee.
The only offspring between the country music super marriage of Johnny Cash and June Carter, John Carter Cash has spent his time as a singer and performer, but many of his important contributions to country music have come behind-the-scenes as a producer, songwriter, author, and general champion of the Cash estate and all things country music. It’s remarkable how many places you see John Carter’s name attached to projects as his puts effort out to make music happen in whatever capacity he can help in. Like his father, he has that selfless streak of service that surfaces in some of the most generous and cool ways.
Bobby Bare Jr.
Born in Nashville, TN to the original Outlaw Bobby Bare, Bobby Bare Jr. grew up next door to Tammy Wynette and George Jones in Hendersonville, and was nominated for a Grammy next to his father for the Shel Silverstein-written song “Daddy What If” from his father’s tribute album to Silverstein. Fronting roots rock bands like “Bare Jr.” and “Young Criminals Starvation League”, Bare’s career has been the result of avoiding “working a real job at any cost,” despite earning a psychology degree from the University of Tenessee, and not really getting deep into his own music until later in life. His high energy on stage and dark sarcasm in his songs have won him fans worldwide.
Other Famous Sons & Daughters:
Pam Tillis – 1994 CMA Female Vocalist of the Year, and daughter of country great Mel Tillis
The Carter Family Daughters – Carlene Carter, Helen Carter, Anita Carter, Rosie Nix Adams.
Jett Williams – Daughter of Hank Williams that found out about her famous father later in life. Jett has been a performer and plays an important role as one of the executors of the Hank Williams estate.
Jesse Keith Whitley – Son of Lorrie Morgan and Keith Whitley
Marty Haggard, Noel Haggard, and Scott Haggard- More performing sons of Merle.
Dean Miller – Son of Roger Miller
Lilly Hiatt – Daughter of John Hiatt
Chelsea Crowell – Daughter of Rosanne Cash and Rodney Crowell
Paula Nelson – Leader of The Paul Nelson Band.
Tyler Mahan Coe – Guitar player and writer who spent years touring in his father’s band.
Folk Uke – Made up Willie Nelson’s daughter Amy, and Arlo Guthrie’s daughter Cathy.
Whey Jennings – The son of Terry Jennings, and grandson of Waylon Jennings.
Lucas Hubbard – Son of Ray Wylie Hubbard who often plays lead guitar with his father.
Lucky Tubb – Not technically a son or daughter, but a great nephew of Ernest.
Bluegrass – There are many performing sons and daughters of famous bluegrass musicians, but for fear of forgetting some and getting yelled at for it, this sentence is in dedication to them all. You rock! Or pick, or strum, or pluck! Go YOU!
Austin City Limits, the 40-year-old Texas music and public television institution, has announced the formation of a Hall of Fame in conjunction with their 40th Anniversary, with an inaugural induction ceremony to be held on April 26th at the shows original home, KLRU’s legendary Studio 6A on the University of Texas campus.
Inaugural inductees to the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame include Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, University of Texas football coach Darrell K. Royal, and Austin City Limits creator, Bill Arhos. Darrell Royal and Stevie Ray Vaughan will be inducted posthumously.
Performers at the initiate April 26th inauguration will include Doyle Bramhall II, Mike Farris, Buddy Guy, Emmylou Harris, Lyle Lovett, Lukas Nelson, Robert Randolph and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Former University of Texas football coach Mack Brown will also participate in the ceremony, as well as other guests to be announced later. April 26th will also be when the details of the physical Austin City Limits Hall of Fame will be unveiled.
âThere are other Halls of Fame, but none quite like this,â Austin City Limits Executive Producer Terry Lickona says. âAustin City Limits has become a unique American institution, in both the worlds of popular music and television. It has such a rich history and legacy that we decided it was time to celebrate and honor the artists and individuals who made it what it is today.â
Each inaugural inductee has a special tie to the Peabody Award-winning music showcase. Willie Nelson played on the very first pilot episode of the series on October 14th, 1974. The show was set up to be the video companion to Jan Reed’s marquee book on the Texas music scene, The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock, to chronicle the unique music phenomenon transpiring in Texas at the time. A bronze statue of Willie sits outside the entrance of The Moody Theater where Austin City Limits is currently taped.
Stevie Ray Vaughan is arguably the show’s most memorable performer, and a stalwart of the Austin, TX music scene. His shows in 1984 and 1990 are called by ACL, “the most iconic performances in ACL history.” The members of his backing band Double Trouble are also being recognized: Chris Layton, Tommy Shannon and Reese Wynans.
In 1974 when PBS asked member stations to help produce original programming, the program director of Austin PBS affiliate (at the time called KLRN) Bill Arhos decided to prototype a program to feature the world-class music scene brewing in the city. After the successful pilot with Willie Nelson, Austin City Limits was green lighted, and the rest is history.
Though Darrell Royal on the surface may seem like a strange pick for the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame, Royal was a big music lover and supporter of the Austin music scene, and was a friend to many of the artists, convincing performers like George Jones and Merle Haggard to perform on the show. He also inspired the show’s “songwriter specials” from the guitar pulls he used to host at his house.
Tuesday was the release of Jerrod Niemann’s dumb new album High Noon, and before we’ve even had a chance to really delve into just how much of a mockery it makes of country music, Niemann’s already out there on the defensive, preaching to us how country “purists” really don’t know what the hell country music is all about, and how he’s just carrying on the traditions of Willie and Waylon by pushing the boundaries of the genre.
High Noon‘s first single “Drink To That All Night” drove country more in the direction of EDM than ever before, to the point where I’m not sure what’s country about it aside from the stupid, formulaic, country stereotyping lyrics. The second single from the album called “Donkey” promises to take this trend to a place many shades worse, and very well might go down as the worst song in the history of country music in this bear’s opinion—but that’s another story. A further perusing of High Noon‘s wares shows a lackluster effort of EDM and hip hop pandering veering towards a pop wasteland with little redeeming value afforded to distressed ears searching for any single reason why it shouldn’t be considered any more than some EDM/country mashup side project instead of a premier solo effort from an established country artist.
But that hasn’t stooped Jerrod Niemann from naming himself amidst country music’s Outlaw pioneers.
“When people think about country music, and they use the term ‘Traditional Country,’ they’re talking about something that has happened in the past,” Niemann tells Billboard. “But, when those songs were out currently, they were the freshest thing on the radio. Nobody was saying ‘Let’s go record traditional country.’ They just wanted to record music that meant something to them. Willie and Waylon were getting flack for being progressive at the time because they were mixing it with rock and the outlaw thing.”
Sorry Niemann, but that’s bullshit. Were there some voices saying that Willie and Waylon were pushing the boundaries of country music too far back in the day? Sure there were, and Saving Country Music has pointed this out before as well. But…
1) This had just as much to do with the fear people had of Willie and Waylon because they were shaking up the established Music Row system as it had anything to do with their music.
2) Willie & Waylon’s new take on country music was nowhere near outside the boundaries of country compared to what some artists are doing today. The musical equivalent to High Noon if Willie and Waylon would have done it would have been to cut straight up Disco records with country lyricism and called it country—and then thrown it back into the faces of critics before they even had a chance to raise a peep because Hank Williams was criticized too.
3) Oh an sorry Jerrod, but yes, Waylon and Willie did say, “Let’s go record traditional country.”
For example: What was Willie Nelson’s breakout album during the mid 70′s Outlaw era? Red Headed Stranger—the consensus pick by critics as the greatest country album of all time. What was the biggest single off of Red Headed Stranger, and really the only single of note from the album? It was a song called “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.”
“Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” was a traditional country standard when Willie cut it. The song was written by Fred Rose, originally recorded by Roy Acuff in 1945—30 years before the release of Red Headed Stranger. It was also cut by Hank Williams in 1951, Ferlin Husky and Slim Whitman in 1959, and Bill Anderson in 1962 among others. Red Headed Stranger also had other classic country songs such as Eddy Arnold’s “I Couldn’t Believe It Was True” and a hymn called “Just As I Am” that get this Jerrod Niemann, was written in 1835, making it over 140 years old when Willie cut it. So saying that Willie didn’t say, “‘Let’s go record traditional country,” is completely bogus. One can make the argument that’s exactly what Willie said, and it resulted in arguably country music’s greatest contemporary work.
Meanwhile Waylon may have had a touch more rock in his sound compared to Willie or his other country artists of the time, but the backbone of his music was the steel guitar of country veteran Ralph Mooney, and Waylon was cutting songs like “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?” and “Bob Wills Is Still The King” that paid homage to traditional country greats. Then take a look at the lineup of The Dripping Springs Reunion—the gathering that arguably put the power of Willie and Waylon on the map. It included Bill Monroe, Buck Owens, Loretta Lynn, and other aging country greats that at the time were being forgotten by Music Row. Even as Willie and Waylon were rising in prominence, they were paying homage to the ones that came before them.
“I’ve always tried to respectfully add a few elements here and there,” Niemann tells Billboard. Are you kidding me? “Drink To That All Night,” Donkey,” and other offerings from Niemann’s High Noon aren’t respectful to anything but his label’s bottom line. Take a look at this video and tell me the non-country elements are just “here and there”:
The problem with Jerrod Niemann, the reason he’s even worse than many of his current pop country cohorts is because he knows better. I have no doubt Florida Georgia Line grew up listening to mixtapes with Hank Williams Jr. on one side, and Drake on the other. To Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw and Shania Twain are classic country. But Jerrod Niemann is 34-years-old. He’s not trying to push limits, this is last ditch effort to get attention from the industry in a no hold’s barred, sellout move to secure his share of the fortune being made off the destruction of country music. And no matter how much he wants to be in front of this issue, how much he preaches falsehoods about how country music once was, he’s simply a sellout in a woman’s Ross Dress For Less discount bin hat—and certainly no progeny of Willie or Waylon.
I’m not certain that the impact of Johnny Cash getting dropped from the CBS/Columbia record label that had been his home for nearly 30 years has ever been fully appreciated. It truly was the end of an era, or the beginning of one depending on how you want to look at it. It stimulated a young Marty Stuart (an understudy of Cash) to get int the face ofÂ Columbia executive, resulting in him eventually being ejected from the label. It made Merle Haggard tell Rick Blackburn, the man responsible for Cash’s firing, “Youâre the son-of-a-bitch that sat at that desk over there and fired Johnny Cash. Let it go down in history that youâre the dumbest son-of-a-bitch Iâve ever met.” And it also meant that an entire, cohesive album from one of the most well-respected artists in the history of American music went unheard for 30 years after its original recording. This is the type of peril American music is put through at the hands of suits, that such a ridiculous, unintuitive aberration could transpire in the custody of one person’s art, especially the art of Johnny Cash.
Out Among The Stars is a difficult album to critique. Since it was originally crafted to be heard by the public some 30 years ago, with stylings and sensibilities more steeped in the country modes of that time, it’s hard to know how to calibrate your ear to this music. Compounding this problem is the information that some, or all of the tracks have been “fortified” by a team that included Marty Stuart, Buddy Miller and others to be more akin to what a modern ear might expect. Then you pile on top of all of that the fact that some of these songs like “She Used To Love Me A Lot” and “Out Among The Stars” have already wormed themselves into our brains with versions from other artists. It would not be fair to call Cash’s versions “cover” songs because of the way the timeline sits. They are simply Cash’s takes of contemporary tunes that were never heard because of the nature of this project. Nonetheless you can’t help but compare these “new” versions to the ones you’re more familiar with.
While you’re listening to Out Among The Stars, you almost feel like Marty McFly contemplating the strange space-time continuum this project puts you in, asking yourself, “Would the 1984 me like this? And do I like it now?” The mid 80′s was its own strange time in country music as well. Just listen to the introduction to Willie Nelson’s version of “Pancho & Lefty”. Johnny Cash amidst his recovery from drug addiction wasn’t the only one trying to find his compass; the entire genre of country was. The original Out Among The Stars sessions were produced by Billy Sherrill of all people—a producer known as one of the masterminds of the countrypolitan or Nashville Sound. As strange as it was for him to be working with Johnny Cash, at the same time he was working with wildman David Allan Coe, trying to revitalize Coe’s career as well. Billy Sherrill—one of the principles the Outlaws had risen up against—was now one of their brothers in arms. A strange time in country indeed.
Then you take the emotional quotient of simply being able to hear the legendary voice of Johnny Cash again in completely unheard, studio-quality content, and it’s hard to hold onto any and all objectivity. Even ifÂ Out Among The Stars was a verbatim recitation of the Nashville Metropolitan phone book circa 1984, this album is a gift from beyond that any sane country music fan would dare not stare too long in the mouth.
The reason that Out Among The Stars became “lost,” and Johnny Cash got dropped from Columbia is because nobody knew what to do with him, including Johnny himself. In some respects, the song material on this album is somewhat indicative of this searching for direction. It is sort of the take of two Johnnys—one introspective, dark, and even disturbed at times, and the other the more “aw-shucks” Arkansas boy. Musically, whether the fault of Sherill or the super-team assembled to deal with the recordings in the present day, is where Out Among The Stars shows cohesion and confidence. Though some of the songs might be more fit for the 80′s country listener, the music throughout is timeless.
The somewhat cornpone and timecasted song “If I Told You Who It Was” is where the album most shows off it’s 80′s stripes, but Cash’s versions of “Out Among The Stars” and “She Used To Love Me A Lot”, the melancholic “Call Your Mother,” to the downright sadistic “I Drove Her Out Of My Mind” are right in the mode of classic Johnny Cash whose willing to delve deep into the darker side of life. These are balanced by the sweet and simple approach of songs like “Tennessee” that expires in an uplifting chorus signature to Billy Sherrill’s touch, and the sweet duets with June Carter “Don’t You Think It’s Come” and “Baby Ride Easy”. The organ/piano combination, combined with the fairly sappy lyrics of “After All” might make it the album’s most forgettable track, while “Rock & Roll Shoes” and the cover of Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin’ On” with Waylon Jennings check in as the album’s most fun tunes.
Johnny Cash left music, and left the world behind at the top of his game, having been revitalized and resurrected in the public consciousness as the result of his American Recordings era, leaving the crowd wanting more as all great entertainers do. Though Out Among The Stars may not reach the high critical acclaim Cash set for himself in the last era of his career, it is a more than worthy offering allowing the Man in Black to once again live among us in our hearts and imaginations, leaving the listener ruminating on the historic accomplishments of a man whose musical accomplishments will never be equaled.
1 3/4 of 2 guns up.
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We hear it all the time. It pursues us throughout our daily lives. It seems to be one of the eternal lessons of life. Yet no matter how much we all believe in the message and take it into our hearts, it is amazing how easily we stray from taking time, slowing down, and appreciating the important things in life and living in the moment. Because no matter how much you tell yourself how paramount this is, there’s an endless world of priorities and distractions awaiting you on your phone, on your computer, and on your television. You can preach the virtues of slowing down all you want, but the best way to drive the message home is by example, and this is what the wise-minded, and golden-throated guru of classic country music Don Williams does on his new album Reflections.
The message wouldn’t have so much meaning behind it if it wasn’t so obvious Don Williams practices what he preaches. He had his day of moving and shaking in the music business (5 CMA Male Vocalist Trophies & seventeen #1′s to be exact), and when it was obvious that the industry had put him out to pasture, he didn’t shake his fists in anger or reconfigure his image to appeal to the younger generation. He was appreciative of the time he spent in the spotlight, and stepped back to rest on his laurels and re-evaluate his priorities. Even now that he’s re-ignited his career of sorts by releasing two albums in the last three years, it seems like he’s doing it only as a dabbler; to get the devil out of him so to speak, so that music doesn’t pursue him in his mind as he tries to relax and revel in his golden years.
This is the attitude and approach that Reflections is recorded with—slow and easy—like Don told his wife, “I’ll be back for supper,” and then went out for an afternoon to cut an album of songs that he believes in and lives by every day. Then as producers, engineers, and label people labored to get this record ready for release, it was the farthest thing from Don’s mind as he takes a late breakfast and heads out fishing.
Where Reflections outdoes his 2012 album And So It Goes is in the song selection. Don Williams can sing anything and make it gold, and one of his greatest assets is being able to sing a song that performed by any other artist would come across as sappy, and make it somewhat cool and more universally appealing. But there’s a little bit of swagger, a little bit of grit in some the songs of Reflections, not necessarily in the words, but just in the attitude. Selecting a song from Townes Van Zandt in “I’ll Be Here In The Morning”, and from Merle Haggard in “Sing Me Back Home” which refers to Merle’s stint in prison, gives this album some gravel, despite the otherwise smooth and subdued approach of the music. Yet these two famous covers still sit well within the theme of the album of appreciating the small things in life.
Reflections is much more than just the easy listening country it may appear to be on the surface. It’s an album with a message, and leads by example. Instead of whining about the state of country music, it does something about it.
The laid back, gentle-of-mind ease drips from this album like the sweetness of sun-drenched dew. Sometimes it’s simply implied, and other times it’s directly spoken, like in the appreciative and well-written “Working Man’s Son” or the song that ties the entire theme of Reflections together, “Back To The Simple Things.” Enough can’t be said either about the Townes cover “I’ll Be Here In The Morning”. Like when Willie and Merle took “Pancho & Lefty” to another level, Don Williams’ touch on this song immortalized it, and in a different time it would have been a super hit.
Reflections is the album we needed right here, right now. Not just from the perspective of saving country music, but the perspective of saving ourselves from the overwhelming onslaught of ensnaring technologies that rob the preciousness from life.
Two guns up.
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For going on 40 years, Austin City Limits has been the one safe haven for substantive music performances on television, using the prestige of their program to lift up many artists worthy of a wider audience, but artists that are unfortunately not graced by the attention of mainstream radio. Originally established to be a visual companion to Jan Reed’s groundbreaking book Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock that set out to chronicle the formation and continued legacy of Austin’s music scene, and as a program that resides on public television, commercial concerns are an afterthought to Austin City Limits behind doing their duty to the local music community and shining a spotlight on undiscovered and deserving talent.
It is in this spirit that Austin City Limits has slated a scrappy young country music artist to appear during their latest season. Though you may have never heard of him, all that might change after he makes his Austin City Limits debut. His name is Eric Church, and despite only winning the Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music awards for Album of the Year once, and having only sold roughly 3.5 million albums, the native North Carolinian has a promising future ahead of him, especially with ACL’s help.
“Since ‘Austin City Limits’ is a PBS program and their funding partially comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and from donations from viewers like you, they don’t have to worry as much about ratings and sponsors, and can reach down to give exposure to a deserving artist like Church,” says Eric Church representative Elizabeth Frankenfurter. “Though they have brought on big corporate sponsors over the last few years like Budweiser and Lexus, it’s clear with their selection of Church for the new season that corporate sponsorship concerns do not go into the selection of performing artists. If ‘Austin City Limits’ started selecting bigger names to showcase on their program, artists like Eric Church would be locked out of the opportunity to be presented to thousands of appreciative and attentive music fans that otherwise may not know about him.”
Eric Church joins other acts like Dave Matthews Band, Cheap Trick, Pearl Jam, Tim McGraw, and Radiohead that were thrusted into the public spotlight because of their Austin City Limits opportunity. “It’s such an honor for me to play on the same stage that Texas legends such as Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and Wayne “The Train” Hancock have played,” a press release quoted Eric Church as saying, but a check of the Austin City Limits archive shows that despite their important status to Austin music, neither Ray Wylie Hubbard nor Wayne Hancock have been awarded their own Austin City Limits show like Eric Church.
Eric’s latest album release is called The Outsiders—a testament to his underdog status in the industry. Hopefully his Austin City Limits appearance puts this “outsider” on the inside track to success in country music.
Saving Country Music was out and about Austin, TX and its outskirts over the past week or so as part of the annual South By Southwest (SXSW) gathering, pounding the pavement and looking for the next country music artist worthy of your ears that you may never otherwise hear about. In the coming months I look forward to taking some of these discoveries and sharing them with you. But in the meantime to tide you over, here are some pictures from last week’s festivities taken mostly by Charlie Ekstrom of Almost Out of Gas.
You can also read an in-depth account of our SXSW doings and see more pictures on Rhythms Magazine.
Founding member of Old Crow Medicine Show & amazing traditional country & folk artist. In Willie Nelson’s Luck, TX chapel.
Willie Nelson’s long-time harmonica player. At Luck, TX.
Hurray For The Riff Raff
Alynda Lee Segarra from New Orleans. Fast-rising star on ATO Records with a primitive, Appalachian sound. In the chapel in Willie Nelson’s Luck, TX
Son of Willie. He did this three times in a row at one point, after playing the guitar with his teeth. At Luck, TX.
Brooklyn-based 7-piece rebellious country band that hosted the Brooklyn Country Cantina showcase for the 6th year. Singers Bug Jennings from Ft. Worth and Erin Bru share a rambunctious moment. On East 6th Street.
Nashville-based sincere, storytelling songwriter. Freebird Showcase in the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store parking lot.
The Cactus Blossoms
A genuine throwback to the days of close harmonies and a classic sound, indicative of the Louvin and Everly Brothers. At the Brooklyn Country Cantina showcase, East 6th Street.
Sam Doores of The Deslondes
Definitely a band to watch. Stripped-down, traditional country sound in a busking style from New Orleans. From the Freebird Showcase in the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store parking lot.
Unique, offbeat country whose Dan Auerbach-produced album All or Nothin’ is coming out on New West Records May 6th. At Luck, TX.
JD Wilkes & The Dirt Daubers
The former Legendary Shack Shakers frontman has taken what used to be a very primitive, acoustic jug band, and made into an original Dirt Daubers/Shack Shakers hybrid which has become the best of both worlds. At Brooklyn Country Cantina, East 6th Street.
Shovels & Rope
Now one of the hottest bands in roots music, they give hope to all the other dirty, stripped-down bands of the roots world. One of the headliners on the main stage in Willie’s Luck, TX.
Southern rock revivalists featuring excellent songwriting. Their last album was produced by Jason Isbell. In the Luck, TX chapel.
With the best shot I or anyone else could get with a contraband camera at this official showcase in the St. David’s Cathedral on 7th St. in downtown Austin. His last song landed him a standing ovation.
**Warning: Heavy Language**
Why are Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line standing in front of a big explosion? Because they’re fucking awesome, that’s why. And you probably don’t get that because you’re all old and shit and your pubes are probably gray and you think that country music should be Hank Williams played over and over again which is boring. Get over it. Country music has changed man, and there’s now redundant wallet chains, deep V-neck shirts with weird crap written on them, popped collars modeled with douchebag poses, and super awesome explosions for no reason. And we love it ’cause this is how we roll, yo!
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Like one of those stationary rides in the front of Wal-Mart for toddlers, “This Is How We Roll” makes a lot of noise, has a bunch of flashing lights, bumps up and down a little bit, but in the end, goes absolutely fucking nowhere. The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers soundtrack has more sincerity, depth, and nutritional value than this explosion of diarrhea in country music’s bikini cut man briefs.
My first question about this song is why exactly is Luke Bryan on it aside from marketing? Exactly what value does he bring to this collaboration? The very first thing out of his sewer hole is, “We’re proud to be young,” which is ironic because the 37-year-old is wearing testosterone patches to help boost his “performance” so he can keep up with the kids two decades his junior on his most recent and increasingly age-inappropriate Spring Break album. Luke Bryan has descended into that creepy late 30′s uncle character sent with a group of 16-year-old girls to “chaperone” and spends the whole time working up the courage to ask his niece’s best friend to roleplay Miley Cyrus while the rest of the group heads down to the beach.
An environment of sexual perversion and sheer stupidity permeates “This Is How We Roll” and its respective video from stem to stern, including a scene near the start of the video with a dollop of hussies having consensual sex with a Kenworth. I sure hope these chicks have their Tetanus records in order. And then of course we have Tweedledee and Tweedledum from Florida Georgia Line riding on top of the semi like Teen Wolf, with the same display of doltishness and disconnect with self-awareness many mid 80′s movies like Teen Wolf were horrifically beset with.
And are the “words” to this “song” for serious? It sounds like the babbling of a toddler with its tongue cut out, or Buckwheat trying to order Thai food while fighting through the lingering paralysis of a massive stroke.
Yeah holla at yo boy if you need a ride
If you roll with me yeah you know we rollin’ high
Up on them 37 Nittos, windows tinted hard to see though
How fresh my baby is in the shotgun seat oh
Them kisses are for me though, automatic like a free throw
This life I live it might not be for you but it’s for me though
And is anybody else bothered by watching people hanging out in the back of a moving semi? Does it seem like fun to anyone to be locked in a cargo hold with no window to the outside world, especially with a bunch of douchebags running motorcycles inside and other dumb shit? How many smuggled immigrants have been sweated to their death or suffocated in similar scenarios? I’d hate to see them take their rolling party through the same border checkpoint in Sierra Blanca, TX that busted Willie and Snoop while singing about “you know we rollin’ high” and watch the jack boots down there sodomize the whole lot of them with government issued toilet plungers in a tireless search for contraband.
And poor Brian Kelley, the Doogie Houser looking dude from Florida Georgia Line. Once again he’s more buried in the mix than Hoffa, offering no real contribution to the band aside from helping with the head count to qualify them for the CMA and ACM’s “Duo of the Year” awards. But that doesn’t stop him from showcasing how bad he is at lip syncing while sporting a doltish grin and no-soul-having wannabee hip-hop gesticulations. Let’s face it, Florida Georgia Line is Tyler Hubbard. Brian Kelley is just in charge of holding Hubbard’s penis pump.
Then finally to make up for the lack of any true machismo or talent emanating fromÂ Florida Georgia Bryan whatsoever, they send the troika out to a motorcycle track to stand there and look awesome while explosions go off and people who actually have skill do tricks for the camera that the pairing can try and take credit for by proxy.
The worst “country” song ever? I don’t think so, partly because this is just par for the course from Florida Georgia Line, while other sellouts like Jason Aldean and Tim McGraw hypothetically know better. Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley are such tenderfoots, they think classic country is Shania Twain. Still I think this song is positively shitty enough to be a colossal super hit. I predict huge things for this song, and anyone with half a brain or a full compliment of testicles to be pursued by its permeation of American culture for months to come.
Two guns way down!
This week in Austin, TX is one of the greatest confluences of talent that occurs annually, as stars of music and film converge on the Texas state capitol for festivities surrounding SXSW, or South by Southwest. Some people forget though that early March is also the time for Austin’s famous rodeo that features many big names in country music stopping in for performances, including Willie Nelson that graced the Austin rodeo stage Sunday night, and had a surprise band member with him incognito.
Actor, music lover, and armchair musician Johnny Depp, sporting a vest, round shades, a ripped canvas wide-brimmed hat, and his Danelectro guitar, sat in with Willie’s family band for the set Sunday night. He was simply introduced as “John,” and traded licks with Willie Nelson’s son Lukas Nelson who was also sitting in with the band. Johnny played songs like “Good Hearted Woman” and “On The Road Again,” with most of the crowd unbeknownst who that was on the right of the stage.
As a guitar player, Johnny Depp is no slouch. He’s buddies with The Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan and appears on the singer’s first solo record. Depp also appears on numerous songs from Oasis, and was a member of the band ‘P’ that featured members of The Butthole Surfers, The Sex Pistols, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. He’s also appeared many times in movies and video playing guitar, contributed to many other songs and albums, and used to own The Viper Room music venue in L.A where Johnny Cash kicked off his American Recordings era.
You can’t go long talking about badasses in country music without bringing up the one, the only Billy Joe Shaver. Though he may have never received the recognition of Willie, Waylon, or even Coe or Paycheck, his influence is arguably just important. When you have Elvis cutting one of your songs, Willie Nelson calling you his favorite songwriter, have Bob Dylan name dropping you, and had none other than Waylon Jennings record an entire album of your work, there’s no doubt you’re a badass.
Here’s 10 Badass moments from Billy Joe Shaver.
- 10 Badass Willie Nelson Moments
- 10 Badass Waylon Jennings Moments
- 10 Badass Johnny Cash Moments
- 10 Badass Hank3 Moments
- 10 Badass Merle Haggard Moments
- 10 Badass Marty Stuart Moments
- 10 Badass George Jones Moments
1. Growing Up In Honky Tonks …. Literally
If Billy Joe Shaver is anything, he’s the real deal, and as clichĂŠ as it may sound, his life was like a country song if there ever was one. Shaver was born in Corsicana, TX, and his dad left his mom before he was even born. Left to fend for herself, Shaver’s mother would leave him with his grandmother in Corsicana so she could work in honky tonks in Waco, but sometimes the young, impressionable Shaver would accompany his mother to the big town.
For a while Shaver’s mom ran a Waco honky tonk called Green Gables. According to Waylon Jennings, “She was a good-looking woman, red-headed and tough, and it was a classic dive, a dance hall with sawdust on the floor, spittoons, and a piano in the corner.” Billy Joe would run around the place bumming nickels from soldiers from nearby Fort Hood, and by the time he got a little older was known as quite a dancer and ladies man. His whole Green Gables childhood experience was later recapped in the song “Honky Tonk Heroes” that became the title track of Waylon Jennings’ famous 1973 album featuring all Billy Joe Shaver songs except for one.
2. Getting Four Fingers Lopped Off At A Lumber Mill
Talk about tough and gritty, Billy Joe Shaver has the scars to prove it. He didn’t get involved in music seriously until he was nearly 30, and it’s partly due to a lumber mill accident he suffered back in the 60′s when he severed off a good portion of two fingers and parts of two others when his right hand got hung up in a piece of machinery. A post-accident infection eventually made it even worse. Since Shaver was a right paw, it made him virtually worthless as a general laborer, and so he turned to music as a living.
According to Waylon Jennings, Shaver has a sense of humor about his missing digits.
“He was sitting on a bed one time playing guitar,” Waylon recalls. “And a guy who worked for me came in and said, ‘Billy Joe, if you don’t mind me asking, what happened to your fingers?’ Billy started glancing around and digging in his pocket. ‘Damn,’ he said. ‘They were here just a while ago.’”
3. Hitchhiking to Los Angeles … and ending up in Nashville.
When Billy Joe Shaver decided to give country music a serious go, he got advice from old friend Willie Nelson to head out to Nashville. But Billy Joe Shaver didn’t listen, and instead decided to point his nose towards Los Angeles. Not having a car, and without any money for a bus, Billy Joe stood on the side of Interstate 10 in Texas, waiting for someone westward bound to pick him up. And he waited, and waited, and nobody stopped. Eventually Shaver got so frustrated, he switched over to the other side of the highway heading east. The first car that passed him stopped, picked him up, and took Shaver all the way to Memphis, TN. He then made his way to Nashville, where he soon had a job writing songs for $50 a week. The rest is history.
The experience was later recalled in part in the Billy Joe Shaver song, “Ride Me Down Easy”.
4. Threatening to Kick Waylon’s Ass If He Didn’t Record His Songs
Waylon Jennings decided to record an entire album of Billy Joe Shaver songs in 1973 called Honky Tonk Heroes, and that was the turning point in both men’s career. Waylon was finally flexing his creative freedom, and Billy Joe would forever be on the country music map. But it didn’t happen pretty. Bobby Bare introduced Shaver to Waylon and after Waylon heard “Ride Me Down Easy,” he fell in love with Shaver’s music and first floated the idea of recording an entire album of his songs. Later at the Dripping Springs Reunion in Texas, Waylon heard “Willie & The Wandering Gypsy,” and loved that one too. But for one reason or another, Billy Joe was always one step behind Waylon, even though Waylon insisted he loved Billy Joe’s songs and wanted to record them, it was beginning to look like it was never going to happen. At one point Billy Joe Shaver began to bug Waylon so bad, he reportedly offered Billy Joe $100 just to leave him alone.
“…I was always in a meeting or on another call or ‘not in.’” Waylon recalls. “This went on for months….He caught me one night at RCA recording. ‘I got these songs,’ he said, ‘and if you don’t listen to them, I’m going to kick your ass right here in front of everybody.”
“He could have been killed there and then by some of my friends lining the walls,” Waylon continues. “But I took Billy Joe in a back room and said, ‘Hoss, you don’t do things like that. I’m going to listen to one song, and if it ain’t no good, I’m telling you goodbye. We ain’t never going to talk again.’ Billy played me ‘Old Five and Dimers,’ and then kept on going. He had a whole sackful of songs, and by the time he ran out of breath, I wanted to record all of them.”
5. Being The Father of Eddie Shaver
The name may not ring a bell to you right off the bat, but for those familiar know that Billy Joe Shaver’s son was one of the best country music shredders to ever fill the spot. Aside from being his father’s right hand man for many years, Eddie Shaver studied under Dickey Betts of The Allman Brothers, played with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Guy Clark, The Eagles, and was Dwight Yoakam’s guitar player for the first two years.
It’s only because of Eddie’s untimely death that he’s not better known. He was scheduled to release his first solo album in 2001 when he died of a heroin overdose on New Years Eve of 2000. Though Billy Joe Shaver is known most for his songwriting, and Eddie as a guitar slinger, it only takes a glimpse at either to see that the musical talent runs very deep with the Shaver clan.
6. Surviving the Death of His Mother, Wife, and Son In a Very Short Period
Shaver has been tested many times in his life and suffered through some rough patches, but few have suffered through what shaver did near the turn of the Century. In 1999, Billy Joe Shaver lost both his mother, Victory, and his wife, Brenda, to Cancer. The next year is when his son, guitar player, and right hand man Eddie Shaver died of a heroin overdose. It was a very dark period for Shaver, and it became even darker when he was performing at Gruene Hall in Texas on Independence Day in 2001 and suffered a massive heart attack on stage. Shaver nearly died, and had to undergo quadruple bypass surgery.
But he soldiered on, releasing a new album called Freedom’s Child in 2002.
7. Shooting A Man in Self Defense at Papa Joe’s (“Where Do You Want It?”)
Shooting a man in the face could be either very badass, or not badass at all depending on how you look at it. But when you take into account Billy reportedly did it in self-defense and was so found by a jury of his peers and acquitted of all charges, it’s hard not to include the story here, especially seeing how the whole incident inspired its own famous song.
On March 31st, 2007, Billy Joe was in a saloon called Papa Joeâs in Waco, TX drinking when a man by the name of Billy Bryant Coker came up to Shaver and stirred Shaverâs drink with a knife. After some words were exchanged, Shaver decided it was time to leave, and Billy Coker followed. Out in the parking lot, Billy Joe Shaver was overheard asking Coker, âWhere do you want it?â while brandishing a small handgun. Shaver later testified in court he actually said, âWhy do you want to do this?â to Coker, but either way, eventually Shaver shot Billy Coker in the face.
The news made it down to Austin where Dale Watson decided to write a song about it. âWe were making jokes about what kind of song heâd write about this âcause he writes songs about everything,â says Gloria Tambling, the owner of Papa Joeâs thatâs been an I-35 landmark for around for 19 years.
Billy Cokerâs wound was not life-threatening, and Shaver was arrested on April 2nd, 2007 for aggravated assault, later to be found not guilty for acting in self-defense in a trial that saw Willie Nelson and Robert Duvall as a character witnesses. Dale Watson wrote “Where Do You Want It?”, but Whitey Morgan & The 78â˛s were the first to cut it on their self-titled album with Daleâs blessing. Dale later cut it on his album El Rancho Azul. Willie Nelson also wrote a song about the incident called, “I Want My Bullet Back.”
8. Singing the Opening Theme to The Squidbillies
When Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim launched a series about anthropomorphic hillbilly squids living in the Appalachian portion of Georgia, who better to contract for the theme song than Billy Joe Shaver? The song itself is actually called “Warrior Man.”
9. Being Deemed a Hero by Willie Nelson
Long-time friend Willie Nelson has never turned his back on Billy Joe, even in his darkest hour. When Billy Joe was accused of shooting a man in Waco, Willie offered himself up as a character witness. Willie has called Billy Joe Shaver his favorite songwriter. A couple of years ago Willie offered his services up to cut a duet with Billy Joe called “Wacko from Waco.” And Willie proved his love and loyalty for his long-time friend on his 2012 comeback album on Sony called Heroes. The default title track of the album “Hero” not only features Billy Joe Shaver, but is about Billy Joe Shaver and how it seems he’s been forgotten by time.
10. Being The Most Badass Country Music Performers in His 70′s
If you have seen Billy Joe Shaver perform recently, you know what I mean. And if you have never seen Billy Joe Shaver perform, you better get on it.
At 74, with a replaced knee, bum shoulder, and quadruple bypass, Billy Joe Shaver comes out kicking, punching, gesticulating like crazy, putting on one of the best, most-energetic country music shows from a performer of any age. It isn’t one of those shows with a solitary spotlight shone on a stool at stage center, it is full tilt country rock, rowdy and rambunctious, fueled by one of the best young bands you will find backing up a legend.
Former Hootie & The Blowfish frontman turned country artist Darius Rucker was on sports personality Dan Patrick’s radio show Tuesday (3-4), and had some interesting things to say about who the new torch bearers are for country music’s Outlaw legacy. Outlaw artists like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, David Allan Coe, and Johnny Paycheck shook up the country music world in the mid 70′s by re-instituting a harder country sound and taking back control of their music, and now according to Darius Rucker and Dan Patrick, the new Willie and Waylon is Luke Bryan and Eric Church.
The Darius Rucker interview starts out with Dan Patrick giving some playful ribs to Rucker about his lack of country music bad boy credentials. “I mentioned at the end of last hour that, you know, Luke Bryan’s the new bad boy, and Eric Church is the new bad boy in country,” said Patrick. “Darius Rucker can’t be a bad boy ’cause he was the lead singer of Hootie & The Blowfish. Right? No matter what …. How can you be a bad boy? You know you can’t be Tim [McGraw], you can’t be Hank Williams. You know, you were Hootie & The Blowfish.”
“That’s funny but true,” Rucker responds, laughing. “You’re absolutely right. I’m always going to be country lite, there’s nothing I can do about that … Brad [Paisley]‘s not a bad boy. Rascal Flatts, they’re not bad boys. Not everyone can be a bad boy. You know, that’s cool.”
Then Dan Patrick asks, “But there’s so much money in country now that can you be a bad boy and be crazy like Waylon and Willie used to be?”
“Yeah man, we’ve still got those guys,” Rucker says. “You know, Jamey Johnson, he’s a bad boy that’s for sure, and he’s doing well. You know, like you said Luke and Eric, Eric’s probably the closest we got to Waylon & Willie I think.”
This was not the first time Darius Rucker has made interesting statements on the Dan Patrick Show. In November of 2013, Darius said on the show that he thought he deserved a Grammy nomination for his cover of the Old Crow Medicine Show / Bob Dylan song “Wagon Wheel” or quote “country music’s screwed.” Dan Patrick and Darius Rucker are good friends, going back to the time when Darius was winning Grammy Awards with Hootie & The Blowfish.
You can see the entire interview below.
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