It was a busy year in country music, with lots of controversy, lots of legal issues, and even death surrounding country music artists. It was a tumultuous 2015 to say the least. Here are the top news stories of the year taking into consideration 1) Their importance to country music overall 2) The interest, or accumulated interest in the story if covered in multiple articles, based on traffic registered at Saving Country Music.
Merle called into Willie’s Roadhouse on SiriusXM Thursday (12-17) to let fans know he was doing better, and to thank them for their prayers and support. The 78-year-old first was admitted to the hospital on December 2nd, unable to perform due to the illness. He eventually was forced to cancel the rest of his tour dates throughout December.
78-year-old country legend Merle Haggard is currently in a California hospital suffering from pneumonia. Haggard was forced to cancel some recent tour dates due to his illness, and checked himself in for treatment. His show last night (12-2) at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, California was cancelled, as was tonight’s (12-3) show at the Fox Performing Arts Center in Riverside.
It’s one thing to mischaracterize my opinions, or the opinions of Chris Stapleton fans, or concerned country music fans in general. It’s another thing to use the name and visage of a respected country music legend to assert the wrongful and misguided opinions of your think piece, especially when the aim of that think piece is to attack active and concerned country music fans.
The idea of retiring from playing music seems like such a foreign notion on the surface. We like to think that artists make music because they have to—because it’s all they know and it’s in their blood. Some just happen to make money and get famous from it along the way. Quitting music would be like deciding to quit watching sunsets or eating ice cream with your family or something.
“18,700”: This is the number of albums Toby Keith sold upon the debut of his new record 35 MPH Town, and it got me to thinking, which artists and bands have beat that number in a year of unprecedented ascent in independent country music? 2015 is the year it became common to see one of your favorite independent acts and aging legends compete at the top of the album charts.
Prison and country music go together like peanut butter and jelly. No wonder a slew of country music albums have been actually recorded within prison walls—some for convicts, some by convicts, and some using convicts. And we’re not just talking about novelty releases either, but some iconic albums that have helped define country music over the years. Here are some of them.
A Concert Behind Prison Walls, Billy Don BUrns, Charles Lee Guy III, David Allan Coe, Eddy Arnold, Flower Out of Place, Freddy Fender, Glen Sherley, In Prison In Person, Jimmie Davis, Joe Maphis, Johnny Cash, Johnny Paycheck, Kris Kristofferson, Linda Ronstadt, Mack Vickery, Merle Haggard, PÃ¥ Ã–sterÃ¥ker, Recorded Inside Louisiana State Prison, Roy Clark, Shel Silverstein, Sonny James, Spade Cooley, The Prisoner's Dream
“We have just been informed that Willie Nelson has a medical issue and will be rescheduling the first half of his tour dates,” states Nick Hooker, Senior Marketing Manager for SMG Florence Civic Center. “We know this is last-minute and we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience, but our hearts and best wishes go to Willie Nelson and his family during this time of health concern.”
Henley’s been out there outwardly criticizing the state of country music and the state of music in general, though doing so with a lot more of a thoughtful and informed tone than many others, including tracing the problem back to the disappearance of the agrarian way of life that was once prevalent throughout America, and now finds itself quickly receding.
Andrew Combs, Ashley Monroe, Bill Monroe, Cale Tyson, Cass County, Dolly Parton, Don Henley, Dottie West, George Jones, Hank Williams, J.P. Harris & the Tough Choices, Jamey Johnson, Jason Isbell, Jed Hilly, Jeffrey Foucault, Jim Reeves, Johnny Cash, Kelsey Waldon, Kitty Wells, Merle Haggard, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Patsy Cline, Shovels & Rope, Striking Matches, Sturgill Simpson, The Eagles, The Milk Carton Kids
“Billy Don Burns.” To those country fans that know the name, it looms large. But the truth of the matter is, not many know the name. They know the names of Merle Haggard and Johnny Paycheck—two men who Billy Don Burns has produced albums for. They know Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash—two acquaintances of Burns who on separate occasions, wrote touching letters for him.
Announced today in press release fashion, the 49th Annual, 2015 CMA Awards will be opened by newly-signed NASH Icon recording artist Hank Williams Jr. singing Waylon’s interpretation of Neil Young’s “Are You Ready For the Country?” first released on an album of the same name by Waylon in 1976. Hank Jr. will be joined by Eric Church in the rendition.
Are You Ready for the Country, Chris Stapleton, CMA Awards, Eric Church, Hank Williams Jr., Kacey Musgraves, Lee Ann Womack, Maddie & Tae, Meghan Trainor, Merle Haggard, Miranda Lambert, NASH, NASH Icon, Neil Young, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson
The songwriter, singer, guitar player, and frontman for the legendary Western Swing and classic country band Asleep At The Wheel had some harsh things to say about today’s country music in a recent interview, and specifically about the reigning CMA and ACM Entertainer of the Year, Luke Bryan.
Whatever you could want or hope from Don Henley’s “Cass County” as a country music fan, this album delivers it and in ample quantities. I don’t know that any country fan’s expectations can meet the actual enjoyment this music deals out. And this is a traditional country record.
Alison Krauss, Ashley Monroe, Cass County, Dolly Parton, Don Henley, Jesse Winchester, Lucinda Williams, Merle Haggard, Mick Jagger, Review, The Eagles, The Louvin Brothers, Tift Merritt, Trisha Yearwood
You can’t get away from the political divisiveness these days, and the issue only promises to get worse as the United States Presidential election proper looms large in the not so distant future. But that’s what’s so great about music. It’s a world away from the rancor of political discord. Or as Brennen Leigh and Sunny Sweeney say, “A love of country music conquers all.”
Adding to the ongoing discussion about the dearth of female representation in mainstream country today, country superstar Jason Aldean contributed some curious comments to The Washington Post ahead of a show at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, VA on Saturday, September 12th.
“That news hit me pretty hard in the heart,” Lee Ann says about the nomination. She was driving to her mother’s house in east Texas when she received the call. “I am and always will be a country music singer. It’s what I do… It’s what I love… and it’s the thing that truly makes me feel alive. Having the CMA recognize that after the year I’ve had since ‘The Way I’m Livin” came out really does my heart good.”
Merle Haggard remains on tour, and remains on the warpath against the direction of today’s country music, at least when asked about the matter by the press. The Hag was interviewed ahead of a show in Toledo, Ohio at the Stranahan Theater on September 9th, and didn’t mince words when questioned what he thought about today’s country sound and the artists making it.
Kanye West and Taylor Swift as a 2020 Presidential ticket? Screw that. If we’re going to go dipping into the pool of musical performers to field Presidential candidates, then my vote would go for a country music legend rising to the forefront. And not just because I’m a country music fan, but because many of our legendary country artists have the history to connect with hard-working American citizens.
That was the firebrand language coming from country music legend Merle Haggard ahead of an appearance Sunday, September 6th at the Bluestem Center for the Arts in Moorhead, Minnesota. In preparation for the show, In Forum talked to the 78-year-old performer, and he felt no need to be guarded with his feelings of where country music is headed.
A Jewish-American, Kinky was a seminal part of the Austin, TX music scene in the 70’s when Willie Nelson, Jerry Jeff Walker, and songwriters like Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, and Ray Wylie Hubbard helped revolutionize country music with their independent spirit and progressive approach. Kinky was one of the hucksters of the movement.
I don’t expect Don Henley’s entire country record to sound this classic, but his take on the old Louvin Brothers standard with Dolly helping out was a welcomed treat that tells you this album isn’t going to be Don reaching for commercial relevance. It’s going to be Don making the country record he wants to make.
This weekend in downtown Nashville, the inaugural Ink-N-Iron Festival is being held in Bicentennial Mall Park. Promoted by the same individuals who’ve been putting on tattoo conventions in Long Beach, California for the last 13 years, the 3-day festival features a diverse mix of performers, including headliner Merle Haggard. Merle also performed at a pre-festival event held Thursday evening.
The comparisons of Sturgill Simpson to Waylon Jennings never cease, even though in some instances they’re based on pretty shallow and misguided observations. That’s why it’s probably pretty understandable if Sturgill is tired of hearing about them at this point. In a recent interview with Foo Fighters guitarist and Dead Peasants frontman Chris Shiflett (listen in full below), Sturgill once again answered the Waylon comparisons.
The latest appetizer dangled out there by Curb is an acoustic version of a song called “I Met Merle Haggard Today.” Pretty self explanatory and plenty entertaining, it’s the true account of Mo meeting one of his country music heroes for the first time. It’s a simple little song, but it shows you that Mo’s commitment to authentic country music isn’t just a marketing angle.