Too often in music we tend to focus on the here and now, the young and the new. Who are the hot names that are rising up in the ranks? Who’s going to make a big splash in music in the coming months and years? All this talk is understandable. It’s fun. But this is not always the best exercise for fleshing out who actually has the music most worthy of being recognized.
When it comes to picking the “best” songs from a given time period, it’s a much more subjective chore than selecting the best albums or the best artists. Our relationship with songs is just so much more intimate. The emotions songs can touch tend to range so much farther on the spectrum. To discover a song that really touches you, it’s not just dependent on the songwriter to write and perform a compelling tune.
The Americana Music Association has compiled their year-end list of the Top 100 albums of 2015. Unlike many of the other lists you’re bludgeoned with this time of year, this one isn’t based off on anyone’s opinion. It’s based on the reporting to the Americana Airplay Chart during the period of December 2, 2014 through November 30, 2015. The list also a good tool to see what you may have missed in 2015.
Being willing to go where a song takes you is the challenge in the heart of every music lover. Hopefully one of these songs released in 2015 will take you some place you want to be, or somewhere you’ve never been before. These songs were selected on their own merit, not from the strength of the artist or album from where they came.
Brennen Leigh, Cody Jinks, Dawes, Eric Church, Eric Paslay, Evan Felker, James McMurtry, JB Beverley, John Moreland, Justin Townes Earle, Kacey Musgraves, Love and Theft, Mo Pitney, Randy Rogers, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Sunny Sweeney, Turnpike Troubadours, Wade Bowen
Many of the creators and producers of these involved and more distinguished television series are fans of these lesser-known artists, and look for opportunities to plant Easter eggs for independent listeners. As non-mainstream music continues to increase in market share, such occurrences are happening more frequently on cable shows and elsewhere.
2015’s Album of the Year candidates might constitute the most wide open field of contenders since this exercise has been in practice. There’s no clear front runners, anyone could win, and each candidate has pluses and minuses. Like every year, your opinion counts, and may even count more this year with no clear front runner.
Brandi Carlile, Chris Stapleton, Don Henley, James McMurtry, Jamie Lin Wilson, Jason Boland and the Stragglers, Jason Isbell, Jason James, John Moreland, Kacey Musgraves, Lindi Ortega, Lonesome Wyatt, MIke and the Moonpies, Rachel Brooke, Randy Rogers, Roo Arcus, Ryan Bingham, Turnpike Troubadours, Wade Bowen, Ward Thomas, Whitey Morgan, Whitey Morgan and the 78's, Yelawolf
“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.
How cool is it to have a father and a son in the same band? There’s a beer league factor to the Electric Rag Band, and not in a bad way. They make music when they can, how they can, and for the right reasons. And they’ve been doing it for quite a while now. Formed in 1994, their new record My Side accounts for their sixth release.
‘Things That Can’t Be Undone’ is one of those albums you ultimately enjoy, but you may have initial reservations about, or maybe even concerns over, or downright complaints about for some listeners because it is full of unexpected curve balls. This album is not like anything Corb has ever released before. Pairing up with Corb is producer extraordinaire and the man of the hour in Americana Dave Cobb.
Who knows what goes into deciding what bands and artists launch into the stratosphere. and which ones are destined to slag it out on a slow build spending umpteen hours in a smelly tour van. All I know is I’ve seen Mike and the Moonpies get name checked by Sturgill Simpson and open for the Turnpike Troubadours on numerous occasions, and never did their music strike me as second class.
Granted, it is a different day in the music business, and independent country bands are appearing on the country album charts more and more often. But still, to behold the steady rise of the Turnpike Troubadours from a bar band from Oklahoma to the top of the country music charts without ever having to reshape their sound or sign their life away to a major label is an incredible feat.
That’s the thing about the Turnpike Troubadours: they’ve exuded a patience and steadiness that has put them steadfastly in touch with the underlying spirit of country music. If they wanted to pivot just slightly and go some big rock route, they could blow up huge. But they didn’t and they don’t ,and they still blew up huge. This isn’t old country. This is new country, only the roots are still attached, and the branches fan out wide.
Ringling Road is a vibrant and well-written pronouncement of William Clark Green’s arrival as one of the new creative leaders of the next generation of country. The sensibilities to appeal to a big audience are there, but so are the country roots, and the depth of songwriting to where he can draw in both the passive toe-tappers and die hard song junkies.
Raleigh, NC’s American Aquarium was the hardest working, hardest touring band in 2014 from any genre according to the concert-finding app Bandsintown which presides over the largest database of music touring data. The announcement was made Thursday after Bandintown was able to aggregate 206 tour dates for the band in 2014—more than any other band or artist registered in their database.
Time was when the Turnpike Troubadours were just hoping to garner enough of a following so they could play historic venues like Cain’s Ballroom or Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, TX. Now they’re facing the reality that they may just be too big to play these historic spaces anymore except as a nostalgic anomaly. They required a three-night residency at the “Oldest Dance Hall in Texas” to accommodate all the comers.
Raleigh, North Carolina’s American Aquarium had their van and trailer stolen late last night (Wednesday, 6-25) between 1 AM and 9 AM in Indianapolis at the Wyndham Hotel on the west side of town. The band was in Indianapolis playing a show with the Turnpike Troubadours at the Old National Centre.
As the lives of most songwriters go, John Fullbright has lived a charmed one for sure. His debut studio release, 2012’s “From The Ground Up” found its way to the very highest reaches of industry accolades when it was nominated for Best Americana Album at the 55th Grammy Awards, and he seemed to be quickly anointed as a songwriting golden boy out of the gate.
Envision a day where all the current Top 40 country that classic country fans are incensed over is segregated into its own autonomous format, with its own radio stations, and potentially even its own awards, special events and festivals. And the same could happen for classic country. It could have it’s own place to not forget the past, and respect the roots of the genre.
Sundy Best ended up being just crazy enough to work; a unique approach that struck a chord in this very time and place to help define what is relevant instead of trying to follow it. And similarly with other bands of young men out to have a good time first and letting the business of music follow, the honest, good time and heartfelt approach to their music is quite infectious with their fans.
Oh you poor little non-SXSW goers, you’re social network feeds are about to get positively inundated with South By Southwest information, riddling your psyche with scores of free music events you’re unfortunately missing out on, resulting in an experience for you somewhere between the teasings of a cruel temptress, and Chinese water torture. Here’s a list of artists that all happen to be attending SXSW…
Andrew Combs, Caitlin Rose, David Rawlings, Gillian Welch, Hurray For The Riff Raff, Jeremy Fetzer, John Fullbright, Lydia Loveless, Old Crow Medicine Show, Possessed by Paul James, Robbie Fulks, Robert Ellis, Shakey Graves, South by Southwest, Spencer Cullum, Steelism, Sturgill Simpson, SXSW, Townes Van Zandt, Turnpike Troubadours, Willie Watson
Destitution and heartbreak are the theme of Dust Bowl Hangover, however the music itself is a very enjoyable experience, with great melodies, catchy hooks, smart and engaging arrangements, and a remarkable amount of spice and variety in the instrumentation to really elevate this album to something much higher than the band’s humble, unknown status.
The first issue of “Country Music Magazine” did not disappoint, and made good on their promise to deliver high quality content to the scores of country music fans who want to read about past greats and future hopefuls while not completely ignoring the mainstream names worth a listen. Now they have released their second issue, and the 2nd verse is as sweet as the 1st.
Austin Lucas, Buck Owens, BUddy Emmons, Country Music Magazine, Dolly Parton, Jason Eady, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmy Webb, Johnny Cash, Lindi Ortega, Marty Sturat, Possessed by Paul James, Reverend Horton Heat, Ricky Skaggs, Rosanne Cash, Samantha Crain, Shovels & Rope, Slaid Cleaves, Spade Cooley, Sturgill Simpson, Turnpike Troubadours, UK
Lone Star Music, the Texas music cornerstone that has such good taste and cool vibes that appreciation for it’s unique approach of putting the music first spreads well past the Texas border, has just announced the nominees for their 6th Annual Lone Star Music Awards, and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t hit the sweet spot in showcasing many of the artists that are helping to save country music.
American Aquarium, Chris King, Cody Canada, Dave Cobb, Guy Clark, Jason Boland, Jason Isbell, Kacey Musgraves, Lincoln Durham, Lloyd Maines, Lone Star Music, Lone Star Music Awards, Nominees, Patty Griffin, Reckless Kelly, Shinyribs, Slaid Cleaves, Sturgill Simpson, Turnpike Troubadours, Will Hoge, Zane Williams
If you were asked to populate a list of current country music artists that with no frills and no variations lay down country music as country music was meant to be, Jason Eady would very have to be at or near the top of your list. And if you found yourself beset on all sides by ravenous legions of flesh-eating pop country music fans whose only bane was the authentic sound of true country…