Earlier this week, writer and friend-of-Country Universe C.M. Wilcox announced that he was shuttering his blog, Country California. The crew here have long been admirers of the sharp, insightful writing and wry humor that Country California brought to the country music blogosphere, and we all wish Chris the best in his new ventures.
Two of the features Country California offered were biweekly news round-ups and the ever-popular and occasionally horrifying “Quotable Country.” We aren’t going to try to replicate those features, but we also recognize the value that they added to the online discussions of all things country music. So we’re unveiling “Sunday Selections,” a weekly look back at some of the artist goings-on, new releases, and noteworthy writing that caught our eyes. We hope our readers dig this new feature!
New Album Releases and Reissues, 11/20/2015:
Lynn Anderson, Bridges (Center Sound)
Guy Clark, Boats to Build and Dublin Blues (Cherry Red)
Creedence Clearwater Revival, Green River: 40th Anniversary Edition (Fantasy)
Little Jimmy Dickens, May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose (Columbia / Legacy)
Holly & Ken, The Record (Outer Sunset)
Hank Locklin, Once Over Lightly (RCA / Legacy)
Punch Brothers, The Wireless EP (Nonesuch)
Marty Robbins, My Woman, My Woman, My Wife and The Legend (Columbia / Legacy)
Shovels & Rope, Busted Jukebox Volume 1 (Dualtone)
Tammy Wynette, Tammy’s Touch (Epic / Legacy)
News and Notes:
“Just when you thought you were safe, America… We’re back! It’s been 10 years since we toured the U.S. There’s no telling what will happen this time.”
— The Dixie Chicks, announcing their first U.S. tour in a decade. Because Christmas came early this year, and we’re on the (Ready to Make) Nice List.
“If country music doesn’t want [beloved storytellers who stirred up feelings of wide-eyed romance, humorous revenge, and big-dreaming adventure] and doesn’t want pitch-perfect songs like Wide Open Spaces and Cowboy Take Me Away on its stations– and if it really can’t handle a little political commentary from grown women– then that’s the genre’s loss, and sane country fans’ loss, too.”
— Grady Smith of The Guardian, asking, “Is country music ready to forgive the Dixie Chicks?” We’re skeptical about the potential for a return to radio– consider that the other women from the group’s peak commercial era (Jo Dee Messina, Sara Evans, Terri Clark, and Martina McBride) have all been put out to pasture based upon country radio’s refusal to play music by women over 35 years-old. But we think many of the genre’s fans who aren’t beholden to radio playlists are excited by the prospect of the Dixie Chicks’ return.
Ramona Jones, a fiddler who was a fixture on Hee-Haw, passed away at age 91.
“My womb is a dusty, haunted billiard hall.”
— Neko Case, working her magic with vivid images in a terrific podcast for Nerdist. Next week, Case will release a career-spanning vinyl collection, Truckdriver, Gladiator, Mule, spanning all 8 of her studio albums. Though her work has moved in a more rock-leaning direction of late, the rural gothic of Furnace Room Lullaby and Blacklisted rank among the most essential alt-country records of this millennium.
“Here’s a more conclusive indication that Church is right about his audience: Catch him live, and you’ll find an arena crowd just as eager to hear the deep cuts as the hits. Peets points out that “These Boots,” from Church’s 2006 debut Sinners Like Me, is the song that tends to get the biggest reaction at concerts; though never released as a single, it’s become the moment in the show when thousands of people take off one shoe, preferably a boot, and hoist it above their heads in solidarity.”
— Jewly Hight takes stock of the way Eric Church connects with his fans in a piece for Vulture, “Is Eric Church the First Modern Country Star to Truly Get Rock ‘n’ Roll Culture?” The discussion of Church’s pressing of Mr. Misunderstood on vinyl and how collecting music informs many of the albums songs certainly suggests a strong “rockist” bent to Church’s POV.
Chris Stapleton’s Traveller spent a second week as the best-selling album in the U.S.
“We joke that if we had met in junior high, we would have been instantly attracted to each other’s scribbled-on JanSport backpacks and oversized NIN concert T-shirts. Truth is that Nine Inch Nails was one of the first vessels through which our personal teen angst was so purely mirrored into such a detailed reflection that we could look in its eyes, acknowledge its power and then consume it… We thought it might be the best kind of mess to turn an old NIN tune into a psychobilly hoedown from hell.”
— Shovels & Rope, to NPR’s Robin Hilton, on the cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Last” with Caroline Rose that is one of the many highlights of Busted Jukebox Volume 1. We know everyone’s busy listening to the new Adele album this week, but this new Shovels & Rope record is sure to figure into our year-end lists next month, so be sure to give the album a listen over at NPR.
“The hick-hop singer tells us the gaffe is ‘low priority’ on his radar, compared to other stuff going on in the world.”
— The exemplary reporters at TMZ want everyone to know that Cowboy Troy, who they identify as a “big star in the African-American country community,” is a-okay with Jason Aldean’s Halloween blackface stunt because there is other “stuff” on his radar. On the bright side, this means that the Aldean story still has at least some degree of traction. Less great is that TMZ is one of the few outlets still reporting on it– Aldean and his team have remained silent, other than to confirm that Aldean did, indeed, dress as Lil Wayne for Halloween– and that they felt that talking to Cowboy Troy was the right thing to do.
“Let’s also remember that there is a long, rich musical tradition of singing out our values of compassion, love, and justice, especially in Americana, country, and folk.”
— Nathan Empsall of Hard Times No More, in a thoughtful meditation on how the Syrian refugee crisis relates to one of the most important roles country and country-adjacent music can serve. It’s a lengthy editorial that addresses some of the ways politics and religion not only intersect with but are inextricable from popular culture. We’re grateful to Country California for pointing us in Empsall’s direction.
The Grand Ole Opry’s official YouTube channel just posted a video of Miranda Lambert covering Jessi Colter’s and Waylon Jennings’ “Storms Never Last” during her Opry performance back on October 6th.
Speaking of the Opry, on Saturday, country legend Jean Shepard celebrated her 82nd birthday and 60th anniversary as a member of the Grand Ole Opry.
“At their worst, country’s 21st-century dreamboats operate on the principles of hair metal, mixed with CrossFit. That’s the stereotype and the perception, anyway… In reality, country’s most enduring stars, male and female, exude sensuality by becoming attuned to deep emotions; they explore the subtleties of love by carefully mastering the metaphorically connected, naturally unfolding process of songcraft.”
— Ann Powers, spot-on as ever in her assessment of how country music’s best artists explore the depths and subtleties of relationships. That she’s discussing Vince Gill and his fantastic new single, “Take Me Down,” a collaboration with Little Big Town, only makes her statements even more on-point. Right, Leeann? Gill’s new album, Down to My Last Bad Habit will be released on 2/12/2016!
“I was just greatly disappointed. I really thought we had it. I thought, ‘I’m going to be that exception. I’m going to be that statistic that stands out and says, ‘She fought it.’ We did the most extreme surgery we can do in the gynecologic world, and she did well.’ But for whatever reason, it wasn’t enough, and God had different plans. I was disappointed. I was exhausted.”
— Joey Martin Feek of Joey+Rory, to The Tennesseean‘s Cindy Watts. Watts’ empathy in writing this exceptional story shines throughout, and Joey’s bravery, insight, and humanity are both inspiring and deeply moving.
— NBC has released a new ad for Coat of Many Colors, their biopic about a young Dolly Parton. Alyvia Alyn Lind, the actress who plays Dolly, was last seen as Will Ferrell’s and Kristin Wiig’s kidnapped, diabetes-stricken daughter in Lifetime’s A Deadly Adoption. It’s hard to tell from the promo if Coat of Many Colors will be any more watchable…
“The Outlaws were onto something really good, but the pendulum has swung the other way in Nashville now, so what you have, instead of Tompall opening the studio [Glaser Sound, often called “Hillbilly Central”] to a whole bunch of crazies and poets and writers and stuff, like he tried to do, we’ve got Toby Keith and Garth Brooks, who I always call the Anti-Hank. I’ve never even met those guys, and everybody tells me they’re very nice people, but they’re making about a billion dollars. The songs are written by committee, you know, and you hear a lot of this over-produced stuff comin’ out of Nashville, like always. It would make very good background music for a frat party, maybe. So what we did here is not a reaction to that at all.”
— Kinky Friedman on how songs written by committees msight best be used, while talking to Nashville Cream‘s Edd Hurt, about his latest album, The Loneliest Man I Ever Met.
That will do it for this week. Let us know in the comments if there’s something noteworthy we missed or other types of news you’d like to see us include in future installments!