There are precious few artists more capable of bringing real depth to a straightforward pop song than Trisha Yearwood. Her performances of songs by the likes of Jewel and Jason Mraz as part of The Passion: Live are as extraordinary as most anything she has ever lent her glorious voice to, and they’re simply not to be missed.
Yearwood certainly leads the pack this week, but there are no shortage of stories about the genre’s leading women. Suzy Bogguss reflects on the anniversary of one of her biggest hits, Jo Dee Messina hosts a moving sale, and Carrie Underwood releases new singles on both sides of the Atlantic. Gretchen Peters gives yet another thoughtful interview, while Jennifer Nettles unveils a new music video.
Remember #SaladGate? It seems particularly irrelevant and misguided this week.
The genre’s men were chatty this week, too, with must-read interviews from Sean Watkins, Parker Millsap, Randy Houser, Josh Ritter, and more. There’s also spectacular first-person account of what it’s like to toke up from Willie Nelson’s personal stash.
The week’s new releases are led by the loudly hyped Southern Family compilation, spearheaded by producer Dave Cobb and featuring new material from the likes of Miranda Lambert, Brandy Clark, Jason Isbell, and Chris and Morgane Stapleton.
New Releases & Reissues, 3/18/2016
Bobby Bones & The Raging Idiots, The Critics Give It Five Stars. (Black River Entertainment)
Wade Bowen, Then Sings My Soul: Songs For My Mother. (Bowen Sounds)
Damien Jurado, Visions Of Us On The Land. (Secretly Canadian)
Lonesome River Band, Bridging The Tradition. (Mountain Home Music)
Lorrie Morgan, A Picture Of Me: Greatest Hits & More. (Goldenlane / Cleopatra)
William Michael Morgan, William Michael Morgan EP. (Warner Nashville)
Grant-Lee Phillips, The Narrows. (Yep Roc)
Various Artists, Southern Family. (Elektra)
Sean Watkins, What To Fear. (Family Hour / Thirty Tigers)
News & Notes
“My biggest challenge is to just keep it together. I don’t mind if I get emotional, but … I can’t function when I cry, so I’m more worried that I won’t be able to sing. The thing here is to take yourself out of it, to go, ‘This is about … trying to portray the theme of love and forgiveness and suffering and sacrifice and hope and redemption’.”
— Trisha Yearwood, speaking to Cindy Watts of The Tennessean about the challenges she expects to face in her role as Mary in The Passion: Live. Among the pop songs Yearwood will cover as part of the production are “My Love Is Your Love” by Whitney Houston, “Hands” by Jewel, and “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz. The studio soundtrack of the show, which also stars Jencarlos Canela, Seal, Yolanda Adams, Prince Royce, and Chris Daughtry, is also available. (JK)
Bobby Bones and Carrie Underwood duet on “We Can’t Stand Each Other,” a song from Bones’ comedy album, The Critics Give It Five Stars. The proceeds from the single will benefit St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. (LMW)
Underwood also gave an interview to BBC Radio’s “Women’s Hour” before delivering an acoustic performance of “Chaser,” which has been announced as her next single in the UK. Stateside, it looks as though “Church Bells” will be the third single from Storyteller. (TS)
Maren Morris gave an acoustic performance of her song “I Wish I Was” for NPR outside the South By Southwest music festival. Also at SXSW this week, Asleep At The Wheel’s frontman Ray Benson celebrated his birthday with some help from George Strait, The Avett Brothers, and Jimmie Vaughan. (JK)
“How good is Willie’s Reserve? I don’t have a quantifiable comparison to make. I will say that, halfway through Lewis and Lucius singing like angels in the chapel, I swear I looked up and saw Bill Murray holding a window open so a group of people could listen in, nonchalantly keeping it steady with one straight arm, smiling slightly and staring straight ahead under a white bucket hat.”
— James Joiner of The Daily Beast gives a hilarious recollection of sampling Willie’s Reserve, Willie Nelson’s personally curated stash of marijuana, on-site at Nelson’s ranch outside of Autisn, Texas. Willie’s Reserve will evidently be available in Oregon, Washington, and Colorado later this year, because Nelson remains ever the tireless workhorse. (JK)
Drew Kennedy has launched a kickstarter campaign to fund his eighth album, At Home In The Big Lonesome, which will be produced by Dave Brainard. The $30,000 project needs to be funded by April 16th in order to be successful. (LMW)
Steve Young, a songwriter whose best-known song is the frequently covered “Seven Bridges Road,” passed away this week at the age of 73. (JK)
“I remember once I was sound checking at a fair where I was opening for Merle Haggard. The album wasn’t out yet and I was rehearsing ‘Outbound Plane.’ Merle asked me in a playful jealous tone, ‘Where’d you get that song?’ I was so taken aback that I snapped back at him with a grin, ‘You can’t have it! You have enough songs and I need this one!’ What a whippersnapper! Nowadays, because it’s been a while since it’s been on the radio, I get tickled when people ask me about the song and trip on the name calling it anything from Outward Plane to Southbound Train!”
— Suzy Bogguss wrote about her hit “Outbound Plane” on her official Facebook page this week. She’s celebrating the 25th anniversary of her album Aces with insightful commentary on that extraordinary record and with some contests and giveaways for her fans. Needless to say, this is absolutely worth following! (JK)
Kelsea Ballerini has partnered with Mary Kay cosmetics for the company’s Don’t Look Away campaign, which focuses on increased awareness of dating violence among youth. (JK)
“When you’re singing in a congregation, you’re not so self-conscious — you’re just singing. And when you’re singing in a congregation at church, the reasons that you’re singing are kind of different, you know? You’re not singing to impress somebody; you’re not singing to win American Idol. You’re singing as a spiritual thing. And so, there was always that connection for me: that music is spiritual, and that there’s something about it that’s sacred even when it’s not a sacred song.”
— Parker Millsap, whose first public performances were as part of the choir in the Pentecostal church where he was raised, spoke to NPR about the influence of church-style singing in his performance style. Millsap’s album The Very Last Day is set for release on March 25th. (JK)
“Self-doubt is a very persistent and difficult feeling to overcome. Often, I find it impossible to write because of it. Nothing feels correct. Nothing feels new. Perhaps I don’t have anything to say, so I shouldn’t say anything at all.”
— Singer-songwriter Josh Ritter penned an essay for PBS about how he struggles with self-doubt, even more than a decade into his career. (JK)
“Three years ago my wife and I went out on this trip in a 1972 Winnebago camper and we just toured the country. She quit the job that she hated and I was just playing music in backyards and we were kind of doing this gypsy adventure; it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever been a part of.”
— Steve Moakler, the co-writer of Dierks Bentley’s terrific “Riser,” told Christina Bosch of The Shotgun Seat about the autobiographical origins of “Suitcase,” the first single from his self-titled EP, his first overtly country release. (JK)
Miranda Lambert joined Ashley Monroe on stage at her show at London’s o2 Arena during the Country To Country (C2C) festival for a cover of Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend.” During her own set, Miranda Lambert crushed “Crazy” with just a guitar. (LMW)
Jo Dee Messina is taking a page out of Prince’s playbook and is auctioning off some of her personal belongings, including musical instruments and autographed memorabilia, through March 23rd. (JK)
“When I released my first album ‘Secret of Life’ in 1996 it failed to register anywhere. In terms of record sales in the U.S. it was a failure. For many years I was, to many people, a songwriter. Being an artist in my own right didn’t come easy. It took at least three albums before I started to get any type of acceptance. My music started to find a platform when I began touring the UK. I played to audiences who didn’t have any expectations. They accepted me for who I was. I wasn’t carrying any baggage. They either liked me, or not.”
— Gretchen Peters, considering the role of British audiences in establishing her career as a solo artist, reflected upon her path to success in an interview with Owen Peters of Pennyblack Music. (JK)
On September 9th, Rhino Records will release The Complete Trio Collection, a three-album set that will include Dolly Parton’s, Linda Ronstadt’s, and Emmylou Harris’ Trio (1987), Trio II (1999) and an album of bonus material. (JK)
“… Around ’98 or ’99, we made the first Nickel Creek record with Alison Krauss. We had been a band for 10 years at that point, but we were so young and no one would sign us because our voices were so high. We also just didn’t have much life to write about. We had great childhoods and none of us really dated like other people did because we were traveling and playing music a lot. I remember being in my early 20s and wanting to write but not really having the material. A new friend at the time, Glenn Phillips, who is an amazing singer-songwriter and a hero of mine, said something to the effect of, “You should just go out in the world and get your heart broken a bunch of times.” And it sounds harsh, but it’s true. I think it’s a valuable lesson to not keep yourself safe.”
— Sean Watkins, giving at least a little bit of credence to the trope of the tortured artist, gave a lengthy and thoughtful interview to Emily Maxwell of American Songwriter about how his songwriting has evolved since his early days with Nickel Creek through his latest solo album, What To Fear. (JK)
“When I get in that moment, I’m not thinking about what other people are thinking. I’m closing my eyes and pretending I’m by myself and letting my voice fly out for the right reasons — instead of editing myself or worrying about what people think. And it’s served me well. I sing loud and proud and that’s just the way it’s going to be.”
— Randy Houser, in a wide-ranging interview with Joseph Hudak of Rolling Stone, spoke about his vocal style, which often places him at-odds with some of his thin-voiced contemporaries on country radio. In the interview, Houser talks about how he focused on his live show when recording his latest album, Fired Up, which doesn’t necessarily explain why the album is a bloated, over-long mess that rarely plays to his considerable strengths as a vocalist. (JK)
“When your ammunition is a song, you’re asking a lot of that song to really get through to people. When you’re telling a story, there’s always the chance that it could just get swallowed up. Luckily, these songs are not typically narrative. I tried to give them what Jimmie [Rodgers] does, which is a sense of conversation, telling a story in a way that is a little bit cut off sometimes, is clipped, where you have to suggest intention without words somehow, almost in the rhythm and the beat.”
— Paul Burch considers the structure of Jimmie Rodgers’ songs while talking to fellow singer-songwriter Carrie Rodriguez for Jewly Hight’s latest “Deep Shit” column for The Bluegrass Station. Burch’s latest album, Meridian Rising, which he conceived as an imagined autobiography of the legendary Rodgers. (JK)
We try to keep the Sunday Selections posts more positive to the extent that we can, but there’s simply no getting around how well-executed the “2016 Worst Country Artist” March Madness bracket over at Country Perspective is, with acts grouped into four regions of primary offense. Voting in the second round starts on Tuesday. (JK)
Jennifer Nettles released the music video for her excellent new single, “Unlove You,” which she co-wrote with Brandy Clark. (JK)
That will do it for this week! Let us know what else is going on in the comment section!