Sunday Selections: April 17, 2016

After what seems like months of ever-louder hype, Sturgill Simpson’s latest album finally arrived.

… And boy it is divisve.

Genre purists are predictably up-in-arms about Simpson’s incorporation of prominent horn sections and heavily distorted guitars, while, at least for the moment, the album stands as 2016’s best-reviewed album from any genre. Either way, it’s an essential listen that demands an intense reaction.

Simpson is just one of a slew of new releases for the week, though. After several weeks that were relatively light on new releases and reissues, this week sees new albums from veterans Graham Nash, Marie Osmond, and the Del McCoury Band and reissues from Charlie Rich and Justin (son of Ernest) Tubb. Two of Johnny Cash’s most famous albums and all four of the albums from the Natalie Maines era of the Dixie Chicks are also newly reissued on vinyl.

The news round-up includes interviews with up-and-comers like Maren Morris and Aubrie Sellers and veterans like Rodney Crowell and Linda Davis, and tons of new videos. Two of the best new male artists in Nashville dropped new music videos, while Elizabeth Cook, Fantasia, and The Avett Brothers released new singles. Sam Hunt tried his hand at singing a for-real country song with results that will likely be viewed through the lens of one’s existing opinion of Hunt and his relative talents, and Hayes Carll and Allison Moorer performed a lovely duet.

Onward!

A Sailor's Guide to EarthNew Releases & Reissues, 4/15/2016
Pauline Andres, The Heart Breaks. (Pauline Andres)
Sam Beam & Jesca Hoop, Love Letter for Fire. (Sub Pop)
Johnny Cash, I Walk the Line (1964) and Man in Black (1971). (Friday Music)
Charly Cole, Gotcha. (Red Mess Music)
Mark Collie, ICON. (MCA Nashville)
Dixie Chicks, MMXVI: The Classic Albums Collection. (Columbia / Legacy)
Drivin N Cryin, Best of Songs. (Plowboy)
Bob Dylan, John Wesley Harding (1967). (Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab)
James Edge & The Mindstep, On a Red Horse. (Folkstock)
Herrick, Cottonfields. (Breakaway Entertainment)
Keb’ Mo’, Keb’ Mo’ LIVE – That Hot Pink Blues Album. (Kind of Blue / RED)
The Del McCoury Band, Del and Woody. (McCoury Music)
Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers, Sacred Memories. (Rebel)
Graham Nash, This Path Tonight. (Blue Castle)
Marie Osmond, Music is Medicine. (OliveMe / RED)
Charlie Rich, Big Boss Man (1966). (RCA / Legacy)
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, PersonA. (Community Music)
Sturgill Simpson, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. (Atlantic)
Justin Tubb, Things I Still Remember Very Well (1969). (Omni Recording)

News & Notes

The Avett Brothers returned with “Ain’t No Man,” the new single from their first album in three years. (JK)

“I want to be as gracious and thankful as I can because it has been a long road,” she said. “I’m young but I’ve been doing this a long time … There’s obviously a lot of hard work that goes into it. It’s a hard town. There’s a lot of talent here. It’s all about timing, too. I just feel like I finally found the right town and the right song.”
— Maren Morris, reflecting on her path to success and desire to stay humble, in an interview with People magazine. She also reads the text message Dierks Bentley sent her to ask her to join him for a duet on “I’ll Be The Moon” for his upcoming album, Black. (JK)

“That’s true for me 100%. With me, too. The things that attract people to me—that I’m spur of the moment, I’m a dreamer, I give a lot of myself real fast to people—are often times the thing that drives them crazy in the end.”
— Brandy Clark began posting a series of annotations to the lyrics of her latest single, “Girl Next Door,” over at Genius.com. At the site, click on the highlighted portions of the lyrics to read Clark’s notes. To the surprise of absolutely no one, she’s insightful and articulate…  Though not even a talent like Clark can justify that Marcia Brady line… (JK)

American Idol season 3 winner Fantasia is best known for her outsized R&B, but her new single, “Ugly,” has some strong country ties. The song was co-written by Audra Mae and Nicole Gallyon, and Little Big Town had the song on hold for their album Pain Killer. It’s still an R&B single, but its country roots are also evident, and Fantasia sounds as great as ever. (JK)

“I’ve been saying ‘country soul,’ and I don’t really know what that means just yet, but I do, you know? Soul music is in right now and it’s cool to sing, but it’s what comes out of me naturally. If I’m singing gospel music, or I’m singing country music, or I’m singing pop music, I sing it soulfully. That’s just how it comes out. So I feel like that’s going to come through on this country album.”
— Trent Harmon, winner of the recently-wrapped final season of American Idol, spoke with TV Guide about what the style of his debut album for Big Machine Records will be. The phrase “country Justin Timberlake” is used, so read into that what you will. (JK)

“As parents, it’s so fun to be able to be involved in a project with both of our children… It’s a dream we didn’t even know to dream about that’s fallen into place.”
— Linda Davis, speaking to Cindy Watts of The Tennessean about the album she is recording with her husband and two daughters, one of whom is Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum. It will be interesting to hear how Scott’s voice stacks up against her mother’s, which is a stronger and more technically sound instrument. Meanwhile, there is no word about any side projects for Lady A’s Dave Haywood… (JK)

Hayes Carll and Allison Moorer gave a soulful performance of “Love Don’t Let Me Down” from Carll’s latest album, Lovers & Leavers, for Folk Alley Sessions at 30A. (JK)

“Emmy and I will always work together. I don’t know if we’ll make another album, but certainly we’ll perform together. That was a beautiful rekindling of something we started in our 20s. She was generous back then. I was just a member of her band, and she reached her hand out and got me front and center. At the time, I was a songwriter and I was fine with that, but she got me to sing. At the end of that, I felt I could look at myself and say, ‘I’m a good singer.'”
— Rodney Crowell, who gave a great interview to Sarah Jarosz for the Austin Chronicle. Crowell praises Tom Hiddleston, Emmylou Harris, Jedd Hughes, and Jarosz herself. (LMW)

Terry Jennings, son of Waylon Jennings, collaborated with writer David Thomas on Waylon: Tales Of My Outlaw Dad, a memoir that provides new insights into the Outlaw country legend. (JK)

At an “All For The Hall” benefit, Sam Hunt took a break from his regularly scheduled music to sing an actual country song, Merle Haggard’s “The Way I Am.” (LMW)

And, since “The Way I Am” happens to be one of both my and Leeann’s most favorite Haggard songs, here’s a less breathy and less affected cover, performed by Miranda Lambert and Ashton Shepherd several years ago (JK) :

“I never set out for anything in particular, but in hindsight, I hope the song humanizes the character, and makes them relatable, and that they may even show some charm and appeal that translates into compassion and understanding.”
— The incomparable Elizabeth Cook, who premiered the lead single, “Methadone Blues,” from her first album in six years, via NPR. Cook’s new album, Exodus of Venus, is due on June 17th. (JK)

“We’re totally a band… A couple years ago we put out ‘A Dotted Line’ and the tour was more fun than it’s ever been. I think we’ll continue to do stuff; there’s no telling when.”
— Sean Watkins, who was profiled by the Star Tribune, alluded to the future of Nickel Creek. Happily, he says that the band is likely to put out more music at some point down the road. (JK)

“So I just kept listening and pretended that was some other singer on the jukebox singing about ‘The Fightin’ Side of Me.’ Denial, I suppose, was as close to transcendence as my teenage self was going to get. I kept writing, and it would be many years and a couple of hundred songs later before I realized that, maybe, sometimes the songwriter is not always the same person as the characters he or she creates. And Merle Haggard’s songs were nothing if not transcendent.”
— Steve Earle, who penned an absolutely must-read editorial for The New York Times, recounting the influence Merle Haggard’s music had on him as a teenager. (JK)

Jon Pardi, one of the more promising up-and-coming male acts in Nashville, premiered the music video for his single, “Head Over Boots.” He rocks a pretty crisp Nudie suit in parts of the video! (JK)

The ever-reliable Geoffrey Himes posted an essential list of 5 classic Lucinda Williams tracks over at American Songwriter. (JK)

“I grew up in the music business, and I sang growing up. I got my first guitar when I was 13. I’ve always played and I was always surrounded by music. I started writing this record in 2012, (with) “Light of Day.” That’s sort of when I knew … I was probably going to make a record.”
— Aubrie Sellers, in an interview with Roman Gokhman, spoke about the origins of her terrific debut album, New City Blues, her inspirations for the project, and her previous acting gigs. (JK)

Country Universe favorite Drake White released the video for his latest single, “Livin’ the Dream.” The video features White’s wife and is filmed mostly from the POV of his dog. (JK)

That will do it for this week. As always, let us know what we missed in the comments section!

4 Comments

  1. @ Jason,

    I think I explained that pretty well, actually– the handful of critics whose reviews are counted toward its metacritic score all love the album, but there is a fairly vocal contingent of people (primarily traditionalists, but also within Simpson’s own varied fanbase) who actively hate it. It isn’t divisive among critics, but it’s a divisive album overall.

  2. Jonathan, I’m loving the updates. They fill a The9513/Engine145/CountryCalifornia sized hole in the blogosphere. Thank you. BTW, Dave Haywood is producing there in Nashville. Whitney Duncan has a new trio called Post Monroe with Ashlee Hewitt and Shelby McLeod and Haywood is producing their upcoming project.

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