The year of Chris Stapleton rolls on unabated. The reigning CMA Male Vocalist of the Year– which is still an amazing thing to type!– figures prominently in the country music news this week. But there are plenty of other things besides The Beard Of Truth And Justice worth discussing, including the release of some interesting album reissues from genre legends, some say-what-now commentary from radio insiders, and a just-awesome shotgun rider gig by Carrie Underwood!
New Releases and Reissues, 12/04/2015
The Allman Brothers Band, Idlewild South (Deluxe Edition) (Mercury / UME)
Glen Campbell, Love Songs (RockBeat)
Johnny Cash, Man in Black: Live in Denmark 1971 (Columbia / Legacy)
Dave & Sugar, Ten Best (Enterprise Music)
Nashville Cast, The Music of Nashville: Original Soundtrack Season 4 Volume 1 (Big Machine)
Roy Orbison, 13-album box set including Roy Orbison Sings Don Gibson (1967) and Hank Williams the Roy Orbison Way (1970) (Roy Orbison)
Dolly Parton, The Collection (10-album box set) (RCA / Legacy)
Poco, Ghost Town (1982) and Inamorata (1984) (BGO)
Various Artists, American Roots Music: Pre-War Blues, Country, & Folk (RockBeat)
News & Notes
The 2015 CMA Entertainer of the Year, Luke Bryan, will be performing on “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” on ABC. He’ll be joined by performers Demi Lovato and Wiz Khalifa and by hosts Ryan Seacrest and Fergie. Which I’ll admit sounds like an all-around horrifying way to ring in 2016. (JK)
“I don’t think it’s where difference goes to die. It’s currently where difference goes to fight —and win, in Stapleton’s case… It’s clearly becoming time for the bros to sublet their high rises.”
— Krisha Brook, morning host at Knoxville’s WCYQ (Q100), one of many country music insiders included in a fascinating article by Billboard‘s Phyllis Stark. Brook and others were asked to respond to a statement made by New York Times music critic Jon Caramanica, who described country radio as, “the place where difference goes to die.” Radio staffers, in particular, took greatest issue with Caramanica’s description– though Stark herself described it as snide– but what’s most interesting about the comment from Brook is that it seems to play at a bit of revisionist history. In looking at Chris Stapleton’s “Nobody to Blame” having made the top 30 at country radio since his CMA wins as some sort of victory for artists whose style differs from the reigning zeitgeist of the Metro-Bro acts, Brook glosses over the fact that “Nobody to Blame” was originally pitched to country radio in September and failed to crack the top 60 on the airplay charts until his CMA performance broke him to a much wider audience. So using “Nobody to Blame” as an example of how country radio embraces differences is specious, at best. (JK)
“Can’t believe I have a song in the new Alvin and The Chipmunks movie! Download the soundtrack including #SouthSide now.”
— Thomas Rhett, plugging his latest promotional effort, because sometimes the jokes just write themselves. Friend of Country Universe @WindmillsMusic also pointed out that Chris Stapleton co-wrote Rhett’s “South Side”… and that Stapleton’s middle name is actually Alvin. This is the world we live in, folks. (JK)
Both Kacey Musgraves and Aaron Watson were among the country artists who have announced a slate of new tour dates. (JK)
“Lauderdale’s connection to Memphis seems symbiotic. Royal Studios is actually on Lauderdale Boulevard in Memphis and he has a photograph to prove it inside the album. It was taken by Boo Mitchell, the grandson of Willie Mitchell, who produced some of Al Green’s greatest sides and ran Royal until he turned the day to day management over to Boo. In 2004, the stretch of South Lauderdale that included Mitchell’s Royal Studios was renamed Willie Mitchell Boulevard. Willie Mitchell passed away in 2010.”
— Steve Wosahla of No Depression finds some nifty coincidences that connect Jim Lauderdale to the city of Memphis, in a lengthy feature on Lauderdale’s new double-album, Soul Searching. (JK)
“My very first pickup I ever had was a GMC. It did have a bench seat and I remember my high school girlfriend would sit right next to me everywhere we went. I love that truck because of that. That’s always my favorite thing about the bench seat, when your girl slides over and sits next to you. Thank god I have a dog these days that comes over and sits next to me.”
— Blake Shelton, who provided some annotations to his songs on genius.com. His comments on “Sure Be Cool If You Did” focus primarily on trucks, though he also suggests that the song is his “version of George Strait’s ‘The Chair’,” which is certainly a strong opinion to hold. (JK)
The CMT Artists of the Year show is rarely noteworthy– this year, it drew criticism for the fact that the only women CMT felt were worthy of being considered one the year’s most significant artists were half of Little Big Town– but former American Idol runner-up Adam Lambert and former X-Factor winner Leona Lewis gave a killer performance of LBT’s “Girl Crush.” Why Lambert and Lewis were chosen is anyone’s guess, but it worked out well for everyone. (JK)
In an interesting profile in Rolling Stone, Lee Ann Womack’s daughter, Aubrie Sellers, reveals that she will be releasing a Frank Liddell produced album and touring with Chris Stapleton in the coming months. The profile also includes the video for her single, “Light of Day,” and further proves her potential for good musical instincts by mentioning that she has previously toured with Country Universe favorite, Hayes Carll. (LMW)
Speaking of Stapleton again, it was announced that he has been deemed ineligible for the “Best New Artist” category for next week’s Grammy award nominations. Which is fascinating, considering the fast-and-loose eligibility criteria for that award, which infamously went to Shelby Lynne five albums and more than a decade into her career. (JK)
Marty Brown, who featured in our Best of 1993 countdowns earlier this year, will be releasing a digital single of his cover of Bob Dylan’s “To Make You Feel My Love.” Brown performed the song as his audition for the eighth season of America’s Got Talent, on which he reached the semi-final round. The video of Brown’s performance on the show has topped 6 million views on YouTube: Not too shabby for a “too country for country” artist whose biggest radio hit peaked at #62 more than two decades ago. (JK)
To commiserate with those who have to work this Christmas, Paul Burch is offering a rollicking original Christmas tune called “Christmas Time and a Half.” (LMW)
“I found out that this song had become popular and I thought that was kind of cool. The show that it’s played on has been the most popular variety show in the Philippines for a long time, so the song has had this big resurgence. I thought it would be really cool to go to Manila and show the people how much we appreciate their support.”
— 90s country star Bryan White, commenting on the massive popularity of his song “God Gave Me You” (not a cover of Blake Shelton’s chart-topping hit) in the Philippines. White plans to travel to Manila to appear on Eat Bulaga, the variety show on which the song has been featured. (JK)
Carrie Underwood joined The Late Late Show‘s James Corden in a humorous “Carpool Karaoke” segment, which included a reluctant longest-note contest and a rousing Wham! sing-along. (LMW)
“It was all about the lyrics and choosing songs that told my story as well. I think sometimes people listen and they’re like “She has a Kanye West song on her record. How is that in any way related?” But for me, it’s about the lyrics. I listened to all these songs and was like “Well, it’s not going to be in the style of a Kanye West song, or a Wilco song or a Brandi Carlile song, but the lyrics are definitely true to different things I have experienced or am experiencing in my life.”
— Ruby Amanfu, in an interview with American Songwriter, discussing her process for selecting cover songs for her new album, Standing Still. For many country and rock fans, Amanfu may be best-known for her lovely harmony vocals on Jack White’s “Love Interruption,” but she’s an artist absolutely worth knowing in her own right. (JK)
““Sometimes experimenting, failing, feeling the frustration… Pain, doubt, mistrust of myself—it all came to that. It’s empowering to fail… and it’s okay to take a wrong turn.”
— Rosanne Cash gives insight into her extraordinary and decidedly non-linear career path in “Rosanne Cash, Elizabethtown, and the Empowerment of Failure,” an exceptional essay by Holly Gleason for Paste magazine. Gleason considers the implications of perceived failures across different forms of media, covering albums like Cash’s Interiors alongside filmmaker Cameron Crowe’s Elizabethtown, and relates that to her own experiences teaching rock criticism at the collegiate level. It’s a thoughtful, must-read piece. (JK)
The first official full-length trailer for I Saw The Light, the Hank Williams biopic starring Tom Hiddleston and Elizabeth Olsen, was unveiled this week. The film, which was originally slated for release in time for consideration in the 2015 awards season, was reviewed poorly at its premiere and has been pushed back to March 25, 2016. Hank III, never one to mince words, has repeatedly voiced his displeasure at the casting of Hiddleston as his grandfather. (JK)
That’s it for this week. As always, let us know in the comments if there’s anything we’ve overlooked!
Re. Luke Bryan on New Year’s Rockin’ Eve–well, it’s a good reminder to watch his part of the show with the sound off (LOL).
Re. Poco’s albums Ghost Town and Inamorata–Poco is unquestionably one of the most underrated groups of all time, part of that late 1960s/early 1970s country-rock scene in Los Angeles that would lead to the Eagles. To me, they’re the kind of band that so many so-called “country” groups (Lonestar; Rascal Flatts) fall short of.
It wasn’t Ruby Amanfu who performed Like Jesus Does with Eric church. I remember her as Valerie June.
Ah, good catch! I had reversed Ruby Amanfu’s and Valerie June’s background vocal performances in my mind. Thanks!