This week’s round-up is a bit light on Chris Stapleton news… if only because we already have a post about the Grammy nominations, where he scored a total of 4 nods, including the all-genre Album Of The Year award. But there are some terrific reissues out this week– Johnny Cash! Dolly Parton! Connie Smith!!!– some pop crossover bids to dissect, an honor for a genre legend, and country music’s second-most impressive beard. Onward!
New Releases and Reissues, 12/11/2015:
Cam, Untamed. (Sony Nashville)
Johnny Cash, The Complete Sun Releases and Columbia Singles 1955 – 62. (Acrobat)
Eva Cassidy, Nightbird. (Blix Street)
Bobbie Gentry, Southern Gothic: The Definitive Collection. (Humphead County)
Chris Hillman & Friends, Six Days On the Road. (All Access)
Louise Mandrell, Ten Best. (Enterprise Music)
Dolly Parton, Hello, I’m Dolly (1964), Joshua (1971), Jolene (1974), Here You Come Again (1977), The Great Pretender (1984), Rhinestone: Original Soundtrack (1984), Heartsongs (1994). (RCA / Legacy)
Jim Reeves, Up Through The Years (1965). (RCA / Legacy)
Linda Ronstadt, A Party Girl In Dallas. (All Access)
Connie Smith, Cute ‘N’ Country (1965). (RCA / Legacy)
Rob Williams, Southern FM. (Evertone)
News and Notes
Coat of Many Colors, the made-for-TV biopic about a young Dolly Parton, was a huge ratings hit for NBC, drawing nearly 13 million viewers. It scored the best ratings for a TV movie since 2012 and NBC’s best ratings since 2013’s The Sound of Music Live! with Carrie Underwood. (JK)
NPR’s 50 Best Albums of 2015 includes enough great albums to make country music proud. Artists such as Ashley Monroe, Patty Griffin, Rhiannon Giddens, Jason Isbell, and Chris Stapleton make the list. (LMW)
Speaking of NPR, the always-thoughtful Ann Powers reveals her favorite albums of 2015, which include Maddie & Tae, Stapleton, Giddens, and The Mavericks. Her intro is well worth reading, too. (LMW)
Grammy-winning pop icon Cyndi Lauper will be releasing a country album in 2016. As a teaser, she has released a cover of Dolly Parton’s “Hard Candy Christmas.” (LMW)
Because nothing inspires spirited discussion quite like an “… of all time” list, UK magazine The Telegraph compiled a countdown of “The 60 Greatest Female Singer-Songwriters Of All Time.” Country music is well-represented: Genre legends Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris, Americana giants Lucinda Williams, Gretchen Peters, and Patty Griffin, and pop-country superstars Shania Twain and Taylor Swift all made the cut. (JK)
Indefensibly left off Included at #26 on The Telegraph‘s list was Loretta Lynn, whose new album, Full Circle, will be released on March 4 and is now available for pre-order. Lynn also received the “Legend” award at the 2015 Women In Music awards from Billboard on December 11. (JK)
““We are forever searching for things that are obsolete. Obsolescence ends up being something that comes up a lot, and probably more as the years go on. We thought it could be funny to send out a catalogue like they used to, with a motto: if you don’t need it, we’ve got it!”
— David Rawlings talks about his affinity for all things vintage and past their expiration dates in a lengthy profile by American Songwriter‘s Marissa R. Ross. Rawlings and his partner-in-crime, Gillian Welch, discuss their creative process and their goals for Nashville Obsolete, their second outing as “David Rawlings Machine.” (JK)
The Grand Ole Opry’s fantastic YouTube channel just posted a July performance of Cam doing a nice cover of Patsy Cline’s “Sweet Dreams.” (LMW)
Songwriter Don Chapel, who penned hits for an impressive list of country’s biggest stars and who was briefly married to Tammy Wynette, passed away at age 84. (JK)
While his label has been busy not releasing his latest album for months, Josh Turner has (jumped aboard the Chris Stapleton bandwagon?) grown a mighty fine beard, which he unveiled while filming an episode of Gridiron Outdoors for the Outdoor Channel in which he hunts a 300 lb wild boar. (JK)
“Believe it or not, I am a glass-half-full person… If I allowed myself to get swallowed up in all this misery and vengeance, God knows what would happen. I mean, there aren’t too many choices. You can either hang in there or not.”
— Lucinda Williams, issuing a real challenge with that “Believe it or not” bit, in an in-depth profile by Matt Hendrickson for Garden & Gun magazine. Hendrickson offers high praise for Williams’ new album, The Ghosts of Highway 20, which is due in January. The album incorporates some jazz influences into Williams’ hardscrabble brand of country and folk, and it sounds like it could be one of her very best. (JK)
“Mainstream country music isn’t so much about rural life anymore, and it certainly isn’t reflective of the American frontier west, where cowboy hats were popularized. It’s a suburban format with a suburban clientele – so much so that Zac Brown has traded in his beanie for a fedora during this album cycle, and Old Dominion just released a single called Snapback, an ode to the preferred hats of sorority girls everywhere.”
— The ever-astute Grady Smith of The Guardian, in an editorial that illustrates how the changes fashion choices of the genre’s current stars reflect broader changes in the POV of country music overall: As country songs have distanced themselves from rural concerns and have embraced an urban aesthetic, cowboy hats and nudie suits have given way to flat-brimmed baseball caps and zebra pants. (JK)
“Monroe’s album is feminist not for turning a shotgun on male oppressors, but for owning their vices: The narrator of “If the Devil Don’t Want Me” moans that “there ain’t enough whiskey,” while the one of “I’m Good at Leavin’” brushes off “I do’s” for “hony-tonks and bars.” On an album full of cutting gestures, finding feminine agency in identification with folly might be its deepest.”
— Sam C. Mac, friend of Country Universe and staff critic at my old stomping ground, Slant Magazine, wrote about Ashley Monroe’s The Blade, which made Slant‘s all-genre The 25 Best Albums of 2015 list. (JK)
“Case played several early-career songs that she admitted the band hadn’t performed in a while. They included Duchess from her 1998 first release, The Virginian, as well as Lady Pilot and the title track from Blacklisted, released in 2000. She bantered that part of why she hasn’t performed Duchess much is because it’s written for a higher register and she didn’t “know enough about music” when she wrote it to know she could simply sing it in a more manageable key.”
— Mary Nahorniak of USA Today, in a detailed profile of Neko Case’s one-night-only performance at the legendary Apollo Theater. The show allowed Case to promote her new career-spanning box set, Truckdriver, Gladiator, Mule and to showcase material that, in some cases, she hasn’t performed live in more than a decade. (JK)
Kacey Musgraves released a live performance video, covering Coldplay’s “Yellow.” We’ll likely re-watch this during the Super Bowl halftime show because it’s just lovely. (JK)
“@JasonAldean How could they possibly not know you were here when you already left tattoos on that town?”
— @NotJakeOwen, pointing out some mixed messages in Jason Aldean’s recent output. This tweet about Chris Stapleton is also on-point. (JK)
“Thinking Out Loud” “Die A Happy Man” is officially going for adds at Hot AC radio. Republic Records have posted side-by-side tracks of the “country” and “pop” mixes of the single, for those eager to pick a side in the debate about genre evolution. Meanwhile, The Band Perry’s day-glo-yellow monstrosity “Live Forever” enters the Hot AC charts at #37. Which means it only has to gain 10 spots to match its peak at country radio and officially bomb in two formats… (JK)
That’s it for this week. Be on the lookout for our year-end countdowns very soon!
Loretta Lynn wasn’t left off of The Telegraph’s list of the 60 Greatest Singer-Songwriters of All Time– she comes in at No. 26. But I was surprised not to see Rosanne Cash. And I WAS surprised to see Shania Twain….
Just three things I want to say about the A Party Girl In Dallas CD by Linda Ronstadt that has been issued by All-Access:
It is almost certainly a bootleg recording of a concert that she gave at Dallas’ Reunion Arena during Thanksgiving weekend in 1982, and which was broadcast on national radio. It is not sanctioned by anyone in Linda’s camp, let alone by Linda herself.
Linda never made a full-length live recording in her entire career (one of the few serious mistakes of her career, I might add).
Most importantly, that is not Linda on the cover of that CD, but a Ronstadt-inspired tribute singer by the name of Holly Aprecio.
Buyer beware, as they say.
Thanks for catching that! My friends sometime play this really awesome game called, “What Doesn’t Jonathan See?” which involves my inability to find things that are in my direct field of vision. It’s wholesome fun for the entire family.
And I agree that Rosanne Cash is a glaring omission.
I figured that would catch your attention. When compiling the list earlier in the week, I couldn’t even find a cover photo for that album anywhere, let alone a cover photo that isn’t actually Linda…
And I believe you’re correct about the release being a concert bootleg from that specific show, but I would have assumed that it was sanctioned by Linda and her promotional team.
I know it isn’t country related, but why is Shania on that female singer/songwriter list and not Mariah Carey?
Thanks for posting that Musgraves performance. I hadn’t seen it yet. “Yellow” is a lovely song. Coldplay’s first album remains my favorite.