Sunday Selections: January 10, 2016

… And we’re back!

The first week of January is relatively slow on the new release front, but there are a couple of noteworthy albums and some intriguing reissues to check out. If the first two weeks of the year are any indication, 2016 may be just as much Chris Stapleton’s year as was 2015, but, while we’re not opposed to that at all, we’re also working hard to make sure that the news isn’t all-Stapleton-all-the-time. Below, there are stories about and videos from Willie Nelson, Miranda Lambert, Robert Earl Keen, Maren Morris, and more!


New Releases & Reissues, 1/08/2016

The Everly Brothers, Walk Right Back: The Singles Collection 1956 – 1962 (Jasmine)
The Grascals, … And Then There’s This (Mountain Home Music Company)
Harvest Thieves, Rival (Holy Mountain Sounds)
Robby Johnson, Don’t Look Back (Contrast Music)
Pure Prairie League, If The Shoe Fits (1976), Live! Takin’ The Stage (1977), and Can’t Hold Back (1979) (RCA / Legacy)
JD Souther, John David Souther (1971) (Omnivore Recordings)

News and Notes


Seeing as how The Year Of Chris Stapleton didn’t fully commence until November, it’s no surprise that it has already resulted in some big stories in the first few weeks of 2016. Stapleton joins the not-terribly-long-list of country music artists to serve as musical guests on Saturday Night Live on January 16; Adam Driver of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Girls will the episode’s host. He is also the only country artist who will be performing at this year’s Coachella music festival. (JK)

Meanwhile, on New Year’s Eve, Stapleton and Kings of Leon brought down the house with a cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man.” Because of course they did. (JK)

“This is the highest-level group of hillbillies you’ve ever put into GQ magazine. I’m sure of that.”
— Stapleton again, who was interviewed by GQ following his slew of Grammy nominations. GQ dubbed Stapleton, Jason Isbell, and Sturgill Simpson (who announced that his next album will be released sometime during the summer) as “The Country Insurgency.” (JK)

RoCash Willie

PBS will air the Library Of Congress’ all-star concert tribute to Willie Nelson in honor of his Gershwin Prize on January 15th. Performers include Alison Krauss, Jamey Johnson, Rosanne Cash, and The Mavericks. (JK)

“Country audiences aren’t as likely to connect with a recording that feels like a vocal performance superimposed onto a studio guru’s vision. The production needs to seem like it’s somehow amplifying the artist’s ambitions and persona.”
— The ever-on-point Jewly Hight predicts how 2015’s trend within country music of emergent “super producers” may impact the genre moving forward into 2016 in “The Rise Of the Country-Music Superproducer” for Vulture. It’s an in-depth piece that speaks to multiple producers about their recent work with acts like Sam Hunt, Carrie Underwood, Thomas Rhett, and Keith Urban. (JK)

Garden & Gun staged a terrific performance with Robert Earl Keen of some of the standout cuts– including “Hot Corn, Cold Corn,” which landed on our list of 2015’s best singles!– from Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions. (JK)

“Okay everybody, sorry I have faded away for such a long time . The fact is, I have just been diagnosed with Parkinson Disease. I am trying to deal with all this but it is proving to be very difficult. It is affecting my voice and that is the hardest to deal with. Not sure I can ever sing again but shall try. I appreciate your concern and kind thoughts. I have the best “fans” in the business. Trying to keep my spirits up. will keep in touch, I promise. KTO.”
— K.T. Oslin, a favorite of the Country Universe staff and a truly one-of-a-kind talent, announced via her Facebook page that she has been diagnosed with Parkinson Disease. Oslin’s latest album, Simply, ranked at #20 on our list of the best albums of 2015, and it’s not to be missed. (JK)

Miranda Lambert gave an extraordinary performance of The Eagles’ “Desperado” at The Kennedy Center Honors. It’s Miranda at her understated best. Aretha Franklin’s tribute to Carole King and CeCe Winans’ tribute to Cicely Tyson are also essential viewing. (JK)

“You don’t need to be compromise who you are and your vision just for a deal. What’s the point? It’s easy for us in this little tiny box in Nashville to think that we know the audience. That’s a lot of what the business does. It’s our job to try know the audience. That’s a hard thing to know when you are in this bubble all the time. People always say you have to spoon feed it to them, and you can’t be too smart. That doesn’t align with me. Every artist I’ve looked up to, I haven’t felt spoon fed. Honestly, when I feel spoon fed, I’m not inspired. I like being challenged.”
— Hannah Blaylock, former singer of the now-defunct Eden’s Edge, in a lengthy, must-read piece (“Is The Major Label System A Machine? Artists Speak Out”) by Jason Scott for The Rowdy. Scott also speaks with Kelleigh Bannen and The Voice winner Craig Wayne Boyd about their experiences with their record labels. Scott’s been doing some really terrific writing over at The Rowdy of late and is well worth keeping up with! (JK)

Marty Brown will release the studio version of his cover of “To Make You Feel My Love” on February 5. (JK)

Ray Benson Book Cover

“If a Jewish Yankee like me could play this music I loved and find acceptance among the working class, it would be a shining example of brotherhood for all. … I was going to ‘complete the circle, bring the roots of country music back to the generation whose parents loved the music, but in the upheaval of the ’60s lost its soul to the plastic white-bread culture that drove the kids away from the music.’ In short, my goal was nothing less than to rediscover America through music—and to have a blast doing it, of course. … My ambition was to be a Renaissance man, master of many pursuits: guitarist, singer, songwriter, bandleader, businessman, artist, philanthropist, community leader, and wandering minstrel, all rolled into one.”
— Asleep At The Wheel frontman Ray Benson discusses his ambitions and artistic vision in an interview-slash-book-review with No Depression‘s Henry Carrigan. Benson’s autobiography, Comin’ Right At Ya, sounds like a fascinating read. (JK)

“Well, we want to know that you can write, because this artist thing – it could be great, or it could go away. But if we’re committed to you, if you’re a real writer, then that’s what we’re signing you for.”
— Mark Beeson, co-writer of our #1 single for 2015, Ashley Monroe’s “The Blade,” spoke with Craig Shelburne of Music Row about his career, covering his stint as a part of Burnin’ Daylight in the 90s through Monroe’s recent Grammy nomination. (JK)

“No, I have a Prius. But I’d love to have a white convertible like Richard Gere’s in American Gigolo.”
— Maren Morris, to Jewly Hight in a profile for Billboard: “Is Maren Morris Nashville’s Next Breakout Pop Star.” The tag of Morris as a potential pop star isn’t an accident, based on her assertion that she didn’t set out to make either a country or a pop record. (JK)

Kacey Musgraves gave a lovely performance of “Late to the Party”– because, obviously, country radio is still not playing “Dime Store Cowgirl”– on The Late Show With Steven Colbert. Her drummer looks distractingly like Jared Leto from the 2014 Oscars. (JK)

That’s it for this week! If you haven’t already done so, check out our recent reviews of Maren Morris, Drake White, and Andrew Combs. And our 2015 year-end lists!


  1. Over half of the 52 tracks on the 2 discs Everly Brothers Singles collection were never singles. Between my 45’s and LP’s, I remember about 30 of the songs. I only found out a few years ago that the brothers are in the Country Music Hall of Fame, inducted in 2001. (They’re also in the Rock’n’Roll Hall) Most of their big hits I heard as a kid on NYC rock stations.

  2. @ bob,

    Interesting. I’ll admit that I didn’t check the track list for that set, but it certainly sounds like the title is at least 50% misleading! Reminds me of the Linda Ronstadt reissue from last month that Erik North said wasn’t actually authorized by Ronstadt or anyone on her team. Seems like labels play pretty fast-and-loose when it comes to reissues.

  3. I would only point out re. the live Linda Ronstadt/Emmylou Harris album that it is unlikely that either one of them would have allowed its release without first listening to the sound quality…which, according to a lot of reviews on Amazon and elsewhere, isn’t exactly good. If any two women in the business were sticklers on how their records should sound, it would be Linda and Emmy (IMHO).

    Re. K.T. Oslin: I feel sorry for both her and her fans that she too has been struck by the same disease that ended Linda’s career. She had a great amount of class in the records she made during the late 80s/early 90s; and to have that ability taken away has to be devastating for her fans. As a fan of Linda’s, I sympathize with K.T.’s.

    In regards to Miranda Lambert’s performance of “Desperado” at the Kennedy Center Honors–perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the many times I have heard Linda do it, because it is so close to her (the Eagles were her backup band before they became their own unit), but I just don’t think Miranda really added anything to it (and her smiling throughout it just irritated me).

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