Sunday Selections: January 17, 2016

It’s a super-sized Sunday Selections for this week!

As 2016 gets fully into gear, there are at least three high-profile new releases to go alongside a handful of  reissues, and there are a host of interesting news articles to peruse. Dierks Bentley talks about his highly-anticipated new album, up-and-comers Cam and Maren Morris consider the arcs of their respective careers, Blake Shelton gives more evidence that someone should revoke his Twitter privileges, and Loretta Lynn gets political, while alt-country stalwarts Ryan Adams and Neko Case offer new videos.


Pawn Shop
New Releases & Reissues, 1/15/2016:

Brothers Osborne, Pawn Shop (EMI Nashville)
The Everly Brothers, Bye Bye Love: Legendary FM Broadcast 1973 (Laser Media)
Georgia Satellites, The Hippy Hippy Shake (1988) (Sonic Boom)
John Prine, Bottom Line: 1978 New York Broadcast (All Access)
Randy Rogers Band, Nothing Shines Like Neon (Tommy Jackson)
Hank Williams, Jr., It’s About Time (Big Machine)

News & Notes

Dolly_Parton_books_240Dolly Parton remains the very best: Dolly’s “Imagination Library” program has partnered with the district of Southwark in central London to ensure that every child born in the district in 2016 will receive a free book in the mail every month until their fifth birthday. (JK)

“In the dark times, when my manager and I were sharing an air mattress and broke as a joke, we’d trade off having meltdowns every week. That kind of financial strain was not easy to deal with. But trusting my team and our process, believing in us and this music, that was a no-brainer. When you have nothing to lose, that’s when you can truly be free to carve your own path and do things your own way.”
— Cam, reflecting on how her status has changed over the past year as part of a series of interviews Hits Daily Double conducted with several Grammy nominees. (JK)

“To do it right, I had to dig deep as a writer, dig into the Nashville songwriting community, and record songs that explore the shadows and edges of the heart. The songs on Black range from the lonesomeness of an impossible relationship to ones that describe the feeling of finding that person that makes you forget the one that broke your heart.”
— Dierks Bentley to MusicRow Magazine, discussing how he scouted songs for his upcoming album, Black. (JK)

In addition to making our top 10 singles of 2015 list, Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” was officially the best-selling country single of 2015, selling 1.925 million downloads in the U.S. alone. (JK)

Gretchen Peters Blackbirds
“It is, and I think that because I was never really trend-aware, my career has sort of grown in its own separate ecosystem, if you will. Sometimes along the way it felt as if I were out of step, but in the long run the audience I’ve earned is there because of what I write and sing about, and they couldn’t care less about trends.”

— CU favorite Gretchen Peters spoke with Six Shooter Country about the overwhelmingly positive reception her album Blackbirds (which ranked on our list of 2015’s Best Albums) received from critics and her loyal fanbase. (JK)

“Writing a murder ballad is really about tapping into the emotions of a great love song. When something goes wrong with love, those emotions and feelings can turn murderous in a heartbeat! Murder ballads are also a huge part of the Appalachian music tradition, so I’ve been listening to them since I was a small child… kind of a crazy way to grow up, but just a huge part of my musical heritage.”
— Tammy Rogers of The SteelDrivers discussed her band’s penchant for writing a great murder ballad with Emily Maxwell of American Songwriter. When mentioning her favorite contemporary songwriters, Rogers singles out her former band-mate, Chris Stapleton. (JK)

“I’m too old to sing the high parts, so [his 14 year-old daughter, Corrina Grant Gill] is going to come in and save me like a relief pitcher.”
— Vince Gill, self-proclaimed Predators superfan, spoke with friend-of-the-blog and best-in-the-business Juli Thanki of The Tennessean about his upcoming gig at the NHL All-Star Game. (JK)

American Songwriter premiered two videos from Ryan Adams’ upcoming Austin City Limits performance. Sadly, the show was recorded well in advance of his cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989, so the set-list doesn’t include his terrific rendition of “All You Had to Do Was Stay.” (JK)

Blake Shelton kept it real classy on Twitter this week. (JK)

“Rosanne Cash and I were sort of responsible for the deconstruction of country music in the ’70s and ’80s, so we can’t point fingers. Radio is selling advertising and a product. Today’s commercial music is pop, and everybody knows it. They shouldn’t be ashamed; it’s not a slight. Pop-country is smart business, it really is—it syncs up to what radio is selling.”
— Rodney Crowell, secret poptimist, considers his role in how what passes for country music on commercial radio broke from the genre’s traditional forms. (JK)

“Too much modern country geared for radio is now in the business of lifestyle validation. Its purpose is not to challenge or expose listeners to anything interesting, but instead to herald the lives they are already living and reframe those lives as significant, even spiritual paths. But that makes for boring and calculated music that limits the public’s imagination for the extreme places that both faith and the rejection of faith can take people. And bad music is a shame.”
— Always on point, Grady Smith of The Guardian perfectly articulates the limitations of the prevailing (lack of) point-of-view in modern country as “lifestyle validation.” Inspired by Trace Adkins’ middling new single, “Jesus and Jones,” and Michael Ray’s still-festering “Real Men Love Jesus,” Smith argues in “Country’s Jesus-and-Partying Crew Cheapen Both the Faith and the Music” that these artists actively aspire toward a banal middle-ground, which is reflected in the quality of their music. It’s a compelling argument that intersects with the discussion on our review of Chris Lane’s “Fix” vis-a-vis bad music. (JK)

Loretta Lynn Full Circle
“Trump has sold me. What more can I say?”

— Loretta Lynn endorsed the candidacy of Donald Trump for President of the United States in a phone interview with journalist Emily Flitter. In other Loretta Lynn news this week, Rolling Stone premiered her new single, “Everything it Takes,” a duet with Elvis Costello. Lynn’s highly-anticipated new album, Full Circle, is slated for release on March 4th. (JK)

An E-flat-1 is the lowest note Richard Sterban from the Oak Ridge Boys has ever hit, according to this nifty profile by KEKB FM. The average range for a bass singer bottoms-out at an E2. (JK)

“I’d first met Lemmy a dozen years earlier and knew he could be a bit rough around the edges, but he spoke softly and clearly had respect and a deep knowledge of Jackson’s work. She seemed utterly charmed and fascinated by him as well, although she admitted to never having heard of Motörhead.”
— “Easy Ed” of No Depression recounts the night when Queen of Rockabilly Wanda Jackson met the late Lemmy of Motörhead. It’s a fascinating read about two truly one-of-a-kind talents whose paths unexpectedly crossed. (JK)

Jackson’s influence is all over Neko Case’s performance of her latest single, “Man,” which got a shiny new music video this week. (JK)

“Ultimately, if you’re creating songs that are coming from your heart it’s satisfying to be the one to share those with people that will relate and connect, and I think that’s what makes me and writers like Maren [Morris] decide to want to give the artist thing a real shot. That, and knowing that if the artist thing didn’t work out for me I could always be happy going back to being a songwriter.”
— Kacey Musgraves spoke with Jeremy Burchard of Wide Open Country about up-and-coming artist Maren Morris. The article is a profile of Morris, but it’s ultimately Musgraves who has the most interesting comments, likely because she is more established in her career than Morris. Morris’ “My Church” has been selected as the latest “On The Verge” single by iHeartRadio, the promotion that helped Cam’s “Burning House” gain traction at country radio. (JK)

“25 years sounded terrible, so (booking agent) Davis McLarty was like, ‘Let’s just call it the silver anniversary.’ But the backfire there is that Ticketmaster apparently didn’t know what ‘silver anniversary’ meant, so on Ticketmaster it says that it’s the 50th anniversary of the release of the record. So I was like, ‘Oh my God, we made it worse!'”
— Another CU favorite, Kelly Willis this time, in a lengthy interview with Richard Skance of LoneStarMusic Magazine, discussing the “silver anniversary” tour in celebration of her debut album, Well Travelled Love. Willis has reunited with her original backing band, Radio Ranch, for a series of shows commemorating the 25th anniversary of her debut album. Well Travelled was the start of Willis’ short stint on a major label – a trilogy of albums that didn’t mesh with Nashville’s commercial norms at the time but stand now as classics of ’90s country. The album’s energetic mix of classic, roadhouse country, rockabilly, roots rock and Tex-Mex set the tone for Willis’ emergence as a treasure of adventurous traditionalism. Well Travelled is also a snapshot of a young band whose future was not kind to the talent it showcased. (LR)

Bramble Rose
Fans of Don Henley’s Cass County enjoyed his cover of Tift Merritt’s “Bramble Rose,” the title track from her debut album. Bramble Rose is a wonderful album that will be reissued on February 19th, so mark your calendars for that one. (JK)

There’s entirely too much good stuff to pick just one pull-quote from Jewly Hight’s fantastic new column, “Deep Sh!t” at The Bluegrass Station. For her first feature, she arranged a joint interview with legendary gospel group Sweet Honey In The Rock and upcoming Americana band Mount Moriah. It’s a fascinating conversation, and this feature promises to be essential reading each month. (JK)

Mel Tillis
Mel Tillis’ publicist provided an update on his recent health scare and insists that the situation is not as grave as it was initially made out to be in the media. (JK)

This is a weird one: Trisha Yearwood will play Mary, the mother of Jesus, in a live two-hour musical event on the Fox network on Palm Sunday, March 20th. (LMW)

Rhiannon Giddens’ in-depth profile on CBS Sunday Morning last week vaulted her album, Tomorrow Is My Turn, up to #4 on iTunes’ ranking of the week’s best-selling country albums. (LR)

That’s a wrap for this week. Dig in! There’s a lot to read and to listen to here!


  1. The Trisha Yearwood casting thing is odd. But I’ll be tuning in for sure. At the very least, her involvement in the project will be amusing. Kind of like Carrie Underwood in The Sound of Music a few years ago. Trisha is my favorite female vocalist, so I might be biased, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

  2. I sort of see what Rodney Crowell is getting at, but I am not altogether sure I agree. Sure, he had his mainstream and even pop sensibilities, but then he was also responsible for gems like “Oklahoma Borderline” and “Long Hard Road (The Sharecropper’s Dream).” I have a very difficult if not impossible time drawing any sort of line between him and, say, Sam Hunt.

  3. I see that there’s another Everly Brothers collection. The song selection is good – it even has “Up in Mabel’s Room” – but the first website I checked said “It must be said that the sound quality is not really up to standard”.

  4. Yes, some may find Trisha being cast as Mary in that TV musical about Jesus odd. But then again, back in 1991, her spiritual role model, Linda Ronstadt, starred as the archangel San Miguel in a PBS production of La Pastorela, an Hispanic take on the story (Linda is part-Mexican American). At least, you can’t accuse anyone at Fox of typecasting.

  5. @ bob

    I figured that would catch your attention after last week’s Everly Brothers set. The label that issued this one struck me as sounding more than a bit suspicious when I created the post, so I can’t say I’m shocked that a company named “Laser Media” in the year 2016 wouldn’t necessarily have its tech and specs up to standard.

  6. @Jonathan – I still love the music of the Everly Brothers. I only got to see them once and that was in the late 1980’s at what used to be called the Westbury Music Fair.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.