Sunday Selections: May 22, 2016

We’re really, really, really tired of having taglines about music legends who have died.

This week, country music lost another icon in Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Guy Clark. The list of artists who have covered Clark’s brilliant, poetic songs over the years reads like a who’s who of country music royalty, and he continued to build upon his storied legacy in recent years with collaborations with the likes of Ashley Monroe and Chris Stapleton. His ability to weave salt-of-the-Earth images into profound insights into the most complex of human emotions is something that few could ever hope to match. This is another loss that really and truly stings.

Elsewhere this week, it looks like no one wanted to go up against Blake Shelton’s new album, despite the creepy thousand-yard stare of its cover art, so look for him to go uncontested at the top of next week’s Country Albums chart.

The creative director of Carrie Underwood’s Storyteller tour gave a peek behind the scenes at some of the technical specs that have helped her shows earn rave reviews from both fans and critics alike, while Sturgill Simpson and Margo Price gave well-received concerts on smaller scales. Darrell Scott, Anderson East, and a couple of folk icons released new music videos, and both Jake Owen and Kelsea Ballerini gave interviews that inspired, respectively, eye-rolls and outright ire.


If I'm HonestNew Releases & Reissues, 5/20/2016
Billy “Crash” Craddock, My Country Rock: The Definitive Collection. (Wrasse)
The Highwaymen, The Very Best of the Highwaymen and The Highwaymen Live – American Outlaws. (Columbia / Legacy)
Tim McGraw, Humble & Kind – Hardcover book. (Hachette Books)
Blake Shelton, If I’m Honest. (Warner)

News & Notes

“Guy Clark was one of the greatest songwriters who ever put pen to paper. He was the epicenter of a group of just brilliant writers– Rodney Crowell, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Young, who also passed away this year. And he had this incredible ability to take plain things– a homegrown tomato or a Randall knife– and craft these gorgeous songs around it and build these little worlds.”
— Friend-of-the-blog and best-in-the-biz Juli Thanki of The Tennessean, on the passing of Guy Clark. Thanki referred to Clark as a “keystone to such great music,” and, as ever, we are in full agreement with her assessment. Though perhaps not so well-known among contemporary audiences, Clark’s legacy is an impossibly deep catalogue of exceptional songs. (JK)

For anyone unfamiliar with Clark’s work, Rolling Stone posted a well-chosen primer of a dozen of his most essential songs. (JK)

I missed the release of his latest album on last week’s list of new albums, but I won’t make the same mistake with Darrell Scott this week– one of our very favorite singer-songwriters premiered the music video for his new single, “Down to the River.” (JK)

“I worried so long that I would sing to empty bars my whole life. I was singing my guts out, there would be five people into it. I’m in my prime right now.”
— Margo Price reflected on how her fortunes have changed just a wee bit of late in an interview with Laura Snapes of The Guardian. Price spoke about the double-standards she has faced in how she is portrayed– a point about how a comment she made about only being compared to other women and not to her main influences was later twisted into a non-existent beef with Kacey Musgraves is particularly on-point– and about her unique path to semi-stardom. (JK)

Willie Nelson announced the line-up for his always-eclectic 4th of July picnic. This year, performers range from legends like Kris Kristofferson and Billy Joe Shaver to genre favorites Lee Ann Womack and Jamey Johnson, along with Margo Price… and Brantley Gilbert. (JK)

Billy Bragg and Joe Henry released a music video for “The Midnight Special,” the first single for their upcoming album, Shine a Light: Field Recordings from The Great American Railroad, a collection of songs about trains. The project is slated for release in September. (JK)

“I think it’s more just people saying women are not being played on the radio because right now there are a ton of us and it’s awesome… ‘Peter Pan’ broke Top 30 and it’s my favorite song on the record. And radio has been so good to me and good to [fellow female singers] Maren [Morris], Cam, Maddie and Tae.”
— Kelsea Ballerini, in a flat-out infuriating interview with Fox News, utterly failed to consider that her own experiences– which, it’s worth noting, include being signed to a billionaire’s vanity music label that has spent an absurd amount of money to promote her to country radio– might not be representative of what is actually occurring for women at country radio. For instance, she ignores the facts that Morris’ single “My Church” has outsold her own “Dibs” (491K to 390K) but has stalled at #9 at radio instead of racing to #1, Cam’s “Mayday” is struggling to move up on the current charts (where it sits at #37 in its 14th week), and each of Maddie & Tae’s singles has peaked lower than its predecessor since “Girl A Country Song” became their sole top 5 hit. Or that the whole of this week’s top 40 singles list contains just 6 solo women, plus 2 duet partners, and that looking to the full top 60 singles list expands that number to a whopping 8 solo women. But clearly, it’s just a matter of people saying there’s a problem with women not being played on the radio. (JK)

While his single “Night’s On Fire” continues to inch up the charts in its 41st week, David Nail released a cover of Adele’s current single, “Send My Love (To Your New Lover),” looking back to his well-received rendition of her hit, “Someone Like You.” (JK)

Though the song recently moved to recurrent status at AAA radio, Anderson East released a music video for his terrific, soulful single, “Devil in Me.” (JK)

“Carrie is in a laser cone on top of the video ring pyramid, along with some cool CO2 effects and some great lighting visuals… We use primarily white and gold lasers; there are four 30W boxes on the ground and the 30W laser creating the cone, which is in the ceiling.”
— Barry Lather, creative director of Carrie Underwood’s Storyteller Tour, spoke to Sharon Stancavage of Lighting and Sound America about some of the special effects that have gone into Underwood’s critically-acclaimed in-the-round style tour. The article skews pretty heavily into tech-speak, but it’s a fascinating look behind the curtain and gives credit to the hard-working crew who have helped to make Underwood’s show so well-received. (JK)

“I know that this is the Opera House, but you don’t have to be so formal.”

— Sturgill Simpson addressed the crowd at a recent homecoming-like concert at the Opera House in Lexington, Kentucky. Jessica Bray gave an in-depth review of Simpson’s show at Kentucky Country Music. (JK)

“Sometimes my voice gets hidden… People don’t even have the opportunity to know that I love to sing.”
— Jake Owen, evidently surprised by the outcomes of his choice to deliver a not insubstantial number of his songs in a speak-singing style. Owen spoke with Entertainment Weekly about making the choice to reboot his upcoming albumAmerican Love, after his marriage dissolved and the ostensible lead single, “Real Life,” bricked at radio. (JK)

That will do it for this week. Let us know in the comments if we missed something!


  1. With regards to Kelsea Ballerini’s interview–whether it’s because she’s young, nervous, and a relative neophyte to the business (and even if she weren’t), her comments about the problem of the lack of women on country radio tell me that she is definitely not the first person anyone should even be asking about this problem, because what she said comes off as ditzy to an extreme. If anything, she seems to epitomize the very stereotype of women made by the Keith Hills of the country radio programming world, topped off by an image tailor-made for her to be a hood ornament on some Bro’s F-15 pick-up.

  2. Can we talk about the CMT Crossroads that just aired between Luke Bryan and Jason Derulo? Luke Bryan’s white-boy-who-can-but-can’t-dance act is so tired. Watching him flopping like a fish up there while Derulo owned him on every song was embarrassing considering Bryan has won so many Entertainer of the Year awards while Derulo isn’t on the level of the top pop and R&B entertainers.

  3. It would never even occur to me to watch that episode of CMT Crossroads!

    I liked Derulo’s last album, fwiw. One of the better pop albums of 2015, I thought.

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