Sunday Selections: June 5th, 2016

Break out the eye-drops, gang, this one’s a longread!

After last week’s hiatus for the Memorial Day holiday weekend, there’s quite a bit to get caught up on. We’ve got two weeks’ worth of new releases– last week’s crop was led by Dierks Bentley’s deeply disappointing new album and a fantastic breakthrough album from Bonnie Bishop, while this week is headed up by the hotly-anticipated new albums from Maren Morris and Robert Ellis. Morris’ album skews even farther into Sheryl Crow territory than “My Church” indicated it might– if it’s a stretch to call Sturgill Simpson’s latest album “country,” then Morris’ Hero is fair game for that discussion, too– but it’s an excellent album that teems with confidence and personality.

In the news round-up, Jewly Hight conducted an interview with Cam for NPR that rivals, if not exceeds, Hight’s interview with Eric Church in early April for its depth and insight. Bentley and Craig Morgan talk in circles about their latest albums, while Del McCoury and Kimberly Perry attempt to throw some shade with varying degrees of success. There’s new music from Kree Harrison, Parker Millsap, Jewel, and Sarah Jarosz, and Brad Paisley cautiously steps back into the political fray two years after “Accidental Racist.”



BlackNew Releases & Reissues, 5/27/2016
Dierks Bentley, Black. (Capitol Nashville)
Bonnie Bishop, Ain’t Who I Was. (Thirty Tigers)
Leyla McCalla, A Day for the Hunter, A Day for the Prey. (Jazz Village)
My Morning Jacket, It Still Moves (Deluxe Edition) (2003). (ATO)
Marty Robbins, Today (1971) and Don’t Let Me Touch You (1977). (Morello)
Daniel Romano, Mosey. (New West)
Various Artists, Bright Star: Original Broadway Cast Recording. (Ghostlight)
Tony Joe White, Rain Crow. (Yep Roc)

HeroNew Releases & Reissues, 6/03/2016
John Berry, What I Love the Most. (RED)
Laura Cantrell, Laura Cantrell At the BBC: On Air Performances and Recordings 2000 – 2005. (Spit & Polish)
Dan + Shay, Obsessed. (Warner Nashville)
Delaney & Bonnie, To Bonnie From Delaney (1970). (Wounded Bird)
Robert Ellis, Robert Ellis. (New West)
Nicolette Larsen, Live at the Roxy. (Wounded Bird)
Johnny Lee, You Ain’t Never Been to Texas. (Smith Music Group)
Brad Mehldau Trio, Blues and Ballads. (Nonesuch)
Craig Morgan, A Whole Lot More to Me. (Black River Entertainment)
Maren Morris, Hero. (Columbia Nashville)
Dolly Parton, Smart Blonde: Dolly Parton: A Biography. (Stephen Miller, Overlook Press)
Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen, Watch This. (Lil’ Buddy Toons)
The Traveling Wilburys, The Traveling Wilburys Collection. (Concord)


CamNews & Notes

“I think women are expected to be very accommodating. I don’t know where this happens in our socialization, but I think there’s a lot of women artists that are accidentally too accommodating. I made a purposeful choice not to try and be super sexy, or these things that people accidentally put on you. I remember someone said [to me], ‘Oh, they’re not gonna make you straighten your hair like they made so and so do that?’ … There’s this fear that if you are who you are, it’s not gonna work out.”
— Cam digs deep into the intersection between contemporary feminism and country music in an absolutely essential interview with the ever-insightful Jewly Hight. It’s a wide-ranging interview that truly showcases Cam’s knowledge of and respect for the genre’s traditions and that pulls no punches with regard to the challenges she has run into as a woman attempting to break through in the current radio climate. (JK)

“It’s kind of tricky. I mean, I think Kris Kristofferson is one of the smartest people on the planet… So I think the idea that somehow country music isn’t smart is completely wrong. Maybe it’s because country music values simpler things. I don’t know where that started. I don’t know why if you like beer and you like having a truck somehow that means you’re dumb.”
— Cam again, from the same interview. Just because. (JK)

“When I put that out there, my hardcore fans hated it. My wife goes on the websites and told me. I love that because I don’t want to carry the torch for anybody. I’m not trying to carry the torch for official country music. I want to be able to do my own thing. So to put a song out there that is really young with an urban delivery-type vocal – I can relate to that character because I have been that guy. So the fact that people first hated it, that’s good. I really don’t like to put out something that doesn’t get people feeling something.”
— Dierks Bentley knows that you hated “Somewhere On a Beach,” and he is a-okay with that. In an interview with Mark Guarino for The Guardian, Bentley talks about wanting to be known as a “serious artist” and making albums the way he wants to make them while also talking about how important the party atmosphere of his live shows are and how country music is– wait for it– always evolving. Bentley has always been one of the mainstream’s most thoughtful stars, but his promotional rounds for his latest album, Black, haven’t always cast him in the greatest light. That the album is also his weakest effort by several orders of magnitude doesn’t help, either… (JK)

American Idol finalist Kree Harrison has released the second single from her forthcoming debut album, and it’s fantastic. “Dead Man’s House” has a Southern soul, Stax Records vibe that allows Harrison to play to her considerable strengths as a vocalist, while the song’s narrative is a contemporary spin on the Southern Gothic style. (JK)

Drake White, one of our favorite up-and-coming stars, posted a backstage video from his current tour with Zac Brown Band. White and his ace backing band, The Big Fire, shared their warm-up routine, which includes a rendition of “A Little Help From My Friends.” (JK)

“If my music is not getting played on the radio, the consumers and the fans don’t get to hear it as much. There’s a good chance my hardcore fans may go buy it, but we want to sell a lot of records, and I want to appease everyone. That’s hard to do – almost impossible.”
— Craig Morgan, still actively chasing radio play with his latest music, spoke to Chuck Dauphin about his new album, A Whole Lot More To Me, in an in-depth interview for Sounds Like Nashville. Morgan’s description of his current single, “I’ll Be Home Soon,” is so lengthy and convoluted that he makes it sound like he could be referring to about half of the songs that have ever been recorded. Elsewhere, he’s more candid about the recording process and his collaborations with Michael McDonald and Mac Powell for the project. (JK)

“I don’t listen to much new music. When I was younger, if something made an impression, I would remember it forever. It doesn’t happen now. I guess it’s because of the vocals. They all sound the same. The old singers are different. You can tell a Mac Wiseman from a Lester Flatt and a Jimmy Martin. The new ones all sound the same. I guess it’s because they’re trying to copy. I was trying to copy when I started, too. You got to find your own way of singing, doing those things that are different.”
— Del McCoury, none too impressed by the younger generation, told Andy Miller of The Bluegrass Situation that he can’t tell many newer Bluegrass vocalists apart. McCoury also talks to Miller about the genesis of Del McCoury Band’s latest album, Del and Woody, on which the Bluegrass legends set to music some Woody Guthrie lyrics. (JK)

Brad Paisley addressed the North Carolina “bathroom law” controversy on Jimmy Kimmel Live with a parody of “Stand By Your Man.” (LMW)

“Let me just say… it’s easier to steal our thunder than to make your own lightning. #itscooltho #makinglightningishard.”
— Kimberly Perry of The Band Perry evidently took issue with Little Big Town’s recent announcement that they had collaborated with producer Pharrell Williams for a one-off pop album and posted a passive-aggressive dig at LBT on her Twitter account. A collaboration with Pharrell is something that has allegedly been in the works as part of The Band Perry’s ongoing rebranding slash identity crisis, though an even better idea might be for The Band Perry’s publicist to take away their social media access to keep them from further alienating one-time fans with their petty, petulant attitudes. (JK)

Courtesy of NPR’s “First Listen,” we can hear Brandy Clark’s new album, Big Dreams in a Small Town, before its June 10th release date. As always, Ann Powers’ companion review of the album is well-worth reading. (LMW)

Also over at NPR, Robert Ellis performed three tracks (“How I Love You,” “Drivin’,” and “California”) for a must-hear Tiny Desk concert. (JK)

Parker Millsap premiered a music video for his single “Pining” from his album The Very Last Day, which happens to be one of the year’s very best albums. (JK)

” … But, when I’m traveling with Chris Thile, it’s whatever the most esoteric, ridiculous, and mind-blowing foodie establishment in a town may be. Or several towns over. We’ve been known to drive an hour out of our way for better coffee. Yeah, we’re that guy.”
— Michael Daves, a frequent collaborator with Chris Thile, dished the foodie dirt on the Punch Brothers frontman and Prairie Home Companion host in an interview with The Bluegrass Situation. (JK)

Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Ken Burns has recently announced that he plans to helm a feature about country music for release in 2019. Nashville’s mayor, Megan Barry, has committed incentive funds to the project in hopes that it will increase tourism revenue in Music City. (JK)

“Inside the venue they cheered and supported Underwood, and unlike some of the beer infused bro-country shows, people were all focused on the artist not on being seen and getting boozed up. It was a refreshing change.”
— Thom Jennings, writing for The Niagara Gazette, was duly impressed by Carrie Underwood’s Storyteller: In The Round tour performance. Moreover, Jennings was impressed by the overall tenor of the crowd in attendance at the show, particularly in contrast to the boorish crowds that have driven families and well-behaved adults away from country festival shows of late. (JK)

Jewel’s latest album, Picking Up the Pieces, flew largely under the radar last year… so much so that we missed that she has released another single and music video from the project, “Pretty Faced Fool.” (JK)

It turns out that we have Joey Martin Feek to thank for the recently announced new album from Bradley Walker! Thanks to her last funeral request, Bill Gaither heard him sing, and the rest is, hopefully, history. (LMW)

Singer-songwriter Will Hoge posted to his Facebook page a candid and frankly devastating tribute to his former neighbor, 18 year-old Deandre Kpana-Quamoh, who was killed by an accidental gunshot at a party. (JK)

“He was this super cool, rock and roll dude, jean jacket and long hair, and I felt like a total nerd, cause I hadn’t been singing, crying in my pajamas for eight months, writing stories… So he’s telling me, I think you’re great, I want to make a record with you, but meanwhile that voice is in the back of my head telling me you’re never going to be anything, you’re never going to make a record.”
— Bonnie Bishop recounts her initial meeting with producer Dave Cobb and how the self-doubt she had acquired from twelve years on the bar circuit crept into that meeting, in a profile by Matt Alpert of Wide Open Country. Cobb produced Bishop’s new album, Ain’t Who I Was, which re-casts the independent Texas Country artist as a bluesy powerhouse. It’s a breakthrough more than a decade in the making, and it’s one of the year’s strongest albums. (JK)

Sarah Jarosz continues to emerge as one of the most talented artists of her generation; she premiered the music video for her new single, “House of Mercy.” (JK)

The song is about this sense of, ‘I thought it was what I wanted and I’ve tried, we’ve both tried really hard but this is not what we need, in spite of all the good things that are here. Neither of us are at our best right now, and that’s really hard to accept, and even harder to do something about.’
— Hayes Carll, reflecting on the origins of his current single, “The Love That We Need,” told Jonathan Bernstein of American Songwriter that he doesn’t want his latest album, Lovers and Leavers, to be thought of simply as a “divorce record.” (JK)

That will do it. Be sure to check back for another Dixie Chicks: Revisited post and some more reviews this week!


  1. I know I shouldn’t request a single review but is it at all possible for you guys to review the new singles from Cassadee Pope, new group Runaway June, and Thompson Square.

    Amyway, I have yet to hear Maren Morris new album but I think it’s gonna be good. Dierks however was bland. Cam, she is just so lovely and I still have hope that “Mayday” will still be a hit. At this point The Band Perry seems to be just desperately trying to stay relevant while alienating their core fan base. I will say that hopefully this Little Big Town side project isn’t going to indicate their future sound.

  2. I listened to Morris’s new album, and it’s decent but it’s not really country. I kind of wish we had a new Genre where we can put albums like this, Jeckell and Hyde, LBT’s album, and all those others. This was more pop sounding than country sounding even though the reason I liked it was because I really like her voice. I’d probably give it a B- overall, with My Church being the most country sounding song.

    I am looking forward to Brandy Clark’s new one.

  3. I guess the really big news this week is the release of two great Marty Robbins albums, (TODAY and DON’T LET ME TOUCH YOU)on a single CD. There are very few singers in any genre of music who could touch Robbins as a vocalist.

  4. Enjoyed the Cam article – thanks – and I have been enjoying her album. I’m looking forward to seeing Kree Harrison Thursday and getting Brandy Clark’s album Friday. Great week for the ladies.

  5. There’s just so much wrong with Dierks Bentley’s perspective that I hardly know where to begin. Beyond the hackneyed line about country music always evolving, the bit about people not writing their own songs has always rubbed me the wrong way. George Strait didn’t record a single song that he wrote for almost 30 years, and he is (rightly) widely regarded as a legend of the genre, and in some corners (rightly or wrongly) as the very definition of it. Somebody ought to ask Dierks point-blank if George Strait is crap, or Jones for that matter, or if, say, Merle Haggard’s tribute albums for Bob Wills and Jimmie Rodgers were crap.

    And wanting to be a serious artist is one thing, but being proud of pissing off your core fanbase is quite another, especially if you’re doing it by chasing recent trends with recording songs that do not befit a “serious artist.” Bentley’s rhetoric and recent recordings are not quite as self-indulgent as Ryan Adams re-recording Taylor Swift’s 1989, but they’re all very disappointing all the same.

  6. Dierks’ Riser was a very good album, but I only found two songs that I like (not love) from Black. I’m a decided Bently fan, but this album is quite disappointing and I agree that some of his statements about it have been unfortunate as well. I’ve been hoping that this kind of album won’t become his new normal, but it looks like it debuted well, so I’m less hopeful now.

  7. Marty Robbins was one of my Dad’s favorite singers. How nice that they are re-issuing some of his albums.

    And I’m also extremely excited to see the live cd of Nicolette Larsen, one of my personal favorites and a voice I still miss so much. She left us way too soon.

  8. I read the Hoge tribute about the young man accidentally killed by a gun at a party. He said that the accident could have been prevented and then concluded by asking “what are YOU going to do? ”My wife checked facebook and found that there were 502 comments including one from Hoge where he suggested mandatory gun safety classes for anyone purchasing a gun and mandatory gun locks. I agree with him on both of these sensible measures but as long as the NRA owns the republican party these measures have no chance of becoming law. Profits always come before people’s safety. We can’t even get background checks. In a facebook post a few months ago, Rosanne Cash said “If you can make a compelling argument why we have laws requiring safety locks on medicines to protect children, but no law requiring a safety lock on a gun, I’d like to hear it.”

  9. Actually, Nicolette’s last name is spelled with an ‘O’ (L-A-R-S-O-N). But in any case, yes, she left this world too soon, at the all-too-early age of 45. Her fellow road warrior Linda Ronstadt remembers her quite fondly to this day. Nicky, as friends like Linda knew her, was much underappreciated by most of the public and the music industry in general (IMHO).

  10. EN, thanks for the correction of the spelling of her last name. I should’ve known that.

    I heard ‘Say You’ll Be Mine’ by Christopher Cross on the radio recently and am always amazed that so many people don’t know that she sang that song with him. She had such an amazing range that she could sing with anyone – from the Dirt Band to Steve Wariner to Van Halen to Neil Young.

    But her friendship and songs with Linda Ronstadt will probably be what most will remember her for. Such an amazing talent.

  11. as long as the NRA owns the republican party these measures have no chance of becoming law.

    Well, people could, you know, not vote for Republicans. But with the two-party system, and the only other major party talking nonstop about more stringent gun laws up to and including bans and confiscations, there are a lot of people who feel like they don’t have any other choice.

  12. Thank you, the pistolero, for that comment. And I agree with you 100%.

    Democrats can’t understand why Republicans are angry and fearful of any restriction on guns, yet I can’t imagine what the reactions of Democrats would be if Republicans demanded restrictions on abortion rights.

    The two big parties are further apart than I’ve ever seen in my lifetime, with gun control and abortion being two of the biggest targets of contention. And because there is no trust between the parties, neither side will ever give over to the fact that both these subjects deal with the death of innocent people.

  13. @Bob re. Linda Ronstadt memoir:

    Well, she doesn’t say a whole lot about her personal life (it is a musical memoir, after all), but she’s very candid about her growing up in the Arizona desert and listening to all forms of music, including (not incidentally) C&W, and how she relates to the different styles she immersed herself in, including the L.A. country-rock scene of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

    Linda had this ability to galvanize the folks she worked with and make friends with other female singers, and Nicolette Larson was one such example (not to mention Dolly and Emmylou, of course). In fact, Nicolette got Linda to do the harmony vocal on her version of the Louvin Brothers’ classic “You’re Runnin’ Wild” (on her 1986 C&W album Rose Of My Heart).

  14. Nailed it in one, caj. I am not sure how I feel about mandatory training, and I flatly oppose requiring guns to be locked up around kids with no exceptions (google the name Jessica Carpenter for some interesting light reading), but if Democrats were about actual gun safety (see: The Four Rules Of Gun Safety and the NRA’s Eddie Eagle program) as opposed to more gun control falsely labeled as gun safety, we might actually get somewhere.

  15. the pistolero, Republicans know if they give Democrats a centimeter on ‘gun safety’, they will take 1,000 miles.

    It’s like when Rosie O’Donnell went off on Tom Selleck for being a member and spokesman of the NRA when he was guesting on her show to promote a film. Yet, there were pictures all over the place of Rosie and her kids being followed around by ARMED security guards. Democrats are only interested in taking away YOUR guns, not theirs.

  16. Please don’t generalize “Democrats” (or any group) that way. Not all Democrats feel the same way or have the same goals.

  17. You’re right, Jason. That was wrong of me to do that. I also started to use ‘liberals’ as well. But no group thinks 100% the same way about all subjects. I apologize for generalizing both parties.

  18. As an unabashedly liberal Democrat, I would like to say that I do support peoples’ right to bear arms. But I would also like to add that the right to own firearms comes with Responsibility–the responsibility that every owner of those firearms does everything possible to make sure their possessions don’t fall into the wrong hands, and that they themselves know how to use them properly. The Second Amendment cannot be used by gun owners to cover their backsides if something happens to their firearms. Nor is it an insurance policy if their own carelessness results in someone accidentally getting shot or killed.

    If you are going to own a gun and shout about your right to own a gun, then you have to take direct personal responsibility for that gun. If you aren’t willing to take that responsibility, then as far as I’m concerned you have no business shouting about the Second Amendment to anybody.

  19. those same people think the LIMITED POSSIBILITY that a man might dress as a woman to get a peek of a woman’s restroom is enough to keep trans women from having the right to use the restroom that fits with their gender

    Lot of us more libertarian-leaning folks don’t get that either….

  20. JK wrote:
    American Idol finalist Kree Harrison has released the second single from her forthcoming debut album, and it’s fantastic. “Dead Man’s House” has a Southern soul, Stax Records vibe that allows Harrison to play to her considerable strengths as a vocalist, while the song’s narrative is a contemporary spin on the Southern Gothic style.

    Saw her last night with Ty Herndon. Wow! What a voice. She sang 5 songs including “Dead Man’s House”. My wife called her country’s Adele. Kree said she co-wrote 9 of the 13 songs on her debut album.

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