What would the Dixie Chicks’ first US tour in a decade be without at least a little bit of controversy?
Really, is it any surprise that the trio have declined to make nice as they’ve embarked on their don’t-call-it-a-comeback tour? This week, the band declined to offer promotion for the tour to any country radio stations and rankled at least a small handful of pundits with some of the imagery they’ve used in their staging. Still, the tour has continued to sell big and has earned rave reviews in the press.
Dolly Parton, Will Hoge, and Chely Wright all made potentially controversial statements about hot-button issues this week, as well, while Robert Ellis got heated with the tenor of the conversation about Americana music. Veterans Johnny Lee, Brenda Lee, and Michael Martin Murphey avoided any political landmines, but all made interesting statements worth following.
This week’s new releases are led by Brandy Clark’s much-anticipated Big Day in a Small Town and Little Big Town’s collaboration with Pharrell Williams, Wanderlust. There’s also a new Dwight Yoakam album that I am mortified to admit I had no idea was even on the docket, plus a 16-disc anthology of Kris Kristofferson music.
Also, we’re adding a new section to the Sunday Selections posts– “Charted Territory” will recap the week in country and country-related radio charts from Billboard.
New Releases & Reissues, 6/10/2016
Drew Baldridge, Dirt On Us. (Cold River)
Frankie Ballard, El Rio. (Warner)
Band of Horses, Why Are You OK. (American / Interscope)
Glen Campbell, For the Good Times. (Sarabande)
Brandy Clark, Big Day in a Small Town. (Warner)
Shawn Colvin & Steve Earle, Colvin & Earle. (Fantasy)
Kris Kristofferson, The Complete Monument & Columbia Albums Collection. (Columbia / Legacy)
Little Big Town, Wanderlust. (Capitol)
Joe Purdy, Who Will Be Next. (Mudtown Crier)
Various Artists, NOW! That’s What I Call Country, Volume 9. (Now)
Dwight Yoakam, Tomorrow’s Gonna Be Another Day / High on a Mountain of Love. (Third Man)
Billboard Country National Airplay:
#1: Thomas Rhett, “T-Shirt”
Most Increased Audience: Jason Aldean, “Lights Come On”
Debuts: Blake Shelton, “She’s Got a Way with Words” (#54); Josh Turner, “Hometown Girl” (#58)
Most Added: Dierks Bentley f Elle King, “Different for Girls” (17); Cole Swindell, “Middle of a Memory” (13); Kane Brown, “Used to Love You Sober” (12); Josh Turner, “Hometown Girl” (12); Brad Paisley f Demi Lovato, “Without a Fight” (10); Brett Eldredge, “Wanna Be That Song” (10)
Notes: Maren Morris’ “My Church” (#9) and Carrie Underwood’s “Church Bells” (#10) place two solo women in the top 10; Drake White scores his first top 30 hit as “Livin’ the Dream” moves from #33 to #30 in its 26th chart week; Brandy Clark’s “Girl Next Door” re-enters the top 40 at #37; Chris Stapleton gets his second top 40 hit, with “Parachute” moving from #45 to #40.
Elsewhere on Billboard‘s radio charts:
The Lumineers’ “Ophelia” logs its 2nd week at #1 on the Alternative chart; Avett Brothers’ “Ain’t No Man” holds at #4, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats’ “I Need Never Grow Old” holds at #6, and Sturgill Simpson’s “Brace for Impact (Live A Little) holds at #25 on the AAA chart; Trisha Yearwood drops from #19 to #20 on the Adult Contemporary chart with her single “Broken,” which peaked at #18; Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind” falls from #21 to #30 on the AC chart.
News & Notes
“You look at the stars who do maintain staying on top and honestly it looks like so much work and self-involvement. I wouldn’t have done all this personal growth and become the person that I’ve worked on becoming. There’s something almost sad about that being what you’re so hungry for — I just don’t relate to that. So I was happy to pass the baton.”
— Natalie Maines expressed a sense of relief that The Dixie Chicks took a lengthy break from recording and touring based upon the requirements of current celebrity culture. Maines’ comments are part of an in-depth profile by Alan Light of The New York Times. The Dixie Chicks have kicked off the US leg of their tour, which has been met with predictable acclaim and just as predictable controversy. (JK)
“They didn’t perform a true country tune until well into the two-hour, 25-song show, as Taking the Long Way took precedence until the inclusion of rootsy, crowd-pleaser, “Long Time Gone,” an appropriate transition into the Chicks’ pre-Bush-slam country catalog. Among the hits were “Goodbye Earl,” “Travelin’ Soldier,” “Cowboy Take Me Away,” “Wide Open Spaces” and “Sin Wagon.” Sure, they got political, but no, they haven’t forgotten why they were so beloved in the first place — and neither did we.”
— Chris Azzopardi of Entertainment Weekly gave a recap of the Dixie Chicks’ third show of their DCX MMXVI tour. Azzopardi noted the audience’s embrace of the band, who remain feisty and unapologetic. (JK)
Emily West’s “Made for the Radio” was one of the most pointed and powerful singles of 2014, but West has just now released a video for the single. Hopefully, the video helps this gem find the audience it deserves. (JK)
“I think we have hit this weird place in Americana music where we’re like, ‘Oh, he didn’t write the song… There is some sort of shitty, condescending idea of ownership and authenticity in that genre. It’s so fucking lame. All the stuff that the genre was built on was the exact opposite: Willie [Nelson], Waylon [Jennings], all the people we laud, they were all singing each other’s songs, their songs, and songs by hit songwriters. They didn’t care. One of the first times I saw Hayes [Carll], he sang ‘Bad Liver and a Broken Heart.’ He didn’t write that, but who gives a shit? He doesn’t. Let’s just make good music.”
— Robert Ellis goes in hard after the authenticity fetish that he feels has overtaken Americana music. It’s a provocative statement to be sure, but it’s hardly without basis in reality, and the rest of his interview with Rolling Stone‘s Marissa R. Moss is at turns witty, insightful, and wry. (JK)
Maren Morris delivered a terrific rendition of “My Church” on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. (JK)
Both Will Hoge and Chely Wright penned passionate responses to the shocking death of The Voice contestant Christina Grimmie, who was murdered while meeting with fans at the merchandise table after her concert on Friday, June 10th. Hoge again implores for responsible gun ownership, while Wright talks about times she felt unsafe at her own shows. (JK)
Deeply underrated 90s mainstay Mark Chesnutt unveiled a new single, “She Oughta Miss Me By Now,” which finds the singer still in fine, distinctive voice. (JK)
“Now it feels like home, like it’s the right spot because we’ve had it for three years in a row. There’s something exciting about the run up to that last big main stage show. It’s Sunday night, the sun is setting, there’s anticipation in the air. And for the Americana and roots fans that are at Bonnaroo, we’re their home for that whole afternoon and evening, right up until the mass migration over to the main stage. We’re every bit a part of that. As soon as our show wraps up, we all wash over to that stage and are super-psyched to check out that show, too.”
— Ed Helms, best-known for his roles on The Office and in the Hangover trilogy, also happens to be an avid banjo player. For the fourth straight year, Helms will lead the “Bluegrass Situation Superjam” to close out the annual Bonnaroo festival. This year, he’ll be joined by Lee Ann Womack, Buddy Miller, and the Watkins Family Band. (JK)
“This album is about the struggle of people in the cattle business to be recognized for what they do…The mission of this album is to bring out the struggles and the victories. The pride, the joy, the pain, the tears. It’s a set of cowboy songs all about the big human emotions and experiences. It’s about life and death. It’s about outlaw-ing and keeping the law. It’s about love and about forgiveness and about honor – all wrapped up in these songs and seen through the prism of cowboy life.”
— Michael Martin Murphey reflected on the various themes that characterize his latest album, High Stakes: Cowboy Songs VII, in an interview with Julie Wenger Watson of No Depression. Murphey also talks about his his brand of “cowboy”-centric music relates to current trends in Americana and about collaborating with his son over the course of his career. (JK)
You can listen to “The Martyr,” a track from John Paul White’s upcoming album, Beulah, which will be released on August 19th. He also answers a few questions for NPR’s Ann Powers and explains the process of writing and recording the album. (LMW)
“Carrie Underwood is another great artist. She can sing with Jesus. She is that good.”
— Johnny Lee had holy levels of praise for Carrie Underwood, along with some kind words about Chris Stapleton, in an interview with friend-of-the-blog Jason Scott for AXS. Lee spoke about the recording of his latest album, You Ain’t Never Been to Texas, and the state of mainstream country today. (JK)
Speaking of Underwood, her lively, choir-backed performance of “Church Bells” was one of maybe three total segments– along with a Chris Stapleton performance of “Parachute” and a brief tribute to Merle Haggard by Dierks Bentley– from the 2016 CMT Music Awards that wasn’t a complete and utter embarrassment to the genre and/or waste of time for everyone involved. (JK)
Juli Thanki, always an essential read, recounted the “Girl Talk” panel from the CMA Close Up stage, wherein the legendary Brenda Lee told Holly Williams the story of meeting her grandfather, Hank Williams. (JK)
“I think everybody should be treated with respect. I don’t judge people. I try not to get too caught up in all the controversy of things. I hope that everybody gets a chance to be who and what they are. I just know if I have to pee I’m gonna pee. I don’t care where it’s gonna be.”
— The one and only Dolly Parton responded to North Carolina’s “bathroom bill” controversy with her trademark grace and sass in a video she shared with CNN Money. (JK)
Bonnie Bishop’s Ain’t Who I Was is one of the year’s strongest albums. This live video for her single “Mercy” showcases Bishop’s soulful voice and effortless power. (JK)
Marty Stuart has long been one of country music’s leading historians, so much so that The Library of Congress announced that they have acquired hundreds of hours’ worth of video footage and audio recordings from Stuart’s vast collection for preservation. Kentucky Country Music reports that The Marty Stuart Collection will serve as a companion to similar archives from artists such as Pete Seeger and Les Paul. (JK)
That will do it for this week! Be sure to check out reviews of the most recent singles from Luke Bryan and Keith Urban, and be on the lookout for the next Dixie Chicks: Revisited feature and catch-up reviews of albums from the first half of 2016.
Underwood also killed it at CMA Fest this past week and better finally get an Entertainer nod and another Female Vocalist win:
Re. the Dixie Chicks: Rule #1 is to expect the unexpected from them.
In terms of the horrible murder of Christina Grimmie–my heart goes out to her family, friends, and fans. This was a truly despicable act, but unfortunately one so common in our country because, as I said last week, a lot of pro-gun people talk about the right to own guns, but precious little about responsibility for them, both in terms of proper usage and doing everything humanly possible to make sure that those weapons don’t end up in the hands of a madman (like the one that just shot up that gay nightclub in the same city–Orlando, where Christina was killed).
When do we here in America start treating one another with simple basic human decency again? Or are we past that point of no return now?
How would gun control have prevented either of the recent incidents in Orlando? Did any of the people or weapons involved fall under the terms of sensible gun control?
In the cases in Orlando, no, they didn’t fall into that category, this is true. But then ask yourself why we have a terrorist watch list for international flight travel, but at the same time we can’t do every common-sense thing possible to try and prevent one of those same terrorists that might already be in our country from purchasing a firearm without seeming to trample on the rights of gun owners. I’m not at all suggesting tossing out the Second Amendment with the bathwater. But that amendment can be turned against the very people who hold it near and dear to them by people whose interest is not merely to kill or maim, but to terrorize us and turn us against one another.
I like the new Charted Territory feature!
My Brandy Clark cd arrived in the mail Friday. When I saw her in November of 2013 at the Bluebird, she sang 3 songs from 12 Stories plus “Mama’s Broken Heart”, “Better Dig Two” and “You Can Come Over”. The last song was recorded by Craig Campbell for his “Never Regret” album released in May 2013. It was never released as a single. After hearing Brandy sing “You Can Come Over” that night I bought the Campbell version. It’s the only song I have from his album. I like both the Campbell and Brandy versions.
I’m really enjoying “Big Day” but my impression so far (after about half a dozen listens) is that “12 Stories” was stronger on the ballads. Tough to beat “Hold My Hand”, “What’ll Keep Me Out of Heaven” and “Just Like Him”.
You mention that “Dolly Parton, Will Hoge, and Chely Wright all made potentially controversial statements about hot-button issues this week”
Now you can add a brilliant essay by Rosanne Cash yesterday on Billboard, her plea for gun control reform. You can access it on her twitter.
From said Billboard column:
prevent the sale and possession of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines
Prevent the possession? So what then? Come and get them?
Yeah, right. It’s not like Roseanne Cash is going to be leading those SWAT confiscation raids. She’ll be perfectly content to send other people’s sons and daughters (and mothers and fathers) to do it for her. Which makes her “for the children” mewling ever so hollow and hypocritical.
But then, on the other hand, let her and those like her talk like this, and let us all bring as much attention to it as we can, because it exposes the anti-gunners’ assurance that “no one wants to take your guns” as the foul and malicious lie that it has always been.
Thanks for the heads up on Cash’s essay, Bob. Thoughtful and well-written; she is one talented, smart woman and I’m proud to be a fan.