It’s Trio Collection release week, y’all!
So we took last week off for the Labor Day holiday weekend, which means that we didn’t cover Sturgill Simpson’s Facebook posts about the ACM Awards, Merle Haggard, mainstream country, Miranda Lambert, and Garden & Gun magazine, or the seemingly endless series of responses to his remarks. At this point, honestly, it’s a topic that’s been well-covered, so we’re going to delve into topics that didn’t necessarily garner the same degree of attention.
Other than Simpson’s lobbing a Molotov Cocktail at Music Row, what has been going on? The release of The Complete Trio Collection is something that we’ve been eagerly anticipating for months, and that set has been well worth the wait. The trend of male country acts performing duets with female pop stars made its way into The New York Times, while Garth Brooks performed at Nashville’s legendary Ryman Auditorium for the first time in his storied career. A list of “The 50 Greatest Alt-Country Albums of All Time” had us arching our eyebrows even more than Simpson’s remarks did, just as Americana music found a permanent home on a Nashville radio station.
Miranda Lambert, Lori McKenna, and Tami Neilson all released new music videos, and the new releases and reissues from the past two weeks include a high-profile album from Jason Aldean, along with better options from the likes of Chatham County Line, Tim Easton, Dex Romweber, The Time Jumpers, Whiskey Myers, and Chely Wright. There’s also a Waylon Jennings’ vinyl release and reissues from Bobbie Gentry and Dottie West. So there’s a lot to take in!
New Releases & Reissues: 9/02/2016
Chatham County Line, Autumn. (Yep Roc)
Bobbie Gentry, Touch ‘Em With Love (1969), Fancy (1970). (UMC)
Waylon Jennings, The Lost Nashville Sessions. (Country Rewind)
James Vincent McMorrow, We Move. (Burning Rope / Faction)
Gary Stewart, Your Place Or Mine (1977). (RCA Legacy)
Jack Tempchin, One More Song. (Blue Elan)
Porter Wagoner, The Definitive Collection. (Real Gone Music)
New Releases & Reissues: 9/09/2016
Jason Aldean, They Don’t Know. (Broken Bow)
Creedence Clearwater Revival, 1969 Archive Box. (Fantasy)
Billy Ray Cyrus, Thin Line. (Blue Cadillac Music)
Elise Davis, The Token. (Thirty Tigers)
Tim Easton, American Fork. (Last Chance)
Pete Kent, The Hidden Hand. (Revolver)
Aofie O’Donovan, Man In A Neon Coat: Live From Cambridge. (Yep Roc)
Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, & Emmylou Harris, The Complete Trio Collection. (Rhino)
Dex Romweber, Carrboro. (Nonesuch)
Earl Scruggs, Earl Scruggs Performing With His Family And Friends (1972). (Columbia / Legacy)
The Time Jumpers, Kid Sister. (Rounder)
Ward Thomas, Cartwheels. (Sony Music CG)
Dottie West, Here Comes My Baby (1965), Dottie West Sings (1966). (Morello)
Whiskey Myers, Mud. (Thirty Tigers)
Jack White, Jack White Acoustic Recordings 1988 – 2016. (Third Man / Columbia)
Wilco, Schmilco. (ANTI / Epitaph)
Joy Williams, Venus EP. (Sensibility Music)
Chely Wright, I Am The Rain. (MRI)
Billboard Country National Airplay:
#1: Jake Owen, “American Country Love Song”
Most Increased Audience: Jake Owen, “American Country Love Song”
Debuts: Dylan Scott, “My Girl” (#52); Kane Brown, “Thunder in the Rain” (#57); Don’t Call Them Brooks & Dunn, “Damn Drunk” (re-entry, #58).
Most Added: Eric Church feat. Rhiannon Giddens, “Kill A Word” (18); Darius Rucker, “If I Told You” (16); Carrie Underwood, “Dirty Laundry” (16); Keith Urban, “Blue Ain’t Your Color” (15); Florida Georgia Line feat. Tim McGraw, “May We All” (14).
Notes: Owen’s single holds off a strong push from Kelsea Ballerini’s “Peter Pan,” which looks to ascend to the top of the chart next week; in its 48th chart week, William Michael Morgan’s “I Met a Girl” moves up from #7 to #10; Morgan stays ahead of the worst song in the top 40, Tucker Beathard’s “Rock On,” which moves up to #8 because country radio remains deeply broken; or does it..? Blake Shelton’s terrible attempt at a Miranda Lambert diss track, “She’s Got A Way With Words,” is testing horribly with audiences and looks to be the single to break his years-long streak of #1 hits, dropping from #7 to #9; speaking of Lambert, “Vice” attains a new peak position at #17; after bouncing around in the lower 20s for months, Drake White’s “Livin’ the Dream” has gained some momentum, making for his first top 20 single as it moves up to #20; as expected, the iHeartMedia OnTheVerge promotion is paying off handsomely for Lauren Alaina’s “Road Less Traveled,” which is at #28 after just 3 weeks on the chart; Thomas Rhett’s “Vacation” has cracked the top 30; finally catching a headwind after 3 months, Josh Turner scores another top 40 hit, as “Hometown Girl” moves up from #44 to #36; after just 5 weeks, The Band Perry’s petulant bit of revisionist history, “Comeback Kid,” has dropped out of the top 40, falling to #43 this week; Carrie Underwood’s “Dirty Laundry” (#47) and Eric Church featuring Rhiannon Giddens’ (!!) “Kill A Word” (#48) make for the best one-two combo on this week’s chart; RaeLynn’s “Love Triangle” got off to a quick start a few weeks back but hasn’t built upon it, falling from #52 to #54 and losing some audience this week; Chase Rice’s “Everybody We Know Does” has already fallen off the chart.
Elsewhere on Billboard‘s radio charts:
The Lumineers score yet another hit at AAA radio, as “Cleopatra” moves up from #11 to #7; Norah Jones’ “Carry On,” which sounds adjacent to her country-inflected work with The Little Willies, moves from #17 to #14; the current singles from The Avett Brothers, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Wilco, Elle King, and Shovels & Rope all lost total spins this week; Adult Top 40 may have finally grown weary of Florida Georgia Line’s “H.O.L.Y.,” which drops from #21 to #24; Adult Contemporary radio, however, seems to have embraced the duo’s crossover hit, as it moves up from #27 to #19 on that chart; it’s likely to overtake Tim McGraw’s “Humble and Kind,” which continues to tread water at #15; Hillary Scott & The Scott Family’s “Thy Will” hold at #2 on the Christian radio chart for a third straight week.
News & Notes
To commemorate this week’s essential release of The Complete Trio Collection, Rolling Stone found where YouTube user “LindaAusFan” had uploaded the entire 20-minute appearance by Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris on The Tonight Show back in 1987. It’s every bit as terrific as you might imagine, and it’s worth every second. (JK)
“I just wanted to make something that was honest for me… When we started recording, I had these songs that were around for a while. Because I wrote it for me, I think that a lot of people have gravitated towards my honesty and the hard things I’ve been through because everybody else goes through those types of things.”
— Margo Price may have been unjustly shut out of the CMA Awards nominations last week, but she’s actively been building a name among the voters at NARAS. She gave an insightful interview and performed some of the songs from her breakthrough album, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter, for the Grammys’ website. There are already rumblings among prognosticators that this type of promo could pay off for Price when this year’s Grammy nominees are announced. (JK)
The invaluable NPR “First Listen” series has Amanda Shires’ exceptional new album, My Piece of Land, available for streaming prior to its official release. (JK)
Lori McKenna’s The Bird & The Rifle is one of the year’s finest albums, and the singer-songwriter has posted an intimate live performance video of its title track. (JK)
“Solo female artists have struggled to get attention on the country charts, but women continue to dominate pop, and those singers potentially raise the profiles of the male country singers who take them on as partners. Rod Phillips, a radio programming veteran who now leads the iHeartCountry conglomerate, calls this surge in pop collaborations ‘a plus’ for country radio.”
— The ever-reliable Jewly Hight looked at the recent spate of high profile co-ed duets in an essay for The New York Times. Hight spoke with Dierks Bentley, Cassadee Pope, and some radio insiders about why this trend has taken root recently and what potential impact it may have on the country charts. The subjective quality of these duets isn’t discussed as part of Hight’s piece, and that may be the key consideration when determining if this trend has much staying power or just ends up as a more of a footnote. (JK)
We have some strong opinions about what was included– and particularly about what wasn’t– in Paste magazine’s list of “The 50 Best Alt-Country Albums of All Time.” Which, of course, is partly the point of lists like this, but, hoo boy… If you’re reading the list and find yourself wondering where are Kelly Willis, Guy Clark, Alejandro Escovedo, Richard Buckner, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Kim Richey, BR5-49, Fred Eaglesmith, Bruce or Charlie Robison, Shovels & Rope, Hayes Carll, Slobberbone, Whiskeytown, Kelly Hogan, Hank III, Cowboy Junkies, Freedy Johnston, Allison Moorer, Todd Snider, Iris DeMent, Lucero, John Hiatt, The BoDeans, Junior Brown, Robert Earl Keen, Southern Culture on the Skids, or Tift Merritt… well, you’re not alone. (JK)
Juli Thanki of The Tennessean conducted a delightful interview with Bill Anderson for the paper’s podcast. They discuss his new book, which he co-authored with Peter Cooper, called Whisperin’ Bill Anderson: An Unprecedented Life in Country Music. (LMW)
Miranda Lambert premiered the music video for “Vice.” Its imagery is maybe a bit too on-the-nose with the song’s lyrical content, but it’s still a far sight better than the majority of country music videos. (JK)
“I don’t know why I stayed away from here for so long… I didn’t feel like I belonged here. But, I tell you what, if you could have ever sent a message to an artist tonight, you sent it. I feel the love in this room.”
— Garth Brooks addressed the crowd during his performance at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. Rolling Stone recapped Brooks’ first-ever concert at the historic venue. The show also served to launch his new SiriusXM channel. (LMW)
“When Jon Pardi’s ‘Head Over Boots’ recently topped the Country Airplay chart in its 46th week, the achievement was remarkable on a number of levels. For starters, the song is a shuffle that jumps out of the speakers as one of the most country-sounding records heard on the radio in the last year. Additionally, it’s Pardi’s fifth single, but his first to crack the top 10, meaning label Capitol Records Nashville demonstrated the kind of persistence that is increasingly rare in the current record industry economy where ‘one and done’ is closer to the norm when an artist fails to score a hit out of the gate.”
— Phyllis Stark of Billboard took a look behind the curtain at the ascent of Jon Pardi’s “Head Over Boots” to the top of the country radio charts. Stark spoke with several radio programmers about the single and its lengthy chart climb and how their initial resistance to such a 90s-sounding single gradually changed. (JK)
For those who still listen to terrestrial radio, WMOT (89.5 FM) in Nashville has changed its format from a mix of jazz and news to Americana; the station’s footprint extends as far as Bowling Green in southwestern Kentucky to the Alabama border, and the format switch gives Americana its first dedicated radio station in that region of the country. (JK)
It’s hard to believe, but Country Universe favorite Tami Neilson somehow just keeps getting cooler and cooler every time we hear from her. After breaking hearts with 2015’s “Lonely,” this week the powerhouse singer premiered the retro-styled music video for her rollicking new single, “Holy Moses.” She’s kind of the best. (JK)
That will do it for this week. As always, let us know in the comments if there were things we missed!
I hope like crazy that there will be a lot of attention paid in music circles to The Complete Trio Collection, because in Dolly, Linda, and Emmylou, you have three women who totally redefined what female artists could do in pop, country, rock, and roots music over the last fifty years, as a trio and as individual artists themselves. And think of this, too; they all came from wildly different backgrounds: Dolly from extreme poverty in rural Tennessee; Emmylou from a middle-class background in Alabama, with a father who was a Marine and a POW in Korea; and Linda from a prominent ranching and business family in Arizona. These three women made it possible for a lot of music to exist, and helped a lot of music that people had all but totally forgotten to live and breathe and become relevant again in our lifetimes.
And they helped to inspire generations of like-minded female singers, including those in both mainstream and alternative country. Absent them, the landscape for women on country radio would look a hell of a lot more barren than it does even today–no Trisha Yearwood; no Miranda Lambert; no Carrie Underwood; and probably not even the Dixie Chicks either–and that’s just for starters.
It is their valedictory lap here, since Linda is no longer able to join in the singing because of her Parkinson’s condition (in fact, just walking is getting progressively harder for her), so let’s enjoy the Trio while they’re still here in this time and place.
It’s wonderful to have both Trio albums remastered. Maybe it’s just me but Telling Me Lies doesn’t sound as high a volume as the others but I’m loving the set.
The extra disc with the bonus tracks are a dream come true and worth the price all by itself. Softly And Tenderly blew me away. Waltz Across Texas Tonight, My Blue Tears, You Don’t Knock, & Where Do The Words Come From are other standouts.
If you’re a fan of any or all of these incredible ladies then run out and buy this. Of course, it may be hard to find. I couldn’t find it at Walmart or Target. Finally found it at Barnes & Noble. They had only one!!!
I am quite excited to hear Amanda Shire’s new album. She opened at a Lee Ann Womack concert that I attended in Philadelphia last year. She was almost due with her big baby so her husband, Jason Isbell, flew out to join her and surprised us all by coming onstage with Amanda for her full performance. They ended with the Mariner’s song. I had the pleasure to meet her afterwards. She does some really good music.
Billboard Magazine reports some good news for fans of Kelsea Ballerini (count me as one) and those interested in female achievements in country music:
On her 23rd birthday (Sept. 12), Kelsea Ballerini unwraps the present of a new No. 1 hit, as “Peter Pan” reaches the top of Billboard’s Hot Country Songs and Country Airplay charts (dated Sept 24) simultaneously. The track is the third single from her debut full-length album, The First Time.
Ballerini becomes the first solo female to top both surveys in the same week since Hot Country Songs became an airplay, sales and streaming hybrid chart, splitting from the solely radio-based Country Airplay chart, on Oct. 20, 2012.
“To finally release my favorite song off my album was already enough for me. But to know that we just made history with it is bigger than I could have ever dreamed,” Ballerini beamed to Billboard after hearing the news of her dual coronation. “Honestly, being the first woman to do this just inspires me to work hard and to make the best music I can.”
Re your Most Added: Eric Church feat. Rhiannon Giddens, “Kill A Word”, I would like to see it do as well on the charts as “Humble and Kind”.
It actually looks like Ballerini (not a fan) is the only female to top both the Country Airplay and Hot Country Songs charts with the same song, simultaneous or not since the former chart was established in late 2012. She is only the second female to reach #1 on the airplay chart (formerly Hot Country Songs) with her first three singles. Wynonna was the first in 1992.
For anyone interested, former Staind lead singer (and now professed country singer) Aaron Lewis takes some of the current ‘country’ singers to task in a story over on the Rolling Stone website.
Lewis says that acts like Luke Bryan, Sam Hunt, and Cole Swindell are “choking all the life out of country music.” Lewis made these comments while onstage at the Thunder Mountain Amphitheatre in Loveland, Colorado, on September 4th, as a way of introducing his latest single ‘That Ain’t Country’.
While I’m no fan of Bryan (but yeah, I will admit I LOVE Sam Hunt), I’m not sure what this will actually accomplish. Lewis is an amazing singer. And I know how he feels to some extent because I HATE the music that’s being played on mainstream radio right now. I’m tired of whatever you call the music being played. I miss rock music and loved Lewis’s music with Staind.
So while I wish someone like Nirvana would come along and bring great rock music back to mainstream, I understand traditional country music lovers wanting to bring back that kind of music to country radio. I personally wish we could go back to how it was in the late 70s/early 80s when you could hear Conway Twitty, Kenny Rogers, Loretta Lynn, Anne Murray, George Strait, Eddie Rabbitt, Ricky Scaggs, and Crystal Gayle all on the same station.
Dwight Yoakam fans may want to check out the story and interview over at the Rolling Stone website about his upcoming bluegrass album “Swimmin’ Pools, Movie Stars” out September 23rd.
On it, Yoakam does some bluegrass arrangements of “Guitars, Cadillacs” and “Please, Please Baby”. He also does a cover of Prince & the Revolution’s classic “Purple Rain”.