Sunday Selections: November 20, 2016

The Weight (of These Wings) Is A Gift.

Happy Miranda Lambert Album Release Week, gang! The superstar’s highly anticipated sixth album, The Weight of These Wings, was released on Friday, and the double-album (bifurcated into “The Nerve” and “The Heart” discs, for those still using physical media) has justifiably earned rave reviews and is forecast to move upward of 140K units in its debut week despite relatively little promo. We’ll have a full review at some point; on first blush, I’d say it could use greater variety in its sonic palette and the tempo of its tracks, but the songwriting and performances are stellar. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend remains her absolute best, most dense album, but this new one isn’t far off from it.

Elsewhere this week, there are plenty of interesting interviews to peruse. Brad Paisley took stock of the current political climate post-election, Lydia Loveless had no love for one of Maroon 5’s producers, and Ty Herndon relied on his faith as a source of common ground with the country audience. Frankie Ballard looked farther down the road career-wise, while Jim Lauderdale kept himself as busy as ever.

As Kevin noted in his tribute earlier this week, Holly Dunn passed away at age 59. Crystal Gayle was extended a years-overdue invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry. And The Late Show with Stephen Colbert has really picked up where David Letterman’s Late Show left off in terms of promoting great country and Americana music.

In new releases other than Miranda Lambert, up-and-coming acts High Valley and Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats offered new music. Travis Tritt released a new live album from his acoustic tour, and there’s an impressive box set of vintage recordings by the legendary Roy Acuff & The Smoky Mountain Boys.


roy-acuff-king-of-country-musicNew Releases & Reissues: 11/18/2016
Roy Acuff & The Smoky Mountain Boys, The King of Country Music: The Complete Foundation Recordings 1936 – 1951. (Bear Family)
Churchwood, Hex City. (Saustex)
High Valley, Dear Life. (Atlantic Nashville)
Faith Hill, Deep Tracks. (Warner)
Robert Earl Keen, Live Dinner Reunion. (Dualtone)
Miranda Lambert, The Weight of These Wings. (RCA Nashville)
The Outlaws, Legacy Live. (Steamhammer)
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, A Little More From… EP. (Stax)
George Strait, Strait Out of the Box 2. (MCA Nashville)
Travis Tritt, A Man And His Guitar: Live From Franklin Theater. (Post Oak Recordings)
Hank Williams, Hank: The Short Life and Long Country Road of Hank Williams (Mark Ribowsky – Liverlight Publishing).

cole-swindell-middle-of-a-memoryCharted Territory
Billboard Country National Airplay:
#1: Cole Swindell, “Middle of a Memory”
Most Increased Audience: Florida Georgia Line feat. Tim McGraw, “May We All”
Debuts: Dierks Bentley, “Black” (#53); Ryan Follese, “Put a Label On It” (#59).
Most Added: Dan + Shay, “How Not To” (18); Justin Moore, “Somebody Else Will” (18); Little Big Town, “Better Man” (15); Dierks Bentley, “Black” (12); Brad Paisley, “Today” (11).
Notes: As his latest sleazy PUA anthem ascends to #1, Cole Swindell officially has begun his career with six straight chart-topping singles; Pink remains the only woman in the current top 10, as “Setting the World on Fire” with Kenny Chesney drops slowly from #6 to #10; Carrie Underwood’s “Dirty Laundry” holds at #11 for a second week but continues to post steady audience gains; in its 49th chart week, Drake White’s “Livin’ the Dream” attains a new peak of #12, even as a follow-up single– the phenomenal “Makin’ Me Look Good Again”– has been announced; Miranda Lambert’s “Vice,” which peaked at #11 because country radio remains an absolute landfill inferno, is on its way out, dropping to #17; “Kill A Word” by Eric Church feat. Rihannon Giddens has slowed down over the past couple of weeks, holding at #18; the mid-section of the top 40 remains in total gridlock, with no single posting more than a one-spot gain in position and with every song from #18 to #40 earning a bullet for increased audience; Runaway June’s “Lipstick” continues to inch upward, at #38 this week; apparently Thompson Square released a single over 20 weeks ago– “You Make It Look So Good” continues to struggle, though, as the duo is still only at #47 despite their previous chart successes; Dierks Bentley gets off to a quick start at #53 with his latest, the underwhelming title track from his deeply disappointing album, Black; on the Country Indicator chart that includes smaller-market stations, Cody Jinks’ “I’m Not the Devil” posts an audience gain in its fourth chart week, and “Outta Style,” the new single from Aaron Watson, scores 13 total station adds.

Elsewhere on Billboard‘s Radio Charts:
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats released a new EP this week, and their latest single, “Wasted Time,” continues to climb at AAA radio, where it moves up from #25 to #22 in its fourth week; the lovely title track from The Avett Brothers’ True Sadness vaults up to #18 at AAA this week; alt-country stalwarts Wilco’s new single, “Someone to Love,” scored 5 station adds at AAA; “Setting the World on Fire” by Kenny Chesney and Pink continues to gain in audience at Adult Top 40, though they were passed by some faster-rising singles and drop back to #23; Hillary Scott & The Scott Family hold at #7 at Christian radio with their recent chart-topper, “Thy Will.”

Crystal GayleNews & Notes

The incomparable Crystal Gayle was finally invited to join the Grand Ole Opry this week. After a performance of her signature hit, “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” Carrie Underwood came on stage to extend the official invitation to Gayle. As an aside, it’s worth mentioning that Underwood’s commitment to the Opry is unique among all contemporary stars and is perhaps the single most under-reported story when it comes to today’s A-listers. It’s another reason why Underwood was our unanimous pick for the CMA Entertainer of the Year earlier this month. (TS / JK)

“I am really sick of this climate — really sick of the negativity. I have two little boys, and I want them to feel like this is the nation that I know. That this is the nation that isn’t petty… We have to be as good as we want to be as a nation. We have to do these things, we have to find love.”
— Brad Paisley waded back into political waters for the first time since “Accidental Racist” blew up in his face in an interview with People magazine. (JK)

We just posted in last week’s Sunday Selections that Holly Dunn was battling a rare and aggressive form of ovarian cancer; sadly, Dunn passed away just a few days later. Kevin has posted a tribute to Dunn, and fellow artists including Chely Wright and Patty Loveless have posted fond remembrances of her on social media this week. (JK)

“Of course, everyone wants to be huge, but if it means sacrificing certain things, probably not… There was some Maroon 5 manager or something who rolled in and asked, ‘Would you be willing to do what it takes?’ And I was like, ‘Probably not for you.'”
— Lydia Loveless is known for being blunt, as her anecdote about rejecting a major label offer highlights. Loveless spoke to Jonathan Bernstein of Rolling Stone about her upbringing in central Ohio and her wide-ranging influences. (JK)

Kevin reviewed Runaway June’s “Lipstick” earlier this week, and the trio just premiered the music video for the single. PR for the group says that the video features a popular contestant from ABC’s Here’s Your Rose The Bachelor, which, sure. (JK)

John Paul White performed three tracks from his album Beulah for NPR’s Tiny Desk series this week. (JK)

“My youngest daughter – who goes to Ole Miss and is a music fanatic. She came in one day and asked me to listen to Ariana Grande and how soulful she is. I listened, and heard ‘Tattooed Heart.’ That voice, combined with that retro sound, struck a chord. I started to wonder if I could be so bold and stretch the limits, and go against the grain and cut a song like that. I threw it out to some people and got the ‘Oh, that’s cool’ reaction. So, I took it, and cut it myself on the sly.”
— Ronnie Dunn, who has talked ad nauseam over the past five years about how he hopes to preserve country’s traditional style, spoke to the great Chuck Dauphin of Sounds Like Nashville about how he ended up recording an Ariana Grande cover for his (frankly terrible) new album, Tattooed Heart. (JK)

Each week, Kelly Clarkson posts new live covers to her website; this week, she tackled Dixie Chicks’ “Wide Open Spaces” and Trisha Yearwood’s “Walkaway Joe.” Clarkson, of course, sounds fantastic, and it’s just more evidence that the proper country album she just has to record someday will be a winner. (JK)

Dwight Yoakam gave a killer performance of the new Bluegrass-inspired arrangement of “Gone (That’ll Be Me)” on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. (JK)

“I always try to make to push myself to make the best music I can make that will become whatever it becomes and that’s all I will deserve… And there’s peace in that. I’m just trying to stay focused on always getting better. it’s the only job security you can have in the music business. if you wake up every day and go, ‘I’m getting better today,’ then it’s a good chance you’ll have a job tomorrow.
— Frankie Ballard plotted out his plan for long-term job security in an interview with Annie Dineen of The Shotgun Seat. Ballard talked about the importance of song selection and the recording of his album, El Rio, in Muscle Shoals, El Paso, and Los Angeles. (JK)

“I’d like to say that my writing has always been organic too but that would be stretching the truth. There were a few years when we were sort of embarrassed of our upbringing and lack of knowledge of the constant pop-culture references thrown around in the studio. I’ve faked my way through way more meetings and co-writes than I care to admit. Nodding as if I knew what people meant when they referenced Pink Floyd or Meatloaf or Led Zeppelin. There was a period of time not too long ago where I tried to write songs that sounded like what was on the radio. There was nothing authentic or organic about my writing. I was just trying to fit in.”
— Brad Rempel of Canadian duo High Valley wrote a revealing essay for American Songwriter in which he spoke candidly about his diverse influences and how his songwriting has evolved. (JK)

Also on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert this week, Drive-By Truckers gave a passionate performance of their brilliant new single, “Surrender Under Protest.” (JK)

“There is an opportunity to say a lot of things in music. If you can find a way to express what this album is about and get people to pay attention, what does that mean? House on fire? Wow. If you know anything about me as an artist, I think you would understand that I was coming from a place of extreme spiritual healing. With the musical content of this record being so heavy, from that point on, it was really important to me that the first few five songs were let-your-window-down, feel-good [songs]. I feel good today. I feel very blessed and open and honest. If you are not smiling on those first five songs, then I might have to say what Wynonna Judd said one time, ‘I’m gonna have to slap the dog and spit in the fire.'”
— Ty Herndon found catharsis in writing the title track of his new album, House On Fire, and also found an opportunity to sneak a killer Wynonna quote into a revealing interview with friend-of-the-blog Jason Scott for AXS. Herndon emphasized the role of his faith in the writing that informed the album and how he hopes that allows fans to find common ground with his stories. (JK)

“That’s just the way my mind works, it spins around in chaos and is in so much disarray that I really work best when I have this structure of having an album in front of me.”
— The great Jim Lauderdale gave an interview with Mark Guarino of The Guardian, who compared the prolific artist to Robert Pollard of Guided By Voices for how frequently he releases new material. (JK)

The title track from True Sadness is The Avett Brothers’ current single, but they also just released a music video for “No Hard Feelings,” which is more akin to the band’s previous outings than the first two singles from the project, which boasted notably more slick production. Either way, it’s lovely! (JK)

That will do it for this week! Check back for more new content in the next couple of days before the Thanksgiving Holiday. We’ll be taking next Sunday off!


  1. Occasional Hope at MKOC reviewed the debut single of Candi Carpenter on 11/17. The song is “Burn the Bed” written by Candi with Jerilyn Sawyer and Alden Witt. OH writes “The excellent song is from the viewpoint of the cheated wife. She tackles her man with righteous indignation.” I agree with her A rating.

  2. Boy, you talk about an amazing Christmas present and that would be that Roy Acuff & The Smokey Mountain Boys collection.

    Thanks for mentioning Crystal Gayle’s Opry invitation and Underwood’s commitment to the Opry. Both women are class acts.

  3. I didn’t mention this in the single review but my gosh the music video for “Lipstick” is so great. All the girls have this it factor and star power.

    It’s a shame that Thompson Square got so badly lost in the shuffle. With the exception of “Trans Am” and “Testing the Water” their music has been pretty solid. Nothing outstanding but they’ve always have had a certain charm about them that I do like.

  4. Raymond, I like Thompson Square as well. And if you haven’t seen it yet, check out the adorable video for You Make It Look So Good starring their infant son Cooper. Your heart will melt.

  5. Caj, You are right. That video is so cute. Thompson Square as a whole has made rather inoffensive music, and “You Make It Look So Good” while not great (the production does it no favors) is a definite sweet and cute song. Also not to derail the comments section their baby is so adorable.

    One last thing, am I the only one who absolutely loves Shawna’s voice and feels like Thompson Square should just use her vocals? She has such a lovable singing voice. Shame “Testing the Water” bombed all their momentum and “Trans Am” should’ve never been released.

  6. As I have been listening to Thompson Square much lately, I appreciate the comments here from both Raymond and Caj. Their current video is really endearing and You Make It Look So Good is just a really enjoyable ballad. Nothing wrong with that. I would agree with Raymond regarding Shawna’s voice – I think she has one of the most pleasing female voices in country today, with very unique and warm qualities. Interestingly, I understand that their single Glass from several years ago had actually been written for a male voice. According to Keifer, their production was adjusted for a female voice – correct choice as it turns out! Thanks for bringing them up!

  7. I am not as bit of a Carrie Underwood fan as the writers of this site, but I really do appreciate a few things about her. Her loyalty to the Opry, and even though most of her music is pure pop/rock she does choose songs with great lyrics and I do appreciate that. Also, I agree, It’s long overdue for Cystal Gayle to be part of the Opry.

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