We’re slowly getting back into the swing of things!
It’s been a minute since we did one of these, so let’s shake the rust off.
Fortunately, the new release calendar doesn’t create too much work for this week, since the only new release or reissue is an album from Texas country stalwarts Dale Watson and Ray Benson. And, perhaps just as fortunately, no one created too much of a controversy in the first few days of the new year. Instead, there’s an unearthed interview with the late Merle Haggard in which he waxes poetic about Johnny Cash, and a several prominent music critics considered the muddled definitions of “Americana.”
Oh, and Reba released a track from her upcoming gospel album that has us jonesing for a Trio-style album with her, Trisha Yearwood, and Kelly Clarkson, because do they ever sound amazing together.
New Releases & Reissues: 1/08/2017
Dale Watson & Ray Benson, Dale & Ray. (Ameripolitan / Home / Mailboat)
Billboard Country National Airplay:
#1: Keith Urban, “Blue Ain’t Your Color” (1 week).
Most Increased Audience: Blake Shelton, “A Guy With a Girl” (#4).
Most Added: Luke Bryan, “Fast” (56); Jason Aldean, “Any Ol’ Barstool” (42); Kenny Chesney, “Bar at the End of the World” (25); Miranda Lambert, “We Should Be Friends” (20); Dierks Bentley, “Black” (18).
Debuts: William Michael Morgan, “Missing” (re-entry, #54); Drake White, “Makin’ Me Look Good Again” (re-entry, #55); Candi Carpenter, “Burn the Bed” (re-entry, #56); Kane Brown, “Thunder in the Rain” (re-entry, #57); Ryan Follese, “Put a Label on It” (re-entry, #58); Love & Theft, “Candyland” (re-entry, #59); Tucker Beathard, “Momma and Jesus” (re-entry, #60).
Notes: The radio charts self-correct this week as all of last year’s Christmas music officially drops off, allowing for a slew of newer singles to re-enter and for nearly the entirety of the chart to post gains in audience; Keith Urban’s “Blue Ain’t Your Color” supplants Brett Eldredge’s “Wanna Be That Song” at the top of the chart, with rumors that Urban’s duet with Carrie Underwood, “The Fighter,” will be his follow-up; Underwood’s “Dirty Laundry” moves up to #3 and looks poised to continue her streak of top-2 hits; “Sober Saturday Night” by Chris Young feat. Vince Gill moves up to #12 and should give Gill his first appearance in the top 10 since 2006’s “Building Bridges” collaboration with Brooks & Dunn and Sheryl Crow; Eric Church’s feat. Rihannon Giddens’ “Kill A Word” holds at #13; Chris Stapleton’s “Parachute” continues to hang around the bottom of the top 20 in its 36th chart week; High Valley’s “Make You Mine” has extended its even-longer run, landing at #23 after 45 weeks on the chart; Runaway June’s “Lipstick” posted a decent gain in audience, as the charming single holds at #35; three fantastic singles re-entered in the lower portion of the chart, with William Michael Morgan’s “Missing” (#54), Drake White’s “Makin’ Me Look Good Again” (#55), and Candi Carpenter’s “Burn the Bed” (#56) make up the strongest trifecta anywhere in the top 60; on the Indicator chart for smaller markets, Cody Jinks’ I’m Not the Devil” inches up to #49 and Stephanie Quayle’s “Drinking With Dolly” debuts at #58.
Elsewhere on Billboard‘s Radio Charts:
At AAA radio, Ryan Adams moves up from #13 to #9 with “Do You Still Love Me” in just three weeks on the chart; The Avett Brothers’ “True Sadness” posts a small gain in spins but drops from #14 to #15; Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats’ “Wasting Time” continues a slow climb, up to #22; several alt-country an Americana acts earned new AAA station adds this week– Tift Merritt’s “Dusty Old Man” (6), Adams’ “Do You Still Love Me” (5), Nikki Lane’s “Jackpot” (3), Old 97s’ “Good With God” (3), Son Volt’s “Back Against the Wall” (3), Brent Cobb’s “Solving Problems” (1), and Wilco’s “Someone to Lose” (1); at Adult Top 40 radio, “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever,” the duet between erstwhile country star Taylor Swift and former One Direction member Zayn, is at #15 after just 4 weeks, and it moves up to #13 at CHR; “Setting the World on Fire,” the former country radio chart-topper from Kenny Chesney feat. Pink, holds at #21 at Adult Top 40; on the Adult Contemporary chart, which has been dominated by Christmas music, Brett Eldredge’s & Meghan Trainor’s rendition of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” drops from #1 to #30 as it loses 88% of its total spins with the loss of holiday-themed airplay; at Christian radio, Hillary Scott & The Scott Family’s former #1 and Grammy-nominated “Thy Will” re-enters all the way up at #5 following the Christmas changeover.
News & Notes
“He didn’t know that until years later, but I was. I was in a 1958 audience New Year’s Day at San Quentin. He lost his voice that day. It was just a whisper. But his charismatic manners sold him to the convicts. They really liked him, and I did, too, and I was prepared not to like him for some reason. When he didn’t have a voice and he was able to bring the people around, I understood the power of Johnny Cash. It was overwhelming.”
— The late Merle Haggard spoke about seeing Johnny Cash’s performance at San Quentin from the audience of prisoners; Haggard’s statements on Cash are part of a previously unpublished interview from 2007, which Rolling Stone published earlier this week. Haggard gives fascinating insights into his personal and professional connections to Cash, with anecdotes about their back-and-forth banter and about performing at prisons. (JK)
Reba McEntire will be releasing a gospel album, Sing It Now: Songs of Faith & Hope, on February 3rd, and she has begun releasing some individual tracks in advance. The official first single is a cover of “Back to God,” a song that was written by and originally appeared on Randy Houser’s Anything Goes album, but we couldn’t not post the gorgeous rendition of the traditional hymn “Softly and Tenderly,” on which Reba is joined by Trisha Yearwood and Kelly Clarkson. (JK)
“Coexistence comes naturally to some of country’s younger hitmakers. Jon Pardi, who draws rowdy millennial crowds with rambunctious hard-edged country, has yet to take the stage at the medallion ceremony or the CMAs, but scored his first No. 1 this summer with the throwback ‘Head Over Boots’ and followed it with a single that split the difference between R&B-style rhythmic propulsion and leathery twang. Conscious of the fact that many of his peers have staked out territory at far flung corners of the country spectrum, somewhere between progression and preservation, his self-professed goal is simple: ‘I wanna be able to shake hands with everybody backstage and not feel awkward’.”
— Jewly Hight, who did some of the finest writing on country music in 2016, wrote a stellar recap of the previous year for NPR. She considered how the genre’s storied history of honoring traditions while chasing lucrative popular trends figured into such noteworthy events as the CMA Awards ceremony, the “Forever Country” collaboration, and the trend of duets between country acts and pop superstars. As ever, Hight is doing exceptional work. (JK)
Rascal Flatts premiered their new single, “Yours If You Want It.” It’s right in their lane, and, save for the ridiculous lyrics in the bridge, it’s pretty good! (TS)
“… Why belittle Americana’s efforts to celebrate and showcase the icons of soul? How can one call recent work by Mavis Staples or Candi Staton “late career victory laps?” when it sounds to me like some of the best work they’ve ever done, made in joyful collaboration with Americana leaders like Jeff Tweedy and John Leventhal? William Bell and Bobby Rush were put on pedestals in Nashville last Fall. This type of outreach and evangelism is what might get younger artists of color applying to Americana showcases and festivals and more audiences of color hanging out at live events. It is not to be overlooked.”
— Craig Havighurst, in “The Color of Americana,” drafted a thorough and well-reasoned rebuttal to “Americana’s Year of Reckoning,” a patently absurd and short-sighted article by Charles Aaron of MTV News in mid-December. Havighurst outlines a litany of Aaron’s oversights and, in doing so, provides a tribute to the diversity of contemporary Americana. (JK)
“Country musicians and audiences alike have been slower to go digital, which has been partly a commercial windfall to Nashville (country fans still buy CDs). But in other ways, it can make that part of the industry seem more removed and unidirectional. As a result, it’s a cinch to find on Bandcamp quality country-leaning folk, retro country, bluegrass, country-rock, “alt”-country and other hybrid root musics—a.k.a. “Americana”—not only from the American South, but from the U.K., Australia or Scandinavia. But it’s rarer to come across aspiring next Nashville stars, the of-the-moment sounds of summer barbecues and future wedding dances… To me, that’s unfortunate, because mainstream country for decades has been the music that expresses and preserves the dreams and realities of life for millions of Americans. While it’s stereotypically associated with white people in the south and the west, its influence runs back and forth between it and the same regions’ black and Latinx music, from string bands to Memphis and Muscle Shoals country-soul to the R&B leanings of a current Nashville artist like Sam Hunt. I’d venture to say that when the gulf between country listeners and other pop fans widens, it’s unhealthy for cultural understanding, musically and otherwise.”
— Carl Wilson compiled a terrific sampler of some under-the-radar artists like John Moreland, Caleb Caudle, and Irene Kelley, who have been using social media technology to build devoted followings online. Wilson argues that many contemporary country stars could benefit from this approach, as well, and that social media networks like Bandcamp would be enriched were they to do so. (JK)
“I think it’s interesting to hear where they started and what they changed. One of the most fascinating things, when you hear really early recordings of singers who you know so well, is that you hear them before they’ve really become themselves.”
— Gillian Welch is the “Artist of the Month” over at The Bluegrass Situation, and she spoke to Dacey Orr about the recent release of Boots No. 1: The Official Revival Bootleg. (JK)
The great Rodney Crowell released a music video for his latest single, “It Ain’t Over Yet,” featuring Rosanne Cash and John Paul White. (JK)
That will do it for this weeks, gang. Be sure to check back for our 40 Best Singles of 1991 countdown feature, in addition to new single reviews!