Every autumn for the past 11 years the Americana Music Association honors Americana and roots music. Members of the association (of which I am one) get’s an email in early spring and are asked to submit up to 10 nominees for each of six categories – Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Artist of the Year Emerging Artist of the Year, Duo/Group of the Year and Instrumentalist of the Year. The eligibility period for the nominees runs from April 1, 2012 through March 31, 2013.
The numbers are tallied up and the 5 nominees for each category have just been announced last Tuesday. Though some have stated that the Americana music Association is playing it safe and should do more to grow the base.
But all they did was count the votes. The good portion of their dues paying voters are members of the music industry with a stake in the game and this list reflects, with a few glaring exceptions (which I will dress at the bottom), the Americana chart for the time criteria.
As a blogger, with no direct stake in promotion of any one artist over another, I’m bound only by my own subjective opinion. i voted for artists who I believed were the best of the best and some ended up on the final nominee list. Many did not. Here are a few glaring omissions that me, and some of my community on Facebook and twitter have, noticed.
Got your own? List ‘em in the comments below.
The first oversight is the most glaring. How is Lindi Ortega, one of the freshest voices in Americana, not up for Emerging Artist Of The Year? Seriously?!
Is there a better singer/songwriter in roots and Americana music than Chris knight? Little Victories was my top album of 2012 and it should be up for Album of the Year. Andd it’s high-time Knight be shown some Artist of the Year love. The man’s a damn legend!
Another fantastic new talent hitting her stride in American, root and pop is Caitlin Rose. Emerging Artist Of The Year and Album of the Year.
Jake Smith (aka The White Buffalo) is also an exciting newcomer in the Americana and roots field. Emerging Artist Of The Year and Album of the Year for How the West Was Won.
A legend, and one of the finest voices in roots music, comes out with her first of new material in sixteen-years on Sing The Delta and it doesn’t get a Album of the Year nod?!
alt.country legends, Son Volt, reach back to the classic country that’s always been a part of their DNA to make one of the best albums of their career and they’re passed over/ They should be up for for Album of the Year for Honky Tonk and I’d argue that Jay Farrar should be up for Artist Of The Year.
Ray Wylie Hubbard’s Grifter’s Hymnal is the legend at his gritty, greasy Texas best. Album of the Year.
Carrie Rodriguez has been around for a a while and deserves some Artist of the Year and Album of the Year love for her Give Me All You Got.
The Turnpike Troubadours are one of the best young bands that I saw at last year’s Americana Conference showcases. Album of the Year for their Goodbye Normal Street and Duo/Group of the Year.
The Trishas were also a highlight of last year’s Americana Conference and have put in their time. They earned nods for High, Wide and Handsome for Album of the Year and Duo/Group of the Year.
The nominees for the Americana Music Awards and Honors was announced today from the Grammy Museum’s Clive Davis Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. The one-hour ceremony was carried live on AXS TV and featured performances by Jim Lauderdale and Buddy Miller (with a tribute to the late George Jones) Lisa Marie Presley backed by T Bone Burnett, Elizabeth Cook, and Emerging Artist of the Year nominees The Milk Carton Kids.
The 2013 Americana Music Association Festival and Conference is scheduled for September 18-22, with the awards ceremony being held at the historic Ryman Auditorium on Thursday, Sep. 18. The event awards six member voted annual awards and with Lifetime Achievement Awards, to be announced as the event approaches. Jim Lauderdale is a natural as the proceedings host and Buddy Miller leads the always exemplary house band.
Can’t make to to the event? Understandable as it has sold out in recent years. But do not despair, the Americana Honors and Awards show will shown live on AXS TVa nd an edited version will show up on PBS at a later date. It will also be broadcast via SiriusXM Radio, BBC2, WSM and Voice of America.
South Carolina newcomers Shovels and Rope will lead the field with four nominations, followed by legendary Emmylou Harris and Buddy Miller each with three nods. I’m happy to report that a few of my choices made it on the list this year(Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison, YES!) and John Fullbright is up for Emerging Artist of the Year. Well if being nominated for the Americana Album of the year Grammy, as Fullbright was before losing to Bonnie Raitt, isn’t emerging the I don’t know what is. Dwight Yoakam’s dominance of the Americana charts earlier this year with his new release Three Pears (my review) also garnered him an Artist of the Year nod.
Here is the full list of the 2013 Americana Music Award nominees. Are your choices here?
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Buddy & Jim, Buddy Miller & Jim Lauderdale
Cheaters Game, Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison
From The Ground Up, John Fullbright
O Be Joyful, Shovels and Rope
Old Yellow Moon, Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell
ARTIST OF THE YEAR
EMERGING ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Milk Carton Kids
Shovels and Rope
SONG OF THE YEAR
Birmingham – Shovels & Rope
Good Things Happen to Bad People – Richard Thompson
Ho Hey – The Lumineers
North Side Gal – JD McPherson
DUO/GROUP OF THE YEAR
Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis
Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale
Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell
Shovels & Rope
INSTRUMENTALIST OF THE YEAR
Elizabeth Cook and Lisa Marie Presley announce the nominees
Milk Carton Kids Live performing “Hope of a Lifetime”
If you’re a struggling musician I suggest you take a look at the career of Jim Lauderdale. Between early setbacks as a Bluegrass banjo player, and being marginalized in Music Row there were plenty of opportunities to chuck his guitar in the gutter and call it quits. But he persevered and used his songwriting as a musical dowsing rod to move him always forward toward unexpected and exciting places.
If the Americana genre didn’t already exist it would have to be created for Lauderdale. He’s worked in multiple genres (Bluegrass, country, rock, soul) with multiple artists (George Jones, Ralph Stanley, Elvis Costello, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle and more), but the music has always been grounded in honesty with a twist of risk. This will to be daring, attention to legacy, while pushing forward has allowed Lauderdale to become something you don’t see music in the music industry, unique.
He’s now a Grammy winning singer/songwriter, the subject of a crowd-sourced biopic (Jim Lauderdale: The King of Broken Hearts)
He hosts, along with Buddy Miller, “The Buddy & Jim Show” Saturdays 10 pm ET on SiriusXM Outlaw Country. He also hosts the “Music City Roots: Live from the Loveless Cafe”, weekly Americana music show broadcast live on WSM from the Loveless Barn on Highway 100 in Nashville. He is also the MC for the Americana Music Awards and Honors show in Nashville where his catch-phrase “Now THAT’S Americana” is as much of a delight as the stellar performances on the storied Ryman Auditorium stage.
I talked to Lauderdale, through spotty reception, on the road to Nashville the day after his birthday performance at the Music City Roots spin-off, “Scenic City Roots, in Chattanooga Tennessee
Twang Nation: Jim? How are you today?
Jim Lauderdale: Just fine. Driving on a beautiful, crisp spring day heading back to Nashville from Chattanooga Tennessee.
TN: Happy belated birthday, You share a birth with Bob Harris ( “‘Whispering Bob Harris” the legendary is the host of the BBC 2 music program The Old Grey Whistle Test, and a supporter of country and roots music)
JL: Really? It’s also George Shuffler’s birthday, who played guitar for the Stanley Brothers.
TN: Cool. So you’re taking some time off from your tour supporting the “Buddy and Jim” album. How’s that going?
JL: It’s been great! We too some time off because Buddy is producing the Wood Brothers and he also co-produces the music for the TV show Nashville with T Bone Burnett. He’s got a pretty full plate most of the time. Our next date is in San Francisco at the Great American Music Hall. I love playing that space.
TN: I’ll be there. The first time I saw you and Buddy working with the new material it was at last year’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. It was a morning slot but the place was still full.
JL: I love that festival. Warren Hellman has done so much for the community. He’ll be missed.
TN: True. So let’s visit your childhood in Troutman, North Carolina. Your father was a minister and your mother was a music teacher. How did this shape you musically?
JL: I believe it helped to train my ears. They were both great singers, so it was a combination of hearing a lot of church music. Hearing my mother, who was a choir director at the church, a chorus teacher, and a piano teacher, I was hearing stuff all the time. My older sister was the first to start buying records like the Beatles when I was in the first grade. At the time music was just exploding and so much was coming from the radio and in North Carolina radio then was a mixture of rock and roll, soul music like Stax and Motown, and then there were peripheral country stations where Bluegrass was being played. So there was just so much great music being played and available. I think Buddy and i share a lot of the same influences. that’s how all these influences made me want to sing. I started singing really early and then started playing drums for a few years when I was 11 and then, when I was 13, I started playing blues harmonica. When I was 15 I started playing the banjo and getting more into Bluegrass music. I always wanted to do a Bluegrass record but it took me a long time to get a deal to do one. When it happened I got to do it with Ralph Stanley and his band, the Clinch Mountain Boys (1999′s I Feel Like Singing Today)
TN: Not bad company to keep for your inaugural Bluegrass venture.
JL: That was kind of a dream because I grew up loving his work. I used to try and play banjo in his style and sing in a tenor like Ralph would. One of the best things to happen out of that was that I began writing with Robert Hunter (poet and lyricist for the Grateful Dead.) A friend of mine, Rob Bleetstein, put me in touch with him in the Bay Area. i knew that Robert and Jerry Garcia were huge Stanley Brothers’ fans, so that’s how I started writing with Robert and since then we’ve created 4 albums. The last two were Bluegrass of stuff we’ve done together. I have an upcoming album with the North Mississippi Allstars coming out in the fall and it has stuff that Robert and I wrote as well. So, even though it took me a long tie to get something out in that world, it was worth the wait because of all the good things that have happened.
TN: Making up for lost time.
JL: Right. And the same with Buddy. We had met back in New York in the early 80′s. We were both living there and both had country bands going and Buddy, to me, had the best band there. There was a nice country scene going on in New York at the time. There were about 5 bars in New York like the Lone Star Cafe that featured country music. So there was a lot of work. Eventually we both ended up on the west coast and started playing gigs together. Then Buddy came to Nashville first and ended up playing with Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris. His career really took off! So we’ve known each other for 33 years and have talked about doing a record for the past 17 years so this new album was also worth the wait. Our schedules just wouldn’t allow it. But last year we started this radio show last summer on SiriusXM Outlaw Country (The Buddy & Jim Show , Saturdays 10 pm ET) and that started moving things toward us sitting down and writing material. It happened pretty quickly, we spent a few days in pre-production and wrote some stuff but we cut the album in three days in his home studio. He produced the album and we’re really happy with it. I love playing with Buddy, he always makes me smile.
TN: There’s a song you wrote that was covered by George Strait called The King of Broken Hearst. It’s got a great story.
JL: I moved to L.A. partly to be in the same atmosphere that Gram Parsons had been in. There was this story that came from (former rock ‘n’ roll groupie and author) Pamela Des Barres, who was a friend of his, who said he had this L.A. party and was playing George Jones records. These people had never heard him (Jones) and he started crying. he said “That’s the king of broken hearts.” It was one of those times when an idea just comes to you. I play that song all the time and I love it.
TN: Gram is seen as the patron saint of the Americana genre and , I believe, you and Buddy have earned a place at that table. With your work with the Americana Music Awards and Music City Roots would you consider yourself an ambassador of Americana?
JL: Oh, I don’t know about that. But I’m certainly happy it’s out there. The guy I mentioned before, Rob Bleetstein, helped to coin there term (along with Jon Grimson of Nashville) for a trade publication that’s no longer around called Gavin Report. It was like Billboard and R&R (Radio & Records) magazine. They needed a chart for rootsy American music and Rob said “How about Americana?” So that put a name on it. But to me it’s just great that Americana allows a broad umbrella for roots music – Blues, Bluegrass, folk, rock, country – music that is not overproduced and it’s all connected, And it’s a place that, in his later years, someone like Johnny Cash can get played on the radio. And Merle Haggard, and folks like Guy Clark and Joe Ely, Butch Hancock and jimmie Dale Gilmore. Stuff that’s too rootsy for mainstream radio. it’s nice to have a place where people can be recognized.
TN: You’ve worked in the Music Row world and the Americana world and been successful in both. What do you think contributes to your success to work in both of those environments?
JL: Well I had plans but things would work out a different that what I thought. It was accidental in some ways. I wanted to make Blue grass records as a teenager, but it never worked out. Then in my early 30s I finally got a record contract in the country genre. But that record was too country at the time to be accepted in 1988. Dwight Yoakam’s producer and guitarist Pete Anderson did it with me (The unreleased CBS album that later appeared on an overseas label as Point of No Return.) My next album wasn’t as traditional but it was pretty far out there. It was co-produced by Rodney Crowell and John Leventhal (1991′s Planet of Love) Even though that album didn’t have a lot of commercial success, 8 of the 10 songs went on to be recorded by other people like George Strait. So that too me into that world of songwriting though my plan was to have a successful career with my own records. I kept putting out my own records and, when it wouldn’t work out, the only way to rise above of the disappointment was to write myself out of it. I still had a contract for a few more majors, but I started doing some independent labels and was more eclectic. Bluegrass with country mixed with R&B ad soul. The work I’m doing with the North Mississippi Allstars I did with Robert Hunter is more blues, rock and soul. I’m also trying to finish up a stripped down acoustic record that I’m writing with Robert. He’s really important in my like as far as music, so I want to keep that going.
TN: Speaking of Robert Hunter lest year you were in the Bay Area with the American Beauty Project. How did that come about?
JL: Those two albums (Grateful Dead’s) Working Man’s Dead and American Beauty opened up a door in my spirit when I heard them. All the things I’d done before – country, Bluegrass, rock – came together in those two records. To me they were like the Gram Parsons solo albums with Emmylou, those records are touchstones. The New York Guitar Festival which was put together by David Spellman, each year, would choose a different album and then singers and guitar players would play a song from that record. A few year’s ago they chose American Beauty and it went over really well. The singer Catherine Russell, Ollabelle, Larry Campbell and his wife Teresa Williams became the core of the American Beauty project which we took around the country. We still do it occasionally and will probably do some more shows in the future. It’s always a lot of fun.
TN: Tell me about your work with the roots-rock band Donna the Buffalo.
JL: I met them at the Newport Folk Festival while opening for Lucinda Williams on her “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” tour. I met this group of folks that were really friendly, but I had missed their show earlier in the day. We made this friendship and we then jammed together at Merlefest in North Carolina. They then invited me to play their festival that they put on in the summer and offered to back me up during my set. So over the years we’ve worked festivals and sat in with each other. I started to write songs for all of us to do and when i had an album’s worth we went into the studio and did it (2003′s Wait Til Spring) We still do stuff when we can. They’ve got a new album coming out in June which I’ve heard and it’s fantastic (tonight Tomorrow & Yesterday – June 18) They are one of my favorite bands as an audience member and I love to sit in with them. We have a few new songs we’ve written but i need some more material to do another record.
TN: Any other new artists that have caught your ear?
JL: There’s a lady that just moved to Nashville, Lera Lynn. There’s another band that just moved from L.A. to Nashville called HoneyHoney that I like a lot. There”s a songwriter named Ryan Tanner I think is really good. And there’s a guy in North Carolina named Daniel Justin Smith that I think is really good. There’s no shortage of new, young singer, songwriter and pickers that are acoustically influenced and have their own style of country and roots music. I’m really encouraged by that. When i host the Music City Roots showcase it gives me an opportunity to be exposed to new performers. There was a band on the other night out of Birmingham, Alabama called St Paul and the Broken Bones. They are a kind of soul review kind of band and they are just out of this world. There’s a woman called Sara Petite out of San Diego who I like a lot. I also love Shovels and Rope, Robert Ellis , Max Gomez and the Milk Carton Kids.
TN: Who would you like to write music with someone that you haven’t?
JL: Gosh, I wish I could work with Eric Clapton. I love his work. I would also like to work with Keith Richards. I got to sing harmony with him on the song Hickory Wind on a Gram Parsons tribute called “Return to Sin City.” Norah Jones was on that, I’d like to work with her. I did a song with John Leventhal called Planet of Love that was pitched to Ray Charles to do with Norah Jones, but that didn’t happen before he passed away. I always wanted to work with Doc Pomus before he passed. And I always wanted to do something with Jerry Garcia and I’m sorry that didn’t happen. I’m slowly getting to work with a lot of folks I hold in high esteem. I got to write with Dan Pen and we’ve been working on some things in England with him and Nick Lowe’s great band. I got to song with George Jones years ago and that was a treat. You just never know in this up and down world of music.
TN: You’ve moved deftly between genres in this time, is there a musical era you would like to travel to and perform?
JL: The 60′s and early 70′s for the soul, country and rock music that was coming out and then the late 50′s early 60′s for Bluegrass. And the 50′s for Blues music. Being able to work in those times at the peak of the music would have been great.
TN: You’re a great singer, songwriter but your also a consummate showman. You’re very personable and funny on stage. Many have also taken note of your rhinestone bedecked clothing when you perform. How many suits do you have and where do you get them?
JL: Oh, I think i have 20 or 25 suits with shirts. I have gotten a few vintage pieces here and there, but i get most of my things new and custom made from Manuel (Cuevas) who is a designer and tailor here in Nashville that used to work with Nudie (Cohn) out of L.A. when he was a teenager. He’s still here producing things for people like Jack White.
TN: Thanks for your time and keep your eyes on the road.
Singer/songwriter jason Isbell will release his new solo album Southeastern on June 11th via Southeastern Records. Southeastern contains 12 new Isbell compositions and is said to be “the most personal songs of self-reflection and discovery he has written to date.” I’ve listened to it a couple of times and believe this to be true as well as some of the best arrangements and songs Isbell has done.
Pre-order it today on www.jasonisbell.com and you’ll receive a free download of an un-released and exclusive demo of “Traveling Alone” (below.)
Southeastern track list:
Cover Me Up
Flying Over Water
Songs That She Sang In The Shower
New South Wales
May 17 Tulsa, OK Tulsa Mayfest
May 19 Gulf Shores, AL Hangout Festival
May 22 New York, NY Stones Fest at Bowery Ballroom
May 23 New York, NY Stones Fest at Bowery Ballroom
June 6 Bowling Green, KY The Warehouse at Mt. Victor
June 7 Louisville, KY Iroquois Amphitheater
June 14 Manchester, TN Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival
June 16 Croton-On-Hudson, NY Clearwater Festival
June 19 St. Louis, MO Off Broadway
June 20 Kansas City, MO Crossroads
June 22 Monterey, CA Monterey Americana Music Fest
June 25 Akron, OH Musica
June 26 Columbus, OH Skully’s
June 27 Ann Arbor, MI The Ark
June 30 Charleston, WV Culture Center Theater
July 1 Alexandria, VA The Birchmere
July 2 Raleigh, NC Lincoln Theatre
July 3 Charlotte, NC Visulite Theatre
July 5 Charleston, SC Pour House
July 6 Chattanooga, TN Track 29
July 26 Floyd, VA Floydfest
July 27 Newport, RI Newport Folk Festival
Aug 9 Wilkes-Barre, PA Kirby Center
Nov 1-5 Miami to Great Stirrup Cay Rombello Cruise
So what are the standards for measure? Longevity and legendary status? Range and feeling? Stage presence? I’m going with technique and style and depth over legacy and stage presence. With the former a distinct style is a given with any legendary performer and as for sage presence , I could care less i they never move on stge if they move me emotionally with their lyrics.
Here are my 6 possible contenders. I’ve stretched country music boundaries to include Americana and roots music overall as some of the best singers, in my opinion, reside there.
If the crown for best country voice was based on chosen successor then Merle Haggard was George Jones’ choice as his favorite country singer.
If your criteria is individual style few could stand up against the nasal vibrato of Willie Nelson.
When Darrell Scott would take his turn at the mic to sing Joe “Red” Hayes and Jack Rhodes’ classic “Satisfied Mind” as a member of Robert Plant’s “Band of Joy” plant had the good sense to step back into a supporting role.
Though more of a soul and gospel, singer Mike Ferris deftly mines the veins that feeds country music’s soul.
Like Jones Dwight Yoakam put a lasting stamp on country music with his intonation and hillbilly hiccup.
George Strait’s baritone is like a warm day and he makes you believe in the song.
No overt themes in this episode, just great music.
One of my favorite bands Durham, North Carolina’s Hiss Golden Messenger kicks things off with the raucous Red Rose Nantahala from their new album Hawwe also take a listen o new work from Jason Isbell being supported by members of his band, the 400 Unit, and his newly betrothed Amanda Shires. Patty Griffin gives us the beautiful Mom & Dad’s Waltz from her new American Kid and we get an early listen to Shonna Tucker, and her new band Eye Candy.
And lastly we say goodbye to a country music legend with Choices by George Jones.
As always. I hope you like this episode of the Twang Nation Podcast and thank you all for listening. If you do tell a friend and let me know here at this site, Google+ , Twitter or my Facebook page.
1. Hiss Golden Messenger – “Red Rose Nantahala”- Album: “Haw” (Paradise of Bachelors)
2. Shannon McNally – Song: “If It Were Mine To Keep”- Album: “Light Walker Demos EP” (Sacred Sumac Music)
3. The Builders and the Butchers– Song: “Dirt In The Ground”- Album: “Western Medicine” (Badman Recording Co. – July 2nd)
4. The Dustbowl Revival – Song: “Hard River Gal”- Debut Album: “Carry Me Back Home” (self-released)
5. Jason Isbell – Song: “Traveling Alone” – Album: Southeastern (Southeastern Records/Thirty Tigers. – out June 11th)
6. Rita Hosking – Song: “Nothing Left Of Me” – Album: Little Boat (self-released)
7. Shonna Tucker and Eye Candy – Song: “Linda Please” – Album: ? ( ? )
8. Patty Griffin – Song: “Mom & Dad’s Waltz” – American Kid ( New West Records – out May 7 )
9. Eastbound Jesus – Song: “Katie Belle” Album: Northern Rock ( Self-released)
10. George Jones – Song: “Choices”
They laid the greatest voice in country music to rest today.
I checked in to the online stream on and off and , truth be told, it got to me. But the emotional performance below from Vince Gill & Patty Loveless of “Go Rest High On That Mountain” brought the magnitude of the moment into reality.
Alan Jackson closed the service with a heart-wrenching version of Jones’ best known song He Stopped Loving Her Today.
This is as real as it gets y’all. This is the life blood of country music. Lest we forget.
Travis Tritt performs ‘Why Me Lord’ by Kris Kristofferson for George Jones memorial.
Golden Ring (With Tammy Wynette)
Although their tumultuous marriage didn’t last, when they were singing it was duet magic. The rings is the symbol of life being cyclical. A couple find a pair of wedding rings in a pawn shop, get married, break up and the rings are returned to the shop wherre they catch the eye of another couple. George and Tammy’s chemistry is undeniable.
Good Year For The Roses
Elvis Costello knows a great song when he hears it and he chose this one to cover on his country-tinged Almost Blue. This song has soe of the best lines and imagery in country music. “the lip-print on a half-filled cup of coffee that you poured and didn’t drink” Th roses thrive in contrast to a dying marriage that also make certain the roses aren’t picked as a gift.
The Grand Tour
This walk around a lovely house -with an empty bed, a wedding ring and an empty nursery, the photo of the woman who left – is an emotional gut punch tempered slightly by the smooth tempo and piano refrain.
I personally just love the sound of this song. Pure tear-in-my-beer honky-tonk material.
She Thinks I Still Care
Talk about passive aggressive! He floats her name to friends, accidentally calls her, retracing her actions. It doesn’t mean anything, right?
Jone’s reminded people what country music sound like in this 1999 Grammy winner of refection of his life. Scottish tones fused a hard county barroom foundation lifts Jones. It’s Jones own more contrite version of My Way.
He Stopped Loving Her Today
This 1980 Grammy-winner set the gold standard for country music ballads. A story f a man sick from pining lost love ends in a twist really seals the deal. Jone’s voice draws you in ad makes it real.
I Don’t Need Your Rocking Chair
This anthem of golden years self-reliance won a 1993 CMA Award for vocal event of the year and remained a crowd favorite for years.
Why Baby Why
A few singles before went nowhere but in 1955 Why Baby Why brought that timeless voice to a wider audience by becoming a hit and establishing themes of love and loss that Jones’ would use throughout his career.
Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes
Where’s all the great country music? Fans have been asking this for decades. In 1985, the wake of the Urban Cowboy phenomenon, Jones was right long with them by name-checking heroes like Hank, contemporaries like Conway Twitty, Lefty Frizzell, Cash and followers like Haggard, Jennings and Willie. it’s a authentic and heartfelt tribute to a country musics heritage the Jones helped established and it’s sentiment is echoed to this day.
Recently Jim Lauderdale recounted to me a scenario he read from a book by author/entrepreneur/groupie Pamela Des Barres. This scene featured Gram Parsons allegedly sititng in room surrounded by LA. party people as he played George Jones records and cried. When someone asked who he was listening to he is reported to have answered “The king of Broken Hearts.” This story led Lauderdale to write , and George Strait to latter cover, “The King of Broken Hearts”
Here’s a verse:
The king of broken hearts is so sad and wise
He can smile while he’s crying inside
We know he’ll be brave tonight
Cause he’s the king of broken hearts
Is the story factually true? I don’t know, but it’s essence is dead-on. Lauderdale and Parsons had it right. Regarded by many to be one of the greatest voices in country music Jones defined and lived country music as authentically as anyone. He spoke from a place where he lived and struggled and showed us all he, and we, are fallible. He had lived and breathed empathy into every word.
Not far from Jones’ birthplace of Saratoga Texas, thirty-eight miles northwest of Beaumont, producer and co-owner of Starday Records, Pappy Daily, signed Jones to his first label in 1954. Four singles were released soon after that went nowhere..
Jones then released “Why, Baby, Why” , produced by Daily, in the summer of 1955 resulting in his first hit. it peaked at #4 on the Billboard country charts that year before being eclipsed by Webb Pierce and Red Sovine doing a version of the very same song (things were done differently back then.)
Then came the 14 number one country hits, multiple Male Vocalist of the Year and Duo of the year awards with Tammy Wynette, 4 Grammys, a tumultuous marriage with Wynette, hundreds of bottles of bourbon and enough controlled substances that would make Keith Richards flinch. Many missed performances (branding him “No Show Jones” by promoters) and one infamous arrested for DUI while riding on a John Deere lawn tractor and a legacy was established.
in the 80′s Jones and many of his contemporaries found themselves ostracized from Music City in the wake of the Urban Cowboy phenomenon, which led the country music industry to pursue the contemporary pop elements of the day. Sound familiar? Through most of the 80′s and 90′s his career had stalled by the new economics of Nashville big labels. Though playing in smaller venues people that knew of his place in history continued to attend how shows. Many of these people brought their kids along. A few of those kids probably make up the Americana performers I now cover.
Jones was nearly through half of his farewell “The Grand Tour,” when, on April 18, he was admitted to Nashville’s. Vanderbilt University Hospital with fever and irregular blood pressure. This morning, April 26, 2013, I received an email from TMZ that Jones had died. Wikipedia had not been updated with his news and his tour dates were still listed on Ticketmaster, so I was skeptical. But almost one minute later the news was confirmed by an email from Jones publicist. The man Frank Sinatra once said was the “second best singer in this country…” was dead.
Jone’s final concert was to be held on November 22, 2013, at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. The show sold out far in advance and Garth Brooks, Kid Rock, Shelby Lynne, the Oak Ridge Boys, Charlie Daniels, Jamey Johnson, Lorrie Morgan, Randy Travis and Gene Watson. Tanya Tucker and many others were to join jones for the for the event. Whether the show carries on in his absence is yet unknown.
Personally I was fortunate to see Jones perform in 2007. Visibly weakened and unable to play guitar dut to recent surgery, he performed on with those majestic standards
in front of an rapt Carnagie hall audience. We knew we were in the presence of history. As opener Kris Kristofferson stated during his lone acoustic set, ‘George Jones is the only person alive I’d open for.”
i met Jones briefly last year after he shared the stage with the Allman Brothers, Glenn Campbell and Diana Ross for the lifetime Achievement Grammy awards. i was kind and smiled as I gushed and he posed for what must have been his millionth fan pic. What a gentleman. It made me happy to know he was still part of the world I was part of. I am sadder today.
Americana artists like Kelly Willis and Caitlin Rose and Holly Williams, Country music legends like Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn and Charlie Daniels, and contemporary country artists Brad Paisley and Blake Shelton flooded twitter with their sentiments and memories. As I write this #GeorgeJones is still trending on Twitter. Fitting for a man that once released an album entitled “High-Tech Redneck.”
Here’s my small tip-of-the-hat to a man who, along with Hank Williams, defined not only country music’s style, but it’s moral complexities mirrored in the best of it’s narratives.
UPDATE: George Jones’ funeral will took place on Thursday, May 2nd at The Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tennessee, it was open to the public. People lined up 24 hours beforehand to get in.
“George would have wanted his fans and friends everywhere to be able to come and pay their respects along with his family,” said publicist Kirt Webster.
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that contributions be made to the Grand Ole Opry trust fund:
Opry Trust Fund
2804 Opryland Drive
Nashville, Tennessee 37214
or to the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum at http://store.countrymusichalloffame.com/categories/Donate/
COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME® AND MUSEUM
222 FIFTH AVENUE SOUTH
NASHVILLE, TN 37203
George Jones’ funeral will take place on Thursday, May 2nd at The Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tennessee, starting at 10 am (Central) and will be open to the public. Doors will open at 9 am.
In addition, national television networks CMT, GAC, RFD, and FamilyNet, as well as local Nashville stations WKRN 2, WSMV 4, WTVF 5, WZTV 17 will broadcast the funeral service “LIVE”, with radio partners WSM 650AM and SiriusXM Willie’s Roadhouse (Ch. 56) broadcasting the service. Fans around the world can listen online at wsmonline.com or watch online at opry.com.