Nashville-based Americana Music Association has released an excellent initial artist line-up for showcase portion of the conference, festival and awards show. the selections show a broad range of diversity and excellence the of the genre. Great to see many Casa Twang favorites represented as well.
Artists include: Black Prairie, Billy Bragg, Rosanne Cash, The Devil Makes Three, Frank Fairfield, Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors, John Fullbright, JD McPherson,
The Lone Bellow, Aoife O’ Donovan, Darrell Scott & Tim O’Brien, Richard Thompson, The White Buffalo, Holly Williams and The Wood Brothers
The Devil Makes Three
Sam Doores, Riley Downing & the Tumbleweeds
Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors
Hurray for the Riff Raff
The Infamous Stringdusters
The Lone Bellow
Luella & the Sun
Buddy Miller & Jim Lauderdale
Old Man Luedecke
Darrell Scott & Tim O’Brien
Sons of Fathers
Spirit Family Reunion
The Stray Birds
The White Buffalo
The Wood Brothers
The Johnny Cash “Forever” Stamp celebration took place June 5th at the Ryman Auditorium featured John Carter Cash, The Oak Ridge Boys, Marty Stuart, Randy Travis, Carlene Carter, Wesley Orbison and other members of the Cash family to kick off the release of the limited-edition stamp
A “forever’stamp is a non-denominated stamp that retains full validity postage no matter of price increases.
Kathy Cash , Johnny’s Daughter from his first marriage to Vivian Liberto Distin and sister of Rosanne Cash, posted her heartfelt and funny speech from the event. I re-post it here with a video of a rousing “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” from the finale. Enjoy.
Thank you for being here to celebrate the “Johnny Cash Forever Stamp” in the Music Icon series.
My dad and mom had a 4 year courtship in the early 50′s. Dad was in the Air Force in Germany, mom was a young woman living in San Antonio, Texas. During that 4 year period, they exchanged an astounding 10,000 letters.
Dad was no stranger to licking a stamp.
He loved stamps and we have the letters to prove it.
When dad was on the road until he retired, he sent us hundreds of cards, letters, poems and Valentines, postmarked from all over the world. When he heard a new upcoming artist on the radio and liked what he heard, he always sat down to write a letter of encouragement.
Always postmarked, always mailed.
In a fast paced world of telegrams and faxes, then email and texts, dad always preferred and chose writing. It meant a great deal to him to send a handwritten letter, stamped and mailed to people he cared about.
Dad has been inducted into all 4 Halls of Fame : Country Music, Songwriters, Rock and Roll and Gospel. He received the Kennedy Honor Award, The National Medal Of Arts, and was the first person to receive the Spirit Of Americana “Free Speech Award.” He earned thousands of awards for his musical accomplishments and humanitarian works. There’s even a main street in Hendersonville, TN., named “The Johnny Cash Parkway.”
Dad loved this country. I have no doubt that having his image on a United States postage stamp would be his proudest accomplishment.
If dad were here he’d be beaming with pride, and would say something to the effect of, “Well. Ain’t that somethin’? This face of mine on a postage stamp. A government issued postage stamp. A FOREVER STAMP.” He would love that it’s a forever stamp.
Dad had such an impact on American history. To have him recognized in this capacity is incredible. It means future generations will realize what a monumental part of American history and music Johnny Cash is.
On behalf of the entire Cash family, I want to thank the United States Postal Service, the fans and collectors who initiated and participated in this remarkable effort, voicing their support for a Johnny Cash stamp.
The Mississippi Picnic (6/8) at New York’s Central Park will honor “Singing Brakeman,” Jimmie Rodgers, the “Father of Country Music,” as his iconic guitar will be played for the first time in 80 years to record music.
Rodger’s custom-ordered 1927 Martin 000-45, has his name in pearl inlay on the neck and “Thanks” written upside down on the back. After his death, Rodgers’ widow loaned the 000-45 to Ernest Tubb, who played it for forty years. It was later donated to the Jimmie Rodgers Museum, in Meridian, Mississippi, where it is kept in a safe behind glass.
Tribute artist Britt Gully received permission to use the guitar for recording a tribute CD and will play the guitar at a Rodgers tribute at the event. That day will celebrate the ‘Mississippi Country Music Trail’ by recognizing Jimmie Rodgers. Gully will perform along with other Mississippi artists during the picnic.
“This guitar is magical,” Gully said. “There was never a time when playing it that I did not realize what I was playing, and who played it before me.”
The first New York Mississippi Picnic took place in 1979, when a small group of native Mississippians living in New York had a strong desire to improve the perceptions of both regions in regard to one another.
I’m not sure if I was the first to coin the term but I’m pretty sure i was the first to tweet it – that’s so country it’s Americana.
By that I mean as Music City continues to do what it’s always done, chase trends to broaden consumer acceptance, fill radio slots and asses in arena seats, and make truckloads of money, who looks after the legacy of the music? The legacy of twang, soul and grit that Rodgers, the Carters and Hank Sr. left us? The focus on the song as deep, personal expressions and not just target-marketed laundry lists? Ladies and gents it’s Americana straight up.
sure music Row still determines the brand “Country Music” but they don’t won the legacy or spirit. Tom Petty hit the nail squarely in the noggin when he described contemporary country music as “Bad rock with a fiddle. Zing! While the rhinestone cowboys chase hits and eschew tradition (Blake!) the real soul of country music has found a new home in the Americana camp. Now by Americana I also include the underground, muddy roots acts as well, as I believe a lot of the passion and blue-collar core is often found on that side. Here are a few videos to make my case.
Legacy: in their golden years no one in Music Row bothered to return phone calls to Johnny Cash and Porter Wagoner who were still viable a, had songs, and wanted to work. It took hip-hop/rock producer Rick Rubin and musician/producer Marty Stuart to work with these legendary men, respectively, and understand their storied place in music history. Working with their own label (Rubin) and an L.A. rock label (Epitaph) allowed these legends to produce some of their best work at the end of their lives and leave this world with dignity and fans with a few more treasures. Hell, even country music legend Lee Ann Womack teamed up with Americana stalwart Buddy Miller to stretch her wings.
Johnny Cash – “Hurt” (Nine Inch Nails)
Porter Wagoner – “Committed to Parkview”
Leann Womack & Buddy Miller – “Don’t Tell Me”
Soul – At it’s core country music is soul music. It bleeds life in common stories plaintive and wondrous. Here are some performers that reflect that rough beauty.
Robert Ellis – “Cemetery”
Jason Eady – “AM Country Heaven”
Elizabeth Cook – “Mama’s Prayers”
Twang and Grit – Musicianship has always been the stock and trade of country music , but it used to be more than a backdrop for party anthems. Here are some that are tearing it up without dumbing it down.
Sturgill Simpson – “You Can Have The Crown / Some Days”
Whitey Morgan and the 78′s – Cocaine Train
Turnpike Troubadours – “Before The Devil Knows We’re Dead”
The United States Postal Service, John Carter Cash and other members of the Cash family will the release of a limited-edition Johnny Cash Forever stamp June 5, 2013 at historic Ryman Auditorium (116 Fifth Avenue, Nashville) at 10:30 a.m. CDT. Doors open for stamp sales at 9 a.m. and the event is free and open to the public.
Artists set to appear, perform or speak include John Carter Cash, Carlene Carter, Larry Gatlin, Jamey Johnson, The Oak Ridge Boys, The Roys, Marty Stuart and Randy Travis among others. 650AM WSM personality Bill Cody will serve as emcee of the event.
“It is an amazing blessing that my father Johnny Cash be honored with the issue of this stamp. Dad was a hard-working man, a man of dignity. As much as anything else, he was a proud American, always supporting his family, fans and country. I can think of no better way to pay due respect to his legacy than through the release of this stamp,” said John Carter Cash.
“My family is thrilled that my father will grace a United States ‘Forever’ stamp, a great honor for any American, and an honor that would have particularly delighted him. It is a joy to know that generations will use this stamp, and my father will forever be where he loved to be: traveling the world,” added Rosanne Cash.
About the Limited-Edition Johnny Cash Forever Stamp:
Designed by art director Greg Breeding, the Johnny Cash stamp features a photograph captured by Frank Bez during the photo session for Ring of Fire: The Best of Johnny Cash (1963). The stamp is part of the U.S. Postal Service’s Music Icon series, which also includes stamps honoring Lydia Mendoza (available now) and Ray Charles (to be released in September).
The stamps will be available for purchase at the Ryman Auditorium June 5 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., at the CMA Festival Fan Fair X at LP Field June 6-9, local Post Offices and online at usps.com/stamps.
He didn’t write many of the songs he made legendary but when he did them they stayed done.You couldn’t imagine them any other way.
On this occasion of his birth I submit to you my choice in the top 5 Levon Helm songs he performed over his Band and solo career. I hope you like them. If you don’t see your favorite place it in the comments below.
“Tennessee Jed” – This Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter tune is from Levon Helm’s final studio album “Electric Dirt.” The album won the first ever Grammy Award for Best Americana Album, an inaugural category in 2010.
“Poor Old Dirt Farmer” – This cover from of an old traditional, the Grammy-winning “Dirt Farmer” , could have easily been written by helm in tribute to his birthplace of Elaine, Arkansas.
“A Train Robbery” – Depending on your source this Paul Kennerley penned tune may or may not be about Jesse James. True or not it’s a great yarn well performed by Levon from the album “Dirt Farmer.”
“The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” – Written by Robbie Robertson with Levon Helm. The song tells the tale of the last days of the American Civil War and the suffering and humiliation of the South.
“The Weight” – Though it was not a significant mainstream hit for The Band it has gone on to become their signature song.
When the nominees for the Americana Music Association awards was released there was some that commented on the lack of diversity; which is a shortcut for racial diversity. I agree there’s no one of color represented. But the implication is that racism is to blame. Yeah, that’s not it.
Though I do believe there is an inherent bias in the AMA wards nominees it tends towards the popular and well-known and not on skin color. If an African-American act sold as many albums as Mumford and Sons you can bet they would be o the list.
Though I’m willing to call out discrimination when I see it, the simple fast is there’s not a lot of diversity on the Americana charts, which represent the source of the radio-centric voters for the AMA Awards. Superior performers like the Carolina Chocolate Drops are few and with no representation there’s no opportunity for celebration.
Some have suggested we expand Americana to include the Blues and R&B. Though these genres, like country , folk, and jazz, feed into the greater American music ocean they are going fine on their own as mature, rich and diverse genres. Beside we already have extraordinarily talented musicians that, regardless of color, deserves celebration without us wringing our hands when we do so.
Some want to dig deeper than the charts and top level performers to see if there’s a strata of increased diversity somewhere below the surface. I’m all for seeking out undiscovered talent, but seek how far and for what reason?
Personally I’m not an advocate for pilfering other mature genres or lowering a musical bar, those are forms of racism. How far afield would we have to travel to address some imagined suppression of racial diversity?
Then there is outright racism. After appearing on the Opry stage Darius Rucker received a tweet stating that he should “leave country to the white folk.” Now that’s racist as well as historically imprecise. Huffington Post held an interesting discussion on the subject of race in mainstream country industry and culture.Though I don’t fully agree with all the discussion it’s a healthy and interesting conversation. Perhaps there should be a roundtable on race in the more left-leaning Americana genre.
Hosted by Marc Lamont Hill with guests Charles Hughes (Memphis, TN) Music Historian at Rhodes College, Cowboy Troy @cowboytroy (Mt. Pleasant, MI) Recording Artist at Warner Music Nashville, Rissi Palmer @RissiPalmer (Raleigh, NC) Country Music Singer / Songwriter, John Bryant (Dallas, TX) Ray Charles’ Drummer and Stanley Crouch (Brooklyn, NY) Writer and Music Critic
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.
ON EDIT: When it comes to pop-Americana the Lumineers can’t hold a candle to Durham’s Delta Rae. I would nominate Delta Rae for Duo/Group of the Year and Bottom of the River for Song 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.