It’s said that good things come to those that wait. For patient fans of one of Americana music’s most influential artist-songwriter couples (married since 1981) that wait for something good is almost over.
The long-anticipated follow up to 2009’s Americana Music Association Album of the Year ‘Written in Chalk’ is entitled ‘Breakdown on 20th Ave. South,’ and it will be available June 21st on New West records.
New West has whetted our appetite by releasing 2 cuts from the album. “Spittin’ on Fire” and “War Child,” both tracks reflect the lo-fi aesthetics the couple has established throughout their careers. Echos of the folk and Southern Rock reared in the Mississippi Delta and the Appalachian Mountains is apparent throughout the songs.
The album’s title comes from the couple’s much-delayed home studio in Nashville. The delays stemmed from Julie’s ongoing health issues as well as demand on Buddy as a go-to sideman, producer and co-host of the Buddy & Jim Radio Show on SiriusXM with his friend Jim Lauderdale.
Once the new record was underway, Julie penned some 50-plus new songs for the pair to choose from. Recorded in the couple’s bedroom make-do studio located upstairs from Buddy’s home studio, the results are raw, immediate and honest. Buddy and Julie are scheduled to make a rare live appearance to celebrate the album’s release Nashville’s City Winery on June 26th. The performance will be recorded for later broadcast on the Buddy & Jim Radio Show.
“Breakdown on 20th Ave. South” will be available June 21st via digital retailers, on CD and vinyl, with a special “Root Beer Swirl” colored vinyl available only at independent retailers. The album is now available for pre-order.
Breakdown on 20th Ave. South track listing:
“Breakdown on 20th Ave. South
“Feast of the Dead”
“Everything Is Your Fault”
“I’m Gonna Make You Love Me”
“Till the Stardust Comes Apart”
“Underneath the Sky”
“Spittin’ on Fire”
“Thoughts at 2am”
“Storm of Kisses”
In This Article: Buddy Miller
2018 is now in the pages of history and as America shifts (lurches?) into an uncertain future. Americana and roots music, unlike many other genres, continues to be true to its legacy and addresses our times with art that refuses to chase the charts and churn out reflexively commercial product and, lucky for us, refuses to treat the audience as mindless consumers.
That’s not to say that Americana and roots music is merely a barometer for political and social conditions and change. No sane person wants their favorite artists to be righteous yet starve. As the music industry continues to reflect changing consumer demands artists are also finding opportunities to reach audiences and generate revenue in movies and video games.
Some albums I’m personally looking forward to because I’ve heard some cuts, or on my faith in the artist, are Hayes Carll’s “What It Is,” Feb. 15: Dale Watson’s Call Me Lucky and Ryan Bingham – “American Love Song” , all on February 15th, Mandolin Orange’s “Tides of a Teardrop” on February 1st, and Joshua Ray Walker’s “Wish You Were Here” on January 25th as well as Son Volt’s “Union’ on March 29th.
As more dates come throughout the year I will be updating the list. If you know of an actual release not listed yet please leave it in the comments.
As always I appreciate your visiting the site and hope you join me in another great year for Americana and roots music.
January: Jan. 18th: Danny Burns – “North Country” Jan. 25th: Lula Wiles – ‘What Will We Do’ Jan. 4th: Balsam Range – “Aeonic” Jan. 18th: Alice Wallace – “ Into the Blue” Jan. 18th: Ronnie Milsap – “Ronnie Milsap: The Duets” Jan. 18th: Greensky Bluegrass – “All for Money” Jan. 18th: The Steel Woods – “Old News” Jan. 18th: Whitehorse – “The Northern South Vol. 2” Feb. 22: Vandoliers – “Forever”
February: Feb. 1st: Mandolin Orange – “Tides of a Teardrop” Feb. 1st: Abigail Lapelle – “Getaway” Feb. 8th: Gurf Morlix – ‘Impossible Blue’ Feb. 15th: Hayes Carll – “What It Is” Feb. 15th: Dale Watson – “Call Me Lucky” Feb. 15th: Ryan Bingham – “American Love Song” Feb. 15th: Joey McGee – “El Camino Real” Feb. 15th: Kalyn Fay – “Good Company” Feb. 22nd: Dearling – “Silver and Gold” (EP)
Feb. 22nd Vandoliers – “Forever”
Feb. 22nd – Rhiannon Giddens, Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla, and Allison Russell – ‘Songs of Our Native Daughters’
March 1st: Mary Bragg – “Diamonds as Camouflage”
March 1st: The Cactus Blossoms – “Easy Way”
March 1st: Dave Ernst – “Hickory Switch”
March 2nd: The Honey Dewdrops – “Anyone Can See”
March 7th: Townes Van Zandt – “Sky Blue”
March 8th: Patty Griffin – “Patty Griffin”
March 8th: Clara Baker – “Things To Burn”
March 22nd: Allison de Groot & Tatiana
March 22nd: Orville Peck – “Pony”
March 22nd: Luther Dickinson and Sisters of the Strawberry Moon – “Solstice”
March 29th: Son Volt – “Union”
April 2nd: John Paul White – ‘The Hurting Kind”
April 5th: Molly Tuttle – “When You’re Ready.”
April 5th: Megg Farrell -“Megg Farrell”
April 12th: Shovels & Rope – “By Blood”
April 12th: Taylor Alexander – “Good Old Fashioned Pain”
April 19th: Daniel Norgren – “Wooh Dang”
May 3rd: Pete Seeger – ‘The Smithsonian Folkways Collection’
May 3rd: Caroline Spence – “Mint Condition”
May 10th: The Shootouts – “Quick Draw”
May 24th: Willard Gayheart – “At Home in the Blue Ridge”
June 14th: Hank Williams – ‘Health & Happiness Show’
June 21st: Buddy and Julie Miller -‘Breakdown on 20th Ave. South’
June 28th: Chuck Mead – “Close To Home”
The Messenger: A Tribute to Ray Wylie Hubbard
Esther Rose – ‘You Made It This Far’
Erin Enderlin – ‘Chapter Three: Whatever Gets You Through The Night’
Tanya Tucker – ‘While I’m Livin’ ‘
Vince Gill – ‘Okie’
Dalton Domino – ‘Songs From the Exile’
Jason Hawk Harris – Love & the Dark
The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys – ‘Toil, Tears & Trouble’
Leslie Stevens – ‘Sinner’
Croy and the Boys – ‘Howdy High-Rise’
Seth James –
Midland – ‘Let It Roll’
The Highwomen – Self-Titled’
Terri Hendrix – ‘Talk To A Human’
Jason Tyler Burton – ‘Kentuckian’
Paul Cauthen – ‘Room 41’
Cut Throat Francis – ‘This Garden’s Never Gonna Grow’
Ana Egge – ‘Is It the Kiss’
NRBQ – ‘Turn On, Tune In’
Amy Speace – ‘Me and the Ghosts of Charlemagne’
These Wild Plains – ‘Thrilled To Be Here’
Trailerpark Idlers – ‘Ghost Town Nights
Jeremy Ivey – ‘The Dream And The Dreamer’
Hot Club of Cowtown – ‘Wild Kingdom’
The North Mississippi Allstars – “Up and Rolling”
Cody Jinks – ‘After The Fire’
North Mississippi Allstars – ‘Up and Rolling’
Corb Lund – ‘Cover Your Tracks’
Jonah Tolchin – ‘Fires for the Cold’
Marti Brom – ‘Midnight Bus’
Ted Drozdowski – ‘Learn To Love The Moon’
Jeremy Ivey – ‘The Dream And The Dreamer;
Janiva Magness – ‘Change In The Weather: Janiva Magness Sings John Fogerty’
The Milk Carton Kids – ‘The Only Ones’
Darin Aldridge & Brooke Aldridge – ‘Inner Journey’
Driftwood Soldier – ‘Stay Ahead Of The Wolf’
The Drunken Hearts – ‘Wheels of the City’
Rory Ellis – ‘Inner Outlaw’
EmiSunshine and The Rain – ‘Family Wars’
Jimmy “Duck” Holmes – ‘Cypress Grove’
Jake La Botz – ‘They’re Coming For Me’
New Copasetics – ‘Twang-Ucopia’
David Newbould – ‘Sin & Redemption’
Karen & the Sorrows – ‘Guaranteed Broken Heart’
Zachary Lucky – ‘Midwestern’
Allison Moorer – ‘Blood’
Neil Young & Crazy Horse – ‘Colorado’
Craig Cummings – ‘Absolute Surprise’
Karen & the Sorrows – ‘Guaranteed Broken Heart’
Van Morrison – ‘Three Chords and the Truth’
Jackson Stokes – ‘Jackson Stokes’
Zack Walther Band – ‘The Westerner’
Bill Scorzari – ‘Now I’m Free’
Dustbowl Revival – ‘Is It You, Is It Me?’
The second round list of almost 300 artists slated to perform at the 18th Annual Americanafest roots music festival & conference plumbs deeper into the depths of Americana’s excellence than any other shocase of it’s type. Aside from stalwarts like Buddy Miller you get the new tradiitionalist like Elizabeth Cook and Hayes Carll as well as exciting young guns like Jade Jackson and Sammy Brue. Then there are my personal favorites Boo Ray, Angaleena Presley, Doug Seegers, Quaker City Night Hawks, The Secret Sisters, The Texas Gentlemen and don’t miss live performance by Whiskey Shivers. It’s also cool to see legendary folkers Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam on the list for the first time.
Conspicuously missing from the full list isthe most popular representatives of the genre – Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell, though Amanda Shires is on the list and Jason’s been known to show up as a guest.
With the list of the 84 performers announced can be found below, bringing the current line-up to 187 artists, which can be viewed here.
Resister for the full six-day festival here, or get festival showcase wristbands here.
AMERICANAFEST℠ Conference Registrations (currently $299 for members/$399 for non-members) offer priority admission into all showcase venues, sanctioned parties and events, daytime educational panels, and can be purchased here. At this time, only Conference Registrants may purchase Honors & Awards show tickets. If you’re just interested in the nightly showcases, a festival wristband will be your most suitable option at the wallet-friendly price of $75. Available on their website, a festival wristband grants admission into all showcase venues as well as select sanctioned parties and special events.
Second Round of Artists Confirmed to Play AMERICANAFEST℠:
Ben Smith & Jimmy Brewer
Bonnie Whitmore and Her Band
Boy Named Banjo
The Cactus Blossoms
Cody Canada & The Departed
The Dead South
Great American Canyon Band
Iron & Wine
John Hiatt & the Goners
Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams
The Last Bandoleros
Lee Roy Parnell
Mark O’Connor featuring the O’Connor Band
The Mavericks & Friends
Nora Jane Struthers
North Mississippi Allstars
Quaker City Night Hawks
Robert Cray & Hi Rhythm
Rogue + Jaye
The Secret Sisters
The Steel Wheels
The Texas Gentlemen
Timmy The Teeth
The Wild Reeds
The Wood Brothers
Wood & Wire
(EDIT) –FINAL ROUND ADDITION–
Amelia White and The Blue Souvenirs
Big Star’s Third Live
Blair Crimmins and The Hookers
David Mayfield Parade
Early James & the Latest
High Plains Jamboree
Jimmy Lumpkin and the Revival
Lee Ann Womack & Friends
Liz Cooper & The Stampede
Me And My Brother
Old Sea Brigade
Rayna Gellert with Kieran Kane
Sarah Shook & the Disarmers
Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer
Ted Russell Kamp
The Lowest Pair
The Mulligan Brothers
The Steel Woods
The Stray Birds
Tony Joe White
Trout Steak Revival
2015 was another bumper crop year for Americana and roots music, and 2016 show vast signs that the great music will continue to come. As our Cream of the Crop favorites from 2015 makes plain we might be experiencing a new golden age of roots music as a growing influence on our contemporary culture and as a sustainable , and viable, business for young and old artists alike.
That last part is crucial as it provides seed corn for the future of this music we truly love.
The list below is a collection of 2016 notable Americana / roots releases. Some anticipated releases from artists like Sturgill Simpson, Elizabeth Cook, Robbie Fulks, Lydia Loveless, Al Scorch and Brandy Clark have no release dates yet, but when I’m aware of them and others I will be updating the list through the year and will send word through my twitter account
If you know of a release not listed leave it in the comments and I might add it.
Look for new things coming in the 2016 at Twang Nation. With your help it’s going to be a great year folks.
Keegan McInroe – “Uncouth Pilgrims”
Dylan LeBlanc – ‘Cautionary Tale’
Randy Rogers Band – “Nothing Shines Like Neon”
Hank Williams Jr. – “It’s About Time”
Dawn Landes And Piers Faccini – ‘Desert Songs’
The Cactus Blossoms – ‘You’re Dreaming’
Simon Linsteadt – Self-Titled
Aoife O’Donovan – “In the Magic Hour”
Michael Chapman – ‘Fish”
Brad Armstrong – “Empire”
Buddy Miller and Friends – ‘Cayamo Sessions at Sea’
Sierra Hull – ‘Weighted Mind’
Aubrie Sellers – ‘City Blues’
Miranda Lee Richards – “First Light of Winter”
Lucinda Williams – “The Ghosts of Highway 20”
Dori Freeman – ‘Dori Freeman’
Luther Dickinson – ‘Blues & Ballads (A Folksinger’s Songbook: Volumes I & II)’
The Infamous Stringdusters – ‘Ladies & Gentleman’
Freakwater – ‘Scheherazade’
The O’s – ‘Honeycomb’
Vince Gill – “Down to My Last Bad Habit”
Wynonna Judd – “Wynonna & the Big Noise”
Lorrie Morgan – ‘Letting Go … Slow’
Joey + Rory – “Hymns That Are Important To Us”
Malcolm Holcombe – ‘Another Black Hole’
Wheeler Walker Jr. ‘Redneck Shit’
Alex Dezen – ‘Alex Dezen’
Matt Patershuk – ‘I Was So Fond of You”
Applewood Road (Emily Barker, Amber Rebirth and Amy Speace) – ‘Applewood Road’
Lake Street Dive – ‘Side Pony’
Austin Lucas – ‘Between The Moon and the Midwest”
Mike June – ‘Poor Man’s Bible’
Shooter Jennings – ‘Countach (For Giorgio)’
Waco Brothers – ‘Going Down in History’
Kathryn Legendre – ‘Don’t Give A Damn’
Michael Daves – ‘Orchids and Violence’
Jane Kramer – ‘Carnival of Hopes’
Paul Burch – ‘Meredian Rising’
Bonnie Raitt – ’Dig In Deep’
Caleb Caudle – ‘Carolina Ghost”
Jen Lane – ‘This Life of Mine’
Ashley Monroe – ‘Live At Third Man Records”
Loretta Lynne – ‘Full Circle’
Chris King – ‘Animal’
Anielle Reid – ‘Love Song’
Dead Tongues – ‘Montana’
Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real – ‘Something Real’
Waylon Jennings – ‘Return of the Outlaw: The Abbott, Texas, Broadcast 1973’
Various – Dave Cobb’s ‘Southern Family
Grant Lee Phillips – ‘The Narrows’
Sean Watkins – “What To Fear”
The Roosevelts – ”The Greatest Thing You’ll Ever Learn’
Parker Millsap – ‘The Very Last Day’
Margo Price – ‘Midwest Farmer’s Daughter’
Elephant Revival – ‘Petals’
Robbie Fulks – ‘Upland Stories’
Teddy Thompson and Kelly Jones – ‘Little Windows’
Left Arm Tan – ‘Lorene’
Hayes Carll – “Lovers and Leavers”
Tim McNary – ‘Above the Trees’ EP
Hackensaw Boys – “Charismo”
Pauline Andres – “The Heart Breaks”
The Lowest Pair – ‘Fern Girl and Ice Man’ / ‘Uncertain As It Is Uneven’
Crow Moses – “Nightshades”
Nate Leavitt – “Someone Send a Signal”
Derek Hoke – ‘Southern Moon’
Larry Hooper – ‘No Turning Back’
Robert Ellis – ‘Robert Ellis’
Jeremy Nail – ‘My Mountain’
Mary Chapin Carpenter – ‘The Things That We Are Made Of”
Jimbo Mathus – ‘Band of Storms’ EP
Vaudeville Etiquette – ‘Aura Vista Motel’
Crystal Yates – ‘The Other Side’
The Lowest Pair – ‘Fern Girl and Ice Man’ and ‘Uncertain As It Is Uneven’
Bonnie Bishop – ‘Ain’t Who I Was’
Sarah Jarosz – ‘Undercurrent’
Kris Kristofferson – ‘Cedar Creek Sessions’
The Felice Brothers – “Life in the Dark,”
Sara Watkins – ‘Young In All The Wrong Ways’
James Scott Bullard – “Box of Letters”
Mark Chesnutt – ‘Tradition Lives On’
Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley – ‘The Country Blues’
The Earls Of Leicester – ‘Rattle & Roar,’
High Bar Gang – ‘Someday the Heart Will Trouble the Mind’
Chelle Rose – ‘Blue Ridge Blood’
Summer Dean – ‘Unladylike’
Kelsey Waldon – ‘I’ve Got a Way on’
Boo Ray – ‘Sea of Lights’
Lydia Loveless – ‘Real’
John Paul White – ‘Belah’
The Devil Makes Three – ‘Redemption & Ruin”
Dietrich Strause – “How Cruel That Hunger Binds”
Waiting for Henry – ‘Town Called Patience’
Blue Highway – ‘Original Traditional’
Amanda Shires – “My Piece Of Land”
Jesse Dayton – ‘The Revealer’
The Buffalo Ruckus – ‘Peace & Cornbread’
Drive-By Truckers – ‘American Band’
Jim Lauderdale – ‘This Changes Everything’
Shovels and Rope – ‘Little Seeds’
Hiss Golden Messenger – ‘Heart Like a Levee’
The Dexateens – ‘Teenage Hallelujah’
Aaron Lee Tasjan – “Silver Tears”
Various Artists – ‘Highway Prayer – Tribute to Adam Carroll”
Jasmine Rodgers – ‘Blood Red Sun’
Kent Eugene Goolsby – ‘Temper Of The Times’
Miranda Lambert – “The Weight of These Wings”
I was lucky enough to sit in on a couple of these intimate Cayamo sessions. The onboard Bliss Lounge was set up like a cozy living room that just happens to have top-notch headlining and supporting musicians from the cruise’s extraordinary roster doing their favorite classic covers like Lucinda Williams covering Gram Parson’s “Hickory Wind” and Kacey Musgrave covering fellow Texan Buck Owens’ ‘Love’s Gonna Live Here.’
Buddy loosely conducts the sessions in his genial way, as the event takes on more of a open jam than a staid studio session. You’re left with the impression that the live and loose sound will make it’s way to the finished mix. As it did in Nikki Lane and Buddy’s cover of Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton’s classic “Just Someone I Used to Know.”
The album will be released on on New West Records a couple of days before the fan and artist friendly 9th Cayamo, A Journey Through Song sets sail January 31, 2016 from Miami to St. Maarten and Tortola. As you might imagine it’s already sold out.
from the release: “For one week each year, some of the best songwriters in country, Americana, folk and roots music set sail on a musical adventure called Cayamo. Over the last few years, award-winning guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer Buddy Miller set up a recording studio on the ship and recorded and played with everyone from veteran songwriters to emerging artists. Buddy Miller & Friends’ Cayamo Sessions At Sea, due January 29, 2016 on New West Records, collects 11 of the best of these once-in-a-lifetime musical moments recorded on the 2014 and 2015 voyages with Kris Kristofferson, Lucinda Williams, Kacey Musgraves, Richard Thompson, Lee Ann Womack, Shawn Colvin, Nikki Lane, Brandi Carlile, The Lone Bellow, Doug Seegers and more.”
“From bow to stern, port to starboard, on top deck and down below, artists – some old friends, some just acquainted - come together in fits of spontaneity and create unique musical collaborations all around the ship. It’s for this reason that Cayamo has become one of the most sought after cruises for artists and music lovers alike, selling out year after year. In 2012, Miller decided to try to capture a few of these special maritime moments and brought along some recording gear and set up a studio in the ship’s library where he and co-host and lifelong friend Jim Lauderdale recorded episodes for their SiriusXM Outlaw Country Buddy & Jim Radio Show. They ended up recording their debut episode with Lucinda Williams. Miller thought the radio show recordings sounded great so, in 2014, he brought more gear, an engineer and some stellar musicians and set up a temporary recording studio between the lanes of a bowling alley. For two days and nights, a who’s who of artists came to record while lucky fans watched on. He had so much fun that he did it all again on the 2015 cruise.”
Of the collaboration Nikki Lane tells rolling Stone Country: “I’m in it for the long game. This is great, and the past year has been wonderful. But what am I going to do when I am 50? You don’t want to be the person sitting in the corner of the coffee shop who wrote that song. You want to be someone like Buddy Miller, who has found a way to position himself in a really creative industry. Because long game is the only way you can really call yourself an artist.”
Track list for Buddy Miller & Friends’ ‘Cayamo Sessions at Sea’:
1. After the Fire Is Gone – with Lee Ann Womack
2. Love’s Gonna Live Here – with Kacey Musgraves
3. Sunday Morning Coming Down – Kris Kristofferson
4. Just Someone I Used to Know – with Nikki Lane
5. Hickory Wind – with Lucinda Williams
6. Wedding Bells – with Richard Thompson
7. If Teardrops Were Pennies – with Elizabeth Cook
8. Wild Horses – with Shawn Colvin
9. Come Early Mornin’ – with Jill Andrews
10. Take the Hand of Jesus – with Doug Seegers
11. Angel from Montgomery – with Brandi Carlile and the Lone Bellow
Building on an already stellar first-round lineup The Americana Music Association announced an additional 70 artists to perform at the 16th annual Americana Music Festival & Conference, which takes place in Nashville and runs September 15-20, 2015.
The six-day, city-wide festival fills Music City with fans, legends, newcomers, and tilts the quest for glitz into the early direction of a quest for a great song. With over 150 artists and bands scheduled, the event continues to dominate as the premier showcase for roots music and culture.
In addition to previously announced acts such as Los Lobos, Patty Griffin, and Lee Ann Womack, AmericanaFest will feature Ry Cooder, performing with Sharon White and Ricky Skaggs, Donnie Fritts performing with former Civil War John Paul White, former Old Crow Medicine Show member Willie Watson, current member of Old Crow Medicine Show Gill Landry supporting his solo effort.
Also included are Cale Tyson, Lindi Ortega, Luther Dickinson, Kelsey Waldon, Buddy Miller, Jim Lauderdale, Gretchen Peters, American Aquarium, Legendary Shack Shakers and Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear who held a mesmerizing performance last year at Jack White’s Third Man performance space.
The list of the second round announcements is below, and a complete list can be found here.
Showcase wristbands ($50, increasing to $60 on August 15) allow admission into all showcase venues, some sanctioned parties and special events, and can be purchased here. Festival and Conference registrations ($365 for members/$465 for non-members) offer priority admission into all showcase venues, sanctioned parties and events, daytime educational panels, come with one ticket to the critically acclaimed Americana Honors & Awards show at the historic Ryman Auditorium, and can be purchased here.
List of Artists Added to AmericanaFest 2015:
Andrew Leahey & The Homestead
Band of Heathens
David Wax Museum
Dirty River Boys
Donnie Fritts & John Paul White
The Fairfield Four
The Good Lovelies
JD & The Straight Shot
Kacy & Clayton
Legendary Shack Shakers
Lewis and Leigh
Low Cut Connie
Miss Tess & The Talkbacks
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
Pine Hill Project (featuring Richard Shindell & Lucy Kaplansky)
Possessed By Paul James
Raised By Eagles
Ron Pope & The Nighthawks
Ry Cooder/Sharon White/Ricky Skaggs
Spirit Family Reunion
T. Hardy Morris
Those Pretty Wrongs
The Wood Brothers
When Sony Music Nashville CEO Gary Overton told the Tennessean, “If you’re not on country radio, you don’t exist.” it caused a minor kerfuffle between country music bloggers and country artists, like Aaron Watson and Charlie Robison, that felt they , and country msuic’s integrity, were in his contemptuous crosshairs.
I even took it apon myself to decry Overton’s statement on Twitter and retweet links to essays taking him to task.
But after some reflection, I am willing to concede that Overton is correct in his statement.
Overton made his incendiary remarks while attending the annual Country Radio Seminar in Nashville, where 2,424 attendees, exhibitors, panelists and sponsors came to discuss the future of the industry. That’s the Country Radio industry. Not the roots americana industry. Not the historical preservation of country music.
As with any trade convention quality was not the focus, unless there is a direct line between it and profits.
It’s about return on investment. Period.
No more clear symbol of this was the surprise appearance of Garth Brooks to announced the year’s Country Radio Hall of Fame inductees in both the Radio and On-Air categories.
Whether you like Brooks’ music, or believe he’s the beginning of genre cross-over hell and the end of everything that was good about country music (he wasn’t), with 8 Academy of Country Music awards and a RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) listing of as the best-selling solo album artist of all-time (surpassing Elvis Presley) with 135 million units sold, he is the the gold standard by which radio play, record sales and concert attendance is measured.
Jimmy Rodgers mights be the father of country music, but Garth is it’s first superstar.
This is the ontological existence of which Overton refers. The world made possible by Garth.
When your music is no longer a nuanced craft and becomes a replicable commodity, you exist. If your personality and looks are a marketers dream, you exist. If your income far exceeds the label’s output, you exist. If you’re willing to run that gilded hamster wheel ad infinitum until the end of your short days, you exist.
If you’re willing to use your talents to grease the music row production machine, to achieve potential fame and admiration of millions, you exist.
Short of that piss off.
It’s not all gloom. When an industry behemoth refuses to adapt to customer tastes and industry trends alternatives spring up.
The Nashville Sound led to Buck, Merle , Willie and Waylon. The Urban Cowboy fab resulted in Dwight Yoakam, Steve Earle, Lyle Lovett and kd Lang.
Though these rebels were never fully integrated into the machine itself they did send waves into record sales and radio execs had take notice.
Now the so-called Bro-Country fad has Kacey Musgraves, Brandy Clark, Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell rocking the mainstream country boat.
But like McDonalds facing a healthier eating public, or Budweiser facing a less people willing to swill their sun-par product, Music Row can only partially assimilate. The assimilation will also lead to the application of the Garth standard of success, of existence, so songs will be optioned and the same flavorless production sauce will be slathered over extraordinary songs rendering them worthy of mainstream radio play and consumptions of an always shifting, faceless and fickle demographic.
So Overton is correct. By the Garth standard of rendering cultural artifacts into mass consumption radio fodder, most musicians don’t matter. Thier work or image doesn’t fit into the already prefabbed sonic and stylized containers.
But luckily the Garth standard is not the only one that counts.
There the already mentioned Bakersfield /Outlaw standard of creatively seeing untapped opportunities and bucking (hehe) conventional (and played out) trends.
There’s the model of artists like Buddy Miller, Jim Lauderdale, Gretchen Peters, Vince Gill, Chris Knight, Guy Clark and others that straddle the commercial and artistry territories without compromise.
There’s the vibrant and thriving Americana model that cultivates and champions the best of country music, and country music sourced genres , new and older talents. And has created a thriving , and lucrative, community.
And then there’s the Hank III model of giving the finger to Music Row and bringing in a whole new demographic from the ground up, to build a loyal, enthusiastic and sustainable fan base.
Some say the Garth standard of mega sales, and celebrity status, is dead, or dying, in a music industry in transition.
I certainly have no crystal ball telling me where all this is headed. But I take comfort is knowing that Overton and his ilk are on their heels as their concept of existence crumbles beneath them.
“I think the…Western swing, or whatever you want to call it, will slack off for a little while and then I think some of these younger boys will come out here one of these days with a golden voice and it’ll build again.”—Bob Wills
After attending the Bob Wills Festival and Fiddle contest in Greenville, TX over the winter I developed a deep love for the Western Swing genre and for it’s creator, Bob Wills.
But I’m ready for more.
Luckily early in the new year Ray Benson & Asleep at the Wheel will again honor the legendary Bob Wills with ‘Still The King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys,’ out March 3 on Bismeaux Records.
Exemplary Americana and country artists like The Avett Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show, Buddy Miller, Elizabeth Cook, Lyle Lovett, Shooter Jennings, Brad Paisley and George Strait join the band on new interpretations on classics on, what looks like, a release that will best the previous two Will’s tributes from the band.
For over 40 years, Ray Benson & Asleep at the Wheel have been the deft practitioners and caretakers of Western swing craft, carrying Wills’ traditions across generations and the into the 21st century.
This release will be band’s third full-length Bob Wills tribute following 1998’s ‘Ride with Bob’ and 1993’s ‘A Tribute to the Music of Bob Wills,’ with four GRAMMY awards and over half a million copies sold collectively.
From the press release:
“The new album features genre-spanning collaborations with critically acclaimed artists, old friends and new favorites including Willie Nelson, Brad Paisley, Jamey Johnson, Merle Haggard, George Strait, The Avett Brothers, Amos Lee, Old Crow Medicine Show, Lyle Lovett, Kat Edmonson, Robert Earl Keen and Tommy Emmanuel, among many others. The album is available for pre-order via PledgeMusic and iTunes with the track “Tiger Rag,” featuring Old Crow Medicine Show, delivered in advance of the release date as an immediate download. Asleep at the Wheel will be performing at the New York Society for Ethical Culture on March 4 with spring tour dates to be announced. Watch the exclusive video teaser HERE. Please see the full track listing below.
Widely considered “The King of Western Swing,” Bob Wills (1905-1975) and his Texas Playboys performed thousands of shows across the United Sates for nearly six decades and recorded prolifically in the late ‘30s and early ‘40s. Early stars of American country music, Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys were a dance band with a country string section that played pop songs as if they were jazz numbers. “After 45 years of traveling and playing, it still amazes me how well this music, born in the 1920s and ‘30s, thrives in the present day,” says Benson. “The artists playing and singing on this collection range in age from folks in their 20s to former Texas Playboys 92-year-old Billy Briggs and 86-year-old Leon Rausch…certain evidence that Western swing music is alive and well as it cruises through the next millennium.” Bob Wills was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1968, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1999 and the National Fiddler Hall of Fame in 2007.
Based in Austin, Asleep at the Wheel formed in Paw Paw, West Virginia in 1970. Since their inception, the band has won nine GRAMMY awards, released more than 20 studio albums and charted more than 20 singles on the Billboard country charts. In 1971, the band signed their first record deal after Van Morrison mentioned they “play great country music” in an interview in Rolling Stone. Their debut record, Comin’ Right At Ya, was released in 1973 on United Artists. The release of Texas Gold in 1975 brought the band national recognition, with the single “The Letter That Johnny Walker Read” becoming a top-ten country hit. The band has been awarded “Touring Band of the Year” (CMAs, 1976) and the “Lifetime Achievement in Performance” (Americana Music Awards 2009). In 2010, they earned a GRAMMY nomination in the newly minted Best Americana Album category for their critically acclaimed Willie & The Wheel, on Bismeaux Records.
Owned by Ray Benson, Bismeaux Records has won “Best Local Record Label” three years consecutively in the Austin Music Awards. Between 2005 and 2012, Ray Benson wrote, produced and starred in the Bob Wills musical A Ride With Bob. The production sold 70,000 tickets in 18 cities nationwide including the Kennedy Center in 2006. In 2007, Benson performed with Carrie Underwood & Johnny Gimble on the GRAMMY Awards Telecast in a special GRAMMY Salute to Bob Wills.”
‘Still The King: Celebrating the Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys’ tracklist:
1. Intro—Texas Playboy Theme (with Leon Rausch)
2. I Hear Ya Talkin’ (with Amos Lee)
3. The Girl I Left Behind (with The Avett Brothers)
4. Trouble In Mind (with Lyle Lovett)
5. Keeper Of My Heart (with Merle Haggard and Emily Gimble)
6. I Can’t Give You Anything But Love (with Kat Edmonson)
7. Tiger Rag (with Old Crow Medicine Show)
8. What’s The Matter With The Mill (with Pokey LaFarge)
9. Navajo Trail (with Willie Nelson and The Quebe Sisters)
10. Silver Dew On The Bluegrass Tonight (with The Del McCoury Band)
11. Faded Love (with The Time Jumpers)
12. South Of The Border (Down Mexico Way) (with George Strait)
13. I Had Someone Else Before I Had You (with Elizabeth Cook)
14. My Window Faces The South (with Brad Paisley)
15. Time Changes Everything (with Buddy Miller)
16. A Good Man Is Hard To Fine (with Carrie Rodriguez and Emily Gimble)
17. Ding Dong Daddy From Dumas (with Robert Earl Keen and Ray Benson)
18. Brain Cloudy Blues (with Jamey Johnson and Ray Benson)
19. Bubbles In My Beer (with The Devil Makes Three)
20. It’s All Your Fault (with Katie Shore)
21. Three Guitar Special (with Tommy Emmanuel, Brent Mason and Billy Briggs)
22. Bob Wills Is Still The King (with Shooter Jennings, Randy Rogers and Reckless Kelly)
It was fitting that on the eve of AmericanaFest 15 I should run into Rob Bleetstein.
Let me explain. Bleetstein is man partially responsible for “Americana” being used as a qualifier for “music.”
As editor at the esteemed Gavin Report Bleetstein informed the radio trade publication that they were missing category of mongrel music he, and others, had been programing while employed at KFAT in Gilroy, California. The result was the first Americana radio chart being published on January 20, 1995.
So of course I asked him what Americana was.
As we joked at the seemingly endless consternation his vague creation had unleashed on geeks like me a capacity crowd streamed out of The Basement around us. They had just witnessed vets Phil Madeira and Will Kimbrough swap songs with the sassy third of the Pistol Annie’s Angaleena Presley and dazzlingly edgy newcomer Caroline Rose. More folks packed in behind them to catch he steamy roots soul/gospel of Mike Ferris & the Roseland Rhythm Revue. The music surrounding us, the fans buzzing about the days of sleepless nights to come. Endless squabbling about genre borders seems irrelevant.
Then Bleetstein mentioned he had read a Rolling Stone where Eric Clapton had given a definition when discussing his newly released project The Breeze: An Appreciation of JJ Cale. Clapton said “In Europe, we heard JJ as Americana, all the roots put together.”
All the roots put together. An imperfect definition for an imperfect form.
Let’s go with that.
Musicians, fans and industry types – figuring how they are still relevant in the cultural value chain – descended on Nashville for the Americana Music Conference, Festival and Awards to witness some of the best, nay THE best, music going. Fueled by BBQ, hot chicken, local beer, bourbon and a variety of caffeine there were endless pow-wows, parties, pre-parties, listening parties, post- parties tet-de-tets and random run-ins.
And yes I did squeeze some music in on occasion.
I say some because there was so many band across multiple venues you had to plan out your evenings in advance. I did. Then I mostly abandoned them for convenience, air conditioning and parking.
First the Awards. I never get over the thrill of walking into the Ryman Auditorium. It is a hallowed place full of ghosts and echoes and, as overwhelming as it is to sit in those church pews I can’t imagine what it’s like to perform on that stage.
But many did on that night and they did it with the passion and reverence due.
Reverence was also what Kacey Musgraves and Angaleena Presley displayed when presenting the Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting to legend and pioneer Loretta Lynn. Lynn accepted the award 54 years to the day that she first appeared on the Ryman stage, making her Grand Ole Opry debut. Presley introduced Lynn as “a woman who raised up six children and 70-odd hit singles but, just as importantly, raised everyone’s idea of what a country song could talk about it.” A standing ovation rightly greeted Lynn as she entered the stage in her signature flowing gown. “When they told me I was going to get this award, I said, ‘Naw, you got the wrong one. But it was right, and I was so proud.”‘
Then she sang Coal Miner’s Daughter. on The Ryman stage. Damn.
“Happy birthday to Hank Williams,” Jason Isbell said as he accepted one of the three awards in three categories he won that night for his stellar release of his newest Southeastern . “If it wasn’t for that guy, we’d be doing this in some burned-out Kmart in Murfreesboro.”
While picking up his hand-crafted trophy for song of the year “Cover Me Up” Isbell said “I wrote this song for my wife.” Referring to Amanda Shires Texas singer/songwriter who accompanied him that night on a rousing performance that brought the crowd to it’s feet. “This was probably the hardest song I ever had to write because I wrote it for her and then I played it for her. It was very difficult. Do the things that scare you. That’s the good stuff.”
I’m very happy that Isbell was able to put himself in a place that allowed him to do some of the best work he’s ever produced, and that recognition has rightly followed.
The emerging artist category was the tightest, and best, I has ever remembered it to be. Between Parker Millsap, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Sturgill Simpson and Hurray For The Riff Raff, all whom performed live, it was a tough call. It was anyone’s game. That is until it was Simpson’s as he headed to the podium with a characteristically terse “This is for my family.” Enough said, hoss.
Country music legend and historical memorabilia collector Marty Stuart honored to Jimmie Rodgers posthumously awarding the The Father of Country Music the Presidents Award. Then he and his Fabulous Superlatives
tore through a spirited “No Hard Times” with Stuart and guitarist Kenny Vaughan giving the song a contemporary flair with blazing tandem electric guitars.
Guitarist extraordinaire Ry Cooder sat in with Buddy Miller and the band for the night’s events. His dexterity on the guitar is matched by his ability to move through, or completely around musical styles, tying them together in the process. He took time away from his supporting duties to award his longtime collaborator norteño accordion pioneer Flaco Jimenez with a Lifetime Achievement as an Instrumentalist. They then performed a lovely version of the Spanish-language traditional “Ingrato Amor.” Cooder also teamed up with Artist of the year nominee Rodney Crowell for a delicate version of careful rendition of “God I’m Missing You,” from Crowell’s latest ‘Tarpaper Sky.’
Rosanne Cash brought a sophisticated air to her performance of her “A Feather’s Not a Bird,” and a gritty-folk menace surrounded Patty Griffin as she was joined by Robert Plant to perform “Ohio.”
Emerging artist nominee Hurray For The Riff Raff performed a transfixing version of their murder ballad “Body Electric” while vocalist Alynda Lee Segarra shimmered in a Nudie-style suit. Robert Ellis showed himslef to be one of the industries most creative and astute songwriters as he performed his nominated “Only Lies.”
At the Country Music Museum and Hall Of Fame’s Ford Theatre Outlaw legend Billy Joe Shaver give a brief (but candid) interview about his life’s tribulations. He then rose to perform, with simple acoustic accompaniment,
songs rendered from those hardships. Hardships he assured us made easier early with whiskey and later with Jesus.
Then it was upstairs to a new, beautiful, portion of the Country Music Hall of Fame’s CMA Theater to catch “Honky Tonkin’: Twenty Years on Lower Broad” celebration/showcase of bands that featured Greg Garing, Paul Burch and R.B. Morris and BR549. Performers that helped reenergize Nashville’s Lower Broadway after the Opry moved out of the Ryman and to the burbs. Before performing, upright bassist “Smilin” Jay McDowell walked to the front of the stage and placed a tip jar as a tribute to the days when the band survived on such monetary generosities. Singer Chuck Mead , bedecked in his Nudie Suit best with his cherry-red Gretsch electric guitar and co-frontman Gary Bennett, toned down in jeans and western shirt, then showed hoe their tight harmonies gloriously transported all those that had been there those many years ago. Veteran Lower Broad singer and mentor John Shepherd, attending with wife and singing partner Lois Shepherd, continues tradition as he headed slowly to the stage and dropped the first dollar tip, prompting laughs and applause.
Lee Ann Womack had some shows during the event. I was lucky to catch a song swap with her, Hayes Carll, Bobby Bare Jr. and the legendary songwriter Bobby Braddock high atop the SiriusXM Outlaw theatre. Hosted by Mojo Nixon (outLAAAAAAW country) Carll and Bare shared a laugh on their collaboration “My Baby Took My Baby Away” and , later, Carll looked on with shyness and awe as Womack hushed the crowd with his “Chances Are” which she oncluded on het newest release. The real highlight though was Braddock singing his classics “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” “Golden Ring” and everyone joining in on the closer “We’re Not The Jet Set.”
But the real gold is the showcases. Stand-outs were Angel Snow (her real name, I asked) playing at a sparsely attended Americana for Movies and Shows. I only caught once song but that’s all it took to render me speechless. Alabamian Mathew Mayfield followed with his brand of rough-hewn catchy folk. The i wa shocked to see bluegrass/folk stalwart Tim O’Brien take the stage. I felt bad that there were so few people but lucky I was one of those few.
A trip to Jack White’s odd Third Man performance space was bathed in calm, blue lighting as a mounted elephant head loomed above the crowd. On the bill was Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear. The mother and son act perform seated, strumming acoustic guitars and singing deep-roots songs that reach far into blues and folks misty past. In the same space on another night Jonah Tolchin hold a folk-jam clinic that surprised many expecting the genteel folk-blues style from his latest “Clover Lane.”
Caroline Rose commanded attention of the crowd with her school-girl outfit and her manically focused folk-rock set that had them screaming for more. While trying to escape the heat of the Mercy Lounge I found myself in the cooler High Watt space watching a performance of Aaron Lee Tasjan. Exhibiting the droll but sharp humor of Todd Snider but the delicate songcraft of Townes Van Zandt the Nashville resident defied all expectations.
How could any of that fit in one neat marketing package? I feel for the marketing rep that handles any of these artists and is asked “What kind of music is it?”
The Americana Music Association continues its tradition of showcasing some of the best in Americana and roots music by it’s partial roster of Americanfest performers released today.
Though the lineup doesn’t show any groundbreaking direction, I’m fine with that. There are lots of folks on the list that have been busting their hump for years and deserve this recognition rather then inserting acts to placate outsider accusations of one thing or another. Personally I’m happy to see Casa Twang favorites Howlin’ Brothers, Jamestown Revival, John Moreland, Lera Lynn, Marah and Ben Miller Band on the bill. And Texas is well-represented by Billy Joe Shaver, Sarah Jarosz, Jason Eady and Hayes Carll
The event is celebrating its 15th as the premier Americana event by welcoming 160 performers taking the stage at 11 venues including 3rd & Lindsley, The Basement, City Winery, High Watt, Cannery, Mercy Lounge, The Rutledge, Station Inn, Music City Roots, Downtown Presbyterian Church and Musicians Corner.
Three-time Americana Group of the Year, The Avett Brothers, will headline the event at Riverfront Parl on Saturday Sept. 20. Americana’s Music Festival & Conference registrations will have access. Tickets for the general public will go on sale Friday, June 27 at 10AMat www.ticketfly.com.
The first half of Americanafest’s performing artist list includes:
The Avett Brothers
The Barefoot Movement
Ben Miller Band
Billy Joe Shaver
Brennen Leigh and Noel McKay
The Cactus Blossoms
Chatham County Line
Danny & The Champions of the World
The Deadly Gentleman
The Dustbowl Revival
Emily Barker & the Red Clay Halo
The Fairfield Four
Green River Ordinance
Gregory Alan Isakov
The Harpoonist & the Axe Murderer
JD Wilkes & the Dirt Daubers
Jonny Two Bags
Lake Street Dive
Lee Ann Womack
Marah Presents: Mountain Minstrelsy
New Country Rehab
Quebe Sisters Band
Todd Snider & Friends
Tony Joe White
Trigger Hippy (feat. Jackie Greene, Joan Osbourne, Steve Gorman, Tom Bukovac & Nick Govrik)
The 15th annual Americana Music Festival & Conference occurs September 17-21, 2014 in Nashville, Tenn. The 13th annual Americana Honors & Awards Show on Sept. 17 at the historic Ryman Auditorium.