Watch Out! Live Review – Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman “Sweetheart Of The Rodeo” 50th Anniversary Tour, Dallas TX.

How do you tour in support of a seminal album when its main influence has been dead for 45 years?

Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman are currently on the road trying to answer that very question.

Friday last at the lovely Majestic Theatre the Founding Byrds members came together to recreate the magic that began as a chance encounter when Hillman happened upon Gram Parsons
standing in line at a Beverly Hills bank, “Probably drawing from his trust fund” Hillman quipped alluding to Parson’s family citrus business trust fund that reportedly paid him as
much as $100,000 a year.

Though considered as a mere salaried sideman by the band’s record company, when the Byrds’ Columbia recording contract was renewed in 1968 only original members Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman where asked to ink the deal. it was Parson’s singular obsession with country music history that charmed the other members into moving recording digs from persuading the other members to leave Los Angeles to Nashville thus guaranteeing a more straight-ahead twang affair.

The $45 t-shirt at the merch table concerned me that this could be merely a cash grab. The show soon put that fear to rest. No opener necessary, the first set served as a reminder that the Byrds flirted with country and roots music before Parson’s arrival. Joe Hayes “A Satisfied Mind,” made famous by Porter Wagoner, was a particular delight with McGuinn playing electric 12-string and Hillman picking the bass. As the show progressed McGuinn, Hillman, Stuart, Kenny Vaughn and Chris Scruggs all members took up acoustic, electric and steel guitars, bass and mandolin with equal aplomb. Vocal duties were also shared as McGuinn sang “Mr. Spaceman,” Hillman “Old John Robertson” and Stuart took the lead on Haggard’s “Sing Me Back Home.” The harmonies were sublime on with Stuart and drummer Harry Stinson adding backing behind Hillman and McGuinn.

As can be expected at a 50th-anniversary show, reminiscing abound. McGuinn recounted that famous two=song set at the Opry. On March 15th 1968, the band were invited to appear on the Grand Ole Opry, which was then still at the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville. Singer-songwriter future outlaw country pioneer Tompall Glaser introduced the group, who were scheduled to play a Merle Haggard cover and a track from the upcoming album. After performing Sweetheart’s opening track, Bob Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” which featured the iconic Lloyd Green on steel guitar, Gram Parsons broke decorum and announced that instead of the planned “Sing Me Back Home,” they were going to play yet another track from the LP. He then dedicated their performance of “Hickory Wind” to his grandmother.

After an intermission, the second set began with Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives doing two songs, “Country Boy Rock And Roll” and “Time Don’ Wait.” Choosing Stuart and the Superlatives as a backing band was a shrewd move. Few bands have the pedigree and the chops to pull off such a monumental occasion.

Though Parson’s absence was most profound with songs like Hickory Wind and The Louvin Brothers’ The Christian Life the croed didn’t seem to mind as they smiled, whooped and toe-tapped along. Things change, life moves forward and people come and go. With timeless music like this, it makes the sadness a bit easier to endure. Continue reading Watch Out! Live Review – Roger McGuinn and Chris Hillman “Sweetheart Of The Rodeo” 50th Anniversary Tour, Dallas TX.

Twang Nation 8th Anniversary Contest – Johnny Cash, Lone Justice , Gram Parsons

Twang Nation 8th Birthday

I know, I know. I don’t look a day over six. But it’s true! Your generally humble roots music blog, Twang Nation, turns 8 this month.

Where does the time go?

I started this on a lark. Cultural, geographical and psychological displacement of this Texan in New York City led me here. I gravitated toward the most stable ground that had always been there for me, music.

The great roots music I began to discover I wanted to share with a wider audience. And I wanted them share their findings with me. 8 years and three timezones later I’d say it’s going pretty well. I’m still chugging along, looking under rocks and atop branches to find and share great music.

And that’s saying something. In the midst of one of the worst times to become a musician there’s so music of it around, and more every coming across my desk(top) every day. I’m sure things were worse during the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, and yet much of the music that I treasure was produced in those troubled times.

Maybe that’s the things about music. Even at it’s thematic darkest musics very presence is a sign of human optimism. Why else bother?

And these days optimism, and music, abounds. There’s more music than ever being produced in human history. Technology has allowed access to performance and strategy tools as a musician, and access and discovery for fans, than ever before. I hope I have contributed in some small way to your musical discovery. And with roots music awareness, Grammy categories and regularly appearances in TV shows and movies, the movement is showing to signs of slowing down.

And Twang Nation will be right in the middle of it. Bringing you the best in new and classic performers and live performances that remind us all that live music, made by fallible humans, can be intoxicating.

And believe me, the best is yet to come.

Keep up with us here on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and tumblr and come along for the journey. As we all know the road goes on forever….

As a thank you, Twang Nation is giving away a prize pack of three great slabs of vinyl for your listening pleasure.

Johnny Cash album 'Out Among the Stars'

First up is the recent release of Johnny Cash lost and previously unreleased material, “Out Among The Stars,” on Vinyl. This is a far cry from the Columbia Records produced Cash and producer Billy Sherrill. The results are classic cash with a contemporary roost twist with help from John Carter Cash, Marty Stuart and Buddy Miller.

Lone Justice

Nest up is the Lone Justice reissue from Omnivore Recordings, “This Is Lone Justice: The Vaught Tapes, 1983.” This album captures the raw talent of this pioneering band at their peak, touring L.A. punk clubs and taking no prisoners. Did I mention that this great album is on translucent red vinyl?!

Gram Parsons - Alternate Takes from GP and Grievous Angel

And the best for last the Record Store Day Rhino records exclusive release of Gram Parsons’ Alternate Takes from GP and Grievous Angel. tHIS 2LP vinyl release IS audio sourced from “The Complete Reprise Sessions” released in 2005. Contains a postcard insert at the request of Gram’s daughter, Polly Parsons, for the Hickory Wind Ranch Recovery Community. Foil numbering.

Just leave a comment below to be entered for all three albums. Birthday salutations or a band you might have found out about from me would be cool.

Now the boring stuff: The winner needs to be located in the United States and will be picked at random, Sunday, July 27th, 12PM CST.

Charlie Louvin – A Country Legend Dies

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Yesterday morning I got up at 5am and poured myself a cuppa, sat down and booted up the computer machine. Like millions of others I started my journey on Facebook. Then I saw at the lower right of my screen I saw someone initiating a chat with me. It was Blake Judd. All it said was “Charlie Louvin passed this morning.”

I had heard this before. Earlier this month rumors were spreading that Louvin has finally succumbed to the pancreatic cancer which he was diagnosed with last July. In his typical style Louvin had vowed to fight it and even after he had undergone unsuccessful surgery to remove the tumor he continued to schedule performances and even put out an album “The Battle Rages On,” a collection of war songs. On January 14th Louvin had taken to Twitter to announce “I just wanted to clear up a vicious rumor..I’m very much alive. At home resting, getting stronger each day!”

But this time was different. Blake Judd  wasn’t just some rumor monger. Blake Judd, from Judd Films, based in Kentucky, has been co-directing a non-profit film about Charlie Louvin that was being made to help Louvin with his medical bills. George Jones, John McCrea of CAKE, Marty Stuart, and Alison Krauss have been so kind as to appear in the film.

Blake had contacted me earlier this week to ask to use a video I had made of Louvin and Billy Bob Thorton singing  The Knoxville Girl at Nashville’s Cannery during the 2008 Americana Music Conference and Festival. It was an honor to be a part of this undertaking, of course I agreed.

I did a quick Google news search but nothing had been announced. But I trusted the source and posted the sad news on my twitter account. I knew this was just the thing my followers would want to know. I also posted it on the Twang Nation Facebook page and in a case of classic Internet age sourcing a post comment was added to the post from No Depression’s Kim Ruehl that his Wikipedia page still had him listed as alive. She was right, I was becoming uncertian.

An hour later that had changed. 1/26 had been added as the date of death on Wikipedia.But the I noticed an astonishing thing was happening on Twiiter. Charlie Louvin was a trending topic. Now trending topics on Twitter can be a great bottom-up source of news, like in the suicide bombing at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport , but more often than not the trending topics are a source of stupid jokes gone viral. But there it was , Charlie Louvin’s death had gone viral.

It was a fine send off for a man that made it big, along with his brother Ira, as the Louvin brothers. The groups were innovators of the close-harmony style that influenced The Everly Brothers and, then later, Simon & Garfunkel, The Beatles, Gram Parson’s version of The Byrds and The Beach Boys. Ira was notorious for drinking and reckless behavior leading Charlie Louvin to fire his brother. The next year, after a period of sobriety, Ira was killed when a drunk driver struck his car.

Louvin’s later career resurgence, Like many legends of country music, didn’t come from Music City but came from the Americana community. While covering the Louvin Brothers cold war testament “The Great Atomic Power” live Uncle Tupelo caught the eye of Peter Buck, guitarist for R.E.M., who saw the pioneers perform at the 40 Watt Club in Athens, Georgia. Buck offered to produce their next album. The album March 16-20, 1992 on Buck’s Rockville Records and contained The Great Atomic Power with an abbreviated title.

In 2006 New York’s Tompkins Square Records released disc of classics containing one new song, a tribute to Ira, and a gospel album on Tompkins Square Records. The songs pair Louvin with other singers, such as George Jones, Jeff Tweedy of Uncle Tupelo and Wilco, Alex McManus of Bright Eyes and Elvis Costello.

Here’s to a great man that stayed true to his art and vision.

Charlie Louvin, Country Singer, Dies at 83 (New York Times)

Charlie Louvin, Country Hall Of Fame Singer, Has Died (NPR)

Neko Case’s 2005 interview with Charlie Louvin (Fretboard Journal)

Charlie Louvin – Magic Songs of Life (No Depression – Peter Blackstock)

Charlie Louvin Daytrotter Session

The History of Emmylou Harris

  • AOL’s Spinner has a nice feature on the lovely, but messy, honky-tonk riot-grrrls Those Darlins.
  • The Onion’s AV Club “head writer and hip-hop specialist”   Nathan Rabin continues his discovery of Country Music in his Nashville or Bust feature. The newest post is a nice historic summary of Americana chanteuse and Gram Parson protege Emmylou Harris. (via the
  • The always excellent Juli Thanki’s newest Torch & Twang column over at tackles a subject near and dear to Ranch Twang’s heart – the history of Canadian artists in Country Music.
  • The legendary Ryman Auditorium will host Jim Lauderdale & Friends featuring Amy Grant, Vince Gill & The SteelDrivers. The performance will benefit Thanks USA. The concert is on Monday, November 9 at 7:30 pm and tickets on sale Friday, August 21 at 10 am ($49.50 & $39.50)
  • The Washington Post has a great feature on Loudon Wainwright III’s new release – “High Wide & Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project.” Wainwright created the album to bring attention to Poole’s music and that he played a key role in the history of country music. on edit- NPR did a feature on the Poole tribute.