“Strange and Wonderful Things Happen” : Interview with “My Fool Heart” Writer-Director Jeffrey Martin

For a movie slated for test-screening next month in Charlottesville, VA (fitting since the the movie takes place in Virginia) details on My Fool Heart (Facebook) are as rare as hen’s teeth.

Here’s what we do know, first the official  story brief :  “… Jim Waive stars as a humble Virginia diner singer who is the target of two London hit men in the debut feature film MY FOOL HEART from writer-director Jeffrey Martin.” “Throughout the movie, Jim Waive keeps losing his treasured possessions. Justin plays the Mysterious man who finds Jim’s lost things on the sidewalks of Nashville.”

Then there’s the extraordinary cast from Americana, Country and Bluegrass music fields – Elizabeth Cook, Justin Townes Earle, Merle Haggard, Wayne Henderson, Sarah Jarosz, Jim Lauderdale, Charlie McCoy, Jesse McReynolds, Dr. Ralph Stanley and Jim Waive and the Young Divorcees

Then there’s the oddly dark “Popcorn teaser” posted on YouTube.

I contacted the writer-director Jeffrey Martin on the road to shed some light on this intriguing film. He was very forthcoming in an email interview on  his motivation for the film and how how love of music helped to influence My Fool Heart.

I very much look forward to seeing this film soon and readers of this blog might feel the same way after reading this interview. Enjoy

Baron Lane – Who are some of your influences as a director?

Jeffrey Martin – MY FOOL HEART was influenced by Cassavettes and other directors who believed even if your bank account was low you could grab a camera and make a movie. It’s a stupid idea but it obviously influenced me.  When you make a really cheap film, you get to call the shots and take extravagant chances.  Sometimes they pay off.

BL – My Fool Heart is billed as a comedy, but based on what i’ve been able to glean online it looks more like a black comedy. Is that accurate?

JM – Most black comedies have a more bitter or cynical take on life. I think of MY FOOL HEART in the classical sense of comedy.  It’s about how things come out in the end and in this movie things do come out okay in the end.  But coming out okay is a serious struggle. For me, whenever you look closely at anything in life, especially the serious things like love, marriage, children, death, there is something comical. It’s like when things in life get so bad and crazy you have to just laugh.  In the South, tragedy and comedy seem tightly intertwined.  Weird and terrible things happen and people laugh about it.  Humor makes a lot of things more bearable.  Life is hard.  There’s not a lot of cynicism in this movie.

BL – What time period is the movie set in? How did that time period shape the music chosen for the movie?

JM – The movie is set today.  It’s also set in Virginia which is a place where long ago and today sit side-by-side.  That’s what I love about Virginia.  I grew up in California and Florida suburbs so when I first went to Virginia I was enchanted by the old things.  Even current things seem to have an old feeling in Virginia like a faded photograph or like you’re looking through wavy antique glass.  I love Virginia.  I spent 30 years there, but I’m not a native.  To be really from Virginia isn’t like a jacket you can buy or just put on.  The music chosen began in  Albemarle County, Virginia and moved outward.  If you’re into Americana or bluegrass music, you’ll notice all the lines and connections.  The geography lessons.

BL  – Where did your story of My Fool Heart  come from?

JM – I don’t know.  Strange things just pop into my head.  I saw Jim Waive, a local Charlottesville musician, playing for tips at the Blue Moon Diner and this whole crazy idea came into my head about a musician like Jim being hunted down by professional killers.  It seemed both serious and funny.  Like what kind of great music he might start writing under the pressure of death.  Like in the old westerns when the bad guys shot at your feet and made you dance.

BL – Cameron Crowe and Quentin Tarantino create films where the music becomes a character in the film. Does music come front and center in My Fool Heart?

JM- Music is huge in this film.  It’s the subject and it’s the air you breath watching the movie.   But the movie’s plot and characters are also commenting on the music you’re hearing which is a little unusual in a fictional feature film.  Also the bluegrass, country and Americana music – old and new – blend together in a way that maybe makes you think of the music’s history if you’re a music fanatic.  Crowe and Tarantino are both great, but they use music differently.

BL – What did you grow up listening to?

I had older brothers so I grew up deeply immersed in the music of the 1960’s and 1970’s:  Dylan, the Beatles, the Band, the Beach Boys, Van Morrison.  I went to college in North Carolina and first heard Emmylou Harris who had just moved away from Greensboro and cut her first album.  I got to see Lester Flatt when Marty Stuart was his teenage guitar player.  Also lots of bluegrass and pickers and bands like the Dillards who were playing locally then.  I was listening to that first Scruggs Brothers LP, Doug Sahm Band, John Hartford, Johnny Cash, Earl Scruggs, Mac Wiseman, Doc and Merle Watson.  The mid-Atlantic was an amazing musical region during the 70’s and 80’s with people like Emmylou Harris, Danny Gatton, Stevie Ray Vaughn playing in ridiculously tiny venues.  I stood next to all of them playing their sets, two feet away.  The Band, as well, with Richard Manuel singing in that beautiful voice.  I always liked old American sounds.

Lucinda, who co-produced the movie, was from Charlottesville, Virginia and took me up there when I was 18.  She’s from really old Virginia culture.  Her great grandfather, Col. Charles Marshall, was General Lee’s military secretary who spent the entire Civil War on Lee’s personal staff and wrote Lee’s famous Farewell to the Troops and is the guy between Lee and Grant in the schoolbook Appomattox painting.  Lucinda introduced me to the mountain people still living in Sugar Hollow where they had a farm.  Hand-churned butter, brown eggs, horses and wagons – I thought I was dreaming but there it was:  time frozen.  A lot of that gets into the movie somehow.  Lucinda went to country dances out there in the Hollow with the Virginia Vagabonds playing, some of those guys played at the White House for FDR.  For her, this would have been as a litle girl around the early 1960’s when Paul Clayton had his cabin near there. Bob Dylan visited the area for a week in 1962 and it seems to have revolutionized his world when he went back to New York and came up with “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright.”  Dylan writes about all that in “Chronicles.”  Dylan’s deep inside this movie.  Jesse McReynolds and other older bluegrass guys told me about Dylan’s influence on them.  We tend to think the river flowed the other way, but it was definitely two directions according Jesse.  It’s hard to underestimate the influence of Bob Dylan on music.  He’s way bigger than Hank Williams and that’s a stupid comment to make if you haven’t thought about it too much.  I dug into Appalachian music up one side and down the other and kept seeing Bob Dylan peeking out.  Growing up though I also listened to whatever came on the radio.  It was a great time.  As a teenager, I moved to Winter Haven, Florida where Gram Parsons was from.  He was a Snively so he was related to everyone down there.  I remember my next older brother talking about him and all that country music.  And in college in Greensboro, N.C., Emmylou Harris was playing down on Tate Street just a few years before so I picked up on her when the first album came out and never let go.  I remember being 15 in Florida and turning out all the lights in the house and listening to Johnny Cash “Folsom Prison” and imagining I was in jail.  Until I left Florida, part of me was.

BL – The cast for My Fool Heart -  Merle Haggard, Dr. Ralph Stanley, Jim Lauderdale, Elizabeth Cook, Justin Townes Earle – reads like a who’s who of classic country and Americana. What was the motivation behind casting such a heavy assortment of musicians?

JM – My joke rule was that nobody who was a SAG member could be in the movie.  Keep it to nonprofessional actors.  We did become a SAG movie though when Merle joined us.  The inspiration or idea came from this thought I had. I sat and watched Jim Waive play at the diner for tips and drew this imaginary line from the guys at the bottom playing for free and going all through the middle level and to the very top of the music business, the icons.  I thought the story was about that.  What is success?  Is it talent?  Luck?  I knew people at the top always considered themselves just a step away from that diner tip jar because you never forget where you came from.  And sure enough, a bunch of them dug the idea and wanted to play a part in it.  We wound up with Dr. Ralph Stanley and Jesse McReynolds, two IBMA Bluegrass Hall of Fame members.  Also Merle Haggard and Charlie McCoy, two Country Hall of Fame members.  I used to sit on my bed reading Dylan’s liner notes and I would always see the name Charlie McCoy.  It came full circle for me when Charlie agreed to give me a tour of Nashville and that old recording world of working with Elvis, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash – all the greats.  That’s in the movie.  It’s worth the price of admission.  And Jesse McReynolds tells about playing with Bob Wills, amazing stuff.  But it’s not a documentary.  This all unfolds in the course of the story.

BL – Finding one musician that can act is pretty rare, where you concerned with the high odds of bad acting in such a large roster of musicians?

JM – Filming musicians is like handling dynamite.  You have to be on your toes.

Everybody gets nervous.  Merle was nervous.  I was nervous.  Ralph Stanley told me that he’d been dreading it for days.  But if you can help them relax and just take the temperature down and get into that space, strange and wonderful things happen.  Merle is powerful and mesmerizing. I wrote his lines, but Merle went deep into the country preacher.  And Justin Townes Earle is fantastic.  Most of the film, he’s silent.  Then at the end, he finally talks and he has the entire film on his shoulders.  Justin is a sweet, soulful, deep guy and he brought something  to the film that I never expected.  I actually expanded his part to use all his great footage.  Merle too.

BL – What was your background in music and how did you choose the music for the movie?

JM – I have no background in music.  I sang in my elementary school choir until the director tried to isolate where the bad voice was.  When I stopped singing and just faked it, she said, “That’s better.”  I have no talent which is good.  I’m 100% enthusiastic fan.  Musicians fear no competition from me.  I’m in awe of musicians.  I can’t duplicate what they do.  I’m not a director or writer with a guitar at home.  I suck at everything musical except loving it.   MY FOOL HEART’s soundtrack is the music I love:  Elizabeth Cook, Merle Haggard, Charlie McCoy, Jesse McReynolds, Wayne Henderson, Jim Lauderdale, Ralph Stanley, Justin Townes Earle.

BL  – If you could make a biographic film of one musician’s life who would it be and why?

JM – I don’t think I’d be interested.  The magic is in the songs, not the person. Documentary is a better angle on hitting that target.  A biopic wouldn’t be my thing.

Intro to Americana – 5 Albums To Get You Started

This si a post for people that night have seen me at Jessica Northy’s excellent online talk show TwangOut. I asked my incredibly well-informed Twitter followers what 5 albums they would recommend to someone just coming to Americana for the first time. Here’s their choices. Of course for a genre as rich as this 5 is just scratching the surface so please leave your choices in the comments section and let’s make this a post for anyone wanting to discover this great music.

Lucinda Williams : Car Wheels On A Gravel Road – This album is Lucinda’s opus and has firmly established her as the Queen of Americana


Uncle Tupelo – No Depression – For many people, including me, this is the band that started them on the road to Americana. After their break up in 1994 principle members Jay Farrar and Jeff Tweedy went on to form Son Volt and Wilco respectively.

Whiskeytown – Strangers Almanac – Ryan Adams veers between spinning gems and a insufferable self-indulgence. 16 Days from this excellent album show’s him at his best.

Gram Parsons – Grievous Angel – If there was ever a singular person you could point to as the Patron Saint of Americana, it would be Gram Parsons. He influenced the Rolling Stones, the Eagles and Emmylou Harris, who joins him on Love Hurts, with his brand of Cosmic American Music.


Old 97’s – Too Far to Care -This is my personal choice. Yes Rhett and the boys are a pivotal alt.country/Americana ban, but more importantly theyre from my home town of Dallas!

Song Bird: An Interview with Kasey Chambers

You’d think the addition of her third child, a beautiful daughter Poet, would afford Australian trad-country artist Kasey Chambers some time off. But no, she’s just finished Wreck and Ruin, a follow up to 2008’s excellent Rattlin’ Bones, created with her singer/songwriter husband Shane Nicholson. She’s now preparing to tour the United States behind her just-release her covers project, Storybook. The release features her unique interpretations of Hank Williams, Gram Parsons, Lucinda Williams and Texas legend Townes Van Zandt. The last whose music legacy she, along with The Avett Brothers’ Scott Avett, Grace Potter, and others, reflected on in the recent book “I’ll Be Here In The Morning: The Songwriting Legacy of Townes Van Zandt.” In the midst of packing for her tour she was gracious enough to answer some questions.

Baron Lane (Twang Nation) – How has being a mother influenced your songwriting not just in practice but in point if view?

Kasey Chambers – Well I have to write all my songs quicker ‘cos i don’t have much time now with 3 children – ha. Actually I guess I have taught myself to write in and around the chaos otherwise I’d have to go out and get a day-job (and I really don’t have any other skills so that is not really an option). Being a mother has thrown my whole world upside down – in a good way. I feel like it forced me to get to know my “real” self more than ever and what better fuel for songwriting is there than honesty?

TN – In 1999 you won the ARIA Award for “Best Country Album” for The Captain and I would classify much of your sound on “Storybook” as old-school honky-tonk. With the current state of country music in America your sound would fall under the Americana label. What’s your opinion of mainstream Australian and American country music?

KC – To be honest I am just so happy than anyone wants to listen to my music that I really don’t care what label they want to put on it. I consider myself a country artist but I think my idea of country is probably very different than what the “mainstream world” calls country . A lot of the stuff known as country these days is hard for me to identify with having come from the music grounding of Hank Williams, Louvin Bros and Gram and Emmylou. But it’s hard to argue when you’re in the minority and who am I to say what it should or shouldn’t be. I find and listen to the music I love and share it with as many as I can. I honestly feel so lucky and constantly surprised at how many people I have managed to share my music with over the years. I never imagined any of that to happen.

TN – Do you identify yourself as a country singer, a folk singer, both? Something else?
KC – Someone called us “Country Goth” the other day – ha. i am definitely just a little old country singer.

TN -What is your approach to songwriting? Do you work it all out beforehand or is it a band/studio process?
KC – I don’t think I really have a set process with writing. Sometimes a lyric will come to me, sometimes a melody, sometimes I sit there for a while and nothing comes at all. I wish I had more control over it but I guess it may not be as creative then. I often go six months to a year without writing one thing and that’s ok. They will come when they are meant to.

TN – You will soon embark on a tour with a fellow countryman of mine (Texan) Sarah Joaroz, are there any other young female singer/songwriters you like?
KC – I have a young female singer/songwriter on the road with me at the moment. Her name is Ashleigh Dallas and she plays fiddle, mandolin, guitar, and sings harmonies in my band and she is just beautiful. She’s 19, writes her own stuff as well and she is a big Sarah Joaroz fan so she is super excited about doing some shows with her. We are all gonna have a lot of fun together.

TN – Your new release, Storybook, showcases your take on personally influential songs handpicked from the iconic songbooks of Hank Williams, Gram Parsons, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt and more. How did you pick the artists and songs to include?
KC -All these artists have inspired me in some way or another over the years and I can honestly say I would not be the singer/songwriter that I am without their influence. So many of these songs helped get me through some really hard times in my life.

TN – Was there any cuts that didn’t make it?
KC -I really wanted to include about 20 other Lucinda Wiliams songs…..

TN – You have another collaboration with your husband, Shane Nicholson “Wreck And Ruin,” coming out in September. How is writing and performing with him different for you?
KC – I argue with him a lot more than other musicians! We are like any other normal married couple – sometimes we just need time apart ‘cos we drive each other crazy but I must admit it really is pretty awesome to stand on stage and sing with him. Especially a song we have written together – I absolutely love the sound we create together and at the end of the day I am his biggest fan. (Don’t tell him though or he’ll get a big head.)

TN – What role did music play in your childhood?
KC – I grew up in such a remote area in Australia and had hardly had any contact with civilisation so music was really the only form of entertainment that we had. No TV, no radio, so my dad would get out his guitar and play us old country songs around the campfire. At the time I thought all kids lived like that.

(added on edit) TN – Your sound is very reminiscent of American classic country from the 50’s through the 70s. Did your sound shape from that location and era or was there Australian artists with that that sound that influenced you? How similar / different was American country to Australian country of the same era?
KC – My dad brought me up listening to some Slim Dusty and Tex Morton who are Australian bush balladeers from the early days but apart from that it was pretty much mostly American music that I grew up with. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I started to discover the music of Australian singer/songwriter Paul Kelly who is and was at the time hugely successful in the mainstream world of rock/pop music but I soon realised he had this sound that (even though I didn’t understand why or how) somehow reminded me of the music I had grown up listening to. Turns out his influences were a lot closer to mine than I would have expected.

TN – What was your first concert?
KC – Does my dad’s gig count? I would go and watch my mum and dad play when I was a kid and one day he asked me to get up and sing. He never got rid of me……

TN – What legend (living or dead) would you like to write a song with?
KC – I don’t really do co-writing much. I only really do it with my husband and most of the time that is enjoyable but the thought of writing with a legend freaks me out so luckily I probably won’t ever get asked…….

Robert Ellis Spotlighted in The Guardian

I always knew Houston’s Robert Ellis was the real deal. Now they agree with me across the pond. From The Guardian’s New Band of the Day:

“That idea of dovetailing country old and “new” – the Nudie suit-wearing good ol’ boys and the countercultural LA wannabes – is a development, of sorts, although arguably Gram Parsons was the living embodiment of both sensibilities. Robert Ellis is a hippie throwback but he also moves between periods and worlds with aplomb – at a recent party for Paste magazine he and his band, according to one onlooker, “deconstructed old bluegrass songs and borrowed as much from Radiohead as George Jones”. He alternates between country and alt.country on the two “sides” ofof (sic) his concept album Photographs.”

Aside from his appearance I don’t get the “hippie” reference, but whatever. Ellis is getting the attention he so richly deserves.

Here’s Robert Ellis’ Stream of “Photographs” at Paste.com

Video – The James Low Western Front “Thinking California”

The aptly named, and visually unassuming Portland singer/songwriter James Low’s venture The James Low Western Front (Tim Huggins, bass/vocals; Dave Camp, guitar/vocals; Joe Mengis, drums) has released a video that sets the tone for their upcoming release “Whiskey Farmer.

The moody, urban look echos the visual style of Micheal Mann and follows an everyman (played by James Low) on a journey to a sunnier place (as depicted on the sign) and one of existential self-discovery.  On the surface “Thinking California” concerns the most obvious journey, the geographic variety. But as the title suggests Low evokes forlorn vocals to traverse physical geography as a metaphor for emotional and physiological climes.

The lonely western style of the song song stands in contrast to Low’s image in the video. I imagine a Stetson-sporting, dusty, bearded hardscrabble sort playing his acoustic in the back of a classic Ford truck not the invisible man shown here. I believe it extends this kind of music back to it’s folk, music for all, roots.

This is not what most people think of when the words pop-country are applied, but that’s what it is. Somewhere the ghosts of Gram Parsons and Mickey Newbury haunt the edges of the song.

You can preview the the Kickstarter-backed  “Whiskey Farmer” (out 2/21) at jameslow.bandcamp.com/album/whiskey-farmer

Music Review: Mandolin Orange – Haste Make / Hard Hearted Stranger [self-released]

This is not typically the kind of music that floats my boat. Most Americana that works the folkie singer/songwriter side of the fence leaves me cold. To me like it’s more commercially lucrative cousin pop-country; a watered down version of a powerful source who’s soul was sold long, long ago. Like corporate beer and steak chain restaurants something wonderful went terribly wrong while bringing something to the masses. And even though folk never sells in Music City numbers the brunch-folk styling of Jack Johnson and M Ward have led to a relatively wide audience and financial independence for the artists.

But sometimes a performer reminds us of what once was. Dylan did this. So did Townes Van Zandt. The Chapel Hill, NC duo of Andrew Marlin (guitar, mandolin, harmonica)  and Emily Frantz (violin/fiddle, guitar, vocals), collectively known as Mandolin Orange, draw from a deeper well than those others to craft their songs and sound. Like Welch and Rawlings or Parsons and Harris there is a reverence for history while charting new sonic landscapes.

There is subtlety in the arraignments. Songs like No Weight and Runnin’ Red would make perfect living room performance faire for a polite audience. But  like a trace of arsenic after a sip of fine whiskey or a Smith & Wesson hammer clicking back under a table set for a romantic dinner there something  menacing just below the surface.

From the excellent Runnin’ Red “The waters runnin’ red tonight, and our bridge is burnin’ hot, we parted ways in the middle, now we gaze from each side” and the Van Zandt-like Clover “You used to live untruly, so kindly, and it left you lying here in ruin, you cut the hand of a good friend and you smiled in all your doing.”

This is not music made to be pretty, but pretty music made to be honest.

To ratchet the burden even higher Mandolin Orange has crafted 18 consistently excellent songs across two disks,  individually titled Haste Make / Hard Hearted Stranger. There may be a thematic difference between the two but I can’t discern between them. The albums sweeps past you like memories of a whiskey-fueled Saturday night or the landscape from the window of a speeding 18-wheeler. They shift and blur into a singular whole that surprises you when it ends. It surprised me even more that after 18 songs I still wanted more.

Site | Buy

Music Review: Wagons – Rumble Shake & Tumble

When I first saw The Proposition, the 2005 Australia-based Western about an outlaw (Guy Pearce) forced to kill his older brother, I was taken by what Vincent Vega (to mix movie metaphors) is the “little differences.” The narrative was familiar and there were cultural parallels (at least cinematic)  between late nineteenth century Australia and the American West and Southwest.

This is the feeling I get when listening to the Australian roots-rock band Wagons recent fourth release Rumble, Shake & Tumble. There are elements of the familiar that are then twisted and elevated to strange and inspired places. the album kicks off with Downlow,a tale of clandestine romance done in as a jangly Tom Petty-style number complete with scorching lead and 80’s-era humming synths. I Blew It is thumping rockabilly tune that has Henry Wagons careening his baritone growling a lost-love lament. Moon Into The Sun is a front-porch ditty that shimmers with pedal-steel and hillbilly Buddhist pronouncements like  “Everybody’s as happy as they want to be.”

Willie Nelson is a slinky-stomp ode to the Texas Yoda, well to the idea of him anyway since there’s really no details in the song relating the the legendary icon. It’s more testament to great music and a reason to jam. Love Is Burning channels fellow Aussie (and script writer for the aforementioned movie, The Proposition.) Nick Cave and is smoldering with lust and menace like a ,well, a Nick Cave song.  My Daydream is a spacey country-tinged number that sound like a collaboration of Gram Parsons and David Bowie ( Singer Henry Wagons’ voice even sound eerily like the Thin White Duke at times.) Save Me is a Civil War-style and honky-tonk mash-up telling a tale of dispare and redemption

Henry Wagons  drummers/bassists Mark Dawson and Si Francis, guitarists Chad Mason and Richard Blaze, and keyboardist Matthew Hassett made a big noise at the 2011 SXSW a nd it’s easy to hear why. Rumble, Shake and Tumble  is a study in American music from an Australian bands perspective. the album will have you coming back again and again to peel back layer after layer of influence and nuance served with an edgy modern twist.

Official Site | Buy


News Round-Up: Pre-order Charlie Louvin, Still Rattlin’ the Devil’s Cage

  • Judd Films and Devil’s Cage Productions have launched promotional site for the biography – Charlie Louvin, Still Rattlin’ the Devi’s Cage. The site offers trailers and a chance to pre-order one of the 1000 copies being produced (release targeted for 7/15) All proceeds from this initial release  will go to Mrs. Charlie Louvin and her family. The film features appearances by  Charlie, Sonny Louvin, George Jones, Marty Stuart, John McCrea, and Emmylou  Harris and chronicles Charlie’s resurgence and influence over his 60 + year  career and 50th anniversary of the Louvin Brothers release Satan is Real.
  • The line-up for the Johnny Cash Music Festival will include close family members and friend – Rosanne Cash, John Carter Cash & Laura Cash, Tommy Cash, Kris Kristofferson, George Jones, Rodney Crowell, Chelsea Crowell and more. The festival is presented annually by Arkansas State University, with participation by the Cash family, to benefit the Johnny Cash Boyhood Home Project in Dyess, Arkansas. The project involves establishing a museum to honor the Johnny Cash legacy as well as restoring or re-creating his boyhood home. ASU is lining up sponsors for the event.


No More Kings

The other day I     saw a tweet from  the American Songwriter site a story title that caught my eye, like many of the tweets from excellent @AmerSongwriter. Writer Austin L. Ray story on Robert Plant and his new musical venture Band of Joy “The Unlikely King Of Americana.” It’s an excellent take on how a once rock-god followed his muse from the amped-up Blues side of the tracks to where the American genre flourishes wild.

Though it is a great story of a learned musical journeyman I take exception to the title of the piece. Please allow be to indulge the petty grievance of a genre blogger.

My first quibble is with the method of Americana regal ascendancy. Plant was not born into a legacy of Americana lineage, like say Rosanne Cash or Justin Townes Earle, that would align him in a place in whatever a genre monarchy we might imagine. So his crown must be earned.  Putting aside the concept of a violent coup I will focus on the work to goal.

Granted Plant has released two excellent Americana albums, Raising Sand and the current Band of Joy, and Led Zeppelin sometimes infused their sound with an Americana  spice (Black Country Woman and Bron-Y-Aur Stomp are great examples of this) his body of original Americana material is scant. Aside from the few Zeppelin pieces, Raising Sand and Band of Joy are comprised primarily of covers. Though excellently interpreted; these covers do not mount an argument toward an Americana crown
If we weigh personal legacy and quality, original material a list to regal ascendancy would be long – Johnny Cash, Steve Earle, Marty Stuart, John Mellencamp, Gram Parsons, Townes Van Zandt etc. And why not a queen? Emmylou and Lucinda come to mind. And it’s not a Nativism issue. I believe Plant’s fellow English countrymen Elvis Costello and Richard Thompson have more of a right to any imagined throne.

Like America itself the Americana genre is a work in progress. And like America many of the settlers in this new land are from another land – rock, country, folk, hip-hop – and the borders are porous and the genre is stronger for it. Not all of these emigres are going to be in simpatico.  Guy Clark fans may have very little in common with Hank Williams III fans, but the bloodline that ties them are there for those who take the time to look.

Jed Hilly, executive director of the Americana Music Association, when asked about Plant’s possible crowning is quoted as saying “Without question.” I have no argument with Hilly’s opinion on this. Hilly heads up a trade group who’s primary objective is to raise awareness. Plant, along with his well-chosen guides, Allison Krauss, T Bone Burnett and Buddy Miller and others as well as the excellent songwriters chosen to be included on his albums, has led to the addition of a an Americana GRAMMY (which I am fortunate to be covering this year) and brought significant awareness to the genre.

But as a blogger for the cause I take exception to this coronation, or in fact any coronation. Like America we serve under no crown but for the exceptional beauty of the music itself. But I do nominate Gram Parsons as it’s patron saint.

News Round Up: Charlie Louvin Celibrates the Troops in The Battles Rage On

Legendary country musician Charlie Louvin, along with his late brother Ira a member of the Louvin Brothers,  celebrates  his new studio record The Battles Rage On with an appearance at the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium on release day Tuesday, November 9, 2010. The Opry can be heard on 650 WSM-AM, SIRIUS XM Satellite Radio and at opry.com.

Louvin is a veteran of the Korean War and he drew from this experience for his new record The Battles Rage On. The 12 tracks are a tribute to the thousands of men and women in service. Special guests on The Battles Rage On include fellow lauded country/bluegrass stars Del McCoury and Jamie Dailey.The Battles Rage On will be released worldwide digitally and in stores on November 9, 2010 on True North Records.

Charlie Louvin (83) had surgery for stage 2 pancreatic cancer last summer. Hi last album was an homage to the granddaddy of Americana music Gram Parsons titled Hickory Wind: Live at the Gram Parsons Guitar Pull Waycross, GA.  Recorded during the 2009 Pull in Parsons’ hometown of Waycross, Georgia, which served as Louvin’s tip of his hat to an old fan.