Country Acts and the Superbowl Halftime Show

  • Bill Chapin at MLive Music is posting his “entry in my Albums of the Aughts series, highlighting 50 great or near-great albums released since Jan. 1, 2000.” Albums of the Aughts No. 5 is the old time music juggernaut from  Dec. 5, 2000 the T-Bone Burnett produced  “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” soundtrack featuring Alison Krauss, Gillian Welch, bluegrass legends Norman Blake and Ralph Stanley and Grand Ole Opry members Emmylou Harris and The Whites.
  • PopMatters‘ Bob Proehl posts a story on the history of the spiritual/secular divide in country music  (Hank’s Other Side: Religion, Radio, and the Roots of Country Music) and how marketing and technology (radio) helped shape tactics like Hank Williams’ Luke the Drifter character to meet the artists desire to record spititual and gospel songs.
  • The Bluegrass Blog covers Steve Martin’s hosting of Saturday Night Live (his 15th time , outlapping Alec Baldwin’s 13 times hosting SNL.) Martin plays “Late for School” from his upcoming bluegrass tinged banjo showcase album The Crow.
  • The Boss and the East Street Band did a great job for the 43rd superbowl halftime show, and it got me to thinking “When was the last time a country act had that gig?” Checking the all-knowing Wikipedia, that would be 1994’s Superbowl 28 (or XXVIII for you purists) Rockin’ Country Sunday featuring Clint Black, Tanya Tucker, Travis Tritt and The Judds. And yes I did exclude Shania Twain’s Superbowl 32 and Kid Rock’s  Superbowl 33 .

Loretta Lynn Plays the Opry this Weekend

Country Music legend and Country Music Hall of Famer Loretta Lynn takes time off her busy touring schedule and -  recording new songs with Elvis Costello, Todd Snider and others, for a possible 2009 release – to spend this weekend performing on the Grand Ole Opry, where she has been a member since 1962.  (The Tennessean)

And speaking of Country Music legends, Dolly Parton has been slated to be inducted into the Gospel Music Association Hall Of Fame. The ceremony will take place at Nashville’s Richland Country Club on Feb. 2.  Dolly has most recently been involved in a three-CD project titled This Is America that features her among 56 artists and songwriters who’ve recorded songs that tell the story of the United States. (GAC)

Alison Bonaguro over at the CMT bog asks “When Is It Too Soon to Cover a Country Song?”

No Depression’s Kurt B. Reighley reviews a book on classic country photos Pure Country: The Leon Kagarise Archives, 1961-1971 which conatins candid shots of June Carter, Kitty Wells, Skeeter Davis, Bill Monroe, the Louvin Brothers, Porter and Dolly, Jim Reeves, Jeannie C. Riley, Ray Price and many more as they stppoed by to play in Rising Sun, Maryland, and West Grove, Pennsylvania. Looks like a must have to me!

Record Review – Hank III – Damn Right, Rebel Proud (Sidewalk Records)

There’s a lot of things you can say about Shelton Hank Williams III, he’s profane, his lyrics are simplistic, he advocates substance abuse and a destructive lifestyle – my money would be that he would look you in the eye, give you smile and spit on your shoes.

The newest release by Hank III “Damn Right, Rebel Proud” follows the same breakneck path his last album “Straight to Hell” took us. Barrels of whiskey, bales of pot, cocaine, scraped knuckles, black eyes and gratuitous hell raising are the order of the day. And if it’s too loud (or fast) get the hell off the road.
The album wastes no time bolting from the chute with the arm jerker “The Grand Ole Opry (Ain’t So Grand)” which could be considered the rallying song for the “Reinstate Hank” campaign which Hank III

Hank Williams III

spearheads. The tune levels a bead at the beloved Nashville institution for keeping Hank III’s grandfather, Hank Sr. off it’s membership (though he was the first performer to receive six encores at the Opry, in August, in 1942, the Opry’s WSFA fired him due to “habitual drunkenness.” Despite this firing the Opry continues to use the name and likeness of Hank Williams Sr. in promotional materials.) Name checking Johnny Cash, Johnny Paycheck, Waylon Jennings, Jimmy Martin, and III’s daddy, Hank Jr. (aka Bocephus)  III leaves no one wondering where he comes down on the issue.

The songs cover the familiar country music terrain of hard living and wild times – “Wild & Free,” “Me & My Friends,” and the honky-tonk moshers “Six Pack Of Beer” and “Long Hails & Close Calls,” the latter’s spirit owes as much to thrash metal (III played bass with Superjoint Ritual, a New Orleans metal band formed by Pantera vocalist Phil Anselmo) as it does Bill Monroe.

But it’s not all raising hell, fun and guns. Hank III is man that makes no apologies for his life choices and celebrates the causalities left in his Knowing this makes songs like “I Wish I Knew,” a stand lament for a lost love and the choices made that drove her away, along with “Candidate For Suicide” and “Stoned And Alone” all show III moving toward more reflective themes and a broadening his narratives and, yes, show he’s getting older.

III’s voice has always had a haunting, keening quality that harkins back to his grandad and skipped over his daddy’s baritone delivery. The whole package is perfectly held together by III’s passion and the crack band, especially Andy Gibson on steel guitar and Dobro and Johnny Hiland on lead guitar, which leaves most country, as well as punk and metal bands, in the dust.

iTunes has “Damn Right, Rebel Proud” classified under rock (It’s now been moved under the country music section), maybe it’s all the profanity that runs through the album that got it booted to another area. This release is just as deserving of the country music moniker as the pop-country fodder – Kenny, Toby, Carrie and Taylor – glutting the country section of iTunes country music section. For spirit alone it’s more deserving than most of what is found in any online classification, on the mainstream radio country charts and the mainstream country music industry at large (III;s label, Curb Records, declined to put their name on it, instead reviving the Sidewalk Records imprint to keep a safe distance from it.) Seems Hank III, like his legendary Granddad before him, is seen as a black sheep. Here’s to the rebels.

Hank III – “The Grand Ole Opry (Ain’t So Grand)”


Justin Townes Earle to Play the Grand Ole Opry Friday

Justin Townes Earle continues to blaze a trail, and the Grand Ole Opry moves a step toward relevency (inviting Sunny Sweeney was a also a plus) by inviting Earle to perform Friday, May 2nd on the 8pm show, also on a bill will be Brad Paisley, Mark Wills and Mountain Heart.

If you find yourself in Nashville do yourself a favor and catch what is sure to be a great performance.

Shooter Jennings to Release First Single From the Wolf – Walk of Life

Singer/songwriter and heir to the outlaw tradition Shooter Jennings will introduce the lead single from his third studio album, The Wolf (9/17), a cover of the Dire Straits cut “Walk of Life.”

Now I like Dire Straits, especially “Sultans of Swing”, but “Walk of Life” always seemed pretty lightweight and silly to me.

Jennings says
“I’ve loved this song since I was a kid, but when I actually read the lyrics, I was fascinated by the line ‘he do the song about the sweet lovin‘ woman, he do the song about the knife,’ because it’s a struggle that I can relate to as a musician,” explains Jennings. “Hopefully this song will make people let their guards down, and it will open the door to the rest of the album. Then the more personal songs I wrote will speak for themselves.”

Okay I’ll hold all judgement until I hear it for myself.

Jennings also wrote nine of the 13 tracks for The Wolf, produced by Dave Cobb, including the autobiographical country blues tinged title cut, as well as “Slow Train” featuring guest vocals by iconic country music group The Oak Ridge Boys and the tribute to best friends everywhere, “Old Friend.”

Jennigs says “Dave and I were able to live out some of our musical fantasies with this album, which includes horn sections, and some of the Grand Ole Opry background singers,” added Jennings “It’s a country album that shows my influences from guys like Hank Jr. and my dad, and a lot of the country from the 70’s and 80’s. We also got a cool drum sound for the whole record that almost has a disco sound to it, as strange as that may sound. I think my fans are really going to dig it.”