Like the proverbial rivers edge, murder ballads are a perfect and moody destination for the bluegrass genre.
The SteelDrivers visit this familiar haunt on their song “Brother John.” The Nashville-based band – fiddler Tammy Rogers, guitarist and lead singer Gary Nichols, banjoist Richard Bailey and bassist Mike Fleming – play a deceptively spry arrangement underpinning a song dealing with murder, that may or may not be justified, and the killer’s brother advising him to run and slip the hangman’s noose.
About the emotional release in the appeal of murder ballads in bluegrass, lead singer Gary Nichols tells Rolling Stone: “I think it’s just that love gone wrong induces such rage in people, and there’s so much cheating going on in the world anyway,”
“Sometimes it’s just good for the listener to be able to kill their spouse in a song. They don’t want to do it for real, so sometimes having that song can help them feel better.”
The band tapped Jason Isbell to co-produce and play slide guitar on the song.
“I think he pushed us a little more,” says SteelDrivers lead singer Gary Nichols of Isbell’s contributions. “If you listen to the songs we cut, they’re almost on the edge of ‘slow,’ which with a banjo roll doesn’t always work. He just allowed us to just be the band in the studio, and we kind of let him drive.”
“Brother John” was co-written by Gary Nichols and Barry Billings. It can be found on the upcoming ‘The Muscle Shoals Recordings’ out June 16th on Rounder Records.
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.
2014 was another bumper crop year for Americana and roots music. We shared our favorites and you weighed in with more. 2015 shows no signs of easing up as stalwarts like Steve Earle and James McMurtry and young guns like The Lone Bellow and American Aquarium are planning releases.
The list below is not a definitive 2015 Americana release list, it’s all early months. But it’s as close as I can get with the information available at year’s close. The list is in chronological order based on release date, which mostly occurs on an planned Tuesday target which for some reason (none good) persists.
See one missing? Leave it in the comments.
Look for new things coming in the New Year at Twang Nation. It’s going to be a great year.
Have a happy, and safe, New Years. See you on the other side.
Justin Townes Earle – ‘Absent Fathers’
Cody Jinks – ‘The Adobe sessions’
Cody Canada & the Departed “Hippie Love Punk”
The Waterboys – ‘Modern Blues’
Ryan Bingham – ‘Fear and Saturday Night’
Haley Cole – ‘Illusions’
Caitlin Canty – ‘Reckless Skyline’
The Lone Bellow – ‘Then Came The Morning’
Paul Kelly – ‘The Merry Soul Session’
Punch Brothers – ‘The Phosphorescent Blues’
Bob Dylan – ‘Shadows in the Night’
Murder by Death – ‘Big Dark Love’
Hiss Golden Messenger – ‘Southern Grammar EP’
Gurf Morlix – ‘Eatin’ At Me’
Father John Misty – ‘I Love You, Honeybear’
Robert Earl Keen – ‘Happy Prisoner’
Gretchen Peters – ‘Blackbirds’
Rhiannon Giddens – ‘Tomorrow Is My Turn’
Blackberry Smoke – ‘Holding All the Roses’
Owl Country – ‘Owl Country’
6 String Drag – ‘Roots Rock ‘N’ Roll’
Phosphorescent – ‘Live at the Music Hall’
Steve Earle & The Dukes- ‘Terraplane’
Whitehorse – ‘Leave No Bridge Unburned’
Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band – ‘So Delicious’
Wrinkle Neck Mules – ‘I Never Thought It Would Go This Far’
The Mavericks – ‘Mono’
Elvis Perkins- ‘I Aubade’
James McMurtry – ‘Complicated Game’
Steve Gunn & Black Twig Pickers – ‘Seasonal Hire’
Nora Jane Struthers – ‘Wake’
The Lowest Pair – ‘The Sacred Heart Sessions’
Elana James – ‘Black Beauty’
Ryan Culwell – ‘Flatlands’
Brandi Carlile – ‘Firewatcher’s Daughter’
Gill Landry – ‘Gill Landry’
Andrew Combs – ‘All These Dreams’
Caroline Spence – ‘Somehow’
Dorthia Cottrell – ‘Dorthia Cottrell’
Joe Pug’s – ‘Windfall’
Tom Paxton – ‘Redemption Road’
Porter – ‘This Red Mountain’
The Coal Creek Boys – ‘Out West’
Liz Longley – ‘Liz Longley’
Stone Jack Jones – ‘Love & Torture’
Humming House – ‘Revelries’
Gabrielle Papillon – ‘The Tempest of Old’
Doc Watson, Bill Monroe + – Classic American Ballads from Smithsonian Folkways
Allison Moorer – ‘Down To Believing’
William Elliott Whitmore – ‘Radium Death’
Sarah Gayle Meech – ‘Tennessee Love Song’
Simon Joyner – ‘Grass, Branch & Bone’
The Devil’s Cut – ‘Antium’
Delta Rae – ‘After It All’
Folk Family Revival – ‘Water Walker’
Carl Anderson – ‘Risk of Loss’
Pokey LaFarge – ‘Something in The Water’
Ray Wylie Hubbard – ‘The Ruffian’s Misfortune’
Dwight Yoakam – ‘Second Hand Heart’
Lowland Hum – ‘Lowland Hum’
Shinyribs – “Okra Candy”
Lucia Comnes – “Love, Hope & Tyranny”
The Damnwells – ‘The Damnwells’
John Moreland – ‘High On Tulsa Heat’
Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers – ‘ Loved Wild Lost’
Jimbo Mathus – ‘Blue Healer’
Ryan Adams – “Live at Carnegie Hall’
Lewis & Leigh – ‘Missing Year EP’
Charlie Parr -‘Stumpjumper’
Odessa – ‘Odessa’
Shelby Lynne – ‘I Can’t Imagine’
Mandolin Orange – ‘Such Jubilee’
Hannah Miller – ‘Hannah Miller’
Jimmy LaFave – ‘The Night Tribe’
Eilen Jewell – ‘Sundown over Ghost Town’
Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell – ‘The Traveling Kind’
Della Mae – ‘Della Mae’
Darrell Scott – “10 – Songs of Ben Bullington”
Jamie Lin Wilson – ‘Holidays & Wedding Rings’
The Mike + Ruthy Band – “Bright As You Can”
Dawes – “All Your Favorite Bands”
Sam Outlaw – “Angeleno”
The Deslondes – “The Deslondes”
Dale Watson – “Call Me Insane”
Courtney Patton – “So This Is Life”
Uncle Lucius – “The Light”
Chris Hennessee – “Greeting from Hennessee”
Sammy Kershaw – “I Won’t Back Down”
Beth Bombara – ‘Beth Bombara’
Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams – ‘Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams’
Richard Thompson – “Still”
Kacey Musgraves – “Pageant Material’
Jason Isbell – ‘Something More Than Free’
Daniel Romano – ‘If I’ve Only One Time Askin’ ‘
Lindi Ortega – “Faded Gloryville”
Angela Easterling – “Common Law Wife”
Rod Picott – “Fortune’
The Waifs – ‘Beautiful You’
The White Buffalo – ‘Love and the Death of Damnation’
Turnpike Troubadours – “Turnpike Troubadours”
Patty Griffin – ‘Servant Of Love’
The Yawpers – ‘American Man’
Steve Martin and Edie Brickell – “So Familiar”
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 nominees were announced today in Nashville by the Americana Music Association, and what a great list of talent it is!
Rosanne Cash, Robert Ellis and Jason Isbell each had three nominations in the same categories of Album of the Year, Artist of the Year and Song of the Year.
Cash, Ellis and Isbell are nominated for Artist of the Year, along with Rodney Crowell. Cash’s “A Feather’s Not a Bird,” Ellis’ “Only Lies” and Isbell’s “Cover Me Up” along with Patty Griffin’s “Ohio” are up for Song of the Year.
Cash’s album “The River and the Thread” is up for Album of the Year against Ellis’ “The Lights From the Chemical Plant,” Isbell’s “Southeastern” and Sarah Jarosz’s “Build Me Up From Bones.”
While watching the nomination event online on the Music City Roots Livestream Ellis chimed in from Houston As his name was called once, twice, three times he responded on the messaging thread with genuine surprise and humility “Wow!” “Thank you all!” he typed.
Rosanne Cash tweeted that she was “Thrilled!!” yo learn of her nominations.
The other Americana Honors & Awards categories, Lake Street Dive , the Avett Brothers, the Devil Makes Three, Hard Working Americans, and the Milk Carton Kids are up for Duo/Group of the Year. Hurray for the Riff Raff, Parker Millsap, St. Paul & the Broken Bones, Sturgill Simpson and Valerie June are in the vying for Emerging Act of the Year; and Larry Campbell, Buddy Miller, Fats Kaplin and Bryan Sutton are the nominees for Instrumentalist of the Year.
The awards will be handed out Sept. 17 at the Ryman Auditorium as part of the Americana Music Festival and Conference, happening Sept. 17-21 in Nashville. Jim Lauderdale will host the awards show, and Miller will lead the house an all-star band.
2014 AMERICANA HONORS & AWARDS NOMINEES
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Build Me Up From Bones, Sarah Jarosz
The Lights From The Chemical Plant, Robert Ellis
The River And The Thread, Rosanne Cash
Southeastern, Jason Isbell
ARTIST OF THE YEAR
DUO/GROUP OF THE YEAR
The Avett Brothers
The Devil Makes Three
Hard Working Americans
Lake Street Dive
The Milk Carton Kids
SONG OF THE YEAR
“Cover Me Up”, Jason Isbell
“A Feather’s Not A Bird”, Rosanne Cash
“Ohio”, Patty Griffin
“Only Lies”, Robert Ellis
EMERGING ACT OF THE YEAR
Hurray For The Riff Raff
St. Paul & The Broken Bones
INSTRUMENTALIST OF THE YEAR
Jason Isbell is at the top of his career and he’s headed all over this great nation (except Dallas!) Isbell is headed to the second leg of his tour to support his acclaimed “Southeastern.”
Isbell will kick off in Auckland, New Zealand on April 12th followed by Sydney Australia and a few more dates down under before hitting the states on April 25th in New Orleans to perform at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
And if that’s not enough (and it is) Isbell has some great openers. Tift Merritt, Holly Williams, Langhorne Slim, Amanda Shires and St. Paul & The Broken Bones.
5/27 – 5/28, 5/30 – 6/4, 6/7 Isbell supports Ray Lamontagne.
6/13 he co-headlines with James McMurtry and on 7/6 – 7/18 he supports Willie Nelson, Alison Krauss & Union Station (what?! no Willies Picnic?)
The tour ends back at the stop he played to a sold-out crowd last August, the historic Ryman Auditorium. This time for two nights, Friday, October 24, and Saturday, October 25. Smart money says both nights sell out so get ’em while you can.
A special fan pre-sale will launch at 10 a.m. CDT on Wednesday, April 9, and run until 10 p.m. CDT, Thursday, April 10.
Isbell and the 400 Unit your dates. Keep an eye on his official site for more dates and news.
Sat-Apr-12 Auckland, NZ Tuning Fork
Sun-Apr-13 Sydney, NSW The Factory
Wed-Apr-16 Melbourne, VIC Northcote Social Club *SOLD OUT*
Thu-Apr-17 Melbourne, VIC Northcote Social Club *SOLD OUT*
Fri-Apr-18 Tallarook, VIC Boogie Festival
Sat-Apr-19 Meeniyan, VIC Meeniyan Town Hall
Mon-Apr-21 Tyagarah, NSW Byron Bay Bluesfest
Fri-Apr-25 New Orleans, LA New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival
Sat-Apr-26 Indio, CA Stagecoach Festival * SOLD OUT*
Mon-Apr-28 Los Angeles, CA The Roxy *SOLD OUT*
Tue-Apr-29 San Francisco, CA The Fillmore *SOLD OUT*
Wed-Apr-30 San Francisco, CA The Fillmore
Sun-May-04 Memphis, TN Beale Street Music Festival
Wed-May-07 Ponte Vedra Beach, FL Live at The Lot @ The Player’s Championship
Fri-May-09 Birmingham, AL Alabama Theatre
Sat-May-10 Huntsville, AL Mark C. Smith Concert Hall at the Von Braun Center
Sun-May-11 Atlanta, GA Shaky Knees Music Festival
Tue-May-27 Portland, ME Cumberland County Civic Center
Wed-May-28 Shelburne, VT The Green at Shelburne Museum
Thu-May-29 Nelsonville, OH Nelsonville Music Festival
Fri-May-30 Boston, MA Blue Hills Bank Pavillion
Sat-May-31 Boston, MA Blue Hills Bank Pavillion
Sun-Jun-01 Canandaigua, NY Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center
Tue-Jun-03 Wallingford, CT Toyota Presents Oakdale
Wed-Jun-04 Columbia, MD Merriweather Post Pavillion
Fri-Jun-06 New York, NY The Governor’s Ball Music Festival
Sat-Jun-07 Camden, NJ Susquehanna Bank Center
Fri-Jun-13 Madison, WI THE KURT Music Event at The Majestic
Fri-Jun-20 Telluride, CO Telluride Bluegrass
Sun-Jul-06 Kansas City, MO Starlight Theater
Mon-Jul-07 Rogers, AR Arkansas Music Pavilion
Wed-Jul-09 Oklahoma City, OK Zoo Amphitheatre
Fri-Jul-11 Council Bluffs, IA Harrah’s Stir Cove
Sat-Jul-12 Chicago, IL Ravinia Festival
Sun-Jul-13 Detroit, MI Freedom Hill
Thu-Jul-17 Interlochen, MI Kresge Auditorium
Fri-Jul-18 Toledo, OH Toledo Zoo Amphitheater
Sat-Jul-19 Louisville, KY Forecastle Festival
Fri-Jul-25 White Sulphur Springs, MT Red Ants Pants Music Festival
Sat-Jul-26 Calgary, AB Calgary Folk Festival
Sun-Jul-27 Edmonton, AB Interstellar Rodeo
Thu-Jul-31 Bayfield, WI Big Top Chautauqua
Fri-Oct-24 Nashville, TN The Ryman Auditorium
Sat-Oct-25 Nashville, TN The Ryman Auditorium
4/12-4/17, 4/19 Tift Merritt Supports
4/28 – 4/30 Holly Williams supports
5/9 Langhorne Slim & The Law supports
5/27 – 5/28, 5/30 – 6/4, 6/7 supporting Ray Lamontagne, Belle Brigade opens
6/13 co-headline with James McMurtry
7/6 – 7/18 supporting Willie Nelson, Alison Krauss & Union Station
10/24 Amanda Shires supports
10/25 St. Paul & The Broken Bones support
2013 will go in the books as the year that Americana and roots settled comfortably into the mainstream. Kids are wearing dust-bowl duds and there is a brisk trade in acoustic guitars and banjos. Bands are taking a page from the Mumford, Avetts and Lumineers book of hand-crafted songs with rousing melodies just begging to be sung at live shows. It’s no longer a rustic throwback fad.
The genre grows more diverse, from folk-pop, Laurel Canyon rock, psych folk, hard-sore honky-tonk and everything that doesn’t neatly fit in other buckets. As genre defying as the music can be it all comes down to the only tis that matters, Great songwriting, evocative, absorbing narratives and memorable melodies that endures the ages.
But first you must find an audience.
ABC music row drama Nashville has done a fine job in highlighting great roots music, under the guidance T Bone Burnett , and now Buddy Miller, as well as classic country references and Americana and roots performer cameos. The show’s cutest stars (and real-life sisters,) Lennon and Maisy Stella, performed the Lumineers omnipresent top-40 hit hit “Hey Ho.” This gave the song an already bigger audience then it originally had. Is that possible?
This July Americana stalwarts Old Crow Medicine Show backed ex-Hootie & the Blowfish front man, and current country music star, Darius Rucker on Old Crow’s version of Bob Dylan’s “Wagon Wheel” at the Grand Ole Opry. The song was recorded with the band and included on his latest album resulting in one of his most popular singles as a solo artist and reaching number one on Billboard Hot Country Songs in its 12th week.
Old Crow Medicine Show then had the honor to be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry this fall by Opry members Dierks Bentley and Marty Stuart.
That’s not the only example of music row looking to Americana for material and a shot of inspiration. GRAMMY-winning singer Leann Rimes reached into the Americana well, and beyond her music row comfort zone, on her latest “ Spitfire.” She lends her extraordinary pipes to a searing version of Buddy Miler’s “Gasoline and Matches” in a duet with Rob Thomas. Country music chanteuse and Pistol Annie Ashley Monroe tapped legendary Texas singer-songwriter Guy Clark to collaborate on the title song on her latest “Like a Rose.”
If your looking for evidence of Americana’s mainstream presence you need go no further than SPIN’s list of 20 Best Country Albums of 2013 had Blake Shelton and Brad Paisley mixed with The Civil Wars (12), Jason Isbell (11) and Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell (9) Holly Williams (8) Sturgill Simpson (6) Cailtlin Rose (2).
Entertainment Weekly, the beacon of popular taste, counted a majority of Americana artists on their list of top country releases of 2013 with Jason Isbell and Lindi Ortega taking the number 1 and 2 spot respectively.
T Bone Burnett again joins forces with the Coen Brothers to contribute soundtrack stewardship to thier new 60’s neo-folk focused film. The soundtrack features old folk songs performed by Marcus Mumford , The Punch Brothers along with the film’s actors Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan , Adam Driver and Justin Timberlake, who might use his his work here to jump dart his desired foray into country music.
As the music advances it’s important that a music that celebrate the past honors those that came before. George Jones, the greatest voice in country music and the innovator, Ray Price were both lost to use this year.
We also lost “Cowboy” Jack Clement, As a record and movie producer, songwriter, performing and recording performer and studio engineer, Clement was responsible for for shaping American music in the 20th century.
Premier rock and country journalist Flippo, who documented much of the major changes in country music including the Outlaw movement and one of the original Outlaws Tompall Glaser, both left us in 2013.
Though gone they will boot be forgotten for their contribution to the rich and progressive music we love.
Here’s to the music we love and the performers that endure much to offer their craft to make this world just a little bit better, kinder and more interesting. Here’s to a community that still buys albums, t-shirts and packs local shows and helps these talented folks make music a career.
I’ve got no special knowledge who will be nominated for the 56th Annual Grammy Awards 2014 Americana Album of the Year. What I do know is that in the four years of this categories existence The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences has showed a preference for established, seasoned performers like Levon Helm (winner in 2010 and 2012) That makes sense in genre that draws so closely it’s lineage.
They also appear to favor acts that do well on the Americana plays charts. That makes sense, if being a tad predictable.
Last year’s nomination of John Fullbright for his debut album was a welcome surprise and hopefully signals a new opportunity of NARAS taking more chances on younger talent.
One quantitative qualifier for an album is that they had to be released between October 1, 2012 and September 30, 2013.
So, here are my predictions for the 56th Annual Grammy Award for Americana Album of the Year. I reserve the right to be 100% wrong on this.
The 56th Annual Grammy Awards will be held on January 26, 2014, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The show will broadcast on CBS at 8 p.m. ET/PT
Emmylou Harris was nominated in 2012 for “Hard Bargain.” “Old Yellow Moon,” her collaboration with Rodney Crowell, is a favorite in this category.
Southeastern is Jason Isbell’s most mature and complete work to date. And that’s a high bar.
One of the most recognizable faces of mainstream Americana The Avett Brothers are shoo-ins for their “Magpie And The Dandelion.” I retract this prediction because it wasn’t released in time to qualify for 2014.
Kacey Musgraves release “Same Trailer Different Park” is part a hybrid of wry pop and classic country. It’s hard to categorize neatly but there’s no denying it’s popularity. In other words a perfect Americana nominee. I’ve decided the odds of this are too remote to be real.
Patty Griffin is tHe perfect performer and her new album ‘American Kid’ is a perfect fit for americana AOTY.
The biggest dark horse of the bunch Sturgill Simpson’s “High Top Mountain” is, as I like to say, so country it’s Americana.
The Civil Wars self-titled post-hiatus release is probably the most sure thing on this list. One thing’s for certain, barring a miracle of reconciliation this win will result in one chilly acceptance ceremony.