The nominees for the Americana Music Awards and Honors was announced today from the Grammy Museum’s Clive Davis Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. The one-hour ceremony was carried live on AXS TV and featured performances by Jim Lauderdale and Buddy Miller (with a tribute to the late George Jones) Lisa Marie Presley backed by T Bone Burnett, Elizabeth Cook, and Emerging Artist of the Year nominees The Milk Carton Kids.
The 2013 Americana Music Association Festival and Conference is scheduled for September 18-22, with the awards ceremony being held at the historic Ryman Auditorium on Thursday, Sep. 18. The event awards six member voted annual awards and with Lifetime Achievement Awards, to be announced as the event approaches. Jim Lauderdale is a natural as the proceedings host and Buddy Miller leads the always exemplary house band.
Can’t make to to the event? Understandable as it has sold out in recent years. But do not despair, the Americana Honors and Awards show will shown live on AXS TVa nd an edited version will show up on PBS at a later date. It will also be broadcast via SiriusXM Radio, BBC2, WSM and Voice of America.
South Carolina newcomers Shovels and Rope will lead the field with four nominations, followed by legendary Emmylou Harris and Buddy Miller each with three nods. I’m happy to report that a few of my choices made it on the list this year(Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison, YES!) and John Fullbright is up for Emerging Artist of the Year. Well if being nominated for the Americana Album of the year Grammy, as Fullbright was before losing to Bonnie Raitt, isn’t emerging the I don’t know what is. Dwight Yoakam’s dominance of the Americana charts earlier this year with his new release Three Pears (my review) also garnered him an Artist of the Year nod.
Here is the full list of the 2013 Americana Music Award nominees. Are your choices here?
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Buddy & Jim, Buddy Miller & Jim Lauderdale
Cheaters Game, Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison
From The Ground Up, John Fullbright
O Be Joyful, Shovels and Rope
Old Yellow Moon, Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell
ARTIST OF THE YEAR
EMERGING ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Milk Carton Kids
Shovels and Rope
SONG OF THE YEAR
Birmingham – Shovels & Rope
Good Things Happen to Bad People – Richard Thompson
Ho Hey – The Lumineers
North Side Gal – JD McPherson
DUO/GROUP OF THE YEAR
Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis
Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale
Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell
Shovels & Rope
INSTRUMENTALIST OF THE YEAR
Elizabeth Cook and Lisa Marie Presley announce the nominees
Milk Carton Kids Live performing “Hope of a Lifetime”
If you’re a struggling musician I suggest you take a look at the career of Jim Lauderdale. Between early setbacks as a Bluegrass banjo player, and being marginalized in Music Row there were plenty of opportunities to chuck his guitar in the gutter and call it quits. But he persevered and used his songwriting as a musical dowsing rod to move him always forward toward unexpected and exciting places.
If the Americana genre didn’t already exist it would have to be created for Lauderdale. He’s worked in multiple genres (Bluegrass, country, rock, soul) with multiple artists (George Jones, Ralph Stanley, Elvis Costello, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle and more), but the music has always been grounded in honesty with a twist of risk. This will to be daring, attention to legacy, while pushing forward has allowed Lauderdale to become something you don’t see music in the music industry, unique.
He’s now a Grammy winning singer/songwriter, the subject of a crowd-sourced biopic (Jim Lauderdale: The King of Broken Hearts)
He hosts, along with Buddy Miller, “The Buddy & Jim Show” Saturdays 10 pm ET on SiriusXM Outlaw Country. He also hosts the “Music City Roots: Live from the Loveless Cafe”, weekly Americana music show broadcast live on WSM from the Loveless Barn on Highway 100 in Nashville. He is also the MC for the Americana Music Awards and Honors show in Nashville where his catch-phrase “Now THAT’S Americana” is as much of a delight as the stellar performances on the storied Ryman Auditorium stage.
I talked to Lauderdale, through spotty reception, on the road to Nashville the day after his birthday performance at the Music City Roots spin-off, “Scenic City Roots, in Chattanooga Tennessee
Twang Nation: Jim? How are you today?
Jim Lauderdale: Just fine. Driving on a beautiful, crisp spring day heading back to Nashville from Chattanooga Tennessee.
TN: Happy belated birthday, You share a birth with Bob Harris ( “‘Whispering Bob Harris” the legendary is the host of the BBC 2 music program The Old Grey Whistle Test, and a supporter of country and roots music)
JL: Really? It’s also George Shuffler’s birthday, who played guitar for the Stanley Brothers.
TN: Cool. So you’re taking some time off from your tour supporting the “Buddy and Jim” album. How’s that going?
JL: It’s been great! We too some time off because Buddy is producing the Wood Brothers and he also co-produces the music for the TV show Nashville with T Bone Burnett. He’s got a pretty full plate most of the time. Our next date is in San Francisco at the Great American Music Hall. I love playing that space.
TN: I’ll be there. The first time I saw you and Buddy working with the new material it was at last year’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. It was a morning slot but the place was still full.
JL: I love that festival. Warren Hellman has done so much for the community. He’ll be missed.
TN: True. So let’s visit your childhood in Troutman, North Carolina. Your father was a minister and your mother was a music teacher. How did this shape you musically?
JL: I believe it helped to train my ears. They were both great singers, so it was a combination of hearing a lot of church music. Hearing my mother, who was a choir director at the church, a chorus teacher, and a piano teacher, I was hearing stuff all the time. My older sister was the first to start buying records like the Beatles when I was in the first grade. At the time music was just exploding and so much was coming from the radio and in North Carolina radio then was a mixture of rock and roll, soul music like Stax and Motown, and then there were peripheral country stations where Bluegrass was being played. So there was just so much great music being played and available. I think Buddy and i share a lot of the same influences. that’s how all these influences made me want to sing. I started singing really early and then started playing drums for a few years when I was 11 and then, when I was 13, I started playing blues harmonica. When I was 15 I started playing the banjo and getting more into Bluegrass music. I always wanted to do a Bluegrass record but it took me a long time to get a deal to do one. When it happened I got to do it with Ralph Stanley and his band, the Clinch Mountain Boys (1999′s I Feel Like Singing Today)
TN: Not bad company to keep for your inaugural Bluegrass venture.
JL: That was kind of a dream because I grew up loving his work. I used to try and play banjo in his style and sing in a tenor like Ralph would. One of the best things to happen out of that was that I began writing with Robert Hunter (poet and lyricist for the Grateful Dead.) A friend of mine, Rob Bleetstein, put me in touch with him in the Bay Area. i knew that Robert and Jerry Garcia were huge Stanley Brothers’ fans, so that’s how I started writing with Robert and since then we’ve created 4 albums. The last two were Bluegrass of stuff we’ve done together. I have an upcoming album with the North Mississippi Allstars coming out in the fall and it has stuff that Robert and I wrote as well. So, even though it took me a long tie to get something out in that world, it was worth the wait because of all the good things that have happened.
TN: Making up for lost time.
JL: Right. And the same with Buddy. We had met back in New York in the early 80′s. We were both living there and both had country bands going and Buddy, to me, had the best band there. There was a nice country scene going on in New York at the time. There were about 5 bars in New York like the Lone Star Cafe that featured country music. So there was a lot of work. Eventually we both ended up on the west coast and started playing gigs together. Then Buddy came to Nashville first and ended up playing with Steve Earle and Emmylou Harris. His career really took off! So we’ve known each other for 33 years and have talked about doing a record for the past 17 years so this new album was also worth the wait. Our schedules just wouldn’t allow it. But last year we started this radio show last summer on SiriusXM Outlaw Country (The Buddy & Jim Show , Saturdays 10 pm ET) and that started moving things toward us sitting down and writing material. It happened pretty quickly, we spent a few days in pre-production and wrote some stuff but we cut the album in three days in his home studio. He produced the album and we’re really happy with it. I love playing with Buddy, he always makes me smile.
TN: There’s a song you wrote that was covered by George Strait called The King of Broken Hearst. It’s got a great story.
JL: I moved to L.A. partly to be in the same atmosphere that Gram Parsons had been in. There was this story that came from (former rock ‘n’ roll groupie and author) Pamela Des Barres, who was a friend of his, who said he had this L.A. party and was playing George Jones records. These people had never heard him (Jones) and he started crying. he said “That’s the king of broken hearts.” It was one of those times when an idea just comes to you. I play that song all the time and I love it.
TN: Gram is seen as the patron saint of the Americana genre and , I believe, you and Buddy have earned a place at that table. With your work with the Americana Music Awards and Music City Roots would you consider yourself an ambassador of Americana?
JL: Oh, I don’t know about that. But I’m certainly happy it’s out there. The guy I mentioned before, Rob Bleetstein, helped to coin there term (along with Jon Grimson of Nashville) for a trade publication that’s no longer around called Gavin Report. It was like Billboard and R&R (Radio & Records) magazine. They needed a chart for rootsy American music and Rob said “How about Americana?” So that put a name on it. But to me it’s just great that Americana allows a broad umbrella for roots music – Blues, Bluegrass, folk, rock, country – music that is not overproduced and it’s all connected, And it’s a place that, in his later years, someone like Johnny Cash can get played on the radio. And Merle Haggard, and folks like Guy Clark and Joe Ely, Butch Hancock and jimmie Dale Gilmore. Stuff that’s too rootsy for mainstream radio. it’s nice to have a place where people can be recognized.
TN: You’ve worked in the Music Row world and the Americana world and been successful in both. What do you think contributes to your success to work in both of those environments?
JL: Well I had plans but things would work out a different that what I thought. It was accidental in some ways. I wanted to make Blue grass records as a teenager, but it never worked out. Then in my early 30s I finally got a record contract in the country genre. But that record was too country at the time to be accepted in 1988. Dwight Yoakam’s producer and guitarist Pete Anderson did it with me (The unreleased CBS album that later appeared on an overseas label as Point of No Return.) My next album wasn’t as traditional but it was pretty far out there. It was co-produced by Rodney Crowell and John Leventhal (1991′s Planet of Love) Even though that album didn’t have a lot of commercial success, 8 of the 10 songs went on to be recorded by other people like George Strait. So that too me into that world of songwriting though my plan was to have a successful career with my own records. I kept putting out my own records and, when it wouldn’t work out, the only way to rise above of the disappointment was to write myself out of it. I still had a contract for a few more majors, but I started doing some independent labels and was more eclectic. Bluegrass with country mixed with R&B ad soul. The work I’m doing with the North Mississippi Allstars I did with Robert Hunter is more blues, rock and soul. I’m also trying to finish up a stripped down acoustic record that I’m writing with Robert. He’s really important in my like as far as music, so I want to keep that going.
TN: Speaking of Robert Hunter lest year you were in the Bay Area with the American Beauty Project. How did that come about?
JL: Those two albums (Grateful Dead’s) Working Man’s Dead and American Beauty opened up a door in my spirit when I heard them. All the things I’d done before – country, Bluegrass, rock – came together in those two records. To me they were like the Gram Parsons solo albums with Emmylou, those records are touchstones. The New York Guitar Festival which was put together by David Spellman, each year, would choose a different album and then singers and guitar players would play a song from that record. A few year’s ago they chose American Beauty and it went over really well. The singer Catherine Russell, Ollabelle, Larry Campbell and his wife Teresa Williams became the core of the American Beauty project which we took around the country. We still do it occasionally and will probably do some more shows in the future. It’s always a lot of fun.
TN: Tell me about your work with the roots-rock band Donna the Buffalo.
JL: I met them at the Newport Folk Festival while opening for Lucinda Williams on her “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” tour. I met this group of folks that were really friendly, but I had missed their show earlier in the day. We made this friendship and we then jammed together at Merlefest in North Carolina. They then invited me to play their festival that they put on in the summer and offered to back me up during my set. So over the years we’ve worked festivals and sat in with each other. I started to write songs for all of us to do and when i had an album’s worth we went into the studio and did it (2003′s Wait Til Spring) We still do stuff when we can. They’ve got a new album coming out in June which I’ve heard and it’s fantastic (tonight Tomorrow & Yesterday – June 18) They are one of my favorite bands as an audience member and I love to sit in with them. We have a few new songs we’ve written but i need some more material to do another record.
TN: Any other new artists that have caught your ear?
JL: There’s a lady that just moved to Nashville, Lera Lynn. There’s another band that just moved from L.A. to Nashville called HoneyHoney that I like a lot. There”s a songwriter named Ryan Tanner I think is really good. And there’s a guy in North Carolina named Daniel Justin Smith that I think is really good. There’s no shortage of new, young singer, songwriter and pickers that are acoustically influenced and have their own style of country and roots music. I’m really encouraged by that. When i host the Music City Roots showcase it gives me an opportunity to be exposed to new performers. There was a band on the other night out of Birmingham, Alabama called St Paul and the Broken Bones. They are a kind of soul review kind of band and they are just out of this world. There’s a woman called Sara Petite out of San Diego who I like a lot. I also love Shovels and Rope, Robert Ellis , Max Gomez and the Milk Carton Kids.
TN: Who would you like to write music with someone that you haven’t?
JL: Gosh, I wish I could work with Eric Clapton. I love his work. I would also like to work with Keith Richards. I got to sing harmony with him on the song Hickory Wind on a Gram Parsons tribute called “Return to Sin City.” Norah Jones was on that, I’d like to work with her. I did a song with John Leventhal called Planet of Love that was pitched to Ray Charles to do with Norah Jones, but that didn’t happen before he passed away. I always wanted to work with Doc Pomus before he passed. And I always wanted to do something with Jerry Garcia and I’m sorry that didn’t happen. I’m slowly getting to work with a lot of folks I hold in high esteem. I got to write with Dan Pen and we’ve been working on some things in England with him and Nick Lowe’s great band. I got to song with George Jones years ago and that was a treat. You just never know in this up and down world of music.
TN: You’ve moved deftly between genres in this time, is there a musical era you would like to travel to and perform?
JL: The 60′s and early 70′s for the soul, country and rock music that was coming out and then the late 50′s early 60′s for Bluegrass. And the 50′s for Blues music. Being able to work in those times at the peak of the music would have been great.
TN: You’re a great singer, songwriter but your also a consummate showman. You’re very personable and funny on stage. Many have also taken note of your rhinestone bedecked clothing when you perform. How many suits do you have and where do you get them?
JL: Oh, I think i have 20 or 25 suits with shirts. I have gotten a few vintage pieces here and there, but i get most of my things new and custom made from Manuel (Cuevas) who is a designer and tailor here in Nashville that used to work with Nudie (Cohn) out of L.A. when he was a teenager. He’s still here producing things for people like Jack White.
TN: Thanks for your time and keep your eyes on the road.
Step right up folks for a special Record Store day contest featuring New West recording artists Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale.
One lucky ,random, winner will receive one Record Store Day exclusive copy of Buddy Miller & Lauderdale new, acclaimed release “Buddy & Jim” on gloriously sonic 180 g 12″ Vinyl. This special release is limited to 1000 and each one is hand numbered. This particular baby is number 727.
Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale are two of the pioneers of Americana. Their solo recordings, songwriting, studio session work and live performances (as front men and musical directors) have made them treasures of the roots and country music scene. In an unexpected moment of inspiration, the two have collaborated to make a true duets record, trading licks and verses for one of the most inspired and fun albums of 2012.
Here’s how to enter:
- On Record Store (4/20) Day buy any limited edition release (in case you’re wondering what’s available I’ve listed some great Americana and roots releases) and take an Instagram pick of your new treasure.
- use your twitter account and tweeet us a pic of your goodies with the hashtag #RSDTwang
That’s it. You’ll be entered to win this limited edition beauty.
Winner needs to be located in the United States and will be picked at random, Sunday, April 22nd, 12PM PST. Good luck!
1 I Lost My Job Of Loving You
2 The Train That Carried My Gal From Town
3 That’s Not Even Why I Love You
4 South In New Orleans
5 It Hurts Me
6 Vampire Girl
7 Forever And A Day
8 Lonely One In This Town
9 Looking For A Heartache
10 I Want To Do Everything For You
11 The Wobble
Episode #10 (alright double digits!) of Twang Nation Podcast pulls from my first 10 of a list of 21, Cream of the Crop selections from 2012. It’s been a great year for Americana and roots music. T Bone Burnett has done a fine job of sliding roots artists like Lindi Ortega and Shovels and Rope within a Music Row soap opera with ABC’s Nashville. The Americana Music Association continues to burnish the brand and their conference and wards show set attendance and submission records. Even that bastion of Music Row glitz, CMT, saw crossover potential and launched CMT Edge which has featured artists like Jason Isbell and Justin Townes Earle.
2013 shows no signs of slowing down with upcoming releases from Kris Kristofferson, Dale Watson as well as joint releases from Kelly Willis and her hubby Bruce Robison and Emmylou Harris and ex Hot Band member and legendary songwriter Rodney Crowell.
As the Americana music culture and industry grows and becomes more of a mainstream staple, with bands like Mumford and Sons and the Avett Brothers leading the way, I applaud the advantages and the opportunities for musicians and we who cover them. As I’ve said, I want the performers I cover to get more prestigious gigs, better recording facilities, more gear and to leave their touring vans behind and be bale to afford the relative comfort of a touring bus. I don’t believe musicians should suffer for tier craft (much!) Here’s to mutually rising boats.
In the new year I resolve to do my best not to follow the hyped path most traveled and do what I’ve always done, follow my heart and my ear to places more interesting and authentic for the love of music. I hope you come with me in and enjoy what I discover.
Happy holidays and a safe and happy New year to you all.
Opening Song – “Mr. D.J” – by Dale Watson
1.Chris Knight- song:”Little Victories”- Album: “Little Victories” (Drifter’s Church Productions)
2.Malcolm Holcolmbe – song: “Gone Away at Last”- Album: “Down the River” (GypsyeyesMusic – out now )
3.Darrell Scott – Song: Hopskinville – Album: Long Ride Home (Full Light Records)
4.Corb Lund – song: Gettin’ Down on the Mountain Album: Cabin Fever (New West Records)
5. Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale That’s Not Even Why I Love You. – Album: Buddy and Jim (New West Records)
6.Iris DeMent – song:Sing The Delta- Album:Sing The Delta (Flariella Records)
7.Dwight Yoakam – song:A Heart Like Mine- Album:3 Pears (Warner Bros. Records)
8.Turnpike Troubadours Song: Gin, Smoke and Lies- Album:Goodbye Normal Street (Bossier City Records)
9.John Fullbright song:Satan and St. Paul- Album:From The Ground Up (Bossier City Records)
10. Shovels & Rope- song:Fire On The Hill- Album:O’ Be Joyful (Dualtone Records)
11. Gurf Morlix – song:Present Tense- Album: Gurf Morlix Finds the Present Tense – Out March 5, 2013)
12.Robert Earl Keen- song:Merry Christmas from the Family- Album: Gringo Honeymoon
It seems like I say it every year – so here goes, another bumper year for Americana releases blah blah. but it’s true!
I’ve been sitting on a list of about 50 releases all of which could easily be included in a top 10 list of the best of 2012
until the last final minute of the deadline i set for myself to keep from crapping up my holidays. i had to make a stand.
Here it is.
I finally threw the arbitrary “Top 10″ structure out the window and doubled down and made it a top 20 21. The selections are lasted in arbitrary order and are not most best to least best. They all stand on their own as some of this year’s. or any year’s, finest examples of songwriting and performance excellence.
A quick word on the exclusion of mainstream heavyweights like Mumford and Sons, The Avett Brothers and their upstart competitors the Lumineers didn’t make the cut. Cards on the table, for all my rooting for mainstream acceptance of the genre I’m still a music snob. Like most other genres, I genuinely think that once a person mines the Americana field below the mainstream examples that is where they will discover the real riches lie. This is my opinion. Your mileage may vary.
Here’s a a happy, healthy and twangny 2013! thanks to all of you for reading, following,commenting. And to all the great musicians that reward us every day with riches that I personally am unworthy of.
Not too be cynical, but Christmas albums are often little more than a money grab from big artists.It makes perfect business sense but rarely results in laying out hard-earned dollars to add to your collection. Here are 5 that break the opportunistic mold/ The artists here are either so singularly excellent as to transcend the material or they exhibit such sincerity and love for the material that it just moves you.
Christmas With Buck Owens And His Buckaroos – Buck recorded two Christmas albums back in the sixties - Christmas Shopping and Christmas with Buck Owens. This is the better of the two because the King of the Bakersfield Sound avoids the usual Christmas chestnuts and lends his signature style to a collection consisting almost all original songs. The songs run from barroom weepers Blue Christmas Tree and It’s Christmas Time For Everyone But Me and the swinging Santa’s Gonna Come in a Stage Coach and Because It’s Christmas Time. This is a great stocking-stuffer for the country traditionalist in your life.
A Christmas Present – How many Christmas albums can you name that resulted in a #1 song? Not many, but this is one of them. Haggard’s A Christmas Present, released in 1973, contains the single If We Make It Through December which spent four weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard magazine Hot Country Singles chart that December through January 1974. That song and others like melancholy “Daddy Won’t Be Home for Christmas settles you in for a lonesome Christmas, but Hag does take a light-hearted break with Santa Claus and Popcorn and Bobby Wants a Puppy Dog for Christmas.
A John Prine Christmas – The legendary John Prine puts away the satircal knives (mostly) on this excellent, though brief, holiday release. Classics like I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus and Silver Bells are done straight-up and mixed with wry originals resulting in a tasty spiked Christmas nog. Broken relationships in songs like Everything Is Cool and All the Best are recalled less bitterness then bemused fatalism.
To: Kate a Benefit for Kate’s Sake – A collection of Americana and alt.country legends came together on this 2005 release partake in one of the greatest of Christmas endeavors; charity.
Jim Lauderdale, Steve Earle, Joe Ely, Buddy & Julie Miller and others to put together To: Kate a Benefit for Kate’s Sake to benefit a three-year-old Nashville girl suffering from a rare genetic disease. Chuck Mead and BR549 do a great Western Swing version of The Christmas Song and Jim Lauderdale tears through a spirited Holly & Her Mistletoe. Buddy and Julie Miller strike the perfect tone for the spiritual Away In A Manger and Joe Ely’s Tejano-tinged Winterlude is as spicy and pleasing as Mexican hot chocolate on a winter night.
Hillbilly Holiday- Unfortunately now out of print, Hillbilly Holiday is an excellent 18-track compilation of classic country Christmas songs. Pioneers like Bill Monroe, Tex Ritter and Ernst Tubb sit beside relative newcomers Willie Nelson. Buck Owens and Loretta Lynn on this often whimsical compilation. If you can find this release is just the remedy for the pop-country fan in your life.
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
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.
The 12th year of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival shows the premier showcase for great (and FREE!) Americana and roots music is showing no signs of slowing down. This year might prove to be the best yet as old friends like Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle and Ralph Stanley are joined by event newcomers like punk-turned-folkie Chuck Ragan, Texas sweethearts The Trishas and Americana darlings The Civil Wars, who pulled out of last year’s HSB.
Have fun, and remember to wear layers and stay hydrated out there (and upwind.) Below find the schedule with my picks in bold.
Star Stage 10:00am Poor Man’s Whiskey and Preservation Hall Jazz Band
12:00pm John Reilly and Friends (featuring Becky Stark and Tom Brosseau) 1:15pm Chuck Mead & His Grassy Knoll Boys 2:40pm The Jerry Douglas Band 4:15pm The Time Jumpers (Vince Gill, Dennis Crouch, Paul Franklin, Larry Franklin, Andy Reiss, Dawn Sears, Kenneth Sears, Joe Spivey, Jeff Taylor & Billy Thomas) 5:45pm Elvis Costello Solo
Arrow Stage 12:00pm Chuck Ragan
2:10pm Chris Carrabba 3:20pm Patterson Hood & the Downtown Rumblers 4:45pm Jon Langford & His Sadies feat. Sally Timms
Rooster Stage 12:00pm Simone Felice 1:00pm Chuck Prophet & the Mission Express
2:20pm Beachwood Sparks
3:25pm Ben Kweller
4:25pm Jenny Lewis
5:45pm Conor Oberst
Saturday Oct 6 (11:00am – 7:00pm)
11:00am World Famous Headliners (Big Al Anderson, Shawn Camp, Pat McLaughlin, Michael Rhodes & Greg Morrow)
12:10pm Alison Brown Quartet with Stuart Duncan 1:25pm Buddy Miller 2:45pm Tribute to the Founding Fathers: Warren Hellman, Earl Scruggs and Doc Watson featuring Alison Brown, Stuart Duncan, Tim O’Brien and Bryan Sutton, with special guests Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris with Heidi Clare & Colleen Browne (from the Wronglers), Peter Rowan, Nick Lowe & more!
4:15pm The Chieftains 5:45pm Steve Earle & the Dukes (& Duchesses)
Rooster Stage 11:00am The Go to Hell Man Clan with Special Guests the Wronglers featuring Jimmie Dale Gilmore
12:00pm Lloyd Cole 1:10pm Guy Clark & Verlon Thompson
2:30pm The Lumineers 3:50pm Patty Griffin 5:30pm Robert Earl Keen
Star Stage 11:00am Roger Knox and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts 12:30pm Dirty Three 2:10pm Dave Alvin & the Guilty Ones 3:45pm Cowboy Junkies
5:45pm Chris Robinson Brotherhood
Towers Of Gold Stage
11:40am Red Baraat 1:20pm Justin Townes Earle
3:00pm Les Claypool’s Duo De Twang
4:45pm The Head & the Heart
Arrow Stage 11:00am The Trishas 12:05pm Reckless Kelly
1:30pm Bill Kirchen & The Hammer of the Honky-Tonk Gods
2:45pm Heartless Bastards 4:05pm Jerry Jeff Walker 5:35pm The Flatlanders feat. Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore & Butch Hancock
Porch Stage 11:00am Joe Pug
12:10pm Sara Watkins
1:25pm Little Green Cars
2:40pm Allison Moorer
3:50pm Robyn Hitchcock
4:50pm Sierra Hull 6:05pm Seasick Steve
Sunday Oct 7 (11:00am – 7:00pm)
11:00am Dry Branch Fire Squad
12:05pm Laurie Lewis & The Right Hands
1:20pm Peter Rowan 2:45pm Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys
4:15pm Tim O’Brien Party of 7 5:45pm Emmylou Harris
Rooster Stage 11:00am Jim Lauderdale 12:05pm Kevin Welch & Kieran Kane & Fats Kaplin
1:10pm Jesse Winchester
2:20pm Glen Hansard
3:35pm Nick Lowe 4:50pm Todd Snider 6:10pm The Civil Wars
Star Stage 11:00am Giant Giant Sand
12:40pm The Knitters 2:15pm DOUG SAHM’S PHANTOM PLAYBOYS featuring: dave ALVIN, steve EARLE, delbert McCLINTON, boz SCAGGS, jimmie VAUGHAN… and whoever the cat drags in… 4:05pm The Del McCoury Band
6:00pm Keller Williams, Steve Kimock & Kyle Hollingsworth featuring Bernie Worrell, Wally Ingram & Andy Hess
Towers of Gold Stage
12:00pm The Milk Carton Kids
1:30pm Soul Rebels 3:10pm Dwight Yoakam
5:00pm Patti Smith and her band
Arrow Stage 11:00am Lucero
1:25pm Rubblebucket 2:45pm Son Volt 4:10pm Luther Dickinson & the Wandering
11:00am The New Orleans Bingo! Show 12:10pm Tiny Television
1:25pm The Barr Brothers
2:40pm Amanda Shaw & the Cute Guys 3:55pm The White Buffalo
5:10pm Walter Salas-Humara
6:20pm Jonny Two Bags & Salvation Town
Though we might not always see eye to eye the Americana Music Association know how to put on a party. The Americana Music Festival & Conference is annually held in Nashville and this year will mark it’s This 13th year. Each year it occurs in Fall and this year it will run September 12-15. The event has loads of the best Americana music, media and industry people you could ever care to meet. All that and somehow they keep letting me back in!
The AMA has just released an early list of performers a slated to appear. They are:
American Aquarium – Amy Helm – Andrew Combs – Angel Snow – Anthony da Costa – Bearfoot – Belle Starr – Bill Kirchen – Billy Joe Shaver – Black Lillies – Blue Highway – Blue Mountain – BoDeans – Brandi Carlile – Brennen Leigh – Buddy Miller – Buxton – Caitlin Harnett – Chastity Brown – Corb Lund – Cory Branan – Darrell Scott – The Deep Dark Woods – Della Mae – Derek Hoke – The Dunwells – Eilen Jewell – Felicity Urquhart – Fort Frances – Gretchen Peters – Holy Ghost Tent Revival – honeyhoney – Humming House – Immigrant Union – Jason Boland & The Stragglers – Jill Andrews – Jim Lauderdale – Jimbo Mathus & The Tri-State Coalition – John Fullbright – John Hiatt – Jordie Lane – Julie Lee – Kasey Anderson and the Honkies – Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson – Kevin Gordon – Lera Lynn – Lydia Loveless – Mandolin Orange – Mary Gauthier – The Mastersons – Max Gomez – McCrary Sisters – Mindy Smith – Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers – Phoebe Hunt – Punch Brothers – Reckless Kelly – Richard Thompson – Robert Ellis – Rodney Crowell – Sallie Ford & The Sound Outside – Sara Watkins – Shovels & Rope – Sons of Bill – Sons of Fathers – Star and Micey – Starr Anna – Steep Canyon Rangers – Steve Forbert – Teresa Williams and Larry Campbell – Tift Merritt – Turnpike Troubadours – Two Gallants – Wheeler Brothers – Whitehorse – The Wood Brothers – The World Famous Headliners
The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) announced its nominees for the 54rd Annual Grammy Awards. I was pleased to see Americana and roots performers being nominated for some of the more prestigious awards like Record of the Year and Song of the Year. Below are nominees that fall into the Americana and roots category and other artists in other categories that might be of interest to readers of Twang Nation.
Best Americana Album
Emotional Jukebox – Linda Chorney
Pull Up Some Dust And Sit Down – Ry Cooder
Hard Bargain – Emmylou Harris
Ramble At The Ryman – Levon Helm
Blessed – Lucinda Williams
Best Folk Album
Barton Hollow – The Civil Wars
I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive – Steve Earle
Helplessness Blues – Fleet Foxes
Ukulele Songs- Eddie Vedder
The Harrow & The Harvest – Gillian Welch
Best Bluegrass Album
Paper Airplane – Alison Krauss & Union Station
Reason And Rhyme – Jim Lauderdale
Rare Bird Alert – Steve Martin And The Steep Canyon Rangers
Old Memories: The Songs Of Bill Monroe – The Del McCoury Band
A Mother’s Prayer- Ralph Stanley
Sleep With One Eye Open- Chris Thile & Michael Daves
Best Country Album
“Here For A Good Time” — George Strait
Best Children’s Album
I Love: Tom T. Hall’s Songs of Fox Hollow (various artists collection)
Best Historical Album and Best Album Notes
The Bristol Sessions, 1927-1928: The Big Bang of Country Music (various artists collection)
Record Of The Year
Rolling In The Deep – Adele
Holocene – Bon Iver
The Cave – Mumford & Sons
Album Of The Year
21 – Adele
Song Of The Year
The Cave – Mumford & Sons
Holocene – Bon Iver
Rolling In The Deep – Adele
Best New Artist
Best Pop Solo Performance
Someone Like You – Adele
Best Pop Instrumental Album
The Road From Memphis – Booker T. Jones
Setzer Goes Instru-Mental! – Brian Setzer
Best Pop Vocal Album
21 – Adele
Best Rock Performance
Down By The Water – The Decemberists
The Cave – Mumford & Sons
Best Rock Song
The Cave – Mumford & Sons
Down By The Water- The Decemberists
Best Rock Album
Wilco – The Whole Love
Best Alternative Music Album
Bon Iver – Bon Iver
My Morning Jacket – Circuital
Best Country Duo/Group Performance
Barton Hollow – The Civil Wars
Best Country Song
Threaten Me With Heaven – Vince Gill
Best Instrumental Composition
Life In Eleven – Béla Fleck & Howard Levy, composers (Béla Fleck & The Flecktones)
Best Engineered Album (Non Classical)
Follow Me Down- Brandon Bell & Gary Paczosa, engineers; Sangwook “Sunny” Nam & Doug Sax, mastering engineers (Sarah Jarosz)
The Harrow & The Harvest – Matt Andrews, engineer; Stephen Marcussen, mastering engineer (Gillian Welch)
Paper Airplane – Mike Shipley, engineer; Brad Blackwood, mastering engineer (Alison Krauss & Union Station)