Random (late) CMA Thoughts

I finally forced myself to sit through the 44th Annual presentation of the Country Music Association Awards that I recorded when it was televised live a couple of weeks ago. and I have to admit I enjoyed a lot of it.

Carry Underwood and Brad Paisley did a great job as co-hosts.  Underwood is easy on the eyes and has a great pipes and Brad Paisley is as close to a shredder as Nashville has. Both are warm and funny and make you feel right at home.

Rascal Flatts’ Gary LeVox used his wail to annoy dogs for miles around and to personally keep the hair product and skin bronzer industry in business. Kenny Chesney made football suck with his light-rock Boys of Fall and Taylor Swift performed an overwrought, orchestrated and fog-machine  and fake snow embellished variation on yet another Us Weekly article put to music and sure to print money. Sugarland unveiled their latest and probably annoying song Stuck Like Glue. Currant flavor of the week Lady Antebellum won Vocal Group of the Year by skillfully utilizing the bland, homogeneous pop sauce ladled in copious amounts at recording studios all over Music City. Reba wasted her impressive pipes on the soft-rock If I Were A Boy Lyrics.

The highlight were where the craft of country music peeked through the glitter. George Strait commanding the stage with his apologetically sentimental song of life and family Take Your Breath Away. The Zac Brown Band sharing the stage with Alan Jackson for the leaving song As Shes Walking Away. I have to admit I teared up a bit during Brad Paisley’s ode to his craft This Is Country Music.

Miranda Lambert beat the odds and won Album of the Year for Revolution. This make it her first win in the category and my first time to review an album nominated at the CMAs (or ever will again probably.) Lambert  is a personal favorite of mine. Like her current charts counterpart Jamey Johnson they’ve done a fine job of producing a body of work that combines their particular brand of hard country music.

Dierks Bentley took a huge chance for an established Country act to step into the Americana side of town with the Bluegrass-tinged Up On The Ridge.

Great to see the legend Little Jimmy Dickens.

Apparently there was a blonde shortage in country music so actress Gwyneth Paltrow passably entered the fray and upped her cred by sharing the stage with the extraordinary Vince Gill.

Sissy Spacek Introduced a Loretta Lynn tribute in her sweet Texas twang. Miranda Lambert nailed Coal Miner’s Daughter, but like Kid Rock I have no idea why Sheryl Crow was invited to this party. Was Carrie Underwood busy? Reba? Martina? Great to see a surprise appearance by the Lady Loretta Lynn herself.


Dolly Parton To Release 4-CD Box Set

  • “Dolly,” a deluxe, 40CD box set covering Dolly Parton’s 4 decade spanning career to feature 99 hits , deep cuts, unreleased tracks, rarities and B-sides as well as 11 Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton duets.  The set will incude a 60-page full-color booklet including rare photography and memorabilia, plus liner notes by Laura Cantrell and by Holly George-Warren. The music selections will represent Dolly’s work with the Goldband, Mercury, Monument, RCA Victor, and Columbia labels. Available at both physical and digital retail outlets
    starting October 27, 2009, through RCA Nashville/Legacy. Available for pre-order at www.shopdolly.com
  • John Boncore, who plays a character named Predator in the upcoming Ray Wylie Hubbard’s western (co-wrote the script with Tiller Russell and provided the film’s score)  The Last Rites of Ransom Pride, let us know that the film premiered in Los Angeles on july 27th and are waiting to see if it gets picked up as a premier in the Toronto and Venice Film Festivals. No official release date has been set.
  • Watch the Avett Brothers Perform Off-Stage at the Newport Folk Festival. (Paste Magazine)
  • Apparently you have to be really drunk to enjoy a Kenny Chesney concert.
  • If you’re a touring musician or band that’s looking for a place to crash while on the road or someone with a couch or floor to offer check out the Better Than The Van website. It’s a networking site with a specific  purpose of providing  DIY support for working musicians and allowing fans to offer that support. (Austin Business Journal)

Stagecoach Announces Festival Lineup

The lineup for Stagecoach, California’s Country Music Festival has been announced. Along with the garden variety Nashville pop faire – Kenny Chesney, Reba McEntire and Brad Paisley – the festival will feature more harder edged and rootsier artists – Miranda Lambert, Earl Scruggs,  Jerry Jeff Walker, Ricky Skaggs, Ralph Stanley, Dale Watson, The Duhks, some pleasant surprises, Dallas’ own Reverend Horton Heat, and a few wanna-bes – Kid Rock, Darius Rucker.

Stagecoach will take place on April 26, 2009 at the Empire Polo Club in Indio, CA. Tickets for go on sale Friday, November 14 at 10:00 AM (PT) at all Ticketmaster locations.

Chrissie Hynde Goes Country

Popmatters.com has a review of the DVD “Bill Monroe: Father of Bluegrass Music” which they discribe as “Informative and educational, intriguing and entertaining, part American history lesson, part biography and part concert film…”

The good folks over at The 9513 brought to my attention that current Twang Nation favorite Jamey Johnson will be joining Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews, and Kenny Chesney (?!) for the 2008 Farm Aid music festival in New England on Sept. 20. Nashville Scene (High Lonesome Sound) and CMT.com(Don’t Tell Jamey Johnson That He’s “Too Country”) both offer features on Johnson.

The guardian.co.uk Music Blog has a brief run down of the current state of American alt.country/Americana scene (Are you ready for (more of) the country?)

Chrissie Hynde of the bad the Pretenders states that the bands first new album in six years (“Break up the Concrete”) will be “moving in a country direction.” Of all the country music carpet bagging that has been happening recently I have to say that a musician with Hynde’s credibility makes me think she’ll do it right, but she is a vegitarian, so does this mean that Jessica Simpson has to get another t-shirt?

CMA / AMA Best Artists – My View

So the Country Music Association and the Americana Music Association have recently released their nominees list for their respective awards and in an attempt to figure what passes for country music nowadays and what the heck “Americana” means I am going to compare a category they share…sort of.

CMA Entertainer of the Year
Kenny Chesney
Brad Paisley
Rascal Flatts
George Strait
Keith Urban

CMA Male Vocalist of the Year
Kenny Chesney
Brad Paisley
George Strait
Josh Turner
Keith Urban

CMA Female Vocalist of the Year
Alison Krauss
Miranda Lambert
Martina McBride
Reba McEntire
Carrie Underwood

AMA Artist of the Year
Joe Ely
Lucinda Williams
Patty Griffin
Todd Snider

Being good, progressive minded folk the Americana place the boys and the girls in one “artist” category. The CMA naturally plays it like a broken record with Chesney and Rascal Flatts nominated for the millionth time. I have a question, to qualify for EOTY shouldn’t you be entertaining? And I don’t mean in a comedic sense. And what is the difference between “Entertainer of the year” and Vocalist of the year” I mean all the nominees are vocalists,that’s what they do to entertain, sing. Is the CMA rewarding acrobatics, ripped biceps and hair gel as a separate category?

I like George Strait and think his 07 release “It Just Comes Natural” is good but not great. I like Brad Paisley somewhat but think he’s choosing the corn-ball and schmaltz cuts that are beneath him and his fine guitar playing to chase the dollar. I think Miranda Lambert is the best thing to happen to country in a long time and she has the good sense to cover excellent songwriters like Gillian Welsh. Alison Krauss is the one crossover artist here but she had to soften her bluegrass roots and get a make-over to get acceptance by the CMA crowd. Britney 2…er..I mean Carrie Underwood has the pipes but not the soul or courage to be interseting.

Joe Ely is a Texas legend and should when in any category he’s in. And even though I love Lucinda, I think “West” was a weak effort and shows that moving to L.A. will kill even a dignified soul.

I will use the CMA boy/girl dichotomy and ignore the useless EOTY category and play nice and not add other deserving artists like Elizabeth Cook and Wayne Hancock into the mix, and say:

Male Artist of the Year: Joe Ely

Female Artist of the Year: Miranda Lambert