Country Music Pioneer Ray Price Dead at 87

RIP Ray Price

After some initial confusion the day before regarding the health of country music legend Ray Price, his death was confirmed today by veteran country disc jockey Bill Mack, a spokesman for Mr. Price’s family. Price passed away Monday at his home in Mount Pleasant, Texas, from complications stemming from the pancreatic cancer he was diagnosed with in 2011. He was 87.

Price honed his craft at the heels of his friend and once roommate Hank Williams, who’s band he inherited, and rechristened the Cherokee Cowboys, in the wake of William’s death.

Price was an early practitioner of the 4/4 beat, later called the “Ray Price beat,” that then went on to become a standard of the genre.

with songs like “Crazy Arms” and Kris Kristofferson’s “For the Good Times” Price was also a pioneer in bringing country music to a wider audience. With 109 songs charting between 1952-89, His history on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart spans more than 37 years with 46 top 10 entries, eight of those reaching No. 1.

Price last charting album was the collaboration with Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson “Last of the Breed.”

“I have fought prejudice since I got in country music and I will continue to fight it,” he told The Associated Press in 1981. “A lot of people want to keep country music in the minority of people. But it belongs to the world. It’s art.”

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Grammy Hall of Fame member was a staunch advocate for the dignity of classic country music. Last year price responded on Facebook to Blake Shelton’s classic-country “Old Farts” & “Jackasses” slam.
The ruckus played out on the Internet and introduced Price to a new generation of country fans.

“You should be so lucky as us old-timers,” Price said in a happily cantankerous post in all capital letters. “Check back in 63 years (the year 2075) and let us know how your name and your music will be remembered.”

Price follows George Jones as country music legends that have passed this year.

Jamey Johnson’s Tribute to Country Music Legend Hank Cochran – Oct. 16

No current performer has straddled the music Row and Americana divide as deftly as Jamey Johnson.

His throwback sound, Alabama growl and biker looks appeals to those (like myself) that pine for the days of Waylon and Willie and the boys while his ear for a melody was able to grab the attention of the mainstream country radio and fans with his top 10 hit “In Color.”

Johnson is an unapologetic neo-traditional disciple of country music’s greats. He’s opened for Willie and done George Jones songs in the presence of the man himself. His next effort is to a man that influnced those giants.

On October 16th Johnson will be joined by Willie and many others on his new album, Buddy Cannon-produced Livin’ For a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran. (vinyl beginning Sept. 25.)

Cochran, who died at age 74 in 2010, is considered one of the greatest songwriters in the history of country music. He helped evolve the perfect country template established by Hank Williams a generation earlier. 
“If I had to dream up somebody like Hank to influence songwriters, I couldn’t have done a better job,” Johnson says. “That’s what he was– not just for me, but for Willie and for a lot of people–just a helpful friend. If he knew you needed help with something, he could help you. He was there. And that’s what I want to be for the people in my life, same as Hank. He influenced me, not only as an artist and songwriter, but also as a person.”

Cochran’s songs transcended the country genre to become American standards (a practice closely studied by Willie) his catalog includes “I Fall to Pieces,” “She’s Got You,” “Make the World Go Away,” “The Chair,’ “Set ‘Em Up Joe” which Johnson covered on 1010’s The Guitar Song. His songs have been recorded by artists including Eddy  Arnold, Patsy Cline, George Jones, George Strait, Elvis Presley, Elvis Costello, Ray Price, Ronnie Milsap, Jim Reeves and many others. 

Recording a collection of Hank Cochran tunes in a pop-country saturated industry takes guts, and truly reflects the original Outlaw spirit the hat acts on the radio brag having.  When it came time to take the next step in his recording career, he listened to his heart and decided to embark on a labor of love. In a daring career move that is consistent with Johnson’s penchant for bucking conventional industry wisdom to create a unique path, he decided to devote his time and creative efforts to honoring his late friend and celebrate traditional country music.

Besides having a professional affinity to Cochran he also has a personal one. “Shortly after he first met Jamey, Hank was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer,” says his widow, Suzi Cochran. “So for the two years he lived after that, Jamey would get off the road and pull his bus right up to the hospital, run up and see Hank and raise Hank’s spirits. The last time Jamey saw Hank was the night before Hank died.” Johnson joined Buddy Cannon and Billy Ray Cyrus at Cochran’s bedside as they handed the guitar back and forth while singing Cochran’s songs. Cochran died about six hours later.

“Hank adored Jamey,” Suzi Cochran says. “Hank loved Jamey. Jamey was a constant in the last chapter of Hank’s life.
“This is incredible,” she says of the tribute album. “I wish Hank had been here to see it. He wouldn’t believe it. He would have cried. He’d be happy. It’s exactly like Hank would have done it.”

I am really looking forward to hearing this release and look forward to hearing classic from it live when Johnson joins Willie Nelson and The Band of Horses on the Railroad Revival Tour 2012.

Track listing:
1. “Make the World Go Away” – Jamey Johnson and Alison Krauss
2. “I Fall to Pieces” – Jamey Johnson and Merle Haggard
3. “A Way to Survive” – Jamey Johnson, Vince Gill and Leon Russell
4. “Don’t Touch Me” – Jamey Johnson and Emmylou Harris
5. “You Wouldn’t Know Love” – Jamey Johnson and Ray Price
6. “I Don’t Do Windows” – Jamey Johnson and Asleep at the Wheel
7. “She’ll Be Back” – Jamey Johnson and Elvis Costello
8. “Would These Arms Be in Your Way” – Jamey Johnson
9. “The Eagle” – Jamey Johnson and George Strait
10. “A-11” – Jamey Johnson and Ronnie Dunn
11. “I’d Fight the World” – Jamey Johnson and Bobby Bare
12. “Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me” – Jamey Johnson and Willie Nelson
13. “This Ain’t My First Rodeo” – Jamey Johnson and Lee Ann Womack
14. “Love Makes a Fool of Us All” – Jamey Johnson and Kris Kristofferson
15. “Everything But You” – Jamey Johnson, Vince Gill, Willie Nelson and Leon Russell
16. “Livin’ for a Song” – Jamey Johnson, Hank Cochran, Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson

Music Review: Willie Nelson – Heroes [Sony Legacy]

Reviewing a Willie Nelson album is like describing to someone a visit you’ve made to the Grand Canyon. Sure there are the facts and impressions but the shear majesty of what you’re in the presence of something larger than life anit can bow you into awe. But here goes…

Nelson has always been a serial collaborator. The Texas Yoda has cut tracks with so many people he’s become a  musical Keven Bacon. He’s shared the studio with  his country contemporaries Waylon, Merle, Ray to genre-crossers Julio Iglesias and Phish, but Willie is no longer just a country artist. Like Ray Charles, another of his collaborators, he’s jettisoned his original genre and elevated himself to simply American music.

This studio gregariousness shows that Willie is not willing to sit on a laureled pedestal. He is generous with his studio and stage time and willing to lend a little Texas outlaw mojo to others. His legacy is so firmly entrenched in history he seems to feel he can work with whomever,and do do whatever, strikes his fancy. This has resulted from the inspired to the perplexing, but it’s hardly ever boring.

At nine Willie’s new album, ‘Heroes,’ ups the collaboration ante, and sometime within a single song. The count is four,including Willie,  in the post-mortem ode to herb “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.” The song’s title was was originally the album’s title until Willie put the kibosh on the inevitable Walmart boycott. Willie might be an outlaw, but he’s also always been a shrewd businessman. On the song Willie seems to be having fun performing with his brother of the weed Snoop Dogg, along with a bemused-sounding Kris Kristofferson and Jamey Johnson, this collection get’s my vote for a “High” way men tour.

A Last of the Breed mini reunion occurs with Merle Haggard on a beautifully grizzled “Horse Called Music,” originally from the criminally overlooked 1989 album of the same title. Ray Price reprises Floyd Tillman’s classic “Cold War With You” with Willie and Lukas Nelson to suave cowboy effect.

The album’s title, Heroes, is a nod to the performers on the album as well as the musical influences that Willie has always honored. One clear influence on Willie Nelson, Bob Wills and the Western Swing genre is well represented with spirited renditions of Will’s “My Window Faces The South” and “Home In San Antone.”

Amongst the crowded studio the real purpose of “Heroes” appears to be a father’s introducing his son to a larger fan-base. Lukas and his band, The Promise of the Rea,l have been opening and backing for Willie for a couple of year as they honed the craft. But this is not crass nepotism as Lukas contributes a couple of the  best songs on the album with “Every Time He Drinks He Thinks of Her” and “The Sound of Your Memory,” His pleasing vocal style is somewhere between his old man’s phrasing and Jimmie Dale Gilmore keen. Also, he’s a solid guitarist and his Stratocaster flourishes provides a contemporary counterpart to Willie’s cowboy-jazz Trigger.

A contemporary theme runs through a selection of covers. An inspired, palatial version of Pearl Jam’s rumination on mortality “Just Breathe” takes on deeper level of poignancy as the song is sung with his son Lukas, and Willie approaches his 80th birthday. Tom Waits’  quasi-gospel  “Come On Up To The House” features Mickey Raphael’s excellent and understated harmonica work cultivated from being with Willie for many years. The song aligns dutifully with the original and also features Lucas and the ubiquitous Sheryl Crow, who is serviceable if unnecessary. Willie’s solo turn on Coldplay’s “The Scientist,” first seen on a Chipotle Super Bowl commercial, charms me into enjoying (okay, appreciating) the song.

The Willie-penned title song is said to be about fellow outlaw Billy Joe Shaver (in some cases literally), who appears here with a contemporary rabble-rouser of sorts, Jamey Johnson. This 4/4 waltz is a sentimental reminiscence of a musician who used to be “king of the bars,” but it just as well could be a testament to the current sad state of country music.

“Heroes” is an uneven affair. Like a ramshackle late-night guitar pull fueled by intoxents both legal and not, it’s a lot of fun and done with love of music, mutual respect and a seeming sense of harmonious happenstance sorely missing image-obsessed music industry.

Here’s to Willie being Willie.

Official site | Buy

RIP Ralph Mooney – influential steel guitarist for Buck Owens, Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard

Ralph Mooney influential steel guitarist played with Buck Owens, Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard and one of the architects of country musics answer to rock onslaught, the 50’s ‘Bakersfield sound’  He also co-wrote, with Charles Seals, the honky-tonk standard ‘Crazy Arms,’ which became a No. 1 hit in 1956 for Ray Price. It was Price’s first number one hit. Mooney said he got the idea for the song after his wife left him because of his drinking problem

Mooney died Sunday at his home in Kennedale, Texas, of complications from cancer, said his wife, Wanda.

Mooney had slowed down in playing recent years, but he still played and recorded periodically until near the end of his life. He played on four tracks on Marty Stuart’s 2010 Grammy-winning album “Ghost Train: The Studio B Sessions.”


Hank Cochran Passes On

Hank Cochran, one of country music’s most storied and prolific songwriters who wrote songs for Patsy Cline, Ray Price, Eddy Arnold, Merle Haggard, George Strait an many others passed away yesterday morning. His Wikipedia bio reads like a  Mother lode for source for country gold:

Born during the Great Depression in Isola, Mississippi, he contracted pneumonia, whooping cough, measles and mumps all about the same time at age 2. The doctor didn’t think that he would survive. His parents divorced when he was 9, he moved with his father to Memphis, Tennessee, but then went to an orphanage. He was sent to live with his grandparents, in Waynesboro, Mississippi, after he had run away from the orphanage twice. His uncle Otis Cochran taught him how to play the guitar as the pair hitchhiked  from Mississippi to southeastern New Mexico to work in the oilfields.

and my persoan favorite.

While working at publishing company Pamper Music, he used to spend nights playing at a Nashville bar called Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. While there a new guy showed up and Cochran was amazed, he then encouraged management to sign the young songwriter, Willie Nelson, giving Nelson a raise that was coming to him at the time.

This from the press release:

Last night, Jamey Johnson, Billy Ray Cyrus and Buddy Cannon dropped by to sing songs with Hank, and this morning the legendary songwriter was surrounded by family and friends when he passed away at his Hendersonville, Tennessee home. A private, family memorial will be held in the near future, and a public service will follow. Details will be forthcoming.

The family asks that you respect their privacy at this time and, in lieu of flowers, request those wishing to honor Hank make donations to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Foundation.

Hank was inducted in to the Nashville Songwriters Association International Hall of Fame by unanimous vote in 1974, and was honored by B.M.I. in June 2009 for his six-decade long career of hits, that includes country classics: “I Fall To Pieces,” “Make The World Go Away,” “Ocean Front Property,” “The Chair” and “Don’t You Ever Get Tired Of Hurting Me.”


News Round Up: Willie Nelson Wraps Up T-Bone Burnett Produced Album

  • posted that The Texas Yoda has wrapped up his newest, as-yet-untitled album,  recorded live in Nashville in four days and produced by prestigious Americana producer T-Bone Burnett. From the post “Some folks have mistakenly called it bluegrass,” says Burnett. “It’s actually pre-bluegrass. It’s some of the songs Willie’s been singing his whole life.” The material ranges from 1920s to 1960s.” The album features a string section, Buddy Miller on guitar and Mickey Raphael on harmonica, includes “The Man With the Blues,” which Burnett says is the first song Willie ever wrote. Other tracks include covers of “Dark As a Dungeon” by Merle Travis and “You Done Me Wrong” by Ray Price. No release date has been set.
  • The 11th Annual Musicfest at Steamboat concludes today at the Steamboat Colorado ski resort. Seriously, people, next year someone at the event needs to hook a blogger UP!

News Round Up: Billy Joe Shaver Disovers his Roots, Closes Out 2009 with Willie

Texas country music legend and friend of Twang Nation Billy Joe Shaver is closing out a great career year with a slew of concerts including a a sold-out show with the Texas Yoda Willie Nelson, Ray Price, Billy Bob Thornton and Kris Kristofferson on Wednesday, December 16 at famous (in Texas anyway) Carl’s Corner Truck Stop. Billy Joe is also looking out for the working man by launching what he calls the “Bottom Dollar Shows” to give people access to his shows during these trying times. Shaver is also looking toward the new year by preparing material for a new album, including a new composition, “The Get Go,” which he’s been debuting in live appearances.

Besides his personal legendary musical status Shaver has learned that he comes from historic bloodlines. His great-great-great grandfather was Evan Thomas Watson (1759-1834), a Virginia-born Revolutionary War veteran who settled in an area of the Arkansas Territory that would become part of Texas. Shaver has known since childhood that he’s part Native American as well, but recently learned that he’s also a descendant of Crazy Horse, the respected war leader of the Oglala Lakota who fought against the U.S in an effort to preserve the traditions and values of the Lakota way of life and participated in the Battle of the Little Bighorn in June 1876. Shaver recently visited the tribe’s reservation, close to where a large mountain carving similar to Mount Rushmore is being created as a Crazy Horse Memorial. He was given a Native American name: Spirit Eagle

News Round Up: The Glossary is Giving Their 2007 Album, The Better Angles of Our Nature

  • has Juli Thanki’s newest Torch & Twang post (Louisiana Woman, Texas Troubadour)  Thanki bypasses the standard view that Loretta Lynn’s best duet partner was Conway Twitty and makes her case for Ernest Tubb.
  • Best Buy is offering an exclusive EP from Miranda Lambert today which  includes her new single “ Dead Flowers” from her upcoming album Revolution. The EP includes three bonus tracks from her prior album, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. The cost of the EP is $1.99, or you can pre-order Revolution and get the EP free. (via My Kind of Country and the
  • Kris Kristofferson, Ray Price, Bobby Bare Jr. and My Morning Jacket are some that will pay tribute to writer, artists , country music songwriter and Playboy mansion resident Shel Silverstein on Turnable, Twistable Man which is produced by Silverstein ‘s friend Bobby Bare.
  • Murfreesboro, Tennessee-based quirky indy Southern rock band the Glossary is giving their new 2007 album, The Better Angles of Our Nature, free from their official site and in different quality formats.  I’ll review it soon, but after a couple of passes on the iPod it’s a great one.
  • Happy birthday Patsy Cline  (Sept 8 1932)
  • Another use for texting? Apparently looking for the country crooner that stopped in your town and might have knocked you up is now on that list.  A certain lady with a Wisconsin phone number is currently looking for this Rodeo Romeo. (via NashvilleScene)

Music Review: George Strait- Twang [MCA Nashville]

GS_twangAnybody that’s read this blog for more than five minutes knows that the style of country music that I champion is typically not represented on the flavor of the week  “country” charts. I’m not in the business of puffing up entertainers that have more in common with REO Speedwagon than Hank Williams and my M.O., my brand if you will, has always been cream doesn’t necessarily rise to the top, sometimes it’s found around the edges.

George Strait is the type of rare bird that can sit on last week’s  #1 Billboard 200 and Country Chart spot and yet finds it’s place in my heart. It’s not that I hate popular country music per se, it’s just that most popular country music is made for, and consumed by, people that wouldn’t be caught dead with a Merle Haggard or Loretta Lynne CD in their collection and their idea of classic country is Alabama or Kenny Rogers.  George Strait is an neo-traditional alchemist that can please both the arena-filling masses and the discerning and grumpy critics like myself.

Maybe it’s his residence in Texas and his perceptible love of his (and my) home state’s regional flavor and away from the syrup factory of Music City, maybe it’s his sharp instincts for picking just the right songs to cover, whatever it is it’s been like a sound as a classic truck for over three multi-platinum decades.

Twang is Strait’s 25th studio album and his follow up to 2008’s excellent Troubadour and as subdued that earlier release was Twang is more like a celebration. The boisterous Bakersfield vibe of the Kendall Marvel, Jimmy Ritchey and Mr. Americana Jim Lauderdale penned title song comes right from the Buck Owens school of songwriting and lets it be known that Strait is not about to shy away from some hillbilly hell raising.  Where Have I Been All My Life and  Living For The Night are pure coming of age and heartache schmaltz (complete with string section), but Strait’s authentic delivery drives it right to the heart.

On Twang Strait steps up to the songwriting plate again for three songs co-written with his son, George “Bubba” Strait, Jr. The aforementioned  beer-soaked bawler Living for the Night,” the Ray Price-style crooner Out of Sight, Out of Mind and the frothy-lament He’s Got That Something Special. On his own Bubba penned the excellent Marty Robbins-style tale of the outlaw and gunfighter Dave Rudabaugh, Arkansas Dave.

Strait pays tribute to Texas’ neighbors with both the rollicking Gordon Bradberry and Tony Ramey penned Hot Grease and Zydeco and the José Alfredo Jiménez classic ranchera song El Ray that he does completely in Spanish.

Once again Strait proves that he’s the most consistent talent going and the current King of Country Music.

Official Site | MySpace | Buy



News Round Up: Willie Twitters & A New Langhorne Slim Download

  • Check out the “twitterview”  – a cute way of describing an interview conducted on twitter -  between and Willie Nelson as was gearing up for his MySpace free secret concert in Maui, Hawaii.
  • Speaking of the twitterverse (yeah, I’m gonna get mileage out of this), Charlie Robison won’t have to travel far to play a private living room concert for the winner of his twitter concert. The winner lives in Austin.
  • The Grand Ole Opry will bring back it’s special Opry Country Classics program this fall for an eight-week run beginning Thurs., Sept. 10. Already scheduled to perform are Moe Bandy, Terri Clark, Jimmy Dickens, Larry Gatlin, Vince Gill, Jamey Johnson, George Jones, Ray Price, Joe Stampley, Marty Stuart, Mel Tillis, Pam Tillis, and Tanya Tucker.
  • Rosanne Cash will be the subject of the Americana Music Association’s Festival and Conference 2009 Keynote Interview. The interview will be conducted by author/journalist Michael Streissguth – who has written books on Rosanne as well as her father Johnny, Eddy Arnold and others – will take place Thursday, September 17 from 10:45 until noon at the Nashville Convention Center.
  • Jack Ingram established a new Guinness World Record – most radio interviews in a 24-hour period. Ingram was  promoting his new disc “Big Dreams & High Hopes.” Ingram recorded 215 radio interviews within 24 hours, hitting most of the 50 states, Canada, Ireland and Australia. The previous record was 96.