The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has rolled the music industry keeping musicians from coming together together to create music and keeping musicians off the road and deriving them of a much-needed revenue source. Many have tackled the technical hurdles to stream performances to connect with fans and collect online tips and perhaps move a t-shirt or a slab of vinyl.
It follows that music festivals would follow much the same path. Americana Music Association’s AmericanaFest as a face-to-face event has been scrapped for their charitable and educational branch, the Americana Music Association Foundation, will hold a ‘Thriving Roots,’ a virtual festival complete with industry-focused panels and live-streamed performances.
Set for September 16th-18th the event will include guest speakers Jackson Browne, Mavis Staples,Brandi Carlile, Yola, Emmylou Harris, Ken Burns, Taj Mahal, Mary Gauthier, Rhiannon Giddens, T Bone Burnett, Rosanne Cash, and Black Pumas. Topics slated to be covered are representation, advocacy and staying true to your art, the healing qualities of music, and the business challenges and decisions faced by a developing artist.
The full agenda for ‘Thriving Roots’ will be announced in late August.
Early bird passes for conference registration are $99 and available now.
2018 is now in the pages of history and as America shifts (lurches?) into an uncertain future. Americana and roots music, unlike many other genres, continues to be true to its legacy and addresses our times with art that refuses to chase the charts and churn out reflexively commercial product and, lucky for us, refuses to treat the audience as mindless consumers.
That’s not to say that Americana and roots music is merely a barometer for political and social conditions and change. No sane person wants their favorite artists to be righteous yet starve. As the music industry continues to reflect changing consumer demands artists are also finding opportunities to reach audiences and generate revenue in movies and video games.
Some albums I’m personally looking forward to because I’ve heard some cuts, or on my faith in the artist, are Hayes Carll’s “What It Is,” Feb. 15: Dale Watson’s Call Me Lucky and Ryan Bingham – “American Love Song” , all on February 15th, Mandolin Orange’s “Tides of a Teardrop” on February 1st, and Joshua Ray Walker’s “Wish You Were Here” on January 25th as well as Son Volt’s “Union’ on March 29th.
As more dates come throughout the year I will be updating the list. If you know of an actual release not listed yet please leave it in the comments.
As always I appreciate your visiting the site and hope you join me in another great year for Americana and roots music.
January: Jan. 18th: Danny Burns – “North Country” Jan. 25th: Lula Wiles – ‘What Will We Do’ Jan. 4th: Balsam Range – “Aeonic” Jan. 18th: Alice Wallace – “ Into the Blue” Jan. 18th: Ronnie Milsap – “Ronnie Milsap: The Duets” Jan. 18th: Greensky Bluegrass – “All for Money” Jan. 18th: The Steel Woods – “Old News” Jan. 18th: Whitehorse – “The Northern South Vol. 2” Feb. 22: Vandoliers – “Forever”
February: Feb. 1st: Mandolin Orange – “Tides of a Teardrop” Feb. 1st: Abigail Lapelle – “Getaway” Feb. 8th: Gurf Morlix – ‘Impossible Blue’ Feb. 15th: Hayes Carll – “What It Is” Feb. 15th: Dale Watson – “Call Me Lucky” Feb. 15th: Ryan Bingham – “American Love Song” Feb. 15th: Joey McGee – “El Camino Real” Feb. 15th: Kalyn Fay – “Good Company” Feb. 22nd: Dearling – “Silver and Gold” (EP)
Feb. 22nd Vandoliers – “Forever”
Feb. 22nd – Rhiannon Giddens, Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla, and Allison Russell – ‘Songs of Our Native Daughters’
March 1st: Mary Bragg – “Diamonds as Camouflage”
March 1st: The Cactus Blossoms – “Easy Way”
March 1st: Dave Ernst – “Hickory Switch”
March 2nd: The Honey Dewdrops – “Anyone Can See”
March 7th: Townes Van Zandt – “Sky Blue”
March 8th: Patty Griffin – “Patty Griffin”
March 8th: Clara Baker – “Things To Burn”
March 22nd: Allison de Groot & Tatiana
March 22nd: Orville Peck – “Pony”
March 22nd: Luther Dickinson and Sisters of the Strawberry Moon – “Solstice”
March 29th: Son Volt – “Union”
April 2nd: John Paul White – ‘The Hurting Kind”
April 5th: Molly Tuttle – “When You’re Ready.”
April 5th: Megg Farrell -“Megg Farrell”
April 12th: Shovels & Rope – “By Blood”
April 12th: Taylor Alexander – “Good Old Fashioned Pain”
April 19th: Daniel Norgren – “Wooh Dang”
May 3rd: Pete Seeger – ‘The Smithsonian Folkways Collection’
May 3rd: Caroline Spence – “Mint Condition”
May 10th: The Shootouts – “Quick Draw”
May 24th: Willard Gayheart – “At Home in the Blue Ridge”
June 14th: Hank Williams – ‘Health & Happiness Show’
June 21st: Buddy and Julie Miller -‘Breakdown on 20th Ave. South’
June 28th: Chuck Mead – “Close To Home”
The Messenger: A Tribute to Ray Wylie Hubbard
Esther Rose – ‘You Made It This Far’
Erin Enderlin – ‘Chapter Three: Whatever Gets You Through The Night’
Tanya Tucker – ‘While I’m Livin’ ‘
Vince Gill – ‘Okie’
Dalton Domino – ‘Songs From the Exile’
Jason Hawk Harris – Love & the Dark
The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys – ‘Toil, Tears & Trouble’
Leslie Stevens – ‘Sinner’
Croy and the Boys – ‘Howdy High-Rise’
Seth James –
Midland – ‘Let It Roll’
The Highwomen – Self-Titled’
Terri Hendrix – ‘Talk To A Human’
Jason Tyler Burton – ‘Kentuckian’
Paul Cauthen – ‘Room 41’
Cut Throat Francis – ‘This Garden’s Never Gonna Grow’
Ana Egge – ‘Is It the Kiss’
NRBQ – ‘Turn On, Tune In’
Amy Speace – ‘Me and the Ghosts of Charlemagne’
These Wild Plains – ‘Thrilled To Be Here’
Trailerpark Idlers – ‘Ghost Town Nights
Jeremy Ivey – ‘The Dream And The Dreamer’
Hot Club of Cowtown – ‘Wild Kingdom’
The North Mississippi Allstars – “Up and Rolling”
Cody Jinks – ‘After The Fire’
North Mississippi Allstars – ‘Up and Rolling’
Corb Lund – ‘Cover Your Tracks’
Jonah Tolchin – ‘Fires for the Cold’
Marti Brom – ‘Midnight Bus’
Ted Drozdowski – ‘Learn To Love The Moon’
Jeremy Ivey – ‘The Dream And The Dreamer;
Janiva Magness – ‘Change In The Weather: Janiva Magness Sings John Fogerty’
The Milk Carton Kids – ‘The Only Ones’
Darin Aldridge & Brooke Aldridge – ‘Inner Journey’
Driftwood Soldier – ‘Stay Ahead Of The Wolf’
The Drunken Hearts – ‘Wheels of the City’
Rory Ellis – ‘Inner Outlaw’
EmiSunshine and The Rain – ‘Family Wars’
Jimmy “Duck” Holmes – ‘Cypress Grove’
Jake La Botz – ‘They’re Coming For Me’
New Copasetics – ‘Twang-Ucopia’
David Newbould – ‘Sin & Redemption’
Karen & the Sorrows – ‘Guaranteed Broken Heart’
Zachary Lucky – ‘Midwestern’
Allison Moorer – ‘Blood’
Neil Young & Crazy Horse – ‘Colorado’
Craig Cummings – ‘Absolute Surprise’
Karen & the Sorrows – ‘Guaranteed Broken Heart’
Van Morrison – ‘Three Chords and the Truth’
Jackson Stokes – ‘Jackson Stokes’
Zack Walther Band – ‘The Westerner’
Bill Scorzari – ‘Now I’m Free’
Dustbowl Revival – ‘Is It You, Is It Me?’
2016 was another great year for Americana and roots music, and 2017 shows signs that the great music will continue to come our way. As our Cream of the Crop favorites from last year makes plain we might be experiencing a new golden age of roots music/ Both as a growing influence on our contemporary culture and also as a viable, business for young and old artists to sustain themselves and thrive.
That last part is crucial as it provides economic and influential seed corn for the future ‘Cream of the Crop’ year-end best of collections.
The list below is a collection of known 2017 notable Americana / roots releases. Some anticipated releases from artists like Ray Wylie Hubbard, Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell and The Secret Sisters have no release dates yet, but when I become aware of them and others I will be updating the list throughout the year and will send word through my twitter account when I do.
If you know of a release not listed yet please leave it in the comments.
One thing is for sure, it’s going to be a great year folks.
January 13th –
The Band of Heathens – ‘Duende’
Blackie and the Rodeo Kings – ‘Kings and Kings’
Otis Gibbs – ‘Mount Renraw’
January 20th –
Kasey Chambers – ‘Dragonfly’
The Show Ponies – How It All Goes Down’
Rayna Gellert – ‘Workin’s Too Hard’
January 27th –
Delbert McClinton – ‘Prick Of The Litter’
Tift Merritt – ‘Stitch of the World’
Valerie June – ‘The Order of Time’
Bankesters – ‘Nightbird’
Dead Man Winter – ‘Furnace’
February 3rd –
Ags Connolly – ‘Nothin’ Unexpected’
Gurf Morlix – ‘The Soul & The Heal’
Mitch Dean –‘Suburban Speakeasy’
Rose Cousins – ‘Natural Conclusion’
Caroline Spence – ‘Spades & Roses’
February 10th –
Kris Kristofferson – The Austin Sessions (Expanded Edition)
February 17th –
Alison Krauss – ‘Windy City’
Nikki Lane – ‘Highway Queen’
Pegi Young & The Survivors – ‘Raw’
Son Volt – ‘Notes Of Blue’
Son of the Velvet Rat – ‘Dorado’
Blair Crimmins – ‘You Gotta Sell Something’
The Gibson Brothers – “In The Ground”
February 24th –
Curtis McMurtry – ‘The Hornet’s Nest’
Rhiannon Giddens – ‘Freedom Highway’
Old 97s – ‘Graveyard Whistling’
Scott H. Biram – “The Bad Testament”
Shinyribs – “I Got Your Medicine”
Aaron Watson – “Vaquero”
March 3rd –
Grandaddy – ‘Last Place’
Beth Bombara – ‘Map With No Direction ‘
March 10th –
Sunny Sweeney – “Trophy’
Pieta Brown – “Postcards”
March 24th –
Jessi Colter – ‘The Psalms’
Samantha Crain – ‘You Had Me At Goodbye’
March 31st –
Rodney Crowell – ‘Close Ties”
David Olney – “Don’t Try To Fight It”
Dead Soldiers – “The Great Emptiness”
Shoddy Blacktooth — “Don’t Forget To Die”
Malcolm Holcombe – ‘Pretty Little Troubles’
Andrew Combs – “Canyons Of My Mind”
Evening Darling – “Evening Darling’
April 21st –
Angaleena Presley – ‘Wrangled’
Chris Stapleton – ‘From a Room: Volume 1’
Builders and the Butchers – ‘The Spark’
Pokey LaFarge – ‘Manic Revelations’
Tom Russell – ‘Play One More: The Songs Of Ian And Sylvia’
Justin Townes Earle – ‘Kids in the Street’
June 2nd –
Bobby Osborne – ‘Original’
June 9th –
The Secret Sisters – ‘You Don’t Own Me Anymore’
Shannon McNally – ‘Black Irish’
June 16th –
Sammy Brue – ‘I Am Nice’
June 23rd –
The Deslondes – ‘Hurry Home’
Slaid Cleaves – ‘Ghost on the Car Radio’
July 7th –
Randall Bramblett – ‘Juke Joint At The Edge Of The World’
July 14th –
Cale Tyson – ‘Careless Soul’
July 21st –
Whiskey Shivers – ‘Some Part of Something”
Tyler Childers – ‘Purgatory’
August 18th Loretta Lynn – ‘Wouldn’t It Be Great’ POSTPONED
Ray Wylie Hubbard – ‘Tell the Devil I’m Getting There as Fast as I Can’
Caroline Reese – ‘Two Horses’ EP
Willie Watson – ‘Folksinger Vol. 2’
The Lone Bellow – ‘Walk Into A Storm’
Steve Martin & Steep Canyon Rangers – “The Long-Awaited Album”
Billy Strings – ‘Turmoil & Tinfoil’
Anna Tivel – “Small Believer”
Whitney Rose – ‘Rule 62’
JD McPherson – ‘Undivided Heart and Soul’
Becca Mancari – ‘Good Woman’
David Letterman continued his ongoing support of great music by inviting founding member and lead vocalist of the Grammy Award winning band Carolina Chocolate Drops Rhiannon Giddens to perform on his stage.
Giddens turned in a stunning rendition of “Waterboy,” a song most famously associated with the late folk/blues legend Odetta.
Asa true fan of music Letterman was duly impressed.
“Odetta has been cited as a major influence by folks like Bob Dylan, Bernice Johnson Reagon, and Janis Joplin, among many others. She was a soulful force for good in both the folk world and the civil rights world, and it’s an honor to present her arrangement of this work song–inspired piece. We were both classically trained, and so it was great to be able to let my throat loose!” Giddens has stated.
Giddens is touring in support of her debut, T Bone Burnett produced, solo album ‘Tomorrow Is My Turn.’
Founding member of the Grammy Award-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops, singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Rhiannon Giddens joined Iron & Wine , the nom de plume for singer, songwriter Sam Beam, for a performance of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” on the series finale of NBC’s Parenthood, “May God Bless and Keep You Always.”
Dylan’s recording, from the 1974 album Planet Waves, has been the show’s theme song since it first aired in 2010. The new version by Giddens and Beam, which they played at the show’s Luncheonette recording studio during the episode and was produced by Joe Henry, is available digitally from Nonesuch Records on iTunes and in the Nonesuch Store. You can hear it below.
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”
The New Basement Tapes collaborators – Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Jim James (My Morning Jacket) and Marcus Mumford (Mumford & Sons) – will make their first live performances via three national television appearances in November. They will perform on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon on November 10, Ellen on November 14 and Jimmy Kimmel Live on November 19.
As I previously posted ‘Lost On the River: The New Basement Tapes’ is a T Bone Burnett-produced venture built sround ” recently discovered lyrics handwritten by Bob Dylan in 1967 during the period that generated the recording of his original Basement Tapes. ”
Dylan entrusted the lyrics to Burnett, who gathered the artists in March 2014 at Capitol Studios in Hollywood to write and create music together for the long-lost lyrics, swapping instrumental and vocal roles throughout the marathon sessions. The result was dozens of new songs and recordings, 20 of which are included and will be released by Electromagnetic Recordings/Harvest Records on November 10.
This comes on the heels of original Bob Dylan and The Band original Basement Tapes recordings getting the expanded edition treatment and being released a week earlier.
An original documentary ‘Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued’ will premiere on SHOWTIME, Friday, November 21st at 9 P.M. ET/PT. Directed by Sam Jones, the documentary will present an exclusive and intimate look at the making of Lost On The River.
Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes (Deluxe Edition) – Out November 10
1. Down On The Bottom
2. Married To My Hack
3. Kansas City
4. Spanish Mary
5. Liberty Street
6. Nothing To It
7. Golden Tom – Silver Judas*
8. When I Get My Hands On You
9. Duncan and Jimmy
10. Florida Key
11. Hidee Hidee Ho #11
12. Lost On The River #12
14. Card Shark
15. Quick Like A Flash*
16. Hidee Hidee Ho #16
17. Diamond Ring*
18. The Whistle Is Blowing*
19. Six Months In Kansas City (Liberty Street)
20. Lost On The River #20
*Not available on 15-track standard edition of the album
To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of one of Johnny Cash’s most personal releases, “Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian,” Sony Music Masterworks will commemorate the occasion with “Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears Revisited” ( August 19.) Produced by Joe Henry and featuring country and Americana music giants Kris Kristofferson, Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Bill Miller, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, and Norman and Nancy Blake, as well as up-and-comers the Milk Carton Kids and Rhiannon Giddens. Each artist interpreting the music for a new generation. As his project was for Cash, the new collection “is a labor of love with a strong sense of purpose fueling its creation.”
Of all the dozens of albums released by Johnny Cash during his nearly half-century career, 1964’s Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian was among the closest to the artist’s heart. A concept album focusing on the mistreatment and marginalization of the Native American people throughout the history of the United States, its eight songs-among them “The Ballad of Ira Hayes,” a #3 hit single for Cash on the Billboard country chart-spoke in frank and poetic language of the hardships and intolerance they endured.
“Prior to Bitter Tears, the conversation about Native American rights had not really been had,” says Henry, “and at a very significant moment in his trajectory, Johnny Cash was willing to draw a line and insist that this be considered a human rights issue, alongside the civil rights issue that was coming to fruition in 1964. But he also felt that the record had never been heard, so there’s a real sense that we’re being asked to carry it forward.”
Bitter Tears, widely acknowledged for decades as one of Cash’s greatest artistic achievements, did not realize its stature as a landmark recording easily and quickly. At the time that Cash proposed the album, he was met with a great deal of resistance from his record label. They felt that a song cycle revolving around the Native American struggle as perpetrated by the white man took him too far afield of the country mainstream and Cash’s core audience. Cash still released the album and although it did not perform as well as he had hoped, he remained extremely proud of the album throughout his life.
Ironically, at the same time that his own label was balking because it felt he would alienate the country audience with his Native American tales, Cash was finding a new set of admirers among the burgeoning folk music crowd that had recently made stars of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Peter, Paul and Mary. Cash’s debut performance of “Ira Hayes” at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival had earned him rave reviews. His appeal was undeniably expanding beyond the country audience, and for those who did connect with Bitter Tears, among them a 17-year-old aspiring singer-songwriter named Emmylou Harris, its music was revelatory and important. “The record was a seminal work for her as a teenager,” says Henry. “She bought the album brand new and realized at that moment that Johnny Cash was a folk singer, not a country singer, and was involving himself politically and socially in a way that she had identified with the great folk singers at that moment.”
Henry’s awareness of Harris’ affection for Bitter Tears led him to invite her to contribute to Look Again To The Wind: Johnny Cash’s Bitter Tears Revisited. Following the epic, nine-minute album-opener “As Long as the Grass Shall Grow,” written by Peter La Farge-a folk singer-songwriter with Native American bloodlines who Cash had befriended-and sung here by Welch and Rawlings, Harris takes the lead vocal on the Cash-penned “Apache Tears,” which also features sweet, close harmonies by the Milk Carton Kids, the duo comprising Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan. For Henry, carefully matching artist to song was integral to the integrity of Look Again To The Wind. For some of the tracks, that process required a great deal of consideration. But when it came to deciding who would interpret “The Ballad of Ira Hayes,” Henry quickly zeroed in on Kristofferson.
Another of five songs on the original album written by La Farge, “The Ballad of Ira Hayes” is based on the true story of Ira Hamilton Hayes, a Pima Indian who was one of the six Marines seen raising the flag at Iwo Jima in an iconic World War II photograph. Hayes’ moment of glory was followed upon his return to civilian life with prejudice and alcoholism-Cash, moved by Hayes’ story and La Farge’s recounting of it, vowed to record the song. When planning out Look Again To The Wind, Henry knew that only a few living singers could deliver the song the way he wanted to hear it. He called Kristofferson, utilizing Rawlings and Welch to sing background.
“I wanted somebody whose relationship with Johnny Cash was not only musical but personal,” he says. “I’d worked with Kris on a couple of other things and I thought why not ask? Who else has a voice with that kind of power and authority?” That same sense of intuition guided Henry to choose the other participants and the material they would render. For La Farge’s “Custer,” the album’s third song, the producer knew instinctively that Steve Earle was the right man for the job. “Steve is an upstart, and there are very few people I can imagine working right now who could deliver a song that is that pointed in that particular way and do it authentically without cowering from it or making it feel a little too arch,” Henry says. “He really could embody the kind of swagger that that song insists upon.”
Similarly, Henry chose Nancy Blake (with Harris and Welch on backing vocals) for the Cash-written “The Talking Leaves,” Norman Blake to sing “Drums,” the Milk Carton Kids to lead “White Girl” (both of those authored by La Farge) and the powerhouse vocalist Rhiannon Giddens of the Carolina Chocolate Drops for the original album’s finale, “The Vanishing Race,” written by Cash’s good friend Johnny Horton. To bolster the album (the original, typical of mid-’60s vinyl LPs, ran just over a half hour), Henry fills out the track list of Look Again To The Wind with reprises of “Apache Tears” and “As Long As the Grass Shall Grow”-both sung by Welch and Rawlings-and ends the set with the title track, a La Farge tune that did not appear on the original Johnny Cash album but instead on the songwriter’s own 1963 release As Long as the Grass Shall Grow: Peter La Farge Sings Of The Indians. Here it’s sung by Bill Miller, with Sam Bush providing mandolin and Dennis Crouch upright bass, a fine and fitting coda to the collection.
From the start, Henry looked at the project as one that would require great personal commitment and responsibility on his own part. Approached as potential producer of the project by the man who first envisioned it, Sony Music Masterworks’ Senior Vice President Chuck Mitchell (who’d been in conversations with Antonino D’Ambrosio, author of A Heartbeat and a Guitar,a book about the making of Bitter Tears), Henry immediately understood the importance of the assignment. “Johnny Cash was my first musical hero and I feel a profound debt to him as an artist, and as a courageous one,” he says. “How could I say no to that?”
He also realized that the Bitter Tears album held a special place in Cash’s canon, and that in many ways the issues it raised still resonate today-this had to be apparent in the new versions. “Mr. Cash knew that if he took this on, even if his point of view was not adopted, he had the power to be heard,” Henry says.
The album was recorded in three sessions: the first two in Los Angeles and Nashville and, lastly, one at the Cash Cabin, in Cash’s hometown of Hendersonville, Tennessee, where Bill Miller cut his contribution. Providing the instrumental backing for most of the album are Greg Leisz (steel guitar, guitars), Keefus Ciancia (keyboards), Patrick Warren (keyboards for the L.A. sessions), Jay Bellerose (drums) and Dave Piltch (bass).
As Long as the Grass Shall Grow – Gillian Welch & David Rawlings
Apache Tears – Emmylou Harris w/The Milk Carton Kids
Custer – Steve Earle w/The Milk Carton Kids
The Talking Leaves – Nancy Blake w/ Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch & Dave Rawlings
The Ballad of Ira Hayes – Kris Kristofferson w/ Gillian Welch & David Rawlings
Drums – Norman Blake w/ Nancy Blake, Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch & David Rawlings
Apache Tears (Reprise) – Gillian Welch & Dave Rawlings
White Girl – The Milk Carton Kids
The Vanishing Race – Rhiannon Giddens
As Long as the Grass Shall Grow (Reprise) – Nancy Blake, Gillian Welch & Dave Rawlings
Look Again to The Wind – Bill Miller
If there was ever an Americana and roots music watershed recording the Basement Tapes 1967 sessions from Bob Dylan and The band was one.
Now there’s official word that that mainstay of Americana, T Bone Burnett, is working on a project “Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes.” The project has a solid (and marketable) roster – Elvis Costello, Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), Jim James (My Morning Jacket) and Marcus Mumford (Mumford & Sons.)
The event focuses on two-dozen recently discovered lyrics written by Dylan during the 1967 period that generated original legendary Basement Tapes release.
Recording is nearly complete on the project which will be released later this year by Electromagnetic Recordings/Harvest Records. The album will be accompanied by a Showtime documentary titled Lost Songs: The Basement Tapes Continued, directed by Sam Jones (the Wilco documentary, I Am Trying To Break Your Heart)
I can imagine the germ of this endeavor occurred during the “Another Day, Another Time: Celebrating the Music of “Inside Llewyn Davis,” held at New York City’s Town Hall last September. That one-night event featured Mumford and Giddens as well as Joan Baez, Patti Smith, Jack White, The Avett Brothers, Punch Brothers, Gillian Welch, Dave Rawlings Machine, Willie Watson, The Milk Carton Kids, Colin Meloy and Lake Street Dive. (see below)
Truth is I’m ambivalent about this. A sequel to The New Basement Tapes is like a sequel to Casablanca. Is it necessary and will it ever have a chance to even come close to the genius of the original. And as much as i respect the artists involved, they are hardly the contemporary versions of Dylan and The Band.
If this was Ryan Adams and the Felice Brothers I still think it would fall short, but damn it would be interesting.
Here’s to being proven wrong.
You can sign up for updates at on the project at the official site.
Lost On The River: The New Basement Tapes” will be released Nov. 11. Pre-order here.
“Another Day/Another Time,” a concert inspired by the Coen Brothers’ film “Inside Llewyn Davis”, which itself was inspired by the 60’s New York folk movement, took place at Town Hall
Sun, September 29, 2013.
Luckily Showtime set up some cameras.
The concert features performances of songs from the early 1960s in addition to live renditions of the film’s folk music.
The performances include The Avett Brothers, Marcus Mumford, Jack White, Gillian Welch, Joan Baez, Dave Rawlings Machine, Rhiannon Giddens, Lake Street Dive, Colin Meloy, The Milk Carton Kids, Punch Brothers, Patti Smith, Willie Watson, and the film’s lead Oscar Isaac.
“Another Day/Another Time” will will air December 13 at 10:00 PM on Showtime.