The words Renaissance Man is often thrown around to apply to anyone that has more than one interest. When applied to Ry Cooder his nearly 50 years as a master guitarist/musician, producer, songwriter and mentor give those words their proper significance.
The Santa Monica, California native has explored music and culture from across the USA with his roots rock solo offerings as well as the rest of the world, as with his collaborations with Malian singer and multi-instrumentalist Ali Farka Toure and his Grammy-winning work with the Cuban musician ensemble Buena Vista Social Club.
Ry Cooder will release ‘The Prodigal Son,’ his first new solo release in six years on May 11th, 2018 on Fantasy Records.
Recorded in Hollywood, CA, and produced by Ry and his chief collaborator, drummer (and his son) Joachim Cooder, ‘The Prodigal Son’ is all America – our spiritual, hopeful voices, our raw cries and our sly provocations, voiced through the songs of the Pilgrim Travelers, The Stanley Brothers, Blind Willie Johnson, and Ry Cooder himself.
The album’s 11 tracks, including three Cooder originals and a carefully selected collection of his favorite spirituals of the last century, share a particular resonance in this time and place, forming an unflinching look at the state of play in modern America. “I do connect the political/economic dimensions with the inner life of people since people are at risk and oppressed on all sides in our world today,” he stated. “There’s some kind of reverence mood that takes hold when you play and sing these songs. ‘Reverence’ is a word I heard my granddaughter’s nursery school teacher use, a Kashmiri woman. She said, ‘We don’t want to teach religion, but instill reverence.’ I thought that was a good word for the feeling of this music.”
Cooder will bring The Prodigal Son Tour to venues throughout North America this spring and summer, his first full tour since 2009. Confirmed tour dates are below with more to be added soon. For ticket information, please visit: RyCooder.com
1. straight street (James W. Alexander / Jesse Whitaker)
2. shrinking man (Ry Cooder)
3. gentrification (Ry Cooder / Joachim Cooder)
4. everybody ought to treat a stranger right (Traditional; Blind Willie Johnson, Arr. by Ry Cooder)
5. the prodigal son (Traditional: Arranged by Ry Cooder /Joachim Cooder)
6. nobody’s fault but mine (Blind Willie Johnson / Arranged Ry Cooder / Joachim Cooder)
7. you must unload (Alfred Reed)
8. I’ll be rested when the roll is called (Blind Roosevelt Graves)
9. harbor of love (Carter Stanley)
10.Jesus and woody (Ry Cooder)
11. in his care (William L. Dawson)
Ry Cooder – Tour Dates:
June 3 – Alexandria, VA – Birchmere
June 4 – Alexandria, VA – Birchmere
June 6 – Ridgefield, CT – Ridgefield Playhouse
June 7 – Boston, MA – Wilbur Theatre
June 8 – New York, NY – Town Hall Theatre
June 9 – Derry, NH – Tupelo
June 26 – Toronto, ONT – Massey Hall
June 27 – Ottawa, ONT – Centerpoint
June 29 – Montréal, QE – Jazz Festival @ Maisonneuve
June 30 – Burlington, VT – Flynn Theater
July 1 – Lenox, MA – Tanglewood
July 3 – Philadelphia, PA – Mann Center
July 14 – Courtenay, BC – Vancouver Island MusicFest
July 17 – Portland, OR – Revolution Hall
July 20 – San Francisco, CA – Great American Music Hall
July 21 – Napa, CA – Uptown Theatre
2017 was another great year for Americana and roots music, and 2018 so far shows no signs that the great music is waning. As our Cream of the Crop favorites from last year makes plain we continue to experience a golden age of roots and Americana music. From Sturgill Simpson winning the Grammy for the best Country album of the Year (for his least country album no less) to the increased numbers of roots artists in media and festival line-ups the genre continues to represent and deliver on great music.
As I’ve said before, this is important not only because as fans, there’s abundant choices for our entertainment but because it continues to lay a foundation for future ‘Cream of the Crop’ recipients.
The list below is a collection of known 2017 notable Americana / roots releases. Some anticipated releases from artists like American Aquarium and Kacey Musgraves have no release dates yet, but when I become aware of them and others I will be updating the list throughout the year. Follow me on Twitter to stay current on changes to the list.
If you know of an actual release not listed yet please leave it in the comments.
One thing is for sure, it’s going to be another great year for roots music folks.
January 12th –
Brooks Dixon – White Roses EP
Ryan Bingham – ‘Live’
Cindy Alexander – ‘Nowhere To Hide’
Seth Lakeman – ‘Ballads Of The Broken Few’
Cassidy Best – ‘Same Old Sins’
January 19th –
First Aid Kit – ‘Ruins’
Lanco – ‘Hallelujah Nights ’
R. Finn (aka Chris Rondinella) – ‘Collecting Trip
Calexico, The Thread That Keeps Us
Steep Canyon Rangers, Out in the Open
Kalie Shorr, Awake EP
Mary Gauthier, Rifles and Rosary Beads
Devin Dawson – ‘Dark Horse’
Caitlyn Smith -‘Starfire’
Van William – ‘Countries’
Alice DiMicele – “One With The Tide”
Grace Basement – ‘Mississippi Nights’
Glen Hansard – ‘Between Two Shores’
John Gorka – ‘True In Time’
January 26th –
The Ben Miller Band – ‘Choke Cherry Tree’
Laura Benitez and The Heartache’s – ‘With All Its Thorns’
Sara Morgan – ‘Average Jane’
The Fugitives – ‘The Promise of Strangers’
Ron Pope – ‘Worktapes EP’
February 2nd –
Mike and the Moonpies – ‘Steak Night at the Prairie Rose’
The Wood Brothers – ‘One Drop of Truth’
John Oates – ‘Arkansas’
Sunny War – ‘With the Sun’
February 9th –
Wade Bowen – ‘Solid Ground ’
Jim White – ‘Waffles, Triangles & Jesus’
February 16th –
Matthew McNeal – ‘Good Luck’
Brandi Carlile – ‘By the Way, I Forgive You’
Courtney Patton – ‘What It’s Like to Fly Alone’
I’m With Her (Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz, and Aoife O’Donovan) – ‘See You Around’
February 23rd –
Jeff Hyde – ‘Norman Rockwell World’
3hattrio – ‘Lord of the Desert’
Doby Watson – “Family Mattress Deluxe”
March 2nd –
Vivian Leva – ‘Time is Everything’
Chip Taylor – ‘Fix Your Words’
Haley Heynderickx – ‘I Need To Start A Garden’
Son of the Chief – ‘Needless Road’
Savannah Conley – “Twenty-Twenty.”
March 9th –
Ashley Campbell – ‘The Lonely One’
Ross Cooper – “Another Mile”
March 16th –
Trailhead – “Keep Walking”
March 23rd –
The Price Sisters – ‘A Heart Never Knows’
Paul Thorn – ‘Album Don’t Let The Devil Ride’
March 30th –
Caitlin Canty – ‘Motel Bouquet’
Lindi Ortega -‘Liberty’
Kim Richey – ‘Edgeland’
Ashley McBryde – ‘Girl Going Nowhere’
Great Peacock – ‘Gran Pavo Real’
Sam Morrow – ‘Concrete and Mud’
April 6th –
Blackberry Smoke – ‘Find A Light’
Sarah Shook & the Disarmers – ‘Years’
Jodee Lewis – ‘Buzzard’s Bluff’
Kacey Musgraves – ‘Golden Hour’
April 10th –
Rita Hosking – ‘For Real’
April 13th –
John Prine – ‘Tree of Forgiveness’
Simone Felice – ‘The Projector’
April 20th –
Old Crow Medicine Show – ‘Volunteer’
Joshua Hedley – “Mr. Jukebox”
Charley Crockett – ‘Lonesome As a Shadow’
Ashley Monroe – ‘Sparrow’
April 27th –
Band of Heathens – “Live Via Satellite” On April 27th
Scott Mickelson – ‘A Wondrous Life’
Parker Millsap – ‘Other Arrangements’
Trampled by Turtles – ‘Life Is Good On The Open Road’
Daniel Daniel – ‘Lonesome Hollow’
Rita Coolidge – ‘Safe in the Arms of Time’
Ry Cooder – ‘The Prodigal Son’
Kelly Willis – “Back Being Blue”
The Dead Tongues – ‘Unsung Passage’
Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore – “Downey to Lubbock”
American Aquarium – ‘Things Change’
Erin Rae – ‘Putting On Airs”
Jeffrey Foucault – ‘ Blood Brothers’
Paul Cauthon – ‘Have Mercy’
Lera Lynn – ‘Plays Well With Others’
Adam Wright – ‘Dust’
Roanoke – ‘Where I Roam’
The Milk Carton Kids – ‘All The Things That I Did And All The Things That I Didn’t Do’
Carolina Story – ‘Lay Your Head Down’ – buy
The Brothers Comatose – ‘Ink, Dust, and Luck’ buy
Lori McKenna – “The Tree”
Andrew Combs – 5 Covers & A Song’ EP
The Hollow Ends – ‘Bears In Mind’
Kevin Galloway – “The Change”
Jim Lauderdale – ‘Time Flies” and “Jim Lauderdale and Roland White’
Dawn Landes – ‘Meet Me at the River’
Robbie Fulks & Linda Gail Lewis – ‘Wild! Wild! Wild!’
Devil Makes Three – ‘Chains Are Broken’
Ryan Culwell – “The Last American”
Murder By Death – ‘The Other Shore’
Aaron Lee Tasjan – ‘Karma for Cheap’ buy
Roscoe & Etta – ‘Roscoe & Etta’
Mike Farris – “Silver & Stone”
William Elliott Whitmore – ‘Kilonova’
Kathy Mattea – ‘Pretty Bird’
Colter Wall – ‘Songs of the Plains’
Asleep at the Wheel – “New Routes”
October 26th Whitey Morgan and the 78s – ‘Hard Times and White Lines’
All discussions about roots music lead to some kind of history lesson. But history in theory brings tedium and loss of context. The lucky crowd on hand last Saturday at the historic Granada Theatre were given a living history lesson none of us will soon forget. Ricky Skaggs, Sharon White, Ry Cooder and a grand supporting band performed country, bluegrass and gospel songs (none younger than 1965, Skaggs informed the audience) in grand aplomb
This is the source, the core. The musical crop seed of what now goes by the umbrella Americana. And the standing room crowd stood enthralled in this living and joyous journey into history.
Masterful musicianship and dazzling harmonies (helped by Sharon’s sister and fellow Whites band member Cheryl) wasted no time with a stirring version of Louvin Brothers’s gospel favorite “Family Who Prays.” The spirit of the ages filled the theatre for a nearly 2 hour performance that would alternately hush the room in a solemn silence and then rev them up into whooping, had-clapping, boot-stomping frenzy.
“(Take Me in You) Lifeboat” by Skagg’s own mentors Flatt & Scruggs followed , then a swinging rendition of Merle Travis’ “Sweet Temptation.” Next a solum moment with a devastating Hank Williams’ mournful “Mansion on the Hill.” On through the night on sounds from a reverent band of dizzying talent. But all was not somber reflection, Skaggs, White and Cooder traded affection and jokes all night. After breaking out a banjo for Stanley Brothers’ “Cold Jordan” Cooder quipped “I learned this song from YouTube, and so can you.”
Cooder then donned one of his several vintage electric guitars for the Delmore Brothers stone-rocking “Pan American Boogie.” Then a gloriously sweeping version of Hank Snow’s “A Fool Such As I” (video below) and then Kitty Wells’ song of heartbreak and woe “Making Believe” (written by Jimmy Work), and then a smartly-dressed White nephew joined the band to add to add twin fiddle to a rousing version of what Skaggs named “The state’s national anthem,” Bob Will’s ‘San Antonio Rose.’
Skaggs fluidly moved from mandolin to fiddle to acoustic guitar to a sweet cheery red Telecaster. Cooder was the master of the elusive tone. White was the soul of classic country on acoustic and other-worldly harmonies. A 84 year old Buck White showed why he’s a master of the ivories. Ry’s son Joachim Cooder on drums and Mark Fain laid a fluid yet solid foundation for the band to dance on.
Call it what you will, the music was alive and left the audience hungry for more.
The Family that Prays (Louvin Brothers),
Take Me to Your Lifeboat (Flatt and Scruggs)
Sweet Temptation (Merle Travis)
Mansion on the Hill (Hank Williams)
On My Mind (Flatt and Scruggs)
Cold Jordan (The Stanley Brothers)
Daniel Prayed (Ralph Stanley)
Hold What You Got (Jimmy Martin)
Pan American Boogie (The Delmore Brothers)
Fool Such as I (Hank Snow)
Above and Beyond (Harlan Howard)
San Antonio Rose (Bob Wills)
No One Will Ever Know (Hank Williams)
Gone Home (Ricky Skaggs)
Wait a Little Longer (Bill Monroe)
No Doubt About It (Flatt and Scruggs)
Uncle Pen (Bill Monroe)
You Must Unload (John B. Vaughan)
Don’t Get Above Your Raisin’ (Flatt and Scruggs)
Reunion In Heaven (Flatt and Scruggs)
It was fitting that on the eve of AmericanaFest 15 I should run into Rob Bleetstein.
Let me explain. Bleetstein is man partially responsible for “Americana” being used as a qualifier for “music.”
As editor at the esteemed Gavin Report Bleetstein informed the radio trade publication that they were missing category of mongrel music he, and others, had been programing while employed at KFAT in Gilroy, California. The result was the first Americana radio chart being published on January 20, 1995.
So of course I asked him what Americana was.
As we joked at the seemingly endless consternation his vague creation had unleashed on geeks like me a capacity crowd streamed out of The Basement around us. They had just witnessed vets Phil Madeira and Will Kimbrough swap songs with the sassy third of the Pistol Annie’s Angaleena Presley and dazzlingly edgy newcomer Caroline Rose. More folks packed in behind them to catch he steamy roots soul/gospel of Mike Ferris & the Roseland Rhythm Revue. The music surrounding us, the fans buzzing about the days of sleepless nights to come. Endless squabbling about genre borders seems irrelevant.
Then Bleetstein mentioned he had read a Rolling Stone where Eric Clapton had given a definition when discussing his newly released project The Breeze: An Appreciation of JJ Cale. Clapton said “In Europe, we heard JJ as Americana, all the roots put together.”
All the roots put together. An imperfect definition for an imperfect form.
Let’s go with that.
Musicians, fans and industry types – figuring how they are still relevant in the cultural value chain – descended on Nashville for the Americana Music Conference, Festival and Awards to witness some of the best, nay THE best, music going. Fueled by BBQ, hot chicken, local beer, bourbon and a variety of caffeine there were endless pow-wows, parties, pre-parties, listening parties, post- parties tet-de-tets and random run-ins.
And yes I did squeeze some music in on occasion.
I say some because there was so many band across multiple venues you had to plan out your evenings in advance. I did. Then I mostly abandoned them for convenience, air conditioning and parking.
First the Awards. I never get over the thrill of walking into the Ryman Auditorium. It is a hallowed place full of ghosts and echoes and, as overwhelming as it is to sit in those church pews I can’t imagine what it’s like to perform on that stage.
But many did on that night and they did it with the passion and reverence due.
Reverence was also what Kacey Musgraves and Angaleena Presley displayed when presenting the Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting to legend and pioneer Loretta Lynn. Lynn accepted the award 54 years to the day that she first appeared on the Ryman stage, making her Grand Ole Opry debut. Presley introduced Lynn as “a woman who raised up six children and 70-odd hit singles but, just as importantly, raised everyone’s idea of what a country song could talk about it.” A standing ovation rightly greeted Lynn as she entered the stage in her signature flowing gown. “When they told me I was going to get this award, I said, ‘Naw, you got the wrong one. But it was right, and I was so proud.”‘
Then she sang Coal Miner’s Daughter. on The Ryman stage. Damn.
“Happy birthday to Hank Williams,” Jason Isbell said as he accepted one of the three awards in three categories he won that night for his stellar release of his newest Southeastern . “If it wasn’t for that guy, we’d be doing this in some burned-out Kmart in Murfreesboro.”
While picking up his hand-crafted trophy for song of the year “Cover Me Up” Isbell said “I wrote this song for my wife.” Referring to Amanda Shires Texas singer/songwriter who accompanied him that night on a rousing performance that brought the crowd to it’s feet. “This was probably the hardest song I ever had to write because I wrote it for her and then I played it for her. It was very difficult. Do the things that scare you. That’s the good stuff.”
I’m very happy that Isbell was able to put himself in a place that allowed him to do some of the best work he’s ever produced, and that recognition has rightly followed.
The emerging artist category was the tightest, and best, I has ever remembered it to be. Between Parker Millsap, St. Paul & The Broken Bones, Sturgill Simpson and Hurray For The Riff Raff, all whom performed live, it was a tough call. It was anyone’s game. That is until it was Simpson’s as he headed to the podium with a characteristically terse “This is for my family.” Enough said, hoss.
Country music legend and historical memorabilia collector Marty Stuart honored to Jimmie Rodgers posthumously awarding the The Father of Country Music the Presidents Award. Then he and his Fabulous Superlatives
tore through a spirited “No Hard Times” with Stuart and guitarist Kenny Vaughan giving the song a contemporary flair with blazing tandem electric guitars.
Guitarist extraordinaire Ry Cooder sat in with Buddy Miller and the band for the night’s events. His dexterity on the guitar is matched by his ability to move through, or completely around musical styles, tying them together in the process. He took time away from his supporting duties to award his longtime collaborator norteño accordion pioneer Flaco Jimenez with a Lifetime Achievement as an Instrumentalist. They then performed a lovely version of the Spanish-language traditional “Ingrato Amor.” Cooder also teamed up with Artist of the year nominee Rodney Crowell for a delicate version of careful rendition of “God I’m Missing You,” from Crowell’s latest ‘Tarpaper Sky.’
Rosanne Cash brought a sophisticated air to her performance of her “A Feather’s Not a Bird,” and a gritty-folk menace surrounded Patty Griffin as she was joined by Robert Plant to perform “Ohio.”
Emerging artist nominee Hurray For The Riff Raff performed a transfixing version of their murder ballad “Body Electric” while vocalist Alynda Lee Segarra shimmered in a Nudie-style suit. Robert Ellis showed himslef to be one of the industries most creative and astute songwriters as he performed his nominated “Only Lies.”
At the Country Music Museum and Hall Of Fame’s Ford Theatre Outlaw legend Billy Joe Shaver give a brief (but candid) interview about his life’s tribulations. He then rose to perform, with simple acoustic accompaniment,
songs rendered from those hardships. Hardships he assured us made easier early with whiskey and later with Jesus.
Then it was upstairs to a new, beautiful, portion of the Country Music Hall of Fame’s CMA Theater to catch “Honky Tonkin’: Twenty Years on Lower Broad” celebration/showcase of bands that featured Greg Garing, Paul Burch and R.B. Morris and BR549. Performers that helped reenergize Nashville’s Lower Broadway after the Opry moved out of the Ryman and to the burbs. Before performing, upright bassist “Smilin” Jay McDowell walked to the front of the stage and placed a tip jar as a tribute to the days when the band survived on such monetary generosities. Singer Chuck Mead , bedecked in his Nudie Suit best with his cherry-red Gretsch electric guitar and co-frontman Gary Bennett, toned down in jeans and western shirt, then showed hoe their tight harmonies gloriously transported all those that had been there those many years ago. Veteran Lower Broad singer and mentor John Shepherd, attending with wife and singing partner Lois Shepherd, continues tradition as he headed slowly to the stage and dropped the first dollar tip, prompting laughs and applause.
Lee Ann Womack had some shows during the event. I was lucky to catch a song swap with her, Hayes Carll, Bobby Bare Jr. and the legendary songwriter Bobby Braddock high atop the SiriusXM Outlaw theatre. Hosted by Mojo Nixon (outLAAAAAAW country) Carll and Bare shared a laugh on their collaboration “My Baby Took My Baby Away” and , later, Carll looked on with shyness and awe as Womack hushed the crowd with his “Chances Are” which she oncluded on het newest release. The real highlight though was Braddock singing his classics “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” “Golden Ring” and everyone joining in on the closer “We’re Not The Jet Set.”
But the real gold is the showcases. Stand-outs were Angel Snow (her real name, I asked) playing at a sparsely attended Americana for Movies and Shows. I only caught once song but that’s all it took to render me speechless. Alabamian Mathew Mayfield followed with his brand of rough-hewn catchy folk. The i wa shocked to see bluegrass/folk stalwart Tim O’Brien take the stage. I felt bad that there were so few people but lucky I was one of those few.
A trip to Jack White’s odd Third Man performance space was bathed in calm, blue lighting as a mounted elephant head loomed above the crowd. On the bill was Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear. The mother and son act perform seated, strumming acoustic guitars and singing deep-roots songs that reach far into blues and folks misty past. In the same space on another night Jonah Tolchin hold a folk-jam clinic that surprised many expecting the genteel folk-blues style from his latest “Clover Lane.”
Caroline Rose commanded attention of the crowd with her school-girl outfit and her manically focused folk-rock set that had them screaming for more. While trying to escape the heat of the Mercy Lounge I found myself in the cooler High Watt space watching a performance of Aaron Lee Tasjan. Exhibiting the droll but sharp humor of Todd Snider but the delicate songcraft of Townes Van Zandt the Nashville resident defied all expectations.
How could any of that fit in one neat marketing package? I feel for the marketing rep that handles any of these artists and is asked “What kind of music is it?”
The Ryman Auditorium, the Mother Church of Country Music, was again a fit setting for the Americana Music Awards, kicking off a week-long Americana Music Conference. A ceremony that the evening’s MC, the incomparable Jim Lauderdale, set the tone by saying “The past matters, traditions matter, even when we explore ways to have those traditions extended and expanded.”
The night’s nominees and performers were on hand to offer proof and testimony of that reflective sentiment.
Charleston SC husband and wife duo Shovels & Rope took home two awards, Emerging Artist of the Year and Song of the Year. At the podium a notably choked-up Cary Ann Hearst said, “All we ever wanted to do was make music the rest of our lives and.…propel ourselves into a normal existence.’
Hearst could have been speaking for all the nominees, presenters and many in attendance this night.
An unannounced Delbert McClinton lead things off with Hank Williams’ classic “Hey, Good Lookin.’” His granddaughter Holly Williams , and daughter Jet Williams, accepted President’s Award for Hank Williams on the day after what would have been Hank’s 90th birthday. Holly said in acceptance , “Hank would be Americana if he was alive today.” She then performed a lovely rendition of “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” on the same stage her grandfather stood brining Opry crowds to their feet many years ago.
Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell won 2 awards for duo of the year and album of the year for their collaboration on Old Yellow Moon. The veteran performers used their time onstage to congratulate the other nominees, Harris’ ex-husband and longtime producer Brian Ahern, and reminisce about their 40-year friendship.
John Fullbright and Shovels & Rope reminded that there s new generation that is carryon on tradition and shaping it in unexpected and electrifying ways by bring the house down around the capacity.
Jim Lauderdale choked back emotion as he presented the Lifetime Achievement Award in Songwriting to his mentor, collaborator and Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter. Hunter then played his first public performance in almost a decade by doing the Dead’s classic “Ripple.”
Austin was represented in great form by nominees Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison performing “Border Radio.” Richard Thompson folioed by performing “Good Things Happen To Bad People” from his Buddy Miller produced “Electric.”
The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach presented the Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance to Louisiana’s JuJu master Dr. John. Auerbach recounted Dr. John’s extraordinary, and sometimes dangerous, career trajectory. “Songwriter, bandleader, hustler – the guy who found work for his friends when they needed it – A&R executive, keyboard player, a phenomenal guitarist”. Auerbach added that the John was: “A man whose music transcended race and cultural divides… A man who’s been in the right place at the wrong time and lived to write the songs.”
Auerbach then strapped on a guitar to accompany Dr John for ‘I Walk On Guilded Splinters’ from his 1968 debut album, ‘Gris-Gris’, accompanied by the house band of legendary session musicians, led by Buddy Miller and including Don Was, Larry Campbell, Marco Giovino, John Deaderick, Jim Hoke and the McCrary Sisters.
Emerging artists nominee John. JD McPherson followed this up with a spirited performance of his rockabilly hit “Northside Gal.”
The ABC Nashville television drama overlapped this night as Lennon and Maisy Stella covered The Lumineers “Ho, Hey!” much like they did on an episode the show itself.
Guitar interpretive master Ry Cooder presented Jack Emerson with the Lifetime Achievement Award for Executive by recounting his many ventures south of the border to chase unique music. Following was Old Crow Medicine Show, who the devious night had been inducted in to the Grand Ole Opry fold. Naturally they played “Wagon Wheel.” Actor Ed Helms presenting Old Crow with the Trailblazer Award in the form of a WW2 era Harmony guitar with the lyrics of “Wagon Wheel” written on it.
Nicki Bluhm and Sam Bush pleasantly surprised the crowd by announcing the 2013 Artist of the Year award for the Dwight Yoakam. In response to an audible disappointment from the audience that Yoakam was on tour and not in attendance.
Sam Bush accepted the award on Dwight’s behalf and that he wore the “tightest pants I have.”
This was followed by a performance from the golk-duo Milk Carton Kids then BBC Radio’s Bob Harris presented the Lifetime Achievement Award for Instrumentalist to Duane Eddy who then played his most famous instrumental, “Rebel Rouser.”
The Spirit of Americana Freedom of Speech award went to Stephen Stills, who played the Buffalo Springfield classic 60s anthem “For What It’s Worth” alongside fellow Buffalo Springfield member Richie Furay and guilt-slinger Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
Dr. John led the final song, with many of the performers – Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, Buddy, Jim, Old Crow’s Ketch Secor, Rosanne Cash, The Civil Wars’ Joy Williams, Shovels & Rope, Billy Bragg and Aiofe O’Donovan united to sing Rodney’s “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight.”
Then it was out into the sultry Nashville night to attends various venue showcases where the future Americana Music Award winners would be perfecting their considerable craft for us fortunate enough to be here.
Album of the Year: “Old Yellow Moon,” Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell
Artist of the Year: Dwight Yoakam
Duo Group of the Year: Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell
Song of the Year: “Birmingham,” Shovels & Rope
Emerging Artist of the Year: Shovels & Rope
Instrumentalist of the year: Larry Campbell
Trailblazer Award: Old Crow Medicine Show
Spirit of Americana / Free Speech in Music Award co-presented by the Americana Music Association and the First Amendment Center: Stephen Stills
Lifetime Achievement for Instrumentalist: Duane Eddy
Lifetime Achievement Award for Executive: Chris Strachwitz
Lifetime Achievement for Performance: Dr. John
Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriter: Robert Hunter
President’s Award: Hank Williams
This year’s National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) 55th Annual Grammy Awards nominees reflect the rich and diverse community of talent that celebrates some of the genres finest old and new. From a CBS prime-time nominations concert LL Cool J and co-host Taylor Swift.
Some history – Nashville hosted the Official Grammy awards in 1973, but this marks only the fist time The Grammys have held the nomination event outside of L.A. This fortuitous event for Music City resulted from a scheduling conflict with the event usual home at the Staples Center but the city rose to the occasion and showed the performers and attendees a great time. Of course I would have preferred to have people from the lists below perform of national televised show but I’m biased by design.
As in recent years social media was a major conduit for the event. Music City was abuzz on mobile phones, computers ad tablets during the hour-long broadcast from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena (Go Predators!) . Nearly 12,000 posts on Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites mentioned the word “Nashville” in connection with the Grammy nominations
Aside from the usual categories of Americana, Folk and Bluegrass roots music made an impressive showing for the coveted Album Of The Year , which includes a nomination for Mumford & Sons’ sophomore outing Babel, and Best New Artist with Alabama Shakes and the Lumineers.
I got 2 out of 7 of my predictions right for the Best Americana Album category with The Avett Brothers and Mumford and Sons. The pleasant surprise in this category is John Fullbright who I’m willing to say here I’m pulling for. The legendary Bonnie Raitt is nominated in this category and I’ll also go on record as saying Bonnie has secured her legendary status in Blues and Rock. When there are performers from the community like Justin Townes Earle and Corb Lund have new albums out why poach legends from other genres.
Classic country was also celebrated with Nashville Western swing ensemble the Time Jumpers being nominated for two GRAMMYs for Best Country Duo/Group Performance for “On The Outskirts Of Town” and Best Country Album for their latest self-titled release. Best Country Album also has another surprise with Jamey Johnson being nominated for his tribute covers album “Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran.” The “Gentle Giant” Don Williams is nominated for his duet with the woman that hold the record for the most Grammys by a female artists (27!), Alison Krauss for Best Country Duo/Group Performance with “I Just Come Here for the Music”
Here’s the full list of Americana and associated categories for the 55th Grammy Awards. The Awards will be presented on Feb. 10, 2013. Most of these will be presented in the pre-telecast ceremony before the televised portion that evening on CBS. To find ot the winners follow me on Twitter and watch live streaming at Grammy.com.
Best Americana Album
The Avett Brothers – The Carpenter
John Fullbright – From the Ground Up
The Lumineers – The Lumineers
Mumford & Sons – Babel
Bonnie Raitt – Slipstream
Best Bluegrass Album
Dailey & Vincent – The Gospel Side Of
The Grascals – Life Finds a Way
Noam Pikelny – Beat the Devil & Carry a Rail
Special Consensus – Scratch Gravel Road
Steep Canyon Rangers – Nobody Knows You
Best Country Album
Zac Brown Band – Uncaged
Hunter Hayes – Self-titled
Jamey Johnson – Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran
Miranda Lambert – Four the Record
The Time Jumpers – Self-titled
Best Folk Album
Carolina Chocolate Drops – Leaving Eden
Ry Cooder – Election Special
Luther Dickinson – Hambone’s Meditations
Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer, and Chris Thile – The Goat Rodeo Sessions
Various – This One’s For Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark
Americana and Roots artists on other categories:
– Mumford & Sons – Album of the Year for Babel, Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song for “I Will Wait”, Best Long-form Music Video for “Big Easy Express” from the Railroad Revival Tour with Old Crow Medicine Show , Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, “Markus Dravs nominated for Producer of the Year for Babel.”
– Alabama Shakes – Best New Artist, Best Rock Performance for “Hold On”, Best Recording Package for Boys and Girls
– The Lumineers – Best New Artist-
– Bruce Springsteen – Best Rock Performance, Best Rock Album for Wrecking Ball & Best Rock Song for “We Take Care of Our Own”
– The Goat Rodeo Sessions featuring Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer & Chris Thile – for Best Folk Album, Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical
– Don Williams (feat. Alison Krauss) – Best Country Duo/Group Performance for “I Just Come Here for the Music”
– Taylor Swift/The Civil Wars – Best Country Duo/Group Performance & Best Song Written for Visual Media for “Safe and Sound”
– Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection – Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package, Best Historical Album
– Old-Time Smoky Mountain Music: 34 Historic Songs, Ballads, And Instrumentals Recorded In The Great Smoky Mountains By “Song Catcher” Joseph S. Hall – Best Historical Album
– Ryan Adams – Ashes and Fire – Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical
The GRAMMY nominees categories that I cover does not come with choreographed dancers or share the stage with Rihanna. They appear further down on the list near Best World Music Album and Best Spoken Word Album – the Americana/folk/bluegrass and the speck of trad country that might find its way into a movie soundtrack or liner note nods. This is the the pre-telecast posse, the back of the bus and behind the gym crowd. This is where the cool kids hang out. Where Lou Reed can sit between a nominee for Best Opera Recording and Best Comedy Album. These are the rough and rowdy mongrels of music.
I watch the nominee concert dutifully but it’s nothing to do with me or my readers. I am waiting for the full list to be posted online. Then I run my eye over it. downward to the Best Folk Album, some nice surprises with The Civil Wars and Eddie Vedder. Best Bluegrass Album, great to see the old guard Del McCoury and Ralph Stanley in the mix with Steve Martin and Jim Lauderdale. Next the big enchilada – Best Americana Album. Ry Cooder, Emmylou Harris, Levon Helm, Lucinda Williams legends all…wait…who’s this? Who is Linda Chorney?
I’m a frikkin “Influencer” for krips sake (or so Klout tells me), how is it I don’t know this person? Where did she come from and how, after 6 albums, is it that I haven’t heard of her until now? i like a to be surprised as much as the next music blogger, but sometimes there is this feeling that if you missed this artist how many others are sliding past your gaze. I needed to atone and find out who this person is.
So i did what any red-blooded Americana blogger would do – I Googled her. First off a video that appears to be centered on scuba diving in some tropical locale. She’s easy on the eyes, but how does she sound? First impression is Aimee Mann, Chrissie Hynde and Michelle Shocked on a serious Meet The Beatles! bender. I emailed her directly from her site. She can’t already have a layer of people to sift through for a conversation. I’m the the official GRAMMY folk/Americana blogger guy. I figure that that should account for something!
Maybe it did. Maybe I caught her at a vulnerable time in the wake of her nomination. Maybe she confused with with her friend Bryan Lang. Whatever…i had an interview set.
I hope the below exchange let’s you get to know Linda Chorney and you find her as charming and talented as I did. enjoy…
Twang Nation – So, how are you feeling?
Linda Chorney – I’m still a little but in shock but I feel great. When I told my mom and dad (about the Best Americana Album Grammy nomination) and my mom said this is one of her greatest moments since your birth for me.
TN – Wow, you can’t buy fans like that.
LC – (laughs) When I was younger they paid for my demo tapes and have been coming to biker bars that I’ve played throughout my life. They’ve waited for me to get my big break and now it’s kind of come.
TN – Tell me a little about how you got here.
LC – I once broke the top 40 in the adult contemporary on the Friday Morning Quarterback (music industry news publication) with my song Living Alone. We thought then that something was going to happen. Then the day we had some deals on the table was on September 11th (2001) and everything sort of got put on hold. I said to myself that I didn’t die that day, and nobody I know died. How important is another song? So I didn’t take (the deals falling through) that hard. Though I took the the events of September 11th very hard and wrote a song about it on my third album.
TN – I’ve been blogging about this genre for several years and lived in New York City for 5 years, how is it I’m just now hearing about a Grammy nominated Americana artists based from New Jersey?
LC – Probably because I’ve been bopping around the whole world. I played on Bleecker Street for years, at Red Line and the Back Fence and a few other clubs. I’ve played the Hamptons. I like to travel! I’ve bartered my way around the world. I’m an avid scuba diver but diving costs a lot of money so when I travel I will write a few dive places and say “Hey I’m a singer/songwriter and will perform for your crew aboard or your place in exchange for scuba diving. Diving can easily can run you a couple of hundred bucks a day. One place that responded was the Bottom Time Bar in Palau Micronesia and that where I shot my video for my song Sink or Swim (see below) I played a weekend and was able to dive for two weeks for free.
TN – Not a bad gig.
LC – it was awesome! I also went to Mount Everest where I sang at 17,000 feet – I’ve sung below sea-level and sung 17,000 feet above sea-level.
TN – Did you know you were in the running for a Grammy nomination?
LC – From the feedback I was getting from Grammy 365 people. I said to my executive producer, “Jonathan is all the people that say I’m great and are voting for me actually do vote for me I think we might have a shot.” I had no idea what I was doing. This is my first time with the whole Grammy process, two weeks before the ballets were due I had zero contacts. My husband and I stayed up 20 hours a day and we wrote every single person we could on the Grammy 365 site to ask for their contact information. Out of the roughly 6000 emails we personally wrote – we didn’t have a staff it was just me and him – then around 2000 people responded and I asked them to consider my stuff. I was overwhelmed with responses. One guy was the historian on (Martin) Scorsese’s George Harrison documentary, he said very nice things about my stuff, he said it touched him and that he was going to talk to other people about me and get them to consider my music – this happened several time with others – I was just blown away!
TN – Tell me the story about your executive producer and how y’all met.
LC – I was in Colorado playing a ski resorts, because the moneys good and I sell a lot of merch and get to keep all the money, and I would ski to my gig every day with my guitar on my back to perform at 10.000 feet. At one gig this quirky guy comes up to me after buying all my CDs I had for sale and said “You have something special here. I’m a doctor but I wanted to be a musician, so I know how hard it can be. I’d lie to send you something.” I had no idea who this guy was or if he was hitting on me so I gave him a P.O. Box address and sure enough a few weeks later a chord-less mic and guitar pickup showed up in the mail and it contained a note that read “This is for you kid, way to go.” Over the years I got to know his family, and we became really good friends. Last year he approaches me and says “Linda, I want you to make the album you’ve never been able to make before, and I’ll pay for it.”
Every other album I’ve done has been out of my own pocket and I was always watching the clock , I didn’t have the money for live drums or more time for the engineer, I knew how to make a great album but I never had the resources. Jonathan says “I want you to do this album without compromise Linda. I’m going to give you the money for this album and I don’t want anything in return. I just want you to make the greatest album that you can and I want to be part of the process.” I was so touched by this! Jonathan also knows some musicians like Jeff Pevar (CPR) and Leon Pendarvis (band leader for the Saturday Night Live band) who is a great keyboard player. So he got them involved in the project. I knew Lisa Fischer (singer and background vocalist for the Rolling Stones, Luther Vandross, and others) because she sang background on my adult contemporary charting song Living Alone. And I knew bass player Will Lee (The Late Show with David Letterman, B.B. King, Cat Stevens, Ringo Starr, James Brown and many others), then I knew people here in my neighborhood (Asbury Park, NJ) who should be famous , like Arlan Feiles, who has his own album coming out soon and to me is like Bob Dylan with a prettier voice. I had him sing a duet with me called Finally on the album and then I have a song on the album called Do It While You Can, with a kind of a Satchmo vocal vibe to it and Richie Blackwell (Bruce Springsteen) helped with that. So this whole thing is a passion project. There was no thought to “Let’s make this song four minutes so we can get radio airplay.”
The second CD (on Emotional Jukebox) has a symphony I fantasized about making (Mother Natures Symphony.) The 15 minute piece begins with classical to Bluegrass to folk then back to classical and then ends with a Beatles ending.
TN – Wow, you’re not one to walk the genre straight and narrow are you. You also cover Led Zeppelin’s Going to California on Emotional Jukebox.
LC – I do! I had to fight to have that on because I jammed it in the end with a Flamenco solo by this guy Hernan Romero (Al Di Meola) who this amazing player that was just in the Latin GRAMMYs who I met in Boston who’s been on a couple of my albums. I had this idea of the song that ended up being 7 minutes long and we still got airplay. They don’t make songs like that anymore. I like solos. On my song I’m Only Sleeping I put a whirly solo it it. I like music!
TN – Where was the album recorded?
LC – We recorded at Sear Sound in New York and Lupos Studio with Frank Wolf, who I’ve worked with in the past, engineering the project. He’s an amazing talent. I spent the most time on the album than anybody. I did all the editing and arranging myself on my Pro Tools at home at night with the master and poured over every single bar on the album to make sure I had all the instrumentation in all the right places so it was tasty, clean and interesting to me. that was my goal. I probably spent over 2000 hours on it.
TN – well your hard work is being recognized. When did you find out about your nomination?
LC – We were having a party that night and somebody gave me a mock GRAMMY because we all conceded to the fact that I didn’t stand a chance against these amazing and well-known artists – John Hiatt, Jeff Bridges, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, Ry Cooder – who is one of my heros – there was just no slot open for an unknown. So all the people went home from the party and then I started getting all these emails saying “Congratulations.” “You have my support.” “I’ll see you in L.A.” I thought this has to be a mistake. This must be a chain email that I’m on and somebody else was nominated. Then I had a hard time finding the list of nominees online. Then we found the list of nominees on GRAMMY.com and there in Americana Album of the year was my name first on the list. I had to wake up my executive producer, Jonathan, at midnight to tell him about it. We freaked out. He believed in me and my music and he’s such an amazing person.
TN – I love that you are on the nominee list, and that the GRAMMY Americana category appears to be a big tent where talent is rewarded no matter how what your profile.
LC – Early in the process I did put my album up for a lot of categories – best Album, and all of that. In retrospect i should have concentrated on the one category. I submitted for 8 but but as I was getting up to speed submitting my work it occurred to me that I might have been spreading myself too thin and that might not be in my best interest. So then I started concentrating on the Americana music category.
TN – Have you got your speech ready?
LC – (laughs) Not yet.I think I might have a mock one ready for You Tube and to post on my blog (lindachorney.wordpress.com) to thank the people that helped me.
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)
As of late a Ry Cooder live performance is as rare as hen’s teeth. So it was a treat that in support of his current current collection of neo-depression serenades “Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down” Cooder booked two quickly sold-out shows at the legendary Great American Music Hall in the seedy Tenderloin section of San Francisco. Since there seems to be no other dates to follow these so it was not surprising that I ran into fans that came as far away as New York and Texas to catch the event. The crowd in the long entrance line skewed boomer and they reminisced abut the various incarnations of Cooder they has experienced live over the years.
It’s easy to overuse hyphens when describing Ry Cooder’s sound. Cooder is a musicologist of sorts, but it’s not all theory, he then puts his discoveries to work in songs. Wikipedia has his sound as “dust bowl folk, blues, Tex-Mex, soul, gospel, rock. Yet somehow he fuses it all together to make great songs. His eclecticism is born out of his career of great solo work but also collaborations with artists as divers as Taj Mahal, Captain Beefheart, Randy Newman, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones (when, according to Keith Richards bio “Life,” Cooder let Keef in on the magic of open G tuning) , Little Feat, Van Morrison, Judy Collins and African multi-instrumentalist Ali Farka Toure and the conduit for forming the Buena Vista Social Club. And then there is the 15 soundtracks he’s created or contributed to. Yeah, you could say the man is diverse.
On this night Cooder staples Terry Evans and Arnold McCuller helping out with soulful vocals. San Antonio’s own Flaco Jimenez was on hand to lend his Tejano-style accordion to the occasion. The rest of the band skewed to a younger generation with a rhythm section featuring Cooder’s son Joachim on drums and Robert Francis on bass. Then there was the ten-piece brass section Cooder brought with him from So-Cal, which included tuba and bass-saxophone, that stretched the limits of space and had to be positioned in the balconies flanking the stage.
The night kicked into gear with the slinky funk of Crazy Bout An Automobile, then Boomer’s Story followed as a personal request of bassist Francis (“Youth must be served Cooder quipped.) A soulful rendition of Why Don’t You Try Me followed, then there was a lively version of Woody Guthrie’s Do Re Mi highlighted by Jimenez’s dazzling accordion work and a ode to Sam the Sham’s Wooly Bully (“I saw Sham and the Pharaohs pull up that hearse and thought” Man, that’s weird.” said Cooder)
Cooder’s new album carries through with the theme he followed recently of socio-political commentary done through contemporary folk numbers that are biting in their message but tempered by excellent song-craft and a wry (sure, pun) sense of humor. This was done to excellent effect by his performance of the new song El Corrido de Jesse James, which Cooder introduced as a fable told as a conversation between the outlaw James and God. Jesse James asks for his .45 colt peacemaker back to revisit Earth and introduce the Wall Street fat-cats to some old-style justice. It’s never made clear why an outlaw would suddenly turn law enforcer but it ‘s a fine tune nonetheless.
The show was a feast of sound and visuals but the moments that made you catch your breath was when Cooder took a solo or slide intro and made seemingly disparate notes alchemically transcend and glue the song together. The subtle mastery that Cooder brings ti the guitar put him in a rare class which might include Bill Frisell, Mark Ribot and Dave Rawlings.
San Pablo’s Los Cenzontles (The Mockingbirds) opened the show with authentic Mexican-influenced dance songs which set a tone of festivities and delighted the packed house.