Avett Brothers Confirm New Album “The Carpenter” – New Songs Surface

The Avett Brothers, one of the hardest working bands in Americana music, announced today via their Facebook page that they have picked a title and release date for their next album.

Titled The Carpenter, the Avetts’ sixth album will be released on September 11 via Universal Records. Like their 2009 breakout album “I And Love And You” the album was once again produced by Rick Rubin.
So far two songs have surfaced that I presume will be on the tracklist, “The Once and Future Carpenter” (below) and “Live and Die,” which is currently streaming at NPR Music.

Look for the Avetts on the road near you this Summer and at the Austin City Limits Festival, the New Orleans’ Voodoo Experience and Florida’s Clearwater Jazz Festival in October.

Doc Watson – (1923 – 2012) – The Music Never Dies

I’m not a religious man but I would like to have a word with god. I’d look up at his cloudy beard and steel-blue eyes and say “Stop.” I’m tired of writing posts sending off out legends. Scruggs, Helm and now Watson.

Men who’s storied careers shines a glaring light of authenticity and richness on the current music industry of glib irony and planned obsolesce.  Where AutoTune and beats take precedence over song-craft and instrumental dexterity.

A vascular disease Arthel Lane (Doc) Watson as an infant left him blind for life. He drank in the musical styles and lore from his family and became prolific on the harmonica. then at 10 he took up the banjo his father had crafted for him. By the time he was in his teens he settled on the guitar, the instrument he helped to revolutionize touring the folk circuit with his flat-picking virtuosity.

I’ve never attended MerlFest, the annual music festival held the last weekend in April in Wilkesboro, North Carolina named in honor of Watson’s only son, Eddy Merle Watson, who died in a farm tractor accident in 1985.

Over it;s 24-year history on the four-day festival’s 14 stages you could have see some of bluegrass, folk and country music’s greats –  Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Earl Scruggs, The Kruger Brothers, Emmylou Harris, Jerry Douglas, John Prine, Alison Krauss and Union Station. You would have also caught some of roots and Americana music’s shining stars -Gillian Welch , the Carolina Chocolate Drops, The Avett Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show, coming up in the ranks. You would have also seen genre-crossers like Robert Plant, Elvis Costello and Linda Ronstadt making the pilgrimage to stretch their boundaries and pay their respects.

The festival always concluded with Doc holding court performing music of the ages with humility, spirituality and grace.

Of the dozens of artist I’ve seen perform at the roots festival Hardly Strictly Bluegrass over the last three years, three artists rose above the rest by emodying the ages and representing a deep musical legacy the other musicians on the bill drew from – Hazel Dickens, Ralph Stanley and Doc Watson.

Thank you Doc for sharing your gift with the world.


Americana Music Association Conference & Festival 2011 Wrap Up

On the night of the 10th annual Americana Music Association Awards, the director of the organization, Jed Hilly, recounted from the stage of the historic Ryman Auditorium a few of the key accomplishment te genre had enjoyed over the last few years. The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences included a separate Americana Grammy category and Miriam-Webster added the word Americana to their dictionary: “a genre of American music having roots in early folk and country music.” I was fortunate to be chosen to cover the Grammys as the official Americana blogger this year and so was personally appreciative of that part formal industry recognition and I think the Miriam-Webster definition is imprecise but Hilly’s assessment is correct, movement now feels like progress.

The nearly 50 panels ranged from topics better suited for barroom debates  (Is  Blues Americana?) to tips and insights in booking shows, using Cloud-based, digital distribution,  steaming music services and tips on using social media to expand your fan base.

As great as the America Music Awards program and panels were the real action was around Nashville. A neat definition of Americana was made even more futile by the contemporary variations on display by the 100 bands showcased at five of the city’s best live music clubs throughout the dates of the conference.

Wednesday night started with Austinite power-couple Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison at the Station Inn. I had see their show several months ago at my home in San Francisco and they had honed the songs and patter over the miles. The married pair emanated a presence and rapport that can only be delivered from two people that have been in the thick and thin together. Jokes about marriage counseling followed by numbers laced with classic country was reminiscent of John and June or George and Tammy. Then across town to catch Blind Boys of Alabama and another Austin resident Hayes Carll at the Mercy Lounge. The BBoA are simply one of the most amazing live acts I’ve ever seen. Their version of Amazing Grace performed over the familiar lonesome strains of House of the Rising Sun will give you hope while making you weep. Hayes Carll delivered his learned honky-tonk with spirit and a Texas crooked smile to charged crowd that hung on every word, even when that song was as wordy as KMAG YOYO.

Thursday was all about the 10th annual awards Americana Music Association Honors and Awards held at the Mother Church of Country Music, the Ryman Auditorium. Once again Jim Lauderdale performed MC duties and Buddy Miller led the house band once again and also triumphed by winning two awards, Artist of the Year and Instrumentalist of the Year. Miller showed the utmost humility by stating after the second hand-made folk-art trophy was handed to him  “Well this is just embarrassing. I feel like I get away with murder,” he said. “I’m really, really not that good. … But I get to play with some wonderfully incredibly talented people.” Emmylou Harris quipped that they should just name the hand-made trophies “The Buddy.” I think she’s on to something.

Robert Plant and his Band of Joy took home the trophy for Album of the Year took acceptation to Miller’s assessment. Saying of his Raising Sand and Band of Joy collaborator “I stole a great deal with my old companions, and I was very fortunate, the last few years, to be welcomed by some spectacular people, especially in this town,” Plant said. “”I’m never going anywhere without Buddy Miller. “ Regarding the Band of Joy win, I would argue that a covers album should not be in the running for album of the year, but if one is Gurf Morlix’s album of Blaze Foley covers “Blaze Foley’s 113th Wet Dream” should have been that album.

Musical highlights included the Civil Wars’ Barton Hollow, the Avett Brothers’ The Once and Future Carpenter and soul singer Candi Staton’s tribute to Rick Hall, founder of Fame Recording Studio in Muscle Shoals, Ala. with Heart on a String.

Song of the Year winner Justin Townes Earle delivered on an up-tempo Harlem River Blues, the Secret Sisters represented country tradition with Hank Williams’ Why Don’t You Love Me and Scott and Seth Avett of the Avett Brothers provided background vocals during Jessica Lea Mayfield’s For Today.  Other performers included Lucinda Williams (Blessed), Amos Lee (Cup of Sorrow), Elizabeth Cook (El Camino), Buddy Miller (Gasoline and Matches), and Jim Lauderdale (Life by Numbers).

The show closed out with Greg Allman on Hammond B-3 organ leading Plant, Griffin, Miller, Lee, Cook,  and others on an extended version of the gospel standard, “Glory, Glory Hallelujah.”

Post awards activities too place primarily in the Basement under Grimey’s Record Store. I walked in on the winsome Amanda Shires mid-set, decked in a lovely dress and monogrammed boots her fluttering vibrato held the packed house in silence. Malcolm Holcombe followed with a two-piece accompaniment that in no way fenced in his frenetic guitar picking as he strolled the stage and growled songs of love and hope. On advice of a friend I stuck around for Pokey LaFarge & the South City Three. Their country-swing-blues sound was a perfect to close a late night.

Friday I was fortunate enough to catch the great Henry Wagons at the Second Fiddle Australian/Americana lunch showcase. Wagons is one of these guys that was born to perform, and it works to his favor that he’s cool to be around. Later that night I headed over to the Mercy Lounge to catch Robert Ellis playing the opening bill at the Mercy Lounge, “I thought I had gotten the shitty slot.” Ellis said grinning at the nearly packed room. He and his band then proved why they are the one to watch in the coming. years. It reminded me of when I first saw Ryan Bingham in New York City in 2007, great things to come. Amy LaVere followed playing her jazzy folk renditions  with winsome charm and playing, and seeming waltzing, with her stand-up bass. I then spent time catching Elizabeth Cook doing her always excellent set and heading downstairs to the Cannery Ballroom to see Jim Lauderdale & Buddy Miller show how it’s done. Did I mention this is the best Americana conference/festival in the world? Then across to catch the Bottle Rockets do an acoustic show at the Rutledge, where the band proved that even unplugged they are one of the best live acts in America.

Saturday I decided to hit the the Americanarama in the parking lot of Grimey’s Preloved Music Record Store to see a current favorite, Nikki Lane,  perform her blend of 60’s surf rock and country noir. Lane charmed the crowd and then wowed them. She also won extra style points from me for sporing a Waylon Jennings logo tattoo on her forearm. I was suprised by the band Hymn For Her that I judged by their name to be a wispy folk duo. They were anything but as they tore through their set of hillbilly garage-rock with Lucy Tight on cigar-box guitar & Wayne Waxing on guitar, kick drum and harmonica. They blew me away with their cover of Morphine’s Thursday.

Overall this year’s conference seems like the community has come into their own with old friends and new mingling to laugh , argue and celebrate the thing that brings us together. Great music.


Grammy Wrap-Up – Americana Represents

Now that I’ve had a few days to recover from the whirlwind Grammy event in L.A. I ma going to try and make some sense of it all to determine what I saw and what I saw, what I learned and what I’d like to see changed.

2011 marked the third year that the GRAMMYs (branding, people) have organized a formal social media initiative to allow a bottom-up perspective, mostly-unvarnished perspective from bloggers that have established their own brand credibility in various genres. The cool thing is that it’s not just the major genres – pop , hip-hop and rock being asked to participate. Other pre-telecast awarded genres like my own Americana/folk participating were country (still a bridesmaid after all this time),  jazz , classical , soul , gospel were represented as well as social media strategy and fashion.

I believe the GRAMMYs are looking at the seismic changes in the music industry and are being proactive in addressing their own relevance and consumers changing relationship with music. I believe our efforts in coordination with GRAMMY.com ‘s wider social channels via Twitter, Facebook and YouTube led to a successful outcome I hope continues to grow and expand.

Case in point was the Social Media Summet. This was a Grammy-week event, which was open to the public and streamed live on the Grammy website, explored how the industry engages fans and consumers in sharing new music and what impact it has had on the business.
.  Held at the beautiful Conga Room the event former MTV News anchor John Norris hosted the panel which featured Facebook director of platform product marketing Ethan Beard, Foursquare co-founder Naveen Selvadurai and Pandora founder Tim Westergren as well as American Idol runner-up phenom Adam Lambert and rapper Chamillionaire won a Grammy in 2007 for his No. 1 song, “Ridin’ , which went on to become the top selling ringtone of that year with 3.2 million in sales, and the first to gross $1 million.

Quick take-aways from the panel were that social media is a double edged sword for muscians who want to make themselves available to their fans but are scrutinized by the media for any single misstep (“Don’t drunk tweet.” Advised Adam Lambert) and not all fans you hear from are, well, sane.

Lambert also said that while he loves when fans take pictures and recording video footage at his concerts, he feels like they’re cheating themselves by not being present at the moment of the experience. It’s like pre-mediation and self-inflicted removal from an experience thats most powerful attribute is immediacy.

Rapper Chamillionaire said he engages in social media because unlike the major labels “There’s not a suit standing there telling me I can’t do something. I stand or fall on my own action and my fans let me know what they think really fast.”

The panel bemoaned the demise of the record store and Ethan Beard  hoped that Facebook could take up some of the slack to connect fans to musicians. “Music is social activity … and buying music on iTunes is different than in CD stores,” Beard said. “(But) using social media makes it more social.”

I would like to see the Americana field get more cred for using social media to expand the fan-base and scout out touring destinations. And I defy anyone to find a more active community site that No Depression.

In the end I was glade to be asked to the party and able to witness the Best Americana Album GRAMMY awarded to Mavis Staples (her first !)  for You Are Not Alone, her collaboration with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, and see the Carolina Chocolate Drops claim the GRAMMY in the category of Best Traditional Folk Album for Genuine Negro Jig. Meeting Cajun-music legend D. L. Menard, Hank Williams’ daughter Jett and the fine people at Time -Life that helped her release the fantastic The Hank Williams Complete Mother Best Recordings….Plus! box set, Margaret and Arthur Warwick – proprietors of the legendary Louisiana Hayride.

Then there was that whole Avett, Mumford, Dylan thing..that was pretty cool as well.


Hardly Strictly Bluegrass – Saturday Picks

this is a quick one; Sun Oct 3 (11am – 7pm)

Banjo Stage
•    12:35pm Hazel Dickens
•    1:45pm Earl Scruggs
•    3:00pm Doc Watson & David Holt
•    4:20pm The Del McCoury Band
•    5:45pm Emmylou Harris
Rooster Stage
•    11:00am Kevin Welch & Kieran Kane & Fats Kaplin
•    2:10pm Dave Alvin & The Guilty Women
•    3:25pm Rosanne Cash
•    5:55pm Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
Star Stage
•    11:40am Martin Sexton
•    3:05pm Elvis Costello and The Sugarcanes
Towers of Gold Stage
•    11:00am Lucero
•    12:25pm James McMurtry
•    2:05pm Randy Newman
Arrow Stage
•    11:00am The Felice Brothers
•    1:30pm Railroad Earth
•    4:20pm Yonder Mountain String Band
•    5:45pm The Avett Brothers
Porch Stage
•    11:50am Citigrass
•    12:40pm Heidi Clare & AtaGallop
•    1:40pm Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer
•    4:35pm Kate Gaffney
•    5:35pm Wendy Bird
•    6:25pm Anderson Family Bluegrass

News Round Up: Ryan Bingham Wins For Best Song and Artist of the Year at the Americana Awards

Ryan Bigham has come a long way in a short time. From bull rider, to opening for the Drive By Truckers, to getting the Golden Globe and Academy Award for The Weary Kind, the theme to film Crazy Heart – a song that he and T Bone Burnett wrote together.  He can now add the song of the year won at the  Americana Awards Thursday night during a rousing show at the Ryman Auditorium. “Man, I don’t know if I really deserve this,” Bingham said. “Everyone on the list are all people I’ve looked up to and admired for a long time.” Other nominees were Patty Griffin, Levon Helm, Steve Earle and Ray Wylie Hubbard. Suitably humble and damn fine company to keep. Bingham also won the award for artist of the year that. with the year he’s had, he justifiably deserves.

Other 2010 Americana Honors and Awards recipients

Album of the year: The List Rosanne Cash
Instrumentalist of the year:  Buddy Miller
New /Emerging artists of the year:  Hayes Carll
Duo/Group of the year: The Avett Brothers

Jack Emerson Lifetime Achievement Award for Executive:  Highway Records founder Luke Lewis
Lifetime Achievement Award for Instrumentalist:  Greg Leisz
Lifetime Achievement Award for Performance:  Wanda Jackson
Lifetime Achievement Award for Producer/Engineer:  Brian Ahern
Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriter:  John Mellencamp


Americana Awards

News Round Up: New Releases by John Prine, Johnny Cash Art Collective

  • In true DIY fashion The Johnny Cash Project is a “global collective art project” that allows fans from all over the world to contribute to a arrogated, user-generated video for the title track from the latest Johnny Cash recording American VI: Ain’t No Grave. The single images are then threaded together into a one-of-a-kind labor of love. I only wish the Man in Black has lived to see this.
  • John Prine fans are about to hit pay-dirt. On May 25th, 2010, Oh Boy Records (founded in 1981 by Prine and manager Al Bunetta) will release the live In Person & On Stage, which will draw from performances spanning the past several years and covering songs from as far back as Prine’s 1971 debut and as recently as 2005’s acclaimed Fair & Square. Then Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine will be released on on June 22nd (Oh Boy) and will feature Prine compositions interpreted by devotees such as My Morning Jacket, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, The Avett Brothers, Conor Oberst and The Mystic Valley Band, Old Crow Medicine Show, Lambchop, Drive-By Truckers, Deer Tick featuring Liz Isenberg, Justin Townes Earle, Those Darlins, and, reprising their respective tracks from In Person & On Stage, Nickel Creek’s Sara Watkins and Josh Ritter. Oh Boy will begin a pre-sale for In Person & On Stage on April 20thand for Broken Hearts & Dirty Windows on April 27th at www.musicfansdirect.com.
  • The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum has announced it will pay tribute to the legendary Tammy Wynette with an exhibit titled Tammy Wynette: First Lady of Country Music. Presented by Great American Country (GAC) the exhibit will open in the Museum’s East Gallery on August 20, 2010, and run through June 2011.
  • More news from the The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. An upgrade to the Hall’s core collection, Sing Me Back Home: A Journey Through Country Music, are expected to be completed next month. The updates, which focus on country music’s last five decades, will bring the story of country music forward in time and conclude with a glimpse of the future. They will highlight the country-rock, pop-country, southern rock, full-strength classic country and the “Urban Cowboy” craze. The upgrade includes new oversized portraits, video clips and artifacts such as Dolly Parton’s handwritten lyrics to Jolene, Tom T. Hall’s acoustic guitar he purchased from songwriter Merle Kilgore, and items from Ronnie Milsap, Kenny Rogers, Mel Tillis, and Tanya Tucker. Other updates focus on the mid-1980s arrival of artists like Dwight Yoakam, Rosanne Cash, Rodney Crowell, Randy Travis and Steve Earle. New exhibits celebrate contemporary bluegrass and Americana artists, ranging from Alison Krauss and Del McCoury to Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale.

Music Review: The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You [American] The Felice Brothers -Yonder Is The Clock [Team Love]

To use a threadbare, but in this case useful, musical duality that has fueled decades of heated rock music discussions for (in SAT analogy form) – the Avett Brothers are to the Beatles what the Felice Brothers are to the Rolling Stones. (Sure lots of people like both bands but that’s boring.)

Like the Beatles and the Stones, the Avett and Felice Brothers define a needed duality of similarity. Both draw from shared sundry of musical influences – Old time Appalachian, barroom barrelhouse, delta blues, traditional country music, bluegrass, but, hoisting their musical rucksack,  the pathways each band embarks oncould not be more distinct.

IandLoveandYouCover_0With their big label debut the Avett Brothers – Seth Avett and Scott Avett, who share vocals and play the guitar and banjo respectively, and Bob Crawford on stand-up bass – don’t take any extreme steps toward commercial success, quite the contrary given their situation. The band brings their sound and earnest, reflective and playful lyrics are taken to a more mature state and producer and label owner Rick Rubin does what he does best, focusing on subtleties and strengths. Piano and stings give even the nuanced piece an epic feel  -The title cut, Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise, and a slices of giddy pop – Kick Drum Heart, Tin Man, Slight Figure of Speech, It Goes On and On – not frothy pop but the layered buoyancy of early Beatles, Kinks and Beach Boys. With others before them – Waco, Neko Case – the move from the  rustic territories to town comes with a price, and the price in this case is facial hair. That’s the surprising thing about I and Love and You. It’s not the seismic shift of Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot or Case’s Middle Cyclone or more representative of indie to big label REM’s Green. The songs are sharper, production crisper but if you loved the Avetts Autumnal odes before, you’ll love this album.

yonderistheclockThe Felice Brother’s newest release, Yonder Is The Clock , came out in April of this year and it also hold no surprises for long time fans. Released on indie label Team Love The Felice’s -Ian Felice guitar/vocal , James Felice – accordion, Simone Felice on drums, Christmas Clapton on bass, Greg Farley – fiddle and washboard – again channel the rollicking Big Pink-style Dylan/The Band front-porch jam with a dash of Tom Waits junkyard orchestra thrown in for good measure. Where the Avetts are dewy with wonder and innocence the Felice’s have an urbane, rough edge to their Catskill Mountain rearing (probably cultivated from busking in the streets of New York City.) Darkness abounds – There is nautical peril (the subtle album opener The Big Surprise and Waits-like ballad Sailor Song, dying homeless (in the rollicking stomp of Penn Station), reanimation from a frozen cocoon (the woozy waltz of Buried in Ice), Innocence lost – the deliriously beautiful All When We Were Young (sung with quivering elegance by drummer Simone Felice who recently left the band to start The Duke and The King with Robert “Chicken” Burke) and chickens (!) with the barn-burning bluesy bombast of Chicken Wire and the zydeco spiked Run Chicken Run.

To mix metaphors (or is it analogies?) the Avetts are the quaint town square with funky vintage stores, throwback ice cream parlors and inviting brew pubs. The Felice’s are the loading docks at the edge of town where to one dares go, but if you risk it you can score a traceless pistol and a jar of local skull rattle. But both the dark and the light make up the human condition.

I’m just a Stones man myself…

The Avett Brothers – I and Love and You [American]

Official Site | MySpace | Buy


The Felice Brothers -Yonder Is The Clock [Team Love]

Official Site | MySpace | Buy


News Round Up: Twitter Your Way to an Avett Bros. Deluxe Box Set

  • William Michael Smith’s latest Houston Press column Lonesome Onry and Mean finds kinship and flattering things to say about the new releases from Texas songwriting legends Guy Clark and Kris Kristofferson.
  • Of you tweet between 9/23-9/28 with @theavettbros and #Avett in the text you will be entered in a for a chance to win a Deluxe Box Set of The Avett Brothers’ new release I & Love &You.
  • The latest Rolling Stone features Jason Fine’s article on Bakersfield legend Merle Haggard sordid history (Issue 1088 – Merle Haggard: The Fighter.) Rollingstone.com has a photo gallery of Haggard tracing his early years to his rise as one of Country Music’s greatest singer/songwriters.
  • A film caturing a special evening at Jazz at Lincoln Center with Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis playing the Music of Ray Charles  can be seen in select cinemas from October 15 and will arrive in-stores, just in time for Chrstmas,on both Blu-Ray and DVD on October 20 from A&E Home Entertainment for $19.95 (SD) and $29.95 (BD). The concert event, including a half-hour backstage, behind-the-scenes interview special, airs on HDNet in true high definition on October 18 at 8:00 p.m. ET and on SIRIUS XM’s Real Jazz channel, SIRIUS channel 72 and XM channel 70 on October 18 at 8:00 pm ET. Blue Note Records will release a live album of the concert in Spring 2010.
  • Thanks to @kimruehl at No Depression and About.com Folk Music for the “official” Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival Twitter hash tag #hsbf. Let’s trend it up people!

Dolly Parton To Release 4-CD Box Set

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