Americana Honors Prince

Dixie Chicks - 'Nothing Compares 2 U'

“A strong spirit transcends rules.” Prince

Prince not only appeared to transcended mortality he transcended genre. So it’s not surprising that songwriters and musicians across styles took his sudden death as a call to perform reverent Prince covers to fill the void.

Roots music is no different. Though his music superficially differed from Americana and country music they saw in Prince a prolific songwriters and accomplished musician who’s entire being was defined by his art. Prince created music just as readily as the music created him. They were indistinguishable from each other.

Below I’ve collected a few live tributes in the aftermath as well as Cory Branan and Lydia Loveless superb Record Store Day 2015 purple vinyl split 7″. All are wonderful and you can feel the bittersweet joy in remembrance.

Also a video of Prince doing a Stones classic, because it’s awesome.

Bruce Springsteen – ‘Purple Rain’ – Multicam mix – Brooklyn – New York –

Chris Stapleton – ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ – Greek Theater, Berkeley, CA –

The Dixie Chicks – ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ – Horsens Denmark –

Avett Brothers “Pretty Girl From Annapolis w/ When Doves Cry Interlude” Chicago Theatre –

Mumford & Sons – ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ – St. Paul, MN –

Old Crow Medicine Show w/ Margo Price – Purple Rain – Huntsville, AL –

Cory Branan – “Under the Cherry Moon” –

Lydia Loveless – “I Would Die 4 U” –

Prince – “Honky Tonk Woman” –

Review: Kacey Musgraves — The Granada Theater – Dallas, Texas [SOLD OUT]

Kacey Musgraves -- The Granada Theater - Dallas, Texas

“This is my hometown show!” Kacey Musgraves exclaimed from the stage near the start of her performance.

Though she had been on her current tour for several days in Texas this as close as Musgraves had come to her hometown. Musgraves cut her honky-tonk teeth in Golden TX. which lay a little more than 96 miles West of Dallas and many friends and family had come to see her at this special homecoming to celebrate a top-selling, Grammy-winning, chart-landing big-label debut and a tour of the world to support it.

Musgraves and her family were joined by a long-ago sold-out crowd of fans that formed a line that snaked around the side of the venue hours before doors were announced to open. Good ol’ boys, tattooed young gals and middle-age couples all stood boot-to-boot to catch country music’s newest star.

Credit Musgraves or her team for picking the Granada, and it’s capacity for roughly 800, for an intimate homecoming. She had recently rolled off an opening slot for pop-goddess Katy Perry, where the audience was treated to “Fire and dancing cats” and they were “shocked that we were a country band,” but the KatyCats eventually warmed up to them.

It’s easy to see why.

Though deeply steeped in country music’s traditional forms Musgraves has done what her predecessors like Dolly Parton and The Dixie Chicks had done years before. Worked traditional country music forms, and their strengths of storytelling, to build connections blended with contemporary sounds and dialect to appeal to a wider audience. All this without diluting the original spirit. This is no small task.

The 800 plus venue faced a stage that appeared set for a set for a larger production and might very well have been as much was probably used on the bigger venues she’s recently played.

The signature “acid western” motif of dusky western sky backdrop and neon cacti were on display to add just the right amount of kitschy fun. And her band’s Nudie style matching suits festooned with Christmas lights sealed the deal.

And a big show it was. Not big in the contemporary KISS-style circus definition of the word, but big in talent and heart.

From the opener “Silver Lining,” from her Grammy-winning 4th studio release ” Same Trailer Different Park,” she had the crowd enchanted. Donning a short skirt (she warned the front row to be careful with those phone cameras) cowboy boots, checked cotton shirt and fringed rhinestone wrist cuffs, she had the room as background accompaniment with the opening verse.

Woke up on the right side of rock bottom
You’re all out of pennies, and the well it done run dry
Light ’em up and smoke ’em if you had ’em,
But you just ain’t got ’em
Ain’t we always looking for a bluer sky

And it went that way the whole hour-plus show. Musgraves and her excellent band played ” Same Trailer…” nearly in it’s entirety as well as some choice covers and new songs at the encore.

Highlights were “Blowin’ Smoke,” which had the crowd answering back with the “Hey yeah” that gives the song it’s bluesy swagger. The non album track “The Trailer Song” which she premiered earlier this year ( “You might not have lived in a trailer, but I bet you has a nosey neighbor.”) was also a highlight as well as “Merry Go ‘Round” as Musgraves asked the crowd to use their cell phone lights to create a wonderful starry effect.

The covers were inspired as Dolly Parton’s “Here You Come Again ” fit her pop leanings and the Roger Cook, John Prine penned “Dance With You,” made famous by Texas legend George Strait shows she has a keen sense of great songs.

Her reggae-flavored working of “Step Off” folded nicely into Bob Marley’s positive vibe of “3 Lil’ Birds” to the crowd’s roaring delight and her version of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood “These Boots Are Made For Walkin” brought the show to a steamy, rocking boil.

The finale has Musgrames and the boys circled around a single mic for an accapella version of Roy Rogers “Happy Trails.”

Years of playing live and penning quality songs for the likes of Gretchen Wilson, Miranda Lambert, Martina McBride and ABC’s Nashville have honed Musgraves into a sharp songwriter with an eye for common themes told in uncommon ways. Her “aw shucks” demeanor never come off as false or forced.

Will she have the staying power of loretta, Dolly or the pre-scandal Dixie Chicks? Time will tell. But one thing for sure, Kacey Musgraves is off to a hell of a start.

Set List:
Silver Lining
Blowin’ Smoke
I Miss You
High Time
Here You Come Again (Dolly Parton cover)
The Trailer Song
Keep It To Yourself
Back on the Map
Mama’s Broken Heart (Miranda Lambert)
No Scrubs (TLC cover)
It Is What It Is
Dance With You – (George Strait cover)

    Step Off / 3 Lil’ Birds (Bob Marley & The Wailers cover)
    Merry Go ‘Round
    My House

    Biscuits (new song – solo acoustic)
    Cup of Tea (new song – solo acoustic)
    These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ (Nancy Sinatra /Lee Hazlewood cover)
    Follow Your Arrow
    Happy Trails (Roy Rogers cover)

5 Americana Artists the Grand Ole Opry Should Induct

Old Crow Medicine Show

Following the ongoing trend of Music City tapping Americana music for source material and injecting some vibrant blood to an all but stagnant (but lucrative) genre, the old-time string band, Old Crow Medicine Show was invited to join the Grand Ole Opry by Opry member Marty Stuart during their concert at the Ohio Theatre in Cleveland, OH.

They will formally be inducted into the Opry at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville on Tues., Sept. 17.

In recent years Music Row has been looking to Americana music for new ideas, market trends and extending demographic appeal.

Sure the Opry has lost cred for ignoring great performers and casting out key members of the country music community (Hank Sr. anyone?) but it is an institution that provides a stage for broad exposure and, rightly or not, credibility.

There’s is no magic formula the Opry uses to choose who is asked to join. It’s a mix of sound, commitment, (gasp) popularity and what the Opry calls “relationships.” Relationships like backing Darius Rucker on the Orey stage for Bob Dylan’s “Wagon Wheel.”

Here are 5 Americana artists that, like Old Crow Medicine Show, would fit comfortably on the Opry stage.

The Dixie Chicks – Yeah I know, but the Chicks were always an Americana band to me. I know they and the country music industry had disagreements, but there’s no denying their positive (and lucrative) impact on the genre.

in 1986 Dwight Yoakam rescued country music from the Urban Cowboy blight and reminded people why it was fun, heartfelt and brave in the first place. Rarely has there been a better meeting of traditional and mainstream success then Yoakam? And he’s still going strong, though his new album, 3 Pears, isn’t up for CMA awards it’s up for Americana Music Awards.

Does any contemporary performer embody the sound, style and spirit of all that is great in country music more than Elizabeth Cook? The answer is no way. She’s a fan favorite and has been asked by the Opry to perform on their stage over 100 (!) times. It’s time to make it official.

For 11 albums over a 20-year career Robbie Fulks has been playing smart trad-leaning country music. Sure he hd some choice words for music row (made plain in his song “Fuck This Town.”) But Fulks disdain for the industry and love for the musical heritage is exactly what the Opry needs to gain cred.

As a member of The Byrds Gram Parsons played the Opry stage on March 1968. The band was asked to play play two Merle Haggard songs (“Sing Me Back Home” and “Life In Prison.”) The first song song won over the skeptical crowd (LONGHAIRS!) And Parsons (who was a big Merle Haggard fan) substituted “Life In Prison” for his own “Hickory Wind,” from The Byrds then current album “Sweethearts of the Rodeo,” in honor of his Grandmother, a huge Opry fan. As expected the management were pissed but the crowd and some of that night’s performers, loved it.

Patty Griffin’s Shelved “Silver Bell” to be Released Sept. 24


Patty Griffin’s follow-up to 1998’s Flaming Red, which went unreleased by her then label A&M records, now has a street date. After being shelved for more than a decade, “Silver Bell” will be released on September 24 by A+M/Universal.

Though “lost” “Silver bell has hardly been forgotten. The album has been available on-line for years for fans willing to do a little digging. And Several of the songs from “Silver Bell,” “Top of the World,” “Mother Of God” and “Standing” found their way on her following album, “Impossible Dream.” Some songs have also been covered by others, “Truth #2″ was recorded by The Dixie Chicks, “What You Are” by The Greencards and “One More Girl” by The Wreckers

Though it’s preferable that music be released at the timing chosen by the artist, sometimes a shelving can build a demand and mystique that can work to the benefit of the release when it finally does become available. Either way, it will be nice to hear the tracks as she originally intended them.

Silver Bell Track Listing:

1) Little God
2) Boston
3) Perfect White Girls
4) Truth #2
5) What You Are
6) Silver Bell
7) Driving
8) Sooner Or Later
9) Top Of The World
10) Sorry And Sad
11) Making Pies
12) Mother Of God
13) One More Girl
14) Standing

News Round Up: The Dixie Chicks Featured on Steve Martin’s Upcoming Album

  • The Dixie Chicks are featured on Steve Martin’s upcoming bluegrass album “Rare Bird Alert”! You can pre-order the album now on Steve’s website before the record comes out on March 15th.
  • You can stream Lucinda Williams new album Blessed in full at NPR.
  • Louisville, KY-based Americana/ roots band Slithering Beast will release new EP called “Delicious” coming out next week (2/27). For one week from release day the EP will be available for free from the band’s site. On Saturday, March 5th there will be an official CD release party at Ear X Tacy records in Louisville, Kentucky and  the record will be for sale through CD Baby, iTunes and  local retailers.

News Round Up: T Bone Burnett Discusses Crazy Heart Collaboration with Stephen Bruton

  • The Country Music Museum and Hall of Fame plans to update their main exhibit space to devote an area to Americana and contemporary bluegrass music. The new exhibit will feature artifacts from Alison Krauss, Jim Lauderdale, Dell McCoury and Buddy Miller. Also to be included  in the the second floor gallery’s theatre (in front of the Hee Haw exhibit)  a new video exhibit will be featured showing about how topical events and social political issues are reflected and country music. The exhibit will feature examples like Merle Haggard’s “The Fightin’ Side of Me,” Loretta Lynn’s “The Pill,” the Dixie Chicks’ “Goodbye Earl,” and Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red White and Blue (The Angry American).”
  • For that Americana rock lover you need a gift for Billy Reid has offers a hand-made and -finished wooden box from Ross LeBlanc containing rare t-shirts inspired by the roots artists Old Crow Medicine Show, Justin Townes Earle, Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit, and the Drive-by Truckers, and also includes a DVD of Old Crow Medicine Show’s live performance at the Tennessee Theater.
  • T Bone Burnett discusses his personal story of singer/songwriter Stephen Bruton. Thier collaboration and friendship led to the music selections for the upcoming Jeff Bridge’s movie about a down but not quite out country singer Crazy Heart. Burnett also mentions upcoming production duties with Jakob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Gregg Allman, Robert Randolph and John Mellencamp, and overseeing an all-star recording of music written by Mellencamp and horror-writer, and Americana music fan, Stephen King for “Ghost Brothers of Darkland County,” a play with music. And then there’s “Tough Trade,” a new series about three generations of country music stars, for which he’s serving as executive music producer. It’s set to premiere next year for EPIX, Viacom’s new multiplatform entertainment service. (LA Times)
  • Paramount Pictures has begun an open casting call to find a Caucasian girl between the ages of 12 and 16 to play the lead role of Mattie Ross in the upcoming Joel and Ethan Coen’s remake of True Grit. (Cowboys and Indians blog)

Music Review: The Bottle Rockets – Lean Forward [Bloodshot]

br_lean forwardOne of the forebearers of the old school work ethic of play hard, play often, and play well.

The Bottle Rockets still contain the DNA of thier earlier incarnation of Chicken Truck, a straight up honky-tonk band that preceded the Rockets, and from their relationship with Uncle Tupelo in the 90’s. But while many of thier contemporaries  have either crashed and burned or abandoned the genre altogether for indy-rock cross-market gold (I’m  looking at you Tweedy!), guitarist/singer Brian Henneman,  guitarist John Horton, drummer Mark Ortmann and bassist Keith Voegele found their groove and honed their craft from years together and miles on the road.

Lean Forward is really two records in one. If you give it a casual spin it’s a tight and powerful rock and roll record that belies the craftsmanship by hitting you in the gut. On closer inspection the deceptively straightforward songs tell of everyday troubles while displaying a smart silver lining.

Wrong turns on tour are serendipitous events (The Long Way), Rolling-Stoned swaggering blues embrace inevitability in the face of good intentions (Shame On Me) and a Bo Diddley stomp-rocker about either a repo-man or a car thief (Nothin’ But A Driver) takes pride in his work.

Hard Times serves up a tasty slice of Southern funk and strikes a working-class Zen view of life – “Hard times, that’s nothin’. Hard times pass” and ending in resolve “I’m not broke down. I’m just out of gas.” Kid Next Door goes up with the Drive By Truckers’ Dress Blues and the Dixie Chicks Traveling Soldier as great slice-of-life songs that show the cost of war from a main street view.

The Bottle Rockets have been a criminally overlooked American rock band for seventeen years now and judging by Lean Forward it hasn’t bothered or slowed them down one bit

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Music Review: Charlie Robison – Beautiful Day (Dualtone)

On Beautiful Day Charlie Robison is a man wounded by love lost but with no time to bleed.

Robison stated in a recent interview that he and his then wife, Dixie Chicks’ Emily, decided to get a divorce on a day he was in the studio cutting a track for this album. The couple split in 2008 after nine years together cause given as “insupportable because of discord and or conflict of personalities.” They have three children.

It’s hard to know when the news came from the whole body of Beautiful Day because thematically it’s very cohesive. Though a casual listen to the album leaves the impression of a breezy slice of Summer country-rock diversion a closer inspection, past the artful musical arrangements, soaring vocals and bright production, shows the work wrapped around heartbreak and loss.

Robison has stated that Emily and he ended things on a amicable note, and that he “…let her hear the songs as he finished them because he didn’t want there to be any surprises.” but it’s hard for me to believe she didn’t wince a few times at the deceptively sunny title cut with lines like “Well she’s hanging down in Venice (CA) with her Siamese cat, she’s telling everybody she’s a Democrat” and “I promise you she’s never gonna get real fat, she’ll get a little lighter underneath her hat.” Zing!

The following songs move from pointing an accusing outward finger to pointing it back at the accuser. Yellow Blues opens with psychedelic guitar noodling then cribs a pace and phrasing from Steve Earle I’m Alright for song about emotional cowardice and Down Again slows the pace but guitarist Charlie Sexton still works his magic throughout this song about introspection that never falters into bitching and whining.

Nothin’ Better To Do keeps the jaunty self-flagellation going with a song penned by Bobby Bare Jr., a man that know his way around the dark whimsy of the human soul, and offering rose thorns like “…I’m in love with you ’cause I got nothin’ better to do…I got nothin’ better to do.”

Reconsider, written by Keith Gattis and Charles Brocco, is a straight ahead plea for second chances and regret of loss, complete with weeping pedal steel. Feelin’ Good finds Robison in the fifth stage of grief, acceptance, with this devil-may-care tune he heads down the road with top down and “Willie on the radio.”

With Beautiful Day Charlie Robison gives his brother Bruce a run for his songwriting money, and shows his distinctly Texas musical style. All while mining what must have been a difficult period and recovering wry and heartfelt gems. Feeling bad has rarely sounded this good.

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