Listen Up! Shovels and Rope Cover Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits for Jack White’s Third Man Records

Shovels and Rope Johnny 99It looks like Jack White;s adopted home of Nashville is starting to reflect in the music being released by his Third Man Records label.

The latest is from Charleston indie-folk duo Shovels and Rope. The 7-inch will be released on April 2nd and features a jaunty cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Johnny 99” (off the extraordinary Nebraska, hear it below) on the A side, with a version of Tom Waits’ “Bad As Me” on the B.

The release is on on Third Man’s Blue Series, where singers and bands traveling through Nashville are invited to stop by to record one or two songs at Third Man Studio produced by White. The songs are then, as soon as possible, made available on 7” vinyl and digitally on itunes. The series also includes releases by Brittany Howard and Ruby Amanfu, Seasick Steve, Chris Thile with Micheal Daves , The Secret Sisters, Wanda Jackson and others.

The release will be available on iTunes and vinyl. It;s a measly $6 and you can pre-order here.

Twang Nation: Secret Sisters Interview – Sharing Sincerity

As I said in an earlier post the first time I saw the Muscle Shoals, Alabama’s Secret Sisters ( Laura Rogers Lydia Rogers) was at a GRAMMY event for the Recording Academy Producers & Engineers honoring T Bone Burnett. Burnett’s then recent protégés had just released their self-titled debut album which featured him at the production helm. The Sisters opened the event and I saw what he perhaps saw while watching their performance as did the jaded industry folks who stopped hobnobbing and stood entranced by the delicate harmony and winning personalities on stage. I was a fan.

The duo recently released a 7 inch released by Jack White’s Third Man Records and had their song “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder”, inspired by the Alabama tornado outbreak, featured on the T Bone produced soundtrack for The Hunger Games.

The duo were kind enough to give thoughtful l answers to emailed questions submitted by me and some of my twitter followers.

Twang Nation: What was your first experience with music?
The Secret Sisters: The two of us have been completely surrounded by music since we were babies. We spent many summers attending bluegrass festivals with our dad, who is a bluegrass musician. Though we can’t remember that far back, it’s very likely that the first concert we ever attended was a bluegrass festival somewhere in the South. We really believe that bluegrass musicians are some of the most incredible, skilled artists in the music world, and growing up in those circles helped us appreciate a time-honored musical genre and tradition that still finds its way into our music on a regular basis. We are very influenced by certain aspects of the bluegrass world, and that sound has been ingrained in us since we were very young.

TN: Alabama musicians seem to look after one another – from the Drive-By Truckers , John Paul White from the Civil Wars and Doc Daily – what is the source of that camaraderie and how has it helped you?
TSS: We believe that the camaraderie comes from the desire to see Alabama be well represented again. Alabama is known for producing some of the most legendary artists, musicians, and songwriters in all of music history. It seems to us that all Alabama musicians are proud of the heritage we have, and we just really cheer for one another when big things happen, when our fellow Alabama artists get recognized for their talent. We’ve had countless compliments and expressions of support from other artists in Alabama, and knowing that those people are supporting us helps us keep going. It’s almost as though we’ve all subconsciously joined a movement to put Alabama back in the musical spotlight. That movement also requires a bit of a responsibility-we don’t want to do anything to tarnish the reputation of great music in our state, and we believe that all the artists in Alabama help to hold each other accountable for always putting out quality music.

TN:What is your songwriting process like? Do you walk into the studio with ideas fully formed or do you work it out in the studio?
TSS: All of our songs come about in unique ways. Sometimes they come to us quickly, other times we struggle with them for hours and hours. We’ve spent a lot of time this year working together on our songs, and also exploring songwriting with some of our very favorite cowriters. It has been a wonderful learning experience and we still have so much to figure out. For the second record, we’ve chosen to have our songs mostly complete when we go into the studio. It saves time, and having a real grasp of the song ahead of time gives everything a good direction to work from. Of course some changes will be made once we get into the studio, but for the most part our songs are all ironed out and ready to be put to tape.

TN:Your self-titled debut album album was executive produced by one of the godfather’s of Americana, T-Bone Burnett. How was working with him and how did it open doors for you. Did his association hamper you in any way?
TSS: Working with T bone has been very advantageous for us. He has been very kind and protective towards us, and we truly believe that much of our progress can be attributed to his involvement in our career. His knowledge of music history and sound quality is absolutely incredible, and he has taught us so much, in a very short amount of time. Having him in our corner helped us be involved in the Hunger Games soundtrack, which was a huge boost to our career. He’s constantly fighting for us and involving us in the cool projects that he undertakes, and it’s very nice to know that someone so well-respected is looking out for us.

TN:What compels young performers to create or cover music that is, or sounds like it’s, from generations before they were born?
TSS: For the two of us, we choose to cover songs only if we love them. We obviously tend to love music from the early years of the 20th century, but we will cover any song that really touches us. The kind of songs we gravitate towards reminds us of home, our family, the South, God and faith, and all the other things that are most important to us. We think that young performers like us get tired of being surrounded by music that is fleeting. We want to cover and create music that can withstand the test of time. For the two of us, there’s also a sense of preservation in the music we play. We value early American roots music so much, and to think of that music fading into obscurity breaks our hearts. So we use our voices and our platform, no matter how big or small it may be, to remind everyone of how sincere and special the music from long ago is.

TN:You recorded the song “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder” for the The Hunger Games soundtrack. Did you read the books? If so did you imagine your music as a backdrop while you reading it?
TSS: Honestly, we had written the song “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder” before we read the books. When we were approached about being on the soundtrack, we knew that we had a song in our pockets that would work very well in light of the subject matter of the books. So we submitted the song for consideration, and everyone involved agreed that though the song was begun previously, it was truly meant to be associated with that film. When we finally read the books, we were stunned at how perfectly our song fit with the emotional themes in the stories. It reminded us that music has its own way of getting to where it’s supposed to be.

TN:In a period of music industry turbulence and self-reflection how have you shaped the direction of your careers?
TSS: We don’t let our career define us. We’ve focused on staying true to our beliefs and morals, and we both believe that we can be happy no matter what happens in our career, so long as we choose to be happy and grateful for whatever comes our way. We try not to get too worried about music business ups and downs. We simply make the kind of music we want to make, and if at any point we are pushed to be something other than what we want to be, we will walk away. Luckily, we are surrounded by people who help us preserve our true identities and the music that moves us, and we just let that music do what it will. Ultimately, our faith reassures us that we’re so blessed, in every moment, and that everything will pan out exactly as it should.

TN: How was it to play Jack White’s divorce party? Was it at all awkward?
TSS: We actually did not play at Jack White’s divorce party. Not exactly sure how that rumor got started, but we are friends and fans of both Jack and Karen, and we love them both dearly and treasure their sweet family.

TN: How is your new album coming? Who’s playing on it and does it have a title yet?
TSS: As of right now, we haven’t started tracking the record yet. We focused most of our time this year on writing the entirety of our record, and hope to go into the studio in October to start cutting songs. We did some of the songwriting with our good friend, Brandi Carlile, and that experience was absolutely priceless for us. We feel that Brandi really understands our musical inspiration, and she helped us develop our songs into something we are very proud of. We don’t know quite yet who will be playing on our record, but we can promise that some of the friends we’ve made in the past will be making appearances. We toured with so many incredible people last year, and several of them have offered to make a contribution to our second record. So be on the lookout for some awesome collaborating!

TN: John Paul White (The Civil Wars) mentioned be collaborated with you for a song on the album, who else has had a hand in writing songs for it?
TSS: We did write a song with John Paul, and he was so great to work with. He really taught us so much, and we are proud for him and Joy and the success they’ve had. As mentioned before, we’ve worked with Brandi Carlile quite a bit on our songs, as well as Dan Wilson, Kevin Griffin, and other Nashville writers that we love and respect. At the end of the day, we really love the moments when just the two of us get together to write a song, mainly because we feel that those moments help us grow exponentially as writers. As we spend time writing together, our respect for one another grows, and the songs that come out of those sessions surprise us every time. Like maybe we are supposed to be doing this after all.

Official Site

Here’s “Black And Blue,” a new song from the The Secret Sister’s upcoming album live from the stage at Wakarusa

Secret Sisters Ticket Giveaway – War Memorial Auditorium/Nashville

If you live in, or are visiting, Nashville early next month you might want to set aside some time to see Secret Sisters play the beautiful War Memorial Auditorium on Sept. 6th. if you want a chance to win two tickets to that event just leave a comment below on what you like about the Secret Sisters. A post will be chosen at random on Friday 8/17 12PM PST. Be sure to leave an email address so I can contact the lucky winner.

I’m assuming the Sisters will be performing songs from their upcoming Brandi Carlile produced second release, which is scheduled for a fall 2012 release.

The first time I saw the Muscle Shoals, Alabama’s Secret Sisters ( Laura Rogers Lydia Rogers) was at a GRAMMY event for the Recording Academy Producers & Engineers honoring T Bone Burnett. Burnett’s then recent protégés had just released their self-titled debut album which featured him at the production helm. The Secret Sisters opened the event and I saw what he saw in the performers. Jaded industry folks stopped hobnobbing and stood entranced by the delicate harmony and winning personalities. I was a fan.

The duo recently released a 7 inch with Jack White at Third Man Records and also played White and and Karen Elson’s divorce party. (apparently this was only a rumor) The Sisters also had their song “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder”, inspired by the Alabama tornado outbreak, featured on the T Bone produced soundtrack for The Hunger Games.

Here’s “Black And Blue,” a new song from the The Secret Sister’s upcoming album live from the stage at Wakarusa

The Hunger Games Soundtrack Champions Americana/Country Music

The Secret Sisters announced this morning via their Facebook page that their song “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder”  (below) would be included on the soundtrack to the upcoming film The Hunger Games. I had known about (and more surprisingly actually enjoy) the song “Safe & Sound” with The Civil Wars and Taylor Swift. Two songs hardly make a theme so I looked up the soundtracks track list on ans was pleased to have my suspicions verified.  Miranda Lambert with the Pistol Annies, Carolina Chocolate Drops and Neko Case shows a hearty helping of Americana/Country music represented (0r as describes it “…the album is bursting with twang!) I haven’t read the books but will definitely be getting the soundtrack when it’s released on March 20th.

1. “Safe & Sound” (feat. The Civil Wars) by Taylor Swift
2. “Eyes Wide Open” by Taylor Swift
3. “Abraham’s Daughter” by Arcade Fire
4. “The Ruler & The Killer” by Kid Cudi
5. “Run Daddy Run” (feat. Pistol Annies) by Miranda Lambert
6. “Kingdom Come” by The Civil Wars
7. “One Engine” by The Decemberists
8. “Take The Heartland” by Glen Hansard
9. “Lover Is Childlike” by The Low Anthem
10. “Dark Days” by Punch Brothers
11. “Tomorrow Will Be Kinder” by The Secret Sisters
12. “Just a Game” by Birdy
13. “Oh Come & Sing” by Ella Mae Bowen
14. “Rules” by Jayme Dee
15. “Reaping Day” by Carolina Chocolate Drops
16. “Give Me Something” I’ll Remember by Neko Case
17. Video “Safe & Sound” (Bonus Video) by Taylor Swift

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.


Americana Music Association’s Honors and Award to be Televised on Austin City Limits

The 10th annual Americana Music Association’s Honors and Award Show at the Ryman Auditorium will be broadcast live Thursday October 13th on Nashville Public Television.  Confirmed to attend include Jim Lauderdale, Robert Plant, Lucinda Williams, Gregg Allman, Elizabeth Cook,  Hayes Carll, The Secret Sisters, Justin Townes Earle, Jessica Lea Mayfield, The Civil Wars and many more.

An edited version of the award show will be aired November 19, 2011 as a special episode of the new season of the highly-acclaimed PBS series Austin City Limits,  (check local listings for exact local day and time). “ACL PRESENTS: AMERICANA MUSIC FESTIVAL 2011” will reach approximately 98% of American TV households via PBS stations nationwide.

“It was time to bring the Americana Honors to another level,” said Jed Hilly Executive Director of the Americana Music Association. “We could not have better partners in Nashville Public Television President and CEO Beth Curley for our Middle Tennessee premiere and Austin City Limits Executive Producer Terry Lickona to take this to a national audience.”

The program, described by Emmylou Harris as “the shining star of Nashville and music everywhere,” will be filmed by High Five Entertainment and co-produced by its President Martin Fischer along with Lickona, Courtney Gregg, Holly Lowman and Hilly.

The Honors and Award Show is the capstone event of the Americana Music Festival and Conference presented by Nissan that will take place October 12-15, 2011 in Nashville, TN.  A limited number of tickets are available at  For more information go to

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass – Friday Picks

If this years 10th annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is anything like last years it will be jammed with people. I guess the word got out that the best Americana and Roots music festival in the country was FREE!

As always there is no shortage of great live music to see, the only problem is getting from one of the 5stage to the other in time to see the. Sometimes an impossibility since performers like the Flatlanders, Steve Earle and Robert Earle Keen, are often playing opposite one another. What’s a Texan to do?!

Here’s my pass at who to see and when. There is some overlap or outright conflicts. i did this list believing that i could time travel and be at any stage at any time,blogger’s license. Look it up. Your mileage may vary so if this doesn’t lift your skirt head over to the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass and make your own damn list.

Fri Oct 1 (10:30am – Noon & 2pm – 7pm)

The early part of Friday on the Star stage PMW and MC Hammer will perform special educational program for local schools. My daughter is going to this. i hope she comes home singing “Can’t touch this.”

1:45 – Rooster Stage: Jerry Douglas w/ Omar Hakim & Viktor Krauss – A musician’s supergroup. Viktor Krauss (Lyle Lovett, Bill Frisell) on bass, Omar Hakim (Weather Report, Sting, Dire Straits) on drums and the man I consider the Jimi Hendrix on the Dobro Jerry Douglas (Ray Charles, Phish, Dolly Parton, Paul Simon, Ricky Skaggs, Elvis Costello, and Johnny Mathis, performed on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack)
2:00pm – Banjo Stage: The Ebony Hillbillies – billed as the “Only New York City Black String Band.” Being Gotham-based may may not sound like a ringing endorsement for mountain music but this group delivers.
2:45pm – Rooster Stage: Patty Griffin – Fresh from Robert Plant’s Band of Joy where Griffen is pure joy to watch. Will Percy make an appearance?
3:00pm – Banjo Stage: Blue Highway – This band is one of the only real Bluegrass bands on the three-day bill. even though the band if based in East Tennessee heir hot-shot Dobro player,Rob Ickes, is from the Bay Area. Represent!
5:45pm – Arrow Stage: the subdudes – New Orleans’ R&B swamp boogie at its finest.
5:45pm – Rooster Stage: T Bone Burnett Feat. Punch Brothers & Special Guests Karen Elson and The Secret Sisters -  The reigning Americana producer brings a stripped-down version of his Talking Clock Review to the HSB stage.