News Round Up: Welcome Back Garth

  • Terry Clark follows Gretchen Wilson and Tim McGraw with frustration with the management and distribution practices of the Nashville big label system. I keep hoping this new found independence will result in these undeniably talented performers taking some risk with their material. Bit after hearing Wilson’s bland ‘Work Hard, Play Harder (produced on her own label Redneck Records) I don’t hold out much hope.
  • has six questions for Son Volt’s Jay Farrar about his collaberation with Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard album based on the Jack Kerouac’s 1962 novel “Big Sur” due Oct. 20.
  • I used to hate Garth Brooks. As far as I was concerned his glossy sound and circus-spectacle  concerts was in direct conflict with everything I loved about country music. In the years since his 2001 retirement to tend to family responsibilities a revisit to Garth’s material is almost, dare I say, Waylonesque (well, perhaps more Conway Twitty-esque)  Steve Wynn has made a deal with Brooks that addresses a promise he made to his daughter’s to be there with them until they head off to college and a jet plane to make sure he’s there Monday morning and Friday  afternoons. In Vegas this is a deal that only somebody with Brook’s appeal can fetch. I respect Brooks for sticking to his principles. Wynn has also given Garth a format for return that I have to respect, just him on stage with a guitar.  I repct anyone that can step onstage without the net of a backing band. I want to say something snarky, but all I can say is welcome back Garth.

News Round Up: Country Music Is Dead (RIP Johnny Cash)

  • The 9513’s Matt Griffin draws comparisons to Levon Helm’s newest release, Electric Dirt,  and  Johnny Cash’s latter career reviving American Recordings.
  • The Academy of Country Music has chosen the The Ryman Auditorium as the Venue of the Year. Special awards to be presented at the 2nd Annual ACM Honors, scheduled for September 22 at Nashville’s Schermerhorn Symphony Center, will be the Jim Reeves International Award to Dolly Parton, the Mae Boren Axton Award to David Young, the Poet’s Award to Merle Haggard and Harlan Howard. Lee Ann Womack will host the evenand there will be special performances by Bobby Bare, Vince Gill, Randy Houser, Jamey Johnson, Miranda Lambert, Jim Lauderdale and Patty Loveless.
  • The Country Music Association Awards announced the nominees for their 43rd annual awards ceremony. All the usual suspects, Paisley (leading with 6 nominations),  Chesney, Swift, Urban. A nod to tradition  – George Strait. Some black horses added – Joey + Rory for Vocal Duo Of The Year and The Raconteurs with Ricky Skaggs and Adhely Monroe performing the song Old Enough as the Musical Event Of The Year (?) Duller than the Grammys I say. Tune in to see Jamey Johnson perform and try to refrain throwing things at the TV when Kid Rock takes the stage.
  • Johnny Cash dies On this Day, 2003, at Nashville’s Baptist Hospital, of complications from diabetes, 4 months after death of wife, June Carter.

Gretchen Wilson Latest to Leave the Big Labels in Nashville

Gretchen Wilson and Sony Nashville  part ways partly due to missing the mark set by her gazillion selling 2004 debut, Redneck Woman. Wilson is talking about starting her own label. Wilson joins Tim McGraw and Hank Williams Jr. in displaying her  dissatisfaction with the Music City Big Label system as being too stifling and smothering creativity.

Of all the dead-brained schlocky muzak coming out of Nashville over the last couple of decades I actually think Wilson offered glimpses of  something raw and great if given the right material. I hope she now has the freedom to choose or write better songs.

Country Singer Vern “The Voice” Gosdin Dies

  • Singer Vern Gosdin, who recorded country music hits like the award-winning “Chiseled in Stone” during a 30-year career, has died. He was 74. Gosdin reportedly had a history of strokes and suffered the latest one a few weeks ago and was under hospice care and died late Tuesday at a Nashville, Tenn. hospital. The offers a fine tribute to the man.
  • Birthday Boy Willie Nelson will join relative young’uns Bob Dylan and John Mellencamp on a U.S. summer tour of minor league baseball parks, beginning July 2 at the GCS Ballpark in Sauget, Ill., and wrapping Aug. 15 at the Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton, Calif.
  • The San Francisco Chronicle has posted a review of the John Prine / John Ritter  Apr 25th Warfield performance.
  • And in painful crossover news Def Leppard has been confirmed to perform on the CMT Music Awards on June 16. The Britsh pop-metal has-beens…er…band have recently been involved in the Music Row marketering wet dream collaborations with Tim McGraw earlier this year on the song “Nine Lives” and appearing with Taylor Swift on CMT Crossroads. What’s next? Skid Row’s Sebastian Bach doing coutry music…oh wait…

Dexateens and Devil Makes Three Ready New Releases

  • In honor of today’s release of Sony Legacy’s Naked Willie you can head over to Go!Animate and create your own Willie Nelson cartoon n the persona of the Redheaded Stranger, Super Willie, Naked Willie (natch) , Willie harmonica player (and Naked willie producer) Mickey Raphael and a horse named Stardust.
  • Universal South is releasing a wholly unnecessary Shooter Jennings Greatest Hits album, Bad Magick,  album on March 24th. Really? A “greatest hits?” Shooter has 3 studio and one live album, and a live album is a gretest hits album. Rumor is that this is the labels, not Shooter’s decision and ythat he is now done with his contract and shopping for a new label. Maybe he and Tim McGraw can start a label called “They Done Me Wrong Records.”
  • Santa Cruz, California’s own Devil Makes Three will release Do Wrong Right to be released April 21st.  Go catch them this week at South-By-Southwest Mar 18 at Lovejoys (5:00pm) and  Mar 21 2009 at Submerged   (8:00pm)
  • Tuscaloosa, Alabama’s own Dexateens will release their new album Singlewide on May 12th.   Singlewide was recorded in Nashville with veteran engineer Mark Nevers (Lambchop, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Calexico and the Silver Jews.) Their peculiar video for the song John Smith is below.


Tim McGraw is Apologizing to Fans for Latest Release

  • has a nice posting on Lucinda Williams’ new Lost Highway release “Little Honey” and on Columbus, Ohio’s Two Cow Garage.
  • If you’re in Nashville this Friday October the 17th totally blow off mall-country teeny-bopper Taylor Swift’s show and head down to see Justin Townes Earle with Caitlin Rose and Chris Scruggs at the Exit/In. Rose’s mom, Liz, has penned a few of Taylor Swift’s biggest hits so it’ll kind of be like being there but without the crappy music (Rose’s mom’s cuts excluded, of course.)
  • As if that weren’t enough Junior Brown will bring his guit-fiddle wizardry to Nashville on the same night (9/17) at the Station In.
  • Tim McGraw is apologizing to his fans for the labels decision to put out his third greatest hits collection. “I am saddened and disappointed that my label chose to put out another hits album instead of new music. I’ve only had one studio album since my last hits package. It has to be just as confusing to the fans as it is to me. I had no involvement in the creation or presentation of this record.” Hey Time, now how about apologizing for the rest of the crap you’ve put out in your career (excluding the cuts penned by my uncle, of course.)
  • The Times Colonist of Canada has a nice write up of Kris Kristofferson’s show at the McPherson Playhouse in Victoria, British Columbia “…last night, before an adoring sold-out crowd at the McPherson Playhouse, a huge dose humility is what worked best for veteran singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson. The native of Brownsville, Texas, opened his Victoria debut with Shipwrecked in the 80’s, which he delivered in a plainspoken manner befitting of a folk singer. Dressed in black jeans with a black shirt, an acoustic guitar slung over his shoulder and harmonica rack around his neck, Kristofferson, 72, cut quite a figure. The giveaway to his country past? Dusty cowboy boots. Pure Kristofferson.”

The Railbenders to Play Denver’s Mile High Music Festival

  • The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band will feature music from their 42 year career to Austin’s Riverside Arena stage at 9:15 p.m. Friday, July 18. D.C. Drifters & Friends opens the show.
  • The San Jose Mecury News has a nice piece on David Andersen who plays his 15-year-old Epiphone and greets tourists from around the world in the atrium of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Earl Scruggs said of Andersen “I love your pickin,’ son.”
  • Nashville Skyline’s always excellent Chet Flippo has good things to say about  Randy Travis’ upcoming release “Around the Bend (July 15)
  • For all you with laptop country music asperations Beta Monkey Music has released “Pure Country I: Rocking Nashville” a new set of drum loops targeted to Country music musicians. The loops come in many formats, including Apple Loops, which are compatible with GarageBand and Logic. Just bring a real drummer when you hit the road, folks.
  • There still seems to be some confusion why Tim McGraw dragged Marcus Nirschl 30, a union glazer from Kent, Wash. on stage at a Washington State performance and then had him thrown out of the show. There have been allegations the man assaulted a woman who was in one of the front rows but the YouTube video of the incident is inconclusive (Q: Does McGraw allways look so bored while on stage as he does in this clip?). The ejected fan says he’s still a fan of McGraw. “I still like the guy,” Nirschl said. “The music’s still great. I just don’t know why he wanted to punch me.”
  • Our thoughts go out to Elizabeth Cook on the passing of her mother. Cook has used her MySpace Blog to share her feelings uduring these rough times.

Tim McGraw and Def Leppard Serves Up The Crap

I’m here watching my defending champ Spurs open the first round of playoffs againt the Pheonix Suns (spurs won in double overtime, YOW!) and the Tim McGraw and Def Leppard video for their co-written song “Nine Lives” comes on before the commercial.

First off, I’m floored that the NBA continues to display their utter disregard to, or ignorance of, their demographic by placing artists to perform songs in the playoffs that are more at home in the NFL demo (Tom Petty) or viewers of the daytime squawk-fest The View (Rob Thomas.)

Sure the song is crap, it’s fluff, it’s clown music and ridiculous to the ears to anyone that knows either country or rock music, but the thing that amazed me was how well it fits into the soft-rock MuzikMafia sound that is being cloned in Nashville these days. It was a like the fundamental elements that are usually fused into mediocre product were separated on stage into their separate elements of soft-pop-rock and soft-pop country.

Now I get why “artists” like Bon Jovi are heading over the the country side of the fence, the building blocks are not all that different. All instruments on 11, calculated hooks, trite imagery of god, country and family or idiotic lyrics that only drunken crackers can love (my personal favorite song when I’m a drunk cracker is Sweet Home Alabama.)

It’s all formula folks, like making Big Macs. Apply to any passable singer with a carefully tailored and sanctioned image, feed it to corporate radio, music television and complicit web sites , cross pollinate to the corporations other media holdings and off you go.

Want fries with that?


Tommy Butler – Voted Best Pedal Steel Player

If you ever pondered who might hold the title for best pedal steel player wonder no more. According to the users of the industry networking site, Musician’s Referral List (MRL) that would be Tommy Butler. Using scoring is 1 through 10 Butler received almost exclusively 10 (highest) ratings from his peers and fans. Butler said this about his success, “This career has taken me places and afforded me opportunities to see and do things that I would have not gotten to do without music. It is an experience unlike any other.”

Some of the more artists Butler has performed with are Joe Nichols, Tim McGraw, John Michael Montgomery, Doug Stone, Vern Gosdon, Hank Williams III, Daryle Singletary, Dierks Bentley, Jessica Andrews and The Wilkinsons. Butler is currently working with the much heralded brother and sister country duo, “The Roys” who are touring with Legendary George Jones on select dates throughout 2008.

Bob Lefsetz Does Country

I usually hang on every acerbic and insightful post from music business gadfly Bob Lefsetz. He’s a no bullshit guy that sees the bloody writing on the wall for the big labels and pulls no punches. I hope this blog allows me to do 1/16th of what he’s been able to do in exposing the hypocrisy and crap in the music industry and also point the way to a great talents that are trying make a difference and do great work.

But recently Mr. Levitz was caught in L.A. Traffic and came across Sirius radio Channel 60, “New Country” who, by the blurb on their web site states they play ” Rascal Flatts, Tim McGraw, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Toby Keith, Kenny Chesney.”

Lefsetz writes that while listening to the station that:

“…every one of (the) words rang true and glowed like burnin’ coal, pourin’ off of every page like it was written from me to you, but I was not tangled up in blue, I was laughing, I was alive, I was ECSTATIC! This was a joy I hadn’t experienced in oh-so-long!

But I don’t know shit about country. Maybe this is the crap. Maybe this is the stuff those deep into it rail about. Then I realized, I was the target audience, I was fucking IGNORANT!”

I’m here to tell you Bob, you are listening to the crap, and allow me to school you.

You are a fucking genius savant when talking about rock and pop of the past, present and future, but when you stray into country music, I won’t say “fucking ignorant”, but I will say sadly naive.

What you were listening to was the country equivalent of listening to Beyoncé or Fallout Boy. Sad, shallow reproductions of artists that came before that did it not just do it better, but did it in a way that was breathtaking and dangerous. What you were listening to was formula, contrivances and confection.

You pine for the days of the Beatles, Stones and Hendrix. When the Velvet Underground and the Stooges were punching sonic holes in the cultural malaise of the 70’s. If you’re looking for the contemporary country equivalent of that, then you’re not going to find in on Channel 60, “New Country.”

The country equivalent to these ground-breaking artists, the giants that the current talent of country artists are standing on the shoulders of is Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. It’s the Allman Brothers and The Band. It’s Lynyrd Skynyrd, X, Jason and the Scorchers. Buck Owens and Dwight Yoakam.

You’re more likely to find these artists on the Dallas area station Lone Star 92.5 that, despite being a Clear Channel station, is taking risks and plays artists that better represent the spirit you crave. Bands like The Drive By Truckers and the Bottle Rockets. Artists like Hank Williams III and Shooter Jennings. But Lone Star 92.5s are hard to find just as great rock stations are. The playlists are still the most common framework for commercial radio, and playlist are driven by sales.

Shooter Jenning’s band, the .357s comes closer to Led Zeppelin than the comparison you draw between Zeppelin and Tim McGraw. Tim McGraw is less Led Zeppelin and more Peter Frampton.

There is great country music out there and Bob Lefsetz, with a little counseling, is just the gauge that will recognize it. I for one would love for him to turn his laser eye on the Nashville money machine and the way it takes great talent and churns out dull, gray sausage.