12/13/17 Ten Sibling Groups

The Rankin Twins are identical, and we enjoyed their in-store performance at the now-defunct Superfly’s Records in San Marcos this summer.  Rain

The Quebe Sisters bring Texas triple fiddles and harmonies: Every Which-A-Way

I saw Alabama sisters Shelby Lynne and Alison Moorer at the CMHOF. Here’s a song from their 2017 record: Not Dark Yet

The High Country Cowboys have an old western sound: Montana

I saw The Malpass Brothers at Americanafest in 2016, and they’re old-school country: Hoping That You’re Hoping

I saw the Secret Sisters at Americanafest in 2017, and they have a Grammy nomination: He’s Fine

I also saw The Cactus Blossoms the same day: Mississippi

The Wood Brothers are another act I saw at Americanafest this year. Their new album comes out 2/2/18: River Takes The Town

Jesse & Noah are not just a brother act, but sons of one of the Bellamy Brothers: This Town Was Built On Heartbreak Songs

The Jenkins Twins are among the vast number of quality country acts in Kentucky: Red Lick Valley

 

 

 

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12/13/17 Ten Married Couples

Seth James & Jessica Murray released a quality album in November, 2016. I saw them at Gruene Hall, and they get some airplay on the great Americana radio station based in New Braunfels, KNBT. I Don’t Need A Reason

I saw Shelley Skidmore & Greg Bates at the Grand Ole Opry on Valentine’s Day. They recently had a baby. What You Need From Me

The Time Burners from Nebraska released an album in early 2017, and have a new album on the way 1/9/18. Just Getting By

Darin & Brooke Aldridge released a well-received bluegrass album earlier this year, which included backup vocals from Vince Gill. Mountains in Mississippi

The Stapletons and Bowmans: It Takes A Woman This song of theirs was covered by Luke Dickens of Australia on an album in 2011. The Stapletons and Bowmans also wrote “I Will Someday,” which appeared on Bradley Walker’s 2017 album, which peaked at #1 on the Billboard bluegrass album chart.

I saw Courtney Patton & Jason Eady at a Texas hurricane benefit this fall -really nice folks, in addition to being talented artists. Man On A Mountain

I saw Ricky Skaggs & Sharon White at the Opry Valentine’s show: Love Can’t Ever Get Better Than This

Porter Union: Don’t You Know  is probably my favorite song from their 2017 release.

From Australia, here’s Travis List & Kristy Cox: One Of Those Too Kristy’s next album is due in January.

Marty Stuart & Connie Smith were at the Opry Valentine’s Show, also. Since we’re close to Christmas, here’s their song for the lighting of the national Christmas tree (though it’s unclear when this video is from): A Peaceful Christmas

 

 

 

12/13/17 Twenty Underappreciated 2017 Country Albums

I know “Amazon” isn’t any sort of official chart, but it’s easy to navigate, and hopefully I can use this to showcase a few things that deserved a little more showcasing.

Sons of the Palomino (self-titled) – Released 6/30, currently at #2090 on Amazon best selling country albums. I’ve mentioned this all-star outfit before. Most “mid-year” lists were published before this was even released.

Country Side of Harmonica Sam, “A Drink After Midnight” – Released May 5, currently at #4328 on Amazon best selling country albums. This Swedish retro-country effort has an Ameripolitan nomination.

The Reeves Brothers, “King of Country Music” – Released October 21, currently at #2032 on Amazon best selling country albums, and also has an Ameripolitan nomination.

Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives, “Way Out West” – Released March 10, currently at #1815 on Amazon best selling country albums for the Americana duo/group of the year.

Jason Eady (self-titled) – Released April 21, currently at #2385 on Amazon best selling country albums. This was one of the best “songwriter” albums of the year.

Leslie Tom (self-titled) – Released February 17, currently at #13,272 on Amazon best selling country albums. This is a 7-song EP.

Bobby Bare (self-titled) – Released May 26, currently at #3488 on Amazon best selling country albums. This hall of famer maybe got lost in the shuffle a little bit, in a year when other older legends  also released albums.

Charley Pride, “Music In My Heart” – Released July 7, currently at #1684 on Amazon best selling country albums. He won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award earlier this year, and as with Bare and Willie and the other legends, his album deserves to be heard.

Wade Hayes, “Old Country Song” – Released June 9, currently at #2758 on Amazon best selling country albums. It seems like most of the “mid-year” lists were pretty much done by mid-May, so…

Mac Wiseman, “I Sang the Song (Life Of The Voice With A Heart)”- Released January 20, currently at #3128 on Amazon best selling country albums. This is a slice of American music history, and the 92-year-old hall-of-famer’s younger friends helped his stories come alive.

West Virginia Music Hall of Fame, “Rhinestone Hillbilly: A Tribute To Little Jimmy Dickens” – Released September 1, currently at #14,380 on Amazon best selling country albums. This was a well-done tribute album, with a lot of quality contributors, such as Opry member Connie Smith, and R&B legend Bill Withers.

Chris Fullerton, “Epilepsy Blues” – Released February 27, currently at #22829 on Amazon best selling country albums. He’s a rising star in the Austin Americana scene, and if you’re looking for something just a little bit different, this is a good one to check out.

Sara Evans, “Words” – Released July 21, currently at #1876 on Amazon best selling country albums. This album had a solid sales debut, but the lack of radio support for an artist whose career was largely built as a radio star  kept this project out of the spotlight.

Teea Goans, “Swing, Shuffle, and Sway” – Released September 7, currently at #2889 on Amazon best selling country albums. Yes, it’s covers, but she has a fine voice, and is seen  on RFD-TV,etc.

Moot Davis, “Here Comes The Destroyer” – Released July 21, currently at #9241 on Amazon best selling country albums. Here’s an act I saw at Gruene Hall. The album ranges from an “Americana” sound on the title track to the Yoakam-ish “You’re Gonna Win (I’m Gonna Cry).”

Aaron Vance, “My Own Way” – Released March 22, currently at #19,280 on Amazon best selling country albums.

Two Tons of Steel, “Gone” – Released January 17, currently at #8,101 on Amazon best selling country albums. This rockabilly outfit’s live shows are a fixture in central Texas.

Paul Nipper, “Kamikaze Heart” – Released May 19, currently at #15,488 on Amazon best selling country albums. I think I mentioned him a couple of posts back.

Blake Berglund, “Realms” – Released September 1, currently at #11,522 on Amazon best selling country albums. When I saw him in Texas, he was between gigs with fellow Saskatchewan native Colter Wall. For whatever reason, though, Berglund’s album hasn’t gotten much coverage.

Brian Mallery, “Keepin’ It Country” – Released May 7, currently at #12,731 on Amazon best selling country albums. This Canadian has recorded in both English and French over the years. This is a full-length, traditional country album that hasn’t gotten much coverage.

12/12/17 Ten Women

It seems like maybe 10% of the country artists who play gigs around here are women. I like seeing and hearing women sing country music, so here’s a few:

Mandy Barnett is one of the best ballad singers. I saw her at the Grand Ole Opry last year, and she did a duet with Jim Lauderdale at the CMHOF during Americanafest, after the screening of the Cinemax mini-series “Tales From The Tour Bus.” Her voice and Alison’s sound great together here: Blue, Blue Day

Songwriter Jessi Alexander released this 9-song effort back in 2014. There are some pretty big names on this,too. Jessi Alexander Music

Texan traditionalist Myra Rolen is another I haven’t had the chance to see live. Tell Me I’m Crazy

I saw Ameripolitan artist Leslie Tom in Nashville at the American Legion Post 82 during Americanafest. She’s a huge fan of Hank Williams, Sr, and is in the process of recording her next album. Hank You Very Much

Kaitlyn Baker is from southwest Virginia, and I first heard about her from a distant relative from the same little town. To Pieces

I saw Lainey Wilson open for Frank Foster in Alabama a couple years ago. She is from Louisiana originally, but moved to Nashville several years ago. Two Sides of Bad

I saw Kinsey Rose playing one of the honkytonks on Broadway in Nashville, and I also saw her perform as a guest of The Time Jumpers. Vince Gill had some very nice words about her, so give her a listen: Take My Picture Down

Alyssa Micaela is a young artist with Liz Rose Music who has recorded in both English and Spanish. Here’s from her EP, released this year: Cowboys Like That

Satellite radio host Elizabeth Cook has played the Grand Ole Opry over 400 times, the most of any non-member: Exodus of Venus

Yola Carter is from the other side of the pond, but considered “Americana.” I saw her at Americanafest at the CMHOF: Fly Away

12/11/17 Ten Random Songs

For good or ill, here are some songs I’ve been listening to lately:

I was in the audience for this March performance of Epilepsy Blues by Chris Fullerton. I saw Chris again yesterday at Cheatham Street Warehouse (the venue where George Strait and many others got their start) for a Toys for Tots benefit. He has a new album on the way in 2018,too.

Kalu And The Electric Joint is a little outside my usual wheelhouse, but they’re doing a free in-store in Austin this afternoon to celebrate their new album, and I have some time free… Sea of Life

Josh Grider was on the same panel with Chris Fullerton,Walt Wilkins, and Drew Kennedy yesterday. Josh said this song might go on his next record: Good People

Speaking of which, here’s a video associated with Drew Kennedy’s recent album: Open Road

I also saw HalleyAnna Finlay and Dustin Welch at the Toys for Tots benefit. Dustin even played Kent Finlay’s guitar for the show. Dustin has a new album on the way, according to a post on his father Kevin Welch’s page. Anyway, here’s HalleyAnna singing one of her father’s tunes on the Kent Finlay tribute album: I’ve Written Some Life

Speaking of that album, which was released last year, here’s a duet between Sunny Sweeney and Randy Rogers, who both went to college here (and Randy purchased Cheatham Street from the Finlay family): Between You And Me

The Oh Hellos are based in San Marcos, but I haven’t seen them yet. They apparently just released some new music. If you like things with a bit of Mumford/Avetts/Lumineers vibe, check out Torches

I saw Paul Nipper earlier this year perform songs from his album “Kamikaze Heart.” It turns out we used to live a couple miles apart in Alabama, and both ended up here in Texas. Anyway, here’s one of those songs: Fiddler’s Lament

I saw Manzy Lowry the other day at Dallas Moore’s concert. Dallas has a new album on the way in February, and I think Manzy’s is in March. Here are songs from previous projects: Blind Rattlesnake from Manzy, and I’ll close out this post with Texas Tornado from one of my favorite outlaws, Dallas Moore.

12/7/17 Five Essential 2017 Albums

My starting place is Chris Stapleton’s “From A Room,” both volumes. When the book is written on country music in 2017, the record will show that this artist topped the weekly Billboard Country and Americana Album charts with three albums within this calendar year, despite minimal radio support, earned CMA Male Vocalist for the third straight year, and CMA Album of the Year for “From A Room, Volume I.” Volume I featured two singles, “Broken Halos” and “Either Way,” each of which garnered a Grammy nomination, as did the album itself. Volume I featured instrumentation from  legendary  country musicians Robby Turner on steel and Mickey Raphael on harmonica. Volume II includes such highlights as “Scarecrow In The Garden,” and a smoking-hot, Southern rock version of  “Midnight Train To Memphis,” which he previously recorded as a bluegrass song. In addition to his own albums, this artist logged credits on a vast number of other albums that were released this year, by such artists as Kendell Marvel, Bobby Bare, Angaleena Presley, Joe Nichols, Tim O’Brien, Dan Wilson, Six Sanchez, Erin Enderlin, Ruthie Foster, Sons of the Palomino, Wade Hayes, Bradley Walker, Brandi Carlile, Rascal Flatts, The Sonoran Dogs, and tribute albums to Waylon Jennings and Don Williams.

Alison Krauss has won twenty-seven Grammy awards, which is the most of any singer. Let that sink in. Her 2017 album of classic covers, “Windy City,” resulted in two more Grammy nominations. The album is filled with old and perhaps well-worn covers, but the arrangements and execution are beautiful. Most who write about music know more about writing than singing, but “singing” still counts for something in the music business. Much has been said about “lack of women on country radio,” yet I haven’t seen much discussion about Alison’s lack of radio play. I guess she doesn’t fit the “anti-authority” mold enough to capture the imagination of most who write about this stuff ? Because of the cover-heavy nature of this album, it is understandable why one might leave “Windy City” off of “best albums” lists that focus primarily on showcasing new music. However, the goal of this particular exercise is to list “essential” music for the year, and her unique credentials and beautiful-sounding album fit the bill, and was especially welcome in a year in which high-profile country women like Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood did not release albums.

Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives released a western concept album, “Way Out West,” which not only sounds great, but reflects the incredibly rich history of western music. Marty bridges the modern and classic, and is vastly respected for his devotion to country music history and tradition, and he and his Superlatives delivered a great product to market. They were recognized this year by the Americana Music Association’s as “Duo/Group of the Year.” The brilliant video for Time Don’t Wait elevated the entire project. Be sure to see this band live if you have the chance.

Bobby Osborne is one of many great, older legends who are still creating quality art. The 86-year-old wrote a song for Flatt & Scruggs way back in 1949, recorded “Rocky Top” with his brother Sonny in 1967, and is still going strong now. Sonny doesn’t regularly perform anymore, but here’s the special 50th Anniversary of Rocky Top . Bobby’s 2017 album “Original” has a Grammy nomination for bluegrass album, and one of the songs (a bluegrass cover of the Bee Gees, no less) already won an IBMA award. The Darrell Scott-penned Kentucky Morning is a particular highlight of the album. Bobby Osborne also wrote the title song of Alison Krauss’ album, “Windy City.” The old classic “Ruby, Are You Mad At Your Man” was popularized by the Osborne Brothers, and has recently become a signature song for recent bluegrass Grammy winners The O’Connor Band, as well. Bobby Osborne added to his impressive legacy this year.

12/6/17 All-Genre Playlist Updates

Odds & Ends, But Mostly Odds is currently at 50 songs, but I change out songs from time to time.

My all-genre Christmas List currently sits at 25 songs, including new songs this year from Erin Enderlin, Tony Jackson, and Mudbone. Mudbone released the seven-song “Part I, Rivers” album of “Rivers & Roads” this year, and the “Part 2,Roads” album is due 1/9/18. Erin & Tony each released full-length albums this year.

12/5/17 Ten Bands I Saw In 2017

For this exercise, my focus is on larger groups, rather than duos.

Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives earn their reputation as one of the tightest groups in any genre. The show Marty did with Brent Cobb and Chris Stapleton was one of the best I’ve seen. Although Marty himself is the driving force, each of the three Superlatives took a song as lead singer, so there’s definitely an emphasis on the “band” aspect. In addition to straight-up country, they serve up everything from surf rock to bluegrass to old western. Their current western album is among my favorites this year.

The Time Jumpers hold court most Mondays at Nashville’s 3rd & Lindsley. Western swing, the official state music of Texas, is their bread and butter, but the Grammy-winning supergroup can hit you with anything from country to bluegrass to cowboy yodel songs. 21-time Grammy winner Vince Gill and Ranger Doug of Opry members Riders in the Sky are just two of the great members of the 10-piece group. This is one of the best large bands anywhere.

The O’Connor Band scored a bluegrass Grammy with their initial release, though family patriarch Mark O’Connor already had such hardware. At least three members sing lead, and other than Mark himself, the band members are in their 20s and 30s, so this is still a young group. Expect consistently strong musicianship and well-designed arrangements.

Dailey & Vincent have won every sort of hardware for bluegrass, have their own show on RFD-TV, and were inducted into the Grand Ole Opry earlier this year. Their Statler-like harmonies really define the group, but they can hit you with anything from bluegrass to country to gospel to good, old-fashioned humor. Here’s a review of a show I attended (seated very close to Jeannie Seely, I might add): Country Music Hall of Fame Big Gig

The Sons of the Palomino quietly released a quality country album this summer, and were one of the best acts I saw at CMA Fest. It’s a group of Nashville all-stars, so it’s not a typical touring outfit. There were nine on stage when I saw them. Here’s a selection from their album with guest vocals from Emmylou Harris: Outta This Town

The Turnpike Troubadours are a popular touring act, incorporating instruments typical of country and western swing with a hard-charging, rock-and-roll approach. I saw their set at Americanafest, and they brought out a couple of guests for songs, including Charley Crockett.

The Dirty River Boys describe their style as “everything from folk to punk,” but this four-piece, very high-energy band really puts on a show. When I saw them, every band member played at least two instruments, and different members sang lead. There’s everything from country/bluegrass sorts of things to rock to even Celtic and Tex-Mex.

Runaway June is one of several “country girl harmony groups” that cropped up in the last couple years, presumably to try to fill a market void left years ago by the Dixie Chicks. They all played instruments, and had a dobro player with them when I saw them.

Vandoliers describe themselves as an “alt-country band with punk roots.” They have a quite distinct sound, and bring plenty of energy. This is a pretty new group, but if you like “jammy” groups like Turnpike or Dirty River, you’ll probably enjoy giving these guys a chance.

The Steel Woods broke out in a major way this year. I saw them this spring in a pretty small room, but this fall, I saw them open for Dwight Yoakam. Their style is probably best described as Southern rock, but there are elements of bluegrass, country, and western. They released possibly the best album by a new act this year, and have gone on to multiple Opry appearances, and will be opening for some high-profile acts like Miranda Lambert.

12/4/17 Under-the-Under-the-Radar

There are lots of blogs dedicated to covering under-the-radar artists. I try to add some bits here that pass under those bloggers’ radars. Here are five such artists:

Billy Yates produced Charley Pride’s most recent album, and wrote probably my favorite song on Rhonda Vincent’s & Daryle Singletary’s album, “As I Kiss My World Goodbye.” Here’s a recent song from Billy Yates and Dick van Altena:  If I Could Change The World With A Song

There are countless women trying to be “pop country” stars, or trying to do the “east Nashville Americana” thing, but there aren’t all that many playing honky-tonk music. Dani McDonnell and her husband Aaron each released EPs this year.

The first time I saw Americana artist Chris Fullerton was at SXSW  this March. He since signed with Jenni Finlay Promotions, re-released his 2017 album “Epilepsy Blues” months later, and has a 2018 album on the way called “Consider the Shoebill”: Seven Roman Candles

Songwriter John Brocksmith plays at songwriter festivals, but doesn’t seem to be all that well known outside of those circles: My Old Friend

Jerrod Phillips released an EP this year that didn’t get much coverage: Dying Season

12/3/17 Opry World Domination ?

The legendary institution is rolling the dice on a massive investment in brand expansion, starting with the new Opry City Stage in New York City’s famed Times Square. The new facility opened Friday, New York Post article .  Additional details from a New York Times article : “There are plans for more Opry stages; Mr. Reed said they’re looking at several markets (including Las Vegas and Orlando, Fla., urban areas with heavy tourism), with “various deals in various stages of development” and a goal of building 12 to 15 venues throughout the U.S…Noting that a recent tour by the stars of the CMT show “Nashville” (which Ryman Properties co-produces, and which airs in over 100 countries) sold out multiple shows in the U.K., Mr. Reed also pointed to the international opportunities for the Opry in cities like London and Tokyo.”

So, basically the current management is basing its high-dollar plans for international expansion on a recently-cancelled cable reality show selling out a few shows in the UK ?

The first thing I noticed on the front page of the Opry City Stage site is the huge advertisement for “New Year’s Eve Bash, featuring LoCash.” The Opry makes a huge to-do about “membership,” so why is their highest-profile event at their only satellite location featuring these guys, instead of an actual Opry member ?

About Opry City Stage : ” The venue launches with the exhibit Iconic Fashions From The Opry Archives, documenting decades of fashions of legendary artists including Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, and Taylor Swift.”  Oh, one of these things is not like the others… It’s pretty pathetic how the country establishment is prostrating itself for Taylor Swift. I’m not a “hater,” but if the Opry considers her a “legendary artist” over the Opry’s own recognized membership, then what message does that send ?

Here’s the current Grand Ole Opry Membership , a list of 64, including some older artists who no longer perform, and the late Mel Tillis. Here’s a list of 2018 Grammy Nominees in country and adjacent categories. No offense whatsoever to the legends, but where are today’s critical and commercial leaders ? The best the Opry can come up with for this new “City Stage” project is promoting a LoCash New Year’s Eve party ? That’s what is supposed to elevate the Grand Ole Opry into an international brand ? The Grand Ole Opry has entertained audiences and promoted country music tradition for 92 years, and this is the best they can do ?