10/28 My Year So Far

Since moving to central Texas this summer, I’ve had many more opportunities to see live performances, with the most recent being Chris Stapleton’s television taping for Austin City Limits. The episode will air February 17th, 2018. Hearing his vocal runs on songs like “Sometimes I Cry” from 15 feet away was surreal , and getting the opportunity to attend was such a pleasant surprise just a few days after seeing him in San Antonio with Marty Stuart and Brent Cobb. Speaking of which, Marty covering Marty Robbins’ “El Paso” and Brent covering Dwight Yoakam’s “Guitars & Cadillacs” were great nods to country tradition. I got to see Dwight himself with the Steel Woods last month,too. I found out a couple days ago that I won tickets to attend ACL’s TV taping tomorrow for Shinyribs.

San Marcos’ only record store is closing the end of this month. I attended a number of in-store performances there, including Ray Wylie Hubbard, Slaid Cleaves, John Baumann, Mike Ethan Messick, Rankin Twins, and The Madisons. Fortunately, there are some other great area venues for country music, but it’s odd to think of an town with such a vibrant music culture for its size not having a record store at all.

CMA Fest in Nashville this summer included many standout moments, like seeing Kenny Rogers before he retired, Garth Brooks’ surprise stadium performance,  interview sessions with Ricky Skaggs, Charley Pride,etc. Given how pop-heavy CMA’s televised events tend to be, I was pleasantly surprised that the festival also included stages packed with more traditional country, western, and bluegrass.  Americanafest also provided some country highlights, such as the preview of Mike Judge’s animated series, and Jamey Johnson’s surprise appearance at Lee Ann Womack’s show. At times, though, all-genre Americana seems like an uncomfortable home for country talent orphaned by country radio, but that’s a whole topic…

Seeing Willie Nelson (with Jamey Johnson) last month was one of my bucket-list items, much like seeing Loretta Lynn was last year. See the legends when you have the opportunity. You’ll  be glad you did.

Anyway, I’m still on track to end the year with about 200 songs on the 2017 New Country Showcase

10/27 Swimming Upstream

The music business model continues to shift rapidly toward streaming, and perhaps no segment of the industry is feeling the pinch more than the songwriters. Performers can still make money with touring and merchandise, even if music profits diminish, but what good does it do a songwriter if some fan buys an artist’s T-Shirt ? So, we see songwriter circles and workshops and festivals and cruises and autobiographies and other creative outlets to make direct connections to their audiences.

Here’s a look at four songwriter-singers who released quality albums this year: Erin Enderlin, Travis Meadows, Natalie Hemby, and Kendell Marvel. I have not seen Erin perform, but her star-studded album was a real treat for fans of traditional country and sad characters.  I saw Travis perform at 2016 Americanafest. His introspective style is a favorite with many critics and fellow artists, and he has lived a lot of stories. I saw Natalie at the Country Music Hall of Fame, and she was entertaining and informative. Although she has also written hits in other genres, most notably “Jealousy” by Labrinth, her own album was steel guitar-drenched and nostalgic. Last month, I saw Kendell’s monthly “Honky Tonk Experience” in Nashville. His album strongly fits what he does live, and it would be great to see him get the opportunity to tour with some of the all-star friends who have made guest appearances at his shows.

10/26/17 Crystal Gayle, Songwriter

When Crystal Gayle was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry earlier this year, most of the stories focused on either her own successful career as a singer, which hit huge when she was  in her twenties, or that she’s Loretta Lynn’s sister. However, while Crystal wrote very few of her own songs, it’s worth taking a listen to the few original compositions that are available. Midnight in the Desert was written specifically for the Art Bell radio show. Here’s a couple of songs from early in Crystal’s career: Coming Closer and  Beyond You


10/15 Some Positive Thoughts

This post is inspired in part by reading a post on Twitter by Keith Urban, recommending Travis Meadows’ new album. As much as it is human nature to form “us-vs-them” cliques, whether it is about music or sports or politics or religion or anything else, it’s nice to see people supporting each other. I also read Lee Ann Womack’s post about Kendell Marvel’s new album, and Meadows and Marvel posted about each other’s albums. So, the more I thought about it, the more it seemed like the nucleus of a feel-good article.
Often, the “big names” support lesser-known counterparts by including them as openers, recording their songs, or doing guest spots on their albums. Miranda Lambert’s recently announced tour includes a lot of independent acts, including the Steel Woods, who opened for Dwight Yoakam when I saw them last month. Chris Stapleton’s albums feature songs he wrote with songwriters he collaborated with for many years before he got his big break. Jason Eady & Courtney Patton opened for Sturgill Simpson at a recent tour stop near Houston, and Sturgill donated proceeds of the concert to hurricane victims. Eric Church provided a guest vocal on Ray Wylie Hubbard’s latest album. Bluegrass bands don’t get many opportunities to play for huge audiences, but I watched the Steeldrivers open for a sold-out Alabama concert a couple years ago in Tuscaloosa, and very recently, the Zac Brown Band had the O’Connor Band for a few dates. I could go on and on, but I just wanted to put some positive vibes out there.