Grammy voters excluded country and other roots music in favor of urban styles for “general field” categories. This was the first time in well over a decade that country had zero representation in the “general field.” Good luck trying to find rock or jazz or blues or folk or whatever “Americana” is, either. There’s urban style, and pretty much nothing else. That’s not very “diverse,” is it ?
In the country and related categories , the biggest story appears to be the puzzling exclusion of Miranda Lambert in the country album category. To my mind, Chris Stapleton and Miranda Lambert should have held the strongest claims for this award. Chris had the best sales, and the greatest impact on the genre, but Miranda had a more expansive album than any of the nominees, at 24 songs.
Alison Krauss’ two nominations are worth mentioning. She owns the most Grammy awards (27) of any woman in any genre in history. Radio ignored her album, yet she also doesn’t really fit the mold of most of the independent scene.
My pick for Americana album would have been “Way Out West” by Marty Stuart And His Fabulous Superlatives. Aside from being one of the best live bands in any genre, they created a quality album that highlighted distinctly American themes.
My pick for “American Roots Song” would have been “Going Back to Bristol” from Mac Wiseman and friends. When I think of “American Roots Music,” Bristol is one of the first places that comes to mind, and it is amazing to think about the fact that Mac Wiseman was born before the Bristol Sessions.
For bluegrass album, even though I’m a fan of Rhonda Vincent and believe she deserves to be an Opry member, I have a hard time getting behind a live album over studio album competition. The Stringdusters featured more interesting songwriting than one usually finds in bluegrass, and the soon-to-be-86 Bobby Osborne is a legend.
I’ll also mention the New Monday crew at Nashville’s Station Inn. Larry Cordle grabbed a nomination for Roots Gospel Album. You’ve probably heard some of his country songs like “Murder on Music Row.” Carl Jackson wrote and produced “Arkansas Farm Boy” on Glen Campbell’s final album, and has a nomination for Best American Roots Performance. Carl’s goddaughter Ashley Campbell is releasing a new song this Friday.
Jimmy Buffett recently released an album of lost recordings from Mobile, Alabama in 1969, including “Close the World at Five .” Here’s the narration accompanying Close the World at Five . In 2003, Alan Jackson & Jimmy Buffett scored a monster hit with “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” , written by Jim “Moose” Brown and Don Rollins. As a fun fact, a then-unknown Chris Stapleton sang on the demo.
Before my brother moved to San Marcos, Texas a decade ago to teach at the university, neither of us had ever visited central Texas. I moved here this summer, so I’m still learning about the tremendous music history connected to this little college town. A good starting place is Kent Finlay, Dreamer , released March, 2016. Here’s a Texas Monthly Article . Today, I stumbled across the tidbit that Jenni Finlay Promotions will issue four bonus tracks leading up to a vinyl release, coinciding with a Kent Finlay exhibit at Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame in the spring of 2018. The first bonus track is from Emily Herring: Little Old Lady Who . The next will be from Chris Fullerton. We have seen both of these acts perform, and they each released albums this year. Jenni Finlay’s site also includes updates on a number of Jenni’s clients (James McMurtry, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Kinky Friedman, etc).
In other area news, here’s the latest update from Kevin Welch, who lives in the next town over. He’s working with long-time collaborators such as Fats Kaplin (see Dead Reckoners ) on an album, due April 2018. Kevin also mentions that his son Dustin Welch plans to release an album, and Kevin is also working on producing Jason Eady’s next album. Kevin & Dustin Welch played at the Kent Finlay memorial concert a couple years ago at Texas State University.
One of the things I’m thankful for this year is moving this summer to one of the best areas for live country music (south of Austin). It’s not why I moved, but it’s a nice perk. I have no close friends here, other than my brother, so the music gives me something to dig into. In the last week, I saw an act from Saskatchewan who grew up on a farm, selling urine from pregnant horses to a pharmaceutical company, and an Australian who grew up in a lobster fishing village. The week before, I saw a Texas fiddler who has a couple of Grammy awards. Each of these acts played for hours for just tips. I think most locals here take it all for granted, but I grew up in an area where such opportunities were far more scarce.
As a music fan, I’m also thankful for free streaming. I understand why many creators of music hate it, but as a consumer, more music is available for free now than ever before. As someone who graduated college a few years before ever getting on the internet, and with a telephone plugged into the wall, it’s magic to be able to walk around with a phone, listening to any music I want to hear for free. Every “advance” in technology brings new problems, too, but I go to a lot more concerts now than I did years before.
The nominees were recently announced for the 2018 Golden Guitar Awards , recognizing Australia’s country stars. Kasey Chambers is a member of the Americana Music Association Board of Directors , and I saw her at Americanafest. A couple more Aussies I will mention are Kristy Cox (award-winning artist who has a new album on the way 1/19/18, her first with USA bluegrass label Mountain Fever Records) and Arna Georgia (young artist I saw perform recently with Kasey Chambers’ father Bill, and who has a 7-song EP out now ). Here’s a look at the Australia Radio Chart – Country Tracks Chart
Apparently, National Jukebox Day is a thing, obscure as it is. For the second straight year, “Tennessee Whiskey” topped the TouchTunes Jukebox chart (all-genre): Don’t Rock the Jukebox… Here are links to the top 10 lists for 2016 , 2015 , and 2014 .
I know I should wait until after Thanksgiving for this post, but I had a little time this morning… The only 2017 addition so far is Mudbone’s “Christmas Whiskey,” which works well as a country song, no matter the season. I included a variety of genres on my Christmas List .
I lead off with Arthur Fiedler & the Boston Pops, because my father volunteered as an usher one season for them many decades ago when he lived in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. I was a trumpet player in the school band in my youth, and I enjoyed playing this song.
Although this “blog” began the first of this year, I started making YouTube playlists in 2015. When I looked back at Country & Western Music 2015-2016 , I noticed that a few of my links no longer worked. After I cut those from the 200-song list, I trimmed the list some more, down to 150 songs. My goal with the 2017 New Country Showcase is to similarly showcase a variety of music that didn’t receive top 40 country airplay. Although most of the songs are in fairly random order, I’ve grouped a few blocks of songs with similar themes. For instance, there’s a block of trucker songs, honky tonk songs, drinking songs, cowboy songs, etc.
The Urban Pioneers are constantly touring, and are now taking pre-orders for their coming album. Somehow, they also made the time to create a cool variety show: High On The Hog Show
Bluegrass Today announces alliance with AirPlay Direct “Our first joint venture will be developing a new Bluegrass Today weekly airplay chart for Grassicana, music that isn’t really bluegrass, but which should appeal to Americana and acoustic music lovers as well as fans of progressive grass…”
Here’s an Airplay Direct link to a bluegrass album a few years ago that I like: Musicians Against Childhood Cancer