5/31/18 CMA Spotlight Stage & Ole Red Spotify

Since I wrote a post a few days ago about the departure of the classic country stage “Durango Music Spot” at the annual CMA Festival, here’s a look at the new stage taking its place: Spotlight Stage lineup. I’m pleasantly surprised at the variety, including a few artists who were already on my assorted YouTube and Spotify playlists.

I’m unfamiliar with many of the acts, but there are traditional-leaning country acts from Alabama (Shane Owens, Red Marlow, Glen Templeton), folks from Louisiana (James Dupre, Karen Waldrup,etc), and Texas (Bobby Marquez,etc). Young traditional country acts include Presley & Taylor and EmiSunshine. There are good bluegrass-leaning options, too (Kyle Dillingham, Summer Brooke & Mountain Faith, Gal Friday). Joe Denim is funny, so there’s a good comedy choice. International artists include Marta (Poland), The Wandering Hearts (UK), and 8 Ball Aitken (Australia).

Here are some of the artists who will take the stage: CMA Spotlight Stage Spotify Sampler.

Also, I just won something called a “pop socket” in a drawing from Ole Red Nashville. I don’t know what to do with it, but since they’re nice enough to give me something, I’m pleased to share the lineup for the Spotify stage at Ole Red (which was created with help from the Grand Ole Opry, whose parent company Ryman Properties is also the parent company of the new Ole Red): Spotify Hot Country. These are free shows, and there are some very high-profile acts, especially Saturday night. Ten of the fifteen Saturday acts are female, which is quite different from some other festivals. So many things are going on at different venues at the same time that I’m not sure which things I’m going to try where, but I hope to at least stick my head in to see how the crowds are.


5/30/18 Billboard Americana Chart, Two Years Old

Billboard Introduces Americana/Folk Albums Chart , dated 5/17/2016. June 4th, 2016 was the first date for the “Americana/Folk” designation to replace the “Folk” album chart. We now have two years of chart data.

Here are the weeks at number one on the Billboard Americana/Folk Albums chart, from its inception June 4th, 2016 through the chart dated May 26th, 2018:

Chris Stapleton, “Traveller” – 44 weeks, including both the first week and the last

Chris Stapleton, “From A Room, Volume 1” – 13 weeks

Chris Stapleton, “From A Room, Volume 2” – 9 weeks

Chris Stapleton topped the Billboard Americana albums chart for more weeks than all others combined in the two years of the chart’s existence, and by a very large margin (66 to 38).

Dolly Parton, “Pure and Simple” – 2 weeks

Bon Iver, “22, A Million” – 2 weeks

Leonard Cohen, “You Want It Darker” – 2 weeks

John Mayer, “The Search For Everything” – 2 weeks

Kacey Musgraves, “Golden Hour” – 2 weeks

Above are all the multi-week number one Americana chart albums since the chart’s inception two years ago.

Here are the other artists who had one-week chart-toppers: Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Mumford & Sons, Avett Brothers, The Head and The Heart, Dawes, Blackberry Smoke, Ryan Adams, Alison Krauss, Big Little Lies Soundtrack, Father John Misty, John Mayer, John Mellencamp featuring Carlene Carter, Jason Isbell, Iron & Wine, Jack Johnson, Gregg Allman, Van Morrison, Robert Plant, Turnpike Troubadours, Brandi Carlile, Vance Joy, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, The Decemberists, John Prine, Lord Huron, Willie Nelson, and Leon Bridges.

5/29/18 Country Flashback, Tommy Williams

Memorial Day Weekend provided the time to take it easy and watch some old-school country music on RFD-TV. One of the fixtures on Hee Haw was fiddler Tommy Williams, who also played fiddle for such artists as Charley Pride, George Jones, and Bill Monroe. Tommy Williams’ career came to a most unusual end in 1992: Washington Post article. A giant American flag caught the wind and pulled the scaffold onto the musician, and the freakish accident left him unable to continue playing.

Since Tommy Williams played fiddle at George Jones’ Possum Holler Club, here’s a look back at the colorful history of Possum Holler- (link to Wide Open Country article). In short, Roy Acuff owned the building, and the lower floor was a Roy Acuff museum. Although Roy was a frequent visitor to Possum Holler, a plumbing issue from the club leaked downstairs, ruining some of the museum’s offerings. Said Roy, “We just can’t have turds inside my exhibits.’” And the original Possum Holler had to close.


5/28/18 The Opry and Ryman

Next week, I will visit the Grand Ole Opry on Tuesday (Carrie Underwood headlines a robust roster for the CMA week kickoff show) and the Ryman Auditorium (Marty Stuart’s Late Night Jam with Connie Smith, Chris Stapleton, John Prine, Margo Price, Gary Mule Deer, The Grand Ole Opry Square Dancers, and The Wandering Hearts). I also hope to take tours of the Ryman, Opry House, and Acuff House during my visit.

Ryman Hospitality Properties , the parent company of the Grand Ole Opry, Ryman, Wildhorse Saloon, and other country music landmarks in Nashville, is in major expansion mode, most recently announcing a $150-million expansion of its Gaylord Palms hotel complex in Orlando, after recently completing a $120-million expansion of the Gaylord Texan hotel complex near Dallas. A $90-million waterpark is supposed to go in next to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville : Soundwaves. The grand opening of the $20-million Ole Red Nashville complex next week will include Blake Shelton and The Today Show and a series of concerts curated by Spotify and the Grand Ole Opry.

Things weren’t always rosy between the Opry and Ryman Auditorium. Charmaine Lanham’s article “How Love Saved The Ryman.” My childhood memory of the Opry was  visiting Opryland and Grand Ole Opry at the Opry House (which opened in 1974) in 1979-1980. Roy Acuff played at Opryland when we were there. I didn’t visit the Ryman until just a couple of years ago, after it was upgraded to its current glory by a $14-million renovation in 2015.

The Acuff House Tour is available for the first time this year. There is a Roy Acuff statue at the Ryman Auditorium lobby. Keep in mind that he was the one leading the charge to tear down the Ryman, so that adds an interesting dimension to the long and often twisted history of the Opry.

Emmylou Harris’ appearance in 1991 generated a good bit of interest in the Ryman building, and she became an Opry member in 1992, fifteen days after the release of At The Ryman.

The Fayfare Opry Blog contains a wealth of information about Opry history. 2017 Year In Review : “As to active members who did not appear in 2017, that list includes just three: Garth Brooks, Emmylou Harris and Alan Jackson.” Where’s Emmylou, the Opry member who helped save the Ryman ? Emmylou was at the Ryman just a few days ago as Margo Price’s special guest.

After many years of questionable Opry leadership, where most high-profile “Opry members” rarely showed, a change in leadership early last year appears to be making some impact. From the Fayfare article: “2017 saw the Grand Ole Opry produce 218 shows, which is the highest number in any year since Opryland was in operation.”

At least for CMA week, it appears the Opry is drawing more Opry members to show up.

Bluegrass Nights at the Ryman lineup for 2018: Rhonda Vincent, etc. The bluegrass nights series has been a fixture since 1994, when Bill Monroe and Alison Krauss kicked things off.

New in 2018 is the Americana at the Ryman series. The Mark O’Connor & Brandy Clark pairing might be the most interesting of this lot. Mark was familiar to Roy Acuff and Bill Monroe. Mark O’Connor video from 1987. From 1990-1993, Mark O’Connor was the bandleader of American Music Shop on The Nashville Network.

5/27/18 RIP Durango Music Spot

Last year, my brother and I attended CMA week in Nashville. We listened to a little bit of everything, but we tend to gravitate toward places with air conditioning, seating, and older style music, and the two places where we most often found that combination were the CMHOF (which so far has announced just three CMA week events, as opposed to about a dozen last year) and the Durango stage at Fan Fair X. The CMA Fest featured eleven “official” stages last year, but the announcement came last Thursday that for this year’s festival, the Durango stage will be replaced by the Spotlight stage, which highlights up-and-coming talent.

The Forever Country Stage does return at this year’s festival, and it is a dedicated classic country stage. We saw Rhonda Vincent & Daryle Singletary there last year, and there will be a tribute to Daryle Singletary at that stage this year.

The Durango stage last year included classic country artists, bluegrass, and songwriters, and it was by-goodness indoors with seats. Here’s a look back at the 2017 lineup from this dearly departed stage, which was where we spent more time than anywhere else during last year’s festival: 2017 Durango Music Spot at CMA Fest.

On the good side, in addition to several interview sessions with country legends at the Close Up Stage, there are some quality traditional-leaning artists sprinkled among the lineups at the various other stages, if you’re willing to wade through all the rest of it to seek them out- Kendell Marvel, Erin Enderlin, and on and on: 2018 CMA Fest Lineup.

Since several hundred acts will be performing during the week (many at “unofficial” free shows), if even 5% of the acts are to your taste, that’s still a number in the dozens , and the vast majority of these performances are free to attend. My brother is teaching this summer, but I’m going to Nashville next week & will hopefully discover some new music to share here.



5/26/18 “Hillbilly Rock” at Graceland

When I visited Memphis a few months ago, one of the exhibits at the huge Elvis complex was Marty Stuart’s “Country Road to Rock.” It appears the updated version of that will be “Hillbilly Rock,” opening June 9th: Hillbilly Rock at Graceland.

Thinking of country/rock-and-roll crossovers and rockabilly, here’s a look at the lineup of the annual Nashville Boogie rockabilly event, going on right now: Nashville Boogie Vintage Weekender.

5/25/18 New Music Friday

Grand Ole Opry member Del McCoury has a new bluegrass album (including the song Deep Dark Hollow Road , which was released early), and his sons The Travelin McCourys also have a new album.

Hilary Williams (Hank Jr’s daughter) has a new album, as do The Church Sisters, Tori Forsyth, and The Davisson Brothers.

The always-great Dwight Yoakam debuted a couple of new songs this week, including Then Here Came Monday.

Michael Johnathon of Woodsongs has a new banjo album Moonfire

Linda Gail Lewis & Robbie Fulks released the song Wild ! Wild ! Wild !

Cliona Hagan’s cover of a song Kellie Pickler recorded on an album several years ago: Stop Cheatin’ On Me.

Music City Maven posted a whole lot of videos from Margo Price’s recent shows at Ryman Auditorium.

5/24/18 CMHOF AWOL @ CMA ?

The Country Music Hall of Fame is kicking off its huge new exhibit “Outlaws and Armadillos” this weekend, so one should reasonably  expect a huge focus on “outlaw country” during CMA week in a couple weeks, but I see nothing of the sort so far.

The CMHOF lists just three events during CMA week: Music Fest at the Hall 2018. I’ve nothing against these three events (CMT Next Women of Country and interview sessions with Ashley Monroe and Charlie Worsham), but it’s staggering to think that the CMHOF is sitting there with beautiful theaters going unused, while hundreds of country artists are in town, scrambling to find stages to play (some even paying for stage time at bars).

Let’s look back to see how this year’s programming compares to the CMHOF’s offerings in previous years. Here’s a dozen events last year: 2017 CMA Fest at CMHOF. 2016 CMA at CMHOF was also jam-packed with big names.  See also 2015 CMA at CMHOF and 2014 CMA at CMHOF.

So, what’s going on in 2018 at the CMHOF ?


5/23/18 Matt Hillyer and Cody Braun

I saw these guys yesterday at Kent Black’s BBQ in San Marcos. I had seen Matt with his band Eleven Hundred Springs last summer in San Marcos, and I had seen Cody Braun with Reckless Kelly at Americanafest last year at the Yee Haw Tent.

Last evening’s three-hour show was mostly classic covers (and some were lesser known, such as Ronnie Dawson) , with a few of Matt’s own songs scattered in. Cody played fiddle. I recognized a couple of John Prine covers, and I will see John in a couple of weeks at Marty Stuart’s deal in Nashville.

This venue regularly hosts music (mostly traditional country and singer-songwriter) three days a week, but they hosted this Tuesday show as a bonus- really good food and consistently good music in a relaxed setting.

5/22/18 American Idol

Although I dislike the idea of karaoke show stars skipping in line ahead of working artists who have spent years paying their dues (see also most kid acts) , I can’t deny that some huge careers have been launched this way. Carrie Underwood is the greatest example.

This year’s American Idol finalists showed a decidedly country flavor,which is in stark contrast to the Billboard Awards the night before, where the only nominally “country” offering was the not-country Sam Hunt. Middle America, for all its faults, still likes country music,as evidenced any season of American Idol or The Voice or any of the others where the public can vote. Middle America likes country. That’s why Chris Stapleton had the best selling country albums the last three years, despite radio giving him the cold shoulder.

Maddie Poppe who won American Idol is apparently dating Caleb Lee Hutchinson who came in second, and over the course of the season, Caleb played the banjo and covered Johnny Cash, Chris Stapleton’s SteelDrivers, and Jamey Johnson. America clearly likes that type of music. Hear that, country radio?? That’s America ignoring what country radio is pushing to vote for yet another singing contestant doing Chris Stapleton covers. Suck on that, radio.

Gabby Barrett came in third, and country is also her genre of choice.

Luke Bryan performed his new song on the finale. It sucked, of course, but at least country was more represented on this prime time show than any of the garbage the BBMAs chose to televise.