6/30/18 Halfway Through 2018: Country

There is more music to choose from now than ever before, and it’s ever-so-convenient and “free.” No matter whether you like traditional or modern or anything else, it’s right there on your phone, what you want and when you want it. There are so many options that it can be a challenge to sort through it all. Most people don’t have the time and dedication to go to the trouble. They’ll still turn on the radio (and a few companies control a large percentage of stations), or check out streaming services (and the streaming model is still new enough that there aren’t adequate safeguards against companies “stacking the deck” with artist placements on lists).

The current listener-driven model is pushing the industry toward younger audiences. The “mainstream machine,” backed by demographic studies, marketing focus groups, talks with corporate sponsors, and other such things that have little to do with actual music, seems intent on chasing “pop dollars.” Well, they want all the dollars. The pop dollars and country dollars and rock dollars are all just dollars. If they thought they could make money from selling asparagus smoothies, they’d do that, too. Is their plan working ? One can look all over Nashville and see money flowing like water, and as long as the “machine” is rolling in the money, those efforts will continue.

All the alternatives to the mainstream are also growing at a rapid pace. That’s why I made separate posts for some of these scenes: Texas , Americana , and bluegrass. I’d previously mentioned the recent rapid growth of Ryman, the Opry’s parent company, and that’s yet another scene.

Country music in its various forms appears to be growing internationally, as well. Take a look at the lineup for the inaugural Long Road Festival in the UK. They have well-known acts like Carrie Underwood and Lee Ann Womack, tons of Americana acts, Texas star Aaron Watson,etc .

In the few years that I have maintained YouTube lists, I have never encountered such a large number of albums as I have in the first half of 2018. My 2018 New Country Showcase features well over a hundred artists, and I could easily add many more. Although I do include some well-known names, I make a point to include artists that receive little or no coverage elsewhere.

I started this blog on the first day of 2017, and I’ve made posts every day of 2018. I don’t know if I’ll keep up that pace, but I’ve enjoyed a ton of music this year.


6/29/18 New Music

Sarah Parker has a country album, and here’s the title track: Strawberry Moon

Olivia Douglas of Ireland has a new country album (traditional country)

Harry Luge has a new honky tonk album.

The Wild Feathers have a new country/folk/rock album. Here’s one of theirs: Every morning I Quit Drinkin’

Terry Brown has a country/western album

Ella Reid has a new album

Waylon Nelson from Kentucky has a country album

Tyler Childers, also of Kentucky, is re-issuing an album.

Shane Owens of Alabama has a new country EP

Riley Green has a new EP

Dallas Dorsey has a new EP

James Ellis and The Jealous Guys  from Australia have a new album.

Midland released a pair of songs on Spotify

Cody Canada, Milk Carton Kids, I See Hawks in LA, Kevin Neidig , and Sons of Bill issued Americana albums.

Hay Fever released a bluegrass album.

Bryan Worth , Tom Sparks , and John Bayuk have new albums.

Bill and the Belles, David Nail, Randy Houser, Cody Jinks, Karen Waldrup, and Bill Brimer each released a new song this week, and Natalie Stovall released a new song last week.


6/28/18 Halfway Through 2018: Americana

Americana, a catch-all “genre” or “movement” or whatever they call it, is enjoying rapid growth, thanks in large part to sharp marketing. One can hardly read about any kind of music the last couple of years without seeing some mention of the term “Americana.”

Americanafest, which I attended the last two years, drew an estimated 51,000 people last year. The first round of artists has been announced for this fall’s event: 2018 Americanafest lineup.

The main bit of advice I’ll give to any potential attendees is to pay attention to the venues, because some are quite small. If one of the bigger names plays at the Station Inn, which holds about 150 people, you’re probably not getting in with the $75 wristband. Think about it. 51,000 people attended the festival, and the choice venue is the size of a Burger King. The wristband is still a great value, and a way to spend a week choosing from hundreds of acts.

Americana added its own airplay charts for singles and albums earlier this year. Here’s the link to the current charts.

The list of names on the Billboard Americana/Folk Albums Chart is mostly different from the acts who get played on Americana radio. The current Billboard chart, dated the week of June 30th, starts as follows: Chris Stapleton (at 1,2, and 3), Kacey Musgraves, Leon Bridges, Simon & Garfunkel , Hozier, The Lumineers, Jimmy Buffett , and Ed Sheeran . John Denver and Jim Croce appear on this week’s Billboard Americana chart, and they passed away before the Americana Music Association was even formed.

History of Americana Music Association. “In the late 1990’s, a group of about 30 volunteers from radio, record labels and media met informally at the South by Southwest music industry conference in Austin, Texas, to discuss collective action that could help the Americana community, including the possibility of a trade association. A facilitated retreat in October 1999 galvanized the idea, and the Americana Music Association was born.”

Americana and Ameripolitan were both born in Austin, but both are now based in Tennessee. KNBT-FM Americana radio in New Braunfels, TX (which I can pick up in San Marcos) is one of the country’s longest-running Americana stations, and they post the last twenty songs played.

6/27/18 Halfway Through 2018: Texas

The biggest news in Texas country music in 2018 so far is that several top independents signed label deals: Cody Johnson, Cody Jinks, Aaron Watson, etc. This is not only big news for those artists, but for the whole scene. Cody Johnson successfully headlined all the huge rodeo shows in Texas earlier this year, so that could pave the way for other homegrown Texas acts to get such opportunities later. Cody Jinks created a new, one-day music festival, featuring many independent acts. Aaron Watson has had some success on national country radio charts, so that might pave the way for other Texas artists to market their music beyond “Texas Regional Radio.” 20-year-old Mason Lively signed with WME.

Additionally, rising Texas acts are getting song cuts with some of the industry’s biggest stars. Randall King got a cut with Garth Brooks, and Kenny Chesney covered a John Baumann song.  Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen (whose Bowen Musicfest in Waco celebrated its 20th year) have invested in new Texas venues, and Cody Canada opened a School of Rock location in New Braunfels.

My 2018 New Country Showcase includes about two dozen Texas acts, including some who have received little coverage elsewhere. Texas is packed with country and western music, and the real strength is in the vast number of largely unknown acts who play mostly small venues around their home areas.

Texas has a huge Latin population, at roughly 40% of the state’s total, and country music is a growing market for that population.

A frustrating thing to me, as a Texas resident, is the lack of a single, great country festival in the state. Texas country stars headline multi-day festivals in Idaho, Kansas, Colorado, and Florida, but what about right here ? Austin is very proud of its claim as the “Live Music Capital of the World,” but the big festivals SXSW and ACL Fest include surprisingly little country music. Austin’s heyday for country music was in the 1970s, and the major exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame “Outlaws and Armadillos” covers a lot of that history. Here’s a Texas Monthly article advocating a Texas music museum, mentioning that Nashville exhibit specifically. Although Dale Watson’s Ameripolitan is small in terms of pure numbers, his decision to move his event from Austin to Memphis is disconcerting.

6/26/18 Halfway Through 2018: Bluegrass

Rather than one huge, all-encompassing mid-year post, I’ll take a look at various sectors of the country universe a day at a time, starting with bluegrass and other string music.

The IBMA’s decision to keep the “World of Bluegrass” in Raleigh for three more years was so expected that it was hardly considered newsworthy. The event was taken for granted when it was in Nashville years ago. There, it was an afterthought that drew pitiful numbers. In Raleigh, it quickly blossomed into the city’s biggest annual event, attracting hundreds of thousands of attendees.

The $15.3-million Bluegrass Hall of Fame and Museum is on track to open October 18-20 in Owensboro, Kentucky.

Del Fest review – Del McCoury’s annual festival continues to grow and thrive.

Bluegrass Underground moved from Cumberland Caverns (which still hosts a few concerts of its own) to “The Caverns” this year. The Steeldrivers will celebrate the tenth anniversary of the first Bluegrass Underground show.

The O’Connor Band, which won the bluegrass Grammy for their 2016 album, is opening for Zac Brown Band on tour, playing for an estimated 150,000 people in one week.


6/25/18 Autoharp

Maybelle Carter and many early stars of country music played the autoharp, but it’s mostly just a novelty these days, showing up at old-time events, etc. A few high-profile artists like Dolly Parton and Sheryl Crow play the instrument on occasion, and there are also dedicated autoharp players like Bryan Bowers.

Here’s a look at the zither family of instruments, with some information about how the autoharp was developed: John McCrady link.

When I attended Marty Stuart’s Late Night Jam at the Ryman Auditorium, the closing number of the evening featured Dale Jett (AP Carter’s grandson) . It doesn’t get more “real, old-school country” than a member of the Carters playing a Carter Family tune on the autoharp.



6/24/18 Tiple

Here’s a quick introduction to this old, but not overly common instrument: Unique Guitar blog article.

For country and bluegrass recordings, Ray Edenton is a notable tiplista, working with such artists as the Osborne Brothers in 1959 and Mac Wiseman in 1959 & 1962: The Martin Tiple blog article.

The tiple made appearances in country music before that, though, possibly even backing the first big Opry star, Uncle Dave Macon.

Fans of the old TV show Sanford and Son might get a kick out of this; Fred and Smiley. Comedian Timmie Rogers (“Smiley” on Sanford and Son) often played the tiple.

Here’s a modern tiple instrumental: Sandy River Belle.

6/23/18 Los Aztex

A couple of days ago, I saw Grammy-winning conjunto band Los Aztex perform at San Marcos’ free “Summer In The Park” concert series, which has been a popular local fixture for 32 years. So, what does that have to do with country music at all ?

Well, it turns out that accordionist Joel Guzman has recorded every type of music, including country. There are several videos of him accompanying Joe Ely.

The accordion probably enjoys more popularity in Texas and Louisiana than in some other parts of the country, though the instrument shows up a lot of places (even early bluegrass). Here’s an old NPR article: Texas Gets The Accordion Bug And Never Looks Back.

CMHOF member Pee Wee King helped popularize the accordion in country music in the 1940s-50s. Here is a great Accordion America article about this fascinating character.

CMHOF member Jimmy Dean also played the accordion, and there are several videos on YouTube.

History Of The Accordion In Americana Music- Accordion America article details the early use of the instrument. There’s a 1920s picture of a family band with banjo and two accordions, and a 1940s picture of Anita Carter playing accordion for Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters.

6/22/18 New Music

Rhyan Sinclair- New artist from Kentucky. Here’s one of those songs: Selfishly, Heartlessly.

Chris Hennessee- Resides in the same general sonic territory as Jamey Johnson, and the first song released from the new album features Jamey: Wrong End Of The Rainbow.

Cliona Hagan was recently named “Country Artist of the Year” by the Irish Post, and this is her second album.

Dan & Shay – Mainstream duo includes Kelly Clarkson on a song.

Tim Hicks- New album from Toronto native

Various Artists: A Tribute to John Duffey – Smithsonian Folkways bluegrass album, featuring a number of well-known bluegrass acts.

Dallas Wayne – Sirius XM host, classic country covers

Larry Cordle- Bluegrass album from songwriter known for such hits at “Highway 40 Blues” and “Murder on Music Row”

Adam Wright – Alan Jackson’s nephew & Americana songwriter

Lera Lynn – Americana duets album

Marie Wise-Hawkins – EP

Paul Cauthen- EP

Jake Clark- 8 songs

Mitch Larock and the 4:54 Band – EP

Tom McElvain- full album

The Furious Seasons- full album

Jason Eady released a second song from his next album, Always A Woman

Here’s a Bradley Walker & Holly Pitney bluegrass song: When I Leave Kentucky. Holly’s brother Mo has been doing a lot of bluegrass lately, as well. Here’s a video from a couple of years ago of Holly singing with Wyatt McCubbin.  He is a promising traditional country singer and songwriter who had some cuts on Josh Ward’s recent album, including A Cowboy Can.

6/21/18 CMA Meet & Greet Playlists

When I visited Nashville for CMA week in 2017 and again in 2018, I met dozens of artists. In some cases, I happened to be passing by little-known acts when there was little or no line to talk to them. It turns out that some of these folks make good music. You just never know, and I enjoy shining some spotlight on the lesser-known acts.

Here’s the big list of 40 acts: YouTube Playlist.

For whatever reason, my Spotify account started working again, as mysteriously as it didn’t work the last few days. My old computer probably did one of its “updates.” Rather than just copy the whole YouTube list I made, I threw together a 25-song sampler, and included some different songs: Spotify playlist.