8/31/18 New Albums

I mentioned the all-star Roger Miller tribute album yesterday. Donnie Fritts has a tribute album to Arthur Alexander. Nick Shoulders brings some yodeling from New Orleans on his new album,and there are also new albums from Freya Josephine Hollick, Joe Nichols,Colin Boutwell,Kelsey Henry, Kimberly Kelly,80 Proof Bluegrass, Courtney Hartman & Taylor Ashton, John R Miller, Jonathon Ferris, Aaron Lee Tasjan, Iron & Wine, Michelle Walker, Gina Sicilia, The Burned, and Banjo Bones.

8/30/18 Rodent Country

Country music has taken many forms over the years. Here’s a flashback to a pair of country albums by chipmunks (featuring Alan Jackson, Waylon Jennings, and many other country stars):

In 1981, Alvin and the Chipmunks’ album “Urban Chipmunk” reached number 23 on the country albums chart. The album was certified Gold by RIAA.

The 1992 album “Chipmunks In Low Places” fared even better, at number 6 on the country albums chart, and was certified Platinum.

Here’s Rudy Ratt’s cover of Folsom Prison Blues.

Here’s Mickey Mouse’s 1928 cartoon “Steamboat Willie” with “Turkey in the Straw

One might recall “The Hampsterdance Song” from 2000. Well, it was built around a sped-up sample of the Roger Miller song “Whistle Stop” from 1973. There’s an all-star Roger Miller tribute album on the way tomorrow, which includes 37 songs, but not this one.

I’ll close out this post with the new EP from The Runaway Hamsters. The name of this EP is “Brothers and Sisters,” and one of the songs on the Roger Miller tribute album is “Husbands and Wives.”


8/29/18 CMA Awards Nominations

Silly season is upon us once again. I’m generally more interested in the performances than the actual awards, because prime time TV opportunities allow artists to make their case directly to the public, without having to rely on just radio.

That said, it’s fun to look at the list, and I can generate wild guesses like anyone else. Keep in mind that the calendar period that we’re supposed to be considering is from the midpoint of last year to the midpoint of this year. There are all sorts of creative loopholes, such as songs from years ago being eligible because they were on albums that made the charts within this time frame, or “new artists” who have been making albums for several years and even charting for years. Women, older artists, traditional-leaning artists of any age, and independent artists have such difficulty getting on the radio that it certainly limits the choices.

Let’s dig in: CMA Awards Nominees

Entertainer of the Year:

We’ll start with the big one right off the bat, and the first thing that jumps out is the absence of Garth Brooks, who won the last two years. For an easy reference, here’s the Wikipedia table of past CMA winners. Two-time winner Luke Bryan recently edged out Garth on the Forbes list of top earning country artists in the last year. The actual Forbes article has too many annoying ads, but Roughstock posted the Forbes list: Top 10 Earning Country Stars. Jason Aldean won the ACM Entertainer the last three years, but has never won CMA Entertainer. Kenny Chesney won CMA Entertainer 4 times in a 5 year stretch (2004, 2006,2007,2008), and Keith Urban was the 2005 winner. Chris Stapleton is the first artist since Garth Brooks in 1992 to go 1-2-3 on the Billboard country album chart (early this year). Stapleton was also recognized for the top-performing country albums by Billboard for the last three years straight. Only Urban and Stapleton also have nominations in the Male Vocalist category. However, I’m guessing the huge “mainstream radio” acts Luke Bryan and Jason Aldean will probably battle for this prize.

Female Vocalist of the Year:

The big problem here is the eligibility period. Since 2010, Miranda Lambert has won this award every year, except for 2016, when Carrie Underwood won. I figure that Carrie’s new album, while not actually within the window of time that we’re supposed to consider, will probably help her cause greatly when the final voting begins at the start of October. Kelsea Ballerini, Maren Morris, and Kacey Musgraves round out the field. I don’t think Kelsea Ballerini has enough credentials at this point in her career to beat out multiple Grammy winners, and Maren Morris and Kacey Musgraves might split a block of votes. My early guess is that Carrie Underwood will end up with the prize.

Male Vocalist:

Chris Stapleton would be my clear choice, and yes, I’ve seen all of these perform. I think he’ll get snubbed for Entertainer, and he ought to win something for going 1-2-3 on the country album chart earlier this year.
Dierks Bentley, Luke Combs, Thomas Rhett, and Keith Urban round out the field. Just making it into the field at this early stage of his career bodes well for Luke Combs’ chances in the New Artist category.

New Artist:

Lauren Alaina (new ???), Midland, Brett Young, Chris Janson, and Luke Combs are the nominees, and three of these five were nominated for New Artist last year. How does that even begin to make sense ?  Luke Combs, who led the genre in streaming through at least the halfway point of the year, seems the most likely.

Duo of the Year:

Brothers Osborne, Dan & Shay,  Florida-Georgia Line, Maddie & Tae, and Sugarland are the nominees. I understand and appreciate the “anyone but FGL” sentiment, but they’ve probably had the biggest impact in the last year. Bros O won the last two years, and Dan & Shay had a big radio hit, but my guess is that FGL returns to the winner’s circle.

Vocal Group:

Lady Antebellum, LANCO, Little Big Town, Old Dominion, and Midland are the nominees. Little Big Town usually wins stuff, so there’s my oh-so-detailed guess.

Single of the Year:

Broken Halos – Chris Stapleton
Drinkin Problem – Midland
Drowns The Whiskey – Jason Aldean & Miranda Lambert
Meant To Be – Bebe Rexha & FGL
Tequila – Dan & Shay

The Bebe Rexha pop song doesn’t fit in the genre, but it set huge all-time records on the charts, whether we think it “belongs” or not.

Musician of the year:

Congratulations to all nominees: Jerry Douglas, Paul Franklin, Dann Huff, Mac McAnally, Derek Wells.

Musical Event:
Dierks Bentley & Brothers Osborne – Burning Man
Maren Morris & Vince Gill – Dear Hate
Jason Aldean & Miranda Lambert – Drowns The Whiskey
David Lee Murphy & Kenny Chesney – Gonna Be Alright
Bebe Rexha & FGL – Meant To Be

This one’s hard to call. The Maren/Vince duo might be the dark horse.

Music Video:

Babe – Sugarland & Taylor Swift
Cry Pretty – Carrie Underwood
Drunk Girl – Chris Janson
Marry Me – Thomas Rhett
Tequila – Dan & Shay

I haven’t seen these videos, so I’ve no idea. Is the CMA going to keep slobbering over Taylor Swift, who left country music behind years ago ?

Song of the Year:
Body Like A Backroad – Sam Hunt
Broken Halos – Chris Stapleton
Drowns The Whiskey – Jason Aldean & Miranda Lambert
Drunk Girl – Chris Janson
Tequila – Dan & Shay

The first two were released long enough ago that I figure voters will pass them over for the newer songs. The Opry faction will support Chris Janson. Jason Aldean’s probably due to win something, given his general lack of CMA success compared to the ACM. My way-too-early guess is Chris Janson for the win. Radio largely kept women from having a fighting chance at the song or single categories.

Album of the Year:
From A Room Vol. 2 – Chris Stapleton
Golden Hour – Kacey Musgraves
Graffiti U – Keith Urban
Life Changes – Thomas Rhett
The Mountain – Dierks Bentley

Other than Urban’s album, this is a solid lineup. Thomas Rhett appeals to the younger and poppier fans. Dierks Bentley discovered his inner Mumford. Kacey Musgraves will be the choice of many who are very pissed at radio for not playing women. I’m just not into the disco-country style of much of this particular album (though “Space Cowboy” has a place on my playlist right next to a song by William Shatner). I am glad to see a quality non-radio act in the competition. Chris Stapleton’s my first choice, though. Although numbers aren’t everything, Chris Stapleton’s dominant album sales should help his chances: Roughstock posted a list of country album sales, dated August 14th.

So, there you have it. I look forward to seeing who actually wins what, then looking back at this post to see how stupid my predictions turned out to be.

8/28/18 More New Music

I always miss a few. Here are some more albums that were released in the last couple of weeks: Sierra Alexis , Curtis Grimes , Billy Gunther , Clayton Anderson , Kenton Bryant , Lauren Jaimes , Wade B , Tristian Fincher , Mike Donnell , Jack Marion and the Pearl Snap Prophets , Becca Rae, Jess Sah Bi & Peter One , Ketsiyah Keren , Travis Collins , Eddie SandersNewTownForrest Cooper , and Sinead Burgess.

Outside the genre, I’ll mention Blue October, since the band has ties to San Marcos. The guitar player Will Knaak worked with many country artists in the past, including Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers.

Here’s the Official Americanafest 2018 Mixtape.

Garth Brooks offered a free download of the 26-song “Triple Live” on social media yesterday evening, and I downloaded a copy, but I don’t know how long he’ll leave the link active.

I haven’t heard any of the above yet. Tomorrow’s post will cover the CMA Awards nominations.

Here are the winners of the Nashville Industry Music Awards, announced August 26th: 2018 winners. I saw Karen Waldrup and Presley & Taylor at CMA in June.

8/27/18 Quotes

From Sunny Sweeney’s promo at Floore’s Country Store: “I am often times distracted by my own cleavage.”

Lukas Nelson’s last album was evidently hard to define. Per his interview with Country Music Magazine last November: “But I do feel this is a very country record. I could kind of turn around and say I don’t think Nashville has been putting out very country records lately.” From his interview with No Depression, also last November: ” It’s funny, it all falls under rock and roll category to me.”

Lee Ann Womack, in an interview with PBS Overheard With Evan Smith: “What they call country music now, mass-marketed as country music is obviously not country music. I don’t know what it is … It’s sort of a pop music I guess … “

Lee Ann Womack, in an interview with Billboard: “I know this is going to sound really crazy, but I wouldn’t mind working with a rap artist and doing something like that,” she said. “I wouldn’t rap — I don’t want to — but something like that might be fun.”

Miranda Lambert, US Weekly Magazine: “Love is a hard road sometimes and it’s been a roller-coaster ride for me, but I’m definitely thankful for all the ups and downs because I’ve had some really good songs come out of it.”

Brent Cobb, MSN: “I’m making Europe a priority. People listen differently there, a little more intently and it’s nice, it’s refreshing. That’s not that they don’t listen to here [in the US], but it’s just in a different way.”

Chris Stapleton, EW: “We have that storytelling history in country and bluegrass and old time and folk music, blues – all those things that combine to make up the genre. It was probably storytelling before it was songwriting, as far as country music is concerned. It’s fun to be a part of that and tip the hat to that. You know, and keep that tradition alive.”

Pythagoras: “There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres.”


8/26/18 Revisiting Assorted Music

Quincy Harper’s 2015 album “11” was one of the many albums we enjoyed on last week’s road trip.  I saw him in San Marcos for the Last Honkytonk Music Series.

Rhonda Vincent’s “Bluegrass Legends: Live At The Ryman” is another album we enjoyed listening to on the road.

Here’s Loretta Lynn’s 1985 version of “Wouldn’t It Be Great,”and the 1993 version with Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette. Weldon Myrick played steel guitar on both versions.

In 1986, Dobie Gray ventured into the country market with the album “From Where I Stand,” produced by Harold Shedd. The album wasn’t very successful, but here’s the first single from that album: “That’s One To Grow On.”

I mentioned Olivia Douglas’  2018 album when it was released, but there are so many albums that it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle: “Forever Country.”

Similarly, Damian O’Grady’s recent album hasn’t gotten a lot of attention: “From 9 ‘Til 1.”

“Divided & United: The Songs Of The Civil War” is a double album from 2013, featuring a great cast of stars.

Also, Charley Pride announced a 2019 duets album that will include Loretta Lynn, Tanya Tucker, and Vince Gill: Meridian Star article.


8/25/18 Buffalo Bill’s Wild West

William Cody (1846-1917) was one of the most prominent figures of the great American west for decades. He was so well known that he was one of the figures originally considered for Mount Rushmore. Here’s a True West article about how Buffalo Bill participated in and inspired a number of western movies.

More directly to our focus here on country & western music, here’s a look at Buffalo Bill’s Cowboy Band. For thirty years, William Sweeney directed the very large group. Here’s what western music sounded like in 1912: Buffalo Bill’s Farewell March.

Here’s one of Buffalo Bill Cody’s outfits from the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave that I visited last week in Colorado:


8/24/18 New Music

New albums:  Aaron Watson, Dale Watson , Dee White, Bill and the Belles, Sister Sadie, Murder By Death, Devil Makes Three, Lucie Silvas, Ryan Culwell , and The Decato-Sanborn Project.

Randy Houser released the song No Stone Unturned

Kimberly Kelly released a song, Some Things Have A Name

Kirsty Lee Akers released a video: Hannah’s Song

The O’Connor Band has a new song, Casino

Jamie Lin Wilson has a new song, Run

Loretta Lynn album sampler: Wouldn’t It Be Great

Sounds Like Nashville coverage of ACM Honors


8/23/18 News and Notes

Cody Johnson’s first song since partnering with Warner Music, On My Way To You, is at #37 on Billboard Country Airplay in just its second week, and #1 in Country Digital Song Sales. Earlier this month, Taste of Country interviewed Cody Johnson. His commercial success in the Texas regional market appears to be translating quickly to the national radio scene.

The Grand Ole Opry surprisingly added Dustin Lynch as a member. Numerous Opry “guests” have appeared over a hundred times without being offered membership. Elizabeth Cook has logged over 400 Opry appearances, and The Grascals recently hit 200. Here are the lyrics to “She Cranks My Tractor” by Dustin Lynch. Dustin Lynch has the same manager as Sam Hunt: Music Row article.

Recent additions to my 2018 New Country playlist include Gethen Jenkins’ Bottle In My Hand and Damian O’Grady’s Cry Like A Steel Guitar. I saw Gethen perform in San Marcos a few months ago.

Carrie Underwood released the tracklist for her upcoming album. Her co-producer David Garcia has writing credits on half the songs. He’s the producer and one of the writers on the Bebe Rexha/FGL song “Meant To Be.”

Dee White’s EP is available for preview on NPR First Listen.

Chris Stapleton and Lauren Alaina wrote a song together called “The Clown.”

Country traditionalist Anita Stapleton has a new acoustic gospel album, “Singing Joyfully Unto The Lord.”

Sundance Head’s next album will be on Dean Dillon’s new label “Wildcatter Records.”

Loretta Lynn released the title song from her delayed album: Wouldn’t It Be Great. This song was also on albums in 1985 and 1993. More importantly, it’s great news that she apparently feels better.

8/22/18 Leapy Lee and Albert Hammond

Albert Hammond‘s songwriting credits span decades and genres: 2015 Irish Examiner article, “Meet Albert Hammond.”  Here’s Johnny Cash’s  Smokey Factory Blues , Glen Campbell’s Oklahoma Sunday Morning ,the Willie Nelson & Julio Iglesias smash crossover duet To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before, the Dolly Parton & Julio Iglesias duet version of When You Tell Me That You Love Me , Buck Owens’ version of When I Need You , Johnny Cash’s Praise the Lord and Pass the Soup (with the Carter Family and Oak Ridge Boys), and the Hank Williams, Jr version of The Air I Breathe .

Albert Hammond’s first big hit, though, was Leapy Lee’s Little Arrows in 1968. The international crossover hit was Leapy’s only significant impact on the US country charts, reaching number 11 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs. The song fared much better in the UK on the pop chart. Nowadays, Leapy writes a political column for Euro Weekly News.