11/17/18 Catherine Thompson Yodels

Earlier this year, Catherine Thompson released the album Western Serenade. Since it’s all covers of classic western songs, it wasn’t as much of a priority to me at the time as the “new” music, but I like to showcase young talent. She is just 16, and here’s one of her recent live performances, a cover of Leroy Van Dyke’s The Auctioneer

While we’re on the subject of young artists, I’ll get back on my soapbox a little. I always want to support and encourage the young artists. If it’s a teenager, that’s one thing, but “kid stars” are often overwhelmed with too much, too soon. It takes strong adults to help them stay solid. Ricky Skaggs and others are living proof that entertainers who started very young can turn out just fine, though. I was hesitant to include the very young Mason Ramsey on my playlist during the initial hype, because I wanted to see things play out a little. I now include him on my “Hank block” of songs: Jambalaya

While we’re on the subject of kids, let me just reiterate my disgust with some of the rhetoric I’ve seen from the “anti-mainstream” crowd this year. It’s one thing to dislike some “mainstream” artist’s music, but the hateful, personal stuff needs to go away. I remember reading negative comments on a “traditional country” site earlier this year accusing one artist of exploiting a miscarriage to sell records, and negative comments about the number of children another artist has. Leave the attacks on the families out of this, no matter whatever you think of their music.  Listen to what you do like. There is every imaginable kind of music available, more than ever before. Being a fan of traditional country music or any other type of music shouldn’t supersede basic human decency.

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11/16/18 New Albums

Mickey Galyean & Cullen’s Bridge, Jean-Luc Leroux (bluegrass from New Caledonia), Kip Moore, Megan McMillan, Jonathan Byrd, Sylvain Black, Taylor Martin, JJ Lawhorn, Old 97s, and The Hillbenders.

We’ve definitely slowed down a bit. I’m starting to put a bit less effort into finding the indie releases, anyway.

As I type this (Thursday morning), I’m looking at the comments section of the “Kentucky Country Music” Facebook site. The site congratulated Chris Stapleton on his CMA wins, then people from Texas and Alabama and God knows where decided to show their ass. That’s his home state. You don’t have to like the same artists I like, but don’t seek out a page in the guy’s home area just to shit all over him. Why is a guy from “Bama Roots Radio” in Alabama on a Kentucky site bashing the hell out of a Kentucky artist ?

Some of the stuff I read in comments on country sites about some of the mainstream artists is way, way, way below any standard of decency.

On another sad note, I hated to see that Roy Clark passed away. I grew up watching Hee Haw, and still watch the old episodes on RFD. Roy’s amazing musical skill and unique sense of humor inspired generations. Steve Ripley (who would later form The Tractors) produced this record by Roy Clark and Gatemouth Brown, and my second cousin Charlene cowrote one of the songs on the record: Makin’ Music. I’ve always had a soft spot for this record, since it includes the only song I’ve ever heard that my second cousin wrote. The fact that legends like Roy Clark and Gatemouth Brown recorded it makes it that much more special to me.

 

11/15/18 CMA Awards Recap

I’m typing this thing on my phone while watching the show. Before we get to the action, though, let’s kick things off with a funny quote from Carrie Underwood:

“It’s definitely interesting to try to sing with a basketball where my lungs and diaphragm used to be. I don’t know where they are now, they’re squished in there somewhere.”

A couple of awards were announced early: Thomas Rhett for video and Kenny Chesney/David Lee Murphy for event. I know that awards are often given out early like this, but it makes the early awards seem less important than the ones that make the broadcast. These are mild, inoffensive, if somewhat uninspiring choices. As I see it, it’s a feel-good story for Murphy to finally win something, and Rhett’s a young, popular act who wasn’t going to win anything else this time. Congratulations to them. Now, on with the show.

Well, I just found that Mac MacAnally won musician of the year. It’s hard to go wrong with any of the musician choices.

Garth Brooks opened the show with a moment of silence for the shooting victims. Luke Bryan led the opening song, and whatever your thoughts about that, he brought along Luke Combs,Jon Pardi,Ashley McBryde, Chris Janson, Lindsey Ell, and Cole Swindell. It was a good vehicle to promo a whole lot of quality young artists early in the show.

Mason Ramsey made a guest appearance in a Brad and Carrie skit.

Chris Stapleton and Mike Henderson won song of the year. It’s so cool to see original SteelDriver and Dead Reckoner Mike Henderson get stage time. Mike has served up great music at Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe on Mondays for longer than some of my readers have been alive. It’s a rare treat to see a long-serving, “behind the scenes” guy enjoy a moment in the sun.

Jason Aldean and Miranda Lambert featured pedal steel prominently in their performance.

Luke Combs won New Artist, as everyone expected.

Thomas Rhett’s performance featured a gigantic group of people who would likely be a marching band if they had any room to march.

Dan + Shay performed their big hit.  They’re Rascal Flatts 2.0, for good or ill.

Chris Stapleton took Single of the Year. That makes me very happy.

Kelsea Ballerini and Old Dominion delivered pop country performances,as one would expect. Old Dominion won Vocal Group.

Carrie Underwood’s performance of “Love Wins” showed why the rather pithy song, however well intentioned, was a weaker choice for a single than some others on her album.

Brett Young performed “Mercy,” then bragged about his own radio success.

The Ricky Skaggs performance and tribute was epic. Keith Urban and Brothers Osborne and Sierra Hull and Carson Peters and Brad Paisley and Marty Stuart and all manner of others assisted the great CMHOF inductee Ricky Skaggs. I’m happy for Ricky to get the showcase he deserved. Y’all know how much I like bluegrass and Ricky Skaggs, so this was a real treat for me.

Midland kept the classic country hot with a great cover of East Bound And Down. Between the Skaggs medley and Midland,there was a great little run of country music in the middle of the show. Well done, guys.

Kacey Musgraves won album. I figure voters wanted to send a message to radio about her lack of airplay, and radio’s treatment of women in general . The album itself didn’t do that much for me, but awards were dominated for so long by “radio acts” that it’s worth celebrating that so far in the show, we’ve already seen a number of “non radio” acts, like some of the bluegrass people in the Ricky Skaggs deal. Radio stonewalled Chris Stapleton for most of his career. So, whether you like Kacey’s album the best or not, or even at all or not, her win does show that radio doesn’t hold the airtight deathlock on the industry that it once did.

Florida Georgia Line and Bebe Rexha performed.

Luke Combs’  performance was country, complete with pedal steel- a solid effort.

Keith Urban,who did so well in the Skaggs tribute earlier, performed a pop song that seemed out of place.

Garth Brooks performed a solo acoustic song for his wife.

Brothers Osborne won Vocal Duo. Good pick.

The Pistol Annies performed “Got My Name Changed Back,” a song on my YouTube playlist. It’s fun. It’s unquestionably country. Miranda even played a mini-washboard. Well done. Still not on radio airplay charts ?!

Dierks Bentley and Brothers Osborne performed Burning Man. .

Chris Stapleton, Mavis Staples, Maren Morris,and Marty Stuart all together ! I posted yesterday about Marty Stuart’s long-time friendship with Mavis Staples, and this was a fine way to honor her. You can sense Marty’s influence on Chris.

Brad Paisley performed his new song, Bucked Off. It’s definitely country, with both fiddle and steel.

Chris Stapleton won Male Vocalist. Extremely well deserved.

Kacey Musgraves sang the dull song Slow Burn.

Eric Church performed Desperate Man. I’m glad for his cowriter Ray Wylie Hubbard, who lives a town over from me. I hoped Ray would get to perform, but it’s still cool to see his song on the big stage.

Carrie Underwood won Female Vocalist. She is an outstanding singer. You can’t go too far wrong giving a female vocalist award to Carrie Underwood, even if her recent album wasn’t released until after the eligibility period.

Keith Urban won Entertainer. Probably my last choice, based only on the lack of “country” in his recent output (and I’m hardly a purist), but congratulations to him and all winners, nominees, presenters, and performers. Keith is certainly very capable and very well liked.

Overall, there’s still plenty of crap to wade through and complain about, if that’s your thing, but there was also some good country music- much more than most award shows. Ricky Skaggs was given an outstanding showcase, and many of the others were good, too.

And that’s a wrap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

11/14/18 CMA Awards Performers

The CMA Awards site lists 37 performers. I’ll post a song for every one of them. Some are more “country” than others or whatever, but I’ll leave the artist bashing to other sites. I might make a joke or two on my recap or offer a bit of criticism, but I try to avoid the mean-spirited crap that more popular sites enjoy wallowing in.

Let’s enjoy some music !

Brad Paisley, First Cousins

Chris Stapleton and Maren Morris: Tom Petty’s Free Fallin’

Chris Stapleton’s quote from three years ago bears repeating: “I feel very loved by the awards, but I don’t feel like music is a war or it’s a battle or anything like that, and I think people have a tendency to try to make it into that.”

Marty Stuart discusses his long history with the Staples singers: Marty Stuart interview. Here’s Marty singing with Mavis:  Move Along Train

Dierks Bentley episode of the Marty Stuart Show: full show

Carrie Underwood and Vince Gill: How Great Thou Art

Jon Pardi – She Ain’t In It

Chris Janson and Keith Urban at the Grand Ole Opry Janson, Chris Stapleton, and Ashley McBryde will be George Strait’s openers for a huge stadium show in Atlanta next year.

Ashley McBryde- Girl Going Nowhere

Garth Brooks covering Ashley McBryde: Boy Going Nowhere

Eric Church – Desperate Man

Midland – This Old Heart

Kacey Musgraves – Butterflies at ACL

Ricky Skaggs and Carson Peters

Sierra Hull: Lullaby

Pistol Annies – Best Years of My Life

Kenny Chesney – Better Boat

Kelsea Ballerini – I Hate Love Songs

Lauren Alaina – Wings Of An Angel

Jason Aldean and Miranda Lambert

Luke Bryan

Brothers Osborne

Luke Combs

Brett Young

Cole Swindell

Dan and Shay

Lindsey Ell

David Lee Murphy

Old Dominion

Florida Georgia Line and Bebe Rexha

Thomas Rhett

 

 

11/13/18 Three Wise Men at CMA

The CMA Awards are tomorrow night, and there are some familiar names among the list of performers and presenters. In today’s episode of Robert’s Country Blog, the spotlight is on Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, and Marty Stuart.

These three guys have achieved practically everything there is to accomplish in this business, but more importantly, they “pay it back and pay it forward.” They all started young, thanks to older artists taking them under their wings, and they return the favor by helping younger artists now.

I’ve posted this quote by Marty Stuart before, but it bears repeating: “Tradition can trap you and you can be a prisoner to it. Or, I can inspire you and inform you to take things into the future. The past is the past. We all look at it with wonder and see our mistakes and the accomplishments of our heroes. But as far as moving the story, song by song, show-by-show, museum exhibit by museum exhibit, photography exhibit by photography exhibit, day after day, we have to keep pushing it into the 21st century, deeper and deeper. We’ve got to keep getting it in the hearts and hands of like-minded kids who get it.”

All three of these artists are not “country purists” of the variety who just copy what came before. You might hear them do bluegrass or gospel or Celtic or surf rock. Yet, you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who reveres country music tradition as much as these guys. They’re inspired and informed by the past, and respect those roots, but they create new art.

Here’s Marty Stuart’s planned Congress of Country Music in his home town of Philadelphia, Mississippi.

Ricky Skaggs is another of my long-time favorites. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame this year, and played Nissan Stadium this summer at CMA Fest. He is best known for incorporating bluegrass into mainstream country, but he also has a list of collaborations about a mile long with quite a variety of artists. Here’s Ricky Skaggs with the Boston Pops: Uncle Pen. Ricky Skaggs with Barry Gibb ?  When the Roses Bloom Again. Ricky Skaggs with the Chieftains ? Wabash Cannonball.  Ricky with John Anderson and Bruce Hornsby ? Super Freak.

Vince Gill, who has 21 Grammy awards, has had a busy year with The Eagles, but the part of his diverse catalog I especially want to highlight is his western swing group The Time Jumpers, who play every Monday at 3rd and Lindsley in Nashville (and were at the smaller Station Inn before that). Talk about preserving a slice of country & western music history ! They include a variety of special guests at their shows- often little-known acts who would not otherwise have the opportunity to perform in front of such an audience. When I saw them last year, they pulled up four such acts for a song apiece. Here’s a great interview with Ranger Doug of the Time Jumpers. I know I’ve posted this video before, but here’s Vince Gill with The Tractors at the ACM Awards in 1995. My second cousin’s husband fronted the Tractors, and is very involved with Oklahoma music history to this day. I’ve never met them, and never saw The Tractors perform, but I remember the couple of years when they had a strong run.

Another thing all these greats have in common is a whole lot of positive energy. I can’t imagine these guys taking shots at other artists to put themselves “over” with audiences. Some of today’s “indie darlings”  should take note of that.

Enjoy the music !

 

 

11/12/18 TV Singing Competitions

For good or ill, television is one of the few ways other than mainstream radio for an artist to reach the masses. Tomorrow is the first episode of the USA Network show Real Country , which features a number of contestants who already have some following. For instance, anyone who has ever watched RFD-TV has seen ads for Tony Jackson, and those who follow the Texas country scene at all are familiar with Bri Bagwell.

The most recent season of American Idol included some country artists, too. Here’s Gabby Barrett with Cade Foehner: Fireflies. Show winner Maddie Poppe’s style of music is more Colbie Caillat than Loretta Lynn, but Maddie did perform at CMA Fest this year, and here’s one of hers: Keep On Movin’ On.

The Voice has also featured a number of country and Americana acts. Sundance Head won a couple of years ago, and here’s his most recent: Leave Her Wild. Dave Fenley is a contestant on The Voice this season, and he competed on America’s Got Talent a few years ago. Here’s his cover of a Travis Tritt song: Help Me Hold On

11/9/18 New Music

It looks like we’re slowing way down with the number of album releases. Here’s what I’ve found so far:

Doug Buckner, Josh Card, Kane Brown, Rhett Miller, Denim Daddies, Cori & Kelly, Donna the Buffalo, Whippoorwill (Sweden), Jake Bartley Band, The Gibson Brothers, Tyler Stephens, Ken Tizzard, The Deep Hollow, Richie Reinholdt, and Craig Moreau.

Since it’s such a thin week for albums, here’s are some new songs:

Music Row DISClaimer

The Steel Woods: Rock that Says My Name

Todd Lewis Kramer: Stone

Also, here’s a recent article about former America’s Got Talent contestant Benton Blount getting kicked off of a tour slot because of politics: Fox Carolina article.

11/8/18 Texas Sounds International

The little-known annual event in rural east Texas was this past weekend, and here’s the posted list of winners:

2018 Texas Sounds International Country Music Awards
THE AWARD WINNERS ARE:
Texas Spirit: Vane Ruth, Argentina
Personality of the Year: Laura Denisse, Mexico
Texas Heritage: Max Tyler, Spain
Rising Stars of the Year: The Groovecake Factory, Austria
Acoustical Performer of the Year: Rúnar eff, Iceland
Original Song of the Year: Bound By Law, Denmark
Duo/Trio of the Year: Sentiment Falls, Sweden
Instrumentalist of the Year: David Prieto, Mexico
Band of the Year: Alamo Country Band, Mexico
Producer’s Choice: Luis Ochoa, Mexico
Female Vocalist of the Year: Andrea Bond, Sweden
Male Vocalist of the Year (Tie): Pablo Martin, Spain and Rúnar eff, Iceland
Entertainers of the Year: Sentiment Falls, Sweden