Randy Rogers released a track list for his new album, and it includes a cover of this Guy Clark/Stapleton song: Hell Bent On A Heartache.
Here’s a fun murder ballad from Linda Gail Lewis & Robbie Fulks last year: Till Death
Annie Marie Lewis and Danny B Harvey with Mike Judge (King of the Hill, Beavis and Butthead, Tales From The Tour Bus): You Win Again
Brand new lyric video from Jade Marie Patek: Love’s To Blame
Here’s some old-time fiddle and buckdancing from Hillary Klug
I haven’t had the chance to check out the new albums from Clay Walker, Joanna Young, Joshua Allen, Tiffany Williams, and Season Ammons, but I’ll make a note of their existence here, so that I might find the time to check them out later.
Sam and Dave are receiving a Grammy lifetime achievement award: Commercial Appeal article. They played music before some of Dr. King’s speeches. Sam Moore is still around, so there’s some great, living history for the holiday. He collaborated with a number of country artists over his decades-long career, too, like Vince Gill, Conway Twitty, and Travis Tritt. He has worked some with bluegrass group Nu-Blu. Here’s a 2015 Tennesseean article about Sam Moore’s country roots
Here’s a video of Sam singing some Hank on the Marty Stuart Show: I Heard That Lonesome Whistle
The long weekend provided the opportunity for us to get out and enjoy some music today, and Gruene Hall had two shows.
First up was 3 Hands High.
This was the group’s first time to play Gruene Hall. Although the band has been around for years, playing at cowboy poetry events and such, they’re not especially well known, and their last CD came out in 2014.
The individual members of the band have many years of experience, and have worked with all sorts of folks. Jill Jones is an award-winning yodeler who brings a strong western flavor to the group. The group referred to her as the “epiglottis goddess” for her yodeling skills. Elliott & Janice Rogers have a strong bluegrass background, and Elliott worked with everyone from Blaze Foley to Robert Earl Keen to Townes Van Zandt. Elliott is the main songwriter in the group. Percussionist Jeff Hogan has worked with many people over the years. The overall effect is a western group that can also hit you with plenty of old-fashioned cowboy music, but also a bit of gospel, blues, Americana material from such writers as Steve Earle, Shake Russell, Blaze Foley, and some originals.
Linda Gail Lewis was the evening show. We had seen her once before, but that was before the album she released last year. She was in Scandinavia the last couple of months. Linda’s style is much like her brother’s – a main course of 1950s style rock and roll, with some country and gospel and blues. Her daughter Annie and Annie’s husband Danny B Harvey are in her band, and they are also recording artists worth checking out.
Linda Gail Lewis will reunite next week with Robbie Fulks in West Virginia for the NPR Mountain Stage, so my Appalachian friends might want to check that out.
The three albums from yesterday’s smorgasbord that appear to be drawing the most attention are from The Steel Woods, Cody Johnson, and Flatland Cavalry, and all three of these are represented on my 2019 Country Plus Showcase . I also changed out a few other tunes to keep things fresh. I have way too many songs this early in the year (30 and counting), but that’s a great “problem” to have. I try to give a few spins to a lot of people, so I’m trying to stick to the one song per artist deal like last year. You can’t go far wrong with anything from those three albums. I will also give special mention to American Idol runner-up Caleb Lee Hutchinson for releasing a couple of songs. It looks like a strong start to the 19-year-old’s career. I just found out that Bill Chambers released an album yesterday, so be sure to give him a listen.
I added Whiskey Shivers’ excellent cover of Goodbye Earl to my Bluegrass Covers list.
You can throw a dart and hit good new music this week:
Ronnie Milsap, “The Duets” – Since this project revisits his old hits, this likely won’t receive as much attention as albums of “new” material. Ronnie Milsap is on the very short list of most number one country hits, yet for whatever reason, I don’t think he’s as well known to the younger generation as his peers.
Imagine: John Lennon 75th Birthday Concert (Live) is an all-star tribute. I remember the television special from late 2015, and this is just the packaged version of that show. Fans of Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Chris Stapleton, Sheryl Crow, and Eric Church will want to check this out.
Cody Johnson has been a top draw in Texas for a while, but this album will reach a national audience. I included one of the early releases from this album on my 2018 list.
The Steel Woods posted a free preview of the album, so expect review sites to be on this one quicker than some of tomorrow’s other releases. Here’s a great article about the band’s history and connection to Wayne Mills
Hillbilly J.E.D released an album early in the week, and here’s the title track Old Kentucky on my 2019 Country Plus Showcase. Given the amount of promotion a lot of “indie Kentucky” acts receive, I’m surprised how little mention I’ve seen of this album.
The Whiskey Shivers’ “Smothered and Covered” album is all covers, but they have so much fun with it. Of course, I’m looking forward to any videos they might put out to accompany these songs. Recall the last time they did a video with Kermit.
Here’s one of the 3 songs from a new EP from Australian artist Ross Webb: Lonely Heart, Lonely Home
Deanie Richardson is very well known in bluegrass circles. In fact, she’s part of the five-woman group Sister Sadie that is nominated for a Grammy this year. This album includes contributions from folks like Patty Loveless. We saw Deanie play fiddle with legendary Irish group The Chieftains in Austin a few years ago.
Danny Burns from Donegal, Ireland has a new album called “North Country.” There are some top musicians involved with this, so I expect good things.
There are also new albums from Alice Wallace, Charlie Shafter, Clay Brooker, Flatland Cavalry, Greensky Bluegrass, Liz Brasher, Steve Gunn, The Flesh Eaters, Pierce Pettis, David Storey, Stephanie Stewart, Joanne Rand, Gone West, and Jake Davis & The Whiskey Stones.
Last year, Sarah Vista released the album “Killing Fever,” and she’s doing some cool things with the marketing. She has versions of the album on all sorts of retro formats, including mini-disk and 8-track, and for the Edison fans, there’s even wax cylinder. Imagine that ! An album on wax cylinder in 2019 ! Granted, there are limitations to that format, but I appreciate an artist going over and above to stand out from the crowd.
She is also putting out an eleven-part interview on YouTube, and the first five of those are available now:
She’s one of 95 artists on my 2018 International Country Music YouTube list.
The Crabgrass Cowboys checked in here, and that inspired today’s post, so we’ll kick it off with one of their songs from a few years back: Gun Shy
Bluegrass has the IBMA, and Americana has the American Music Association, but western music has a bunch of different organizations, and none of them really gets mainstream coverage. So, a lot of western artists get lost in the shuffle a little bit.
The Academy of Western Artists just posted their awards finalists this week. The awards ceremony will be held March 14th in Fort Worth. Be sure to check out all of these fine nominees. For whatever reason, a lot of country sites don’t pay any mind to the western circuit, even though this particular set of awards includes “country” categories, in addition to western.
The Western Music Association has promoted the “music & poetry of the American west for over 30 years.” They also have annual awards, and promote a number of events. One of the events shown on their calendar is the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering way out west in Alpine. One of the acts on the bill is 3 Hands High from Hays County, where I live, and I hope I can get free to see them at Gruene Hall this weekend. There are several Canadian and northern acts on the bill who rarely play in Texas. Ryan Fritz (originally from Alberta, now in Saskatchewan) has already released an album this year that appears to be on Spotify, but not YouTube). The High Country Cowboys from Montana rarely venture far from Montana. Trinity Seely, also of Montana, released an album last month: Camp to Camp
Western swing is one of the four categories of the Ameripolitan Awards Productions . Sophia Johnson, who won their “western swing female” award last year, is from Birmingham, UK originally, but has been in Austin the last few years. The rest of her family is over here with her this month to record an album at Dale Watson’s studio. They call themselves the Toy Hearts, and I might catch one of their shows the end of the month, if I can get free.
The new organization on the block is the Pro Cowboy Country Artist Association , which is Royal Wade Kimes’ deal in Arkansas. Last month was their second year of awards. Royal has an fascinating back story. Here’s a 2007 article from True West Magazine: A Man That Won’t Bend. See, even the “obscure stuff” that I post does eventually intertwine with the mainstream somehow. Notice Eddy Arnold and Garth Brooks in the article.
Here’s a video from Brenn Hill last month that includes a really cool car: Rocky Mountain Drifter
The 35th Annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering is in Elko, Nevada in a couple of weeks, and I suggest looking through the list of performers to discover new music. This is one of the few western events that draws some big names: Marty Stuart, Corb Lund, Colter Wall, 85-year old Ian Tyson, and 87-year-old Ramblin’ Jack Elliott. We tried to see Michael Martin Murphey in Austin the other day, but we have an oversized vehicle, and couldn’t find a suitable parking place anywhere remotely close. Elko is far away from any population center, and is a place most of us will never visit, but this looks like a cool event.
I try to include a bit of everything on my Country Plus list, whether it is from huge stars or from folks who aren’t well known, and whether it is extremely traditional or not traditional at all. My point of view that it’s fine to enjoy bits of all of it. I’ll point out a couple of western songs on my 2019 list, The Cowboy Song by RL Hayden , followed by Brad Paisley’s “Bucked Off.” I have been cycling some songs in and out of the playlist lately, to try to keep things fresh.
Whew ! It took 30 minutes battling through Ticketmaster, and I’ll be way up in the nosebleeds, but I got a ticket to the Loretta Lynn deal for April 1st. It was a major PITA, but I figure this is a one-time opportunity. I was already considering a road trip to Alabama then to see the Tuscaloosa Bicentennial on March 30th (full day of free concerts – Isbell, Commodores, etc).
Speaking of Nashville, the western swing outfit I saw Sunday mentioned that they’ll be playing the American Legion 82 when they visit Nashville next month. That’s a neat place. I went to one of the Honky Tonk Tuesday night free weekly country shows there once. It’s not a fancy place in the slightest, but if you like traditional country, it’s one of the places Nashville knows to go. I saw on Facebook that Kenny Vaughan (of Marty Stuart’s Fabulous Superlatives) played there yesterday, backed by Mixon and Cure from Stapleton’s band.
Yesterday, we listened to Ameripolitan western swing nominees Big Cedar Fever. Their first full-length album (13 songs) will be released this year. They don’t have a release date set yet, but they said possibly around June. The majority of the songs they play at shows are classics, some of which are 90 or 100 years old or even older. The majority of the songs on the record are originals. They will perform at Ameripolitan in Memphis next month, and Georgia Parker will be in the all-women Ameripolitan tribute to Cindy Walker. I won’t be able to get free to travel to Memphis this year, but I went to Ameripolitan last year, and it is a fun experience. Big Cedar Fever will also play a couple of shows in Nashville.
Jake Penrod is another Ameripolitan artist of interest. The country traditionalist has both a studio album and a live album in the pipeline, and Country Side of Harmonica Sam recorded one of his songs, which might be on their next album.
Here’s a detailed article about Grand Ole Opry appearances:
Generally, it appears all of the Opry’s recent membership additions have been showing up regularly. I don’t know what to make of the whole Opry “membership” deal. Some who aren’t members do show up a lot, and some who are members never show. It seems almost like more of an insult to the frequent guests who aren’t invited than anything else. Regardless, it’s a curiosity to see which members actually show up.