A whole lot has happened in country music in the last four years. Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic has been around in some form since 1973, but 2015 was the first time at the current location in Austin. You’ll be hard pressed to find a greater assembly of “Americana/country” stars in the last few years than this.
Let’s look back at this phenomenal lineup, and see what, if anything, these artists are up to now.
Here were the set times: https://www.c3concerts.com/2015/willie-nelsons-4th-of-july-picnic-schedule-july-4-2015-austin360-amphitheater-at-circuit-of-the-americas/
Acts played on two stages,similar to the way it was set up when I attended this month. There were more acts in 2015, so there was a lot more overlap in the schedules of the two stages.
Here are the set lists for some of the acts https://www.setlist.fm/festival/2015/willie-nelsons-4th-of-july-picnic-2015-53d63775.html
Here’s the Austin 360 review of the event: http://music.blog.austin360.com/2015/07/05/willies-picnic-at-cota-rising-stars-old-favorites-a-late-end-and-faithful-fans/
On the first stage, the acts were Pauline Reese, Amber Digby, Hudson Moore, Folk Uke, Raelyn Nelson Band, Paula Nelson, Dallas Wayne, David Allan Coe, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Greezy Wheels, Johnny Bush, Billy Joe Shaver, Leon Russell, Asleep At The Wheel, and Jamey Johnson.
On the main stage, the acts were Kris Kristofferson, Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, Kacey Musgraves, Merle Haggard, Eric Church, Willie Nelson.
That lineup ! It’s a combination of most of the most outstanding acts of the last five years, along with some of the all-time greats, some of whom have since passed.
I’ll start with the first stage, in order, and do the same with the main stage.
Paulina Reese apparently won the Texas chapter of the CMA Female Vocalist of the Year in 2017. She sells real estate, but her FB site advertises a CD release show August 8th. I haven’t seen any country sites talking about it, so I’ve already learned something in this exercise.
Amber Digby gained some following among traditional country fans years ago, but apparently, she has been working as an EMT the last few years. She posted just this week that she is finally going back to the studio to record a new album, working with Tommy Detamore. Fans of such acts as Sunny Sweeney will recognize that name. So far in today’s post, I looked up two acts who have been quiet for a while, and found out about two upcoming albums from traditional-leaning Texas country women.
Hudson Moore released a new video for “Universe” earlier this month that I didn’t know about prior to this post.
Folk Uke released the song “Don’t Bite Beyonce'” in March.
Raelyn Nelson Band posted pictures on FB of their new CD just a couple of days ago. I haven’t seen the official street date, but you can see the track list there.
Paula Nelson is a popular host on SiriusXM. She posted on FB within an hour of my typing this that she will be on Ray Wylie Hubbard’s new album. I’m learning a lot more researching today’s post than I expected.
Dallas Wayne is another regular host on the SiriusXM country channels. He posted on FB 39 minutes before I typed this that he will be on Mary Lou Turner’s upcoming album with Heart of Texas Records. Buck Trent will also be on that album. Hee Haw fans certainly should remember him. I will see Buck Trent in September at Marty Stuart’s shindig at the CMHOF.
There’s not much I can think of to add about David Allan Coe, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Johnny Bush, and Billy Joe Shaver. I saw all four of these well known acts at Willie’s this month. Shaver will be honored with the ACM poet’s award, and Bush was recently honored by BMI for “Whiskey River” passing two million broadcasts. Eight 30 Records plans to release a Ray Wylie Hubbard tribute album, featuring such artists as Bobby Bare, Rodney Crowell, Tom Russell, James McMurtry, and Charlie Musselwhite.
The Greezy Wheels were an Austin staple in the 1970s, and reformed after a 23-year break. On July 1st, they posted on FB that the band’s final album will be released in October. It’s called “Ain’t Quite Like That.” Penny Jo Pullus is in the modern reincarnation of the group, and I’ve seen her before.
Legends Leon Russell and Merle Haggard both passed away in 2016 . The Grand Ole Opry posted a video this week of Merle’s youngest son Ben.
Asleep at the Wheel, in addition to being one of the most celebrated of all modern western swing acts, is very involved with trying to preserve and restore the historic dance halls of Texas.
Jamey Johnson tours very regularly, and his current band includes the Tuscaloosa Horns. I’m from Tuscaloosa, but I don’t have any insight into any new music from Jamey. His band members are involved with various projects. Melonie Cannon is on a new duet with Mickey Lamantia. Dick Aven, one of the Tuscaloosa Horns, released a new album this month.
I have yet to see Kris Kristofferson, but I saw his daughter Casey Kristofferson and her band at Willie’s this month. Give her a listen.
Chris Stapleton’s inclusion in the lineup reflects how much respect he had already earned before “Traveller” was even released. Willie’s lineup was announced in March of 2015, and “Traveller” was released May of 2015. I’ve seen hundreds of acts, and he is the single most impressive I have ever seen. The Austin 360 review: “It was with Stapleton’s 4:40 p.m. set that the Picnic fully hit its stride.” Keep in mind the high quality of artists who had already played at this point, and keep in mind that most people had not heard of him before.
Sturgill Simpson’s upcoming project is an anime film, but he also did a bluegrass set at the Grand Ole Opry a few weeks ago. You never know what he’s going to do next.
Jason Isbell is practically Mr. Americana. There was a few-week stretch in late 2015 when Chris and Sturgill each opened shows for him. Jason was one of the headliners at the Tuscaloosa bicentennial celebration I attended this spring.
Kacey Musgraves won a huge pile of awards for her 2018 album, and the CMHOF opened a major display in her honor.
The Austin 360 review was surprisingly negative towards Eric Church, but Eric is having a huge year in 2019. I think his output from 2015-present reflects artistic growth from some of the mainstream material earlier in his career. Eric included Chris Stapleton on a song during his set.
Willie himself closed, of course. Here’s his set list https://www.setlist.fm/setlist/willie-nelson/2015/austin360-amphitheater-austin-tx-3f6b173.html
Willie also appeared during Merle Haggard’s set to sing “It’s All Going To Pot.”