2/29/20 The Year So Far

Thanks to yesterday’s influx, the January-February 2020 Country Plus Showcase is now at 100 songs: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLkY8-UOMZQ0_fegAUAQ0SSPe6xLZaDjdg

For comparison’s sake, here’s the January-February 2019 Country Plus Showcase, which features 150 songs: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLkY8-UOMZQ0-kwTHYUZwwwF1RGBkE2CP1

2020 is off to a little slower start, but there are 100 artists to check out.

Bluegrass is strong so far in 2020. On my 2020 bluegrass Spotify list, I include multiple songs from some artists, so there’s already lots to listen to. Kristy Cox released her album yesterday, so there’s another one to check out. https://open.spotify.com/playlist/6TCsrUUUUHJrVEjCjQVOPV?si=ysDTuq4_Q9yDemiXBhdntw

My other recently updated Spotify list is 2019-2020 Honky Tonk, which is now at 50 songs. As with my bluegrass Spotify, I include multiple songs for some artists. https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3ZWhx8LAAYE45anT9Rt81d?si=bw0aPFuvQ0u0vRXoHKgdDg

The Grand Ole Opry has added two members this year, and both are excellent choices who have appeared as guests at the Opry for decades. Last month, Gene Watson became a member, and last night, Rhonda Vincent received her invitation. These folks have been there for the Opry through thick and thin, so that’s good to see.

2/28/20 New Music Friday

The January-February Country Plus Showcase now features well over 70 artists: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLkY8-UOMZQ0_fegAUAQ0SSPe6xLZaDjdg

I’ve packed lots of obscure artists in the mix, right alongside the biggest names. I threw in a few oddballs near the end of the list that you likely won’t see covered by other country blogs.

Here’s my master list of playlists: https://countryopinionblog.wordpress.com/music-playlists/

Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen released a very cool song today called “Rodeo Clown.” I see that David Lee is one of the writers. Since Isbell made some derogatory comments the other day about conservative songwriters, please check out David Lee’s impressive list of country songwriting credits. I welcome good music from across the political spectrum. Steve Earle has a new song out today to add to the playlist, and I’m pretty sure his political views and David Lee’s are quite different. They both make some good music, and that’s my interest here.

Hailey Whitters has a new album out today, so a selection from that album is among the most recent additions to my January-February list.

Johnny Falstaff is a honky tonker I saw at Ameripolitan, and he has a new album out today.

Zac Wilkerson is another Texan with a new album.

Kelsea Ballerini released a video for a new drinking song. Even if you don’t usually go for her music, this one is pretty fun.

Restless Road released a new song with Kane Brown. Their sound is on the “boy band” side in general, which isn’t especially my thing. That said, my brother and I saw the young group at CMA Fest a couple of years ago, as it turns out that the mother of one of the guys in the group was my brother’s high school classmate. They seem like nice folks, and this looks like a huge opportunity for the group to break through.

Sierra Hull has a new album out today, and when I saw her at Americanafest in September, she had a saxophone player in her mostly bluegrass style band, so I’m curious to hear if the saxophone is part of this record.

Midland has a new live album out today, so that should be worth checking out.

I’m sure there are many more, but this is a starting place. I’ll keep adding to the January-February list as I find items of interest. As always, if you hear one on this list that you like, check out the rest of the artist’s work and see them live if you get the chance.

2/27/20 The Robby Turner Benefit

Robby Turner’s list of credits is too long to list, especially when I am on a lunch break on a 500-mile drive. In short, Moose Brown organized this benefit to raise money for Robby’s medical expenses. All performers donated their time and took no compensation for helping out their friend.

3rd and Lindsley is a small venue, so this event sold out in less than a minute. I feel very lucky to have been able to do this. I got there very early, so that I could get a good seat, which happened to be right behind Robby’s table.

The event lasted well over three hours, with charity auction items between music performances by Chris Vita, Heidi Newfield, Mickey Raphael, Mo Pitney, James Otto, Jessi Colter and Jenny Young, Chris Stapleton, Jamey Johnson, and an all-star band of musicians including Mike Johnson on steel guitar.

Moose is producing upcoming albums by Heidi and Mo, so keep an ear open for those. Several artists who weren’t in attendance donated items to be auctioned. Ronnie Dunn donated a guitar and Kid Rock donated some items and $5,000, even though he has never met Robby. Of course, all of the artists who were there donated a lot of things, too. Chris and Jamey each donated $5,000 for auctions of each other’s donations. Jessi donated Waylon’s platinum record for “The Highwaymen” and Jim Vest donated his gold record for “Take This Job And Shove It,” on which he played steel guitar. Marty Stuart, The Steeldrivers, and many more donated items, also.

Jamey was hilarious as the auctioneer, and Moose introduced him to the stage every time with “Here Comes Santa Claus.” Chris and Jamey and the all-star band had a fantastic jam session at the end of the show, covering classics by Waylon, Willie, Merle, Johnny, etc. For more than not, Jamey sang the lead, with Chris, Morgane, and Melonie singing harmonies. Chris did sing “Angel Flying Too Close To The Ground” during his solo set, and a new song with Morgane called “Starting Over.” Jamey sang “In Color,” with Chris singing harmony. Jamey closed out the show after the final auction. Moose mentioned that Chris sang the original demo for “5 O’Clock Somewhere,” which Moose wrote. I’d really like to hear that.

The event raised a whole lot of money for Robby, and the music was spectacular. It’s rare to see so many artists of this caliber in such a modest venue, and I reiterate that they all donated their time and effort to do this for Robby. EDIT: Moose Brown posted on FB that the event raised over $49,000 for Robby Turner.

2/26/20 A Day In Nashville

I arrived in Nashville yesterday afternoon, and my first destination was the Nashville Palace. The “Music Valley” area near the Opry usually features more traditional-leaning acts than most of the downtown Nashville venues (though there are some very good choices there,too).

Anita Stapleton had the afternoon set. She is a regular cast member of the Merlin Gene Show on RFD-TV, and she was involved with the Marty Stuart Show a few years ago. For this set, it was just her and a guitar player who used to play with Ricky Van Shelton and a bunch of others from that era. Anita is most at home singing classic country covers (pre-1990). She asked for requests, and I suggested Connie Smith, who happens to be her favorite singer. Her voice fits Connie’s style very well.

Eight acts were on the schedule yesterday for the Grand Ole Opry. The Opry will turn 95 years old later this year. The two Opry members on this particular show were Connie Smith, who opened the show, and Ricky Skaggs, who closed the show. Both are also CMHOF members, so there’s not much I can say about these greats that y’all don’t already know.

This is a good time to strongly emphasize that Opry membership throughout history since 1925 is for living people. It’s meant to be the core of an active working performance group. There is no disrespect towards any dead legends to not include them in the current membership. CMHOF membership is to honor legends.

On to the show, which was being taped for the Circle Network, which I can’t get. The eight acts had maybe 15 minutes apiece, which is typical for a Tuesday show.

Connie Smith and Ricky Skaggs were in top form, as one would expect. Restless Heart has been around since 1984. Tradition is a big reason I go to the Opry, so I’m always happy to see the veteran acts.

Dusty Slay is a stand-up comic, and the Opry has had comedy acts since the beginning. He did a nice job & drew plenty of laughs.

Jason Crabb is one of the very best Christian music/Christian country artists, so there’s another part of country music tradition. He made good use of the Opry house band and its pedal steel player, and has a strong voice.

Striking Matches is a young duo, and it was just the guy and the lady with their acoustic guitars. Their voices might be a little folky sounding for those desiring a hard country sound, but they played those guitars like bluegrass pickers, and were a pleasant surprise. I’d have liked seeing them pick a song with Ricky.

King Calaway is a boy band, with more in common with Backstreet and NSYNC than Roy Acuff or Gene Autry. I bet Simon Cowell would like these guys, because they do have quality voices, harmonies, charisma, and musicianship. Is there anything actually “country” about them, though ?

Chris Bandi made his first Opry appearance. He sounds a lot like most of the modern country acts you hear on mainstream radio, for good or ill. I’m trying to not be unfair or too judgmental, because the acts have such short sets. He was certainly enthusiastic about being there, so good for him to get to play the Opry.

I always enjoy going to the Opry, and seeing legends like Ricky Skaggs and Connie Smith is always a treat.

After the Opry, I stopped back in the Nashville Palace and saw the wild and zany rockabilly act The Royal Hounds. These guys are so much fun – energetic, funny, and just plain nuts. At one point, they went into “surf” mode, with the guitar player balancing on the bass fiddle.undefined

2/25/20 Closing Thoughts On Ameripolitan

I just got to Nashville from Memphis, so I’m writing this from the Nashville Palace, which has a ton of history. Randy Travis fans especially should know this place.

Anyway, Memphis was a lot of fun. I saw some familiar faces and learned about some other acts I didn’t know much about.

The first thing I mention to those unfamiliar with Ameripolitan is that it is a much smaller scene than some others. The theater that held the awards has an official capacity of 464, and was not completely full. As a music fan, the silver lining is that you are up close with everyone.

I won’t try to list all of the winners, but I talked to Bloodshot Bill in the elevator, I talked to Sarah Vista in the shuttle van to her early show, and I saw Georgia Parker and her Big Cedar Fever bandmates in San Marcos before they even formed Big Cedar Fever. I also saw them at Americanafest in September, and talked to Farmer and Adele in the audience. Two Tons Of Steel performed at the awards, and they play in San Marcos every year, and have a long-running series at Gruene Hall. Anyway, you get the idea. Memphis has a ton of music history, and the festival is a cool opportunity to learn about and really interact with that history.

2/24/20 More Ameripolitan

I attended the first Memphis edition of Ameripolitan two years ago and enjoyed it, but this year’s event seems smoother and more focused.

I’m glad they got rid of the “outlaw” category this year, because there’s often unpleasant bitterness in the “indie outlaw” area (see comments section of certain sites, or the Jinks Facebook cult spamming and insulting other artists on their own pages). People in western swing, honky-tonk, and rockabilly are about the music, and there’s a good, positive vibe here. Memphis is the natural home of rockabilly/rock and roll, and that part of the Ameripolitan equation is especially strong as a result.

Let me also emphasize how refreshing it is that there’s none of the political posturing that limits the Americana scene.

The Rock and Roll Cafe has been the venue of choice for the noon showcases this year. Sarah Vista from the UK was first up. She likes murder ballads a lot, and she had a trombone player for a couple of songs. I enjoyed talking with her a few minutes, and she’s working on new music.

Next up was a solo set by guitar slinger Sean Mencher. He really goes to town on that thing, and is especially in his zone covering Merle Travis and Chet Atkins.

Eddie Clendening was the closing act, and if you like Sun Records and the Million Dollar Quartet, he’s right in that zone.

The evening showcase was several miles away at an old theater. According to Dale Watson, Elvis used to reserve this theater for himself to watch movies.

The first act was western swing from Farmer and Adele. They always put on a fun show, and they had a cornet player this time (who also played lap steel on some songs). They’re based in Nashville, and said they’re playing at the Station Inn next month, so if you’re around Nashville and like western swing, give ’em an ear and a “howdy.”

Next was a fashion show. Yes, Ameripolitan has an annual fashion show. That’s not my usual type of thing, but what the hell. It’s actually a pretty fun deal. Musicians serve as the models, which creates some funny moments, and some of the items of clothing were worn by Elvis, Johnny Cash, etc.

Next was Johnny Falstaff, who has a new album February 28th. The Texan lives in Germany, but his sound is very much Texas honky tonk, with plenty of steel guitar. I’m sure I’ll find some of his music to add to my playlists.

Charley Crockett closed the show, and you can’t help but appreciate his positive attitude and self-deprecating humor. He featured some trumpet and accordion during his set. Be sure to check him out if he plays in your area.

2/23/20 Playlist Update

I’ve shuffled some more songs around on my 2020 Country Plus Showcase: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLkY8-UOMZQ0_fegAUAQ0SSPe6xLZaDjdg

There’s some honky tonk and some bluegrass and some modern stuff. It’s one song per artist, so if there’s one you don’t like, try the next.

I got rid of the 2020 Southern Rock Plus playlist for now. I just can’t find enough yet to really build a list around.

I added a bunch of songs in the last week or two to the Country Disco list, so now it’s 135 songs, instead of 50: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLkY8-UOMZQ08BY1YOVVdxPeeQQlQWvw0G

Even if you dislike this style, it should be good for a laugh or three, and there are surprisingly few playlists for this style, considering how very popular these artists were at the time.

For those looking for the honky tonk steel guitar sound, be sure to check out my 2019-2020 Honky-Tonk Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3ZWhx8LAAYE45anT9Rt81d?si=sudHM4UJSg-A5nrEnxvmcA

2/22/20 Ameripolitan

I’m enjoying Memphis for a few days. The Sun Studio Tour is short, but so much music history happened in that little place, and it’s still a working studio. I’m glad the timing worked out.

Yesterday, I saw some fun rockabilly acts at the Travelodge. Laura Palmer and the Screamin’ Rebel Angels had lots of energy that I think any fan of early Wanda Jackson would appreciate. Bloodshot Bill does everything from snorting to growling/throat singing to yodeling to handing out water bottles to the audience during a song to lying on the carpet to play his guitar.

Here’s a photo of Laura with Celine and Sarah undefined

Ameripolitan’s advertised show last night was at Hernando’s and required a separate ticket. It sold out well ahead of time, so there was also a free jam session at the Travelodge. Most of these guys didn’t know each other, but they put on a good show, anyway. I don’t know who the hell they are, but here’s a photo undefined

At the Rock and Roll Cafe this afternoon were hour-long sets by The Shootouts (who played a couple of songs from an upcoming album), Rose Sinclair & Sophia Johnson, and a last-minute schedule change that added the main man from Swedish group The Go-Getters backed by two Italians. Bill and the Belles were originally scheduled, but I haven’t heard why they weren’t there.

Then, I headed over to Hernando’s Hideaway. All the Memphis greats played there back in the day, but the place was closed for years, before Dale Watson bought and restored it. It was too crowded to fully enjoy on this day, but it’s cool to see a piece of history restored. Dale held his famous Chicken Shit Bingo. undefined

2/19/20 The Crooner Country Playlist

Last year, I made a post about the crooners. I finally got around to creating a playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLkY8-UOMZQ096l7cAxIqpEBK3UCvdTm90

Like I say about my other lists, this style is just as “real” as any of the rest. Marc Williams went by the moniker “The Cowboy Crooner,” so this is a good chance to learn about this mostly overlooked early star: https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fwick

I grew up listening to my parents’ Eddy Arnold records. Cowboys & Indians Magazine had a nice article about him in 2018: https://www.cowboysindians.com/2018/05/eddy-arnold-you-dont-know-him/

“His accolades still speak for themselves: 85 million records sold, and 147 songs on the Billboard country music charts, second only to George Jones. When he sold his 50 millionth record in 1967, it was an achievement equaled only by Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, and The Beatles. His songs spent a total of 145 weeks in the No. 1 position on the country chart — more than any other artist in history.”