4/24/19 New Albums

Thanks to a rainy day, I have time to add some descriptions this week.

Randy Rogers will have an album release street party in San Marcos this weekend. The title song (Guy Clark/Stapleton cover) is a welcome part of my March-April list: Hellbent on a Heartache. 

The Steel Blossoms are the first signees to Jerry Salley’s new music label, Billy Jam Records. The description is promising.

Jack Ingram’s new album coincides with his all-star annual “Mack, Jack, and McConnaughey” charity event in Austin. It’ll be two days of concerts this year. Chris Stapleton is the first day, but the “private pre-sale” knocked out all the tickets before the public had an opportunity to buy. The second day will be Jack himself, along with Holly Williams, Wade Bowen, Scott Stapp, Butch Walker, Jessi Alexander, Jon Randall, John Fulbright, and more.

Erin Enderlin has a 3-song EP, but a couple of these songs were on her last album. Expect good traditional country. Here’s her recent cover of Brooks & Dunn’s Neon Moon

Rodrigo y Gabriela are an “acoustic rock guitar duo” from Mexico, but their guitar picking is worth checking out, no matter the genre.

Tammy Moxon is an Australian artist, so a lot of American country sites will miss this one. Here’s the video for the title song: Drives Me Sane

Bluegrass fans will want to check out Larry Stephenson Band (30 years), and Aubrey Eisenman & The Clydes.

Chad Richard is from the TX/LA border region. Here’s a look back at Chad Richard’s appearance on Jack Ingram’s Songwriter Series in 2016.

I saw the family band Bailen at SXSW. They’re more Americana/rock than country, but they have very nice harmonies.

When I saw Maddie and Tae last month in Nashville for a CMT taping, they included a good bit of steel guitar. I’m curious to hear how the “produced” versions of the songs on the EP compare to what I heard in person.

Lizzie Cates’ album is out today (Thursday). She is in the same age range as Maddie and Tae, and similarly combines pop country sensibilities with a good dose of organic country instrumentation. Here’s Stuck In Place.

Darryl Worley’s album includes some new, and some remakes. I saw him three years ago at the Grand Ole Opry.

Josh Ritter worked with Jason Isbell, so there will be plenty of Americana coverage.

I suppose King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard are considered some form of rock, as is Rob Thomas. They sound plenty different from each other.

Kiefer Sutherland is scheduled to perform at the Forever Country Stage at CMA Fest, as is Darryl Worley.

There’s a posthumous release by JJ Cale, and there’s the Cranberries’ final album.

Pink’s album includes a guest spot from Chris Stapleton, so I’ll give that song a listen.

More album listings: The Mountain Goats, Kolby Cooper, Patrick Park, Steve Bryson, Anders Osborne, Safe as Houses, Dylan Scott, Adam Capps, and Guided By Voices.

I’ve already mentioned the early-week releases by Texans David Touchton and Jarrod Morris. Since I’m posting this on a Wednesday, instead of the usual Friday, I’m sure more albums will trickle in, and I’ll come back and edit the post to reflect that.

Aubrie Sellers released a Dwight Yoakam cover: A Thousand Miles From Nowhere.

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4/24/19 Two Americana Groups Down

I featured creative videos by the Lonely Heartstring Band and Blank Range on my 160-song January-February 2019 Country Plus Showcase. Unfortunately, both groups decided to take a break.

Lonely Heartsring Band posted on FB on April 15th:

” After six incredible years of touring, recording and hanging out in our van, we’ve decided that it’s time to take a break. Beginning in September, aside from the odd show here and there, we will be going on an indefinite hiatus…

This isn’t a final goodbye, just a break for us to grow individually.”

Blank Range posted on FB on March 12th:

“After touring extensively for the past several years, Blank Range is taking a step back to have a little time at home. We’re extremely appreciative of your support over the years and grateful for all of our incredible experiences along the way! For now, we look forward to spending time with our families and digging in to future pursuits. ”

Since this is a fairly short post, I’ll highlight a couple of songs I added to my March-April list in the last week or so:

Tylor and The Train Robbers, “Ballad of Black Jack Ketchum”

Fiddlin Ray Bruckman, “Farewell From A Rambler”

4/23/19 Texas Updates

Over the weekend, we saw David Touchton, who just released a double live album. If you like “old school country blues,” check him out. He was wearing a Ray Wylie cap, and covered songs by Guy, Townes,and Merle, in addition to his originals. He said that he wrote this song 14 years ago, when he moved to Austin from Houston: Lonesome Road.

Jarrod Morris also released a new album yesterday. His style is very much “Texas country.” Both of these artists are welcome additions to my March-April 2019 Country Plus Showcase.

Jarrod’s album was recorded at the site of the Larry Joe Taylor Festival in Stephenville, which is this week. By the time I could get loose from my schedule to consider going, the good hotels were already booked. Maybe next year ? Similarly, the annual Bob Wills Day festival in the tiny town of Turkey is this week, and nearby hotels were already booked. Some of Bob Wills’ band will be there, including 91-year-old Leon Rausch. There’s a great example of living, breathing, country and western music history !

Bloomin’ Temple is also this weekend, and has a pretty varied lineup that’s worth checking out. Randy Rogers has a street party this weekend at Cheatham Street in San Marcos (which Randy owns), which will also be his big album release party.

On the more “pop country” end of things, the IHeart Country Festival will be in Austin in a couple of weeks. There will again be a free “Daytime Village” in the afternoon. We tried to go to that last year, but couldn’t find suitable parking. Most people were parking on the median and that kind of thing or using “Uber” and such, but we need to be able to park somewhere that we have an accessible path to our destination, and I’m not that into sardine-like crowds, anyway. Here’s a look back at the 2018 IHeartCountry Daytime Village. I don’t think we’ll bother even trying the free part.

We did get tickets to the KNBT Americana Music Jam at Gruene Hall, May 19th. Sixteen acts have been announced so far (Randy, Wade, REK, Ray Wylie, Jamie Lin, Darrell Scott, and so on). Gruene is a small venue, like 800 people small. One of the recent additions is the Groobees reunion. I’ll admit that I wasn’t familiar with them, but their back story is interesting: Wide Open Spaces.

We’re also planning to see such artists as Jason Eady and Cody Johnson/Randall King/Kevin Fowler in May. Here’s one of Randall’s: Takin’ Me A Heartbreak.

For western fans, there’s the South Texas Cowboy Gathering in Seguin. I’m going to talk to my brother to see if he is interested, because Seguin’s an easy drive.

Cory Morrow has a new festival (music, car show, and air show) at the San Marcos airport, and they’re expecting a crowd of 30,000: Go Wheels Up.

 

 

4/19/19 155 Songs and Rising

About three days ago, I finally got up to 100 (and was at just 40 the first week of April), and was wondering if I needed to extend my March-April list to May. I had a big block of time the last day or two to do a whole bunch of digging, and pulled in songs from near and far, including Australia, New Zealand, UK, Germany, and France. We just blew past 150 songs March-April Country Plus Showcase

There’s more new stuff out there than I realized yesterday, and I found some nice clusters of songs. I edited yesterday’s post to include a few more albums.

I plan to take a couple of days off for Easter, but for the classic country fans, I’ll mention the wild success on the 1950 country charts of “Peter Cottontail.” Gene Autry, Jimmy Wakely, and Johnnie Lee Wills all had great success with the song, but the very first was Mervin Shiner. He was born in 1921. I have no idea if he is still living, but in November of 2016, the television station in Tampa brought him in to sing a few songs. Here’s Mervin Shiner singing very well at age 95: I Got A Thing About Trains. The station got him in touch with Dolly Parton, with whom he sang when she was just 20. Here’s their reunion, November 30th, 2016.

 

 

 

4/18/19 New Music ?

I have to put the question mark this week, because I’m looking around the places I usually look for new releases, and it appears almost nobody is trying to release anything on Easter weekend.

Here are the few new albums I did find: Lowdown Drifters, MoeDell, Will Kimbrough, Daniel Norgren, Shea Abshier & The Nighthowlers, Josh Gray, The Yawpers, Unspoken Tradition, The Cole Trains, and Jeffrey Halford & The Healers.

Since there’s so little this week, I’ll dig back for some things I (and my readers) might have missed in the last couple of weeks.

BB Palmer is irreverent alt-country from Alabama. Dauphin Island Parkway is in Mobile. The “Governor Bentley” they refer to used to be my neighbor when I was a kid in Tuscaloosa.

I apparently missed Savannah Morris’ new album, “Mixed Emotions,” which was released a couple of weeks ago. I did a little digging, and it turns out her father is in Loretta Lynn’s band. The particular song I chose for my YouTube list showcases her yodeling: Ranger Wilder. That sounds like Ranger Doug making a guest appearance, maybe ? Check this album out, folks.

I’m up to 118 songs on the March-April Showcase , which is up from just a hundred a day or two ago, so there’s plenty of new stuff to check out.

One of the things I’m wrestling with right now is how many “covers” to include on my “new country” lists. I certainly include some, but there are so many “classic covers” albums flooding the market right now, like the Brooks & Dunn “Reboot” or the Steve Earle tribute to Guy Clark or the Squeezebox Bandits’ Tex-Mex versions of Texas classics or Dervish’s “Great Irish Songbook,” or earlier this year, Ronnie Milsap’s duets. These are all worthy projects, and I want to give them mention. I also don’t want to just load down my “new country” list with nothing but remakes. I don’t want it to get like the movies, where nearly everything is a sequel, prequel, side story, or remake. There are so many people making new stuff, so I’d rather keep that at the forefront of a new country list. I will continue to include some covers, but I have to maintain some balance.

Roughstock posted album sales numbers for the week of April 15th.  My main takeaway isn’t which album “ranked” where, but how pitifully low all the numbers are across the board. Album sales across the board have dried to a trickle. Anyone making real money from music is doing so through touring or other means. Look at the “Breakthrough” soundtrack at just 400, for instance ? The big song from that was heavily promoted at the ACM Awards. Sales of 400 for the album ? Think about how much it costs to record an album, and how little the individuals involved actually make from each album sale.

I’d rather just put the “Old Town Road” deal to bed, and let it do whatever it’s going to do, but I must point out some interesting “journalism” from the New York Times: “Nashville’s initial resistance suggests some unfortunate things about country as a genre” “But perhaps the greatest indictment of how the country music leadership handled “Old Town Road” comes from a cursory listen to some other songs on the chart.”

Hold up, hoss. Your issue is with Billboard. What did “Nashville” or “country music leadership” have to do with this ? The guy made a song, his manager admitted manipulating the charts (Rolling Stone article), and Billboard made the decision that it did. Blaming country music leadership or Nashville or the country music genre as a whole for whatever Billboard did or didn’t decide is bullshit.

4/17/19 CMA & Americanafest Updates

Well, CMA threw me for a loop yesterday. My brother and I will visit Nashville for CMA week, and we planned to do the free shows every evening at the amphitheater. Surprise, surprise. They decided to charge this year.  They’ve also apparently disposed of the “Nash Pass” combination ticket, which was a great value. My immediate thought was that, since we’d have to pay, anyway, we might as well bite the bullet and go ahead and pay for the expensive shows at the stadium. No, we can’t do that because the wheelchair-accessible seating at the stadium is completely sold out. It’s back to the drawing board. I guess we’ll try to buy the amp tickets, unless we figure out any better alternatives between now and when the tickets go on sale tomorrow. I’m trying to think of a way to say this without being disrespectful, but aside from a very few names, this is a fairly weak group on paper: Country Roads Stage. Nevertheless, this venue works very well for my brother and me, and most of the overcrowded places on Broadway don’t work very well for our needs. We’ll find ways to have a fun time, regardless.

I somewhat recognized every name but Blanco Brown. From what I can gather, he’s a hip-hop/trap guy from Atlanta who has credits with 2 Chainz, etc. He’s scheduled for ten minutes ?!

My main “trip tip” is to look closely at hotel loyalty programs. We were able to land a really nice deal by using “points.” It was such a good deal that I went back and noticed the particular loophole that I used has been closed, but I would definitely recommend taking a close look at options to buy points and use those to save some dough.

Looking ahead to September, Americanafest wristbands are $75 until the start of the month, when they go up to $90. Lineups have not been announced. However, it was announced today that Marty Stuart will be doing “artist-in-residence” shows at the CMHOF on September 11,18, and 25. Americanafest proper is September 10-15. The CMHOF often hosts cool events during the week. I don’t know that I’ll try it, but I’ll put the information out there.

Here’s a look at the current Texas Regional Radio Top 100. Randy Rogers is currently atop the chart, and we will see him again next month at the KNBT Americana Music Jam at Gruene Hall. Fourteen acts have been announced so far.

For whatever reason, my March-April Country Plus Showcase has very few views by even my standards- not even a thousand views after a month and a half. It’s at 100 songs, one per artist, and I’ll admit that the quality is a bit uneven, but I want to give a lot of people a chance, and viewers can pick and choose what they like. Hopefully, they’ll find something they like, then go out and find out more by the artist, buy the album, see a show, etc.

To put the numbers in perspective, my January-February Country Plus Showcase has 160 songs, and 2,550 views. My 2018 Country Plus Showcase has 560 songs, and 8,156 views.

I realize those numbers are extremely minuscule by anyone else’s standards, and it’s just a fun hobby project, but my current thought is to maybe extend the March-April list to March-May. After I found so many songs in January and February that I had to trim that list down to get it to 160, I expected that I’d have to chop March-April down to 200, and it simply didn’t work out that way.

4/16/19 Billboard Updates

I note that seven of the top thirty songs on this week’s country airplay chart have been on the chart for under ten weeks. Stuff is actually moving, for a change. That’s such a contrast to the full year radio slow-played Chris Stapleton and no-played others.

Crazy as it seems, Billy Ray Cyrus is breaking records in 2019 with Lil Nas X: All genre number one.

Billy broke the chart, the achy, breaky chart.

Here’s a flashback to 2007, when Billy Ray Cyrus brought Chris Stapleton to The View

While I’m thinking of eastern Kentucky, here’s an article about Connie Webb keeping Butcher Holler tours open.

 

4/15/19 Sask Country Awards

The 30th annual Saskatchewan Country Music Association awards.

Tenille Arts is the only one of these I’ve seen perform, so there are some different names to check out.

Here’s the full list of nominees.

Here’s the schedule for next week’s Larry Joe Taylor Music Festivalwhich is always one of the highest profile Texas country festivals. It doesn’t look like my schedule will cooperate for that one.

I downloaded the app for CMA Fest in Nashville in June. Just three of the stages have been announced so far, and I just go to the free ones, so I won’t see the stadium shows. The “what’s hot” feature on the app shows which artists have been “scheduled” the most. Currently, Lee Brice is out in front. I never would’ve guessed that ! Luke Combs is at #16, behind Hunter Hayes. The Forever Country free stage has some very good artists like Ricky Skaggs.

4/14/19 Revisiting 2017

Let’s take a look back at the 2017 Country Showcase

Chris Stapleton released two albums, and only one song from each album got a real run at radio. Each of those songs got stretched for about a year.

I see that the Ashley McBryde song on my 2017 list is currently at #47 on Billboard Country Airplay after 17 weeks. This song was uploaded to YouTube on June 17,2017. Talk about radio taking a while to get on board ! 

Lee Ann Womack is one of five talented Texas women I saw perform at the Loretta Lynn tribute (also Kacey Musgraves, Maren Morris, Miranda Lambert, and Amanda Shires). I don’t recall seeing any of them included on “Texas Country” radio charts. Why not? Cody Johnson and Cody Jinks are  aligned with Nashville labels, yet they’re on the Texas Country charts. Lee Ann Womack’s album was recorded in Texas.

Colter Wall recently posted on Twitter that “Nashville is all country no western.” Well, I’m watching a fine video from Marty Stuart’s western album right now. I must also mention Ranger Doug and his associates, who have been keeping western music traditions alive in Nashville and beyond for many, many decades.

Two Tons of Steel wasn’t covered by a lot of other country blogs, but has a devoted following in central Texas. The group won the Ameripolitan Award this year for Honky Tonk Group.

Anyway, there’s plenty of music to enjoy revisiting. Some of the artists have become better known since then, while others have vanished.

4/13/19 Willie at Whitewater

You know what you’re getting with Willie Nelson, and there’s nobody else quite like him. This is the third year in a row I’ve seen him, and I hope there will be many more.

At a little over an hour each time, his shows aren’t the longest, but it’s amazing that he’s still touring so much. Willie turns 86 later this month, and his sister Bobbie, whose piano playing is always a highlight, is 88 !

Mickey Raphael was there on harmonica, as he has been for decades.

Tyler Childers was the opener, who played for about 50 minutes, and returned with his band at the close of the show to join Willie and company for “I’ll Fly Away.”

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