January 20, 2022 Week Three

Let’s see what we can find this week.

Fayfare Opry Blog posted their annual year in review. In general, it’s worth noting that the Opry added the most members in one year since the sixties and nearly half of the current Opry members made zero or one Opry appearance in 2021. The other trend worth noting is the prevalence of guest comedians. Gary Mule Deer was tied for 4th most Opry appearances of anyone in 2021 and Henry Cho was also in the top 10.

It was announced this morning that the 6th annual Southeastern Fiddle Championship in Tuscaloosa, Alabama will be held April 30th. The event is free. Breaking Grass will be the headline act.

There were many “news” stories in recent days about the arrest of Jay Barker for allegedly trying to hit his estranged wife Sara Evans with his vehicle. The media accounts are very difficult to believe. We’re “supposed” to believe that Jay was in the driveway and deliberately tried to hit Sara’s vehicle, but completely missed ? How is that even possible ?

The Pressley Girls posted a new fiddle tune, Clover Reel. Fiddle tunes were practically synonymous with country music a century ago and before. Now, fiddle tunes are often lumped into “old time and bluegrass” or worse yet, “Americana/folk.” What about new fiddle music, though, that isn’t “old” or necessarily part of any of those other scenes ? In other words, since there is a category for “old time fiddle,” shouldn’t there also be a category for “new time fiddle?” What modern fiddle songs come to mind ? “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” is from 1979 and “Ashokan Farewell” is from 1982.

The B&B Project isn’t country music, but if you enjoy stringed instruments, they’re worth a listen. Their specialty is the Ukrainian bandura.

I hoped to attend a lot more live shows in 2022, but I’m getting serious sticker shock. I refuse to purchase marked up “scalper” tickets. I’ve seen hundreds of acts perform in the last few years. Some of the acts I saw for little or nothing a few years ago are headliners now. I expect to go to some festivals this spring and summer. Many festivals are quite affordable and you can check out a large number of acts in a short amount of time.

January 14, 2022 Two Weeks Into 2022

My 2022 Country Videos playlist is off to a vigorous start, with over ten entries already. My plan is to follow the same basic formula as my 2021 Country Videos list, featuring only videos published in the calendar year and limited to one entry per artist. There must be at least some visual component, even if it is just a simple lyric video or live performance. I am not bound to any “scene.” My goal isn’t necessarily to find the best or most traditional, but rather to create a time capsule, a sampler of the new music released this year. I can only choose from the videos that people actually put out. I can’t make them put more steel guitar and fiddle in it.

Some “huge names” are already represented on the 2022 list are hall of famer Dolly Parton, Morgan Wallen (top selling artist all-genre in 2021) with Ernest, and Jason Aldean (ACM artist of the decade for the 2010s). I include lots of independent artists, too.

There are over 100 entries on my 2021 Country Videos playlist and I expect to find at least that many for my 2022 Country Videos playlist.

I’ve mentioned the Instagram site historyofcountrymusic. They’re currently highlighting music from the WWII era. If you’re into country music history, make sure to follow along.

January 6th, 2022 Five Years of Robert’s Country Blog

For my 1,325th post, I thank everyone who has enjoyed any of my posts. I haven’t posted as much lately, but I’m still here. I just noticed the WordPress notification about the fifth year anniversary of my blog, so I don’t have much prepared.

I spent the evening at Gruene Hall enjoying the Jason James Band. If you like classic country with steel guitar from the 50s-70s, this is a great act to check out. I saw Jason James a couple of times in 2018, when he had just one album out. He put out a second album in 2019. His original songs from the two albums fit very well with the classic country covers. I posted a couple of song clips from this evening on my YouTube channel: Robert’s YouTube Channel

I plan to see a whole lot of shows in 2022 and I look forward to sharing my interest in music with anyone who cares to read it.

I’ll also be on the lookout for new videos to add to my 2022 Country Videos playlist.

Thanks for reading !

Farewell 2021, Welcome 2022

There’s a tremendous amount of music of every sort available now. Hopefully, I’ve helped my readers enjoy some bits that they might not have discovered otherwise.

Here are the acts I saw live in 2021:

Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder, Del McCoury, Travelin’ McCourys, Dan Tyminski, Kruger Brothers with Dallas Symphony Quartet, The Cleverlys, The Gibson Brothers, Sister Sadie, Purple Hulls, Texas and Tennessee, Alecia Nugent, Asleep At The Wheel, Pat Byrne, Dale Watson, Rollfast Ramblers, Big Mon, Flaco Jiménez with Max Baca and the Texmaniacs, Tony Kamel, Earl Poole Ball and Linda Gail Lewis, The Georges, Brave Combo, Amanda Shaw, Plato Jones, Mollie B and Squeezebox, Jimmy Sturr Orchestra, The Tubameisters, Chris Rybak Band, Auf Geht’s, Das Ist Lustig, Lederhosen Junkies, Chardon Polka Band, All Mixed Up, Euro Express Band, Seven Dutchmen Orchestra, Cloverleaf Orchestra, Joe Rogers Big Band, The Royal Klobasneks, Texas Sound Check Band, Mountain Top Polka Band, Terry Cavanagh and Alpine Express, Kerry Christensen, The Oompahs, Die Schlauberger, Alpen Musikanten, Rennie Guenther and the Happy Travelers, Johnny Koenig Band, Alex Meixner, Walburg Boys, and Alpine Village Band.

I don’t have many hard plans for 2022, because I don’t want to spend a whole lot in advance, when there’s a chance of insane politicians cancelling things again. I have a ticket to see George Strait in April and a ticket to see Doug Kershaw in April. Since I live in central Texas, I should have ample opportunity to see my choice of Texas acts. I plan to attend CMA Fest in Nashville in June. I have cousins in the Nashville area whom I haven’t seen since before Covid. Since I’m planning to visit Nashville, anyway, I might as well go when the most music is going on. In 2021, I had a great time at the Bloomin’ Bluegrass Festival in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and at Wurstfest in New Braunfels. There’s a pretty good chance I’ll attend these annual festivals again in 2022.

I do not know how often I will post in 2022. I shouldn’t waste my time or anyone else’s by writing just for the sake of writing. I expect to see a great number of live acts in 2022. My YouTube channel already has over two hundred specialty playlists, and only two hundred will display, so I doubt if I will add many. I do plan to add a 2022 new music playlist. I’ve made such lists since 2015, so I occasionally enjoy going back and listening to past lists as “time capsules.”

Cheers to a new year filled with good music and good times!

Christmas Week, 2021

My Christmas List is my holiday playlist. There are some common classics, but also some uncommon and unusual offerings.

Here are some other YouTube channels with Christmas music: Daniel Melvin uploads many older records. Duncan Automatic Shop recently uploaded Christmas records from 1915. Boyjohn specializes in children’s records and has a good lot of Christmas music.

For country music, I’ll mention the Paolo Nunin Band’s album that was released earlier this month. Since this act is from Italy, most American country fans don’t know them, but give this album a listen.

It’s been awhile since I mentioned Irish country music, so let’s catch up there a bit. Daniel O’Donnell turned 60 earlier this month. He is well known here in the US. His show airs on RFD-TV and he has toured in the US since the nineties, especially in Branson.

Cliona Hagan released an album of Dolly Parton covers a couple months ago. She’s one of the biggest current Irish country stars.

The Country Side of Harmonica Sam is probably Sweden’s best known traditional country act. They posted several videos of live performances this week on YouTube.

Luca Stricagnoli is a great Italian guitar picker. He does some really different stuff. You might not think of what he does as “country,” but if you appreciate musicianship and guitar picking, you’ll enjoy his channel.

Merry Christmas to all !

December 16, 2021 Update

It’s been slow lately, but let’s catch up on the news from the last week. Michael Nesmith and Vicente Fernández passed away. There have been some nice articles about them, but I’ll throw in a trivia bit or two.

Most articles mention Nesmith’s individual contributions to country rock. I’ll mention that country artists covered Monkees hits, too. “Last Train To Clarksville” was covered by such country artists as Ed Bruce, Jim & Jesse, and Jerry Reed. Anne Murray had a number three country hit in 1979 with a cover of the Monkees hit “Daydream Believer.”

Linda Hargrove and Michael Nesmith wrote the country song “I’ve Never Loved Anyone More,” which has recorded by Johnny Rodriguez, Eddy Arnold, Marty Robbins, and others. Lynn Anderson’s version was the most successful on the country chart. Linda Hargrove and Michael Nesmith also wrote the song “Winonah” and each recorded a version.

“Tennessee Whiskey” was certified diamond by the RIAA for Chris Stapleton. This is a very rare accomplishment for a country song. As a trivia bit, the one time I met Chris Stapleton was at a free meet-and-greet at the George Jones Museum in Nashville during CMA fest. It was announced a few days ago that the museum is closing. Here is Linda Hargrove’s own version of Tennessee Whiskey.

The “King of Rancheras” Vicente Fernández has been covered by assorted country artists, but especially notable is George Strait’s cover of “El Rey.” Numerous artists have covered “Volver, Volver.” My suggestion for those of us who don’t speak Spanish is comedian Raymond Orta’s “if it were country” English versions of El Rey , Volver, Volver , and Tragos Amargos.

Pollstar 2021 Year End Special Issue covers touring data. There are tables showing which tours sold the most tickets, average ticket prices, and so on. The top two grossing country tours of 2021 were Luke Bryan and Chris Stapleton. Luke sold slightly more tickets, but Chris drew slightly more per ticket. Chris had the highest grossing country tour of the year. There are also charts of ticket sales by venue.

I’ll close today’s post with a bit of Christmas trivia. The 1913 Medley of Country Dances by Eugene Jaudas includes both “Jingle Bells” and “Auld Lang Syne.”

December 8, 2021 Current Observations

There’s not much new music scheduled for the remainder of 2021, so many sites are already publishing “year-end” lists. The contributions of older country artists are usually ignored on such lists.

Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, Connie Smith, Ronnie Milsap, Ray Stevens, Alan Jackson, Asleep At The Wheel, Travis Tritt, The Oak Ridge Boys, Wanda Jackson, and Reba McEntire all released albums in 2021.

Whatever you might think of any of these artists individually, it’s unfortunate that their work isn’t even considered by many just because of their age. It’s understandable that people focus on “new” artists when making lists of new music for the year, but let’s also be thankful for the older artists who still take the time and effort to create new music.

One of the most interesting Christmas songs released this season is Santa’s Gotta Dirty Job by Rich and Rowe. This is a collaboration by Mike Rowe (best known for the television show “Dirty Jobs”) and John Rich of Big & Rich, along with the Oak Ridge Boys. All proceeds from the song go to charity.

Kenny Chesney has the number one song on the country airplay chart this week. He’s at number six all time for most country number ones.

Stonewall Jackson passed away a few days ago. He joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1956, which is earlier than anyone who is still living. Doug Kershaw became a member in 1957, but did not remain a member. Bill Anderson became an Opry member in 1961 and Loretta Lynn in 1962. Leroy Van Dyke became an Opry member in 1962, but did not remain a member. Doug Kershaw and Leroy Van Dyke have made Opry appearances as guests.

Some of the best-known Christmas songs have been around for hundreds of years: 8 Oldest Christmas Songs.

December 2, 2021 Year End Charts

Billboard just published its year-end charts. Popularity isn’t necessarily a sign of good quality, but it’s usually a good bet that you can expect more of whatever “makes numbers” over the stuff that didn’t sell.

Morgan Wallen topped the all-genre Billboard 200 Albums and assorted country categories. He’s the first country artist to top the year-end Billboard 200 since Taylor Swift in 2009. The Nashville industry was unsuccessful in efforts to “cancel” his career.

Luke Combs also fared very well on the charts. He had the #2 and #3 country albums. “Forever After All” was the number one country streaming song.

Chris Stapleton had the #4 and #7 country albums, and these went #1 and #2 on the Americana/Folk chart. “Traveller” was released in May 2015, and it’s still impacting weekly charts 6.5 years later. “Tennessee Whiskey” is number two on the country streaming chart.

Walker Hayes’ “Fancy Like” of Applebee’s topped country digital song sales, followed somehow by a rap song by the rapper Nelly.

Even crazier is the song by Elle King and Miranda Lambert placing highly on both country and rock charts. The rock charts are even more embarrassing than the country charts these days. Look at the “Rock Digital Song Sales” chart. No offense to BTS, Machine Gun Kelly, Elle King and Miranda Lambert and so forth, but when I think of rock music, they’re not the first names that spring to mind.

“Famous Friends” by Chris Young and Kane Brown topped country airplay for the year.

Gabby Barrett fared very well on the charts. She had the #8 country album, and her songs fared well on country song charts.

The top ten of the country streaming chart covers most of the country artists who got it done on the charts this year: Luke Combs, Chris Stapleton, Morgan Wallen, Gabby Barrett, and Walker Hayes. Yes, the top ten country streaming songs belong to just these five artists.

Christmas songs often show up on country charts, too. Look at the country streaming chart #15 “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee and #19 “Jingle Bell Rock” by Bobby Helms. Burl Ives made #27 with “Holly Jolly Christmas” and Gene Autry made #35 and #36 with “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Here Comes Santa Claus.”

Sturgill Simpson has the #1, #2, and #4 bluegrass albums.

Kanye West of fish stick lore is the number one Christian artist of the year and also the number one gospel artist of the year ? Okay, what’s the deal with that ? What are the distinctions between these apparently different genres that have the same number one artist for the same music ?

November 29, 2021 Direct TV Marketing

When I was young, television ads for all types of music were very common, but especially country music. Everyone from Slim Whitman to Conway Twitty to Floyd Cramer advertised this way. So did Cristy Lane, Boxcar Willie, Anne Murray, John Denver,and countless others. Nobody can forget Zamfir and his pan flute. Zamfir still performs, too !

Here’s a 2017 Neatorama article: “Art, Commerce, and Zamfir: Selling Music on TV”

The article goes into detail about companies like Heartland Music and how they found success with direct marketing strategies.

Here’s a 2013 Mental Floss article: “11 Mellow Artists Who Sold Millions Through Commercials.”

Here are some links to assorted ads:

Yes, even George Strait made one of these commercials in the eighties.

K-Tel Records: “The Best of George Jones” commercial

Loretta Lynn gospel album commercial in the nineties

Here’s a large playlist of Heartland Music commercials. You’ll find Barbara Mandrell, Tammy Wynette, The Forester Sisters, and many other country names on the list.

November 27, 2021 Thanksgiving Weekend

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite family holidays. It’s also when a lot of people start shopping for Christmas. I find much more satisfaction playing a variety of inexpensive instruments however badly at home than I do listening to most of today’s popular music.

Let’s take a look at some musical gift ideas. I am not affiliated with any of these companies, but for this very American holiday, I want to highlight some musical instruments made in the USA.

CB Gitty specializes in cigar box guitars and other instrument kits. You might not hear a lot of cigar box guitars and canjos on the radio, but there are many people who enjoy these instruments.

Kazoobie Kazoos makes kazoos and operates a kazoo museum. Even the most expensive kazoos are inexpensive compared to most other kinds of instruments.

The Original American Kazoo Company also makes kazoos and operates a kazoo museum.

Columbus Washboard Company makes washboards. Most often associated with jug bands, jazz, and zydeco, washboards occasionally show up in country and polka and every other style.

Still Made In The USA is a directory of American-made musical instruments.

There are many dulcimer makers in the US. Much like the cigar box guitar scene, there are many, many hobbyists who love these instruments.

Of course, there’s a whole world of musical instruments out there. The majority of instruments I own are from Asia. No matter what kind of music you enjoy, it’s fun to at least tinker with some instruments.