John Hiatt, Patty Griffin headline Cross-County Lines

cross county 262x350 John Hiatt, Patty Griffin headline Cross County Lines

Americana Music News – John Hiatt and Patty Griffin are headlining  the Americana Music Association’s  2nd annual Cross-County Lines festival on May 31 in Franklin, TN.

Also in the line-up: Ashley Monroe, Brandy  Clark, Parker Millsap, Joe Pug and Luther Dickinson.

It’s a 7-hour showcase for roots and Americana music in The Park at Harlinsdale Farm, just outside the offices of the Americana Music Association.

We attended last year’s kick-off Cross-County Lines event, which featured Alison Krauss, Jerry Douglas and Amos Lee. The 2014 event should be just as memorable.

The music starts at 3:30 p.m. and $35 tickets are available from Ticketmaster and at the Franklin Theatre box office.

 

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Review: Rodney Crowell’s “Tarpaper Sky”

Tarpaper 150x150 Review: Rodney Crowells Tarpaper Sky By Ken Paulson

I was listening to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s 1979 album An American Dream the other day and was reminded of the beauty of the title track, written by Rodney Crowell and included on his first solo album Ain’t Livin’ Long Like This” in 1978.

“American Dream,” ‘Til I Gain Control Again” and “Shame on the Moon” were all big hits in the hands of other artists, a reminder of just how resonant – and yes, commercial – a songwriter Crowell could be.

Crowell has had extraordinary success as an artist in recent years,  including striking collaborations with Mary Karr on KIN and Emmylou Harris on Old Yellow Moon. His last four solo albums have been autobiographical, topical and sometimes stark.

In contrast, Tarpaper Sky, ( New West) his latest, is not a concept album or project and its tone is often joyous and adventurous. It has more of the spirit of Crowell’s  early recordings, possibly due to the co-production of his ‘80s collaborator Steuart Smith.

The album opens with the soaring “The Long Journey Home,” followed by the jaunty “Fever on the Bayou” (When she gets a hold me/Mucho me-oh-my-oh”) and the full-throttle love song “Frankie Please.” This one’s fun.

The reflective Crowell is still here, with the Karr co-write “God I’m Missing You” and the sentimental “Grandma Loved That Old Man.”

Closing out the album are two tributes: “The Flyboy & the Kid,” a tip of the hat to friend and mentor Guy Clark, and “Oh What a Beautiful World,” a nod to John Denver.

It’s been too long since Sex and Gasoline, Crowell’s outstanding and largely overlooked  2008 solo album. Tarpaper Sky is a welcome addition to his rich body of work.

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Sun209 interview: Greg Trooper

Greg Trooper incident 150x150 Sun209 interview: Greg TrooperWe caught up  with Greg Trooper on his return to Nashville after leaving the city in 2008. The Basement was packed with fans and friends, including a contingent from Boston. His almost two-hour show was a prime example of an artist capturing the room with just an acoustic guitar, striking songs,  irreverence and energy.

In one of our Three-minute Interviews, Trooper talks about the “tawdry” cover of his new album Incident on Willow Street and life as a touring artist:

 

We loved Incident. You’ll find our review here.

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Tin Pan South: Cleveland, Lloyd, Ragsdale and Coleman

ashley 350x262 Tin Pan South: Cleveland, Lloyd, Ragsdale and Coleman

Ashley Cleveland performs during Tin Pan South

Ashley Cleveland, Bill Lloyd, Suzi Ragsdale and Dave Coleman were clearly enjoying themselves Friday night at Douglas Corner as part of the Tin Pan South songwriters festival in Nashville.

Unlike other rounds where songwriters might be teamed thematically or shows in which songwriters come out for a rare performance, these were all friends and active performers, eager to play off each other and to share new material.

Three-time Grammy Ashley Cleveland stood to deliver songs from her upcoming Beauty on the Curve, Coleman showcased songs from his band’s new Escalator, Ragsdale debuted “The Ending” from a musical in the works, and Lloyd shared “Happiness,” a cool pop song that channels Burt Bacharach.

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Tin Pan South: Classics revisited

dickey 350x270 Tin Pan South: Classics revisited

Dickey Lee at Tin Pan South

The show was labeled “Classics to Current,” and “classics” was not an overstatement. This Tin Pan South show at Douglas Corner in Nashville featured Alex Harvey, who wrote “Delta Dawn” and “Reuben James”, “Buzz Cason, whose “Soldier of Love” was recorded by the Beatles in their BBC sessions, Dickey Lee of “Patches” fame and Austin Cunningham.

But it was Lee who set the tone for the evening, noting that the song he was about to do had been a hit for George Jones and Elvis Presley and then opened the show with his “She Thinks I Still Care.” Follow that.

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Best bets: 2014 Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival

tin pan 2014 150x150 Best bets: 2014 Tin Pan South Songwriters FestivalBy Ken Paulson

Tin Pan South, the world-class songwriters festival based in Nashville,  begins this Tuesday in Nashville,  and as usual, the line-up of talent is rich and diverse. It’s a particularly well-curated festival, so there are no lame rounds. That said, these shows caught our eye:

Tuesday,  March 25

Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne at the at the Listening Room Café,  6 p.m.

Brandy Clark’s 12 Stories is one of the best albums of the past year, fueled by striking and down-to-earth songwriting. Her songs have been recorded by Band Perry, Kacey Musgraves and Miranda Lambert.  Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne teamed with Musgraves for her hit “Merry Go ‘Round” and won a 2014 Grammy.

Critter Fuqua, Chance McCoy, Chuck Mead and Holly Williams at the Station Inn,  9 p.m.

BR5-49 veteran Chuck Mead has a terrific new album called Free State Serenade, Critter Fuqua and Chance McCoy are members of the Old Crow Medicine Show and Holly Williams is the very talented granddaughter of Hank Williams, who released the fine album The Highway  last year.

Wednesday, March 26

Jessi Alexander, Josh Kear and Striking Matches at the Hard Rock Café, 6 p.m.

We admred Jessi Alexander as an artist, but she’s really hit her stride as a country songwriter, including the much-honored “I Drive Your Truck.’ Josh Kear has had similar success, including writing the monster Lady Antebellum hit “Need You Now,  and Striking Matches is an engaging duo whose songs have shown up on the Nashville TV show.

Thursday, March 27

Jim Lauderdale and friends at the Station Inn, 6 p.m.

This minimalist listing is all you need to know. Lauderdale, an icon of Americana, works and plays with some of the best in the business.

Friday, March 28

Buzz Cason, Austin Cunningham, Alex Harvey and Dickey Lee at Douglas Corner, 6:30pm
There’s some pop and country  history here, with Dickey Lee, who recorded “Patches,” Buzz Cason, who wrote “Soldier of Love,” Alex Harvey, who wrote “ Delta Dawn”  and Austin Cunningham. And it’s not all oldies from the veterans. Cason has a brand-new new album called Troubadour Heart.

Later at the same club at 9:30 you’ll find 3-time Grammy winner Ashley Cleveland, Dave Coleman, Suzi Ragsdale and Bill Lloyd, power pop and country artist and songwriter, and occasional contributor to Sun209. We’ve had the privilege to work with all four, and they’ll deliver a great show.

Saturday, March 29

 Sony Curtis, Mac Davis and Hugh Prestwood at the Bluebird Café at 6:30 p.m.

One of our favorite past Tin Pan South shows featured former Cricket Sonny Curtis, Mac Davis. Jim Weatherly and Bobby Braddock.   This year’s round looks just as promising, with Hugh Prestwood joining David and Curtis.

Curtis is one of our favorites, a rock pioneer who grew up with Buddy Holly, and went on to write songs ranging from “I Fought the Law” to “Love is All Around,” the theme to the Mary Tyler Moore show. I don’t think anyone else can claim they’ve been covered by the Everly Brothers, the Clash and Joan Jett.

Of course, this is all just a start. This is a festival that also features Amy Grant, Vince Gill, Marcus Hummon, Leigh Nash, Kevin Welch, Kim Richey, Bob DiPiero, Shannon Wright, Gary Talley, Dave Barnes, John Oates, Craig Carothers, Larry Weiss, Phillip Coleman, Tony Arata, T. Graham Brown, Brett James, Rivers Rutherford, Jeffrey Steele, Tom Douglas, Eric Brace, Peter Cooper, Tim Easton, Bill Anderson, Steve Bogard, the Stellas, Amy Speace, Jason White, Leslie Satcher, Larry Gatlin, Tommy Lee James, Erin Enderlin, Jack Sundrud, Karen Staley, Luke Laird, Lee Roy Parnell, Sarah Buxton, Kate York, Sherrie Austin, James Otto, the Kinleys and many more.

Full details can be found at Tin Pan South’s website.

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Tin Pan South set for March 25-29 in Nashville

tin pan 2014 243x350 Tin Pan South set for March 25 29 in NashvilleTin Pan South, a wide-ranging and always rewarding songwriters festival,  has just announced its 2014 line-up. The festival, which features both songwriting legends and upcoming writers,  will run from March 25 through March 29 in Nashville.

The approximately 100 performing songwriters include Joe Don Rooney, Vince Gill,  Teddy Gentry,  Amy Grant and Jamie O’Neal, plus Songwriters Hall of Fame members Pat Alger, Mac Davis and Sonny Curtis.
We’re also pleased to see so many of our Nashville-based favorites in the mix, including Bill Lloyd, Sherrie Austin,  Jessi Alexander,  Jason White,   Barry Dean, Will Hoge, Tom Douglas,  Eric Brace, Jim Lauderdale, Bob DiPiero, Karen Staley  and Marcus Hummon.
For full details, visit Tin Pan South’s online home.
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Review: Irene Kelley’s “Pennsylvania Coal”

Irene Kelley 150x150 Review: Irene Kelleys Pennsylvania CoalBy Ken Paulson

This should be a very good week for Nashville singer-songwriter Irene Kelley.

On Tuesday, Feb. 11, she’ll drop by to perform at Grimey’s record store in Nashville, followed by a full show on Friday at the legendary Station Inn.

Best of all, this is also the week the world will get to hear her remarkable new album Pennsylvania Coal, which just entered the Americana Music Association airplay chart.

From the back cover depicting her coal-mining grandfather to “You Are Mine,” the closing track written and performed with her daughters, Pennsylvania Coal is fueled by family.

“Angels Around Her” warmly recalls Kelley’s mother, “Pennsylvania Coal” honors her grandparents, “Sister’s Heart” is about her loving sister and “Garden of Dreams” is for her daughters Justyna and Sara Jean.

Yet the first two tracks – both written with Peter Cooper – may have the most universal appeal. “You Don’t Run Across My Mind,” distributed as a single, is about a relationship that lingers in your mind long after it’s over. “Feels Like Home” delivers the familiar “You can’t go home again” message  in a fresh way.

The album includes co-writes with David Olney, Thomm Jutz, Justyna and other fine writers, plus harmonies from Trisha Yearwood on “Better with Time.

Kelley’s voice and the intimate instrumentation are a perfect fit on this compelling, touching album.

While many will see Pennsylvania Coal as a bluegrass album,  it’s for anyone with a love of strong, evocative songwriting. Highly recommended.

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Mandy Barnett celebates Don Gibson

mandy 150x150 Mandy Barnett celebates Don Gibson By Ken Paulson

Visitors to the Nashville airport see three electronic signs as they descend on the escalator to baggage claim. This week, the first extolled the virtues of Opryland, the second was a greeting from Mayor Karl Dean and the third showcased Mandy Barnett’s new album I Can’t Stop Loving You: The Songs of Don Gibson.

Perfect. Barnett is as Nashville as they come, particularly in her interpretation of  the classic countrypolitan Nashville sound. She’s perhaps best known for her performances as Patsy Cline in Always: Patsy Cline, a role that demands an extraordinary voice.

On her new album, she revisits the work of another iconic figure, songwriter and singer Don Gibson. The classic songs are all here: Gibson’s hit “Oh Lonesome Me,” “Sweet Dreams” recorded by Cline, and “I Can’t Stop loving You,” performed most memorably by Ray Charles.

The album, on the Cracker Barrel label, entered the Americana Music Association chart this week at number 35. This classic material, reinvigorated in faithful, but fresh performances, is clearly finding a new audience.

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Review: Will Kimbrough’s “Sideshow Love”

sideshow love 150x150 Review: Will Kimbroughs Sideshow Loveby Paul T. Mueller

On his seventh solo album, due for release in mid-February, Will Kimbrough turns away from Big Issues to focus on more personal matters. There are 12 songs on Sideshow Love, and they’re all about one or more aspects of human relationships – love, sex, loneliness and various combinations thereof.

Check them off: Anticipated love (“When Your Loving Comes Around”), physical love (“Let the Big World Spin”), boastful love (the title track), practical love (“Home Economics”), and so on.

High points include “I Want Too Much,” a confessional song that features some really nice acoustic picking; “Has Anybody Seen My Heart,” a gentle lost-love ballad written with Joy Lynn White; and “Who Believes In You,” co-written with Carter Wood and featuring some beautiful cello by engineer and co-producer David Henry.

Will Kimbrough is an excellent player, singer and producer, and his talents are on full display here. One could wish for a bit more poetry in his lyrics, but in light of his other contributions that seems a bit churlish.

Best, maybe, just to appreciate the moods and colors he creates with his guitar (and several other instruments) and his voice.

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Folk musical “Hangtown Dancehall” debuts in Nashville

By Ken Paulson

hangtown poster 150x150 Folk musical Hangtown Dancehall debuts in Nashville

Hangtown Dancehall, an ambitious re-visiting of the tale of “Sweet Betsy from Pike” debuted tonight at 3rd and Lindsley  in Nashville with an all-star cast of artists. The musical, subtitled  ”A tale of the California Goldrush,” is the creation of Eric Brace (Last Train Home) and Karl Straub, based on a story by Brace.

Brace who grew up in the California community where the story is based,  has expanded upon the classic folk song, telling a saga of adventure, romance, greed and betrayal through narration and an impressive array of original songs.

Kelly Willis, Tim O’Brien, Peter Cooper and Brian Wright were among those who joined Brace and Straub onstage tonight, while the just-released Hangtown Dancehall album features Willis, O’Brien, Darrell Scott, Jason Ringenberg and many more Nashville-based talents.

It’s a smart, engaging and musically diverse show that should have a future in theaters across the country.

Hangtown Dancehall 350x210 Folk musical Hangtown Dancehall debuts in Nashville

Eric Brace and the cast of Hangtown Dancehall

 

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Interview: Kim Richey on “Thorn in my Heart”

kim richey 150x150 Interview: Kim Richey on Thorn in my HeartBy Ken Paulson
Kim Richey has been all over the Americana Music Festival and it’s been great to see her showcase her fine new album Thorn in My Heart. Here’s a quick interview on the new album and her return to Nashville:

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Eric Brace song inspires a NASA video

We’re fans of Eric Brace and were glad to hear the news that one of his songs inspired a NASA video and tribute to Neil Armstrong.

In Eric’s words: I’m extraordinarily honored and proud that the folks at NASA heard my song “Tranquility Base” and are using it to help commemorate the first anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s death (Sunday). The video they created to accompany the song, using footage from the historic Apollo 11 mission, is spectacularly beautiful and moving and can be seen here on NASA’s website.

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Review: Tim Easton’s “Not Cool”

tim easton 150x150 Review: Tim Eastons Not Coolby Paul T. Mueller

Someone once said, “Geography is destiny,” and that certainly seems true of Not Cool, the new CD from much-traveled singer-songwriter Tim Easton. Easton recently moved to the Nashville area after several years in the Mojave Desert town of Joshua Tree, California. Fittingly, many of the songs on Not Cool have an early rock ‘n’ roll/rockabilly sound that’s well suited to the home of country music, and Easton’s lyrics (he wrote 10 of the 11 tracks) have taken a more straightforward direction, in contrast to the sometimes oblique nature of much of his recent work.

In keeping with the vintage sound, the CD’s running time totals only 30 minutes, with eight of the 11 tracks clocking in at three minutes or less. Themes include life’s travails (“Troubled Times,” “Four Queens,” “Gallatin Pike Blues”) and bad romance (“Don’t Lie,” “Lickety Split” and the title track). But the grim subject matter is offset by bouncy arrangements, mostly featuring the excellent guitar playing of Easton, J.D. Simo and Sadler Vaden. Megan Palmer, Easton’s partner in a duo called Out of Our Tree, contributes sweet violin and vocals on several tracks.

Easton saves the best for last, closing the album with “Knock Out Roses (For Levon),” a beautiful tribute to the late Levon Helm. Written, according to Easton, the day Helm died, it’s an acoustic instrumental featuring an old-timey sound, set to a lively waltz tempo, but with a melancholy undertone. The song’s delicate interplay of guitar, banjo and violin fades out near the end, leaving only the violin to carry the tune to its end. Sweet.

 

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The Roys’ spirited bluegrass at CMA Festival in Nashville

The Roys 1 350x262 The Roys spirited bluegrass at CMA Festival in Nashville

The Roys

Americana Music News – Bluegrass duo the Roys were all over the CMA Festival in Nashville  this week and we caught them in a makeshift concert hall adjacent to the Nashville Visitors’ Center. They played a brief and entertaining set that included a preview of their new album Gypsy Runaway Train and a fun cover of the Johnny Cash hit “Ring of Fire.”

We’re always going to be partial to an album that includes a spirited cover of Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” the flip side of – ahem – Sun209, the first Elvis single. The Rays find a middle ground between the original and the frenetic Elvis cover.

The title track on this engaging album celebrates music fans: “We love your smilin’ faces standing in the crowd.” When you play this well at a mid-day show, competing with the volume of a much louder show next door, for an audience that largely just wandered in, that sentiment rings true.

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Alison Krauss, Jerry Douglas to preview “Cross County Lines”

links ama1 Alison Krauss, Jerry Douglas to preview Cross County LinesAmericana Music News – The Americana Music Association has announced plans for ”Cross County Lines,” a daylong concert promoting roots and Americana music, set for the summer of 2014.

As part of its promotion of the event, the Americana Music Association is staging a concert June 1 in Franklin, Tennessee, hosted by Alison Krauss and Jerry Douglas. Joining them at Liberty Hall at the Factory will be Amos Lee, Sarah Jarosz, Shawn Colvin, Angel Snow and Teddy Thompson.

Tickets will be available on Friday April 26 at the Americana Music Association site.

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The voices and venues of Tin Pan South

Sara Buxton 350x262 The voices and venues of Tin Pan South

Sara Buxton at Douglas Corner

Americana Music News – We saw the diversity of Tin Pan South tonight at two 6 p.m. shows  in distinctly different venues.

J.D. Souther hosted an evening at Douglas Corner, where the room was dark and the audience was hushed and almost reverential. The club was packed and the sign outside said the room was at capacity (which happened with some disappointing regularity this week.)

Across town, the irreverent foursome of Don Henry, Karen Staley, Jerry Vandiver and Jack Sundrud held court at the much brighter Commodore Grille at the West End Holiday  Inn. Henry sang about a guitar tossed into a tree after a spat, Staley described her “Thyroid Condition” with a nod to Hank Williams Jr. and Vandiver delivered  the pun-plentiful “Athens Grease.”

It was all good.

 

Henry Staley Sundrud 350x262 The voices and venues of Tin Pan South

Don Henry. Karen Staley and Jack Sundrud

 

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Reissue: Kenny O’Dell’s “Beautiful People”

Kenny ODell 150x150 Reissue: Kenny ODells Beautiful PeopleBy Ken Paulson

I met Kenny O’Dell at a press conference announcing the new Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame earlier this year, and mentioned how much I had enjoyed his Beautiful People album, released in 1967.

O’Dell, who is a member of the Hall of Fame, was gracious and seemed surprised that anyone remembered the pop album he recorded before going on to fame in country music.

Now with the re-issue of that album on Real Gone Music,  many more can appreciate this modest pop gem. Largely a collection of  quick recordings pulled together to capitalize on O’Dell’s Top 40 hit “Beautiful People,” the album features the hits of the era – “Kentucky Woman” and “Different Drum” among them – and also his “Next Train to London,” which became a hit for the Rose Garden.

O’Dell’s vocals were similar to Bobby Vee’s, so it probably wasn’t a surprise that Vee’s cover of “Beautiful People” also broke into the Top 40, undercutting O’Dell’s own chart success.

O’Dell went on to write “Behind Closed Doors” for Charlie Rich and even had his own career as a country artist, but this bonus track-laden re-issue of Beautiful People shows him to be a strong pop writer and performer as well.

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Review: Beth Nielsen Chapman’s “The Mighty Sky”

Beth 150x150 Review: Beth Nielsen Chapmans The Mighty SkyBy Ken Paulson – It’s the rare children’s album that delights adults as much as kids , but that’s certainly the case with The Mighty Sky,  a new album from  Beth Nielsen Chapman.

The album offers lessons in astronomy through a wide array of pop songs written by Chapman, Annie Roboff and Rocky Alvey, giving parents the chance to play spot-the-genre while their kids learn about the moon and stars.

There’s the joyous pop of “Big Bang Boom,” the doo-wop of “The Moon,” the straight ahead “Rockin Little Neutron Star” (with Bill Lloyd and Steve Allen) and of course, the “Zodiacal Zydeco.”  “You Can See the Blues” could have been written by Leiber and Stoller – if they had been astronomers.

Speaking of astronomers, the lyrics to The Mighty Sky were written by Alvey, the director of Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory in Nashville. They’re both informative and engaging, teaching in the most entertaining and low-key way.

Highly recommended.

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Holly Williams to play the Belcourt Theatre Feb. 12

Americana Music News – One of the most pleasant surprises on the 2012 Cayamo cruise was Holly Williams. She proved to be a self-assured performer with impressive material. We saw her again at the 30A Songwriters Festival two weeks ago.

Now fresh off an appearance on the Tonight Show, the granddaughter of Hank Williams (yes, that one), is performing at the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville on Feb. 12 at 7:30. Tickets are $15.

Her  new album The Highway  is out now and features guest performances by Jackson Browne, Jakob Dylan and Dierks Bentley. 

 

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