Sandy Beaches Cruise 2016 in photos

By Ken Paulson

shipDelbert McClinton’s Sandy Beaches Cruise always offers a rich array of blues, R&B, rock and folk performers  and the 2016 event continued the tradition. On board the Holland America Westerdam were  Keb’ Mo’, the Mavericks, Marcia Ball, Jimmy Hall, Mingo Fishtrap, Alyssa Bonagura, Seth Walker, The Quebe Sisters, Band of Heathens, Teresa James and the Rhythm Tramps,  Lee Roy Parnell, Fred Eaglesmith, Shelley King, Mike Zito, Big Joe Maher, Anson Funderburgh, Kevin Welch, Doyle and Debbie, Danny Flowers, Kree Harrison, Brian Dunne, the McCrary Sisters, Bruce Channel, Etta Britt, Clay McClinton, Lari White, Chuck Cannon, Red Young, Gary Nicholson, the Howlin’ Brothers, Spooner Oldham, Bob Dipiero, Brian Dunne, Tom Hambridge, World Famous Headliners, the Damn Quails, Halley Anna Finlay, Clay McCinton, Baillie and the Boys and the Bluz House Rockers.

That meant music most days from noon until 2 in the morning. You’ll find our review on our site. Here’s a sampling of photos from one very entertaining week:

Delbert McClinton is the host and ringleader of the Sandy Beaches cruise, opening and closing the week, and playing all over the ship throughout the week.

Delbert McClinton is the host and ringmaster of the Sandy Beaches Cruise, opening and closing the week, and playing all over the ship throughout the trip.











The McCrary Sisters bring high-energy gospel to the pool deck.

The McCrary Sisters bring high-energy gospel to the pool deck.










Lari White had a busy week with two shows of her own, a songwriters session and...

Lari White had a busy week with two shows of her own, a songwriters session and…












a duet with Lee Roy Parnell.

.. a duet with Lee Roy Parnell.









Jimmy Hall, the former lead singer of Wet Willie, was back for the 18th year in a row.

Jimmy Hall, the former lead singer of Wet Willie, was back for the 18th year in a row.










There were newcomers as well. New York singer-songwriter Brian Donne confessed that given the talent on the ship, he half-expected to be turned away when he showed up to board the cruise.

There were newcomers as well. New York singer-songwriter Brian Donne confessed that given the talent on the ship, he half-expected to be turned away when he showed up to board the cruise.











Marcia Ball may have been the most collaborative artists on board. When she wasn't playing her own sets or hosting Pianorama, she was sitting in with others. And when the ship docked in St. John...

Marcia Ball may have been the most collaborative artists on board. When she wasn’t playing her own sets or hosting Pianorama, she was sitting in with others. And when the ship docked in St. John…











... she showed up on stage here.

… she showed up on stage here.









Aylssa Bonagura's first set on the pool deck included guest performances by her parents...

Alyssa Bonagura’s fine first set on the pool deck included guest performances by her parents Michael Bonagura and …












Kathy Baillie of Baillie and the Boys.

… Kathy Baillie of Baillie and the Boys.










Teresa James and the Rhythm Tramps piton great shows all week, including a Friday afternoon set moved indoors because of the only inclement weather of the week. The move inspired a very funny recollection of a very dark dive bar frequented by housewives in the middle of the afternoon.

Teresa James and the Rhythm Tramps put on great shows all week, including a Friday afternoon set moved indoors because of the only inclement weather of the week. The move inspired a very funny recollection of a very dark dive bar frequented by housewives in the middle of the afternoon.














Spooner Oldham., Danny Flowers and Bruce Channel span decades of great songwriting.

Spooner Oldham., Danny Flowers and Bruce Channel span decades of great songwriting.










Red Young's 5 p.m. dance parties in the ship's lounge were always packed, fueled by Young's deep setlist of Ray Charles songs.

Red Young’s 5 p.m. dance parties in the ship’s lounge were always packed, fueled by Young’s deep setlist of Ray Charles songs.










Etta Britt on the pool deck, delivering her own show and then doubling back to sing with Lee Roy Parnell.

Etta Britt on the pool deck, delivering her own show and then doubling back to sing with Lee Roy Parnell.












Oklahoma band the Damn Quails made their Sandy Beaches Cruise debut this year.

Oklahoma band the Damn Quails made their Sandy Beaches Cruise debut this year.










On a ship where dancing was a near-constant, no one inspired as much movement as Raul Malo and the Mavericks.

On a ship where dancing was a near-constant, no one packed the dance floor like Raul Malo and the Mavericks.





Delbert McClinton’s Sandy Beaches Cruise 2016

By Ken Paulson

As Marcia Ball wrapped up her first song to polite applause, she seemed a little nonplussed.

“I thought there was a dance floor here,” she said, as she kicked off Delbert McClinton’s Sandy Beaches Cruise 2016. The crowd took the hint, and the rest of the evening – and the week – was one non-stop dance floor.

That sets this music cruise apart from others, where headliners and reserved seats are the norm. The Sandy Beaches crowd listens respectfully, but they move to the music.

That’s probably the influence of McClinton himself, who is a low-key and welcoming presence thoughout the cruise. It’s as though you were invited to Delbert’s house – one with a very large pool – with his musical friends on a Saturday night.

And if this is your first visit to Delbert’s, you won’t feel like a newcomer for long.

“This is your cherry and we’re here to bust it, “ Ball declared, launching into a high-velocity set of rhythm and blues, including the week’s first performance of “Sea Cruise.’ “A lot of nerve, “ she laughed.

“All Night Long” with the Mavericks

Raul Malo of the Mavericks

Raul Malo and Jerry Dale McFadden of the Mavericks

The Mavericks headlined the pool deck stage three times and the energy never flagged. Since reuniting in 2012, the band has been on a roll, culminating in their Grammy nominations for the song “All Night Long” and their Mono album, and being named group of the year in the Americana Music Association awards. When a band with more than two decades of experience hits a new career high, it shows on stage. In their final set of the week, they even played a danceable “Okie from Muskogee.”


 The McCrary Sisters Let It Go

The McCrary Sisters delivered their first set on Sunday, appropriately so for this hard-rocking gospel quartet. Regina McCrary spoke of God’s capacity for healing and offered to pray for anyone in need. If you have a burden, you should “Let It Go,” they sang. No, not the song from “Frozen.”

Regina McCrary of the McCrary Sisters

Regina McCrary of the McCrary Sisters on Sandy Beaches Cruise 2016

Later in the day, Roger Blevins Jr. and Mingo Fishtrap announced they were going to echo the McCrarys’ advice to “let it go, “though their version would be “more profane.”

It wasn’t all church for the McCrarys . The sisters did the Family Stone proud with an inspired version of “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin.)”

Sandy Beaches Cruise 2016 songwriters

The songwriter sessions were uniformly impressive, giving artists the chance to showcase their writing in an acoustic performance. Sharon Vaughn told the story of how she pitched her classic My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys” to Waylon Jennings, who refused to believe she wrote it. Spooner Oldham played songs he co-wrote with Dan Penn, including James and Bobby Purify’s hit “I’m Your Puppet.”

Delbert McClinton joined the songwriters mid-week to showcase songs from a new album due this spring.

The World Famous Headliners

Former NRBQ member Al Anderson has been on the last 18 cruises, but this time he brought his bandmates from the World Famous Headliners . It’s a tongue-in-cheek name, but Anderson, Shawn Camp and Pat McLaughlin make up a potent front three, with stellar guitar work and tight harmonies. The band – deep in writing talent – showcased songs from their new album, including “Hitchike Home,” “The Whoa Whoa Song” and “Fried Chicken,” a song that mashes up Memphis music and the Bee Gees.

The Headliners know no barriers. “We’d like to apologize for these songs,’ McLaughlin told the audience, shortly before Anderson sang “Stick It Where the Sun Don’t Ever Shine.”

The band brings Little Village to mind. That was the storied band featuring Nick Lowe, Ry Cooder, John Hiatt and Jim Keltner, an amazing line-up of players and songwriters that never seemed to gel as a group.

The Headliners gel. They even have their own theme song, which they played at both the beginning and close of their set. “We’re the World Famous Headliners…”

Keb’ Mo’ and the return of Lee Roy Parnell

Among other highlights of  Sandy Beaches Cruise 2016:

Keb’ Mo’ drew big and appreciative crowds poolside with impeccable sets of blues and soul, including his fresh take on the O’Jays’ “Love Train.”

LeeRoy Parnell

Lee Roy Parnell on Sandy Beaches Cruise 2016

Mingo Fishtrap rallied the audience on the final day, with Blevins Jr. saying that although everyone would have to disembark the next morning, now was the time to “self-lobotomize.” The band then launched into a blistering medley of classic James Brown songs.

Lee Roy Parnell, on the Sandy Beaches Cruise since its inception 22 years ago, was back after a year away. He saluted the late Allen Toussaint with a spirited take on his “Holy Cow.” Lari White joined him for a duet of a song she and Parnell had written, and Etta Britt delivered a powerful “People Get Ready.”


The annual “Pianorama,” with Marcia Ball as ringleader, convened virtually every keyboardist on the cruise for a piano jam. Five players at a time took the stage, trading off parts on songs like “Iko Iko,” “Nothing from Nothing” and Drinkin’ Wine Spo-de-o-dee.”

The Quobe Sisters Band

The Quebe Sisters Band

The Quebe Sisters were a revelation. Their harmonies were gorgeous – in 1940 they would have been the Andrews Sisters –and all three play fiddle beautifully. They draw on a big songbook, but Western Swing is a specialty.

Doyle and Debbie, the lampooning country music revue, doesn’t change and doesn’t need to. It remains fresh and funny.

Alyssa Bonagura was joined onstage by her parents Kathie Baillie and Michael Bonagura, aka “Baillie and the Boys ,” who revisited their musical past, including an impressive “Blue Bayou.” It’s that rare family where the daughter can plug her parents’ CDs at the merch table.

Bruce Channel and Delbert McClinton perform "Hey Baby"

Bruce Channel and Delbert McClinton perform “Hey Baby” on Sandy Beaches Cruise 2016.

Bruce Channel joined Delbert to perform his big 1962 hit “Hey Baby,” a record on which McClinton played harmonica. I’m sure they’ve performed it together dozens of times, but it’s still a joyous performance.

The Howlin’ Brothers – Ian Craft, JT Huskey and Jared Green impressed audiences with both a reverence for folk, blues and bluegrass classics and their ability to craft new songs that continue the tradition.


(More Sandy Beaches coverage can be found here.)

New releases: BR5-49, Paul Kelly, Neil Finn

By Ken Paulson

New and recent releases:

BR5-49BR5-49 One Long Saturday Night – Bear Family Productions – Long before Nashville became the “It City,” BR5-49 was Nashville’s “It Band.” The young country band brought an energy to Music City’s Lower Broad that had been missing for a couple of decades. Suddenly, locals packed Robert’s Western Wear, foreshadowing today’s dynamic music scene. One Long Saturday Night is a recording of BR5-49 on German television in 1996, and the band’s Chuck Mead attests that it’s a classic setlist from the group’s earliest years. It’s Hank Williams, Webb Pierce, Harlan Howard, Carl Perkins and a sampling of cool originals played with spirit. History to dance to.

Neil Finn and Paul Kelly Goin’ Your Way – Omnivore Recordings – Great songs and tight harmonies distinguish this double-CD collection capturing Neil Finn and Paul Kelly in concert in 2013 at the Sydney Opera House. Finn is the better known to American audiences, largely as a member of Split Enz. His “Don’t Dream It’s Over” is included here, but the album is deep in well-crafted compositions. They’re both talented solo artists, but work really well as a duo.

And three more from Nashville:

brandy zdanBrandy ZdanBrandy Zdan – Who would have guessed we’d find one of the freshest rock albums of the year in our own backyard? Brandy Zdan is a Canadian artist, now relocated to Nashville, and her self-titled album is bold and smart. “Back on You” and “Running for a Song” sound like classic singles you’ve never heard.

Dave ZoblSimplify – Warm and carefully crafted album produced by Will Kimbrough and recorded in Muscle Shoals. “Colorado Girl” and “John Prine Sunday Morning” are among the best tracks.

Kyle Frederick Eventide – Vandermont Music – This new album from Kyle Frederick is ambitious and engaging, with wide-ranging music that draws on pop/rock, folk and country. Highlights include “Be Kind to Yourself,” an affirming co-write with Kim Richey, and the hook-packed “The Wishing Tree” and “Karma Lola.” Emmylou Harris joins Frederick on the title track.

Delbert McClinton hosts Sandy Beaches benefit

Delbert McClinton’s annual Sandy Beaches cruise launches this Sunday at 7 p.m. in non-nautical Nashville with a benefit concert for Mark Allison, McClinton’s longtime monitor engineer.

The concert at 3rd and Lindsley will feature artists scheduled to join McClinton on the Jan. 8 cruise out of Fort Lauderdale, including LeeRoy Parnell, Etta Britt, the McCrary Sisters, Gary Nicholson, Alyssa Bonagura, the Howlin’ Brothers, Danny Flowers, Lari White,  and Rocky Block.




Delbert McClinton’s Sandy Beaches Cruise set for Jan.9

By Ken Paulson

We’re less than a month away from the Jan. 9 launch of Delbert McClintonSandy Beaches Cruise, one of our favorite musical events of the year. It’s blues, roots music  and rock on the high seas, with a heavy infusion of talent from our hometown of Nashville.

This year’s artists include Keb’ Mo’, The Mavericks, Marcia Ball, Jimmy Hall, Mingo Fishtrap, Alyssa Bonagura, Seth Walker, The Quebe Sisters, Band of Heathens, Teresa James, Lee Roy Parnell, Fred Eaglesmith, Mike Zito and the Wheel, Big Joe Maher, Anson Funderburgh, Doyle and Debbie, The McCrary Sisters, Bruce Channel, Etta Britt, Clay McClinton, Lari White, Chuck Cannon, Red Young, Whitey Johnson, Bob Dipiero, Brian Dunne, Tom Hambridge, World Famous Headliners, The Damn Quails, Halley Anna Finlay and The Bluz House Rockers.

You’ll find more info on the cruise on Delbert McClinton’s site. You’ll find  our past coverage of Sandy Beaches here.

Review: Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets

By Ken Paulson

Nick Lowe and his Quality Holiday Revue rolled into Nashville tonight at the City Winery. It’s an entertaining hybrid of slightly warped Christmas songs and Lowe’s rich catalog, abetted by Los Straitjackets.

Nick Lowe in Nashville

Nick Lowe in Nashville

For a long-time Lowe fan, the show offers a chance to hear energetic (if slightly slower) takes on “Raging Eyes,” “Half A Boy and Half A Man” and “Without Love.” For those who just wandered in off the street, it’s a warm and often funny holiday show, fueled in large part by Los Straitjackets and unexpected and unconventional songs like a revved-up “Linus and Lucy.”

Highlights abounded, including Lowe’s plaintive rendition of (“What’s So Funny About) Peace Love and Understanding,” famously performed by Elvis Costello and included in the mega-selling Bodyguard soundtrack.

Los Straitjackets are given their own mini-set during the show, and oddly enough, play the first two songs of the encore.

The rich and rewarding evening closed with Lowe’s quiet acoustic performance of Costello’s “Alison,” a song he produced on the groundbreaking My Aim is True.

We’ve seen Lowe’s solo shows in recent years and have always come away impressed.  But this one was special — fast-paced, fun and vibrant.



New releases: Peter Cooper, Drive-By Truckers

New and recent releases: 

Peter CooperDepot Light: Songs of Eric Taylor – Red Beet Records – Peter Cooper insists this isn’t a tribute album to the under-recognized anddepot light brilliant songwriter Eric Taylor. Disclaimer aside, you’ll come away with a much better appreciation of Taylor after hearing Cooper’s impressive renditions of songs spanning Taylor’s career. We knew Taylor’s work primarily from recordings by Nanci Griffith and Lyle Lovett, but this collection is a revelation.

Drive-By Truckers – It’s Great to Be Alive – It’s a measure of the full-throttle new live album from the Drive-By Truckers that the review bore a sticker warning radio stations that 17 songs could get you in trouble with the FCC. The band didn’t hold anything back on “It’s Great to Be Alive,” a three-disc collection recorded in late November a year ago at the Fillmore in San Francisco. It’s a raucous retrospective that should please fans and convert others.

Butchers BlindA Place in America – Electric Giant – We admired Butcher Blind’s “Destination Blues” for the same reason we’re enjoying their new EP A Place in America: Thoughtful lyrics matched with hook-laden melodies, from the reflective “Ghosts” to the affirming “Only Love.” There’s some Wilco in their music, but Butchers Blind consistently delivers a fresh sound.

banquetMax StallingBanquet – Blind Nello Records – This new album produced by Lloyd Maines opens with the spirited “Night’s Pay in My Boot” and closes with a country cover of the Beatles’  “Two of Us.”

T.G SheppardLegendary Friends & Country Duets – Goldenlane Records – T.G. Sheppard’s new rlease is disnticntly old school ,but pleasingly so. Singing partners include Merle Haggard, George Jones, Delbert McClinton and Lori Morgan, with the album’s most memorable moments coming from Jerry Lee Lewis on “The Killer” and Willie Nelson on “In Texas.”


Seth Timbs sets “New Personal Record”


By Ken Paulson

Nashville singer-songwriter Seth Timbs has just released a fine new album called New Personal Record. Timbs, formerly the leader of Fluid Ounces, offers up a melody-laden collection of smart and engaging songs. That includes album opener “Give Up On Your Dreams,” the exact opposite of a pep talk. It sounds like Schmilsson-era Nilsson, no small feat. Another highlight is “Far Away From Here,” a thriller screenplay in song.
Here’s Timbs in performance at War Memorial Auditorium:



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New releases: Andrea Zonn’s reflective “Rise”

andrea_zonn_rise_coverNew and recent releases:

 Andrea ZonnRise –  Compass Records – This is a truly beautiful album from a fine vocalist and violinist who has played with some of music’s best, including James Taylor, Vince Gill, Linda Ronstadt and Lyle Lovett. The album combines an all-star rhythm section – Willie Weeks and Steve Gadd – with an impressive array of songs co-written with some of Nashville’s most substantive songwriters.

Highlights include “Another Side of Home,” a thoughtful look back written with Bill Lloyd and Thomm Jutz, “Another Swing and a Miss” written with Peter Cooper and Jutz, and the Kim Richey-Zonn-Jutz composition, “Where the Water Meets the Sky,” featuring harmony vocals from Sam Bush.

James Taylor shows his respect by singing harmony on “You Make Me Whole,” an affirming contribution to this reflective and rewarding collection. (Ken Paulson)

luceroLuceroAll A Man Should Do – ATO Records – This album recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis is already at # 20 on the Americana Music Association airplay chart. Lucero is on tour now, with upcoming stops in Oklahoma, Nebraska, Utah, Washington and Oregon.

Jonas CarpingCocktails & Gasoline – Recorded in a cabin in rural Sweden, but the album doesn’t sound like it. Lots of emotional peaks and valleys, propelled by ambitious production.

Andy HackbarthPanorama Hotel – This Colorado artist’s new album was “written and recorded in the wake of a messy breakup,” according to press materials.

Stephen Young and the UnionEagle Fort Rumble – The new album from this Irish Americana band is set for release Nov. 27.

The Dappled GraysLas Night, Tomorrow – The third album from the talented bluegrass group. The band had two songs featured in Trouble with the Curve

Chris LaterzoWest Coast Sound – The fifth studio album from this LA-based artist will remind you of Tom Petty’s solo work.

Leroy Powell The Overlords of the Cosmic Revelation – Cleopatra Records – A space opera from Shooter Jennings’ former guitarist. Powell promises (with tongue in cheek) that “this is the greatest record ever recorded by anyone and of all time.”

Jeff Crosby and the RefugeesWaking Days – Coming Nov. 6, Jeff Crosby’s new album was recorded in Los Angeles and Nashville.

Electric Rag BandMy Side – Horton Records – The sixth album from the Tulsa-based father and son duo.



New releases: Jim Lauderdale, Ted Hawkins tribute

New and recent releases in Americana music:

Jim LauderdaleSoul Searching Volumes 1 and 2 Jim Lauderdale – Music should always be about quality and not quantity, but there’s something astonishing about Jim Lauderdale’s output over the years. In a 30-year span, he’s released 28 albums of real merit. Apparently concerned about underachieving, he has now released the double-disc Soul Searching collection, with one disc recorded in Memphis and the other in Nashville. They’re both excellent, though we’ll admit to being partial to the Memphis set, recorded at Royal Studios with Charles and Leroy Hodges, Alvin Youngblood Hart and other soulful players. Luther and Cody Dickinson appear on both discs.

Get Together: Banana Recalls Youngbloods Classics – Grandpa Raccoon Records – Founding Youngbloods member Lowell Levinger aka “Banana” offers up a spirited collection of what John Sebastian once described as “good time music.” An agreeable colleciton of jugband and folk music includes appearances by David Grisman, Ry Cooder. Maria Muldaur and the late Jesse Colin Young.

Devil MusicRandall BramblettNew West Records – We were impressed by Randall Bramblett’s The Bright Spots and Devil Music is a worthy follow-up, with appearances by Chuck Leavell, Derek Trucks and Mark Knopfler.

Ted HawkinsCold and Bitter Tears: The Song of Ted Hawkins – Eight 30 Records – Ted Hawkins was a street singer whose talent transcended those humble origins. His first release on a major label came just a year before his death in 1995, but his musical legacy remains vibrant. This collection of his songs features an amazing array of Hawkins fans, including Kasey Chambers, Mary Gauthier, Tim Easton and James McMurtry, plus an

Hear the Bang: The Life and Music of Denny Lile – Big Legal Mess Records – The music business has always been tough, and countless talented players have never recieved the recogniton that their talent warranted. This new release is a case study, chronicling the career of Denny Lile,  a Louisville singer and songwriter who seemed destined for great things. Four decades after Lile’s debut album, a documentary and CD tell us what we missed.






Hall inducts Oak Ridge Boys, Browns, Grady Martin

By Ken Paulson

It was a night of sentiment and celebration at the Country Music Hall of Fame tonight as the Oak Ridge Boys, the Browns and the late Grady Martin were inducted into the hall at the annual Medallion Ceremony in Nashville.

Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks perform in honor of the Oak Ridge Boys

Trisha Yearwood and Garth Brooks perform in honor of the Oak Ridge Boys

The Oak Ridge Boys,  whose roots go back seven decades to a group called the Georgia Clodhoppers, were honored for the modern incarnation of the quartet – Duane Allen, Richard Sterban, Joe Bonsall and William Lee Golden – who have earned 34 top ten hits, with 17 of those going to number one.

The group’s biggest hit came in 1981 with “Elvira,” which soared to the upper tier of both the pop and country charts.

Garth Brooks and Tricia Yearwood performed the Oak Ridge Boys’ “I’ll be True to You,” while the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Jeff Hanna contributed “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight.”

The Browns – Jim Ed, Maxine and Bonnie – had steady chart success from 1955 to 1967, when they disbanded.

In 1959, they recorded “The Three Bells,” a song first made popular by Edith Piaf. It was a huge pop and country hit. “Scarlet Ribbons” and “The Old Lamplighter” were other crossover hits for the trio.

Jim Ed Brown went on to a robust solo career and passed away in June. He received the Hall of Fame’s medallion in a private event shortly before his death.

Dierks Bentley

Dierks Bentley

Carolyn Martin and Chris Scruggs performed the Browns’ “Looking Back to See” and the Isaacs recreated “The Three Bells.” Dierks Bentley was on hand to do his version of  Jim Ed Brown’s biggest solo hit “Pop A Top.”

Also inducted was Grady Martin, who died in 2001, but left behind an astonishing musical legacy. He played fiddle for Hank Williams.  It’s his guitar that helped propell Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman” and Marty Robbin’s “El Paso.” He worked on the sessions for “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” “Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy,” “Honky Tonk Man,” “Saginaw, Michigan,” “Satin Sheets” and dozens of other hit records.

His son Joshua Martin told us that his father’s gift was to play exactly what was needed on any particular recording session.

Vince Gill played Martin’s guitar part on “El Paso” along with Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives. Duane Eddy and Mandy Barnett teamed up for a version of “Don’t Worry,” showcasing Martin’s groundbreaking “fuzz tone.”


Grady Martin headed for Country Music Hall of Fame

By Ken Paulson

As a little boy, I heard more Marty Robbins LPs than Disney records.

My Uncle Don couldn’t get enough of Robbins’ Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs album and played it over and over on the family stereo.  I still know the words to “Big Iron.”

Grady Martin's son Joshua at the Country Music Hall of Fame

Grady Martin’s son Joshua at the Country Music Hall of Fame

But the most riveting track was, of course, “El Paso,” propelled by the amazing guitar work of Grady Martin.

A couple of years later, Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman” exploded onto AM radios, driven by Martin’s electric guitar.

And on it goes: Martin’s guitar work is on “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” “Honky Tonk Man,” “Saginaw, Michigan,” “Satin Sheets” and many more hit records. It turns out we’ve all been listening to Martin our entire lives.

Martin is being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame this month, along with the Oak Ridge Boys, Jim Ed Brown and the Browns.

”He didn’t use one recognizable sound,” Bob Moore, Martin’s celebrated sessions colleague, told the Tennessean’s Peter Cooper after Martin’s death in 2001”What he did was so varied, but the things he came up with were always outstanding, no matter the style. I think he’s the single greatest guitar player we’ve had here in Nashville.”
Grady Martin’s son Joshua was at the Country Music Hall of Fame earlier this month at an informal event honoring Martin and fellow inductees the Browns. He shared his thoughts on what made his father’s work so special:




After Nashville: Jason Isbell’s 2015 concert schedule

Jason Isbell at the Americana Music Festival Honors and Awards show in 2014.

Jason Isbell at the Americana Music Festival Honors and Awards show in 2014.

Nashville – Jason Isbell’s opening show at the Ryman Auditorium for a four-night run drew a rave review from the Tennessean’s Juli Thanki, who wrote:

“Isbell isn’t a flashy performer. Instead, he lets his lyrics do the heavy lifting, and the packed house was enthralled, singing along with songs like “Codeine” and a stunning rendition of “Cover Me Up.”
Isbell will be at the Ryman through Oct. 26, but here’s the schedule for the rest of the tour:
10/29 – Amarillo, TX – Potter County Memorial Stadium
10/30 – New Orleans, LA – Voodoo Music Experience
11/6 – Knoxville, TN – Tennessee Theatre
11/7 – Boone, NC – Schaefer Center for the Arts
11/8 – Chattanooga, TN – Tivoli Theatre
11/12 – Madison, WI – Capitol Theater
11/13 – Eau Claire, WI – State Theatre
11/14 – Green Bay, WI – Meyer Theatre
11/19 – Durham, NC – Durham Performing Arts Center
11/20 – Roanoke, VA – Berglund Center
11/21 – Savannah, GA – Lucas Theatre for the Arts
12/9 – Kansas City, MO – Uptown Theater
12/10 & 11 – Denver, CO – Ogden Theatre
12/12 – Omaha, NE – Sokol Auditorium
1/6 – Oslo, Norway – Rockefeller
1/7 – Stockholm, Sweden – Bern
1/8 – Gotenburg, Sweden – Pustervik
1/9 – Copenhagen, Denmark – Vega
1/11 – Berlin, Germany – Privatclub
1/12 – Hamburg, Germany – Knust
1/13 – Cologne, Germany – Blue Shell
1/15 – Amsterdam, Netherlands – Paradiso
1/16 – Brussels, Belgium – Orangerie
1/18 – Paris, France – La Maroquinerie
1/19 – Brighton, UK – Concorde 2
1/20 – Bristol, UK – Trinity
1/22 – London, UK – O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire
1/23 – Manchester, UK – Ritz
1/24 – Glasgow, UK – O2 ABC Celtic Connections
1/31-2/6 – Miami, FL Cayamo Cruise
2/11 & 12 – Austin, TX – ACL Live at the Moody Theater
2/16 – Dallas, TX – South Side Ballroom
2/17 – St. Louis, MO – Peabody Opera House
2/19 – Indianapolis, IN – The Murat Theatre
2/20 – Chicago, IL – Chicago Theatre
2/25 – New York, NY – Beacon Theatre
2/27 – Boston, MA – House of Blues
2/29 – Toronto, ON – The Danforth Music Hall
3/1 – Royal Oak, MI – Royal Oak Music Theatre
3/2 – Pittsburgh, PA – Benedum Center for the Performing Arts
3/5 – St. Augustine, FL – St. Augustine Amphitheatre


2015 Americana Music Festival notebook

By Ken Paulson

ama_logo_button_redRandom thoughts and observations about the Americana Music Festival week that was: The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band‘s 50th anniversary show at the Ryman was the perfect kick-off and an extraordinary event. Take the four current members of the Dirt Band – Jeff Hanna, John McEuen, Jimmie Fadden and Bob Carpenter – and add Byron House, Sam Bush and Jerry Douglas, and you have the ultimate Americana band. Then you add appearances by Jackson Browne, Vince Gill, John Prine, Alison Krauss, Rodney Crowell and returning Dirt Band member Jimmy Ibbotson and you have a singular evening. Recorded for PBS, the show’s few flubs just meant we had a chance to hear the classics twice – most notably Jerry Jeff Walker and the band doing his “Mr. Bojangles. …Based on their most recent album, we had high hopes for Dustbowl Revival and they absolutely delivered, even inspiring some City Winery patrons to dance, a scene we hadn’t witnessed before…

Dustbowl Revival at the City Winery

Dustbowl Revival at the City Winery

Our single favorite song of the week was Steve Earle doing “Mississippi, It’s Time,” a stirring song about the Confederate flag that reminded us how powerful truly topical songs can be….On the same stage, we saw Loretta Lynn, whose stage show probably hasn’t changed much in the past 40 years – and that’s just fine…We used the new app for our schedule all week and just have one request: build bios into the app for artists and panel members rather than passing us through to websites….We were honored to present the Spirit of Americana Free Speech in Music award to Buffy Sainte Marie on Wednesday night and then sat in when she visited with Middle Tennessee State University students the next day. They loved her energy and sage advice: “Don’t believe any of that junk about genres.”…We saw some tremendous unbilled shows at various receptions around town, including the new trio Applewood Road…. The Americana Music Festival remains the best single week for music in Music City –and that’s saying something.

New and in harmony: Applewood Road

By Ken Paulson

Every Americana Music Festival reveals an invigorating
musical surprise or two, and ours came Thursday night at the Tin Roof in Nashville. In addition to the many festival showcases around, you’ll find artists performing at the many informal receptions around the city.

Applewood Road in Nashville

Applewood Road in Nashville

That’s where we found Applewood Road, a new trio made up of Amy Speace, Emily Barker and Amber Rubart, performing together for just the third time. A raucous bar hushed as they harmonized beautifully. We’ve known and admired Amy’s work for years; the three are a potent combination.

The group’s origins came in a songwriting session in 2014 in East Nashville, where they wrote the song with the title that became the band name.

Their debut album, due later this year, was recorded live  at Welcome to 1979, an analog-only studio in Nashville.




Lucinda Williams, Sturgill Simpson honored

Americana Music News  — Lucinda Williams won top honors for album of the year  Wednesday night at the American Music Association’s annual honors and awards show at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. “Down Where The Spirit Meets the Bone” continued her long run of AMA honors.

Sturgill Simpson was honored twice, with wins as artist of the year and for writing and recording “Turtles All the Way Down,” the song of the year.

The full list of honorees:


Album of the Year: Down Where The Spirit Meets The Bone, Lucinda Williams, Produced by Lucinda Williams, Tom Overby and Greg Leisz
Artist of the Year: Sturgill Simpson
Duo Group of the Year: The Mavericks
Song of the Year: “Turtles All The Way Down” Written by Sturgill Simpson
Emerging Artist of the Year: Shakey Graves
Instrumentalist of the Year: John Leventhal
Spirit of Americana/Free Speech in Music Award co-presented by the Americana Music Association and the First Amendment Center: Buffy Sainte-Marie
Lifetime Achievement Award, Trailblazer: Don Henley
The Lifetime Achievement Award, Songwriting: Gillian Welch & David Rawlings
Lifetime Achievement Award, Instrumentalist: Ricky Skaggs
Lifetime Achievement Award, Performance: Los Lobos
President’s Award: BB King



Country Music Hall of Fame celebrates Sam Phillips

By Ken Paulson

A remarkable new exhibit opens today at the Country Music Hall of Fame honoring a singular figure in American music. The title says it all: “Flyin’ Saucers Rock & Roll: The Cosmic Genius of Sam Phillips.”

In fact, it was that audacious exhibit title that convinced the Phillips family that the Hall of Fame curators could be trusted with telling Sam’s story, his son Jerry said Thursday.

sam phillips posterPhillips, the founder of Sun Records played a pivotal role in the history of rock and roll, signing Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Howlin’ Wolf, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins, Rufus Thomas, Charlie Rich and many more groundbreaking and envelope-pushing talents.

His production and release of Elvis’ first single – “That’s All Right,” backed with a revved up “Blue Moon of Kentucky” – is the Big Bang of rock, and arguably of Americana music as well.

I had the opportunity to interview Phillips in 1999 at an event at the Peabody Hotel. I asked him my first question, and 11 minutes later he wrapped up his response. He was a colorful and confident character.

But he also had character. Sam was committed to finding and  recording fresh voices, breaking down barriers in the process.

Sam Phillips' console

Sam Phillips’ console

The exhibit features an impressive array of artifacts, most notably Elvis’ first recording – “My Happiness” – at the Memphis Recording Service. The disc, recorded for his mother, is on loan to the Hall of Fame by Jack White. Other items in the exhibit include:

– Phillips’ mixing console and tape recorder

  • – A union contract signed by Presley and Phillips
  • – An electric guitar used by Howlin’ Wolf
  • – A vintage Johnny Cash stage costume

The exhibit is scheduled to run through June 2016.

Americana Music Festival 2015: The line-up

We’re just about three weeks away from the Americana Music Festival and Conference Association Conference in Nashville,  and organizers have released a new list of performers, including these additions:  Glen Hansard, Jewel, Hot Rize featuring Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers, Jay Farrar, Buddy Miller and Marc Ribot, JD McPherson, Parker Millsap, Joel Rafael, Nellie Clay, Madisen Ward and The Mama Bear and the Watkins Family Hour. 
The updated line-up:
Adam Faucett
American Aquarium

Anderson East

Andrew Combs

Andrew Leahey & The Homestead

Angaleena Presley 

Anthony D’Amato

Band of Heathens


Barna Howard

Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn

Birds of Chicago

Brian Wright
The Bros. Landreth

Buddy Miller & Marc Ribot

Buick 6 


Caitlin Canty

Cale Tyson

Caleb Caudle

Caleb Klauder

CALICO the band 

Carly Ritter

The Carmonas

Caroline Spence 

Carsie Blanton


Christopher Paul Stelling

The Contenders

Corb Lund


Daniel Martin Moore 

Daniel Romano


Darrell Scott

David Wax Museum

Dead Winter Carpenters

Della Mae 

Dirty River Boys

Dom Flemons

Donnie Fritts and John Paul White

Doug Seegers

Dreaming Spires

Dustbowl Revival

Eddie Berman

Eilen Jewell

Emma Swift

Erin Rae & The Meanwhiles

The Fairfield Four

Fats Kaplin

Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen

The Freightshakers

Gill Landry

Glen Hansard

The Good Lovelies

The Grahams

Grant-Lee Phillips

Great Peacock

Gretchen Peters

Guthrie Brown & The Family Tree

Hackensaw Boys


The Hello Strangers

Henry Wagons

The Hillbenders

The Honeycutters


Horse Feathers

Hot Rize featuring Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers 

Horseshoes & Hand Grenades

Hugh Bob and the Hustle

Humming House

Jackie Greene

James McMurtry

Jay Farrar performs songs of Son Volt’s “Trace” 

JD & The Straight Shot

JD McPherson 
JD Souther

Jeffrey Foucault


Jim Lauderdale

Joe Pug

Joel Rafael 

John Moreland

John Paul Keith

Jonathan Tyler

Joseph LeMay

Josh Ritter 

Josh Rouse

JP Harris

Kacy & Clayton

Kai Welch 

Keenan O’Meara & M. Lui

Kelsey Waldon

Kingsley Flood

Kristin Andreassen

Kristin Diable

Laney Jones and the Spirits

Lee Ann Womack

Legendary Shack Shakers

Lera Lynn

Lewis and Leigh

Leyla McCalla

Lilly Hiatt

Lindi Ortega

Liz Longley

Los Colognes

Los Lobos

Low Cut Connie


Luther Dickinson

Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear 

Margo Price

Martin Harley

Mary Bragg

Mary Gauthier
The Mavericks

The McCrary Sisters

Michaela Anne & The Wild Hearts

Miss Tess & The Talkbacks

Nathaniel Rateliff  and The Night Sweats

Nellie Clay 

Nora Jane Struthers  and the Party Line


Oh Pep!

Olin & The Moon 

Packway Handle Band

Paper Bird

Parker Millsap 

Patty Griffin

Pine Hill Project (featuring Richard Shindell  and Lucy Kaplansky)

Pokey LaFarge

Pony Boy


Possessed By Paul James

Raised By Eagles

Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen

Ray Wylie Hubbard

Richie Furay

River Whyless

Ron Pope & The Nighthawks

Ry Cooder/Sharon White/Ricky Skaggs

Ryan Culwell
Sam Outlaw

Sarah Borges

Sean McConnell

Session Americana

Shannon McNally 

Shemekia Copeland

The Show Ponies

Spirit Family Reunion

The Steel Wheels


Stephen Kellogg
The Stray Birds

The Suffers
T Sisters

T. Hardy Morris


Tall Heights

Those Pretty Wrongs

Town Mountain

Uncle Lucius

The Vespers

Water Liars

Watkins Family Hour 

Webb Wilder 

The Whistles and The Bells


Whitey Morgan

Whitney Rose

The Wild Reeds

William Elliott Whitmore

Willie Watson

The Wood Brothers

New Releases: Dustbowl Revival, Raging Fire, Auburn

DUSTBOWLA round-up of new releases:

Dustbowl Revival With a Lampshade OnDustbowl Revival draws on a folk tradition stretching back at least 85 years. With a Lampshade On is a genial album fueled by brass, fiddle and mandolin. This is energetic and engaging roots music.  Of course, most listeners are going to find Dustbowl Revival through their music video of “Never Had to Go,” featuring a joyous, dancing Dick Van Dyke. It’s buoyant, with or without Dick, and the album’s highlight.

Raging Fire Everything is Roses – Here’s an album we never expected to see. Raging Fire was a buzz band in the late ‘80s in Nashville, joining Jason and the Scorchers in a dynamic new rock scene in the city. Everything is Roses collects 24 tracks from their heyday. Cool and historic.

Jeb Barry Milltown – Jeb Barry is a prolific storyteller with a collection of stark songs, recorded in real time with the Pawn Shop Saints.

Auburn Mixed Feelings Bat Country Records/Scarlet Records The UK-based Auburn follow up their Nashville album, returning to Music City to work once again with accomplished producer Thomm Jutz. Set for release on Sept. 11.

Edward David Anderson Lower Alabama: The Loxley Sessions – Royal Potato Family Edward David Anderson’s new album, set for release on Oct. 16, was produced by Anthony Crawford and features guitar work from Will Kimbrough.

Adam Hill Old Paint– Adam Hill takes songs spanning centuries and gives them a more contemporary feel. Hill says he’s “recomposed” these old tunes, including the familiar “Cuckoo” and “A Soldier’s Joy.”


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Early Nashville rock: Ronnie and the Daytonas

By Ken Paulson

daytonasMuch is made these days of Kings of Leon and Jack White living in Nashville, but rock has long thrived in Music City.

The new Real Gone Music release of Ronny and the Daytonas’ The Complete Recordings reminds us of the Top 10 success of this Nashville band 51 years ago. Their debut single “GTO” echoed the Beach Boys’ car songs, but had a vitality all its own.

The hit was written by “Ronny” – John “Bucky” Wilkin – the son of legendary Nashville songwriter Marijohn Wilkin. She was a very big deal. She wrote country classics “Long Black Veil” and “Waterloo,” the inspirational “One Day at a Time” and even the Eddie Cochran (and Rod Stewart) track “Cut Across Shorty.” The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame calls her one of the three most successful female songwriters in country music history, along with Dolly Parton and Patsy Walker.

There must have been something in the DNA. While the younger Wilkin only had two Top 40 hits with the Daytonas, he wrote both, along with about half the band’s output.

The Complete Recordings is a fascinating two-CD set. Much of the first disc is formulaic car and surf music of widely varying quality, but just as Brian Wilson moved past those genres to a more sophisticated sound, so did Wilkin.

The turning point was “Sandy,” a 1965 hit single co-written with Buzz Cason, another young Nashville rocker who went on to write “Everlasting Love.” This was Wilkin’s “Please Let Me Wonder” and a huge leap beyond the early material.

From “Sandy” on, the songs became more adventurous and the arrangements more ambitious. But there were no more big hits.

By 1968, Wilkin was a solo artist with RCA and released a single about the day in the life of a solder in Vietnam, co-written with his mom and Kris Kristofferson. (Yes, you read that right.) It failed, despite the intervention and support of Chet Atkins. Yet it’s somehow the perfect bookend to a recording career that began four years earlier with “G.T.O. “ The sixties moved just that quickly.

The Complete Recordings include four unreleased songs, for an astounding total of 48 tracks from a band whose work went largely unacknowledged for decades. The new collection is an important historical document – and a lot of fun.

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