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

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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

Banditos

Barna Howard

Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn

Birds of Chicago

Brian Wright
The Bros. Landreth

Buddy Miller & Marc Ribot

Buick 6 

Buxton

Caitlin Canty

Cale Tyson

Caleb Caudle

Caleb Klauder

CALICO the band 

Carly Ritter

The Carmonas

Caroline Spence 

Carsie Blanton

ChessBoxer

Christopher Paul Stelling

The Contenders

Corb Lund

Crooks

Daniel Martin Moore 

Daniel Romano

Darlingside

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

Halfway

The Hello Strangers

Henry Wagons

The Hillbenders

The Honeycutters

honeyhoney

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

Jewel 

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

Lucette

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

NUDIE

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

Porter

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

Steelism

Stephen Kellogg
The Stray Birds

The Suffers
T Sisters

T. Hardy Morris

Taarka

Tall Heights

Those Pretty Wrongs

Town Mountain

Uncle Lucius

The Vespers

Water Liars

Watkins Family Hour 

Webb Wilder 

The Whistles and The Bells

WhiteHorse

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.

Rosanne Cash among four Songwriters Hall inductees

It’s my privilege to be a member of the board  of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in Nashville. It’s a remarkable organization that recognizes top songwriters who have either worked in Nashville, or whose careers have significantly intersected with Music City. You’ll find an interactive directory chronicling the inductees on the Hall’s website.

The Hall has just announced four new inductees, including Rosanne Cash, Mark James, Even Stevens and Craig Wiseman.  – Ken Paulson

The details from the Hall of Fame:

Rosanne Cash, Mark James, Craig Wiseman, Even Stevens

Rosanne Cash, Mark James, Craig Wiseman, Even Stevens

The four new inductees will join the 196 existing members of the elite organization when they are officially inducted during the 45th Anniversary Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Gala on Sunday, October 11, at the Music City Center. 

“Nashville remains the primary destination for anyone with an appreciation of songwriters and the art of songwriting,” said Alger.  “Since 1970, the legacy of those great songwriters has been celebrated and preserved by the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.  Each year only a few are elected to this high honor, and this year we are proud to welcome the class of 2015:  Mark James and Craig Wiseman in the songwriter category; Even Stevens in the veteran songwriter category and Rosanne Cash as our songwriter/artist.”

Mark James’ songwriter credits include “Hooked On A Feeling” (B.J. Thomas, Blue Swede), “Suspicious Minds” (Elvis Presley) and “Always On My Mind” (Willie Nelson).  Craig Wiseman’s resume is known for “Live Like You Were Dying” (Tim McGraw), “Believe” (Brooks & Dunn) and “The Good Stuff” (Kenny Chesney).  Even Stevens is the tunesmith behind “Suspicions” and “Drivin’ My Life Away” (Eddie Rabbitt) and “Crazy In Love” (Conway Twitty).  Rosanne Cash popularized many of her own compositions, including “Seven Year Ache,” “Blue Moon With Heartache” and “Hold On.” 

The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Gala is one of the music industry’s premier events of the year.  The evening features tributes and performances of the inductees’ songs by special guest artists.  In recent years artists such as Garth Brooks, Jimmy Buffett, Emmylou Harris, Alan Jackson, Tim McGraw, Thomas Rhett, Blake Shelton, Marty Stuart, Taylor Swift, Josh Turner and Trisha Yearwood have performed at or participated in the event.  Fellow songwriters’ organization the Nashville Songwriters Association International also participates in the evening by presenting its annual awards for the year’s Best Song, Songwriter and Songwriter/Artist, as well as the Top 10 “Songs I Wish I Had Written” as determined by their professional songwriters division. 

Tickets for the Hall of Fame Gala are $250 each.  Select seating is available to the public and may be purchased as available by contacting Executive Director Mark Ford at hoftix@nashvillesongwritersfoundation.com or 615-460-6556.

Inductee Biographical Information

ROSANNE CASH has released 15 albums of extraordinary songs that have earned four Grammy Awards and nominations for 11 more, as well as 21 Top-40 hits, including 11 #1 singles.  Born in Memphis to legendary Country artist Johnny Cash and his first wife, Vivian Liberto, Rosanne’s second album was the landmark Seven Year Ache in 1981.  The self-penned song, “Seven Year Ache,” became a #1 record (her first), as did her “Blue Moon With Heartache.”  Co-writer Vince Gill also hit with two of their songs during the ’80s:  “If It Weren’t For Him” and “Never Alone.”  From that point, Rosanne’s albums would prove worthy vehicles for her considerable songwriting talent, as evidenced by “I Don’t Know Why You Don’t Want Me,” “Second To No One,” “Hold On” (the 1987 BMI Country Song of the Year), “If You Change Your Mind,” “What We Really Want” and “The Wheel.”  Her latest release, 2014’s The River and the Thread, received three Grammy Awards earlier this year. Additionally Rosanne has been selected as the 2015 artist in residence for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, where she will perform three concerts in September.

EVEN STEVENS is a noted record maker, producer and graphic artist.  The Ohio native served in the U.S. Coast Guard, then settled in San Francisco to perform in the city’s nightspots as a folkie.  Back in Ohio, he was working as a graphic artist when an uncle persuaded him to come to Nashville to pitch the songs he’d been writing.  Hooking up with the then-unknown Eddie Rabbitt, Even began collaborating on songs that would soon make his friend a superstar: “Drivin’ My Life Away,” “I Love A Rainy Night,” “Step By Step” and “Suspicions” (BMI’s 1980 Country Song of the Year).  Even’s collaborations with others resulted in hits for artists like Dr. Hook (“When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman”), Conway Twitty (“Crazy In Love”), Ricky Skaggs (“Lovin’ Only Me”), Lacy J. Dalton (“Black Coffee”) and the Oak Ridge Boys (“No Matter How High”).  “Love Will Turn You Around” by Kenny Rogers was named ASCAP Country Song of the Year in 1982.

 

MARK JAMES grew up in Houston, Texas, along with B.J. Thomas, who was the first to make his songs hits.  By the late 1960s, Mark was signed as a staff songwriter to Memphis producer Chips Moman’s publishing company.  Moman produced Thomas’ versions of “The Eyes Of A New York Woman” and “Hooked On A Feeling” in 1968-69, and these became Mark’s debut songwriting successes.  He issued his own version of “Suspicious Minds” (also produced by Moman) on Scepter Records in 1968 before Elvis Presley made it a smash the following year using the same arrangement.  These songs, as well as hits such as “Sunday Sunrise” (Brenda Lee) and “Moody Blue” (Elvis Presley) were all created by Mark as a solo writer.  Mark also co-wrote the hits “It’s Only Love” (B.J. Thomas) and “One Hell Of A Woman” (Mac Davis).  One of Mark’s biggest hits came via Willie Nelson’s 1982 recording of “Always On My Mind.” A collaboration with fellow Memphians Johnny Christopher and Wayne Carson, that song – named 1982 Song of the Year for NSAI, the ACM and the CMA – earned the writers a pair of Grammys for Best Country Song and for Best Song.

 

CRAIG WISEMAN moved to Nashville in 1985 to pursue a songwriting career and by age 24 received his first cut by the legendary Roy Orbison.  Since then, the Hattiesburg, Miss., native has become one of Nashville’s most celebrated songwriters.  He was ASCAP’s Country Songwriter of the Year in 2003, 2005 & 2007 and in 2014 earned the organization’s Heritage Award as its most-performed Country music songwriter of the past century.  In 2005, he received a Best Country Song Grammy for “Live Like You Were Dying” by Tim McGraw.  That song also earned both ACM and CMA Song of the Year honors, as did his “Believe” by  Brooks & Dunn the following year.   Other hits from Craig’s catalog include “Summertime” and “The Good Stuff” by Kenny Chesney (2003 ASCAP Country Song of the Year), “Where The Green Grass Grows” by Tim McGraw, “Love Me If You Can” by Toby Keith, the AC hit “A Baby Changes Everything” by Faith Hill, “Hillbilly Bone” by Blake Shelton & Trace Adkins, “Boys ’Round Here” by Blake Shelton & The Pistol Annies and the Rock hit “Chalk Outline” by Three Days Grace.  To date, Craig has had well over 300 cuts, 100 singles and 21 #1s.

New: Jon Pousette-Dart, Deslondes

A round-up of new releases:

pousetteTalk – Jon Pousette – Dart – BFD – Best known for his successful run with the Pousette-Dart Band in the ‘70s, Jon Pousette-Dart continues to write and record rewarding music, as evidenced by his new collection Talk. The new album set for release on July 24, draws on blues and country, and features contributions by Reggie Young, Rhonda Vincent, Dan Dugmore, Jonell Mosser and Bekka Bramlett. It’s very much a Nashville album, produced by Bill VornDick at Ronnie’s Place, and with co-writes by Music City residents John Oates, Gary Nicholson and Angela Kaset.

The DeslondesNew West Records – This talented roots band draws on Sun Records in such an authentic fashion that the album probably should have been released on 78.  The California leg of the Deslondes’ tour begins shortly with a date in San Franciso on July 14. They’ll be at the Roxy in LA two days later.

Dear Elvis – Chris Cuddy – Vanishing Castle Recordings – Like the Deslondes, Chris Cuddy’s nw album draws on rock ‘n’ roll inspirations of more than a half-century ago., and guests Albert Lee and Gene Taylor help him out on “Rock ‘n’ Roll History.”

Come on HomeDan Rodriguez – Dan Rodriguez is the singer and songwriter behind everyone’s favorite commercial. It’s his “Come on Home” that plays on the heartwarming Budweiser commercial in which a dog waits for his owner, who decides not to drive home impaired. That’s a good jump start for an album that delivers on the promise of the song. Recorded in Nashville, Come on Home boasts strong songs and robust sounds throughout.

MigrateTroy and Paula Hagg – Southern Gothic Productions Migrate is the second album from this North Virginia husband and wife duo. Troy sings and plays guitar, while Paula provides harmonies and percussion on this amiable and engaging collection.

American ShuffleHobo Nephews of Uncle Frank – Chaperone Records – The new album from the Minneapolis-based Hobo Nephews of Uncle Frank features two songs inspired by sports legends. “Old Number Four” celebrates the achievements of quarterback Brett Favre in nearby Green Bay, while “The Day Billy Martin Quits” chronicles the life of the fiery Yankee player and manager.

The Mallpass Brothers – Organic Records – The Mallpass Brothers deliver faithful treatments of classic country and honky-tonk songs on their new album. A handful of new songs complement familiar tunes from Hank Williams, Jack Clement and the Louvin Brothers, but it’s all pretty seamless. Highly recommended for fans of vintage Marty Robbins and Merle Haggard.

 

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Expanded Americana Music Festival lineup

ama_logo_button_redThe Americana Music Association has just added a second wave of artists booked for thie fall’s Americana Music Festival and Conference, set for Sept. 15-20 in Nashville, including Band of Heathens, the McCrary Sisters, Luther Dickinson, the Fairfield Four, JD Souther, Doug Seegers, Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale. You’ll find the initial  lineup here.

The new additions:

Adam Faucett

American Aquarium

Amy LaVere

Andrew Leahey & The Homestead

Band of Heathens

Buddy Miller

Buxton Cale Tyson

The Carmonas

Daniel Romano

Darrell Scott

David Wax Museum

Dirty River Boys

Donnie Fritts & John Paul White

Doug Seegers

Dreaming Spires

Dustbowl Revival

Eddie Berman

Eilen Jewell

The Fairfield Four

Gill Landry

The Good Lovelies

Great Peacock

Gretchen Peters

The Hillbenders

The Honeycutters

Humming House

JD & The Straight Shot

JD Souther

Jeffrey Foucault

Jim Lauderdale

Jonathan Tyler

Josh Rouse

JP Harris

Kacy & Clayton

Kelsey Waldon

Legendary Shack Shakers

Lewis and Leigh

Lindi Ortega

Los Colognes

Low Cut Connie

Luther Dickinson

Margo Price

The Mavericks

McCrary Sisters

Michaela Anne

Miss Tess & The Talkbacks

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

Paper Bird

Pine Hill Project (featuring Richard Shindell & Lucy Kaplansky)

Pony Boy Porter

Possessed By Paul James

Raised By Eagles

Ron Pope & The Nighthawks

Ry Cooder/Sharon White/Ricky Skaggs

Ryan Culwell

Sam Outlaw

Spirit Family Reunion

The Suffers

T. Hardy Morris

T Sisters

Taarka

Those Pretty Wrongs

Town Mountain

Uncle Lucius

Whitney Rose

Willie Watson

The Wood Brothers

Jerry Lawson at the Station Inn

By Ken Paulson

It was a long time coming, but Jerry Lawson’s show at the Station Inn in Nashville June 5  was a spirited and often inspiring evening.

Lawson, the 71-year-old lead singer for the Persuasions, was there to celebrate the release of Just a Mortal Man, his first solo album.  His voice broke a bit as he explained that the album’s title hit home for him shortly after he finished recording it.  He said he understood just how mortal he was when a torn esophagus led to a life-threatening medical emergency.

Jerry Lawson and Eric Brace on stage at the Station Inn

 Jerry Lawson and Eric Brace on stage at the Station Inn

Red Beet Records founder and artist Eric Brace explained that he had connected with Lawson years earlier when he wrote a piece for the Washington Post saluting his talents. After years of correspondence, the two ended up on stage together in Phoenix, leading to Brace saying “We should make a record together.” In time, they did.

Lawson’s mobility was limited because he’s recovering from knee replacement surgery, but his voice was in fine shape, opening with “Kiddio” and then moving on to perform much of the album. Highlights included Paul Simon’s “Peace Like a River,” Brace’s “Time and Water” and Peter Cooper’s cautionary “Wine,” which Lawson insists could have been written for him.

 

 

 

 

 

New releases: Jerry Lawson, Chris Stapleton

New Americana, folk and soul releases:

Jerry LawsonJust a Mortal ManJerry Lawson – Red Beet Records -Jerry Lawson’s  Just a Mortal Man is a joyous surprise. The 71-year-old lead singer of the Persuasions has just released his first solo album. His rich voice remains a revelation, and the smart song selection showcases his gifts. Highlights include Paul Simon’s “Peace Like A River” and producer Eric Brace’s “Time and Water.” Guests include the McCrary Sisters and Jim Lauderdale. He’ll be in Nashville on June 5 for a show at the Station Inn.

TravellerChris Stapleton – At 37, Chris Stapleton is finally releasing a much-anticipated solo album. He was the lead singer for the Steeldrivers and has had amazing success as a songwriter. Billboard Magazine has a great feature on his songs, as recorded by Adele, Jason Aldean, Blake Shelton, Lee Ann Womack and many more.

The TravelerRhett Miller – What are the odds that Chris Stapleton and Rhett Miller would release new albums with almost identical titles? Here Old 97’s frontman Miller teams up with Black Prairie, with guest spots by Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey of REM

Hope You’re Happy NowGrant Langston – The new album from Grant Langston is out now; publicity materials offer this description: “This new record is dark, moody and veers into the downright somber.”

Alicia MichilliAlicia Michilli – We met Alicia Michilli on a plane flying back from the Grammy Awards. She’s from Detroit, but has moved to Nashville to launch her career. Her self-titled EP makes a great first impression. Despite her 22 years, she has an impressive feel for classic ‘70s soul, as evidenced by the five original tracks. And check out her salute to Etta James here.

My Crazy HeadLevi Lowrey – Out now is the new release by Levi Lowrey, described in press materials as his “most revolutionary album yet.”

A Light That Never DiesKaiL Baxley – Forty Below Records – Set for release on June 2, KaiL Baxley’s second album was co-produced with Eric Corne.

Pat McGeePat McGee – This solo album from the Pat McGee Band leader features an impressive array of session players and guest talent, including Russ Kunkel, Leland Sklar, Waddy Wachtel, Danny Kotchmar, Jeff Pevar, Paul Barrere, John Popper and Pat Monahan.

Review: Amy Speace’s “That Kind of Girl”

 

By Paul T. Mueller

speaceIt seems a bit of a shame that singer-songwriter Amy Speace had to turn to crowdfunding to get her latest album released. Still, maybe making an album independently is the best way to end up with exactly what you want, and That Kind of Girl has that kind of sound about it. It’s an excellent collection – 12 songs full of raw, honest emotion, beautifully conveyed by Speace’s powerful, expressive voice. It also features skillful instrumental and vocal backup from a cast of outstanding musicians, including some of her East Nashville neighbors.

There’s no filler here; these songs demonstrate Speace’s mastery of songcraft, which should come as no surprise to those familiar with her previous work. Her writing – on this set she’s credited as sole writer on three songs and co-writer on the rest – is clear and filled with the kind of nuance that can bring a smile, a tear or both. “You know you never really told me when you knew that you chose her,” she sings in “Epilogue (I Don’t Know How to Stop Loving You),” one of the solo efforts. “So I folded you inside my dreams, like an old concert poster.” And, from “Raincoat,” written with Katie Klim: “It’s a strange kind of sadness/And it’s hard to explain/You were my raincoat/You were my raincoat/You were my raincoat/Now you’re the rain.” It’s a simple metaphor, but so effective.

The songs span a range of styles, from the soulful ’60s vibe of opening track “Nothing Good Can Come from This” and the title track, to sad ballads such as “One Man’s Love” and “Raincoat,” to the vintage country sound of “Come Pick Me Up “ and “Trouble Looks Good on You.” There’s also the jazzy, eerie feel of the spiritually themed “Three Days,” the bouncy pop of “In Chicago” and the Irish air – somewhere between dirge and celebration – of the farewell song “Hymn for the Crossing” (the latter written with Irish songwriter Ben Glover the day after Pete Seeger died, according to Speace).

Credit for the fine production goes to Neilson Hubbard (who also did the mixing and contributed drums, percussion and vocals, plus co-writing two songs) The excellent supporting cast includes Will Kimbrough and Carl Broemel on guitars (the latter also on pedal steel), Dan Mitchell on keyboards, Eamon McLoughlin on violin, viola and mandolin, and Dean Marold on upright bass. Contributing vocalists include Glover, John Moreland, Garrison Starr, Tim Easton, Doug and Telisha Williams and Rod Picott.

2015 Americana Music Awards nominees announced

The Americana Music Association announced this afternoon the nominees for the 2015 ama_logo_button_redAmericana Honors and Awards. The winners will be announced at the association’s annual conference, set for Sept. 10-15 in Nashville.
2015 Americana Honors & Awards Nominees
Album of the Year (Award goes to Artist and Producer)
And The War CameShakey Graves; Produced by Alejandro Rose-Garcia and Chris Boosahda
Down Where The Spirit Meets The BoneLucinda Williams; Produced by Lucinda Williams, Tom Overby and Greg Leisz
Metamodern Sounds In Country Music Sturgill Simpson; Produced by Dave Cobb
The Way I’m Livin’Lee Ann Womack; Produced by Frank Liddell
Tomorrow Is My Turn – Rhiannon Giddens; Produced by T-Bone Burnett
Artist of the Year
Rhiannon Giddens
Jason Isbell
Sturgill Simpson
Lucinda Williams
Lee Ann Womack
Duo/Group of the Year
Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn
The Lone Bellow
The Mavericks
Punch Brothers
Shovels & Rope
Emerging Artist of the Year
First Aid Kit
Houndmouth
Nikki Lane
Doug Seegers
Shakey Graves
Instrumentalist of the Year
Hubby Jenkins
Laur Joamets
Greg Leisz
John Leventhal
Stuart Mathis
Song of the Year (Award goes to Artist and Songwriter)
“Dearly Departed” – Shakey Graves; Written by Alejandro Rose-Garcia and Esme’ Patterson
“East Side Of Town” – Lucinda Williams; Written by Lucinda Williams
“Terms Of My Surrender” – John Hiatt; Written by John Hiatt
“Turtles All The Way Down” – Sturgill Simpson; Written by Sturgill Simpson
“You’re The Best Lover That I Ever Had” – Steve Earle & the Dukes; Written by Steve Earle

This just in: 2015 Americana Music Festival line-up

ama_logo_button_redThe  Americana Music Association has just announced its initial artist line-up for the 16th annual Americana Music Festival and Conference, set for September 15 – 20, 2015, in Nashville.

It’s always an extraordinary week of music and one of the best festivals in Nashville each year.

You’ll find conference and wristband information at www.americanamusic.org.

 

The roster so far:
Anderson East
Andrew Combs
Anthony D’Amato
Banditos
Barna Howard
Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn
Billy Bragg & Joe Purdy
Birds of Chicago
Brian Wright
The Bros. Landreth
Caleb Caudle
Caleb Klauder Country Band
Carly Ritter
Carsie Blanton
ChessBoxer
Christopher Paul Stelling
The Contenders
Corb Lund
Crooks
Darlingside
Dead Winter Carpenters
Dom Flemons
The Dustbowl Revival
Emma Swift
Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen
The Freightshakers
The Grahams
Grant-Lee Phillips
Guthrie Brown & The Family Tree
Hackensaw Boys
Halfway
The Hello Strangers
Henry Wagons
honeyhoney
Horse Feathers
Horseshoes & Hand Grenades
Hugh Bob and the Hustle
Jackie Greene
James McMurtry
Joe Pug
John Moreland
John Paul Keith
Kingsley Flood
Kristin Diable
Kristin Andreassen
Laney Jones and the Spirits
Lee Ann Womack
Legendary Shack Shakers
Lera Lynn
Leyla McCalla
Lilly Hiatt
Liz Longley
Los Lobos
Low Cut Connie
Lucette
Lydia Loveless
Martin Harley
Mary Gauthier
Nikki Lane
Nora Jane Struthers
Nudie
Oh Pep!
Packway Handle Band
Patty Griffin
Pokey LaFarge
Porter
Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen
Ray Wylie Hubbard
River Whyless
Sarah Borges
Sean McConnell
Shemekia Copeland
The Show Ponies
Session Americana
Steelism
The Steel Wheels
Stephen Kellogg
The Stray Birds
Tall Heights
The Vespers
Water Liars
The Whistles and The Bells
Whitey Morgan and the 78s
The Wild Reeds
William Elliott Whitmore
Whitehorse

 

New releases: Lily Hiatt, Joseph Wooten

Americana Music News – New releases include albums from Lily Hiatt and Joseph Wooten, both artists with strong  Nashville ties:

LilyRoyal Blue Lily Hiatt – Normaltown Records   We first saw Lily Hiatt years some ago as a solo songwriter strumming an acoustic guitar on a side stage at the CMA festival in Nashville. It’s a more mature and musically adventurous Hiatt on the just-released Royal Blue, a dynamic recording produced by Adam Landry with pedal steel, synth and a rock foundation. The lyrics reflect broken relationships, but the sound is bold and confident.

Stumpjumper – Charlie Parr – Red House Records   Set for release on April 28, Charlie Parr’s Stumpjumper release is the first album he’s recorded with a full band. The Duluth-based artist is on tour now, with dates this week in Pittsburgh, Maumee, Ohio and Milwaukee .

Gill LandryGill Landry – ATO Records  Gill Landry , best known as a member of Old Crow Medicine Show, is joined on his third album by guests Laura Marling and Robert Ellis. Landry is touring in support of the album, with dates this week with Justin Townes Earle.

WootenSoul of FreedomJoseph Wooten Joseph Wooten’s latest solo album Soul of Freedom is both familiar and fresh, melding the influences of Steve Wonder and Sly Stone with very contemporary takes on the world around us. Wooten is the keyboardist with the Steve Miller Band and a member of the musically rich Wooten family (his brother Victor guests here.) He also clearly embraces music for its capacity to inform, engage and elevate. From “Life Love Truth” to “Unity” and “I Matter,” Wooten delivers affirmation and reflection in a consistently ambitious musical setting.

Head for the HillsMarkus James – Firenze Records – Head for the Hills continues Markus James’ collaborative blues recordings, teaming him a with a number of drummers from the North Mississippi Hill Country.

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Bonnaroo announces 2015 lineup

Americana Music News — The Bonnaroo Music Festival has announced its  lineup for 2015 and a fair number of Americana music artists are in the mix, including Sturgill SimpsonJerry Douglas and the Earls of Leicester, Mumford and Sons, Alabama Shakes,  Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn and the Punch Brothers.

The line-up so far:

Billy Joel

Mumford & Sons

Deadmau5

Kendrick Lamar

Florence + The Machine

Robert Plant & The Sensational Space Shifters

My Morning Jacket

Bassnectar

Alabama Shakes

Childish Gambino

Flume

Hozier

Slayer

Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals

Belle & Sebastian

Spoon

The War on Drugs

STS9

Ben Folds

SuperJam !

Atmosphere

Atomic Bomb! Who is William Onyeabor?

Tears for Fears

Brandi Carlile

twenty | one | pilots

The Bluegrass Situation SuperJam featuring Ed Helms and Special Guests

Flying Lotus

Earth Wind & Fire

Caribou

Gary Clark Jr.

SBTRKT

Punch Brothers

Medeski, Scofield, Martin, & Wood

Tove Lo

Run The Jewels

Dawes

G-Eazy

Trampled By Turtles

Sturgill Simpson

Moon Taxi

Awolnation

Sylvan Esso

Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn

Guster

Jamie XX

Against Me!

Odesza

SOJA

Jerry Douglas presents Earls of Leicester

Bleachers

Rudimental

Mac DeMarco

Tycho

The Very Best

Freddie Gibbs & Madlib

Shakey Graves

Shabazz Palaces

Gramatik

Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Jungle

Benjamin Booker

Houndmouth

The Growlers

Glass Animals

Ana Tijoux

SZA

Courtney Barnett

Rhiannon Giddens

Royal Blood

Tanya Tagaq

Woods

Hurray for the Riff Raff

Iceage

Temples

Between the Buried & Me

Rustie

Ryn Weaver

Dopapod

Pokey LaFarge

Priory

Bahamas

Strand of Oaks

Phox

Gregory Alan Isakov

Brownout Presents BROWN SABBATH

The Districts

Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear

DMA’s

Catfish & The Bottlemen

Jon Cleary & The Absolute Monster Gentlemen

Pallbearer

Dej Loaf

Christopher Denny

Hiss Golden Messenger

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

Jessica Hernandez & the Deltas

Unlocking The Truth

 

Review: Doyle and Debbie on the Sandy Beaches Cruise

The Doyle and Debbie Show

The Doyle and Debbie Show

By Ken Paulson

For years, we’ve heard great things about the Doyle and Debbie Show, a satirical take on country music with a long weekly residency at Nashville’s Station Inn. Instead of seeing it just miles from home, though, we finally caught up with it on Delbert McClinton’s Sandy Beaches Cruise.

The shows tells the story of Doyle, a washed-up old school country singer who never quite made it, and his duo partner Debbie, an earnest and quirky young woman who sees the chance to team up with Doyle as her last, best shot at a career in show business.

It’s laugh-out-loud funny, particularly because Bruce Amston (“Doyle” and the author of the show) and Jenny Littleton (“Debbie”) play it so straight, delivering outlandishly goofy lyrics with heart. Among the songs: “Barefoot and Pregnant,” “When You’re Screwin’ Other Women (Think of Me)” and “Whine Whine Twang Twang.”

There were two performances of the Doyle and Debbie Show on board, and we saw both of them. On the second night, a computer glitch shut down their music in the final minutes of the show, leaving Amston to scramble to a laptop.

At each show, Doyle thanks the audience for being so “forgiving,” but this time, Amston said he really meant it. The computer rebooted, the music kicked in and the show ended with a well-deserved standing ovation.

Celebrating Bobby Keys

By Ken Paulson

(This article first appeared in May 2011 on Sun209. Bobby Keys passed away this week.)

There was a moment in Bobby Keys’ show at the Mercy Lounge when it dawned on everyone just how pivotal a player in rock history he is. Sure, we knew of his long association with the Rolling Stones and his short, but fruitful association with Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen, but then he told a sweet story about hearing his saxophone on the radio for the first time, and how he wished his girlfriend had been there to hear it. And then he played “The Wanderer.”
It was an apt reminder that throughout the first three decades of rock ‘n’ roll, Key’s sax was at the heart of both AM and FM radio, including such songs as “Brown Sugar,” “Whatever Gets You Through the Night” and Bitch”, as well as albums by George Harrison, John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Warren Zevon, Nilsson, Eric Clapton, Faces and dozens more.
Keys’ playing is still vibrant, and he’s joined by a terrific band that includes Dan Baird (Georgia Satellites) on lead vocals and Michael Webb (Poco) on keyboards.
This isn’t an oldies show; it’s a loose and lively celebration of an iconic career, and it does the man justice.

Americana Music Festival on PBS this weekend

Ry Cooder at the Americana music Honors and Awards show

Ry Cooder at the Americana Music Honors and Awards show

The Americana Music Association’s Honors and Award show at the Ryman Auditorium is one of our favorite events of the year, and highlights from the September show  will be shared with a national audience on a special edition of Austin City Limits that begins airing Nov. 22. Performers include Robert Plant, Taj Mahal, Ry Cooder, Rosanne Cash and Flaco Jimenez.

It’s no easy task to distill the best moments of a nearly three-hour event, but the ACL   emphasis is on the music and not the awards. Here’s the setlist shared by the Americana Music Association:

Follow Sun209 on Twitter at @Sun209com.

 

 

Reset to Pop: Bill Lloyd’s classic revisited

By Ken Paulson

Bill Lloyd’s Set to Pop was a revelation upon its release in 1994, a buoyant and inventive slice of pop in a league with Emitt Rhodes and Nick Lowe’s Jesus of Cool. So it’s great news that Lloyd has chosen to revisit his classic album 20 years on.

Reset 2014 replicates the track list of the original with remakes, live versions and alternate mixes. The album contains some of Lloyd’s best songwriting, particularly the euphoric opener “I Went Electric,” “the mood swing anthem “Trampoline” (written with Greg Trooper) and the yearning “Forget About Us.”

There’s also a new recording of “Channeling the King,” maybe the smartest Elvis tribute ever recorded, and two live versions of “Niagara Falls,” with contributions by Rusty Young, Billy Block, Byron House, Pat Buchanan, Jason White and Jonell Mosser.

If you’re new to Bill Lloyd’s work, Set to Pop is still the place to start, but Lloyd is offering the original in a bundle with the new release on his website. Highly recommended.

Follow Sun209 on Twitter at @Sun209com.

In concert: Ian Hunter and the Rant Band

By Ken Paulson

You won’t find Ian Hunter on the Happy Together oldies tour anytime soon.

As he made clear in his set Saturday night at the City Winery in Nashville, he’s earned the right at age 75 to play exactly what he wants. So it probably shouldn’t have been a surprise that he did as many songs from his most recent album When I’m President as from his years with Mott the Hoople.

Ian Hunter (photo copyright Ken Paulson)

Ian Hunter (photo by Ken Paulson)

We saw Paul McCartney on tour a few weeks ago and marveled at his stamina and performance. Hunter, three years McCartney’s elder, was just as energetic and committed. From the second song of the evening – a driving take on “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” through the moving “All the Young Dudes” at the close, this was a full-on rock show.

Hunter shifted to keyboards about a third of the way into the set, and delivered some of the show’s best moments, including a poignant “Irene Wilde” and raucous “All the Way From Memphis.”

It’s a measure of his deep catalog with Mott and as a solo artist that so many great songs were left on the sidelines. For my part, I would have traded “Boy” or “Bastard” for the fun factor of “Central Park and West,” “Golden Age of Rock ‘n’ Roll” or “Cleveland Rocks,” but I’m sure every Hunter fan has own list of favorites.

It’s remarkable that an artist whose band scored just a single hit in the U.S can continue to tour to good-sized crowds a half-century into his career. And yet his audience is with him every step of the way, devoted, enthralled and cheering madly for “I Wish I Was Your Mother” and “Michael Picasso.”

Hunter clearly doesn’t take that for granted.

“I can’t believe you’re still here and I really can’t believe I’m still here, he sang on “Life,” as he neared the end of the set.

Believe it. Ian Hunter still delivers.

(Nashville’s own Amy Speace opened the show with a brief, but compelling set, previewing her upcoming album That Kind of Girl. You can pre-order it here.)

 

Follow Sun209 on Twitter at @Sun209com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bobby Bare, Bobby Bare Jr. at City Winery

By Ken Paulson

Bobby Bare Jr. knew this wasn’t going to be a fair fight.

“He’s playing nothing but hits and I ain’t got no hits,” he said in mock exasperation, recalling the first time he shared the stage with his father Bobby Bare at the Bluebird Cafe.

Two generations of Bares at the City Winery in Nashville

Two generations of Bares at the City Winery in Nashville

Nonetheless, he agreed to the double bill a second time for a show Friday night at the City Winery in Nashville. Once again, the elder Bare showed no mercy, beginning the evening with his classic “Detroit City” and then playing close to a dozen country hits over the course of the evening.

Bare Jr. was clearly delighted to team up with his dad, serving up his own unconventional tunes in counterpoint. Irreverence and a deep love of music clearly run through their shared DNA. Bare Jr. played a number of songs from his new album Undefeated, including “My Baby Took My Baby Away,” written with Hayes Carll.

“I don’t understand how I lost you to this little man” who has “itty bitty boots and a big fat face,” he sang, detailing the impact of a new child on a couple’s relationship. Somehow it’s a sweet song.

Decidedly less endearing was “The Big Time,” a funny fantasy about becoming such a big success you can kiss your current friends goodbye. “I want to go bowling with Sheryl Crow,” he explained.

Bobby Bare had his own goofy moments during the anatomy lesson that is Shel Silverstein’s “The Mermaid.” Bare may be Silverstein’s very best interpreter.

Bare Jr. had his own song about love gone bad. Before performing “Don’t Go to Chattanooga,” he recalled losing the girl from Manchester, TN who inspired the song. If she had only foreseen Bonnaroo coming to her hometown and his eventual performance there, she would never have left him, he said.

For his part, Bobby Bare just kept performing the hits, including “Streets of Baltimore,” “Four Strong Winds,” “Margie’s at the Lincoln Park Inn,” The Winner,” “That’d How I Got to Memphis” and even “Dropkick Me Jesus,” written by Paul Craft, who passed away weeks ago.

The Bares closed this memorable pairing with “Marie Laveau,” teaming up on the song’s bloodcurdling screams.

The audience would’ve stuck around for multiple encores but the younger Bare explained that wasn’t possible.

Dad “goes to bed at 7:30 and it took three naps” to get him this far, he said.

 

Follow Sun209 on Twitter at @Sun209com.

 

 

 

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