Jason Isbell tops Americana Music Awards

By Ken Paulson

The annual Americana Music Awards and Honors event is always a special evening and one of the most memorable musical events in a city legendary for them.
This year I had the honor of joining Joe Henry in awarding the Spirit of Americana Free Speech Award to Billy Bragg. That’s always an honor, and offers the chance to see witness the backstage energy at the Ryman Auditorium. The artists are always pumped for  this special show.
That translates onstage to truly striking performances.
Most surprising was George Strait’s performance with Jim Lauderdale of the latter’s “King of Broken Hearts.” I’d never seen Strait on stage before and it quickly became clear why he’s such a giant in country music. Show host Lauderdale, who received the rarely-awarded Wagonmaster Award,  seemed deeply touched by Strait’s appearance.
Jason Isbell had a another great year, winning the awards for top album and song of the year.
The evening’s winners at the 2-16 Americana Music Awards;
Album of the Year: Something More Than Free, Jason Isbell, Produced by Dave Cobb
Artist of the Year: Chris Stapleton
Group/Duo of the Year: Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell
Song of the Year: “24 Frames” Jason Isbell; Written by Jason Isbell
Emerging Artist of the Year: Margo Price
Instrumentalist of the Year: Sara Watkins
Spirit of Americana/Free Speech in Music Award co-presented by the Americana Music
Association and the First Amendment Center: Billy Bragg
Lifetime Achievement Award, Trailblazer: Shawn Colvin
Lifetime Achievement Award, Songwriting: William Bell
Lifetime Achievement Award, Performance: Bob Weir
Lifetime Achievement Award, WagonMaster: Jim Lauderdale
President’s Award: Woody Guthrie

Surf’s Up: Brian Wilson at the Ryman

By Ken Paulson

Brian Wilson wrapped up his two-night stand at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville last night with a generous set that included the full Pet Sounds album. Playing with a remarkable band that included Beach Boys veterans Al Jardine and Blondie Champlin, Wilson offered up most of the big hits, along with lesser known treats like “Wild Honey,” “Salt Lake City” and the international hit “Cottonfields.”

Oddly, Wilson described the latter – composed by Leadbelly – as a song that he and Jardine wrote. He said the same thing about Sloop John B, traditional folk song that he arranged. Wilson is a better songwriter than historian.

It’s no secret that Brian Wilson has not been comfortable on a stage for a half-century, and obviously he doesn’t have the voice he once had. Still the songs remain rich and powerful and it’s a privilege to hear the composer sing his own “God Only Knows,” bathed in extraordinary harmonies from his first-rate band.

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


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



Oct. 27: The Week in Americana Music

This week in Americana

30a_logo_largeThe sixth annual 30A Songwriters Festival, scheduled for Jan. 16-18 in South Walton County, FL has announced its first round of artists, including Graham Nash, Indigo Girls, Leon Russell, Jason Isbell, Shawn Mullins, Sara Watkins, Chely Wright, Bobby Bare Jr., Steve Poltz, Angaleena Presley, Over the Rhine, Glen Phillips, Jeffrey Steele, Jesse Harris, Mary Gauthier, Hayes Carll, Bob Schneider, Ellis Paul, Allison Moorer, Deana Carter, Peter Karp and Sue Foley and David Ryan Harris.

In Nashville:

On Monday, Oct. 27, Sarah Jarosz and the Milk Carton Kids join forces in concert at 8 p.m. at  the CMA Theater at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Other shows this week:

Caroline Rose Oct. 28 at the High Watt

Drive By Truckers Oct. 30 at the Ryman Auditorium

Caitlyn Smith Oct. 30 at the Station Inn

The Devil Makes Three at the Marathon Music Works Oct. 31

Rounding out the week is a Nov. 1 appearance by Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee  Pat Alger at the Country Music Hall of Fame at 11:30 a.m.

New this week:

First Waltz – Hard Working Americans

Rock and Roll Time – Jerry Lee Lewis

The Complete Epic Recordings – Stevie Ray Vaughan


Carter Girl: Carlene honors her roots

By Ken Paulson

Carlene Carter (photo by P. Paulson)

Carlene Carter (photo by P. Paulson)

It was a treat to see Carlene Carter present an award at the Americana Music Awards on the stage of the Ryman Wednesday night, particularly when the Cash-Carter family was so well-represented.

Nominee Rosanne Cash performed, as did her former husband and Johnny Cash son-in-law Rodney Crowell. If Americana has a first family, this is it.

We spoke to Carlene briefly backstage, reminiscing about her appearance at the very first Americana Music Association Awards show in 2002 at a nearby hotel ballroom. It was an extraordinary night,  with June Carter and the Carter Family – including Carlene and her daughter  Tiffany – performing with Johnny Cash.

12 years later, many of us still see that performance as the Big Bang that made the current successful and expansive Americana Music Association Conference and Festival possible.

Carlene has an outstanding new album called Carter Girl,  which includes some Carter Family songs and a nod to her heritage.

There’s also a new and very interesting  interview with Carlene  by Glide Magazine. You’ll find the interview here.



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Americana honors Jackson Browne

By Ken Paulson
There were many special moments at last night’s Americana Music Association Honors and Awards event at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.
It would be hard to top songwriting honoree Loretta Lynn’s performance of “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” Flaco Jimenez received a lifetime

Ken Paulson and Jackson Browne

Ken Paulson and Jackson Browne

achievement award for instrumentalist and then performed in tandem with Ry Cooder, who seemed to be having a particularly good time all night long. And I was grateful for the opportunity to present the Spirit of Americana Free Speech in Music Award on behalf of the Americana Music Association and the First Amendment Center.
This year legendary songwriter J.D. Souther joined me in presenting the award to Jackson Browne. Souther, a decades-long friend of Browne’s, spoke eloquently about his respect for the man and his craft, noting that he first heard some of his earliest and greatest compositions through an apartment floor  – over and over again.
Browne, who joins such past honorees as Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Mavis Staples and Charlie Daniels, has never hesitated to use his music to make a point. He has fought for safe energy, stood with America’s farmers and has never hesitated to raise hell in speech or song, demanding that this nation truly lives up to its ideals.
Souther also took part in an earlier tribute to Browne, a 2-CD collection called Looking Into You, released 6 months ago. Souther closes out that album with a moving verion of “My Opening Farewell.”
Otter highlights include  Paul Thorn’s take on “Doctor My Eyes,” Lucinda William’s slow and spare version of “The Pretender,” Don Henley’s “These Days,” the Indigo Girls’ “Fountain of Sorrow” (performed by Browne and Souther at the awards show), and Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfa’s “Linda Paloma.”

Highly recommended.


Follow Sun209 on Twitter at @Sun209com.


This just in: The 2014 Americana Music Award Nominees

Americana Music News – Robert Ellis, Rosanne Cash and Jason Isbell led nominees for the 2014 Americana Music Awards with three nominations each, including artist of the year,  the Americana Music Association announced today in Nashville.
Ellis’ The Lights From the Chemical Plant was nominated for album of the year, while his “Only Lies” was nominated for Best Song.
Cash’s album The River and the Thread and song “A Feather’s Not A Bird” were nominated, and Isbell was recognized for his album Southeastern and song “Cover Me Up.”
Rodney Crowell rounded out the list of best artist nominees.
The full list of nominees:
Build Me Up From Bones, Sarah Jarosz
The Lights From The Chemical Plant, Robert Ellis
The River And The Thread, Rosanne Cash
Southeastern, Jason Isbell
Rosanne Cash
Robert Ellis
Jason Isbell
Hard Working Americans
“Cover Me Up”, Jason Isbell
“A Feather’s Not A Bird”, Rosanne Cash
“Ohio”, Patty Griffin
“Only Lies”, Robert Ellis
St. Paul & The Broken Bones
Larry Campbell
Fats Kaplin
Bryan Sutton
Winners will be announced at the The Americana Honors and Awards on  September 17, 2014 in Nashville at the Ryman Auditorium. The event is part of the Americana Music Festival.

Americana Music Awards tickets on sale

AMAAmericana Music News — Tickets for the 2013 Americana Honors and Awards Show at the Ryman are now available.

Tickets to the Sept. 18 show , will be available online and at the Ryman box office, priced at $85 and $65.

The awards show,   a highlight of Nashville’s musical year, will be hosted once again by Jim Lauderdale, Buddy Miller will head up the always stellar house band.

You’ll find more information about the show and the Americana Music Festival and Conference  at www.americanamusic.org.

Follow Sun209 on Twitter @sun209com.




Tennessee Waltz: Patti Page at the Ryman


Americana Music News — We’ve seen many special shows at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, but one of the most memorable was from a woman in her late ’70s whose biggest hits were recorded a half-century earlier.

Patti Page passed away this week, and obituaries inevitably mentioned ’50s hits “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?” and “Tennessee Waltz.”

She did those favorites and songs from her then-new album Brand New Tennessee Waltz at the Ryman in the spring of 2000. She was in good voice and the show was remarkably contemporary. The concert and her album – a collaboration with Victoria Shaw and others in the Nashville music community – were reminders of Page’s enduring talent and charm.

(Follow Sun209: Americana Music News on Twitter at @sun209com.)



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Concert review: Martina McBride at the Ryman

By Ken Paulson —

Eleven is the title of Martina McBride’s latest album, and those digits began the onscreen countdown for her performance at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville tonight.
That bit of stagecraft foreshadowed a generous two-hour set spanning most of her hits and a surprising number of covers. Martina told the audience from the outset that this would be a more intimate evening, allowing her to perform at her own pace and interact with the audience.
Despite her gift for ballads, the set was consistently up-tempo, with particularly driving performances of “This One’s For the Girls” and “When God-Fearin’ Women Get the Blues,” among others.
We’ve always admired McBride’s gravitation to songs with a social conscience and she delivered both Gretchen Peters’ “Independence Day” and Buzz Cason and Tom Douglas’ “Love’s the Only House” with passion and energy.
Most surprising was her remarkable arrays of covers, including “Rose Garden” and “Help Me Make It Through the Night” from her Timeless album. Her take on Roger Miller’s “King of the Road” was great fun, and her encore of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” and the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” were as joyous as a 1984 prom.

Follow Sun209: Americana Music News on Twitter at @sun209com.


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Review: Ringo at the Ryman

Ringo Starr and his All-Star Band (PJ Paulson)

By Ken Paulson–I was surprised to run into Felix Cavaliere in the lobby of Ringo Starr’s concert at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium last night.

What were the odds, I thought, of coming across one of Ringo’s All-Starr Band alums at one of his shows?

Pretty good, it turns out. By evening’s end, the stage boasted three former All-Stars, including Joe Walsh (“Class of ’89,” he announced), Richard Marx and Cavaliere, plus former Roundhead Gary Burr.

It was all hands on deck for Ringo’s 72nd birthday. This was a special performance, in part because of the day, in part because of the storied venue and in part because the show was recorded on video. Ringo was energetic and entertaining throughout.

He opened the show with “Matchbox,” the Carl Perkins song that became a top 20 record for the Beatles. The band has been performing the song on this tour, but no place more appropriate than in Nashville, miles down the road from Perkins’ hometown of Jackson.

Ringo did many of the songs he’s performed on past tours, including the well-worn “Boys” and “I Wanna Be Your Man” and the relatively fresh “Don’t Pass Me By.” His takes on “Photograph” (co-written with George Harrison) and “I’m the Greatest” (written by John Lennon) were highlights, as always. The latter had a brand-new lyric: “Now I’m Only 72 and all I want to do is boogaloo.”

This year’s All-Starr Band includes Steve Lukather of Toto, Gregg Rolie of Journey and Santana, Richard Page of Mr. Mister, Todd Rundgren, Mark Rivera and Gregg Bissonette.

Rolie was a particularly pleasant surprise, reprising his vocals on three classic Santana songs “Evil Ways,” “Black Magic Woman” and “Everybody’s Everything.” Lukather contributed sizzling guitar solos.

Rundgren was also impressive, with “I Saw the Light,” “Bang the Drum All Day” and a particularly powerful take on “Love is the Answer.”

Joe Walsh, Ringo’s orther-in-law, dropped in to do “Rocky Mountain Way,” delivering the hardest rock of the evening and electrifying the audience.

The evening ended with a sing-along to “A Little Help From My Friends,” with Nashville ‘friends’ Brad Paisley, Vince Gill, Brendan Benson and Kix Brooks among those joining in.

Happy birthday, Ringo. And may there be many more.

Follow Sun209: Americana Music News on Twitter at @sun209com.


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Review: Marc Cohn in concert at the Ryman

We’ve seen Marc Cohn in concert a few times, but he’s never been better than last night at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

Actually it was a bit of a surprise that he was there at all. The night before, he had cancelled a show in nearby Franklin, TN.

Cohn apologized to anyone who had tickets to that show, and said that nothing gets you back on your feet more quickly than opening for Bonnie Raitt at the Ryman.

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” he said.

His set was brief, but compelling. He said he set out one day years ago to explore new places as a cure for writer’s block and found his way to Memphis. That in turn inspired his biggest hit, “Walking in Memphis.”

Cohn laughed and said if he had dropped by Music City first, it could just as easily been “Walking in Nashville,” with Music Row supplanting Beale Street.

The evening’s highlight was “Listening to Levon,” his tribute to the late Levon Helm, which he recorded in 2007 on Join the Parade.

The only disappointment was that Cohn didn’t play anything from his outstanding 2010 album Listening Booth: 1970, a collection of covers from that year. Still, it’s hard to complain when Cohn packed so much great material in a 30-minute set, and closed with “Silver Thunderbird,” a song that should have been every bit as big as “Memphis.”

Review: Bonnie Raitt in concert at Nashville’s Ryman

By Ken Paulson

Bonnie Raitt’s show at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville last night was as loose as they come and every bit as entertaining.

Whether explaining that she hadn’t found time to do a set list, calling former band member Rick Vito to the stage or saluting Nashville’s songwriters, Raitt was casual, comfortable and in command.

She drew heavily from Slipstream, her excellent new album. Songs like “Marriage Made in Hollywood, “Split Decision” and “Down to You” stood up alongside her classics.

A surprise cover on the album and in concert is “Right Down the Line,” the 1978 Gerry Rafferty hit. Stripped of its ‘70s production sheen and infused with reggae, it was a bluesy highlight.

Raitt saluted John Prine and his manager Al Bunetta, and recalled her mom and grandmother in a touching introduction to Prine’s heart-rending “Angel from Montgomery.”

This was a generous set running more than two hours with an extraordinary encore.

Praising songwriters Allen Shamblin and Mike Reid, Raitt delivered their “I Can’t Make You Love Me” in stark and powerful fashion, followed by “Have a Heart.” She closed out the evening sharing vocals with Vito on a raucous version of the 1959 Elvis Presley hit “A Big Hunk O’ Love.”

Raitt – and her music – have aged beautifully.

How Emmylou Harris helped transform downtown Nashville

Tonight Emmylou Harris will be honored at the Grand Old Opry, on the stage of the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. She deserves that recognition and Nashville’s gratitude.

Today downtown Nashville is the home of a major arena, symphony hall, thriving restaurants and a restored and vibrant Ryman Auditorium. But that wasn’t the case in the early 1990s.

In a column this week, Peter Cooper of the Tennessean traces Nashville’s resurgence and the rebirth of the Ryman to Emmylou Harris and her decision to record At the Ryman, a live album at this long-neglected historic site.  In Cooper’s words:

“The resulting album, At the Ryman, pointed attention to a building that hadn’t hosted a public performance since 1974, when the Opry left for the modern amenities (Air conditioning! Dressing rooms!) of the Grand Ole Opry House out by Briley Parkway. The album came out in January of 1992, the same month Harris became the 70th official member of the Opry.

“That album was the tipping point for getting the Ryman refurbished and making it a proud venue again,” said Richard Bennett, who co- produced (with Allen Reynolds) At the Ryman. “It brought the name ‘Ryman’ back to the rest of America.”

At the time, much of the rest of America would have been skittish about visiting the Ryman and its Lower Broadway neighbors after dark.

“Lower Broad was Tootsie’s, a few beer joints, the Ernest Tubb Record Shop and a lot of adult bookstores,” says Steve Buchanan, Gaylord Entertainment’s Grand Ole Opry Group president.

Back in 1991, Buchanan was in charge of marketing the Opry and the Ryman, and he was instrumental in green-lighting Harris’ and the Ramblers’ performance there. Buchanan’s efforts to market the Ryman were emboldened by Gaylord President and CEO Bud Wendell, who was insistent that the Ryman was an essential and irreplaceable building.

“The album came out in January of 1992, and we announced the renovation of the Ryman in March of 1993,” Buchanan says. “I think Emmylou was instrumental in multiple ways, and that album served to connect the dots and to introduce the Ryman to a whole new generation of fans.”

You’ll find Cooper’s fine column here.


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Glen Campbell’s return to the Ryman

We reported here about Glen Campbell’s November 30 show at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, but a return performance on Dec. 5 was postponed due to illness.
Campbell made up that date this week.
Here’s what Dave Paulson of the Tennessean said about the show:

“Little appeared to be impeding his performance Tuesday night. Teleprompters set up at the edge of the stage were glanced at for lyrical cues – almost a necessity for anyone tackling the songs of wordy popsmith Jimmy Webb – but Campbell remained in fine voice and proved to still be a staggeringly sharp and fluid guitarist, wowing the crowd early on with an explosive solo on “Gentle” and muscular melodic licks on his classic “Galveston.””

Read the Tennesean’s full review here.

Glen Campbell Ryman show cancelled, Jan. 3 date set

Glen Campbell, who delivered an inspiring set at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville last Wednesday, had to cancel a return trip to the fabled hall tonight. The statement from the Ryman:

Glen Campbell has been forced to postpone his December 5 performance at the Ryman this evening due to a case of laryngitis. He will perform a make up date on Tuesday, January, 3 at 7:30 pm. Tickets for the December 5 show will be honored at the January 3 date. If ticket holders are unable to attend the rescheduled date, refunds are available at the point of purchase.”

The show was essentially sold out, so there’s a sliver of a silver lining here for those who didn’t want to miss Campbell’s final Nashville show.

Concert review: Glen Campbell at the Ryman in Nashville

It was a sad and exhilarating evening at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville tonight.

It’s wasn’t sad because Glen Campbell is suffering from Alzheimer’s or that his performance was part of his “Goodbye Tour.” He’s 75 and ailments strike us all.

It was sad because this is the last tour of one of America’s great pop singers, interpreters and guitarists, and it’s not realistic to expect anyone else to ever perform the work of Jimmy Webb with as much passion and joy.

Campbell had some challenges tonight, forgetting the lyrics to set opener “Gentle on My Mind” when a prompter malfunctioned and stumbling through some stage patter. But his guitar
playing was solid, and his solo on “Wichita Lineman” was stirring.

In full stride, singing the songs that dominated America’s pop and country charts from 1967 through 1977,he was impressive. He played his biggest hits, including “By the Time I Get to Phoenix” and “Galveston,” but also lesser and still memorable hits, notably “Where’s The Playground Susie?” and “Dreams of the Everyday Housewife.” Haunting and beautiful stuff.

It was inspiring to see Campbell pepper the show with tracks from his outstanding final album Ghost on the Canvas. He’s been an artist all his life and he’s going to leave the stage playing new songs. That’s what artists – as opposed to oldies acts – do.

The Moody Blues and Nashville

Tickets for the Moody Blues’ March 21 date at the Ryman Auditorium
in Nashville go on sale this Friday, Dec. 2.

The band that got its start with the 1964 hit “Go Now” still has
three long-time members, Graeme Edge, John Lodge and Justin Hayward, and puts on a good live show that spans more than four decades of music

What’s most surprising, though, is the band’s clear affinity for
Nashville and its music, and vice-versa. That’s clear on Moody Bluegrass Two… Much Love, the second album of Moody Blues songs recorded by some of  bluegrass music’s biggest names.  And a bonus for long-time Moody Blues fans is the participation of Hayward, Lodge, Edge and former band members Mike Pinder and Ray Thomas.

The material is not quite as familiar as on the first record, but it’s a nice mix of later hits and favorite album tracks.  Highlights  include Vince Gill on “ I Know You’re Out There,” Ricky Skaggs’ “You and Me,” Jan Harvey’s “Say It With Love” and Sam Bush,  John Cowan and Russell Smith’s take on “Nice to Be Here.”

This was a terrific concept the first time and it’s nice to see it revisited in such a compelling way. It’s also a reminder of just how pastoral and softly melodic the Moody Blues could be.

Let Us In: A Tribute to Linda McCartney

The “Let Us In” concert at the Ryman Auditorium tonight was billed as a fundraiser for the Women and Cancer Fund, so let’s begin with a link to their site and a way to donate to the cause.

I’m sure it was a good cause, but it was also an odd evening. This was marketed as a tribute to Linda McCartney, and a concert featuring the music of Paul McCartney. Yet each guest artist was invited to perform his or her own material along with a pop classic written by Paul.

That meant McCartney’s music was at best just half of the evening, and there was very little flow to the show. Phil Vassar came out in a Sgt. Pepper-esque jacket, did one of his country hits, a reinterpretation of “Lady Madonna” and then an inexplicable version of “Help Me Make It Through the Night.” My thoughts exactly.

Not that it was a bad night. The artists, including former Wings guitarist Laurence Juber were all talented and earnest. It just felt like you were driving down the highway with someone who kept switching off the Beatles station to sample something on the pop country channel.

The Blue Sky Riders closed the show in a way that reflected the entire concert. We wrote here about the Blue Sky Riders’ debut last spring at the Tin Pan South Festival in Nashville. It’s a remarkable trio of singer-songwriters, including Kenny Loggins, Gary Burr and Georgia Middleman.

They did two original songs, including the anthemic “Dream,” and a lovely version of the rarely-heard “Junk,” from the first McCartney solo album. So far so good.

Their final song was “Help!,” a John Lennon song. Yes, we know that McCartney’s name was on the credits, but that was just the terms of the partnership.

As Lennon said of the song, “I just wrote the song because I was commissioned to write it for the movie. But later, I knew I was really crying out for help. So it was my Fat Elvis period.”

Most promising is a new CD out tomorrow featuring a selection of McCartney songs (no “Help!) bearing the same name as the concert.

Artists include Juliana Cole, Jeff Daniels, Kiki Dee, Tommy Emmanuel, Steel Magnolia, SheDaisy and more.


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