Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Kristofferson Tapped for Country Music Hall of Fame

Kristofferson learned the news Monday morning (Aug. 30) during an appearance on CBS-TV's The Early Show. He was in New York City to assist The Early Show host Hannah Storm announce the nominations in several categories of the 2004 CMA Awards show.

Kristofferson, whose songwriting credits include such classics as "Help Me Make It Through the Night," "Me and Bobby McGee" and "For the Good Times," appeared genuinely surprised by his impending Hall of Fame induction.

"What a dirty trick," he joked. Noting that he thought he was there merely to announce the CMA nominees, he added, “I’m feeling a whole let better than I did five minutes ago.”

Excellent, although with the backlog of deserving honorees why are they only inducting one artist (and one exec)?

Tom Russell is scheduled to be on Letterman on September 1st, which is Wednesday however depending on the whims of Channel Nine we could see it anytime from Thursday or Friday to sometimke next year to never. Further complicating matters is the tennis, but the TV guides still has Letterman at Midnight with the US Open starting right after. We shall see.

Back to the HOF, the only inductee is James Foglesong, Adjunct Professor Music Business at the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University. Some of his colleagues have much more impressive titles, like Adjunct Professor of Jazz Improvisation, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Fiddle and the Professor of Dulcimer, David Schnaufer who has a very impressive resume:

Winner, National Dulcimer Competition, 1976. Winner of local, state, and regional contests. Featured on albums by Chet Atkins, Johnny Cash, Holly Dunn, Emmylou Harris, the Judds, Kathy Mattea, Mark O'Connor, and Dan Seals. Solo recordings on SFL Tapes and Discs and Boy Howdy labels. Television appearances on PBS special, Hank Williams: A Man and His Music and on the Nashville Network. Workshops throughout the United States. Touring artist with the Everly Brothers, 1978-80. Author of dulcimer instruction books. Member of faculty: Denver Folklore Center, 1978-80; Appalachian State University (North Carolina), 1988-90. Blair School since 1995.

According to this "Texas-born David Schnaufer has almost single-handedly brought the mountain dulcimer back to country music, becoming Nashville's busiest (and only) dulcimer studio musician. "

So, hail the dulcimer.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Early Van Zandt album shows the evolution of a master songwriter

Well, In the Beginning, which is really the “first album,” is Townes the way the Good Lord intended. Except for a few cuts with bass and drums, it’s simply the man and his guitar. His voice is young, but still has that crack on some lines that in anyone else would be a flaw but in Townes is gut-wrenching.

Townes' best album, I agree and absolutely essential.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Boney mentioned this Hank III story in the comments below, I'll put it up here so everyone can see.

Career Retrospective Albums From Country Music’s Women

Patsy Cline, Bobbie Gentry, Tammy Wynette, Lynn Anderson

Getting a bit bored by the endless publicity blather for Steve Earle's new one, the interviews are all a bit samey and I just want to hear the damn album but here is one more, from the Rolling Stone and included mostly because I like this:

The way I write songs is true to what I believe is important in country music. I was playing a country joint in Las Vegas when Guitar Town came out, and there was a big dance floor in front of the stage. This guy went dancing by, and he said, "Play something country." I stopped the band in its tracks, and I said, "I have the Number One country album in America. This week, I decide what's fucking country and what's not."

Hear, hear: Ray Charles Should Be in Country Music Hall of Fame

Thursday, August 26, 2004

What I Have Been Listening To: The Shortish Version

Van Lear Rose, Loretta Lynn

People are comparing the Loretta-Jack White collaboration to the pairing of Rick Rubin with Johnny Cash and it is justified in a few important ways, the most obvious being both are successful cases of legends tossed aside by the mainstream finding their natural home with music lovers from outside the myopic country machine.

Portland, Oregon, High on a Mountain Top, Van Lear Rose, Miss Being Mrs and Story of My Life shine. I'll probably be skipping over God Makes No Mistakes on future listenings.

By the way, I can't believe no one has written a song called "Miss Being Mrs" before. A perfect country title or what?

Rising Outlaw, Hank Williams III

According to a interview I saw (on Yahoo! Launchcast I think) Williams was a jobbing hardcore punk artiste until a former acquaintance tapped him on the shoulder, said "Hey, this is your kid and you owe eight years of back child payments." He needed money quick. Since Hank Williams III singing hillbilly music was a more marketable proposition than Shelton Williams singing punk, the switch was made. A spitting image of grandad in looks and attitude (lingering scuttlebut about Hank Jr's paternity instantly dashed) this is simply honky tonk country at its roughest, readiest best and an outstanding debut. Particular favourites: If the Shoe Fits, two Wayne Hancock songs 87 Southbound and Thunderstorms and Neon Signs and the spooky live tracks which close out the disc (Why Don't You Leave Me Alone, Blue Devil.)

Ride This Train
Ballads of the True West Johnny Cash

Working my way through the Columbia reissues. The last two I heard alot when growing up, relistening to the last two convinces me I was right when questioning the received version of the history of concept albums.

Highlights on initial listenings: Swing Low Sweet Chariot and the thrusting southern gospel of It Was Jesus (Hymns); Going to Memphis, Loading Coal (Ride This Train) and pretty much all of "Ballads of the True West". Alot of classics there, Hardin Wouldn't Run, Mr Garfield, Johnny Reb, 25 Minutes to Go, Sam Hall (rerecorded for American Recordings IV), The Streets of Laredo all woven together by Johnny's fact-filled travelogue.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

May I direct your attention to an excellent on-topic blog I discovered today :
Boney Earnest's Surburban Hilltop Tent Revue

Looking at all those gigs people in that part of the world get to see makes me want to break something.
He may have whacked her in the woods on "The Sopranos." But that isn't stopping Steve Van Zandt from teaming with Drea de Matteo.

The two are collaborating on a concert film celebrating country legend Waylon Jennings. Showtime was supposed to broadcast the film, but when cable execs lost interest, Little Steven rallied his musical pals - getting Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Kid Rock, Norah Jones, Beck and the White Stripes on board.

Carter's Famous Guitar Returned to Hall of Fame

Maybelle Carter's guitar is back on permanent display at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, thanks to a Murfreesboro, Tenn., philanthropist. The announcement was made Monday (Aug. 23) during a ceremony at the museum in downtown Nashville.

Bob McLean seemed a bit uncomfortable with the attention he received from artists such as Vince Gill and Marty Stuart, but his donation allowed the Hall of Fame to write a $575,000 check for the purchase of the instrument that's acknowledged as one of the most historically significant instruments in American

The guitar -- a Gibson L-5 arch top acoustic built in 1928 -- was purchased by Carter shortly after she, cousin Sara and brother-in-law A.P. recorded their first music in Bristol, Tenn., in 1927. In addition to the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers and the Stoneman Family also participated in the recordings now known as the Bristol Sessions. The recordings first signaled country music's commercial viability and were, as Johnny Cash once said, "the single most important event in country music." Carter also revolutionized guitar playing by using her thumb and fingers to simultaneously perform melodies with rhythm chords.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

I have not been posting all the reviews from the current Bob Dylan/Willie Nelson tour in the US because you can get all that, and more, at Expecting Rain. Here is one however and if you want more get on over there.

A visit to the Village Voice was productive today:

Patriotic Country review
Patriotic Country is a compilation brought to us by the energies of BMG, the charity label Music for a Cause, and the USO. A notice on the back reads, "A portion of the proceeds from the sale of each album will benefit the USO, our active-duty troops, and the families of fallen soldiers." Inside, Lee Greenwood is identified as the project's "official spokesperson" as well as "one of the most acclaimed country artists to be associated with American patriotism." The Dixie Chicks—slated to join Bruce Springsteen, R.E.M., Babyface, and others on the ambitious "Vote to Change" tour beginning later this month—do not appear.

Not wishing to be controversial but if Lee Greenwood is "one of the most acclaimed country artists to be associated with American patriotism," then "American patriotism" is in a whole mess of trouble.

Dan Bern & The IJBC review

Steve Earle

Sign the petition over at Real Country Music to get Jimmy Martin made a member of the Opry. I'm reading a book on bluegrass at the moment and may have more to say about it later.

William York, Bass Player for Hank Williams and Others, Dies at 85

Country Music Quiz

This Burrito played with John Lennon Sneaky Pete Kleinow
Link from Ram Radio

NASHVILLE SKYLINE: Carter Family Riches Recalled in The Unbroken Circle

The secret of their success was that they were energetic, progressive young people capturing, improving on, writing, improvising upon and perpetuating a musical tradition that spanned generations and still continues. Before Maybelle, no one had made the guitar not only a lead instrument but a lead instrument that could play rhythm and melody simultaneously. And she taught herself slide and Hawaiian steel guitar. I was amazed, but shouldn't have been, to read an interview with Jimmy Buffett in which he expressed his own amazement that country music today is the only place -- with the exception of a few remaining rock bands -- where artists can even play their own instruments anymore. Where they know how to play them. And play them very well.

'Elvis has Left the Building' Announcer Dies

Al Dvorin, the announcer who coined the legendary phrase “Elvis has left the
building”, has died at the age of 81.

Dvorin was killed in a car accident as he returned from an Elvis convention in California.

He first met Elvis Presley in 1955 and worked with him for 22 years, helping to organise his tours and personal appearances.

It was in the early 1970s that the star’s manager Colonel Parker asked Dvorin to inform fans after a gig that Elvis would not be appearing for an encore.

Dvorin took the stage and made his now legendary announcement:
“Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building. Thank you and

Friday, August 20, 2004

Drum Media has axed the country column, the editor is quoted as saying it "wasn't widely read" although how they ascertain that is unclear. It is certainly widely read among people I know and the scene definately deserves the coverage and support. If you'd like to see it back and hopefully even bigger please drop them a note. The only way they will know that people valued it is with feedback like this, in fact we should have done it while the column was still going. Thanks to Ron for bringing this to my attention.
The last time I saw Bobby Cash he was singing the Indian national anthem on the first day of the last Test at the SCG (that's cricket for the uninitiatied.) Last night he was in rather different but arguably no less august surroundings of the Canterbury Hurlstone Park RSL Club. Most of his album "Country at Heart" is originals but last night concentrated on solo performances of country clsssics, and they don't come much more classic: think Crazy Arms, El Paso, Folsom Prison Blues, Okie from Muskogee (!!), Six Days on the Road, Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town. With his big black hat, fringed jacket and gee-shucks twang, Cash could easily stray into caricature but talent and sincerity count for alot and it certainly was a fun show.

More Steve Earle.

Hometown wasn't always crazy about Patsy Cline

Winchester, Va. — This town and Patsy Cline are locked together forever, and what's past is past: Patsy forgives Winchester its shortcomings, and the town forgives her the less flattering details of her ambitious rise to fame.

This is where Virginia Patterson Hensley Dick was born and grew up. Before she became what she became (Patsy Cline, a jukebox icon, a tragic loss, a postage stamp), it was her wildest ambition to ride in an open convertible in the big parade at the city's annual Apple Blossom Festival. It took a long time for the town elders to pick her for that honor, finally, in 1957. Some people thought she was too brash. Some people didn't think much of a girl who wore pants.

Now they'd do anything to have her back. Because if you're not really into Civil War history, and you don't golf, and you don't care for country B&Bs or lazy Shenandoah drives, you won't find much reason to kill a weekend in Winchester.

Late adition to the gig guide: Reno Nevada at the Coopers Arms in Newtown at 4pm on Sunday.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

"I'd love to do a whole record of chick songs, but the world's going to have to settle down a little first." Steve Earle interview in The Onion

O: When pundits break down the U.S. into "red states" and "blue states," they say that the states with the most country music fans are the most conservative, politically. Do you think that's true?

SE: Yeah, but I haven't been played on a country radio station in, God, 15 years. "Guitar Town" still gets played as an oldie, or it did until Clear Channel bought all the country radio stations. I'd like to think that my audience is working-class people, and there are maybe some people like that who relate to me, but the truth of the matter is that I sell more records in New York City and Chicago than I do anyplace else. My audience is, you know, pinkos in big cities. It has been for a while.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Christmas is December 25th.

My birthday is February 26th.

This happens in mid-September.

Just saying.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Deedle-ee deet deet deet deet deet deet deet dee dee

This is my true belief: if you cannot be bothered to camp out all night (or pay someone else to) or at least get up early (or pay someone else to) to get to the window the minute tickets go on sale, you do not deserve a front row seat to a rock concert. Or even a pop concert.

Internet pre-sales are an abomination. Sixth ring of hell for you.

I went looking this morning for details of sale for Neil Diamond's concert next year ( Yeah, yeah. So sue me.) only to find bone-lazy credit card holders get the jump on decent, right-thinking music fans.

In unrelated news:

Court date is Tuesday in killing over loud music

Feuding between next-door neighbors over loud country music escalated to a violent conclusion in Lincoln Park on Aug. 6: One man lay in the entryway of his apartment dead from a gunshot wound and another man sits in a jail cell on murder charges.

No word on what the music actually was but particulary egregious was the "loud bass pounding" so I guess it wasn't bluegrass.

Lots of politics around so if you're not interested, just take a deep breath and scroll down.

Should singers strike a political note?

''It's more dangerous now,'' said Merle Haggard, whose hippie-baiting, Vietnam-era songs Okie From Muskogee and Fightin' Side of Me still rank with his most popular works. ''It seems to be more damaging to the females: Seems like people don't want them to say anything.''

Entertainers —male and female — are speaking up, though.

Country singers Sara Evans and Darryl Worley (Have You Forgotten) will perform during the Republican National Convention in New York City, while the Chicks, Bruce Springsteen and others soon will embark on a pro-John Kerry ''Vote for Change'' tour.


Chat members on the conservative freerepublic.com Web site recently posted the names of artists who had participated in Music Row Democrats fund-raisers, urging a boycott of their music.

One posting referred to Democratic artists such as Griffith, Hal Ketchum, Emmylou Harris, Pam Tillis and Allison Moorer as ''traitors'' because of their participation in the organization.


Toby Keith, whose Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue song became a military rallying cry, is often assumed to be a Republican, though in a recent Tennessean interview he expressed mixed feelings about the Iraq war and said he was actually a registered Democrat.

Bash the Boss

August 16, 2004 -- MARILYN O'Grady, the long-shot Conservative Party candidate challenging Sen. Charles Schumer, has launched a TV ad campaign bashing Bruce Springsteen for his upcoming concert tour to unseat President Bush, reports The Post's Kenneth Lovett. "He thinks making millions with a song-and-dance routine allows him to tell you how to vote," O'Grady says in the ad. "Here's my vote: Boycott the Boss. If you don't buy his politics, don't buy his music." The commercials are set to run on Fox News Channel.

Electing to sing songs of protest

Todd Snider - East Nashville Skyline

It is stunning, though. More so with repeated listening. Snider used to specialize in cute songs — some would say ''novelty'' songs — that were good for a chuckle but not always good for the long haul. Now, ''cute'' carries a switchblade, and there are songs on East Nashville Skyline that are on the level with John Prine doing Souvenirs or That's the Way the World Goes 'Round; or Dylan doing Boots of Spanish Leather; or Kris Kristofferson doing To Beat the Devil; or Tom T. Hall doing Turn It On, Turn It On, Turn It On; or Guy Clark doing Instant Coffee Blues; or David Olney doing 1917; or Eric Taylor doing All the Way to Heaven.

Emmylou Harris and the ‘Sweet Harmony Traveling Revue’

Kahibah girl makes good: Girl, you'll be a superstar soon

Sitting inside Caesar's Palace Colosseum in Las Vegas two Fridays ago,Catherine Britt was mesmerised by the onstage performance from Elton John and still pinching herself because the legendary singer had personally invited her and her mum Anne to the show.

During the performance, Sir Elton began playing the introduction to his song Tiny Dancer, dedicating it to a new-found friend from Australia and telling the audience she would one day be a "superstar".

Rosanne Cash article

The past year, of course, saw the singer-songwriter bury her father, the legendary Johnny Cash, who passed away in September.

It was a loss the entire world mourned, considering the effect the Man in Black had on music over the course of his career.

The fact that her grieving was done in such a public manner — from appearing on Larry King Live to performing at a star-studded November tribute concert — and with such a great deal of support is something that, in some aspects, made and still makes the entire process somewhat easier for Rosanne to deal with. “In one way, yes, because people’s sympathies and grief in losing my dad is incredibly touching and appreciated,” she says.

But in another way I’m sometimes confronted with it in a painful way because people I guess expect me to be in the same place they are and (I’m not). I don’t miss Johnny Cash, I miss my dad — it’s very different.”

Robert Earl Keen reissues.

Last two links courtesy of Ram Radio news.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Rings of Fire

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Sixth Level of Hell - The City of Dis!

Sixth Level of Hell - The City of Dis
You approach Satan's wretched city where you behold a wide plain surrounded by iron walls. Before you are fields full of distress and torment terrible. Burning tombs are littered about the landscape. Inside these flaming sepulchers suffer the heretics, failing to believe in God and the afterlife, who make themselves audible by doleful sighs. You will join the wicked that lie here, and will be offered no respite. The three infernal Furies stained with blood, with limbs of women and hair of serpents, dwell in this circle of Hell.

Here is how you matched up against all the levels:

Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Moderate
Level 2 (Lustful)Very High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)High
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)High
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very High
Level 7 (Violent)High
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)High
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)High

Take the Dante Inferno Hell Test

Dixie Chicks: Will They Be Welcomed Back?

Interviewed by CMT News, Entertainment Weekly writer Chris Willman said, "I'll take bets now that they will never again have a No. 1 country single -- maybe not even another Top 10 country single -- ever. But they will have No. 1 albums and continue to be superstars with part of the country audience that has stuck with them and the pop and rock fans that are coming along, too. I think that will all add up to continuing a big superstar status for them, even though country radio may find them untouchable to a certain extent."

USA Today writer Brian Mansfield suggests that the Vote for Change tour could be the Chicks' first step toward expanding their non-country audience. "If they've lost a good chunk of the country audience," he told CMT News, "their next most likely audience is going to be from the people that listen to Bonnie Raitt or Jackson Browne or John Mellencamp or Bruce Springsteen. That's where their new fans base is bound to be. ... This is going to be the best place for them to go if they're looking for new fans."

Related: Music Row Democrats (link from Country Universe) Hall of Fame songwriter Bobby Braddock on country music and politics:

Country music is the music of everyday people. Why would we NOT belong to the party that sympathizes with the underdog? Country music is the music about families and mommas and babies. Why would we NOT belong to the party that cares about health care for seniors and children? Why would people in the music of wide open spaces and green green grass NOT be in the party that wants to protect God's green earth from the polluting global-warming big shots that the Bush administration loves and defers to?

Nanci Griffith: A View From the Back Seat

Woodstock Lingers 35 Years After Show

Friday, August 13, 2004

Steve Earle has a blog. Posting promised "every few days."

John Carter Cash Gets Role in Walk the Line

John Carter Cash will have an acting role in Walk the Line, a film biography focusing on the early careers of his parents, Johnny and June Carter Cash. The film stars Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. In one scene, John Carter Cash will portray Bob Neal, a disc jockey at WMPS in Memphis, who first provided radio airplay for Johnny Cash's debut recordings, "Hey Porter" and "Cry, Cry, Cry." Noting that he has already visited the film set, Cash told CMT News, "It's going great. I really feel comfortable with it. It's a movie. It's not a documentary, but I truly believe that Joaquin is doing an excellent job. He sounds great. He's not doing a caricature of Johnny Cash. He is acting and doing a wonderful performance, very believable as my father. Reese is adorable. She's great. I got to spend some time with her, and she's just a wonderful angel. I believe that she's doing an excellent job as my mother."

Photos of the filming of the Folsom Prison concert scenes. There are some extras and insiders posting at the IMDB message boards, all reports are good.

Travis, Jones Split Time on Stage

UNCASVILLE - Randy Travis and George Jones co-headlined a double bill at the Mohegan Sun Arena Friday night, joining to provide country music fans with nearly three hours of music.

Unfortunately, the singers did so by contributing separate, 75-minute sets, never once stepping on stage together to offer what may have been an interesting pairing of traditional and new traditional country music.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

It is a bad sign, I think, when a person writes a concert review about one person and ends up spending most of the article talking about someone else entirely. Even worse when that someone else is Bob Dylan. It is beyond my powers to imagine a Rodney Crowell gig (with Will Kimborough!) being "a huge bore."

But then I love his songwriting and his singing, and that bloke doesn't which probably has something to do with it.

Call me crazy, but I think it is time to stop referring to everyone who plays a guitar and sings as "a would-be Dylan" and let's can the search for the new one.

If for no other reason than that we still have the old one.

Back to Rodney Crowell, The Houston Kid is one of the best albums of the last few years.

Nick Cave film

The film, set in the early 19th century, is "an epic Australian story about family, loyalty and betrayal ... a sort of gothic Western that is to Australia what 'Unforgiven' was to America," said producer Chris Brown.

Little Steven's Garage Rock Festival

New York Dolls reunion going ahead, despite the death of Arthur Kane.

Rapper's Career has Hit Obstacle: Prison

Prison stays are not always detrimental to musicians' careers.

Steve Earle, the country-rock singer/songwriter, spent a brief time in jail in the early 1990s on a drug-related charge, but since his release has written critically acclaimed albums. And Johnny Cash's storied concert at San Quentin in California inspired an inmate there, Merle Haggard, to pursue a country-music career.

Lucinda Williams Totally Unprepared

Rare lukewarm review.

"I never tried to be a performer, y'all," the singer said. "I am an artist and I just want to sing my songs."

It was Williams's way of apologizing, perhaps, for the disjointed, uneven, and often confused attempt at delivering a bona fide concert for the sold-out crowd.

Normal service resumes: This reporter loves Lucinda.

Roseanne Cash salutes father, delights fans at Musikfest

Tom Russell Diary update

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Album of the Week

Kristofferson Kris Kristofferson (Monument 1970)

One of those rare albums which never missteps (OK, "Blame it on the Stones" is a bit Second XI but it slides by with extra chutzpah points he gets for leading off a country album with it.) Ignore the know-nothing Pitch Fascists, Kris is a great, great singer in every way that counts and the overall effect is an album as every bit as smooth and atmospheric as any crooner.

Is there a better, more perfectly crafted song than "Sunday Morning Coming Down"? Is there a more rousing anthem for the troubadour set than "To Beat the Devil"? More touching and evocative relationship sketches than "Help Me Make it Through the Night" and "For the Good Times"?

Not that I've heard.

As one of the Great First Albums, as well as for superlative craft and flavour, it is an excellent companion piece to Guy Clark's Old #1.

Kris' next The Silver Tongued Devil and I got all the attention, but for mine "Kristofferson" trumps all comers.

(I'm talking about the LP version, it's been remastered on the excellent American Milestones series with bonus tracks. After it tanked on first release it was rereleased in 1971under the title Me and Bobby McGee.)

From CMT's chart report:

Debuting this week at No. 57 is newcomer Catherine Britt's "The Upside of Being Down." Signed to RCA Records, the Australian vocalist is produced by Keith Stegall, whose clients include Alan Jackson.

Led Zeppelin Bassist Hits the Road With Nickel Creek

As a member of Led Zeppelin, John Paul Jones became a rock star in one of the most successful, influential and, by many accounts, notorious bands in music history. Instead of projecting a rock star attitude, however, his voice conveys the personality of a journeyman musician who deeply loves his work and cherishes the opportunity to ply his craft as he sees fit.

The British musician is comfortable talking about his old band, but he has looked forward to his current role on tour with Nickel Creek and vocalist Glen Phillips, former lead vocalist for the rock band Toad the Wet Sprocket. The tour supports the release of Mutual Admiration Society, a collaboration between the Nickel Creek and Phillips. The tour also features drummer Pete Thomas, a member of Elvis Costello's band, the Attractions.

Even before signing up to play bass and mandolin on the tour, Jones had been showing up unexpectedly at acoustic concerts recently, including Jim Lauderdale's gig at a London club. Long attracted to acoustic instruments, Jones also immersed himself in the bluegrass and Americana sounds of MerleFest, a three-day event that took place in May in Wilkesboro, N.C.

Newport Folk Festival report

Political commentary ran the gamut from country rebel Steve Earle's thigh-slapping rendition of "(Expletive) the FCC" -- it inspired one audience member to stand and wave a giant American flag -- to Rufus Wainwright's rendition (with mom Kate McGarrigle on piano) of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" with a revised lyric: "far from Bush and Cheney" replaced "that's where you'll find me." Wainwright's set yesterday was full of humor and eclecticism and proved a lush tonic in this comparatively serious musical setting.

Earle answered festival promoters' dreams by joining fellow maverick Lucinda Williams for a pair of tunes during her loose-limbed and mostly languid set, which included a slinky cover of Skip James's "Hard Time Killing Floor Blues" and slow, juicy versions of gems from her recent album, "World Without Tears."

"This is what the Newport Folk Festival is all about," proclaimed announcer and New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival producer Quint Davis following Earle's nuts-and-bolts set. But the festival is also about pushing forward, not to mention sideways, and Jim White brilliantly plumbed the fringes of what might be called folk with a deeply weird and beautifully constructed fusion of music, religion, poetry, and a toy store tape recorder.

One of the great, and perhaps unique, pleasures of Newport is the range of ages it draws -- both as audience and performers. Gospel vocal group the Dixie Hummingbirds, formed 75 years ago, and 81-year-old singer and flat-pick guitarist Doc Watson -- whose fingers were as nimble and whose voice was as strikingly clear as a young man's -- were among the most vibrant artists to perform all weekend. And so was the Old Crow Medicine Show. The members appear to be barely out of their teens and they play their mess of banjos and guitars like old-timers weaned on punk rock. Holding down the middle ground was Joan Osborne, who chose the Newport festival to announce her pregnancy and rocked the crowd with a soul-saturated voice that could've blown a small boat across the bay.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Sunday Alert

Sunday on Channel Nine tomorrow is running an ABC (US) segment about the "culture wars" in the election, focusing on the recently announced MoveOn Pac concerts referred to below and including the Ted Koppel interview with Bruce Springsteen.

Billy Joe Shaver: A Songwriter and a Survivor

The writing side of Shaver was cherished by Johnny Cash, who employed him as a staff writer for a couple of years. (Brenda was Cash's hair stylist, ''she also worked for Dean Martin''). And Shaver, the writer, is held highly by guys such as Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson, who both know something about penning country classics.

Some of Shaver's writing may have chased away personal demons. But on his latest recording, Billy and the Kid, due later this month, he reconnects with his late son.

The album is something of a tribute, bringing father and son together one more time on record. The two had recorded together before as ''Shaver.''

But Eddy Shaver left behind several tapes of songs he had done before his death. So, a few months ago, Billy Joe Shaver came to Nashville and recorded ''with'' his boy.

''It was a labor of love,'' he admits. ''Wanted people to realize what a great songwriter Eddy was.''

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in San Francisco in October.

Review: Earle, Hiatt team up for fine, folky night.

"I used to be a folk singer, but I had to give it up," Americana music troubadour Steve Earle wise-cracked at the start of his set Thursday at the Minnesota Zoo. The statement proved to be pure irony.

Earle and fellow songwriting hero John Hiatt each put aside their electric guitars and played solo sets on Thursday, their first of two sold-out nights together (the other is tonight). With lots of storytelling, harmonica solos and guitar kapos used between them, the gig was as folky as they come.

Down Country Music's Backroads in the automobile section of the NYT (requires registration. Just do it, OK? You won't be sorry.) Driving tour of country's heart.

If you're a fan of Loretta Lynn or Dwight Yoakam — and even if you're not — one great road trip is in central Appalachia. In the hills and hollows that gave birth to country music, forest-lined roads meander into a time warp where there's a little white-washed church in every clearing and not a Starbucks to be found. Men in trucker caps warn lost travelers about precariously steep mountains and a stranger can join neighbors clog-dancing a Saturday night away to an old-time country band. Here, in old coal-mining towns, tiny mountainside settlements and long hollows harboring far-flung homes, the living and loving go on, still rich in material for a song that tells it like it is.

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MILE 22: HILTONS, VA. Maces Springs, now called Hiltons, is where the Carter family — A. P. Carter, his wife, Sara, and her cousin Maybelle — lived, and where A. P. returned later in life and ran a general store. Easy-to-follow signs lead to the Carter Family Fold (www.carterfamilyfold.org, 276-386-6054), where Janette Carter, a daughter of A. P. and Sara, presents live shows with old-time and bluegrass bands every Saturday night. When Janette and her brother, Joe, sing, the 1,000-seat barn-amphitheater feels like the Carter back porch. The family museum, in A. P.'s general store, feels like the Carter living room, with dozens of photo albums, records and scrapbooks to flip through. Maybelle's daughter June Carter and June's husband, Johnny Cash, are in many a snapshot. The cabin where A. P. was born was recently restored and moved to this site, too.

MILE 67: NORTON, VA. Saturday is the night of choice for music in the hills, so after the first set at the Carter Fold, high-tail it over to the Country Cabin, (276) 679-2632, an hour away on Highway 23 in Norton. Its shows, with local and regional musicians and run by a nonprofit group called Appalachian Traditions, are actually in Country Cabin II. It's a bigger, newer version of the original wood cabin across the street, where locals started dancing to country bands in 1938, and where Dock Boggs, a coal miner who first recorded his white country blues in 1927, played and taught banjo after he was rediscovered in the folk music revival of the 1960's.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Jimmy Bowen Back to Produce Haggard

Producer Jimmy Bowen -- who as head of Liberty Records lost a power struggle to its flagship artist, Garth Brooks -- is reportedly coming out of retirement to produce an album for Capitol on Merle Haggard. The label will neither confirm nor deny the story.

Press release

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Aug. 5 /PRNewswire/ -- CMT remembers American icon Johnny Cash, a music trailblazer and rebellious troubadour for the downtrodden, with a weekend of poignant programming commemorating the one-year anniversary of his death. The cornerstone of this outstanding weekend will be the premiere of the compelling CONTROVERSY: JOHNNY CASH VS. MUSIC ROW on Saturday, Sept. 11 at 8:00-9:00 PM, ET/PT* (repeats Sunday, Sept. 12 at 2:30- 3:30 PM, ET/PT). Additional CMT original programming will include encore telecasts of the JOHNNY CASH MEMORIAL TRIBUTE, INSIDE FAME: JOHNNY CASH, CMT 40 GREATEST MEN OF COUNTRY MUSIC and a new episode of STACKED: JOHNNY CASH.


In a CONTROVERSY: JOHNNY CASH VS. MUSIC ROW exclusive interview, Kris Kristofferson talks about Cash's departure from Columbia Records. "I felt that it was a statement more about country music than it was about John. Country music had gotten so big, largely because of John. His television show brought attention to country music that it never had before, when [the show] had people like Bob Dylan and James Taylor. People who didn't usually go to Nashville were coming to Nashville out of respect for Johnny Cash," Kristofferson says.

Rosanne Cash, in an intimate interview, comments on the effect the tumultuous time had on Cash. "I think in the 80s there were certainly people in the country music establishment who got who Johnny Cash was and that he was one of the few great artists of the 20th century. There are certainly people who got that and who always knew it. There were other people who probably thought -- it's over for him," Cash says.

"The thing about Johnny Cash is he was both Saturday night and Sunday morning," says Rolling Stone magazine's Anthony DeCurtis on Cash's complexity. "He was never going to get some of the acknowledgement I think that he wanted from the country music community and I think he accepted that."

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Conceptually Speaking

This snippet about Bobby Bare, Jr in The Village Voice claims:

Bobby Bare Sr., [was] responsible for one of country's first concept albums not penned by Willie Nelson (1973's Bobby Bare Sings Lullabys, Legends, and Lies, a collaboration with enduring buddy and lyricist Shel Silverstein.)

Which I immediately mentally disputed. What about Johnny Cash's early 60s albums like Bitter Tears or Ballads of the True West? What about, to go even further back, about Hank Williams' Luke the Drifter album from 1955? Or Hank Thompson's drinking albums from the 1960s? There must be others and a Google of "country concept albums" got me thinking. This definition of concept albums, from the usualy helpful Wikipedia, got me confused first off.

Usually, in popular music, an album of an artist or group simply consists of a number of songs that the members of the group or the artist have written or have chosen to cover. In a concept album, on the other hand, all songs contribute to a single effect or unified story.

So far so good. It then goes to to call Sgt Pepper's the first concept album, but maybe it really isn't after all since the fictional characters supposedly adopted by the Beatles "have little life beyond the introduction on the first track." The odd part is the list of other concept albums including Pet Sounds because it "is a somewhat autobiographical work about love and life."

Well, that sounds like most pop records, surely a concept album requires more of an, um, concept. (The list also includes this toe-tapper: "Fetus - Franco Battiato (1972) - About potential people who are never born due to contraception, as well as unwanted children who are born.")

This person thinks country music sucks and unsurprisingly can't think of one country concept album. We've been through this issue with the Ian Shedden article and I won't revisit my indignation here.

This names the first concept album as possibly Frank Sinatra's In The Wee Small Hours. The concept is songs about heartache set to spare Nelson Riddle arrangements. So a mood is enough to get you a concept album? The same source says country didn't have concept albums because the singles market was paramount but what of the examples above?. And frankly country's traditional accent on stories and narratives lends it to the, uh, concept.

I don't know. Somehow for me an album all about trains seems like more of an actual full-on concept than songs all about love. I think there's a substantial difference between the concept behind Blood on the Tracks and the concept behind Tommy.

New definitions needed!
More info on Mark Lucas gig this Friday, filling in for Hunter and Suzy.

Fri 6th Aug Orange Grove Hotel (back bar), Leichhardt- 9pm to midnight.

The dead setters- previewing tracks from the forthcoming acoustic album in an intimate dining style & smoke free atmosphere featuring Mark Oats ( Bushwackers, Finn MacCool)- fiddle; Glenn Skarratt (badhats)- mandolin & Chris Mearns (badhats)- bass.
Dixie Chicks Tour to Defeat Bush

The Dixie Chicks and James Taylor will perform together in October as part of the Vote for Change concert tour aimed at defeating George W. Bush in his re-election bid. The Chicks and Taylor are among more than 20 acts scheduled to perform in nine swing states before the Nov. 2 presidential election. Others on the tour include John Mellencamp, the Dave Matthews Band, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street and, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, R.E.M., Babyface, Ben Harper and Pearl Jam. Multiple concerts will be staged on the same day in the same state to maximize the political effectiveness of the tour. All shows will take place Oct. 1-8.


In March 2003, when the U.S. was on the brink of the war in Iraq, Dixie Chicks lead vocalist Natalie Maines gained international attention when she told a London audience she was ashamed that Bush is from their home state of Texas. She later issued a written apology for making the statement and told a New Zealand TV reporter that her comment about Bush was "a joke."At the time of the London concert, the Dixie Chicks had already sold out virtually every show of its 2003 world tour. CD sales plummeted, however, and country radio programmers still show little indication of adding the trio back to station playlists.Talking to the Associated Press to promote the Vote for Change tour, Maines this week said, "A change is in order. There's never been a political climate like this, which is just the opposite of me as a person and what I believe in."

Comment on AlterNet. I don't want to revisit the moronic reaction to Maines' original comment, if I'd had this blog then I'd have had plenty to say. Anyway, they might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb. Noticed on CNN last week during the DemCon Kerry was using Bruce's No Surrender (one of my favourites) which includes the classic rock 'n' roll line : We learned more from a three minute record than we ever learned in school, not sure how that fits in with his education platform. Maybe it was a Reagan-era school. Bruce is no newcomer to this advocating-votes-against-Bush game, scroll down to 01.04.88 Uniondale, NY, middle of´Light of Day.´

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Shelby Lynne has signed on to play Johnny Cash's mother Carrie in the "nontraditional biopic" currently filming called Walk the Line. She joins Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny, Reese Witherspoon as June and Robert Patrick as Ray Cash. Director James Mangold's next film will be a remake of the classic Glenn Ford western 3.10 To Yuma which featured the song of the same name by Frankie Laine.

Neko Case is releasing not one but two new albums between now and early next year. She opened for Nick Cave here on his last tour and was brilliant.

Lyle Lovett's Country Roots

Lyle Lovett is one of the most idiosyncratic country music stars in the last 20 years, but some of his otherwise country-hating fans bristle when Lovett is dropped into the same category as Nashville's stars du jour.


Some Lovett fans - possibly the same ones who shiver at the thought of having to wander into the country section in music stores - like to consider Lovett above classification. Good luck with that. On his last album, he included a love song about a truck and drops names like Robert Earl Keen. And Lyle's still nursing a leg that was shattered two years ago when he rescued an uncle who was bucked off a bull.

So, apologies to David Allan Coe, but if that ain't country, you can kiss my ...

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

You Mean the Country Charts Lack Integrity?

Say it ain't so!

Real Country Music has the story on the Reba McEntire "payola" issue.

Music Row Fax provides the details, including Reba's personal phone calls to some 70 radio stations requesting that they play her single more and more during one particular week. Rumors are that a substantial number of the increased spins that Reba obtained came in the middle of the night when no one was much listening to the stations in question. Apparently these "programmed spins" can be purchased just like any advertising that a station sells. The difference here is that this bought advertising resulted in Reba jumping to the top of the charts.

Good luck to her for her long and distinguished career, but is anyone really suprised this kind of manipulation goes on? I can't believe its an isolated incident but I guess the easy solution is to ignore the charts entirely which is pretty much what I do now anyway.

From CMT:

In a remarkable feat of longevity and reinvention, Reba McEntire has returned to the No. 1 spot on Billboard's country chart for the 22nd time with "Somebody." McEntire's first No. 1, "I Can't Even Get the Blues," topped the chart on Jan. 8, 1983.

To put this accomplishment in perspective, consider that other No. 1 songs in 1983 include the Kenny Rogers-Dolly Parton duet, "Islands in the Stream," Larry Gatlin's "Houston" and John Anderson's "Swingin'," and that McEntire was competing for airplay against John Conlee, Janie Fricke, Crystal Gayle, Mickey Gilley, Ronnie McDowell, Ronnie Milsap, Anne Murray, T.G. Sheppard and Shelly West.

The landscape has certainly changed, but the country singles chart always remains a battle.

This week, Tim McGraw's "Live Like You Were Dying" and Kenny Chesney's "I Go Back" each fall a spot to second and third place, respectively, while Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss' "Whiskey Lullaby" and Billy Currington's "I Got a Feelin'" hold steady at fourth and fifth. Josh Gracin's "I Want to Live" and Terri Clark's "Girls Lie Too" stick to No. 6 and No. 7, respectively, while Keith Urban's "Days Go By," Jimmy Buffett's "Hey, Good Lookin'" and Andy Griggs' "She Thinks She Needs Me" round out the Top 10.

Blake Shelton gets into the tropical mood, with "Some Beach" debuting at No. 51. Other new singles include Trent Willmon's "Dixie Rose Deluxe's" at No. 56 and Hal Ketchum's "My Love Will Not Change" at No. 60. The latter song has also been recorded by the Del McCoury Band, with a corresponding video airing on CMT.

Buffett's License to Chill keeps its No. 1 spot on the country albums chart, followed by Gretchen Wilson's Here for the Party and Big & Rich's Horse of a Different Color. Chesney's When the Sun Goes Down and Paisley's Mud on the Tires stay at fourth and fifth place. The latest albums from Toby Keith, Urban, Alan Jackson, Trace Adkins and Gracin complete the Top 10.

No new country albums debuted this week

Be Careful What You Wish For

Loretta Lynn will release a cookbook, You're Cookin' It Country on September. 8. It features more than 130 recipes such as Doolittle's Cat-Head Biscuits (Doolittle was her husband, he had the perfectly good real name of Oliver) and Loretta's Wilted Lettuce.

I had dinner once at Virgil's BBQ off Times Square in NYC which promised real southern food. I was determined to have the most southern meal I could so I chose fried catfish for my main (which the Seppos eccentrically call an "entree"); it was caught, no doubt, by a young barefoot boy with a reed pole and straw hat. I had "biscuits" (not the Tim Tam kind, the scone-esque kind) and cheese grits as a side. I was warned against the grits, but with a million country songs twanging through my brain, I blithely went ahead. It tasted like Clag, only less pleasant.
The Carter Family: Inventors of Commercial Country Music
It's a New York Times article so you will need to register.

For fans and scholars alike, the music of the Carter Family has long served as a kind of gold standard of American roots music. A trio from Appalachian Virginia, the Carters began recording in 1927. Their deft playing and close-harmony singing made them a huge commercial success, and their songs, cutting across a variety of categories — blues, parlor pop and folk balladry among them — remain the core of a classic country and bluegrass repertory. Many of the young roots-music and alt-country fans who listen to Gillian Welch and Wilco are also fervent admirers of the Carter Family catalog.

So the arrival of "The Unbroken Circle: The Musical Heritage of the Carter Family" (Dualtone), a well-deserved tribute album that features high-profile country and folk artists, is not surprising. Even just two or three of its covers of Carter Family songs will, for many listeners, justify the price of the disc. Nonetheless, the album has some telling weaknesses that stem from longheld misconceptions about the Carter Family's music.


But what's striking about many of the other singers on the album is how old they sound, too. Performances by Emmylou Harris, John Prine, Willie Nelson, George Jones, Kris Kristofferson, Del McCoury and others are uneven, varying in originality and verve. More important, though, none of these artists is under 40. Most are over 50 (though Ms. Harris is joined by children on her track). These are musicians who, in the 1970's, began the search for tradition and authenticity that continues to mark the roots revival today.

I'm much more wary of these tribute albums these days, I wonder why they so often don't work. Are they done on the fly and artists don't have the opportunity to cook up a decent version? Of course the reviewer could always be dead wrong ...

More about the Nudie Suit.

Jim Reeves

Monday, August 02, 2004

Francis Xavier Holden with some more info on Hoyt Axton, and what a great photo. I didn't know he wrote Joy to the World (the only Three Dog Night song I know other than the Randy Newman cover Mamma Told Me Not To Come. Am I missing out?)

On the weekend I took in two great gigs: 50 Million Beers in Balmain and Mark Lucas and the Bad Hats at my local, the Gladstone in Dulwich Hill. Pictures will hopefully follow soon. The Beers unplugged and put on their usual highly entertaining brand of country and inner western, including my favourite No Cash or Drugs, classic covers and new stuff. Now, where is that new album we've been hearing about for years? I'm told the excellent and highly underrated Mark Lucas is taking over Hunter and Suzy's regular Friday night gig at the Orange Grove for this week only with a special guest on fiddle. That will be a must-see.

The musings this week about George Jones took me back to a paperback biography of the Possum (extra hillbilly cred, it was probably once owned by a gen-u-ine GI soldier boy: I bought it for 4000 Won at a secondhand bookshop near the Itaewon American Army Base in Seoul.) Apart from detailing Jones' rollercoaster journey from East Texas poverty to South Nashville decadence ("... Babylonian, even by Nashville's often questionable architectural standards. It came complete with tweleve bathrooms, fifteen baths, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, a playground the size of a public schoolyard, nine and a half acres of terraced lawns and a decorative wrought-iron frontispiece that displayed the music notation from "Stand by Your Man."), it contains some nice insights into the uneasy relationship the city has had with its most famous industry. The tourism spin is an absolute gem.

The Nashville to which George came, around the same time that the Russkies were hanging Sputnik in the nightime skies, was a small, nondescript Middle Tennessee city on the muddy banks of the Cumerland Rover. It was a city dominated by the old wealth of the hillbilly blue bloods, some of whom had even taken to referring to their hometown as "the Athens of the South" (perhaps, some outsiders guessed, on account of the incongruous-looking full-scale plaster-and-wood replica of the Greek Parthenon that had been erected in one of their city parks).

Nashville remained vaguely uncomfortable with the thriving country music industry that had sprung up in its midst by the early 1950s. The town's most highbrow civic leaders perceived that the "new money" generated by this hillbilly music industry was less clean than their "old money" (much of which had been made by peddling expensive Bibles and excessively overpriced industrial life insurance policies door to door, throughout the rural South, to illiterate sharecroppers and impoverished widows.) This image problem inspired some long-forgotten shill to write in a 1952 Tennessee Deptartment of Tourism publication:

Though the average singer of hillbilly music is in the high-income brackets, he lives a modest personal life without ostentation or notoriety. Since [his stage] show never changes, he has no need for a press agent. Since he is never involved in divorce suits, wild parties, scandals, nightclub episodes or mystery deaths, there are no hillbilly gossip columns. Most of these singers live in happy homes in modest, comfortable two-garage houses. Some of them are investing in real estate, since many of them came from farms and know what an acre of land is really worth.

Bob Allen, George Jones: The Life and Times of a Honky Tonk Legend St Martin's Press 1994 pp 120-1.