Sunday, July 24, 2016

Blackberry Smoke Collaborates With Gregg Allman On Upcoming Like An Arrow

Artist: Blackberry Smoke
Album: Like An Arrow
Label: 3 Legged Records/Thirty Tigers
Release date: October 14, 2016

Recorded just outside of the band’s native Atlanta at The Quarry Recording Studio in Kennesaw, GA, the 12-track album was self-produced and features special guest Gregg Allman on the album’s closing track, “Free On The Wing.”

Of the album, band-member Charlie Starr comments, “This album is the self-produced culmination of 15 years of trying to plant our flag in the musical landscape. We couldn’t be more proud of it.”
Since their debut in 2001, the 5-piece band—consisting of Starr (lead vocals, guitar), Richard Turner (bass, vocals), Brit Turner (drums), Paul Jackson (guitar, vocals), and Brandon Still (keyboards)—has released four full-length studio albums, including their most recent, 2015’s Holding All the Roses, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard Country Albums chart and #8 on the Billboard Rock Albums chart.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Sarah Darling Unveils Her Dream Country

Artist: Sarah Darling
Album:  Dream Country
Label: Pledge Music Indie
Release date: July 2016 (Kickstarter supporters) Early 2017 (Official Release)

The folks that backed Sarah Darling's PledgeMusic campaign this last year got a beautiful little surprise in their email box as Sarah Darling delivered her brand new album to her supporters. Sarah has this to say about the new project, her first as an independent artist.

"During the making of this project, I experienced so many beautiful moments. There was the time I got emotional in the studio hearing string parts being arranged on "Halley's Comet" at Ocean Way studios. Still, every time I hear the strings come in on the recording I get goosebumps. I hope you feel the same way! I think the greatest was truly connecting with the music. All of the songs chosen are from my heart and soul. There is something to be said about having the opportunity to have creative freedom. That's where the magic happens, when it's 100 percent you. I hope everyone in their life has that chance at whatever they do."

"The common theme is light. I believe my gift of music is to be a light in the darkness. Also to give a voice to the dreamer. I'm a girl who grew up in the wide open spaces of Iowa dreaming under the stars. Now you get to experience the things that have meant so much to me. Once you listen through you will notice the stars make quite an appearance. To me, that's my heavenly view. They have inspired me my entire life."

"What on earth is dream country? It's my world and my version of country. It's a love letter to Wyoming, because God really broke the mold when he created such a beautiful place. It's the cobblestone streets of Montmartre. It's a world I love writing about and escaping to.
The producer on the album is Larissa Maestro. She is an incredible cellist and string arranger. That's her real last name too. She is one of the most talented human beings I've ever met. My good friend Cheyenne Medders brought Larissa to my life and I'm grateful. The moment we played together it was magic. I am grateful to be a writer on 7 of the 9 tracks. The best part is, these songs were all co written with my best friends. People I love and believe in. Same goes for the musicians selected to record. They are were all handpicked. I know you will hear the passion in the recordings."

"Currently I'm putting some incredible plans to promote this album! God has made some opportunities around "Dream Country" that will make you happy to watch unfold." The stars are aligning, and I'm blessed to have the team of people around me."

Monday, July 18, 2016

Kiefer Sutherland Plans To Release Down In A Hole Next Month

Artist: Kiefer Sutherland
Album: Down In A Hole
Label: Warner Nashville
Release date: August 19, 2016

In early 2015 Sutherland played producer and business-partner Jude Cole two songs he had written and wanted to record as demos for other artists to record. Cole responded positively to the songs and the album grew organically from those recordings. Two songs became four and four grew into six, until Cole suggested that they make a record. Their collaboration resulted in Kiefer Sutherland’s upcoming debut album: Down In A Hole. 

Sutherland says of the 11 tracks that make up the album, "It’s the closest thing I’ve ever had to a journal or diary. All of these songs are pulled from my own personal experiences. There is something very satisfying about being able to look back on my own life, good times and bad, and express those sentiments in music. As much as I have enjoyed the writing and recording process, I am experiencing great joy now being able to play these songs to a live audience, which was something I hadn’t counted on"

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Celluloid Country - Raiders of Old California

Movie title: Raiders of Old California
Starring: Marty Robbins and Faron Young
Release date: 1957

A handful of old movies starring country music stars have (somewhat) recently fallen into the public domain. Summer being movie season, it makes sense to help share them here to watch at your convenience. We'll have at least half a dozen features pop up here on That Nashville Sound over the coming weeks. Our first feature is Raiders of Old California. It's an old 1957 feature with country-western singers Faron Young and Marty Robbins. Evil former US Army officers threaten Mexican soldiers out of their land. Marshal Young and Judge Ward arrive to set things right.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Interview Flashback - Catching Up With Rodney Atkins

I have been blessed to write contributions/reviews/interviews/opinion pieces for several country music and roots-oriented websites and publications over the years including Saving Country Music, Nashville Scene, Country California, Country Weekly, American Noise, The 9513 and Engine 145. As a regular contributor to the last two in that list, I did close to a 100 interviews with different artists- and since both of those great sites have come down, I will reprint some of those interviews here to give them a home in perpetuity. This interview was originally published in November 2009 on The 9513.

Chalk Rodney Atkins’ success up to being one more Nashville overnight success story. That is, if nights are measured by decades.

Although he had never even played a guitar until well into high school, Rodney's passion for music through his Tennessee Tech college days was clear to anyone who knew him. As he was working towards his psychology degree, he spent nights playing in bars and honkytonks and spent every free minute travelling to Nashville to do the same. Those Nashville appearances caught the eye of Curb Records, who signed the newcomer in 1997 and quickly released his first single, “In a Heartbeat.”  It made it all the way up to number 74 on the Billboard charts.  It would be five more years before radio heard another single from Atkins.  

His next big push came in 2002 when he released his first album titled Honesty. The first two singles off of the album flirted with the charts and it wasn’t until the third, "Honesty (Write Me a List)" finally made it all the way to number four on the charts.  But a follow-up single off the album fell short as well.

But nearly ten years after being signed by Curb Records, things finally clicked for Atkins.  With the 2006 release of "If You're Going Through Hell (Before the Devil Even Knows)" as the first and title single from his sophomore album, he scored his first number one.  

Since then, he’s continued to score big hits with four additional number one hits such as “Watching You,” “These Are My People,” “Cleaning This Gun (Come On In Boy),” and “It’s America.”

The ACM award-winner for Top New Male Vocalist released a brand new album earlier this year that has spawned two hit singles and his most recent release, “Chasin’ Girls,” is about to enter the charts. 

The 9513 had a chance to catch up with Atkins in person after an intimate radio show at a local bar and grill for a quick interview.

KEN MORTON, JR.- There is a brand new brick building in Greenville, Tennessee with your name on it  I hear.

RODNEY ATKINS- That was amazing. I didn’t know my name was going to be on the building. It’s on the children’s home that I was adopted from- the orphanage that my parents got me from. I was born in Knoxville, but that is where I ended up. I went through foster care and went through three sets of adopted parents before I wound up with my Mom and Dad. Our goal a few years back was to raise about a million dollars to update that place. It had been there since the fifties and the buildings had gotten run down. We would up raising over five million dollars and they built two new youth homes
and a lot of new places there. When we went to the building dedication, they named one of the buildings The Rodney Atkins Youth Home. It’s truly unbelievable. Charles Hutchins, the gentleman that still works there, was the guy that placed me with my family. The whole thing was bigger than I ever dreamed it could be. 

KMJ- How much did your own adoption experience influence your career in country music? Can you identify traits in you that can be attributed back to your own up-bringing?

RA- It probably did, but I was just a kid. It makes me really cherish and love what family is. That is the one thing I can never get enough of and what I truly feel blessed having. Every part of adoption is a blessing. I have to gave thanks to the National Council For Adoption. I thank God for my family. And probably the concept of perseverance- winding up with the family you’re supposed to have. 

KMJ- While getting your degree in psychology in college, I know you helped counsel troubled youth with music- what was that experience like?

RA- It was very cool. It was my practicum while I was at Tennessee Tech. They had me go in and work with these troubled juvenile delinquents. It was sort of like Andy Griffith. I would go in those guys would want to rip my head off wanting to get out of there. I would bring in my guitar and you could just see them calm down. They would forget what they were mad about. It made me realize how therapeutic music can be. 

KMJ- Looking back after you first got signed by Curb Records in 1997, it took nearly seven years to land your first top ten hit with “Honesty (Write Me A List).” Describe that period of your life.

RA- It’s kind of the way I operate. People always ask if I got discouraged during that period of my life. Maybe I did from time to time, but I really feel that you have to present in the time you’re in. You have to live where you are and be present in what you’re doing. I was just writing songs. I was raising kids and being married and doing the same thing I am doing now. You’re life is really what you’re focusing on. You can’t get too caught up in what’s down the road and where you’ve been. It’s where you are. I’m so thankful that I was actually home while my son was born during those first few years. It allowed us the opportunity to create a relationship that is the greatest thing in the world. 

KMJ- You almost see it as a blessing looking back. 

RA- It really was. I don’t look at it as a struggle going through that time. They were great times just like these are great times. 

KMJ- Let’s switch gears and talk about the new album. For someone who hasn’t listened to it yet, how would you describe it?

RA- It’s a celebration of life and hope and friends and family. That’s what the whole album is about. It’s about camaraderie and having a sense of community. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about being human. 

KMJ- How would you say it differs from “If You’re Going Through Hell?”

RA- For me, the difference is sonically it’s a better album. I think we learned a lot when we were recording the album- actually we learned a lot on both of them. For me, vocally, I think the songs are rangier and the grooves are a little bit funkier. It covers some similar topics but I think it’s different too. 

KMJ- Any favorite songs on the album?

RA- I loved “It’s America” the first time I heard it. But I love “Simple Things” that I wrote too. One day I was hanging out with Elijah, my little boy, all caught up on having to return a whole bunch of phone calls and being the “artist” guy. We like to ride four-wheelers down by and through the creek in our holler behind the house. Down there, we don’t have phone reception. I might have well as thrown my phone away. I got caught up in splashing through the creek and catching crawdads. That is what life is all about. That’s what it really comes down to. That songs pulls me back to where I really want to be. 

KMJ- I hear there’s a new twist on your most recent single, “Chasin’ Girls,” that’s different from the album version.

RA- What happened is that I wrote this song before Elijah started preschool without life changing a lot. I wrote it way back then. I try to write songs straight out of real life. That’s always my goal. My wife and I were joking about how she was having all the cravings all the time while pregnant. I said, “You know I should have written it this.” And I redid it for her at the house with new lyrics and did a version just for her. I gave a copy to the record label guys and they all said, “Man, that’s even more you. We have to release it that way.” So they’ve decided to come with that version. This is the updated life version. It’s a great song about how us as guys start out by chasing girls and we keep chasing them our whole life. 

KMJ- What is country music to Rodney Atkins?

RA- It’s a slice out of real life. That’s what country music is supposed to represent. It’s stuff that real people can relate to. For me, it’s songs that you can call real. That’s what it’s supposed to represent- things that people can relate to. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

New Music Video From Caitlyn Smith - "Tacoma"

Jason Aldean Preps They Don't Know For September Release

Artist: Jason Aldean
Album: They Don't Know
Label: Broken Bow Records
Release date: September 9, 2016

Fresh off of his Academy of Country Music  Entertainer of the Year win, Jason Aldean announced his next album release on the week that his most-recent single, "Lights Come On," hit number one on both the Billboard Country Airplay and Mediabase radio charts.

“I really wanted to start this new album with one of those big up-tempos," said Aldean. "So, for it to click right away with fans and radio is a really cool way to start. With all the records we’ve done, we’ve been able to explore new sounds and really just do things our own way, and that's sort of what the title track is all about."

Aldean has teamed with both longtime producer Michael Knox and the same band on-and-off stage for a full decade again for They Don't Know. With the new music, the artist reveals "lessons learned and confidence gained" over the course of a career that includes more than 14 million album sales. 

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Hear It Here- Maren Morris Eloquently Speaks For Many Of Us With "Dear Hate"

Maren Morris has hit the country scene in a major way over the last few months with her debut single "My Church" racing up towards the top of the charts and her second single "80's Mercedes" quickly following its path. Her most haunting and introspective song released to date isn't found on her debut album, however. Following the senseless shootings in Dallas night before last and the social unrest that has plagued the country in the weeks prior to that, Morris released a demo she had written and recorded entitled "Dear Hate." It's beautiful. It says what many of us feel and only wish we could say in a way nearly so eloquently. Hopefully, this gets legs and becomes the right song for the right time. Heaven knows, we need more people to believe its sentiment.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Interview Flashback - On The Road With Whitney Duncan

I have been blessed to write contributions/reviews/interviews/opinion pieces for several country music and roots-oriented websites and publications over the years including Saving Country Music, Nashville Scene, Country California, Country Weekly, American Noise, The 9513 and Engine 145. As a regular contributor to the last two in that list, I did close to a 100 interviews with different artists- and since both of those great sites have come down, I will reprint some of those interviews here to give them a home in perpetuity. This interview was originally published in October 2009 on The 9513.

Whitney Duncan didn’t say “I want to be a country music singer” with her very first words, but she might of well have. With a passion that belied her age, Whitney sang at school events, including multiple elementary and middle school graduations as well as finished as a medalist at a talent competition at Loretta Lynn's ranch.  

Country music was always her first love. She begged to go to the famed Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge in downtown Nashville and managed to get up on stage and play when she was barely a teenager. She began travelling to and from Nashville from her home in Scotts Hill, TN in high school, writing with some of Nashville’s best writers. By her senior year, she had landed a record deal. Almost immediately, Duncan landed a duet with country legend Kenny Rogers but the first big record release still eluded her. She’d write and co-write cuts for Lee Ann Womack, Katie Arminger and Crystal Shawanda in the meantime.

In 2007, Duncan participated on the USA network show Nashville Star and self-released her debut album. After placing on Nashville Star, she signed to Warner Bros. Records Nashville and the life of the recording star started in motion. Her first solo single, "When I Said I Would" tasted the charts at #48 but it is her third single, “Skinny Dippin’,” that is making its mark. It is in the Top 20 on the Music Row charts and just entered the Billboard Top 50. Meanwhile, the sexy video for the latest single has been a staple across the country music video stations.   

KEN MORTON, JR.- Have you been given the key to the city from the mayor of Scotts Hill yet?

WHITNEY DUNCAN- I was! It was awesome. A few years ago, they did that. They had a little parade in town. This town has the nicest people and the coolest people ever. 

KMJ- I understand it was your grandfather that introduced you to country music. Tell me about that influence.

WD- I could always hear him singing around the house and he had such a great voice. But he would never perform in front of other people or anything. And he was always such a big fan of country music. He definitely introduced me to it- and Elvis. I would go to my grandparents house on the weekends a lot and I was a total granddaddy’s girl. I would go and we would watch Elvis performances, movies and everything. I was obsessed with Elvis from age four. We would also constantly watch the Jerry Lee Lewis movie Great Balls Of Fire. Oh my gosh. We would watch that movie every single weekend. As a little girl, I could say the words to the movie before they came out of the actor’s mouths. When I find out that Dennis Quaid was not Jerry Lee Lewis, I think I cried. (Laughter) When I finally saw the real Jerry Lee Lewis, I said, “That’s not Jerry Lee Lewis!” I had in my mind that Dennis Quaid was Jerry Lee Lewis. I was pretty heartbroken. Not to say that Jerry Lee Lewis isn’t good-looking or anything, but he is no Dennis Quaid. I would say that Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis- both of them- made me want to sing. My parents never played or anything but they both loved music and we always had it around the house and playing in the car. My dad didn’t like country too much. He would listen to the Rolling Stones, John Cougar Mellencamp, Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton and all that stuff. My mom would listen to nothing but country. There would always be that battle.

And of course, my mom always won. She loved Tanya Tucker, Tammy Wynette, Travis Tritt, Don Williams and all that stuff. I had a lot of different influences growing up in music. 

KMJ- And just how early were you performing at the famed Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge?

WD- Too young! When I wanted to go somewhere, my parents were the best. I could talk them into anything. I always wanted to go Tootsies. And during the day, there’s lots of tourists and stuff in there. So I got to go up and play with the house band. I did “Stand By Your Man.” Of course. But I had to get out of there when it started to get dark and they started to serve alcohol. I think I was 10, 11 or 12. 

KMJ- Most acts get complimentary beer- for you it was Roy Rogers and Shirley Temples.

WD- (Laughter) Exactly! Looking back, that was fun.

KMJ- Your most recent single “Skinny Dippin’” sold an impressive 50,000 digital downloads partly due to a pretty racy music video that any warm-blooded male found appealing. Any hesitations in that video shoot?

WD- We got a lot of treatment ideas for that video. I was very picky on what I would do and what I wouldn’t do. The song is such a visual song in itself. It had to line up with the song and even make the song better. I really think this treatment did that. It kept it young and flirty and fun. And even funny in some places. Instead of… well lets just say that a lot of the ideas we got were… over the top. When were agreeing to do this, I was saying, “I won’t do that. I will not do that. I certainly won’t do that.” It was hard. And I thought they pulled it off great. I don’t think it’s too racy of a video for sure. When I sent it to my parents, that was my test. If it went too far, they won’t like it. Because they’re the most conservative people you’ve even known. When I sent it to them, Mom loved it and thought it was beautiful. I was good to go. If Mom and Dad approve, then we’re good. 

KMJ- Your first singles have flirted with the big charts thus far, and your most recent single seems to making a dent. Any sense on why the first couple of singles haven’t made a bigger splash at radio yet?

WD- In places that they’re playing it in daytime hours, it is connecting. That’s what’s so awesome. It’s selling like crazy. On the Music Row charts, it’s up to number 17. Stations that are playing it are getting a reaction from their audiences. On stations that don’t play it, you can’t get a reaction from something you can’t hear. It’s really hard as a new artist. You have stations that will only play a certain amount of songs. And they don’t necessarily always want to take a chance on a new artist. That makes it really difficult. It’s sad that it is that hard. It’s hard for that new artist to get a song played these days. When it’s played, it gets a reaction, though. And that’s really all you can ask for. 

KMJ- What can we can we expect on your upcoming album, “Right Road Now?”

WD- I co-wrote the whole thing and I’m most excited about that. It’s a wide variety. “Skinny Dippin’” is the fun side of me but there are many other songs that are deep and dark and I like that too. It’s a big variety of stuff from fun, happy and up-tempo to the other side. There’s something for everyone. I was very picky with songs- I always have been. These are my favorites. 

KMJ- Has Warner Brothers set a release date yet?

WD- All I know is early in 2010. It’s been changed so many times, it’s ridiculous. When they get a date, they’ll tell me and that’s when I’ll get excited.

KMJ- How frustrating is it for the artist to be in that record label “holding pattern?” It seems a bit like purgatory from the outside looking in.

WD- I don’t focus on that part too much. I totally understand what they’re doing and it makes complete sense. You want to put out a record when you have the most audience. That part makes sense to me. Until you get that, there’s no real reason to put it out. People can get a taste of it on i-Tunes. You can even buy the digital EP that will hopefully tide you over until the record comes out. Granted, no one will be happier than me the day it comes out. For sure. You put your heart and soul into something like this for so long, you want to get it out for the fans. Ultimately, that’s the whole point of music. 

KMJ- You performed at the Grand Ole Opry for the first time this month- how was that experience?

WD- I am not one to get nervous. I never get nervous. But when I walked on that stage, I thought I was going to vomit. I was SO nervous. I wasn’t even nervous before. Walking into my dressing room was a really cool moment. When I stood on the side of the stage, John Conlee was introducing me. And I love him and his voice. I always have. That’s really cool. When I walked out there, it hit me like a ton of bricks. This is the Opry. It was a really cool moment. 

KMJ- Any special behind-the-scenes moments for you?

WD- I got to take my picture with Little Jimmy Dickens! That was so cool. He’s such a nice guy. I also got my picture taken with John Conlee. All my parents got to come backstage. As special as this was for me it was more special for my grandparents. The Grand Ole Opry is the be-all end-all for them. They used to come up to my house every Saturday and we would all watch the Grand Ole Opry together. This, for them, was like the fact that I had finally made it. He’s always told me I would have made it when I get invited to play on the Grand Ole Opry. My granddaddy never goes anywhere, but you bet he came to the Grand Ole Opry that night. 

KMJ- You’ve written cuts for other artists like Lee Ann Womack, Katie Armiger and Crystal Shawanda- any other songs out there on hold or being cut by other artist?

WD- Yes! I got a LeAnn Rimes cut. It’s a beautiful song and I was upset at first when it didn’t get to make my record. But it’s a big ballad and gorgeous and I can’t wait for you all to hear it. 

KMJ- When a singer/songwriter has a song cut by another artist, is there as much pride on that song as if you cut it yourself?

WD- I think probably even more so. I’m really hard on my songs. But when someone else cuts it, they’re saying they love it to. They love it enough to want to cut it themselves. 

KMJ- What is country music to Whitney Duncan?

WD- It’s definitely my life. From an early age, I’ve never wanted to do anything else. And I’ve never doubted it for a minute. There have been times in which I’ve asked if I’d ever get my chance or shot. I’ve kept with it and I love it. I don’t know what I would do without it. There’s really nothing else I’d rather do.