Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Four New Albums Get Release Dates- Rascal Flatts, Jennifer Nettles, Jimmy Buffet & Kacey Musgraves

Four new projects got release dates, three of them being holiday-oriented projects by evidence of their names...

10.21.16 - Rascal Flatts - The Greatest Gift Of All - Big Machine

10.28.16 - Jennifer Nettles - To Celebrate Christmas - Big Machine

10.28.16 - Jimmy Buffett - Tis The Season - Mailboat

10.28.16 - Kacey Musgraves - A Very Kacey Christmas - Mercury Nashville 

New Music Video From Florida Georgia Line (feat. Tim McGraw) - "May We All"

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Celluloid Country - Johnny & June Carter Cash in The Baron and the Kid

Movie title: The Baron and the Kid
Starring: Johnny and June Carter Cash
Release date: 1984

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. Our fifth feature features Johnny Cash as a legendary pool shark. The "Cajun Kid", played by Greg Webb, is the Baron's long-lost son. Once they're reunited, the Baron and the Kid embark upon numerous adventures, each exploit bringing them closer.

New Music Video From Granger Smith - "If The Boot Fits"

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Concert Review Flashback - Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver and Becky Schlegel at the Bluegrass Underground

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 several hundred features/pieces. One of those was this concert review that I will reprint here to give it a home in perpetuity. This concert review was originally published in July 2011 in Engine 145.

To say that the Bluegrass Underground concert series is one of the more unique concert locations is an understatement of magnificent proportions.  Some several miles out of the whopping metropolis of McMinnville, Tennessee- population 13,000 or so- is a bluegrass concert series that is held once a month underground. 333 feet below ground at Cumberland Caverns, Mother Nature carved a natural amphitheatre in limestone. What resulted is what the cave owners call The Volcano Room. Over 3.5 million years, time and water have created one of the most acoustically pure natural spaces on earth.

Our concert experience, a midday show featuring Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver as well as Becky Schlegel, started at the mouth of the cave. Outside Tennessee heat index temperatures blazed near 100 degrees but the breezes emanating from the cave are a constant 56 degrees. A tour guide led four groups of about 100 people each in a descent of about a quarter mile past beautiful underground water pools and waterfalls pouring out of the ceiling. Cave kisses dropped occasionally from the ceiling. When we reached the Volcano Room, we were greeted with a beautiful chandelier that hangs down from the ceiling above a chamber that had comfortable stadium style seating for several hundred people. A stage was set in front of a lower chamber that acts as a green room. This venue is so unique, WSM 650 records and PBS films each performance to play on their respective medias.

South Dakota native Becky Schlegel opened things up with her on guitar, longtime bluegrass musician Tina Adair on background vocals and mandolin as well as a bassist and guitar picker. Charming up on stage, she made many references to the concert locale through her set. “It’s so hot outside, it took me an hour to cool off. Now I’m so cold, I can’t feel my fingers. My body thinks I’m in Wisconsin in the wintertime.” Schlegel’s voice flittered and floated like a dandelion on a breeze, appropriate since Dandelion is the title of her last album. Her vocals hushed to a whisper at times and then flew up into a falsetto–sometimes in the same line. “So Embarrassing” told of the tale of an ex coming back to her former home a week after break-up, only to find her once-lover already with another woman, creating something emotional, heart-wrenching and beautiful all at the same time. Adair provided beautiful harmony throughout the evening and Schlegel even gave her a solo where she wowed the crowd with “How Great Thou Art.” Schlegel’s set included the beautiful “Patsy Cline,” a dedication to who inspired her to get into music as well as a new track called “Opry Lullaby,” a powerful storyteller’s delight about a lonesome wife hoping her husband who is away at war is hearing the same Grand Ole Opry show she’s listening to. She closed her beautiful segment with a cover of Greg Brown’s “Early,” a dedication to small town America. With just two acoustic guitars quietly backing her lonesome vocals, it seemed only fitting that a million years of quiet cave solitude lead to that moment.  

Then came Doyle Lawson and the rest of his Quicksilver band. With roughly 40 albums under his belt, one of bluegrass music’s elder statesmen proved to be full of energy and humor at 67 years young. He shared stories and reflections of artists that he played alongside and artists he aspired to play like- including Bill Monroe, Jimmie Rogers and other Grand Ole Opry stars. A six piece band backed him including a fiddle, banjo, bass, dobro, acoustic guitar and percussi on. Jessie Baker, a 20 year old banjo prodigy that just joined the band in January, was a musical stud. Lawson joked that, “I have t-shirts older than him” but it was clear that there was a great since of satisfaction on having him on board. Baker pulled off a fantastic Lester Flatts impression doing lead vocals on “I Wonder How the Old Folks Are At Home.” Lawson himself played impeccable mandolin and Josh Swift wowed on the dobro. Lawson regularly let his Quicksilver band mates take the lead vocals with Mike Rogers getting most of the load- sounding a bit like Vince Gill. The result was a robust fuller sound than what Schlegel’s set had produced and it filled every corner of the cave. Sharp and pleasant, it was tremendous instrumentation at its best.

The band played crowd favorites such as “Blue Train,” “Precious Memories,” Country Store,” instrumental “Dear Ole Dixie,” Deford Bailey’s “Evening Prayer Blues,” Paul Simon’s “Gone At Last” and “Help Is on the Way.” All in all, they covered nearly two hours of music.

But the highlight of their entire set was when they put the instruments away and did four straight four-piece a capella gospel songs. “My Lord Is Going To Move This Wicked Race,” “I’m Going To Heaven Some Sweet Day,” “Since Jesus Came Into My Heart,” and “Hide From The Storm Outside” were near-spiritual songs to behold in this environment- almost revival-like. At 333 feet below ground, this was as close to hell as I’ll hopefully get. It only seems appropriate then, that heavenly gospel stole the show.

Friday, August 26, 2016

New Music Video From Rissi Palmer - "Summerville"

Sylvia To Release First Album In Fourteen Years with It's All in the Family

Artist: Sylvia
Album: It's All in the Family
Label: Red Pony Records
Release date: Oct. 8, 2016

Fourteen years after her last project, 1982 ACM Female Vocalist of the Year and Grammy Award-Winning artist Sylvia is releasing her newest project in October, the first in which she is the co-writer on the majority of the songs.

The collaborations on the album – between co-producers Sylvia and John Mock, between co-writers, and between the cadre of other exceptional musicians featured on each track – truly feel organic, with distinct influences of folk, country, bluegrass, classical, and Irish music coming together naturally to produce something rooted in tradition.
From the press release: "It’s All In The Family is brimming with songs that evoke precise places, times, and emotions. Whether it’s the clawhammer banjo and old-time music influence on the opening track, “Every Time a Train Goes By,” or the Irish tin whistle and strong imagery on “Immigrant Shoes,” listeners are invited into dozens of specific, formative, and intimate moments in the lives of Sylvia and her family. But like all great stories, It’s All In The Family doesn’t feel limited to the bounds of its particular characters, images, and events. Each song touches and builds on a collection of themes that connects the listener with that which is universal."

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Jenny Gill Follows Dad's Footsteps With An Upcoming Project Of Her Own

Artist: Jenny Gill
Album: The House Sessions EP
Label: Jenny Gill Music
Release date: Sept. 8, 2016

Jenny Gill announced this week that her new EP will be released digitally on Sept. 8, 2016. “The House Sessions” which was recorded at her father Vince Gill’s home studio which is affectionately called “The House” is Jenny’s first EP and will feature 6 songs.

The MTSU graduate began her music industry adventure working for an independent publisher as a song plugger. She spent several years working closely with songwriters and it became the inspiration that launched her into her own songwriting. In the meantime, her Dad began his own dream of building a home studio and the timing of the two couldn't have been more perfect. Cleverly named "The House" Vince's studio didn't just inspire the title for the EP, it helped set the perfect laid back tone that Jenny was after. Amy Grant guest-vocals on the project as well.

According to the press release: "The House Sessions also delivers a tasteful balance between her softer seductive tones and powerhouse abilities."


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

New Music Video From Eric Church - "Kill a Word"

Interview Flashback - Talking Live With Joe Diffie

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 December 2009 on The 9513.

Before Jason Aldean sang of sitting on his “Big Green Tractor,” Joe Diffie was painting the town with his smash hit “John Deere Green.” Before Alan Jackson’s “Between The Devil And Me”, there was Joe Diffie two-stepping with “If The Devil Dance In Empty Pockets.” After working as a demo singer for three years in Nashville, Diffie signed his first record deal with Epic Records. Since that time he has recorded an amazing 17 top ten hits on Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks charts, five number ones, nine studio albums, two platinum albums and has written songs that have been hits for others like Tim McGraw and Jo Dee Messina. Diffie’s mantle is full with a Grammy, multiple CMA Awards, and been honored as Humanitarian of the Year by the Country Music Broadcasters.

Fast-forward to December 2009 and Diffie has a brand new album- his first live recording called Joe Diffie: Live At Billy Bob’s Texas- and is putting the finishing touches on a brand new bluegrass album for Rounder Records that will be out in just a few short months. And while history has been bright for this longtime country star who even Vern Gosdin called “the man with the golden voice,” Diffie’s quick to point out that the future is just as bright. He’s playing music with family and playing a style of music in bluegrass that was his country genre choice out of college. Forget “Ships That Don’t Come In,” Diffie’s ship is sailing straight ahead.

Ken Morton, Jr.- You have a live album that has just come out- give us the scoop on this brand new project.

Joe Diffie- It’s something I’m very excited about, I’ve never done a live album before. It’s kind of a cool deal- a nerve-wracking deal. The folks at Billy-Bob’s had done a series of these things over the years and asked if we’d like to participate in it. I said, “Sure!” We went down there and had a blast doing it. Like I said, though, it was pretty nerve-wracking though. Just thinking anything I said or do is going to be recorded and listened to forever is hard. We had a good time doing it. The crowd was just great. And it’s always great performing at Billy-Bob’s.

KMJ- Was it recorded in a single night or recorded over a couple nights?

JD- It was a single night. We went in there and they had all the recording stuff set up. We just took off and there we were.

KMJ- That is some pressure, you have to be on your game.

JD- Yeah, you really do. But I think we did okay. The thing I was worried about was trying to capture what we do live on a disc. It’s hard to transfer some of that energy onto an album, but I think we did pretty good at that.

KMJ- I know you had two special guests on the album. Tell me first about singing on an album with your son, Parker.

JD- Parker is a fine young singer and he travels on the road with me all the time anyways. We did a Little Feat song called “Willin’.” He’s been doing it awhile on stage so we did a duet on that thing. He did a great job on it. And he sings a bunch on the choruses on the rest of the songs- just messing around. Then I got my dad up and he and I did an old Johnny Cash cut of the “Folsom Prison Blues.” Of course, he stole the whole show and got the biggest round of applause for the whole night.

KMJ- That was one of the more special moments on the album I thought. You could sense your pride as he was singing and the crowd was singing along with him.

JD- Yeah, it was really special. He’s gotten up there with me before a couple of different times at shows. I think people are always amazed that he can sing, you know? But he can sing really well. It’s always a thrill for me to spring him on people.

KMJ- Did he do any stage performing before you made it big in the music business or is it newer to him than you?

JD- He’s always been really musical. He taught himself how to play piano and banjo and guitar. But he never ever pursued music as a career. He was never in a band. He’s gotten up in front of people and sang many times before over the years. And everyone always compliments him on the job that he does. He kind of gets a kick when he gets on up there. He’s always a mini-celebrity whenever he gets on stage. He’s always signing autographs and taking pictures with people afterwards- it’s a really fun deal for all of us.

KMJ- As it was with you with Parker, it sounds like the apple didn’t fall far from the tree, did it?

JD- That’s right- more right than you’ll ever know. Most of what I learned about music, I learned from my parents. My dad, specifically, because he was so musical. That’s really who I developed my love of music from.

KMJ- I wanted to ask you about another project you’re working on- I hear you’re working on a bluegrass album with Rounder Records.

JD- It’s funny. I haven’t had a record out in three or four years and now I have three of them coming out within a four or five month period. It shows you I haven’t been sitting around at least. I’ve been recording all this new stuff. I’m really excited about this bluegrass project. You know, I sang bluegrass in a bluegrass group for six or seven years before I ever moved to Nashville. The group was called Special Edition. We had a blast doing it all those years and I developed a real love of bluegrass music, you know? I got the opportunity with Rounder to do a bluegrass album and I said, “Are you kidding me? Of course I want to do one!” We’ve brought in some great pickers into the studio. It was such a treasure just to not have any pressure- no pressure to make anything a hit. We wrote a few things for it and added a couple of old traditional songs. I’m just thrilled about it- I’m really really happy about how it turned out.

KMJ- How soon will your new bluegrass album be released?

JD- It’ll be sometime the spring of next year.

KMJ- What has it been like working with a label like Rounder Records?

JD- So far it’s been great. Everyone at Rounder has been very pleasant to work with and very helpful. They’ve played me some songs and offered me advice and it’s just been great- it really cannot be going any better.

KMJ- Your first job in Nashville was at the Gibson Guitar Factory. What was life for you like back in those days?

JD- (Laughter) Boy oh boy. When I first got hired there, it was actually through the bluegrass connection that I had believe it or not. I had a friend named Charlie that passed away recently and I met him singing through Special Edition. And Charlie got me a job there at Gibson. I went to work in the shipping and receiving department. I packed up guitars and sent them all over the world. It was quite interesting to see where those great instruments got shipped all over the world to.

KMJ- That’s the wrong end of working on a guitar for most people I’d imagine in Nashville, though…

JD- You got that right. Everybody would think it’s really interesting- and at first it is. But if you’re there to pursue music as a career, it’s the wrong side of the guitar, that’s for sure. But it’s a great place to work in the interim. They were really great to me. After working in shipping and receiving for about a year, they moved me over and I became an inspector. I had to inspect all the lumber that came in as it came in from the rough mill. I learned how to inspect guitars from the very beginning all the way to the very end of it.

KMJ- That had to give you a whole new respect for the instrument, I’d imagine.

JD- It really does. It’s kind of cool to have that in your back pocket and be able to look at an instrument and know whether it’s well-made or not. It’s pretty darn cool.

KMJ- What has Opry membership meant to you over the years?

JD- It’s been so great. It’s really the biggest thrills in my career- one of the biggest honors. I’ve been an Opry member since 93’. And I go play the Opry whenever I get the chance to. In fact, we’re playing there tonight. We’re headed over to the Ryman to do a couple of songs. I’ve always loved it. There’s so much history and so much tradition, it’s really a big family that I get to be a part of.

KMJ- As I was doing a little homework for questions for this interview, I discovered that you had a 2008 number one hit in Europe called “Long Gone Loner.” Tell me about that.

JD- That right there was a product of technology and today. It was really interesting. Through MySpace, Peter Dula contacted me and told me he was a big fan. So I checked his page, the same thing, to see he was legit. And he said he wanted to collaborate on a song. He’s made it to like eight European CMA Awards, he was definitely legit. So he emailed the tracks and outlined my parts and I loaded it up in my little Nashville studio and sang my part and sent it on back to him. Next thing I knew, he put it out there and it went all the way to number one. It was pretty darn cool.

KMJ- And I know you’ve started up a new little home project called Basement Tapes- what’s that about?

JD- We haven’t pursued that as much as much as we would like to eventually. But we loaded up a few songs that I thought people would like to hear- some different stuff. Not off-the-wall stuff, but some unfinished demos and guitar/vocal stuff. They’re some songs that I’ve written over the years that never got released. We load them up on MySpace occasionally. And people can go on there and download them whenever they want. It’s just a little something that I thought our fans would really like.

KMJ- Beyond the bluegrass album, what does the future hold for Joe Diffie?

JD- After we work doing our shows, and sprinkling in some bluegrass shows here and there, we have another album due for Rounder and at this point, it will probably be a more traditional country album. So, I’ve got that to look forward to. And we’ll keep touring and chasing my five-year-old girl around. That alone will keep me busy.

KMJ- Last question for you, what is country music to Joe Diffie?

JD- That question covers a wide spectrum of answers there. It’s been such a big part of my life from day one. I mentioned my dad being a huge country fan. I grew up listening to all of the great country artists through the years. Besides my family, I’ve derived more enjoyment and more emotions from my life in country music than anything else in my life.

Monday, August 22, 2016

New Music Video From The Time Jumpers- "I Miss You"

Ronnie Dunn Preps Tattooed Heart For Late October Release

Artist: Ronnie Dunn
Album: Tattooed Heart
Label: Big Machine Records
Release date: October 21

Ronnie Dunn has brought in a couple of familiar faces on his upcoming Big Machine Records release, Tattooed Heart. With Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts on board as the producer for most of the tracks, the project features guest vocals by friends Kix Brooks and Reba McEntire.

“I had a lot of fun making this album. Jay and I really clicked in the studio and we were both really proud of the final product,” said Dunn. “I branched out of my comfort zone while writing and listening to a ton of music. At the suggestion of my daughter, I even recorded an Ariana Grande song. Ironically, it became the title of the album.”

The lead single from the album, “Damn Drunk,” was released just over two weeks ago. It features vocals from his longtime Brooks & Dunn partner Brooks and was written by Liz Hengber, Alex Kline and Ben Stennis. “This is one of those tunes that I immediately gravitated to,” Dunn said at the time of the release. “I listened to hundreds of songs while writing a few myself. Jay and I took it into the studio and it went to another level. Witnessing a song do that is magic. It is one of the most gratifying dynamics of music for me. Thanks to Kix, my long time compadre in crime, for joining in on the fun.”

Track List and Songwriting Credits for Tattooed Heart

1. “Ain’t No Trucks in Texas” (Tony Martin, Wendell Mobley, Neil Thrasher)
2. “Damn Drunk” with Kix Brooks (Liz Hengber, Alex Kline, Ben Stennis)
3. “I Worship the Woman You Walked On” (Bob DiPiero, Mitzi Dawn Jenkins, Tony Mullins)
4. “That’s Why They Make Jack Daniels” (Jim Collins, Tom Hambridge, Tony Martin)
5. “I Put That There” (Deric Ruttan, Jonathan Singleton)
6. “Young Buck” (Jaren Johnston, Jeremy Stover)
7. “I Wanna Love Like That Again” (Ronnie Dunn)
8. “Still Feels Like Mexico” featuring Reba McEntire (Tommy Lee James, Jon Randall)
9. “Tattooed Heart” (Antonio Dixon, Kenneth Edmonds, Sean Forman, Ariana Grande, Matt Squire, Leon Thomas, Khristopher Van Riddick Tynes)
10. “This Old Heart” (Jim Beavers, Jonathan Singleton)
12. “Only Broken Heart in San Antone” (Steve Bogard, Jeff Stevens)
13. “She Don’t Honky Tonk No More” (Ronnie Dunn, Nikki Fernandez)

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Celluloid Country - Gene Autry in Ride Ranger Ride

Movie title: Ride Ranger Ride
Starring: Gene Autry
Release date: 1936

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. Our fifth feature stars the legendary Gene Autry as a Texas Ranger working undercover to protect an Army wagon train full of ammunition and supplies from Indian attack.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Marc Broussard Combines Charity & Music Passions With Upcoming Save Our Soul II Album

Artist: Marc Broussard
Album: Save Our Soul II: Sings the Songs of the 50's and 60's
Label: G-Man Records
Release date: Sept. 30, 2016

Singer Marc Broussard of Carencro, LA has combined his love of his community and his love of the music that influenced his father and he growing up. His upcoming album titled Save Our Soul II: Marc Broussard Sings the Songs of the 50's and 60's will come out on September 30 and half of the proceeds of the album will go back to charity.

"Those moments have led me to believe I am doing what I'm supposed to be doing in life," Broussard said. "I'm going to continue to pursue these promptings, wherever they may come from. I'm going to continue to take my cues from my soul, from my gut. They've led me this far and have given me strong indications that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing. I feel very, very excited about what the future holds."

That future includes extensive work with his Save Our Soul Foundation, Broussard's own nonprofit organization. The SOS Foundation will concentrate on local homelessness and work with an Oschner Hospital program that offers intense training to international pediatric cardiologists and heart surgeons who return to their home country to save children.

SOS, which will have a local board of directors that includes City Parish councilman Kenneth Boudreaux, will raise money through donations, concerts, VIP events and record sales.

"I have this fan base, every time I ask them to buy records, they buy records," said Broussard. "Every time I ask them to buy tickets, they buy tickets.

"Now if I tell them 100 percent of the proceeds are going to help homeless folks here locally, as well as help City of Refuge and groups like them expand their business model and achieve their goals, my fans are going to pick those records up, every time they see them. They're going to give them out as Christmas presents, birthday presents and office favors. I fully believe that."

SOS was inspired by City of Refuge, an Atlanta-based nonprofit that hired Broussard two years ago to perform for their Christmas fundraiser. Located in an area called The Bluff, which has one of the highest crime rates and homeless populations in Georgia, the organization helps residents with food, clothing, shelter, job training and placement, housing, healthcare and education.

The City operates 180 Kitchen, which feeds the hungry and fuels a Culinary Arts School that trains students in a culinary career. A catering program provides income for the students and covers the kitchen's expenses.

Save Our Soul II: Marc Broussard Sings the Songs of the 50's and 60's track listing:
Cry To Me - Solomon Burke
Do Right Woman, Do Right Man - Aretha Franklin
Baby Workout - Jackie Wilson
Twistin’ The Night Away - Sam Cooke
These Arms Of Mine (Feat. Huey Lewis) - Otis Redding
What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted - Jimmy Ruffin
I Was Made To Love Her - Stevie Wonder
In The Midnight Hour (Feat. J.J. Grey) - Wilson Pickett
Hold On, I'm Coming - Sam & Dave
It's Your Thing - Isley Brothers
Fool For Your Love - Original
Cry to Me (acoustic feat. Ted Broussard) - Solomon Burke
Sunday Kind of Love - Etta James
Every Tear - David Egan

New Music Video From John Anderson (feat. Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road) - "Seminole Wind"