All Roads Lead to [still-living country music legend*] Willie Nelson: "In a time when America is more divided than ever, Nelson could be the one thing that everybody agrees on." [more inside]
Vernon Dalhart (1881-1948), born Marion Try Slaughter, was the first star of country music. He sold so many records in the early 1920s he owned two Cadillacs. Gather round and have a listen to some of Vernon Dalhart's greatest hits. [more inside]
what IS country music? Tensions have been brewing and there’s been no shortage of public feuding among the genre’s A-list. As country fights to figure out what it should look and sound like, its biggest stars are airing some very honest (and sometimes harsh) opinions. Here’s a timeline of country’s wild, crazy, and sometimes mud-slinging year. [more inside]
In 1981, the South Bank Show followed Elvis Costello to Nashville for the making of his latest album. The result: "The Making Of Almost Blue" [more inside]
Y'all, consisting of Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer and James Dean Jay Byrd, first surfaced in New York city in 1992, touting themselves as the first openly gay country music act. That same year, they preformed Y'all's First Xmas Xtravagaza: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8. [more inside]
R.I.P. for the original ‘Jewish Hillbilly,’ Zeke Manners, died this date in 2000, who was buried – at his request – wearing “a baseball cap celebrating the Spice Girls, red suspenders and purple glasses from a 99-cent store. A cigar was in his pocket.” [NYT obituary] [more inside]
Jailangaru Pakarnu was the first song to hit the popular music charts sung in an Australian Aboriginal language, released by Warumpi Band in 1983. [more inside]
One Nation Under Elvis
My own conversion to country music came all of a sudden in 1990, around another campfire, also in Nevada. The great Western Shoshone anti-nuclear and land-rights activist Bill Rosse, a decorated World War II vet and former farm manager, unpacked his guitar and sang Hank Williams and traditional songs for hours. I was enchanted as much by the irreverent rancor of some of the songs as by the pure blue yearning of others. I’d had no idea such coolness, wit, and poetry was lurking in this stuff I was taught to scorn before I’d met it.[more inside]
Five days ago, young Chicago lounge musician Steve Grand released his first single with no agent, no label: All American Boy. Free download (and donations) here. Although his Facebook Page is only 6 days old, he is approaching 20,000 subscribers. He writes: I fought with who I was for most of my life. In every way a young person can fight with himself. But starting today... I'm laying it out there. I'm done playing it safe… This is the story I've been aching to tell… it is what I hold dearest to me. Steve Grand on Twitter.
This is Jimmy Riddle and Jackie Phelps eefin and hambonin. It's not much, but not a single gallon jug was harmed during this post.
Corb Lund is a classically trained jazz musician who was a founding member of Canadian metal legends The Smalls. For the past seventeen years, though, as the centrepiece of Corb Lund and the Hurtin' Albertans, he has been cranking out alt-country records that have garnered praise from well outside usual country music circles. His biggest hit is almost certainly the comedic Truck Got Stuck. His most recent single however is the sombre peak-oil apocalypse tune Gettin' Down on the Mountain. Corb also maintains maintains an excellent songwriting blog that he describes as 30% guitar lesson: "What That Song Means Now."
Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel - An excellent 90 minute BBC documentary, the story of the legendary country rock pioneer as told by contemporary musicians, family, and friends. It includes rare performance footage. (Via Dangerous Minds) [more inside]
Ray Wylie Hubbard hosts Roots and Branches weekly live from Tavern In The Gruene for New Braunfels, Texas radio station KNBT 92.1 FM. Two hours of music and interviews with established and up and coming Americana artists.
Kitty Wells, a pioneer of women in country music died today at the age of 92. Her first big hit, It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels, was a woman's reply to the Hank Thompson song, Wild Side of Life. [more inside]
American Country Music legend Bobby Bare (76) will take part in the Norwegian finals in the Eurovision Song Contest. [more inside]
"Joy is the antithesis of sneering cynicism . . . I’ve come to love country in part because it’s such a potent vessel for expressing joy."
Nashville or Bust is a project where the Onion A.V. Club's Nathan Rabin (previously), who has predominantly listened to hip-hop in the past, spent a year listening to country music. The series proper (apart from a planned road trip in February) ended yesterday with a thoughtful essay about Charley Pride. Along the way the author wrote about Johnny Cash's "Christianity . . . of the deeply spiritual, non-commercial, almost creepily intimate variety," discovered that Willie Nelson "is the coolest motherfucker on the planet," had a hard time imagining Merle Haggard living on a houseboat, decided Garth Brooks is not history's greatest monster, and found the Dixie Chicks to be "way more badass than Toby Keith."
Do you feel overwhelmed trying to understand the driving forces behind our economic collapse. When listening to the latest Planet Money podcast, do you find yourself yearning for something a bit more toe-tappin'? Meet Merle Hazard. "He is the first and only country singer to write about mortgage-backed securities, derivatives, and physics."
Jimmy Dean (Aug. 28, 1928 - June 13, 2010) is best known to Mefites for his brand of sausage, although he sold the company in the '80s, and was dropped as its spokesman in 2003; its current owner is Sara Lee*. But his musical legacy is sealed by his 'country rap*' classic "Big Bad John" (performed live in 2008), often imitated, but never parodied better than with "Big Bruce"** (info). But to me, he was the guy with the variety show where he spent several minutes every week bantering with the muppet Rowlf****. Here's Jimmy in Esquire Magazine's "What I've Learned". His final resting place is music-themed, NOT sausage themed. "Here lies one hell of a man." [more inside]
The Middle Tennessee region, including Nashville, is experiencing extensive flooding after weekend storms dropped a record-breaking 13-15 inches of rain over the weekend. [more inside]
A BBC Documentary on Hank Williams ( incomplete) 1 2 4 5, The History Of Country Music 1 2 3 4 [more inside]
Perhaps the greatest country baritone since George Jones is confined to a wheelchair by muscular dystrophy and has a day job at a nuclear power plant. [more inside]
Alice Randall is best known, perhaps, for her novel The Wind Done Gone, a parody of Gone With the Wind that tackles the earlier book's treatment of race. But Randall, a Vanderbilt professor and Harvard graduate, isn't just a novelist: she's a country music songwriter, the first black woman to have a No. 1 song on the country music charts. [more inside]
"The Reinstate Hank campaign calls for the remittal of Opry star, and country music legend, Hank Williams." [more inside]
What began as a gospel song became Archie Campbell's signature song on Hee Haw, with the help of Gordie Tapp and some surprise celebrity guests.
Sometimes, when you've had your fill of people basking in the golden light of their self-righteous indignation, you just wanna hear a song about somebody telling those holier-than-thou-ers where to get off. Something like, say, Harper Valley PTA. [more inside]
It's 3 a.m., on some date in 1975, the white line is wavering in front of your amphetamine bleached eyes, your rig is barreling through the high plains north of nowhere and you won't see your woman for three more days, what 8-track do you need to get you through the night? Why, Country Porn, of course.
Linked page is mostly safe for work, but NSFW audio files, and some text [more inside]
Linked page is mostly safe for work, but NSFW audio files, and some text [more inside]
Gram Parsons fans take note - there's a recent new biography and a release of 90 minutes of vintage Flying Burrito Brothers. Some rare footage has also recently surfaced online: performing with FBB and duets with Emmylou Harris 1, 2, 3. Other items of note: Emmylou talks about Gram in 2000; British biographical sketch; Keith Richards on Gram in Rolling Stone; an interview with Manuel, the designer of the famous Nudie suit. [more inside]
El Paso. The lovely ballad of love and murder on the Mexican border won the very first Grammy for Country & Western for Marty Robbins in 1960. But for some it will never feel complete without Steve Martin's video, in which he recreates the lyrics with some non-union actors. [more inside]
The Delmore Brothers, hailing from north Alabama and active from 1926 to 1952, were an early country and western duo that married effortlessly relaxed (but very polished) harmonies with soulful country-boogie blues. Bob Dylan said of them: "The Delmore Brothers, God, I really loved them! I think they've influenced every harmony I've ever tried to sing." They're sure worth some listens, y'all.
For lovers of old-time, mountain banjo styles and songs, Roscoe Holcomb and Dock Boggs are revered figures. To many, however, plucker and singer David Akeman remains uncelebrated or unknown, even by his stage name of Stringbean. Is it because he was for a time actually famous as a country music showbiz staple, and therefore lacks folk cred? Or maybe the purists just can't get with those low-hanging pants the man was known for, his original hillbilly homeboy styling? Or was it cause on any given tune his left hand would likely be off the neck of the banjo more than on it? Whatever the reason, it's time folks took a new look at Stringbean. After all, the lines between folk and commercial styles have always been blurry in American music. Let's hear it for Stringbeeeeeeeaaan! [more inside]
Do you have a hard time relating to popular country music? Hank III is doing his best to play country music the way he thinks it should be. Not everyone likes him, but he drives some folks wild. [more inside]
Apparently the lead singer from Tool has had sex with many of the luminaries of Country Music. [more inside]
For your consideration, "Six White horses" [youtube] As footnote to the events of November 22, 1963 . April 4, 1968 . June 5, 1968. A collection of photos and a recording of Tommy Cash's "Six White Horses" , which was writen by Larry Murray.
The DeZurik Sisters committed only six songs to record during their recording career, but were the first women stars of the Grand Ole Opry and the National Barn Dance. Now WFMU has 32 tracks of theirs from their early appearance as The Cackle Sisters on the Purina Checkerboard Squares Radio Show. Download away and hear the yodeling that swept the nation in the early 40s.
A song about bringing the soldiers home from Iraq. Defies commentary. YouTubers don't seem to get the joke. The Garance has background details.
Wayward country son Jimmy Dale Gilmore's essay via NPR A little post-feast reflection. Real/WMP audio and text.
Smart marketing or shameless pandering? Country music star Darryl Worley played to the largely conservative county music fanbase (and post-9/11 ultra-patriotic sentiment prevalent in the country at the time) in 2003 with his hit Have You Forgotten which strongly supported the impending war in Iraq. Today, with support for the war in Iraq dwindling, Worley has now released, “I Just Came Back”, which depicts a more ”somber light on (the) war”.
You can't make this stuff up: Rumsfeld announces that the Bush administration is planning to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks with an "America Supports You freedom walk" from the Pentagon saluting the troops deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom, followed by a show by "country music superstar" Clint Black at the National Mall. (Not to imply that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with 9/11 or anything...)
goodbye joe, me gotta go, me oh my oh. 01/01/53 the true gran-daddy of white rock and roll is found dead in the back seat of a caddy.
Slim Dusty - Australian country music icon - passes on. You know him - "There's nothing so lonesome, morbid or drear, than to stand in the bar of the pub with no beer."
Today is the 30th anniversary of the death of Gram Parsons (famous, of course, for the corpse's subsequent adventures). Read a long bio starting here, a small interview, or page through one of his notebooks and the guestbook that sits in his last hotel room.
The man in black is no more. Johnny Cash passes away from diabetes complications early this morning.
Laugh as much as you like: I still think there's a certain intensely dramatic and lyrical redneck technique behind these country music song titles. I like a song title that says everything upfront. It's not as easy as you think, either. [Via Bifurcated Rivets]
I'm in the middle of a book called Will you miss me when I'm gone?, which chronicles the history of the famous Carter Family, and includes some incredibly charming descriptions of June Carter (later the wife of Johnny Cash; the development of her musical voice, her mountain-tinted wit, and her onstage goofball comedy. Unfortunately, June Carter Cash died yesterday.
Dixie Chicks Pulled from Air After Bashing Bush Dude, these Texas people didn't find criticism of the president unpatriotic when Bill Clinton was president. They thought it was a sacred duty...Apparently country stations in Texas and elsewhere are pulling Dixie Chicks albums because their lead singer, while on an overseas tour, criticized Bush, saying she was ashamed to be from the state as him. People who want to criticize the critics of the critical comments are supporting the Chicks by buying their albums and requesting their songs. I never thought I'd buy a Dixie Chicks album, but that's what I'm going to do tonight, and I'm paying full price!
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