This was surprisingly fun to assemble, and I think it’s going to work out well this year (though I may not say the same thing when new album releases start picking up steam). Anyway, welcome to the Sunday Morning Paper, a news weekly roundup feature in which I share, quote from, and link back to any newsworthy stories that happened within the country music industry over the past week. Also included is somewhat of a ‘Recommended Reading’ section, for pieces that interest me and might interest you. If there’s anything I’ve missed, please let me know.
On the Horizon:
New album releases:
Richard Haswell – With the Changing Light
Steve Earle & the Dukes – J.T. (digital release only)
Morgan Wallen – Dangerous: The Double Album
– Will be covered in a full-length review
Aaron Watson – American Soul (digital release only)
– Will be covered in a full-length review
Barry Gibb – Greenfields: The Gibb Brothers Songbook, Vol. 1
The Divorcees – Drop of Blood – Will likely be featured in an eventual album review roundup
Silas J. Dirge – The Poor Devil
Scott MacKay – Stupid Cupid
Kerri Watt – Neptune’s Daughter
Devin Dawson – Pink Slip (EP)
Jake Hoot – Love Out of Time (EP)
Impacting at country radio:
- Chris Young & Kane Brown – “Famous Friends” (Jan. 4)
- Russell Dickerson – “Home Sweet” (Jan. 11)
- Taylor Swift – “no body no crime” (feat. HAIM) (Jan. 11)
Just the Facts, Jack
- Loretta Lynn has announced a new album, Still Woman Enough, set for release on March 19. Produced by Patsy Lynn Russell and John Carter Cash at the Cash Cabin Studio in Hendersonville, Tennessee, the icon’s fourth project for Legacy Recordings features a host of guest artists including Reba McEntire, Carrie Underwood, Margo Price and Tanya Tucker. The album will include new recordings of both original Lynn compositions and her takes on certain traditional standards. (Music Row Magazine)
- Michaela Anne is working on a new project
- Florida Georgia Line members Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley announced on social media that they will be releasing their own individual music sometime soon. Their newest album, Life Rolls On, is still slated for release next month, Feb. 12. I won’t venture into the gossip column with this one, though it is interesting to note how this move comes after Hubbard and Kelley’s public spat last year, over the results of the 2020 presidential election. A story to follow? At any rate, the announcement was accompanied by a 10-minute video, in which Kelley and Hubbard announced they will still be making music as Florida Georgia Line, and that Kelley is set to release his solo album sometime this summer. (Music Row)
- In case you missed it, Sturgill Simpson and his Hillbilly Avengers played “Life of Sin” on The Tonight Show Monday, Jan. 4. That is, of course, the Cuttin’ Grass version, not the Metamodern Sounds in Country Music one.
- In somewhat-related-to-country-music news, the 2021 Grammy Awards have been pushed back from their original date, Jan. 31, to March 14, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. (HITS Daily Double)
- New music is on its way from Maddie & Tae, apparently.
- “Demos are done on 20 new songs” – Cody Jinks, on Twitter. Let’s not forget that he’s also promised an eventual Lefty Frizzell tribute album, a rock EP, an acoustic project, and another live album. I’m convinced the man doesn’t sleep.
- Songwriter Jamie O’ Hara, known for writing hits such as “50,000 Names,” the Judds’ “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Old Days),” Gary Allan’s “Man to Man,” and Ronnie McDowell’s “Older Women,” among others, and for being one half of The O’Kanes, has died from a battle with an aggressive cancer. News of his diagnosis came earlier this week. (Music Row & The Boot)
- “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys” songwriter Ed Bruce has died of natural causes. (Music Row)
- “Lookin’ for Love” singer Johnny Lee has announced a new album, Everything’s Gonna Be Alright, set for release Feb. 12. The title track is available now. (Music Row)
- Marty Stuart has a new music video for “I’ve Been Around,” as part of the Johnny Cash Forever Words expanded edition.
- Does this really count as news? During NBC’s New Year’s Eve special, Blake Shelton debuted a new single, “Minimum Wage,” in which he, a man with a net worth of $100 million, sang a song some deemed insensitive (for the lyric, “your love could make a man feel rich on minimum wage”), at a time when many have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Sure, there’s backlash on Twitter, I suppose, but this ain’t journalism, and I’m only including it here because it sparked a discussion. (Billboard)
Don’t Quote Me On This …
“The first time I ever heard Tony [Rice] sing ‘Shadows,’ I cried like a baby. It was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever heard. Since then, there has rarely been a time I’ve heard him do the song that it didn’t touch me with that same force. He was the special kind of artist that had a way to reach beyond the surface layer of notes and chords and instead touch the soul. His voice and guitar have been one of the most meaningful and constant musical soundtracks throughout my life and countless others’. How lucky we have been because of it.” – Bluegrass aficionado and Musical Divide favorite Sierra Hull, in a moving essay dedicated to the late Tony Rice. (No Depression)
“Recording the album ‘wasn’t cathartic as much as it was therapeutic … I made the record because I needed to.’ ” – Steve Earle, on the makings of J.T., dedicated to his son, Justin Townes Earle, who died last August from an accidental drug overdose. For the record, it’s a record I want to promote but can’t properly cover, given that I only took a deep-dive into the younger Earle’s discography after his passing. It comes highly recommended, though, as does the piece. (The New York Times)
Country music chart expert and WYRK radio DJ Chris Owen (fun fact: WYRK is my Buffalo, New York hometown radio station) recently sat down with Taste of Country’s Billy Dukes for his Country Music Media Podcast, explaining why good songs underperformed at radio. (Listen here)
“I walk over to Jamey Johnson … and we started chatting. I said, ‘Man, I thought about you. Have you talked to Bill Anderson? A couple weeks ago at the BMI Awards, my wife and I were sitting there, and on the screens they will run pictures of past BMI Awards … you’ll have lots of black and white pictures. You would have Kitty Wells (standing beside) two people in suits. Being the complete country music nerd I am, I told my wife that I would love to know who all the people are in those old pictures. ‘Who are the suits? I wish we were sitting close to Bill Anderson. He’s the only one in this room who could tell us who all of the people in that picture are.
Jamey Johnson: “There’s your idea, Hoss. Think that’s something, you shoulda’ seen it in color.” – Songwriter Lee Thomas Miller, explaining how Jamey Johnson’s 2008 hit “In Color” came to be, which is a delightfully unexpected surprise and treat to read about in 2021. (The Tennessean)
“Strong merch sales have allowed successful musicians to give back, even during a period when their main source of income – touring – has all but dried up.” – A short, but important blurb to consider, in a piece about pop music that affects the entire music industry in general. Tough times, I know, but always remember that if you’re going to buy something from your favorite artists to buy it from them directly, through their website. You’re helping put money back directly into their pockets. (The New York Times)
In just other cool, related news, Charley Crockett has released a cover of Billy Swan’s “I Can Help.” And now, a shameless promotion for my own piece on “I Can Help,” written as part of my 2019 Pop Goes The Country series. (American Songwriter)
“There are moments when I just feel really, really tired. But I’ve never been able to see any other life or career or passion for myself. I’ve known since I was a small child that this was what I wanted to do. It’s been a fun, horrifying, scary journey, but I can’t see doing anything else. Maybe single-mindedness is why I’ve stuck with it for so long.” – Rissi Palmer, in an interview with Walter Magazine about creating her own success in the same country music genre that shunned her before. Worth a read, for sure. (Walter Magazine)
“I wrote American Soul two years ago, before the pandemic and everything that’s going on right now in politics and such … We are going to go through hard times, but you can’t hold down the American soul.” – Aaron Watson, on his latest album. Expect a review to come sometime this week here. (People)
Whew, that wasn’t too painful. Let me know what you did and didn’t like about this first edition, and if there’s anything you feel that I’ve missed, let me know!