The Sunday Morning Paper: And the ACM Award Goes to … (Feb. 28, 2021)

The Sunday Morning Paper is a weekly feature where I share news that’s occurred within the country music industry over the past week and quote from any further pieces that interest me, and may interest you. Click on the hyperlinks provided at the end of each blurb to find out more.

Not much to report this week again, folks, and if weren’t for the ACM nominations announcement this past Friday, this post, as the kids say, “could have been an email.” But if you just need a nice, relaxing read for your Sunday morning, I’ve got you covered. Anyway, onward!

On the Horizon

New album releases:

Note: I had Katy Kirby’s Cool Dry Place noted as a Feb. 26 release when it was actually released last week. I apologize for the error.

Feb. 26

  • David Huckfelt – Room Enough, Time Enough
  • Olivia Ellen Lloyd – Loose Cannon
  • Ross Cooper – Chasing Old Highs
  • Lydia Luce – Dark River
  • Mando Saenz – All My Shame
  • Hailey Whitters – Living The Dream (Deluxe)
  • Ian Munsick – Coyote Cry
  • Nate Frederick – Different Shade of Blue
  • Willie Nelson – That’s Life
  • Sara Petite – Rare Bird
  • Dale Watson – The Memphians
  • Clint Roberts – Rose Songs
  • Sean Della Croce – Illuminations
  • Addison Johnson – Dark Side of the Mountain
  • Charley Crockett – 10 for Slim: Charley Crockett Sings James Hand

March 5

  • Ottoman Turks – Turks II
  • Charles Ellsworth – Honeysuckle Summer
  • Jesse Brewster – The Lonely Pines
  • Kristian Montgomery – Prince of Poverty
  • Johnny Ironsides – Murder Mountain
  • An American Forrest – Gleaner’s Joy
  • Brandy Clark – Your Life is a Record (Deluxe)

Impacting country radio:

March 1

  • Brett Eldredge, “Good Day”
  • Track45, “Met Me Now”

Review log:

New releases are looking pretty bare right now, folks. I still have Mac Leaphart’s Music City Joke in my backlog, and have added Bobby Dove’s Hopeless Romantic and Will Overman’s The Winemaker’s Daughter to it. Whether that will comprise another album review roundup this week or not is yet to be determined. I might knock out a certain collaboration post I have in the works, and I’m also working on something huge – the biggest post I think I’ve ever worked on, actually. Stay tuned!

Just the Facts, Jack

The 56th Academy of Country Music Awards will air Sunday, April 18, broadcast from Nashville, Tennessee, on CBS and Paramount+

The Academy of Country Music announced its nominees for the 56th Academy of Country Music Awards on Friday, Feb. 26. They are as follows:

Entertainer of the Year

  • Luke Bryan
  • Eric Church
  • Luke Combs
  • Thomas Rhett
  • Chris Stapleton

Male Artist of the Year

  • Dierks Bentley
  • Eric Church
  • Luke Combs
  • Thomas Rhett
  • Chris Stapleton

Female Artist of the Year

  • Kelsea Ballerini
  • Miranda Lambert
  • Ashley McBryde
  • Maren Morris
  • Carly Pearce

Duo of the Year

  • Brooks & Dunn
  • Brothers Osborne
  • Dan + Shay
  • Florida Georgia Line
  • Maddie & Tae

Group of the Year

  • The Cadillac Three
  • The Highwomen
  • Lady A
  • Little Big Town
  • Old Dominion

New Female Artist of the Year

  • Ingrid Andress
  • Tenille Arts
  • Gabby Barrett
  • Mickey Guyton
  • Caylee Hammack

New Male Artist of the Year

  • Jimmie Allen
  • Travis Denning
  • Cody Johnson
  • Parker McCollum

Album of the Year

  • Luke Bryan, Born Here, Live Here, Die Here (produced by Jeff Stevens and Jody Stevens)
  • Kane Brown, Mixtape Vol. 1 (produced by Andrew Goldstein, Charlie Handsome, Dann Huff, and Lindsay Rimes)
  • Ashley McBryde, Never Will (produced by Jay Joyce)
  • Brothers Osborne, Skeletons (produced by Jay Joyce)
  • Chris Stapleton, Starting Over (produced by Chris Stapleton and Dave Cobb)

Single Record of the Year

  • “Bluebird” – Miranda Lambert (produced by Jay Joyce)
  • “I Hope” – Gabby Barrett (produced by Ross Copperman and Zach Kale)
  • “I Hope You’re Happy Now” – Carly Pearce and Lee Brice (produced by busbee)
  • “More Hearts Than Mine” – Ingrid Andress (produced by Ingrid Andress and Sam Ellis)
  • “The Bones” – Maren Morris (produced by Greg Kurstin)

Song of the Year

  • “Bluebird” – Miranda Lambert (written by Luke Dick, Natalie Hemby, and Miranda Lambert)
  • “The Bones” – Maren Morris (written by Maren Morris, Jimmy Robbins, and Laura Veltz)
  • “One Night Standards” – Ashley McBryde (written by Nicolette Hayford, Shane McAnally, and Ashley McBryde)
  • “Some People Do” – Old Dominion (written by Jesse Frasure, Shane McAnally, Matt Ramsey, and Thomas Rhett)
  • “Starting Over” – Chris Stapleton (written by Mike Henderson and Chris Stapleton)

Video of the Year

  • “Better Than We Found It” – Maren Morris (produced by Sarah Kunin and Jennifer Pepke; directed by Gabrielle Woodland)
  • “Bluebird” – Miranda Lambert (produced by Heather Levenstone; directed by Trey Fanjoy)
  • “Gone” – Dierks Bentley (produced by David Garcia; directed by Wes Edwards, Travis Nicholson, Running Bear, and Sam Siske; animated by Skylar Wilson)
  • “Hallelujah” – Carrie Underwood and John Legend (produced by Greg Wells; directed by Randee St. Nicholas)
  • “Worldwide Beautiful” – Kane Brown (produced by Christen Pinkston; directed by Alex Alvga)

Music Event of the Year

  • “Be a Light” – Thomas Rhett featuring Reba McEntire, Hillary Scott, Chris Tomlin, and Keith Urban
  • “Does to Me” – Luke Combs featuring Eric Church
  • “I Hope You’re Happy Now” – Carly Pearce and Lee Brice
  • “Nobody But You” – Blake Shelton featuring Gwen Stefani
  • “One Beer” – HARDY featuring Lauren Alaina and Devin Dawson
  • “One Too Many” – Keith Urban and P!nk

Songwriter of the Year

  • Ashley Gorley
  • Hillary Lindsey
  • Shane McAnally
  • Josh Osborne

Breaking character to compose some thoughts (but not predictions), so skip ahead if you’re not interested: Anyway, Entertainer of the Year is an oddball category, given that literally no one entertained anyone last year. Even still, Thomas Rhett again? And no Carrie Underwood? Really? Actually, I’m also shocked not to see Underwood’s name in the Female Artist of the Year category, as it marks the first time she hasn’t been nominated since her career began. Now, granted, I’m happy we’re at a point in history where we can name more than five deserving female artists for the category (we, the fans, always could, of course), but it’s … odd. More bonkers is the surprise inclusion for the Cadillac Three in the group category, and Brooks & Dunn once again in the duo category – by default, I guess? Elsewhere, New Female Artist of the Year provides a super solid list, though Mickey Guyton was also nominated for this … in 2016. That’s on the industry, not her. I’m pretty sure none of those dudes are actually that “new” for New Male Artist of the Year, and Luke Bryan and Kane Brown’s most recent albums alongside otherwise stellar choices in Ashley McBryde, Brothers Osborne, and Chris Stapleton is … interesting. There isn’t much to say otherwise, other than it’s a bit of a mixed bag overall. What do you think, though?

Oh Boy Records, founded by John Prine – who died last year from COVID-19 – and based in Nashville, plans to celebrate its 40th year of operations with a series of new projects, including a centerpiece documentary about the label’s origin and history. Prine appears in the trailer, talking about how he came up with the name, because he remembers everything. The film will appear as a series of mini-films on the label’s YouTube channel. (Pitchfork)

Willie Nelson will release a new book on June 29, called Letters to America, detailing to his readers what it means to be a U.S. citizen. According to Nelson, it’s a reminder of the “endless promise and continious obligations of all Americans – to themselves, to one another, and to their nation – to stand with unity, resolve, and faith.” (Rolling Stone)

New music is on its way from Blackberry Smoke (You Hear Georgia, to be released May 28 – American Songwriter), Travis Tritt (Set in Stone, to be released May 7 – Music Row), Triston Marez (self-titled, to be released April 16 – Country Underdog), Ronnie Milsap (A Better Word for Love, to be released April 30 – Music Row), and Charlie Marie (Ramble On, to be released May 7 – Charlie Marie website).

The Love Junkies, comprised of Lori McKenna, Liz Rose and Hillary Lindsey, debuted a new program called Junkies Radio for you Apple Music Country users this past Friday. Expect to hear stories about the songs they’ve written and the artists they’ve collaborated with – from Miranda Lambert to Faith Hill, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, and beyond. Heck yeah.

In unfortunate news, Trisha Yearwood has tested positive for COVID-19. Garth Brooks, however, has tested negative. (Billboard)

Now, Don’t Quote Me, But Maybe You’ll Enjoy These Bits and Pieces

“In a 1994 commentary for Billboard, [Dr. Cleve] Francis gave a brief history of the African-American role in developing country music, including slaves bringing the banjo to America and the contribution of such artists as DeFord Bailey, Stoney Edwards and O.B. McClinton, but he also addressed the fact that the way some country acts, and often the genre, tied its marketing efforts with Confederate imagery was hugely problematic. ‘It didn’t help when some of country’s biggest stars aligned themselves with staunch segregationists and campaigned against civil rights for Blacks,’ he wrote. ‘For many African-Americans, country music became the symbol of oppression because of its perceived association with the racism of Southern whites.” – Dr. Cleve Francis, who had a short-lived career as a country artist in the early ‘90s before returning to medicine, explaining the opposition he and other Black country artists faced when trying to make it in Nashville, in a piece that sees other artists from the time – including Frankie Staton and Valierie Ellis, among others – sharing their own stories. (Billboard, by Melinda Newman)

“I tell you, I started off really when I was a teenager. I had a – and I still have it – a big scar on my forehead from when I ran through a glass door when I was little. And I was always self-conscious, so when I started singing in high school it kinda bothered me. It was bigger and bolder then; I guess it’s kinda worn down over the years. I first started wearing a hat when I was about 17, my old brown cowboy hat. That’s the hat I wore to Nashville when I came.” – Alan Jackson, in a fashion interview with GQ that I promise is far more interesting than I just made it sound, in which he reveals his reasons for always wearing a cowboy hat. His second reason: to represent country music. (GQ, by Nick Marino)

“It’s the first song that turned me onto songwriting. It’s been a constant soundtrack in my life, from that first time as a young girl, to riding around with my friends in my high school truck, to nudging me along on that first 9 hour drive to Nashville to chase country music. It’s always made me feel like no matter where I was comin’ from, I could take on anything this world had to offer.” – Hailey Whitters, on the impact that the Chicks’ “Wide Open Spaces” had on her decision to pursue a country music career. (Wide Open Country, by Bobbie Jean Sawyer)

“I got to pick what I thought were my favorite 10 songs of his [James Hand] that he ever recorded. By doing that, and then learning how to sing his songs and channel him, it was a chance to become a better singer, a better songwriter, by interpreting his songs … Whenever you do stuff like that, whether it’s James Hand, or anybody you look up, you can come closer to that. That’s how you become better.” – Charley Crockett, in an interview with Forbes about his new James Hand-inspired surprise album, channeling country greats, his release and marketing process, and more. It’s a cool read. (Forbes, by Annie Reuter)

Warning – I’ve chosen only to quote a few lighter sentences, but be warned that the following article linked contains sensitive material and a graphic depiction of a suicide attempt:

“I had friends and I was popular, but I didn’t have friends and I was a weirdo. It just depended on the day. And when you spend your whole life running from that and trying to be this, again, this superhero, this guy in a cape, it’s like … how many times can you do that? And then you forget about the person underneath all that. You fall out of love with yourself.” – Chase Bryant, who attained moderate chart success in the 2010s, describing how fame and success led him down a dark path and eventual suicide attempt. A heavy read, but a powerful one, too. (People, by Tricia Despres)

Anything else I might have missed? Let me know!

One thought on “The Sunday Morning Paper: And the ACM Award Goes to … (Feb. 28, 2021)

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