The Sunday Morning Paper: Hey Old Friend, Where’ve You Been? (May 9, 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.

This is one of those weeks light on actual news and heavy on good quotable pieces, which have provided some of my favorite weeks for this series so far. Anyway, onward!

On the Horizon

New album releases:

May 7

  • Ted Russell Kamp – Solitaire
  • Charlie Marie – Ramble On
  • Travis Tritt – Set in Stone
  • Miranda Lambert, Jack Ingram, and Jon Randall – The Marfa Tapes
  • Cody Jinks – Unplugged & Behind the Music: Adobe Sessions
  • Kenny Chesney – Here and Now (Deluxe)
  • Sarah Jarosz – Blue Heron Suite
  • American Aquarium – Slappers, Bangers, & Certified Twangers: Vol. 1
  • Laura Bell Bundy – Women of Tomorrow
  • The Sweet Lillies – Common Ground
  • Tejon Street Corner Thieves – Stolen Goods
  • Grace Pettis – Working Woman

May 9

  • Jesse Keith Whitley – Breakin’ Ground

May 14

  • Soo Line Lions – Soo Line Lions
  • The Steel Woods – All of Your Stones
  • Dillon Carmichael – Hot Beer (EP)
  • LeAnn Rimes – God’s Work
  • Alan Jackson – Where Have You Gone

Impacting country radio:

May 10

  • Caroline Jones, “Come On In (But Don’t Make Yourself Comfortable)”
  • Jackson Michelson, “Tip Jar”
  • Joe Nichols, “Home Run”
  • Kip Moore, “Good Life”
  • Seaforth, “Breakups”
  • The Tennessee Werewolves, “Amy’s Gone”


Review log:

So, here’s the thing: I want to get away from doing album review roundups so frequently and get back to doing more full-length reviews. I’ve been better about that this year compared to last year, but I liked what I did with my last edition that combined reviews with another separate yet related discussion of sorts, so I’d like to henceforth reserve album review roundups for that sort of thing. That means I’ll hopefully be reviewing the newest efforts from Charlie Marie and the Marfa Tapes collaboration soon, and maybe Travis Tritt, too. Otherwise, listen to that new American Aquarium covers project, y’all. It’s awesome!

Just the Facts, Jack

Gary Allan. From ‘Las Vegas Magazine.’

New music announcements are here from … Gary Allan and Jamey Johnson?!? Well, OK, with Johnson, it’s just a rumor that we somehow all missed from February, in which steel guitarist “Cowboy” Eddie Long revealed to Small Batch Network through an interview that basically confirmed a new album is on the way. “We went up a level in music,” he says. “It’s a little bit deeper, the songs are a little bit stronger.” I wouldn’t get too excited until we hear more, but if true, it will be Johnson’s first album in nine years and first original studio album since 2010’s The Guitar Song. Unfortunately, the interview featuring that quote seems to have been taken down, but the information is still floating around.

Elsewhere, Gary Allan will release Ruthless on June 25, his first album in eight years. “This is a montage of everything I have done since my last album,” he says. “It’s what I love. I remain influenced by the ‘90s – as well as by the ‘80s.” It will include his newest single, “Temptation,” as well as 2020’s “Waste of a Whiskey Drink.” (Sounds Like Nashville)

Finally, Los Lobos will release a covers project titled Native Sons on July 30 (Rolling Stone), and the Flatlanders will release Treasure of Love on July 9, the collective’s first album in 12 years. (Rolling Stone)

Jon Pardi has a new music video out for “Tequila Little Time.”

Potent Quotables

“What happens is your brain gets all … the wires get all crossed and you have to retrain your brain basically, to tell your arm to do whatever it is you’re trying to do.” – Lucinda Williams, who revealed in an interview with Rolling Stone that she suffered a stroke last November. She now walks with a cane and has lingering pain in her left arm and leg, leaving her unable to play guitar. She’s now (thankfully) on the mend and expected to fully recover. (Rolling Stone, by Joseph Hudak)

In a new tragic twist of events, Representative Jeremy Faison employed his status of Republican Caucus Chairman to block a resolution honoring T.J. Osborne (of the Brothers Osborne), who came out as gay earlier this year, stating, “we have some concerns.” In a tweet, Osborne said, “We’ve lived in this state for over half of our lives,” and equality advocates are calling the actions discriminatory toward the LGBTQ community, citing “bigotry” and “spite.” (American Songwriter, by Madeline Crone)

A tip-of-the-hat to Kyle (of Kyle’s Korner) for this one: This week’s Country Aircheck featured a deep dive into the inner workings of WCTK, a radio station based in Providence, Rhode Island, boasting impressive numbers. Like Kyle says, the “why” behind that has a lot to do with how modern country radio as a whole operates … for worse, to me. “We gravitate toward the up-tempo stuff. That’s been the secret sauce here … We relegate [a ballad] to nights if we have to play it,” PD Kevin Palana says. “Palana notes his gold category is ‘99% up-tempo.’ With the challenges of the past year, Palana says, ‘It’s a nice distraction from people’s problems. We try to keep the station upbeat as much as possible. I think it helps,” says author Chris Huff. As Kyle argues, it’s made mainstream country one long, endless party over the past year only one step removed from the bro-country era, and it’s not healthy for a format lacking in variety enough as it is. Of course, as last Friday’s release schedule indicates, there’s a lot to get excited about in country music outside of radio right now, so for many, this is a moot point.

I somehow missed this, but Oh Boy Records posted a video to its official YouTube channel documenting its rise – part one, that is. It’s the best way to spend 18 minutes of your day, really.

“To be out here performing the few shows we’ve done so far, it felt like we were just getting started. We want to push forward as a band of healing, as a band of having fun and, really, as a band that realizes all of the joys that our country actually has to offer when we’re not tainted and spiteful by the position of hate.” – Live shows are coming back, folks, and in a new interview with War & Treaty, a duo that’s earned considerable attention over the past few weeks for performing with Dierks Bentley at the ACM Awards, both Michael Trotter Jr. and Tanya Blount discuss what they’d like to bring back to music with their own live shows. (American Songwriter, by Joe Vitagliano)

“I was really nervous, but once I got onstage the anxiety settled. I sang ‘Crazy’ and ‘Walking After Midnight’ by Patsy Cline while using a bar stool as a prop. I had this little skit that went along with the songs. I rehearsed it for days in my grandmother’s living room. When I finished everyone clapped and cheered. I felt a rush of joy exiting the spotlight and found my grandmother waiting for me near the students’ dressing room. She helped me change out of my show clothes and I told her how I wanted to be a country singer.” – Charlie Marie, who released her debut album this past Friday and sat down with The Bluegrass Situation to talk about her influences, her new album, and why she wanted to become a country music singer. (The Bluegrass Situation, by a guest columnist)

“Black artists must bring authentic, unique ideas that reflect themselves and their backgrounds into the writing room. Patsy Cline was a great country artist, and Charley Pride was also a great country artist too. Great country music has no gender or color. Great art – regardless of the background of its creator – must always be heard.” – Brandy Clark, in part of a discussion for Billboard – along with Brittney Spencer, Shannon Sanders, Exit 216, Steven Battey, and Hunter Kelly – on trying to solve the case for diversifying songwriting rooms in country music. (Billboard, by Marcus K. Dowling)

“Most singer-songwriters like to pretend they came out of the womb listening to Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark, but if you were born in the mid-’80s and lived in the South, you were probably raised on the same steady diet of ‘90s country as I was … The kinds of songs that you haven’t heard in 20 years, but when they randomly come on the radio you still miraculously know every word. These songs transport me back to a very specific time and place in my childhood.” – American Aquarium lead singer BJ Barham, on the inspiration behind the band’s surprise new ‘90s country covers project, featuring takes on hits from Joe Diffie, Patty Loveless, Sammy Kershaw, Trisha Yearwood, and Faith Hill, among others. (Rolling Stone, by Jonathan Bernstein)

I wrote about the Shenandoah / Alison Krauss classic “Ghost in This House” for Country Universe.

Lastly, I’m pleased to announce that the first part of my book-length project, A Modern Country Music History: The Past 30 Years, will debut on May 25. I am so excited to share this with y’all, and I can say for sure that this will be my biggest project yet – ever, really. Stay tuned!

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