People like to bitch and moan about the CMAs. But you know what? A shitton of people call that country and they love it. It’s what young kids who are actually from the country (and the ‘burbs) listen to - they relate and aspire to it. Aside from that, popular music is supposed to be simple and disposable so it’s easy for the next 3 minutes of whatever to infiltrate the airwaves.
You all know that’s not my scene. I used to put it down, but really, what’s the point? Seems that more positive energy can be put toward finding and promoting the country music that matters to me. Here are some of the great albums I’ve heard in 2014 that I would give awards to. Give 'em a try or find them on your favorite streaming service:
In the late 1990s, a passel of young acts gave birth to a substantial alt-country scene in North Carolina: the Two Dollar Pistols, the Backsliders, Whiskeytown and an angel-voiced singer named Tift Merritt. From left to right, Merritt, songwriter Jim Lauderdale and Ryan Adams of Whiskeytown.
This week’s issue of the mPlayer features an oral history of Interpol’s Turn on the Bright Lights for the album’s 10-year anniversary. Also featured are Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale, comedian Tom Shillue and this week’s Best of What’s Next, Jake Bugg.
NAMM opens its doors to musicians, songwriters and recording professionals on Music Industry Day, Saturday 11 from 10AM-4PM at the Music City Center (201 5th Ave. S., Nashville, TN 37203). Music Industry Day offers a once-a-year opportunity to demo new music, gear, instruments and products, attend workshops, enjoy live performances, and network with industry leaders. It’s the only day musicians who aren’t members can attend the conference, so if you’re interested in what NAMM has to offer, the eleventh’s your day.
You can get tickets for $10 in advance, $20 at the door, both of which also get you into the 32nd Annual American Eagle Awards at noon with performances by Rosanne Cash, Charley Pride, Jim Lauderdale, Jack Ingram and The Oak Ridge Boys. There will be live music throughout the event, including acoustic performances by Dustin Lynch, Louisa Wendorff, Tony Lucca, and Sabrina Lentini. In the afternoon, attendees are welcome to join Kala and REMO-sponsored ukulele and drum circles in the lobby. Full performance, workshop and event info can be found online.
You can find the full schedule of Music Industry Day speakers, events, panels and workshops here.
Rodney Crowell and I at his house in Tennessee, April 2012.
I had occasion to talk about the great Americana singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell this morning. Not an unusual topic of conversation for me, but it was notable because it involved the excellent screenwriterBrian Koppelman(Ocean’s Thirteen, Solitary Man, Rounders).
Talking about Rodney this morning made me think of when I went to his still partially under-construction house in TN three years ago to interview him for my Jim Lauderdale documentary The King of Broken Hearts. I like to think his involvement in my movie is what inspired him to work on the upcoming Hank Williams biopic and have star Tom Hiddleston sleeping on his couch and drinking his bourbon last year. I know it’s not true, but I like to think that.
Rodney was an extremely gracious host and interviewee, especially considering how early in the morning we were visiting him. We’d met before - I was producing an EP for someone and we were looking to cover one of the songs from The Houston Kid. I approached him after a gig in Sydney to ask advice about the song, seeing as he’d written, performed and produced the original version. After mistaking me for a woman from a distance (I had long hair at the time, but I would’ve thought the beard was a giveaway), he gave me his email address and told me to send him the finished track. I never actually did this - our recording didn’t do the song justice - and I chose not to remind Rodney of any of this when I interviewed him in 2012.
Rodney had co-produced Jim’s incredible 1991 album “Planet of Love” with songwriter/guitarist John Leventhal. At the time, Rodney was married to Rosanne Cash. Today, John Leventhal is married to Rosanne Cash. We had dug up some photos from the “Planet of Love” sessions and I showed them to Rodney on camera.
He looked through them, smiling at memories of the musicians and engineers, some of whom have since passed on. Then he came to a photo of John and Rosanne sitting together in the studio, him in the foreground, her in the background with a guitar, both facing the same direction.
“These two… they were destined for each other,“ Rodney said.
I’ve occasionally had mutual friends refer to Rodney in conversation as an incredibly "evolved” guy, and in this moment I got what they meant. Although 21 years had passed, the emotional maturity, graciousness and humility wrapped up in that wistful assessment of the photo was deeply impressive and hit me like a lightning bolt.
This moment never made it into my documentary. Although an impactful moment of real intimacy, this was a grace note in Jim’s story, and something that might not resonate without Rodney’s personal history being explained at length. It killed me to cut it, and I thought it might lay dormant on a hard drive in my office for eternity.
Seeing Brian’s tweet pop up this morning praising Rodney’s seminal album “The Houston Kid” - that marvel of anti-nostalgia, unvarnished yet poetic emotional confrontation and loving acceptance - brought the moment back to me, and reminded me how impressive I found Rodney as a human being in that moment at his house.
Ryan Tanner, Winner of the 2010 Lyric Contest Grand Prize, Recalls His First Trip To Nashville
Those that know me will say I’m given to hyperbole on occasion. I like to make large sweeping statements, driving flags of monumental achievement and profound realization into fresh earth, only to later have them reveal themselves as plain and ordinary everyday events that are neither monumental nor profound. So I’ll understand your skepticism when I tell you: