Music City Beat – May 2016 . . . Pop stars go country!
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Country’s selling better these days, otherwise such pop icons as Cyndi Lauper or Steven Tyler wouldn’t be jumping on the bandwagon with such fervor. Tyler, 68, best known as Aerosmith frontman, currently has a country album ready, and its first single “Love Is Your Name” released last June, soared high, hitting #1 on Billboard’s Country Streaming Songs chart; however, its overall reception on the trade weekly’s Hot Country Songs (HCS) stalled at #19. The follow-up, “Red White & You,” also co-produced with Dann Huff (who guided the likes of Keith Urban), peaked at #29 on HCS in February. Tyler’s long-awaited CD (co-produced by T-Bone Burnett) is due out this summer on Big Machine’s subsidiary label, Dot Records. Not one to miss an opportunity, Tyler graced ABC’s (now canceled) night-time soap Nashville, doing a duet with show star Hayden Panettiere, singing the Patsy Cline classic “Crazy.” Its lyrics (by Willie Nelson) are more attuned to country than Tyler’s “Red, White & You” throwaway pickup-trucker line “free fallin’ into your yum-yum,” as it apparently strives to be another “Summertime Blues” anthem a la Eddie Cochran’s original 1958 single (which is also name-dropped in the number). “Bang bang baby/ Like the fourth of July/A lightning strike in the midnight sky/Don’t give a damn about the summertime blues/All I need is red, white and you!” He also name checks Tom Petty, and (his new label) Big Machine, yet singing about “your yum-yum” sounds sorta strange coming from a man nearing his seventh decade. Nonetheless, he’s off on tour for the summer, including headlining the New Hampshire cycle crowd LaconiaFest’s main stage June 15, backed by his Nashville band Loving Mary. Others slated to share the stage on tour with the new country crooner are mostly hard rock acts Buckcherry, Saving Abel & Fuel, Bret Michaels, Ted Nugent and Sevendust.
Cyndi Lauper’s 35-city “Detour” tour, co-sponsored by her new label Sire Records, is scheduled to wrap at The Joint in Las Vegas, Oct. 8. Meanwhile, she’s been plugging it and her country CD media-wise on CBS This Morning, NBC Late Night With Seth Meyers, America’s Morning Show, Nash Nights Live, Big D & Bubba, Kickin’ It With Kix (Brooks), CMT, GAC, as well as in print via USA Today, Associated Press, Rolling Stone, Maverick, Billboard and Nash Country Weekly. Can you believe she’s invited Boy George to open six of her supposedly country-oriented stops (shades of Moe & Joe “Where’s the Dress,” a Top 10 Bandy-Stampley sendup on Boy George)? The seemingly-indefatigable Cyndi, now 62, is one of the few singers to earn Grammy, Emmy and Tony awards. She says Sire’s founder Seymour Stein served as executive producer of her new album, which boasts guest vocals by such luminaries as Emmylou Harris, Vince Gill, Alison Krauss and Willie Nelson (on her revival of his classic “Night Life”). The pop princess even tackles Patsy Montana’s 1936 million seller “I Wanna Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart,” sharing the mic with Jewel, exhibiting yodeling skills. Lauper launched her tour at the Ryman in Nashville, May 9, noting, “In the end of the whole world there will be Cockroaches and Cher and me. This is our first show of the tour. I’m really nervous because I just get nervous, but this is a church (initially built as a tabernacle in the 19th century), so how bad can it be? . . . except the F-bomb has got to stop!” Yes, she did include some of her past hits, among them “She Bop,” “I Drove All Night” and “Money Changes Everything.” Incidentally, in recognizing the recent passing of Prince, she briefly went off message, singing “When You Were Mine,” and commented in part, “He was funny, and he was a great artist, and, bottom line, he really gave everything onstage. Everything.” As did Cyndi, earning several standing ovations for her premiere performance, as the pink-haired lady signed off with “True Colors.”
Scene Stealers: Even actors sometimes get the urge to sing folksy for fans, as did last century superstars Bing Crosby (“Pistol Packin’ Mama”), Dean Martin (“Lay Some Happiness On Me”), Robert Mitchum (“Little Ol’ Wine Drinker Me”), and current screen favorites Kevin Bacon (“36 Cents”), Steve Martin (“Love Has Come For You”) and Kevin Costner (“Untold Truths”). So why should we be surprised 24-TV star Kiefer Sutherland (Jack Bauer) did a Nashville recording session? Kiefer, 49, was born a twin (with sister Rachel) in London, to actors Donald Sutherland and Shirley Douglas. One of his pastimes was playing guitar, which led to singing and songwriting. Sure enough, this good ol’ boy had the fever as well, cutting an album here of country songs, “Down In A Hole.” Spinning off its first single, the self-penned “Not Enough Whiskey” (also filmed as a music video) fits Kiefer’s gravelly vocals to a T. As the veteran player confides, he’s had his own bouts with the bottle: “I’ve certainly been there, where something will happen in life, and one, two, three bottles of whiskey are not going to fix it . . . so you have to find another way to deal with it. I’m sure a lot of people have felt that way.” Currently, Kiefer’s in the midst of a 26-city tour to promote his music . . . Lady Antebellum was in Louisville, May 7, for the annual Kentucky Derby race, and despite a downpour, the group hit the stage singing the National Anthem before more than 167,000 fans and umpteen nags. On hand to watch Hillary Scott, Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley’s opening song were their respective mates Chris Terrell, Kelli Haywood and Cassie Kelley. As Cassie’s hubby quipped, “I watched some You-Tube videos of other artists that have done it in the past and it’s pretty nerve wracking! We’re gonna make sure we don’t have too much to drink before we sing.” . . . Grammy winner Linda Davis is understandably excited about being invited to join Kenny Rogers’ farewell tour, The Gambler’s Last Deal, starting across the nation, May 13 in Minnesota, and then its off to Asia in August. Rising star Charlie Worsham (“Could It Be”) will join them for their European gigs in late October. The Country Music Hall of Famer has also made his mark in movies, most notably “The Gambler,” “Six Pack” and “Rio Diablo.” Rogers stated, “I’m excited about making one more sweep around the world. For more than five decades, I’ve been fortunate enough to have such wonderful, loyal audiences and their support has meant so much. This final tour is going to be a celebration of all of my music, and I know each night will be truly special.” . . . Country Music Hall of Famer Charley Pride chatted candidly with iconic newscaster Dan Rather, May 7, sharing some of his childhood memories during an in-depth session for the AXS TV series The Big Interview. Pride told of how he became influenced in country music growing up in the Mississippi Delta, listening on radio to Hank Williams singing songs like “Mansion On the Hill,” “Lovesick Blues,” but his very favorite was a gospel number Hank sang, “I’ll Have a New Body (I’ll Have a New Life).” One of 11 children, Charley and his brothers had to pick cotton, not one of his favorite memories, and “We’d sleep three and four to a bed; I remember sometimes I’d wake up and my brother’s toes were right in my nose.” His family was into gospel music mostly, though his father liked bluegrass by Bill Monroe. Humorously, Pride recalled getting his first guitar, a Silvertone, ordered from a Sears & Roebuck catalogue, costing $14: “I left it in the wagon and it rained. It was just glued together, you know, and I kept trying to tune it, and it just kept bowing and bowing with strings, the glue around it (loose) . . . and my mother was walking up on the porch, it was probably about 105 degrees and she heard something go ‘Boooiiinnng!’ She said, ‘Boy, you better go up there and look at your box! The rats are running over it.’”
Honors: The CMT video award nominees have been announced. Not surprisingly vying for best female video are Cam, “Burning House”; Kelsey Ballerini, “Dibs”; Jana Kramer, “I Got the Boy”; Maren Morris, “My Church”; Kacey Musgraves, “Biscuits”; Carrie Underwood, “Smoke Break.” Best male video: Luke Bryan, “Kick the Dust Up”; Eric Church, “Like a Wrecking Ball”; Sam Hunt, “Breakup In a Small Town”; Thomas Rhett, “Die a Happy Man”; Blake Shelton, “Sangria”; Keith Urban, “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16.” Best group or duo: Brothers Osborne, “Stay a Little Longer”; Dan + Shay, “Nothin’ Like You”; Florida Georgia Line, “Sippin’ On Fire”; Little Big Town, “Girl Crush”; Old Dominion, “Break Up With Him”; Zac Brown Band, “Loving You Easy.” Breakthrough video: Brothers Osborne, “Stay a Little Longer”; Cam, “Burning House”; Chris Janson, “Buy Me a Boat”; Maren Morris, “My Church”; Old Dominion, “Break Up With Him”; Chris Stapleton, “Fire Away.” Performance of the Year: Cheap Trick & Jennifer Nettles, “I Want You To Want Me”; Brantley Gilbert & Lynyrd Skynyrd, “What’s Your Name”; Adam Lambert & Leona Lewis, “Girl Crush”; Darius Rucker, “Alright”; Carrie Underwood, “Smoke Break.” Finally, nominees for Video of the Year: Jason Aldean, “Tonight Looks Good On You”; Luke Bryan, “Strip It Down”; Cam, “Burning House”; Florida Georgia Line, “Sippin’ On Fire”; Sam Hunt, “Breakup In a Small Town”; Little Big Town, “Girl Crush”; Tim McGraw, “Humble & Kind”; Thomas Rhett, “Die a Happy Man”; Blake Shelton, “Sangria”; Chris Stapleton, “Fire Away”; Carrie Underwood, “Smoke Break”; Keith Urban, “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16.” Winners will be announced live at the CMT Music Awards show, June 8, from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena.
Speaking of award shows, the 15th annual Americana Music Festival nominations were revealed during a May 11 special show in Washington, D.C. Among those included in the 2016 line-up are as follows. Album of the Year: “Something More Than Free,” Jason Isbell, producer Dave Cobb; “The Ghosts of Highway 20,” Lucinda Williams, producers Lucinda, Greg Leisz, Tom Overby; “The Very Last Day,” Parker Millsap, co-produced by Millsap & Gary Paczosa; “Traveller,” Chris Stapleton, produced by Dave Cobb & Stapleton. Artist of the Year: Jason Isbell, Bonnie Raitt, Chris Stapleton, Lucinda Williams. Duo/Group of the Year: Alabama Shakes; Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell; Lake Street Dive; The Milk Carton Kids; Tedeschi Trucks Band. Emerging Artist of the Year: Leon Bridges, John Moreland, Margo Price, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats. Song of the Year: “24 Frames,” Jason Isbell; “Dime Store Cowgirl,” Kacey Musgraves; “Hands Of Time,” Margo Price; “S.O.B.,” Nathaniel Rateliff & The Nightsweats. Instrumentalist of the Year: Cindy Cashdollar, Stuart Duncan, Jedd Hughes, Sara Watkins. Results of the voting will be disclosed during Americana Honors and Awards night, Sept. 21, in the Ryman Auditorium, Nashville.
Bits & Pieces: Del McCoury’s bluegrass tribute to folk legend Woody Guthrie, “Del & Woody,” just marked its second week atop Billboard’s Bluegrass Album chart. The story goes that Woody’s daughter Nora invited Del to put melodies to Depression Era song lyrics her father wrote, among them such titles as “The New York Trains,” “Ain’t A Gonna Do,” “Left In This World Alone,” “The Government Road,” “Hoecake Fritters” and “Family Reunion.” Woody, who died in 1967 at age 55, was known primarily for protest tunes, including “This Land Is Your Land,” “Pretty Boy Floyd” and “So Long, It’s Been Good To Know You.” . . . Blake Shelton and his latest love Gwen Stefani announced a new duet single on social media, May 9, titled “Go Ahead and Break My Heart.” They were to sing it on the karaoke talent show they judge, The Voice, that evening, and it’s on Blake’s next CD “If I’m Honest,” hitting stores May 20 . . . Nice to know 1980s’ hitmaker Sylvia’s still in there recording. Word is that her new album “All In the Family” will be released in June on the indie Red Pony label, her first in a baker’s dozen years. She scored with single word hits such as “Tumbleweed,” “Drifter,” “Matador” and “Nobody” on RCA, before choosing semi-retirement to concentrate on her writing . . . Sad to say Kid Rock (Robert Ritchey) discovered the body of his assistant Michael Sacha, 30, April 25, after an apparent accident involving his ATV on the singer’s property. Reportedly following a party on site, Sacha drove guests to a waiting Uber down the lengthy driveway, around midnight. Allegedly Sacha lost control of the vehicle and crashed, while attempting to drive back to the residence. Ritchie in a statement, said he is “beyond devastated . . . He was a member of our family and one of the greatest young men I have ever had the pleasure to not only work with, but also to become friends with. I know I speak for us all in sharing my deepest condolences to his family. I cannot imagine how they must feel.”
More Honors: Blake Shelton will be present to officially kick off the exhibit “Blake Shelton: Based On a True Story,” scheduled May 27 to Nov. 6, at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum here. Museum editor Michael McCall will interview Blake, June 6, discussing his career, after which the star will do a short acoustic set . . . Middle Tennessee State University’s new veterans and family center on campus will be named the Hazel & Charlie Daniels Center, in recognition of the couple’s efforts on behalf of veterans attending school there, following service to America. Daniels has been responsible for raising about $125,000 in contributions as part of a Journey Home Project. Charlie acknowledged, “I’ve been blessed to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and now, having a veterans center named after me . . . We are deeply touched and deeply honored.” . . . Alabama, the country band, and soulful Sam Moore are the latest VIPs receiving stars on the Music City Walk of Fame, in a ceremony conducted May 26, according to the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. Located adjacent to the Country Music Hall of Fame, the latest Walk of Fame celebrates the 71st and 72nd stars installed. Reminds us of the original Walk of Fame laid down in the previous Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum on Music Row, in which artists’ names were included for a fee, sometimes paid by the artists themselves or their fan clubs. Sad that these were not replaced in connection with the newer museum built downtown, which probably means no further recognition for those legendary names of the past, such as Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, Hank Snow, Kitty Wells, Johnnie & Jack, Minnie Pearl, Carl Smith and Webb Pierce, all recognized in the original walk-way . . . Country superstar Brad Paisley joined forces with pop singer Jewel and screen star Sean Penn in a Nashville fund-raiser – Nashville Shines For Haiti – to benefit the J/P Haitian Relief Organization’s Day 2, hosted by Johnathon and Newman Arndt, April 27, on their property. Penn, of course, has long been a benefactor for Haiti, one of the hemisphere’s poorest nations. Cheering on the acts, which also included comedian-host Kevin Nealon and Haitian artist Paul Beaubrun, were Nashville’s elite, who paid handsomely to just be in the audience. In closing his set, Paisley invited Beaubrun and Penn to join him on the number “Alcohol.” (J/P HRO supports programs such as medical aid, community development, reconstruction and reforestation in Haiti.)
Box Office Bonanzas: Country stars scoring in Billboard’s annual Top 10 moneymakers of 2015, are #2 Kenny Chesney (totaling $39.8 million) and #7 Luke Bryan ($23.1 million), who incidentally is also country’s top streaming artist (and 13th overall) with 667 million streams over the past year. Finishing just out of that lucrative box office list is country rocker Jason Aldean (#11, with $18.9 million) and Shania Twain (#12, $14.4 million). Topping the list is former country chirp Taylor Swift with an astounding take of $73.5 million, and just behind Chesney at #3 is British rock legends the Rolling Stones ($39.6 million). Country runners up in the Top 40 box office list are: #19 Florida Georgia Line ($11.5 million), #23 Eric Church ($10.1 million), #35 Brad Paisley ($6.8 million), and #38 Toby Keith ($6.5 million). Sources include Nielson Music and Billboard Boxscore chartings . . . If Keith Urban’s free outdoor concert here, May 9, is any indication, look for him to make next year’s Top 10 moneymakers list. More than 7,000 spectators crowded Lower Broad Street to witness his mid-day Monday appreciation concert to mark the release of “Ripcord,” his latest CD. Urban and backup players had a portable bandstand situated outside the Bridgestone Arena. Keith kicked off his spectacular set with “Gone Tomorrow,” exclaiming, “Good Lord, Nashville! . . . I so appreciate this morning.” In addition to tracks from the album, he included such successes as “Sweet Thing” and “Long, Hot Summer.” He launches his “RipCORD World Tour,” June 2 . . . ASCAP’s Elizabeth Matthews, who heads up the performing rights organization in Nashville, reports more than $1 billion in revenue collections in 2015, marking a $61 million increase over the previous year’s revenues. Despite the upsurge, she cautions that there’s still a crying need to update the music’s copyright laws . . . Come the CMA Music Festival in Nashville, June 6, fans can enjoy international artists during the now annual CMA World GlobaLive! showcase on the outdoor stage at Hard Rock Cafe downtown. And it’s free, reports Sarah Traherne, CMA’s CEO, “This event continues to grow, along with CMA’s strategic focus on developing markets outside the U.S. for country music. We are pleased to provide an annual platform for these international performers to reach and cultivate domestic fans, as well as garnering attention from the music industry.” Among the foreign talents scheduled are: Troy Cassar-Daley, Karin Page, Caitlyn Shadbolt (Australia); Raquel Cole, Chad Brownlee, Brett Kissell (Canada); Kayla Mahon (New Zealand); and Frankie Davies, plus The Pauper Kings (United Kingdom) . . . Nice to see smooth-voiced Marty Raybon again touring in Shenandoah, 17 years after saying “Sayonara” to the Muscle Shoals band he helped form in 1985. Of course, they charted such #1’s as “The Church On Cumberland Row” and “If Bubba Can Dance,” until Marty moved on to recording bluegrass. Shenandoah’s current tour wraps Nov. 18 in Newberry, S.C.
Final Curtain: Tim White, host of the PBS bluegrass series Song Of The Mountains, is mourning the sudden death of daughter Jackie, 28, in Louden, Tenn. Only four months ago, she gave birth to his granddaughter Riley Quinn Dawson, whose dad is Derrick Dawson. Besides her dad and daughter, survivors include Derrick, her mother Penny White, and sister Meaghan. Services were held May 5 at Bethel View Baptist Church in Bristol, Tenn.
Singer-guitarist Lonnie Mack, 74, died April 21 in Nashville’s Centennial Medical Center, reportedly from natural causes. He’s best remembered as a guitar influence on such players as Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, Duane Allman and Stevie Ray Vaughan, with whom he co-produced his classic 1985 album “Strike Like Lightning.” A fan of such musical giants as Merle Travis, Robert Ward (of The Ohio Untouchables), Bobby Bland and George Jones, he developed his own unique style, both as guitarist and vocalist. A native of West Harrison, Indiana, he moved 20 miles east to Cincinnati doing sessions with R&B icons James Brown, Hank Ballard and Freddie King, and himself signed with Fraternity Records. Standouts include his 1963 Top Five instrumental version of Chuck Berry’s “Memphis” and its follow-up “Wham,” which produced the groundbreaking Bigsby tremolo bar he played on his 1958 Gibson Flying V guitar, serial #7, and nicknamed “the Whammy bar.” Memorable, too, was Lonnie’s bass guitar riffs on The Doors’ “Morrison Hotel” 1969 tracks: “Roadhouse Blues” and “Maggie M’Gill.” He was an inductee into both the International Guitar Hall of Fame (2001) and Rockabilly Hall of Fame (2005). R&B’s Bootsy Collins probably best summed it up, in citing Mack as his musical idol: “The songs that he did were just so incredible to me. I would try to mimic all the notes he would play on his guitar.” In an earlier review of a concert in the Big Apple, a New York Times music critic wrote, “Although Mr. Mack can play every finger-twisting blues guitar lick, he doesn’t show off; he comes up with sustained melodies and uses fast licks only at an emotional peak. Mr. Mack is also a thoroughly convincing singer.” Enough said.
Musician-songwriter Jody Johnson, 66, died at his home in Port Charlotte, Fla., April 29. A native of North Wilkesboro, N.C., he grew up loving music and learned how to play the guitar. For more than 20 years, he toured with name country artists, including as bandleader-guitarist for Little David Wilkins, and later spent 12 years backing Justin Tubb as guitarist-bandleader on the road and his portion of WSM’s Grand Ole Opry show. He became a mainstay on Ernest Tubb’s famed Midnight Jamboree, also on WSM, while in Justin’s band. Little David Wilkins recorded “He’ll Play the Music (But You Can’t Make Him Dance)” which he co-wrote with Johnson in 1977, and a Billboard Top 20 single. Among other artists recording Jody’s songs were Tubb, Jack Greene, Brenda Lee, Charlie Louvin, Charley Pride and Faron Young. He was preceded in death by his elder daughter Tammy Johnson. Survivors include Ginger Johnson, his wife of 40 years; sons Craig and Joe Johnson; daughters Keela Shoesmith and Amy Johnson-Grant; eight grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren. Services were conducted at Kays Ponger & Uselton Funeral Home, Punta Gorda, Fla., May 7, with The Reverend Wayne Earnest officiating.