Saturday, December 23, 2017

Dys-FUN-ctional Christmas - 2017 Edition - NSFW


Once again Christmas is knocking on the door, actually rammed into your face if you go into any and I mean any retail store. Make me listen to another version of "Jingle Bells" and I will jingle your bells myself.

The time to be merry just doesn't add up for everyone, so I went on the prowl again to find Christmas songs that are different, off the beaten track, like I did with my Honky Tonk Christmas in 2011 and my first edition of Dys-fun-ctional Christmas two years later.

The animated gif-meme to the right was actually sent to me by a good friend I'm married to and to my astonishment, I actually found the appropriate song to work as a soundtrack. Not sure who is hiding behind the moniker Mrs. Claus, but her demand goes a tad further than to just wanting to kiss Santa under the mistletoe. Not sure if Mrs. Claus, who appears on the "X-RATED XMAS" compilation got her inspiration from the 2003 movie "Bad Santa" starring Billy Bob Thornton and Lauren Graham when she asks him to keep his hat on, while they are bouncing in his car.



From x-rated to G-rated, and 60 odd years back into the past. Not that all old Christmas songs are more innocent.
The recent discussion about "Baby, It's Cold Outside" being a date-rape song may after almost 75 years after its creation and a changing landscape, be eerily true in today's surroundings. In the past, it may have conveyed as another society no-no, that of a woman actually being in charge of her own destiny fighting society no-nos and approaching a man on her own and then having societal doubts as in, a good girl doesn't do this and that she really should leave.
But no, the throwback to older days I'm talking about, brings us to 11-year old Brenda Lee. During her first recording session in July '56 with famous Nashville producer Owen Bradley, she also recorded two Christmas songs, and no, it's not her more famous "Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree" (1958). That Decca peddled her to her fans as Little Brenda Lee, claiming she was only nine, makes "I'm Gonna Lasso Santa Claus" even more innocent.





Watching the new Netflix movie, the weirdly, funny "El Camino Christmas" (3.5 out 5) I was really intrigued by the to me, obscure opening theme,"¿Dónde Está Santa Claus?" while Luke Grimes (as Eric Roth) is driving into town. That ditty, written by George Scheck, Rod Parker, and Al Greiner is sung in the movie by somebody named Cruz Martin. Unfortunately, I could not find either his version or any additional information on that kid that's begging his mom, to tell him where Santa may be.
But I did find the original from 1958, sung by 12-year-old Puerto Rican Augie Rios, managed by songwriter George Scheck. His original 45 on Metro was backed with the not really charming "Ol' Fatso (I Don't Care Who You Are Old Fatso, Get Those Reindeer Off My Roof)." Well, lesson learned as a non-believer you aren't a receiver.

Bing Crosby together with the Andrews Sisters had a huge, seasonal hit with it -  the talk is about the only Hawaiian Christmas song I know, "Mele Kalikimaka." There are quite a number of versions around, I'm not completely sure anymore whose version I heard first when I used to do a Holiday themed radio show some 30 years ago around this time, but it may have been Poi Dog Pondering with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band from a Christmas compilation called "Acoustic Christmas." For this blog, I found this gorgeous live version by roots musician Pokey LaFarge which was recorded on a local St. Louis, Missouri metro train.





Luckenbach, Texas - Christmas
While searching for versions for "Mele Kalikimaka" I also stumbled upon Kacey Musgraves, not only has she her own version of that song, but she also incorporates part of it, in a song where she wishes everyone "A Willie Nice Christmas" together with - you guessed it - the redheaded stranger himself, Willie Nelson. It doesn't really matter if you are in Luckenbach (photo) or in Waikiki, just have a willie willie nice Christmas.

Chicago record label, Bloodshot Records came out with a new compilation this year called "13 DAYS OF XMAS" that features - among 12 other acts - Nashville singer-songwriter Zach Schmidt's "I'm Drunk Again This Christmas." Schmidt told Rolling Stone Country magazine when approached by the label to do a Christmas song: "I immediately thought about my distaste for Christmas and how, for a lot of people, it is often a terrible time of year.  So I decided to write about what I thought was a stereotypical American Christmas: a family who doesn't really care for each other but is there anyway because it is Christmas." As a disclaimer he hopes that mentioning his dad in the song, was just purely for reasons of rhyming and somehow less of meaning in this else autobiographical song.





Joe Pesci as lounge singer Cousin Vinnie just wonders what happens how "fat-fuck" is running his sleigh if there is no snow on the ground.
Until the next time, I have enough obscure Christmas songs to write another installment of "Dys-FUN-ctional Christmas."

By the way and that's not a joke, did you know that there are more babies born in September than in every other month of the year. Do the math. To use Pesci's words: "Get the fuck out of here." Hug your loved ones and have a merry fuckin' Christmas or is it a fuckin' Merry Christmas?

Sources: YouTube; SoundCloud; Spotify; amu communications photo (Luckenbach);









Wednesday, August 2, 2017

"Pure Country" - Original Soundtrack To Be Released On Vinyl 9/15



For the 25th Anniversary of the movie "PURE COUNTRY," the soundtrack will be released for the first time on vinyl on September 15. George Strait will also incorporate some of the songs featured in the movie in his two Las Vegas shows earlier that month. 



How time flies, in 1992 my former editor, Christine Mäder and I went to Dallas to attend a press junket for the movie release "Pure Country." She was interviewing the main actors for our publication, Country Music, while I was covering it for Swiss Television. Isabel Glasser (Harley Tucker) was charming, Lesley Ann Warren (Lula Rogers) was a blast, we had so many laughs and George Strait (Wyatt "Dusty" Chandler)  was George Strait, slightly uncomfortable with the media thing and actually kinda reliving his movie role in the movie. Too bad, our favorite actor in the movie, Rory Calhoun playing Harley's wry grandfather Ernest, didn't make the junket.



Even though the movie was a commercial flop with just $ 15 million dollars coming in and never saw a world wide release; my TV tapes are still collecting dust somewhere in an archive in Switzerland, the soundtrack did much, much better.



Besides Greatest Hits and other Compilations, "Pure Country" is Strait's most successful album to date, with sales over 6 million units. The latest figures by the RIAA are from 1999, so I'm sure that with digital downloads we are now closer to 7 million. Talking about downloads the tearjerker hit single from the climax of the movie reached number 1 in December of '92. "Cross My Heart" (Steve Dorff, Eric Kaz) has sold almost a million copies per digital downloads since it was made available on that platform, according to Roughstock. Another composition by Dorff, who also was in charge for the whole musical soundtrack, "Heartland," co-written with John Bettis also reached the Top Spot on the Billboard Country Charts. Even though not as hokey as the movie or its main single, "Heartland" did not belong to the best material on the soundtrack, which by the way was the first album by Strait that had Tony Brown as a producer.











The real or should we say pure country song, released as the third single "When Did You Stop Lovin' Me?" by Texan Monty Holmes, who later contributed other hits to Strait, including "Troubadour," reached the top ten, but stalled on #6. But there are other gems on this soundtrack, there is a subtle countrified version of "Last In Love" originally recorded by Nicolette Larson and by co-writer J.D. Souther (together with Glenn Frey) on albums in the late 70s. The western-swing influenced "Overnight Male," first recorded by B.B. Watson, penned by Kim Williams, Ron Harbin, and Richard Fagan, who passed a year ago, made it in the charts, without ever being released as a single. I always thought the Phil Thomas/Hal Newman song "Baby Your Baby" should have been a radio single, advising the guys to better put some lovin' into their relationship. Because if you do it right, "She Lays It All On The Line," that rockabilly tinged tune came from Texas songsmith Clay Blaker and also gave him the title of his 1993 album "LAYING IT ALL ON THE LINE."











"PURE COUNTRY" also features two singles written or co-written by Jim Lauderdale, the beautiful "The King Of Broken Hearts" and the up-tempo "Where The Sidewalk Ends," which both were originally released on Lauderdale's 1991 major debut, the fantastic "PLANET OF LOVE." That first one belongs into the pantheon of country classics, also recorded by Mark Chesnutt and Lee Ann Womack, due to the times, never got the exposure, it really deserves.

My favorite track is probably the remake of an old tune, also recorded by Ernest Tubb and Carl Smith, written by Mel Tillis and Wayne P. Walker, the deliciously sad ballad "Thoughts of a Fool" with its exquisite leading steel guitar part. Not sure which of the three players mentioned in the liner notes actually brings me all that joy. But I guess it's Sonny Garrish over Buddy Emmons (who did it on Tubb's version, which you should check out as well) or Doug Livingston. It's just pure bliss of sadness.







"PURE COUNTRY" Soundtrack - ★★★★/★★★★★ (4 out of 5)



So if you still like vinyl, like some traditional country fans do, this is definitely an album you want to put into your collection. As an extra for the 25th Anniversary, Austin movie theater chain Alamo Drafthouse Cinema will be showing the original movie in its 28 locations across the country.



Sources: Essential Broadcast Media, YouTube, Recollections
































Friday, July 28, 2017

Give Me Flowers - How A Bluegrass Song Became A Yodeling Tune - Gib Mir Blueme

Polo Hofer (l) and Hanery Amman (r) - Friends and Composers
On July 22nd, 72-year old Swiss Rockstar Polo Hofer passed away. Often credited as being the first (or one of the first) artists to use the Swiss-German dialect in Rock music, in his case the German of Bern or Bernese, he became larger than life, actually a national treasure.

A composition he co-wrote with his former neighbor, Hanery Amman called "Alperose" (Rose of the Alps) was voted to be the ultimate Swiss song and is now taught to grade school children more than three decades after its original release. His music simply became the bedrock of Swiss dialect music to come.
Polo, who used his boy scout name, whose real name was Urs Alfred, constantly reinvented himself, from his first commercially successful band Rumpelstilz to Schmetterding which was replaced by Schmetterband. Then the Alpinistos were in charge and finally, he recorded solo albums and guest artist projects. But what was always common through all the years was a huge love of music from the American South: Roots, Blues, Rock, Singer/Songwriters, Country - he especially loved the melting pot of what the Texas capital, Austin used to be and loved singers like Delbert McClinton and Lucinda Williams. Songs like Little Feat's "Missing You" (Paul Barrere) became "I Vermisse Di," Bruce Springsteen's "Jersey Girl," penned by Tom Waits got adapted into "Meitschi Vom Wissebueehl."

 So after his passing, friends were sending me obits, links to TV specials, and even to one of his films he starred in. Well, this morning I had "Gib Mir Blueme" in my Inbox, in a version where Polo sings it together with TV host and Schlager-Singer Nik Hartmann, while being accompanied by the Swiss TV orchestra, SF Husmusig recorded in Grindelwald in July of 2010.



The song and its theme sounded awfully familiar and sure enough, it's an old bluegrass or bluegrass-gospel composition "Give Me Flowers, While I'm Living," originally recorded by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs in 1957. Written by their wives, Gladys Stacey (Flatt) and Louise Certain (Scruggs) together with Elvin Bigger (known as a former member of the Four Virginians in the 1920s), Flatt & Scruggs recorded it for different albums, so I'm not completely sure, which version the one below is.

Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs


Knowing that Polo wasn't that much a bluegrass fan per se, I started wondering where he may have heard this song, there was a missing link. And sure enough, I found it, on the Amazing Rhythm Aces' fifth album "How the Hell Do You Spell Rhythum?" released in 1980.

Amazin' Rhythm Aces


Polo recorded his first version of "Gib Mir Blueme" for a live album that was released in 1993, and nine years later a studio version with Schmetterband for his album "Xangischxung" (Bernese for "Singing Is Healthy"). I assume that the resophonic guitar (dobro) part was played by my former English teacher Martin Diem on this recording.

Polo Hofer & Schmetterband


So let's forward from 2002, when Polo recorded his studio version, to the live TV show on top of the page, eight years later. Done in the TV show in Swiss Volksmusik style, even though not in its purest forms, Yodel club Wiesenberg from the state of Nidwalden, saw potential in the composition and recorded the tune acapella for their 2012 album "Bluämäpracht." The clip below shows the Jodlerklub Wiesenberg performing the song for another TV show.

And that's how a bluegrass song became a yodeling tune.

Mick Jagger Releases Two New Singles - Proves He Still Matters


Yesterday, he celebrated his 74th birthday, today (7/27) Mike Jagger released two brand new singles repressing the changing political landscape. He again demonstrated that as an "old" man, he can still tell the youngsters how to react and put to music, an engaging form of criticism and be viable not only to contemporary politics but also music. In the year since Brexit and the half-year since the Orange Agent sits in the White House, we should have experienced a bigger criticism from artists abroad and statewide.

In "England Lost!" he takes a football loss of the English national team, which during the whole song evolves from England lost to England's lost. In a great black and white video, featuring Welsh actor Luke Evans, who fears to be followed and starts on a bizarre, running escape through London, the countryside and at the end reaching the ocean to be pulled back by bystanders and told by a little girl to "Pull Yourself Together."

★★★/★★★★★ (3 out of 5)


Jagger also mentioned that he wanted to use UK Rapper Skepta for a version of his "England Lost!" single - he did so, in the lyric video, where he added the moniker "Reimagined" to it

Right from the off when I started writing England Lost, I imagined having a British rapper on the track .. Skepta stepped in at a moments notice and I just loved what he did.



In the email, he mentioned that he started these songs recently and had an urge to publish them, while they still matter

I started writing these two songs a few weeks back and wanted to get them out to you straight away.

While not as poignant in "England Lost!" in "Gotta Get A Grip" he re-emerges as a protest singer, actually pulling himself together. He's lamenting the clowns in government, the constant lies we are fed, the ignorance of the electorate, the shunning of intellectuals, greed, and xenophobia. Sir Mick paints a dark, but a too real picture of the current state of affairs and proves at 74 that he still matters! 

But read for yourself: 

Gotta get a grip
Beat it with a stick
Gotta get a grip
She goin' for the hit
THe world is upside down
Everybody lunatics and clowns
No one speaks the truth
And madhouse runs the town
Well you gotta get a grip
Beat it with a stick
You gotta get a grip

Everybody's stuffing their pockets
Everybody's on the take
The news is all fake
Let 'em eat chicken and let 'em eat steak
Let 'em eat shit, let 'em eat cake
You gotta get a grip
You gotta get a grip
You gotta keep it zipped
And shoot 'em from the hip
Yeah, yeah, you gotta get a grip
Beat it with a stick

I tried diversion and I tried coercion
Mediation and medication
LA culture and aquapuncture
Overeating and sex in meetings
Induced insanity, Christianity
Long walks and fast drives
And wild clubs and low dives
I pushed and I strived
But I can't get you, can't get you
Can't get you out of my mind
Gotta get a grip

Oh you, oh you
Oh you, beat it with a stick
Immigrants are pouring in
Refugees under your skin
Keep 'em under, keep 'em out
Intellectual, shut your mouth
Beat 'em with a stick
Oh you
Gotta get a grip
Gotta get a grip
Chaos crisis instability, ISIS
Lies and scandals, wars and vandals
Metadata scams and policy shams
Put 'em in a slammer
Gotta get a grip
Gotta get a grip
Come on

The song features a heavy, great guitar riff that helps transpond the dark message into an almost positive fighting song. We "Gotta Get A Grip" and fight the demons that are here.

★★★★(★)/★★★★★ (4 ½ out of 5)


Sources: Universal Music, Twitter, YouTube

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Evan Michaels - "Ain't No Stopping This" - EP Review


Not that there is anything wrong with "Ain't No Stopping This," it's a genuine six-song EP in the Texas/Red Dirt genre. But the EP, produced by Stillwater, OK singer/songwriter Evan Michaels and his keyboard player (Andrew) Bair, somehow isn't inciting enough to light a fire. Their current radio single "Bet On A Backroad," sounds too much like a Nashville Bro-Country song with all its cliches forefront and is currently bubbling right outside the Top 100 of the Texas Regional Radio Report and can't be found in the CDX Traction Texas Chart. This is songwriting lite, I normally don't expect from great Red Dirt music.

I bet it's on a backroad
In the middle of nowhere
We take the shortcuts
to get us there

I love the idea behind "Too Big For The Both Of Us" which stipulates that a relationship may only survive in a small town as it is predestined to fail in the big city. But the contemporary, almost Nashville-like arrangement kills the song. A nice change of rhythm, with a jingle-jangly feel, gives us the mid-tempo reflection of an ex-girlfriend; but "Like It Should" seems like it was copied out of Reckless Kelly's songbook.

The only outstanding track is the opener and title song "Ain't No Stopping This" with a great Chris-LeDoux feel to it. Even though knowing that an encounter is doomed from the beginning, there is nothing that can stop it from happening: Temptation is bigger than reason.

As to "Must Have Been Drinking" and "Tomorrow Today," there are some good approaches, but in the end, both songs fail to grab me. Most likely, even after multiple listens, because nothing new is offered. The arrangements sound like run-of-the-mill country-rock fare a 70s cover band would cover.

With just one song really grasping my attention it will be difficult for Evan Michaels to really stand out from an ever-increasing crowd of Red Dirt singer/songwriters and bands. There are some great ideas on this EP, but better songwriting and having his own sound are recommended. This six sampler still sounds as he would be trying to find his own self, lyrical-wise as well as musically - I miss an edge that sets Evan Michaels apart from the mediocrity that now seems to sweep through the Texas/Red Dirt scene.

As to Evan's voice, it's pleasant and strong enough to sing hits. Unfortunately, there are some blocks on the road, and his way to the top may take a little longer than he stipulated with "Ain't No Stopping This."

★★(★)/★★★★★ (2 ½ out of 5)


Sources: RPR Media, evanmichaaelsmusic.com

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Blake Shelton Trashes Traditional Fans Again In New Video




Screenshot - William Lee Golden, Joe Bonsall, Blake Shelton, Duane Allen, Richard Sterban



Rather as a surprise comes a sixth single of Blake Shelton's 2016 album "IF I'M HONEST" and I guess to tone down the suggestive lyrics of "Doing It To Country Songs," its video is packed into an animated, family-friendly, cuddly, furry affair. Actually half-way country with rich harmonies and if it will chart, song partners, The Oak Ridge Boys will be back in the country single charts for the first time in 18 years. Laudable, isn't it? Well, it seems after a close watch of the cartoon, that there is a hidden message in the video-clip subsiding the fun.



Blake is not the first and probably not the last to use animation for a music video. Remember Lonestar's "Mr. Mom" or Brad Paisley's "Crushin' It" which actually featured an animated, beer-guzzlin' Shelton. In "Doin' It," the bar featured in the clip, named "Ol' Reds" as in the song and the venue Blake is gonna be opening in Nashville, a prominent beer advertisement disguised as a clock, promotes "Paisley Lite Beer." Nothing wrong with that.


Blake's video is full of easter eggs to be discovered. Besides leaving song titles on bar jars, on the wall, and guitar cases, even making a reference to his guests' big hit "Elvira," there are even some funny moments among the furries and one amphibian friend. That Blake casts himself as a stag, called Blake Buck on the marquee is quite humorous. The Oaks are cast as a possum, William Lee Golden; a beaver, Joe Bonsall; a wolf, Duane Allen, and Richard Sterban as a bullfrog, him catching the barfly and swallowing it, priceless.






Screenshot



I neither have an issue, that this rather light tune was written by heavy-weight Paul Overstreet together with Jakob Lyda and Marty Dodson. Sometimes a ditty is a ditty and the harmonies of the Oaks made me smile.

I also think choosing a hound-dog as the bartender and a skunk as the janitor are pretty funny, just think about it, "when it comes to clean, there is only one skunk."



But then Blake Shelton wouldn't be Blake Shelton if he couldn't land a side jab at every traditional country music fan that still wears a hat and a silver belt-buckle with pride. I guess by now that would be the "old farts and jackasses," you may see in every true Texas dancehall.



To make his point, he uses the janitor skunk to actually dress up. But to get his new accessories, the skunk is diving in the trash and rescues the hat and buckle out of the dumpster. As subliminal as it may be, shame on you, Blake!



★★/★★★★★ (2 out of 5)






Saturday, July 15, 2017

Tyminski Signs With Mercury // Dolly Up For An Emmy

Tyminiski signs with Mercury Nashville



Dan Tyminski is best known as a member of Union Station, Alison Krauss' band, as well as the singing voice for George Clooney's character "Man of Constant Sorrow" in the movie "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" The link will take you to the 44th Grammy Awards Show in February 2002, where the Soggy Mountain Boys performed the song together with the late Ralph Standley. Well now, comes news, that Tyminski has signed with Mercury Nashville.



The 14 time Grammy winner is also known mostly to European listeners as the voice in Swedish producer Avicii's electronica-pop hit "Hey Brother."



An album "SOUTHERN GOTHIC" is planned to be released this fall, and for that endeavor, Dan will just be known by his last name, Tyminiski. According to newspaper "The Tennessean," he collaborated with Jesse Frasure (known for his work with Florida Georgia Line & Meghan Trainor) and the result is "marrying bluegrass instrumentation with the hefty rhythms and moody ambiance of modern pop."



After watching a teaser trailer, released on his new twitter account @tyminskimusic the project sounds more than intriguing.



Baptized in Southern Gothic, in the Garden of Good and Evil

The devil right here, who would have thought it

In a town full of god-fearing people.





Dolly Parton Movie Grabs Emmy Nomination



The made-for-television movie "Dolly Parton's Christmas of Many Colors: Circle Of Love," which aired last November on NBC is nominated for an Emmy in the category "Television Movie," and will compete against “Black Mirror: San Junipero” (Netflix), “The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks” (HBO), “Sherlock: The Lying Detective (Masterpiece)” (PBS), “The Wizard Of Lies” (HBO).



The movie, a sequel to "Coat Of Many Colors" (after the Parton hit song), is also based on a true story, Dolly experienced when she was growing up in the mountains of Tennessee. Natural disasters and poverty try to harm the Christmas spirit of the Parton family. After some miracles, the movie transcends the message of close family and being home for Christmas. It also shows that Dolly by age nine is about ready to break out from the mountains of East Tennessee and conquer the world as an artist.



The movie also starred Dolly's sister Stella Parton and former Sugarland member Jennifer Nettles in her first and lauded role as an actress. While Dolly plays a local prostitute, The Painted Lady, in the movie, Alyvia Alyn Lind plays a young Dolly who befriends her. Nettles had the role of Dolly's mom, Avie Lee.



"I am so very proud and excited to have "Christmas of Many Colors" be nominated for an Emmy award," Dolly Parton said in a press release, announcing the nomination. She also thanked all her fans, who watched the Christmas movie.

In the clip below, Dolly explains why she made a sequel of the movie and why she wanted to have a cameo in it.









The winners will be announced during a show hosted by Steven Colbert on September, 17 on CBS.



Sources: tyminskimusic.com, tennessean.com, @tyminskimusic, webster PR, Variety, IMdb,

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Loretta Lynn Moves New Album To 2018 - Cancels Remaining Dates









"Coalminer's Daughter" Loretta Lynn, who suffered a stroke in May, was able to leave a rehabilitation facility and is now back home in Tennessee surrounded by her family.




“Thank you so much for all of your prayers, love, and support. I’m happy to say that I’m at home with my family and getting better by the day! My main focus now is making a full recovery so that I can get back to putting all of me into what I love, sharing my music with all of you."

she posted on her website.



Besides recovering and therefore canceling the remaining 2017 tour dates, the 85-year-old singer also postponed the release of her new album, "WOULDN'T IT BE GREAT" which was supposed to be released in August to some time next year.



"I now want to wait to release it next year because this record is so special for me. It deserves me at my best and I can’t wait to share it.  I want to thank everyone for hanging in there with me. I am getting stronger every day and can’t wait to get back out there with all of you."  



Produced by John Carter Cash and Loretta's daughter Patsy Lynn Russell, the album, like last year's Grammy-nominated album "FULL CIRCLE,"  offers a combination of new songs and re-recordings of some of her biggest hits, like "Coalminer's Daughter," "Don't Come Home A-Drinkin' (With Lovin' On Your Mind)." and a retake on "God Makes No Mistakes" from her 2004 album "Van Lear Rose." All of the songs, on the highly expected album, were either written or co-written by Lynn. Three of the new songs "Ruby's Stool," "The Big Man" and "I'm Dying for Someone to Live For" are collaborations with Shawn Camp, two "Ain't No Time To Go" and "These Ole Blues" were co-written with daughter Patsy. The song list for the new album also mentions an obscure song, Loretta co-wrote with Lola Jean Dillon, "Another Bridge To Burn." It may be a recording of a song, Loretta was talking about to Neil Strauss in a 1999 New York Times Interview but so far hasn't seen the light of day yet.



In her message on her website, Loretta also cracked a joke, about Willie Nelson still being around:



"I’m just letting everybody know that Willie ain’t dead yet and neither am I, and I can’t wait to see all of you on the road!”



She probably quipped the joke, as Nelson released "Still Not Dead" on his album "PROBLEM CHILD" earlier this year. But both octogenarians look at life and death intently and showcased that in a beautiful duet recording of Loretta's son-in-law Mark Marchetti penned-song "Lay Me Down" from "FULL CIRCLE."







According to family sources, she's getting stronger every day - we sure wish her a speedy recovery.



Sources: LorettaLynn.com, YouTube, MarkMarchetti.com, RollingStone.com,

Monday, July 10, 2017

Mary Sarah - Comfortable Alone - "Without You" - Single Review




© Katie Kauss - Used by permission

Most people may know Mary Sarah as a  semi-finalist (finishing fifth) from the TV talent show "The Voice" from 2016. But the 22-year-old Texan wasn't a newcomer to music for that show; she actually already was able to look back on a career spanning over a decade. After her TV experience last year, she now just released her first single, "Without You." 



To completely understand who Mary Sarah is, we have to roll back the tape of life. Starting in church and with vocal lessons when she was about nine, she started performing regularly on what is called the Texas Opry circuit, smaller Opry venues in more rural environments. When she was 12 she ventured west for a development deal and got signed by Kidz Bop and an ensuing 6 months tour across the United States. Back in Texas, the late great singer/songwriter and producer Freddy Powers took her "under his wings." Having been Merle's neighbor on a houseboat and frequent co-author, Powers penned Haggard classics like "Natural High" and "A Friend In California." Some of his musical influences are definitely part of "Without You."



When she was 15 she released her debut album "CRAZY GOOD" and three years later doubled down with "BRIDGES," a heartfelt collection of well-known songs, done as duets with the original singers of the hits. Yes, Powers may have helped with introductions, but it was her sheer talent, that made it possible for her to record duets with everybody from the late Ray Price, Merle Haggard, Lynn Anderson and Powers to still living legends like Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, the Oak Ridge Boys, Ronnie Milsap, Vince Gill, Tanya Tucker and even Neil Sedaka.



Fast forward to #77seventeen, as her own hashtag proclaimed. As a gift to herself and to her fans, Mary Sarah released her first single "Without You" since "The Voice" on her birthday. Co-written with Gospel songwriter and producer David Garcia, Bart Butler (Jon Pardi's current single "Heartache On The Dancefloor") and former Dreamworks recording artist Mike Walker it easily bridges the old with the new.



Despite a low-profile, almost restraint jazz-bluesy arrangement (evoking Amy Winehouse) the prominent steel guitar sets traditional contra tones. The lyrics of the mid-tempo break-up song evolve from early hurt and tears to a resolute empowered woman, who is ready again to face the world and actually feels comfortable to be without her former partner. Written from experience, Mary Sarah was quoted:



“The beauty of the poetic words is that finding yourself through a broken relationship is a very empowering thing to do”. 



Her true delivery shows honesty and self-determination to move on. It's a remarkable effort and I know, Freddy Powers would be proud of his former "student." Now we just can wish that the powers that are in radioland share the song on their airwaves with a greater public so we all can enjoy the delights of that new single.



Lyrics:

You left a mark on my heart that I never thought would go away

I cried so hard in the dark I stained my pillow case

Mascara Black, wishin' you'd come back, but that was yesterday



But what a waste

Yeah I'd never thought I would, but baby I'm all good without you



I've got a move on, new song that I'm singing to

I've got a throwback, come back, step in my groove

I've got these going out paint the town red pair of shoes

You bet I do, jokes on you

No, you never thought I would, but baby I'm all good without you



Without you, I got room to breath

I'm finding who I am

I finally had time to see that you just ain't the man

That I thought you had seemed

You're just not all I cracked ya up to be

Yeah, I never thought I would, but baby I'm all good without you



I've got a move, on new song that I'm singing to

I've got a throwback, come back, step in my groove

I've got these going on, paint the town red pair of shoes

You bet I do, jokes on you

No, you never thought I would, but baby I'm all good without you



Yeah I never thought I would, but baby I'm all good without you



I've got a move on, new song that I'm singing to

I got a throwback, come back, step in my groove

I've got these going on, paint the town red pair of shoes

You bet I do

No, you never thought I would, but baby I'm all good without you



No, you never thought I would, but baby I'm all good without you



I'm good



***(*)/***** 3.5/5





Here's also a live version of the song, recorded on WSMV Channel 4 in Nashville







The track is now available at all digital outlets including iTunes and Google Music. Mary Sarah is managed by 144 Entertainment, PR by April Dickey -Bandwagon Publicity

Sources: marysarah.com, youTube, Spotify, Bandwagon Publicity,

Friday, June 23, 2017

German country singer Gunter Gabriel is dead!





German country & trucker songs singer Gunter Gabriel is dead. He died from complications falling down stairs, a day before his 75th birthday.



According to German tabloid "Berliner Kurier" Gabriel fell on the eve of his birthday in a hotel in Herburg after celebrating with some friends his June 11th birthday. Even though he had a bleeding laceration, he thought nothing bad of it and went to bed, not realizing he had a fracture of a cervical vertebra. He had to be rushed to a hospital the next day, where he later had a circulatory collapse and passed away on June 22nd.



For many German country fans, especially truckers, he was their outspoken hero, calling things by name and using "German" to sing his Schlager and country songs. Born Günter Caspelherr on June 11th, 1942 he his first successes as a writer of Schlager (German pop songs) mostly for other artists. Beginning in the 70's he started to have hits of his own. He often took American country songs and "translated" them into the German language.



Gunter was a man of the people and for the people, songs like "Hey Boss, Ich Brauch Mehr Geld" (Hey Boss, I need a better pay) made him a blue collar idol. Heavily indebted at one point, he offered to play house concerts at 1000 Euros a piece to be able to pay off his debt. After 800 private concerts, he was debt-free. He is survived by four children, living all over Europe. He was on of the pioneers in Germany to promote country music.



Married several times, having kids out of wedlock, being a heavy drinker and then in later years sobering up - his life was more like a rollercoaster ride. In this outspoken portrait (NSFW) Gunter shares his vision of how he would have liked to die, rambles about his life and his meetings with his idol Johnny Cash. But Gabriel's persona was more David Allan Coe than aping the Man in Black.

(English subtitles)











Sources: Berliner Kurier, Gunter Gabriel Facebook (Photo), YouTube,


Friday, June 16, 2017

Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Country Artists Of All Time - Do You Agree?







Greatest Artist compilation lists had, have and will always stir up controversy. Nothing is as sacred as your own favorite singer and when he/she doesn't make the list or is ranked in the nose-bleed section, fans feel betrayed. Part of it has to do with a social feeling of suddenly being marginalized by listening to an artist that did not make the A-List. Such compilations also always come up with omissions or inclusions that shouldn't be listed. And the new list by music publication Rolling Stone magazine listing the "100 Greatest Country Artists of All Time" does exactly what I just tried to explain.



RS asked 14 journalists to come up with the ultimate artist list, that defines country music. Well, a list like this doesn't just contain artists from last year or even the last decade. Country Music has a rich history, where the "commercial" origins of it, started 90 years ago with the so-called "Bristol Sessions" in Tennessee. Ralph Peer representing Victor Talking Machines recorded 76 songs by 19 performers during the 12 days he stayed in Bristol. Not only did the recordings introduce the traditional music of southern Appalachia, but they also generated the first two superstars, The Carter Family & the yodelln' brakeman Jimmie Rodgers of what later would be called country music. Western Swing with its probably most famous fiddler, Bob Wills followed roughly a decade later. Hollywood cowboys sang in movies and after starting in 1925, the Saturday night portion of the Grand Ole Opry became nationwide when it was picked up by NBC in 1939.



The war years and their aftermath (socially, economically) not only changed society but music as well. Suddenly songs about drinkin', cheatin' and havin' a good time were as popular as the old story songs and gospel music from before the war. A secularization of the themes started to appear, women entered the workforce and wanted to be looked upon as equal to their partners. New instruments and sounds appeared. Several sub-styles started to disappear like the cowboys in the prairies, Western Swing and other forms led to rockabilly and Rock'n'Roll. People started to go out to clubs and Honky Tonks to either drown their sorrow or to find a new honey just to dance with. The West Coast had its own California or better Bakersfield sound, that was rawer than what the by now slicker styles out of Nashville were offering. A whole outlaw movement came in the 70s when artists were fighting to keep creative control on what they want to record and want to be released to the public. With smoother Soul, R&B and Pop influences, country music was pronounced dead in the mid-80s by the New York Times only to be shook up a year later with the arrival of new traditionalist movement, trying to take country music back or at least incorporate some of its roots. New marketing ideas led country music from the clubs and dancehalls into arenas and stadiums, simple performing shows now became "circus" events for the masses. And sure enough by the end of the century, the music started changing again, less and less of what is considered having its roots in one of the many styles country music went through were abandoned. Today's major artists with a few exceptions offer a non-distinguishable contemporary sound with modern R&B, Hip Hop and EDM influences.







So what I tried to put into two paragraph synopses encompasses the whole history of country music - and I'm sure I may have omitted some sub-genres, the 14 compilers had to go through. Basically a rich 90-year-old history of what defines American music and to come up with just 100 of the Greatest Country Artists of All Time. So before you start complaining that Bobby Lee or Bobbie Lou are missing, unfairly ranked, or shouldn't be on this list, envision the above synopsis of 90 years musical evolution and history.



I don't want to leave any spoilers and rankings because you should have your own experience with the list. And I'm sure that your taste, your surroundings, your upbringing and your listening habits, as well as your age, may produce a slightly different list. So now I'm looking forward to your comments. What would YOU have done differently?



Here's a short spoiler video depicting the Top Ten of the genre.
















Friday, June 9, 2017

Rhonda & Daryle go "Above And Beyond" - Duet Album "American Grandstand" out in July



Late August last year, "Queen of Bluegrass" Rhonda Vincent announced on her Facebook page that she's recording a duet album with 90's traditionalist Daryle Singletary and posted the above picture of them both in the recording studio.




Singletary, a mid 90's traditionalist, who had Rhonda singing background on his debut album on Giant and later on his indie releases was all excited “If you love traditional country music, and remember songs originally sung by well-known duet partners like George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn, and Merle Haggard and Bonnie Owens, this is a must-have CD that we are extremely excited about.”



Rhonda, who branched out from Bluegrass to traditional Country Music before, like on her 2014 album "Only Me" praised Singletary as one of the best singers in this generation of country music and went on to praise him even more: “It’s so fun to sing with someone who challenges me as a singer. The songs were given great thought, along with one that was totally unexpected. It’s one of the best projects I’ve ever been part of. I am so proud of this recording, and I cannot wait for the world to hear our wonderful creation, American Grandstand.”



Now about a month (release date is July 7th) before "AMERICAN GRANDSTAND" is hitting the stores, Daryle and Rhonda are heavily promoting it during CMA week (formerly Fan Fair) in Nashville with several shows. Being one of 20 acts not to miss according to music magazine "Rolling Stone," one of the shows they performed together at, was the "Music City Roots - Live From the Factory" Show hosted by Jim Lauderdale on June 7th, where the opening track of "American Grandstand," the Harlan Howard penned classic "Above And Beyond" was then shared to YouTube. First recorded by Wynn Stewart as a single in 1960, then by Buck Owens later that year, and then Rodney Crowell in the '80s, who celebrated his fifth number one song with the classic, it's nice to see that timeless song done as a duet.







Besides "Above And Beyond" and their current single "One" the list below reveals the full tracklist of "AMERICAN GRANDSTAND," the title track actually a new song actually written by Rhonda Vincent as part of their collaboration.



American Grandstand Track Listing:

1. Above and Beyond

2. One

3. After The Fire Is Gone

4. American Grandstand

5. Slowly But Surely

6. As We Kiss Our World Goodbye

7. Can’t Live Life

8. Golden Ring

9. We Must Have Been Out of Our Minds

10. Louisiana Woman Mississippi Man

11. A Picture of Me Without You

12. Up This Hill and Down





If you would like to pre-order the "American Grandstand" and get an immediate download of their current single "One," you can click here.



For more information about Music City Roots - Live From the Factory in Franklin, Tennessee, for a schedule of upcoming artists performing on the show and a direct link to see a streaming video, visit their official website - you may also find information on their facebook page





Sources: YouTube; musiccityroots.com; Webster PR; rollingstone.com; rhondavincent.com; darylesingletary.net


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Queen Of Soul - Aretha Franklin - Retires


Aretha Franklin calls it quits, well kinda. The almost 75 year old (in March) Queen of Soul, will only perform select shows about once a month. Still in the works though, a new album to be released later this year. In a phone interview with Detroit TV station "WDIV Local 4" Aretha told the news  "I will be recording, but this will be my last year in concert. This is it."

She also shared that Stevie Wonder will be producing her quite versatile new, not yet titled album:   "Of course, several of the songs are going to be produced by Stevie," she said. "There's only one Stevie, right?"

Singer Aretha Franklin: 'I am retiring this year' after release of new album

Currently touring on her 2014 release "ARETHA FRANKLIN SINGS THE GREAT DIVA CLASSICS," that has quite a modern pop/R&B feel to it, the collaboration with Stevie Wonder hopefully lets her shine in a more "old school" way.

Celebrating a secular career that is over 56 years old, if you include her gospel album from 1956 a career that is in its 7th decade. Her early releases on Columbia got her mostly Top Thirty Hits in the R&B Charts, only after switching to Atlantic in 1967 began her star to illuminate many. By the end of that year with big hits like the Otis Redding penned "Respect," Don Covay's "Chain Of Fools" and the self-written "Baby I Love You" she was crowned the Queen of Soul.

In 1967 she had another Top Ten Hit with the Gerry Goffin and Carole King co-write "Natural Woman," a song Aretha sang in 2015 to Carol King as she was bestowed the Kennedy Center Honors, a prize Ms. Franklin herself received as well in 1994. David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker and many others - including President Obama, who had to squish a tear - were so taken by her powerful version, that in a later portrait about Ms. Franklin, titled "Soul Survivor" he built his article around that performance. But watch for yourself.



And who could forget her performance as Mrs. Murphy in the 1980 "Blues Brothers" movie with her own composition "Think," a song she originally published in 1968 from her "ARETHA NOW" album. For the movie they recorded a longer version with a sax-riff by Blues Brothers band member, Lou Marini with backing vocals by Elwood & Jake, as well as Aretha's sisters.



Sources: Local 4 Detroit, The New Yorker, Aretha Franklin's webpage

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Bailey Bryan Doesn't "Own It" - Her Debut Single Tanks (Review)



"Own It," debut by 18-year old Washingtonian, Bailey Bryan is another blatant attempt to promote and appeal bad pop music as country to oblivious suburban teenagers throwing a tantrum. And no it's not a cover of Drake's 2013 song with the same title. Even though the song - according to press releases - is supposed to have a positive message, it does not. It advocates to not listen to everybody else (even parents?) and transmits the typical feeling of youth today, that everybody owes them, that they are entitled and that life is gonna be a breeze. Well, hello real world! 



Driving to school in Sequim [Skwim] behind tractors is about the extent of her country raising, else she was drawn to the big city to the East, Seattle to indulge in the underground hip hop and alternative scene. She cites Drake, Nirvana, Macklemore, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers as influences. She must have heard Drake's song and decided to write her own "Own It."



By 15 she was signed by song publisher Kompass Music and started to make monthly trips to Nashville to write and co-write songs. One of her mentors and co-writer of "Own It" is master tunesmith Dennis Matkosky, who had number one hits in every music genre besides Rap and who has worked with everybody from Diana Ross, Cece Winans, Chicago to LeAnn Rimes and Keith Urban. The other co-writer, Casey Brown is currently touring with Rascal Flatts as a band member and according to Rolling Stone magazine, is the one responsible to turn RF on to some EDM beats.



All the press releases and the copycats thereof on their according to websites like "This Smells Like Rotten Nashville" praise "Own It" as a ditty of genuine honesty and wisdom beyond the young gal's age. Really? It caters to teen-angst-ridden millennials conveying the Kumbaya message about finding your true self. Go for it, and then let reality smack you in the face. The pursuit of happiness is long gone, remember you'll never get out of this world alive.



“’Own It’ is so special to me because it’s not only one of the most autobiographical songs I’ve written, but it pretty much embodies the way that I hope to inspire other people with my music,” Bryan was quoted on a PR sheet. And it got even worse: “My dream is to see people listening to songs like this one and feeling more understood, and more confident about themselves…not to mention having FUN. I’m so excited that I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to do that with my music.”



For how abstruse the lyrics are from reality, keep on reading; else jump to the video below.



Own It

I'm right even when I'm wrong

I break things like hearts and iPhones

Patsy Cline when it's raining

In the car with my friends, I'm Jay Z

Can't dance but I won't stop

In my little black dress and hightops

Don't care but still get jealous

Without GPS, I'm helpless

But I'm not gonna stress

I'm such a beautiful mess



[Chorus]

Who cares what they say

I never listen anyway

In my head, yeah I'm cool

Gonna keep making my own rules

So call me crazy

Dysfunctional, maybe

I don't care, I'll show it

'Cause I own it

Own it, own it

'Cause I own it

Own it, own it

Oh, oh



I'm ambitious but don't like work

I write love songs, can't flirt

Awkward in conversation

But I'm Shakespeare when I'm texting, ha

Sweatpants but I'm still a lady

Trip and fall in public, gracefully

Wild, but I'm nerdy

I party hard 'til at least 9:30



[Chorus]



[Bridge]

Own your coolness

Own your crazy

Own your story in the making

Own your passion

Own your style

Own your stupid

Own your brave and

Own your wings and your mistakes

Own your style

Own your stupid

We're not gonna stress

We're all such a beautiful mess



[Chorus]



Musically the song is packaged into a mediocre pop jam, with undoubtedly a catchy, but non-distinct groove to it, like every other cookie-cutter contribution out of the city on the banks of the Cumberland. Simply forgettable as it sounds like everything else on the radio these days. Her rather weak, run-of-the-mill voice doesn't help either to promote it. She simply doesn't "Own It" to be a star (yet).



The only thing that may help Bryan is her strong worldwide management company, Red Light Management, which also handles the affairs of douchebags Sam Hunt and Luke Bryan (no relation) - maybe an opening gig on one of these guys' tours may help spread the bubbly message. Her label, Warner Music Nashville (WMN) (together with Indie 300 Entertainment out of New York) lauded the single and that accompanying video as groundbreaking.



That's a bit far-fetched, it's a simple video, using a smartphone with app-du-jour Snapchat (et alia) and therefore vertical and not horizontal. How revolutionary to put Social Media in a video? And voila, you have a video with "street cred" appealing to the targeted demographics of a lost youth who's addicted to staring for hours into their electronic gadgets. What's next, a video shot with Going Live on Facebook? That said, it's not to diminish the efforts of video company Green Shoe Studios. They did a superb job, for what they were asked to do by WMN and the management company.



The best part of the video comes at the very end - asking you to slide the button to the right to power the phone (and therefore the video) off. What a relief. I doubt she will be making an impact, even with the major push behind her. The single is expected to impact country radio later this month, but the streaming numbers on YouTube speak for themselves. An audio portion was released seven months ago and has acquired a little bit more than 33,000 streams, about 4,000 more than her now official video in the last four days.



★/★★★★★ (1/5)





Sources: Warner Music Nashville, YouTube, BMI, SongwriterUniverse, redlightmanagement.com, Rolling Stone, People magazine, Spotify,