Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ragweed Thursday -- Take 2!

Welcome to the first chapter in our new weekly series celebrating the great Texas/Oklahoma band Cross Canadian Ragweed. There are many of you out there whom I know have heard of this excellent, rockin' alt-country/Americana band. The goal of this weekly series is to celebrate the accomplishments of this band and, hopefully, introduce those of you who are not familiar with Ragweed's music to a wonderful body of work. This weekly series is leading up to the bands' final show at Joe's Bar in Chicago, Illinois on October 22. We were supposed to start last week but due to technical difficulties, that didn't happen.

Born in 1994 in Yukon, Oklahoma, lead singer Cody Canada and fellow musicians Grady Cross, Randy Ragsdale and Jeremy Plato later moved to the bustling music scene of Stillwater, Oklahoma. Thanks to their relentless touring, scorching live sets and stellar material in the mid to late-1990's, the band developed a solid following amongst the college crowd. They released three albums on their own independent record label, all of which sold quite well. Their success was significant enough to garner attention from a new major record label that was opening up in Nashville, Universal South Records.

The release of their self-titled debut album in 2002 on Universal South sold moderately well, considering that there were no real radio hits to come off the album. It wasn't until their 2004 album entitled "Soul Gravy" that the country began to take notice of this unique band. Truly at the time, there was no other band out there that sounded anything like Ragweed. I can remember sitting at home one weekend afternoon and having Country Music Television (CMT) on and hearing them talk about this new band releasing a new video with Lee Ann Womack. This was my first introduction to Cross Canadian Ragweed. And man, what an introduction. I instantly had a good feeling about these guys, like they could be the next big thing, exactly what country music needed at the time.

The single “Sick and Tired”, featuring the aforementioned Lee Ann Womack on harmony vocals, was the first single to chart reasonably well for Cross Canadian Ragweed. Surprisingly though, it didn’t become a top 40 hit, peaking at #46. The next single, "Alabama", would meet the same fate. To me, this didn't make sense. The songs were strong, perhaps in more ways than one. The writing was fantastic, the guitars stellar, but perhaps the subject matter was a little too much for the consultants at country radio. They appear to shy away from touchy subject material like prostitution and substance abuse, which is the subject matter of "Sick and Tired." Still though, the album was their best selling album to date, debuting at #4 on the Billboard Country Albums Chart.

If I've ever had a beef with country radio, this was a perfect example. A great song performed by excellent artists. An album that's a best seller, which means the people are buying the records, which in turn means they want to hear the music. Country radio doesn't play the said artists music because apparently some consultant said the material is a touch subject and people don't want to hear it. Yet the people are buying the records by the boatload. It made no sense to me then, it makes no sense to me now. Cross Canadian Ragweed isn't the first group to be caught up in this mix and they won't be the last, but that's a column for another day.

The "Soul Gravy" album is a great introduction to this group. When I talk about touchy subject matter, "Sick and Tired" isn't the only track that moves over some shady ground. "Cold Hearted Woman" is a heavy, rockin' song that involves sex, lies and homicide ... all three long-standing topics in the country music/alt-country/Americana genres. True love and dedication appear on this album with the aforementioned "Alabama", and for fans of the Red Dirt/Texas music scene, the guys perform a tune written by the great Ray Wylie Hubbard.

The album is available at your local record store, or pick it up on or from the bands' web site. We'll move on to the next album and a little further up the timeline next week as we move through our Ragweed Thursday series. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Album Review: Justin Townes Earle -- Harlem River Blues

Harlem River Blues, the third album released by Justin Townes Earle on Chicago's Bloodshot Records, has been available at your favorite record store for a couple of weeks. Released on September 14, 2010, mere days before Earle's widely publicized legal and substance troubles, this album serves to further establish Earle as one of the premier, up-and-coming acts in Americana and alt-country today. Not shocking, when you consider he's the son of the "Hardcore Troubadour" himself, Steve Earle, and his stepmother is Allison Moorer. Co-produced by Earle, this album has stellar musicians backing up JTE, with Jason Isbell on guitar and fellow producer Skylar Wilson on the keys.

The title track opens up the album. "Harlem River Blues" is a raucous opening tune, just full of righteous glory. A great song about redemption and finding salvation.

Following Harlem River is "One More Night in Brooklyn" a very simple and understated tune. Some great musicianship here, not too much on the electric side. Adding the upright bass and cello is a beautiful addition to this soft story song.

Listening to the third track,"Move Over Mama", brought back some memories from my childhood, listening to what is now the old, classic country music. This tune could easily find itself on a playlist with rockabilly greats like Carl Perkins or Johnny Cash.

"Working for the MTA" is a great homage to the old train songs of Woody Guthrie and Townes Van Zant. This time however, the subject train is a New York subway train, and the main character is a subway driver. Another great story song that Woody and Justin's namesake would be proud of.

"Wanderin'" is another gem on this great album that could easily find itself on a Great Big Sea album, what with its Celtic/Newfoundland/East Coast vibe. Perhaps the most fun song on the album.

"Slippin' and Slidin'" adds a little blues element to the album, mixed with a little New Orleans flavor. A horn section adds a really nice touch to this tune.

"Christchurch Woman" is a tune about lost and unrequited love, something a lot of us can relate to. The picture that is painted in this song is a melancholy scene that can invoke a lot of sympathy for the main character. A very well written song indeed.

"Learning to Cry" is another song in the old, classic country style. And why not, after all classic country music is the forerunner of modern day Americana/alt-country. A song about love and loss, heartbreak and heartache.

"Ain't Waitin'" starts off quiet enough, but turns into a great rockabilly/blues song. The slide guitar of Jason Isbell lends greatly to this blues element. This could be the coolest song on this album.

However it is the final track on the album, "Rogers Park", that could be the best performance on Harlem River. With Skylar Wilson's excellent piano work showing the way on this tune, again with excellent slide guitar from Jason Isbell, Justin Townes Earle turns in his strongest performance. His voice is in excellent form on this tune he co-wrote with Scotty Melton.

It's no secret that there is much love in the blogosphere for Justin Townes Earle. It's not an easy task for a performer of any stripe to become a critical and/or commercial success. When you're Justin Townes Earle it's that much more difficult, given his pedigree. Just ask Hank Williams Jr. if it was tough following in the footsteps of his father ... all Hank Sr. did was pioneer modern music as we know it today. Having said that, Justin Townes Earle is the real deal. He has the goods. If anyone was wondering if his material can stand up to that of his famous father, listen to this album and judge for yourself. Regardless of whether or not he has the lengthy career or achieves the status of his dad, in my mind, this album stands up with anything his dad has produced. Justin Townes Earle is a talent, my friends. If I'm putting together a top ten list for 2010, this album is firmly entrenched on it.

You can purchase this album and listen to free samples on
For more information on Justin Townes Earle log on to
For more information on other Bloodshot Records artists log on to

Monday, September 27, 2010

With Apologies ...

... for the inconvenience. I had a completed column on Friday night to kick off our series on Cross Canadian Ragweed. As I went to post it, somehow the system kicked me back out to the login screen. I hit the back button to take me to the column and an error message pops up. I curse. I go back to the login page, sign back in. I go to the history section on the site where you can access drafts and past columns. I see the column is listed. I think, "Sweet ..." so I click on it ... only to find the title "Ragweed Thursday on a Friday" has been saved. The rest is a blank space. The entire column was wiped out, lost in cyberspace somewhere. Needless to say, it was not a good time. So, now I'm back and I'm ready to write, so here's what's going on here for the next couple of columns.

Tomorrow night, I'll be doing the long-promised track-by-track review of the latest release on Bloodshot Records from Justin Townes Earle, Harlem River Blues. Trust me folks, this is a great album that deserves your time. As mentioned last week, JTE is taking some time off the road to take care of that monkey that's on his back. He's a phenomenal talent that deserves a second chance, and we continue to wish him well in his recovery. It's only the beginning, so let's keep Mr. Earle in our prayers, it's not an easy road that he's on right now.

Thursday night, we're going to kick off our series on Cross Canadian Ragweed. Granted, it's a week after the original launch date, but we won't get in to that anymore. Computers can be a real pain in the tail, but they do keep us all in touch with one another. Hell, if it weren't for computers, we wouldn't be sitting here writing, thinking and/or talking about great music! It's the continued goal of this site and column to talk about those artists who don't receive the mainstream recognition that they so richly deserve, so thanks as always for checking this blog out. I hope you find it informative and interesting. But most of all, I hope some of you are visiting the artist web sites, purchasing their albums and, if possible, attending their shows. There is a lot of talent in Americana. You certainly don't need to drop a couple hundred dollars on a stadium show to be entertained. For a fraction of the price, the artists in Americana will entertain you in spades. Be sure to check some of these folks out as they pass through your area. To my friends in Europe, these artists are over visiting your countries all the time, so no one is left out!

So please come back for a visit tomorrow for our look at JTE's new album, and we'll set up the too-long delayed kick-off to Ragweed Thursday's! We're less than 4 weeks to the final show, so we gotta get on this thing!

Thank you and good night!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Ragweed Thursday on a Friday!

Ragweed Thursday on a Friday will be up shortly. We experience a technical difficulty which led to the complete column being lost in transmission as it was being posted.

Justin Townes Earle: Update

Hello everyone,

As an update to my last column regarding the alleged incident with Justin Townes Earle in Indianapolis, his management has issued a press release stating that Mr. Earle has cancelled the remaining 21 dates on his current tour and has entered a rehab facility in an effort to control his substance abuse. The next article I write about Justin Townes Earle will be the album review, and that should be up tomorrow. It's time to get back to talking about the music with JTE. We wish Justin Townes Earle all the best in his recovery and applaud and congratulate him on taking this first brave step.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


The intention of today's column was to do an album review of the brand new Justin Townes Earle album, Harlem River Blues. The Bloodshot records was released on September 14, 2010 and on my first few listens, I can safely say this is a great record. JTE sounds to be in great voice, and you can't miss when you have Jason Isbell on guitar and Bryn Davies supporting with the upright bass. This is a great sounding record with songs that are very well written and very well performed.

However, something caught my eye today that caught me by surprise. Various media outlets have reported that Justin Townes Earle was arrested last Thursday following a disturbance after his show in Indianapolis. According to the media, Earle was heckled by a couple of fans. One of the fans requested a song for Earle to sing, unfortunately it wasn't a JTE song ... it was "Freebird", by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Understandably, Earle became quite upset by this request. The floodgates appeared to be opened at this point, at another fan requested Earle take off his shirt, while another threw their shirt at the stage. The shirt landed on Earle's guitar. According to the media, Earle uttered an expletive to the crowd, left the stage and in a drunken rage, proceed to trash his dressing room. The club's owners called police and JTE was subsequently charged with assault and battery.

Now, all of these are allegations that have yet to be proven in court, so I'm not here to judge Justin Townes Earle. However, if this incident at the Radio Radio club in Indianapolis happened as reported, then there are two things at play here. First and most obvious, JTE could have handled this thing differently. No matter how bad the fans get, a performer has to maintain their cool in some fashion. Nothing is stopping them from cutting the show off early, packing up the van or the bus, and heading to the bar across town for a few drinks with the band and crew. Second and equally important, the fans have to take equal heat on this one. If you're going to spend your money on tickets and booze to see a show, then turn around and heckle and agitate the artist you and countless others have paid to see, why the hell show up? As a fan, you're a disgrace and you drag everybody down around you. I'm sure we've all been there, when we're watching a show, everybody's into it, and some wannabe comedian has to start taking shots at the performer. It kills the vibe in the room every time. So to you fans who think you're funny and the life of the party by heckling the stage, the only advice for you is to either (a) shut up, drink your beer and watch the show; or (b) keep your sorry tail at home. You're not funny. You're a pain in the ass. You kill the room. Stay home.

Sometimes these things need to be said.

Justin Townes Earle will be playing the Horseshoe Tavern in my hometown of Toronto, Ontario Canada on October 15, 2010. I will be there, and I will provide a review of the show in this space. I'm quite looking forward to the show, the Horseshoe is one of the great live music venues in Canada. Tomorrow there will be a special entry to this space. A track by track review of JTE's Harlem River Blues will be here, so please check back tomorrow.

Thanks to everyone who has been reading this blog, it's nice to see there are some of you out there. I've noticed readers from all over the world, from Denmark, to the United States, France and my native Canada. Thanks everyone for reading, it's a great thrill to know you have visited the blog and that you like what you see. Feel free to leave a comment, say hello or send a message to, especially if there is artist you like that you would like me to write about or an album you would like me to review. And of course, as great a compliment as it is for you to have visited this blog and returned another time, referring this blog to your friends for their enjoyment is equally heartening. Thanks again friends!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Taboo Topics

Last week, while I was home sick from work, I came across a replay of the MTV Video Music Awards. The opening number for that particular awards show was the recent duet with Eminem and Rhianna. Now for those who are regular readers of this blog, you may be wondering "Why the hell is this guy writing about Eminem and Rhianna? They are as far removed from Americana and country music as you can possibly get." And, you would be right, they are as far removed from Americana and country music as you can get. But, that does not mean that they aren't relevant performers and artists. Quite frankly, Americana and country music artists could take some notes from Eminem. Let me explain.

For the purposes of this writing, I'm going to submit to you that the forerunners of what is now known as the Americana/alt-country genre were artists like Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and the like. At one point in time, these artists recorded for the major labels of the day in Nashville and were more or less forced to toe the line as to what they had to record. In other words, they recorded what they were told to record as opposed to what they wanted to record. They were recording someone else's words, instead of what they wanted to say. Waylon's battles with RCA records in the early 1970's have been well documented and it is well known that Waylon won the war. The music business in Nashville was never the same after that. Waylon had full creative control and could record whatever he wanted, regardless of the subject matter. The "Outlaw Movement" had prevailed.

One of the things that turned me off of listening to mainstream country and turned me on to listening to Americana and alt-country is, you can hear and feel the same independence and creative control that Waylon et al created in the 1970's. There is no set formula, there is no keeping an artist in a safety net. Artists are encouraged to step out of their comfort zone and say what they feel needs to be said with no apologies. I like that.

The duet with Eminem and Rhianna reminds me a lot of the music that came out of Nashville following the Outlaw Movement. Their duet deals with, sadly, an all too common subject matter, that of domestic abuse. The narrator of the story, Eminem's part, is from the male abuser perspective. Watching their performance on the MTV Awards, I listened to the lyrics for the first time. It's a powerful song, very well written and very well performed. Eminem does the impossible performing this song, as he successfully portray's the abuser into a somewhat sympathetic figure. The man wants to stop the abusing and the lying. Sadly, he knows he's lying and once he convinces the lady in this song to come back, he knows right away that he will abuse again. This song has become a runaway hit on more than one Billboard chart.

Such songs use to be the norm in mainstream country. They used to make you think, they used to make you feel something, they used to make you step out of your comfort zone. When you get the chance, listen to Waylon's Jennings perform "Cedartown, Georgia." If you do, you will be listening to one of Waylon's most haunting performances. It is a tremendous story. Story songs such as this are essentially absent from the mainstream country music airwaves.

Thankfully, there are some artists who still push the envelope. I heard a song on the radio today by a gentleman named Chris Knight, from the great state of Texas. His song titled "Rita's Only Fault" again deals with the issue of domestic abuse, only from a friend's helpless point of view. The main character is an admirer of Rita, who has married someone else ... clearly, someone who does not treat her well. The story does take a tragic twist, and that's all I'll say about it. Check it out, it's a great song.

Jamey Johnson picks up the torch as well. The lead song on his first Mercury Records album, That Lonesome Song, was titled "High Cost of Living." The song covered such unsavory topics as cocaine abuse and soliciting prostitutes. This was the follow-up single to "In Color", which won the Song of the Year at the 2008 Country Music Association Awards. "High Cost of Living" barely cracked the top 40 on Billboard's country chart. A clear indication of mainstream country's propensity to avoid taboo topics in their art form.

Thankfully, there are artists in the Americana and alt-country movement that have been granted the creative freedom to write and perform their material regardless of subject matter. When you have an artist like Paul Thorn, who's latest release is titled "Pimps and Preachers", you know you're going to go to some shady places during the course of that album. With artists like Paul, along with Chris Knight, Jamey Johnson, Steve Earle and his son Justin Townes Earle, it's safe to say the Outlaw Movement lives on.

I think Waylon would be proud.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Introducing Ragweed Thursday's!

Next month on October 24, 2010 at Joe's Bar in Chicago, Illinois, one of the greatest bands in Americana/alt-country will play their final show before taking a much deserved break from the road.

I call Cross Canadian Ragweed one of the greatest bands for my own selfish reasons. They are the reason I really became interested in this genre. I still to this day cannot figure out why they have not been able to find success at mainstream country radio, but that's topic for another day. Regardless of my own personal reasons for calling them one of the greatest bands, it is tough to argue with their success. They have sold over a million albums and, thanks to their constant and relentless touring, have a loyal and rabid following. All of this without a single major hit at country radio. Very impressive indeed.

I've compared the self-imposed sabbatical Cross Canadian Ragweed is about to take with that of the recent farewell of Brooks and Dunn. While Ragweed's plan is to come back at some point in the future, their departure for now is no less significant. Rather than mourn the loss of Ragweed (at least for the next while) on the road and in the recording studio, we're going to honor this great band by dedicating each Thursday leading up to their final show in October to Cross Canadian Ragweed. I'm also going to be in Chicago for the final show, so there will also be some special posts on the blog outside of the normal Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday schedule. We'll focus on the history of the band, provide album reviews and try to appropriately honor this occasion and Ragweed's accomplishments. I invite you all to participate in this as well, please feel free to comment and share any stories about Cross Canadian Ragweed if you have any. Whether you're a long-time fan or you've just discovered Ragweed, it doesn't matter, I'd love to hear from you. I also want to hear from you if you're going to be at the show in Chicago, let's get your thoughts here as well.

I'm especially looking forward to Chicago. This will be a first on two fronts for me. This will be my first trip to Chicago, a city which I have wanted to visit for some time. Also, this will be my first time seeing Ragweed live. Since it's the last show for the foreseeable future, I anticipate this is going to be a long show, one helluva blowout. The unenviable task of opening this show goes to Wade Bowen, but I've heard some of Bowen's stuff before, this man is more than up to the task. It is going to be a great show and I'm looking forward to visiting the Windy City.

So there it is everyone, our Thursday's are set for the next few weeks. I appreciate all of you who have read this blog so far, I've noticed there have been readers from the United States, Canada and places as far away as Denmark, France and China. I send much love to all of you, thanks for your continued support. If you guys keep reading, I'll keep writing. By all means, feel free to participate and leave your comments.

We'll catch up on Saturday and let's get ready for Ragweed Thursday's starting next week!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Deserving Tribute

Forget for a moment that the music business has labels and formats and all that stuff that gets people finicky over what music they listen to. You know what I mean, it's that momentary hesitation if someone tells you to listen to a rap song, when perhaps classical is your thing. Today, I'm going to write about a lady who began her life in the coal mining region of Kentucky and is now a revered legend in the music business. Indeed, without this woman's talent, drive and determination, the female performers of today would have a much tougher time negotiating the perils of the music business.

Born in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky on April 14, 1934, Loretta Lynn has lived a life that is to be admired. Marrying at the age of 14 to Oliver aka "Mooney" Lynn and moving to the United States Northwest, Loretta began pursuing her professional music career in 1960. Having been signed to the independent label Zero Records, 4 children in tow and with the encouragement of her husband, Loretta and family began a cross-country journey to promote her first recording "I'm A Honky Tonk Girl." Loretta began her career when female singers in any genre were extremely rare. At that time, the only star "girl" singers in country music were Kitty Wells, Jean Sheppard and Patsy Cline. It was through Patsy Cline's friendship and mentoring, that Loretta would begin to write the hits that would shape her career and help establish her place in music history.

Self-penned hits like "You Ain't Woman Enough to Take My Man", "Dear Uncle Sam" and "The Pill" addressed such topics as infidelity, the human cost of the Vietnam War and birth control. Topics not easily discussed in the 1960's and 1970's, least of all by a female country music superstar. It would be Loretta's biographical hit "Coal Miner's Daughter" that would catapult her in to super-stardom. The song also spawned an autobiography and the "Coal Miner's Daughter" movie that earned Sissy Spacek an Oscar for her portrayal of Loretta Lynn.

Showing her versatility as a performer, Loretta partnered with the late, great Conway Twitty in the early 1970's to create some of the most memorable duets in country music history. Together, Conway and Loretta would win the Country Music Association's Duo of the Year Award 5 times. To recognize the significance of this accomplishment, consider that their competition in this category was typically George Jones and Tammy Wynette, and Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton. I think we can all safely say that Loretta's greatest professional achievement was her induction in to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1988. I believe it's only a matter of time before the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame follows suit with a more than appropriate induction.

In recent year's, Loretta has been back in the spotlight for all the right reasons. The tragic death of one of her son's in 1984, followed by health issues and the death of her husband Mooney, has limited her recording output and her touring over the years. That all changed with the 2004 release of Van Lear Rose, and album produced by Jack White of the White Stripes. Jack White has long professed his love and admiration for Loretta Lynn. Their work on that project earned both of them a well deserved Grammy award for Best Country Album that same year.

This year, 2010, sees Loretta regaining the spotlight once again. It's one thing to have one tribute album released in your honor, it says quite a lot when there's two issued in the same year. Earlier this year, young Eileen Jewell issued Butcher Holler, a tribute album to Loretta Lynn. Released independently, the album takes a very understated approach to the production which lends well to the authenticity of the music. Jewell's vocals are immaculate. The album offers excellent interpretations of classic Lynn material, old and new. This is one album I will be going out of my way to purchase.

The next tribute album is gathering considerably more fanfare, and with good reason. It is going to be released on Columbia Records Nashville, one of the largest labels in mainstream country music. The unique aspect of this album, is the inclusion of such non-mainstream/Americana artists as Steve Earle and Allison Moorer (covering the Conway and Loretta classic "After the Fire Is Gone") and Lucinda Williams. Rock acts The White Stripes and Paramore also make appearances. Kid Rock, Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood and Gretchen Wilson contribute as well. Perhaps the track I'm looking forward to the most is the collaboration of Alan Jackson and Martina McBride on another Conway and Loretta classic, "Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man." The albums most poignant song has already been released to radio, and that's a collaboration with Miranda Lambert, Sheryl Crow and Loretta Lynn herself, on Lynn's all-time classic, "Coal Miner's Daughter." The album is titled Coal Miner's Daughter: A Tribute to Loretta Lynn and will be released on November 9.

Before I close today's writing, I would like to bring this back to where we started. In a music business that is always looking for that next big artist, the next big hit and the next big profit spike, it's nice to see a major label like Columbia Records Nashville doing something for the music. To see the roster of artists who are contributing to this album is to see the cross-genre appeal that Loretta Lynn has had for decades. They have gathered the finest in mainstream country, rock and Americana together to honor a true legend and pioneer in the music business. Columbia Records Nashville is to be commended for taking on this project. It would be nice to see other major labels follow suit. Perhaps this is a turning point in the recording industry.

Circle November 9 on your calendars folks and pick up this album, it is sure to be a great one. And, while you're at it, be sure to pick up Eileen Jewel's worthy tribute, Butcher Holler, as well. You will not be disappointed.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Winners

On a poignant day in September, the 9th annual Americana Music Festival and Conference drew to a close. While not present this year, I look forward to attending the 10th annual Festival and Conference in 2011, in one of my favorite cities in the world, Nashville, Tennessee.

For the Association, of the many highlights of the 4 day shindig, the biggest highlight is the awards show and ceremony held annually at the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville. Affectionately called "The Mother Church of Country Music", it is a historical landmark where music history continues to be made.

The last column in this space was my quick, Coles/Cliff's Notes version of my predictions on the award recipients. Clearly, being nominated means a lot. It's an acknowledgement of ones accomplishments over the course of the past year, while showing confidence in ones promise for the next year and many years to come.

The winners at this years awards show are most deserving. Personally, I'm quite thrilled to say I was right on all counts, except two.

Ryan Bingham was the nights big winner, and that's not shocking. Picking up trophies for Song of the Year, along with T Bone Burnett, for "The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)" and Artist of the Year had to be expected. The song is also an Oscar winner, and the Crazy Hear soundtrack that Bingham is a large part of has sold a boatload of copies. If the Academy is going to honor the Ryan Bingham, the Americana Music Association was going to follow suit. And rightly so. Mr. Bingham's involvement with that sound track did as much for the Americana genre as the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack 8 years ago. The producer for both albums, T Bone Burnett, was rightfully honored as well with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Both talented individuals are the torchbearers for this genre and will be for many years to come.

Album of the Year honors went to another legend, Roseanne Cash for The List. The history of this album is well known. When she was 18 years old, father Johnny Cash wrote out a list of 100 classic country songs and told his soon-to-be-famous daughter that if she wanted to be a successful singer/songwriter in the music business, that she needed to learn those songs. And boy, did she. The List contains such interpretations of I'm Moving On, 500 Miles Away From Home and the Grammy winning performance with Bruce Springsteen, Sea of Heartbreak. It is a fantastic album and if you have not picked up a copy, I encourage you to do so. Great, great material.

Instrumentalist of the Year is the always wonderful Buddy Miller. Buddy will be on tour this fall with Robert Plant, leading the Band of Joy. Produced by T Bone Burnett, Robert Plant and the Band of Joy will have their album released on Rounder records this Tuesday, September 14. No doubt, it will be a great piece of music that is not to be missed.

Texas singer/songwriter Hayes Carll has been around for a little while in his home state, but is now finally getting the recognition he deserves on a national level, as Mr. Carll takes home the New and Emerging Artist of the Year. I must confess I'm not as familiar with Hayes Carll's material as I would like to be, but the material I have researched is fantastic. I will be following this man's career more closely in the future and I can safely say he is a very deserving recipient of this award. Expect big things in the coming years from Hayes Carll.

Another winner that I am looking forward to learning more about are the Avett Brothers, winners of the Group or Duo of the Year. The Brothers, riding on their success of 2009 release "I and Love and You", have been touring across North America and Europe relentlessly for the past two years. On October 5, 2010, The Avett Brothers will release their latest album on Columbia records called Live Vol. 3. Sneak peaks are available on their web site now, by all means check these guys out.

Lifetime achievement awards were handed out John Mellencamp, T Bone Burnett, Wanda Jackson, label executive Luke Lewis, instrumentalist Greg Leisz, singer/songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter and record producer Brian Ahern.

Perhaps the coolest thing that took place at this awards show, happened after the awards show. To the surprise of the audience, veteran awards show host Jim Lauderdale announced at the conclusion of the awards show that there was a band setting up to perform selections from their forthcoming album. Within a matter of moments Robert Plant and The Band of Joy took to the Ryman stage and gave the audience a sneak peek of what can be expected when they go on tour this fall and when the album is released this Tuesday. It is moments like that, that make me so happy that I am a music fan. For me, even hearing that took place is a small rush.

Congratulations to all the winners and nominees at this years Americana Music Association Awards. The future of this business and this genre is burning bright. I'm excited about the possibilities for the coming year and I look forward to attending next year's Festival and Conference.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Predictions Abound!

A funny thing happened as I was writing this last night. I was writing out my predictions for tonight’s Americana Music Awards in Nashville. I was doing a helluva job, analysing the possibilities, making solid educated guesses as to who the winners were most certainly going to be.

Then, the road took a detour. Since we’re a two high school student, three-cat and one computer family, my youngest daughter comes to me and says she needs the computer. Clearly, high school homework has to take priority, so I graciously vacated the chair and had to abandon my original article. So, here’s plan B, which is a little more watered down, but hopefully will be much fun to talk about. Tomorrow’s column, which will be posted tomorrow night, will talk about the winners and the rationale I used for my picks for tonight. For those of you (like me) who could not be in Nashville this week, the awards show is being broadcast on the internet on 650 WSM-AM.

The link for WSM radio is

So, here we go with the nominees and the predicted winners:

Song of the Year:

“The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)”

Written by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett, performed by Ryan Bingham

“Drunken Poets Dream”

Written by Hayes Carll and Ray Wylie Hubbard, performed by Ray Wylie Hubbard


Written by Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch, performed by Dave Rawlings Machine

“I and Love and You”

Written and Performed by The Avett Brothers

Americana Review Prediction: The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart), by Ryan Bingham

Album of the Year:

The List, by Roseanne Cash

A Friend of a Friend, by Dave Rawlings Machine

Downtown Church, by Patty Griffin

(A) Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint … there is no C), by Ray Wylie Hubbard

Americana Review Prediction: The List, by Roseanne Cash

New and Emerging Artist

Sarah Jarosz

Ryan Bingham

Hayes Carll

Corb Lund

Joe Pug

Americana Review Prediction: Ryan Bingham

Instrumentalist of the Year

Will Kimbrough

Buddy Miller

Sam Bush

Dave Rawlings

Americana Review Prediction: Buddy Miller

Duo or Group of the Year

The Avett Brothers

Band of Heathens

Carolina Chocolate Drops

Dave Rawlings Machine

Americana Review Prediction: Dave Rawlings Machine

Artist of the Year

Ryan Bingham

Patty Griffin

Levon Helm

Steve Earle

Ray Wylie Hubbard

Americana Review Prediction: Ryan Bingham

Thanks for reading, feel free to comment and send me your predictions, either on this blog or at

Check back on Saturday for a discussion about the winners. Take care!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

And the Nominees Are ...

It's the first week of September, which means several things. Summer has come to pass, the kids are back in school and it's Americana Music Week in Nashville. There are two events on the calendar that are not to be missed in the circles of music lovers. The first comes in March, with South by Southwest in Austin, Texas. The second is AMA Week in September. This is the week where the Americana Music Association and its members pay homage to the artists whose body of work over the past year deserves recognition, as well as honoring the great veteran artists who have blazed the trail for the great artists of today.

The cornerstone event for the week is the annual Americana Music Association (AMA) Awards, to be held on Thursday September 9, 2010. Taking place at the Mother Church of Country Music, the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville, the 9th edition of these awards features performances some fantastic and well known artists. Kicking off this years show, is a performance by none other than John Mellancamp, as he showcases his brand new sound.

Of course, this has been a banner year for the Americana scene. Similar to the days when the film O Brother Where Art Thou was in theaters which helped the world discover bluegrass and Americana on a huge scale, the motion picture industry brings the masses back to the scene. The soundtrack to the movie Crazy Heart featured vocals from Jeff Bridges and made Ryan Bingham a household name. The album, movie and all earned well deserved Oscars for their performances. Now it's time for the AMA to do the same. Ryan Bingham, the albums' chief songwriter (along with ace producer T Bone Burnett), is nominated in the Song of the Year category for "The Weary Kind", from the Crazy Heart Soundtrack. Ryan is also nominated in the prestigious Artist of the Year category. It's hard not to imagine Mr. Bingham walking away with both of these awards. He has had an amazing year, but there are some other strong contenders.

Also nominated in the Song of the Year category are: "Drunken Poets Dream", written by Hayes Carll and Ray Wylie Hubbard, performed by Ray Wylie Hubbard; "Ruby", written by Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch, performed by the Dave Rawlings Machine; "I and Love and You", written and performed by the Avett Brothers.

In addition to Ryan Bingham, Artist of the Year nominees are: Patty Griffin, Levon Helm, Steve Earle and Ray Wylie Hubbard.

Round out the awards show are the following categories:

Album of the Year: The List, Roseanne Cash; A Friend of a Friend, Dave Rawlings Machine; Downtown Church, Patty Griffin; A. Enlightenment B. Endarkenment (Hint: there is no C), Ray Wylie Hubbard

Duo/Group of the Year: The Avett Brothers, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Band of Heathens, Dave Rawlings Machine

Instrumentalist of the Year: Buddy Miller, Dave Rawlings, Will Kimbrough, Sam Bush

New and Emerging Artist: Sarah Jarosz, Ryan Bingham, Hayes Carll, Corb Lund, Joe Pug

So, there you have the nominees for Thursday nights awards show. I am a proud member of the Americana Music Association but regrettably, I am not able to attend the awards show or the festivities in Nashville this week. While I may not be there, I am thinking about this great showcase and how very deserving this community is, in having their hard work and creativity recognized. Tomorrow's entry will have my predictions as to the winners of the awards. Predictions are always up for debate, so please send back your comments if you agree or disagree ... after all, they're just one man's opinion.

If you are in Nashville this week and reading this, thanks for taking the time to check us out and we'd love to hear from you too. Let us know how the week is going, and who your favorites are.

For a complete lineup of the festivities at this years Americana Music Festival and Conference, please click on the link below to the Americana Music Association.