Rhett thunders up the ranks

Rhett thunders up the ranks

There are country artists who are bigger household names, but there are few who are rising as fast through the ranks as Thomas Rhett.

Rising country star brings talented charisma to Country Thunder stage

BY LISA WILTON, SPECIAL TO POSTMEDIA

FIRST POSTED: SATURDAY, AUGUST 19, 2017 10:35 PM MDT | UPDATED: SATURDAY, AUGUST 19, 2017 11:27 PM MDT

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There are country artists who are bigger household names, but there are few who are rising as fast through the ranks as Thomas Rhett.

The 27-year-old Georgia native — who headlined the second day of Country Thunder Alberta Saturday night — comes from solid country stock. His father, Rhett Akins, was the voice behind the 1996 Billboard number one, Don’t Get Me Started, but Akins Jr. really has only one foot planted in the country music genre.

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As he’s explained in interviews, Rhett comes from the ‘playlist generation’, meaning he’s just as comfortable laying down a funky soul jam as he is belting out a country barnburner.

His diverse tastes seem to mirror the youthful crowd who crammed in close to the stage to see Rhett deliver a lively, pop-infused set.

Wearing a long-sleeved Kawasaki-emblazoned white sweat shirt, Rhett began his show on a more mellow note, accompanied by a soulful saxophone before ramping things up with funkier — but overly slick — numbers such as South Side and Make Me Wanna.

He may annoy country purists, but even they can’t deny he’s got charisma. Plus, he gets extra points for a rousing singalong version of Garth Brooks’ Friends in Low Places.

There was a definite chill in the air when Rhett took to the stage (“Why is it so cold in August?”, he asked at one point) but earlier in the day sunny skies and a light breeze made for perfect festival-going conditions.

Canadian country supergroup The Road Hammers set the energy bar high for the day with their boisterous set of outlaw trucker country.

Jason McCoy thanked the crowd for coming to the festival early saying, “You know what bands say, a show without an audience is just a rehearsal.”

If that’s true, then some of the earlier acts on the smaller Country 105 stage on the opposite end of the Prairie Winds Park festival site got some good practice time in.

It’s too bad more of the 18,000 people who showed up for day two didn’t stop to watch the up ’n’ coming Canadian and local bands on the stage, although later acts such as the hugely talented Trinity Bradshaw started to draw bigger crowds as the tables next to the nearby beer sales tent filled up.

Bradshaw was among very few female artists booked for this year’s Country Thunder Alberta festival.

Only two women performed on the mainstage all weekend, including Medicine Hat’s own Terri Clark. She joked about it, but it’s disappointing that with so many successful women in the genre, Country Thunder could not add a few more to their mainstage lineups.

As the biggest female name this weekend, Terri Clark more than held her own.

A veteran performer, Clark charmed the crowd with her usual entertaining banter, bringing out all the hit singles from her 30-year career.

Her voice was a little shaky on No Fear — a track she wrote with Mary Chapin Carpenter — but she was back on form for the rest of the hour-long set that featured several new numbers.

Joe Nichols, another veteran of the country music scene, also came armed with a few new tracks.

He seemed to have trouble with his in-ear monitor during his first song, What’s a Guy Gotta Do? It didn’t faze him too much though as he continued seamlessly into his next few songs, without nary a glance at his sound guy.

Nichols threw in some great covers of Tom Petty’s Runnin’ Down a Dream and The Band’s The Shape I’m In and dipped into his latest album, Never Gets Old. The record’s been getting a lot of attention recently thanks to the inclusion of his hilarious, but surprisingly good country shuffle version of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s hip hop classic Baby Got Back, which he did to the delight (and some confusion) of the Country Thunder crowd.

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By the time big-voiced Mississippi singer Randy Houser hit the stage, more than few festivalgoers were worse for wear. (Pro tip: Stay hydrated if you’re going to spend eight hours drinking outside in the sun.)

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That said, his party-ready, redneck country was a suitable soundtrack for the swaying masses, who sang along loudly to Hauser’s honky tonk hits, including They Call Me Cadillac, How Country Feels and the wholly ridiculous, Honky Tonk Badonkadonk, which was written by Hauser and became a Top 5 hit for Trace Adkins in 2005.

Country Thunder Alberta continues Sunday with headliner Blake Shelton.

Country Thunder kicks off in style

 

 

BY LISA WILTON, SPECIAL TO POSTMEDIA

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FIRST POSTED: FRIDAY, AUGUST 18, 2017 11:31 PM MDT | UPDATED: FRIDAY, AUGUST 18, 2017 11:37 PM MDT

Country Thunder Alberta kicked off with a boom on Friday.

More than 17,500 people made their way to Prairie Winds Park in Calgary’s northeast to take in the first night of the second annual country music festival.

Those who remember last year’s kickoff were relieved to find the issues that plagued the festival had been fully addressed.

Gone were the two-hour waits for food tickets and beer sales, and getting through the front gates was a much less stressful experience.

There were, of course, long lines for alcohol, food and toilets at times, but they were manageable.

With the beer tents and food trucks running smoothly, that left more time for fans to enjoy the music.

Canadian country act The Dungarees started things off on the mainstage as people started to arrive.

Fellow Canucks, The Washboard Union had more eyes on them when they took to the stage later in the afternoon.

The trio from Vancouver warmed up the crowd with their hit, Maybe It’s the Moonshine, a pretty straightforward modern country song that would be hard to pick out in an aural lineup.

But The Washboard Union soon proved why they are one of the more interesting groups in the Canadian country music scene when they picked up the pace with their exceptional cover of bluegrass pioneers The Delmore Brothers’ Midnight Train.

You don’t see a lot washboards in new country these days, so it was fun to watch David Roberts — resplendent in a white denim jacket and a matching white beard — shuffle and dance his way across the stage, holding his washboard high as if it were a newly won UFC championship belt.

Although most of the day’s artists threw in a couple of cover songs, Chase Bryant leaned on a bit too heavily on them during his hour-long set.

Two songs in and he was coaxing people out of their seats, not with his own upbeat numbers, but rather a faithful version of Keith Urban’s crowd-pleasing smash, Somebody Like You.

He also threw in a couple of pop radio hits as well as Tom Petty’s Freefalling and a snippet of Wichita Lineman in tribute to the late, great Glen Campbell.

But judging by originals such as She Sets Me On Fire, Little Bit of You and his propulsive new single, Hell If I Know, Bryant has the chops. He just needs to get rid of the padding.

“There were a lot of young girls looking very confused,” said heavily tattooed Canadian singer Dallas Smith after finishing his own powerful cover of Audioslave’s 2002 single, Cochise.

It’s true that not many other country singers would tackle a band like Audioslave, but Smith isn’t just any country star.

The former lead singer of Vancouver post-grunge band Default, Smith has successfully switched gears from rock to country, although he hasn’t forgotten his hard rock roots.

Kicking off the set with his first No. 1 hit, Wastin’ Gas, Smith strode across the stage and down the catwalk, full of confidence and charisma, no doubt honed during his years with Default.

Normally, Smith would be a tough act to follow. But there are few better country musicians than Brad Paisley.

He had the crowd up and dancing right from the first chords of Last Time for Everything, and transfixed through the mid-tempo ballad Perfect Storm.

Known as one of the best guitarists in the biz, Paisley kept that fleet-fingered reputation intact as he tore through such tracks as the weekend party starter Crushin’ It and Old Alabama.

Part of the reason for Paisley’s enormous popularity is his relationship with his fans, some of whom were lucky enough to hang out and watch him from the side of the stage. He even thrilled one young girl in the audience by handing her his guitar.

It’s all part and parcel of the Paisley experience. He’s a slick showman, but there’s little flash and a lot of heart. Plus, bringing up ‘n’ comers Bryant and Alberta singer Brett Kissel on stage with him for a couple of songs was a classy move, showing that Paisley is invested in seeing the next generation of country stars flourish.

Country Thunder Alberta Preview

Blake Shelton is one of the headliners at this year's Country Thunder. RICK DIAMOND / GETTY IMAGES FOR HAPPY VALLEY JA

Country Thunder back with 'more of everything'

LISA WILTON
More from Lisa Wilton

Published on: August 17, 2017 | Last Updated: August 17, 2017 4:00 AM MDT

 

Country Thunder Alberta is back and better than ever.

Well, given that the massive outdoor music festival launched only last year it’s to be expected.

Like any new event, Country Thunder Alberta had its share of bugs to work out the first year. Long lineups for food and beverages were the main frustration for festivalgoers, but local organizer Gerry Krochak says those complaints have been addressed.

“On the service side, you’re just going to see more of everything,” he explains. “More food and beverage ticket booths, more vendors, triple the beverage service staff. And because of some outstanding renovations to the park, our fans can expect much-improved sight lines to the mainstage. The view from the hill to the mainstage is incredible — a true amphitheatre feel.”

Country Thunder Alberta takes place Aug. 18 to 20 at Prairie Winds Park in the city’s northeast. It’s part of the Country Thunder brand, which also produces annual large-scale country music festivals in Wisconsin, Arizona and Saskatchewan.

 

The inaugural 2016 festival was a huge success with 20,000 people walking through the gates each day to see headliners such as Luke Bryan and Tim McGraw.

“We had perfect weather, incredible fans and a great vibe that put our inaugural year in Alberta over the top,” Krochak says.

“That we successfully launched the Country Thunder brand with a city festival in Calgary — and in the process, helped establish Prairie Winds Park as a world-class outdoor concert facility — was very gratifying.”

While last year’s lineup set the bar high, Country Thunder really brought out the big guns this year with some of country music’s most successful artists.

Blake Shelton, Brad Paisley and Thomas Rhett headline the mainstage while Canadian country stars Terri Clark and The Road Hammers, as well as fast-rising acts such as The Washboard Union, The Dungarees and James Barker Band round out the impressive lineup.

“You always want the biggest and best in the headline slots,” Krochak says.

Brad Paisley is one of the headliners at this year’s Country Thunder. TED JACOB /  CALGARY HERALD

“But the strength of a festival lineup comes with its balance of superstars, up-and-comers and veteran acts who have stood the test of time. We broke attendance records in Arizona this year with Blake Shelton and Thomas Rhett, which bodes well for fans in Calgary. Having Brad Paisley, Randy Houser, Dallas Smith, Old Dominion, High Valley, Chase Bryant, Terri Clark, The Road Hammers, Joe Nichols and so many more … Well, it’s a stacked lineup.”

In addition to watching a stellar list of artists take the stage each day, fans will be able to take line-dancing lessons, participate in Budweiser bean bag tossing games, shop in the retail tent and get their pictures taken in a special photo booth.

And when you eventually get peckish, you’ll be able to choose from a variety of food stalls offering up corn dogs, pizza, poutine and other greasy delights. If you’re someone who likes to, you know, throw a veggie or two into your diet, don’t worry, there are also plenty of food vendors on hand with more healthy offerings.

As with last year, Country Thunder Alberta organizers recommend festivalgoers use city transit to get to Prairie Winds Park, which is located near the McKnight-Westwinds LRT station.

Not only does it relieve traffic congestion, but it helps lessen the stress on nearby residential communities and businesses.

According to Krochak, businesses in the area have been supportive of the festival.

“We were humbled by the support of people in the northeast — from residents who live near the park, and our friends at the Baitun Nur Mosque, to so many businesses allowing us to store trucks, trailers and offering parking,” he says.

“Events of this magnitude can’t happen without the kind of support that we have been so fortunate and thankful to receive.”

Krochak says he isn’t surprised the inaugural Country Thunder Alberta event was a huge success. He points to the number of massive tours that have side-stepped Calgary in favour of Edmonton in recent years, saying that local music fans have had it.

“Our friends to the north are very welcome at Country Thunder Alberta, but we’re proud to host here,” he says. “The personality and the passion of Calgary makes it a natural Country Thunder home.”

And for those who have yet to experience Country Thunder Alberta, Krochak makes a good case for going this year.

“You’re probably getting tired of being told that you should have been there,” he says. “One of the great joys of music is how it brings people together. The city festival environment was special in Calgary last year, and will be this year to an even greater extent. Beautiful park, friendly environment, great vibe and world-class entertainment at an affordable price. What’s not to like?”

Chase Bryant has country music in his blood

LISA WILTON
More from Lisa Wilton

Published on: August 17, 2017 | Last Updated: August 17, 2017 5:00 AM MDT

Chase Bryant CALGARY HERALD

At 23, Chase Bryant is one of country music’s fastest-rising stars. His 2014 debut single, Take It On Back, was a Billboard Country Top 10 hit and his latest track, Hell If I Know, is getting lots of radio airplay.

It’s no surprise the Texan decided on a career in music. His grandfather, Jimmy Bryant, played with the likes of Roy Orbison and Waylon Jennings, while his uncles were part of the one-hit wonder band, Ricochet.

Bryant takes the stage at 5:30 p.m. on Friday.

Q. Music is kind of in your blood. When did you first pick up a guitar and did you always know you were going to pursue music?

A. I picked up a guitar at like two years old. I always knew as soon as I picked it up that I was comfortable! As soon as I felt what it was like to feel that good I instantly became addicted. I was a weird kid so to feel comfortable and in place was a great thing!

 

Q. What, if anything, did you learn from your grandfather and uncles about songwriting and performing?

A. Not a whole lot on the songwriting side. More performing I guess. They all knew how to give a crowd what they wanted.

Q. Which other artists did you look up to when you were starting out? Have you been able to perform with any of your idols?

A. Well, all of the tours I’ve done I’ve looked up to those guys. Brad (Paisley) is just the coolest thing ever. It’s an honour to tour with such a talent. No player I’ve ever met can compete on that level of playing. He’s got every style of playing nailed, and just when you think you’ve got it figured out he does a 360 and plays something even better.

Q. Your debut single Take It On Back hit the Billboard country chart three years ago. How much pressure did or do you feel to keep that momentum going?

A. It felt great. I needed some head leveling after that, though. I can admit to that

Q. What do you get out of performing live and what do you want your audience to take away from your shows?

A. I want them to feel joy, or to cry, or laugh. It’s all about being able to let your emotions play a part. It’s supposed to feel that way at least to me. All my favourite concerts played that on me.

Q. You co-hosted the official Academy of Country Music red carpet pre-show with Calgary native Lindsay Ell. How did that go?

A. It was a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants gig. You never knew if the script even meant a damn thing. I had a blast though, and Lindsay is a class act!

(Interview was edited for length.)

Country Thunder: Old Dominion tops charts on their terms

By Jeff Dedekker, Calgary Herald 

After years of writing No. 1 hits for other artists, the members of Old Dominion are now savouring the satisfaction of having two No. 1 hits of their own.

Comprised of Matthew Ramsey (lead vocals), Trevor Rosen (guitar and keyboards), Whit Sellers (drums), Brad Turski (guitar) and Geoff Sprung (bass), songwriting is the common thread among the members of Old Dominion.

They have seven No. 1 singles to their credit from other artists — Say You Do (Dierks Bentley); A Guy Walks Into A Bar (Tyler Farr); Save It For A Rainy Day (Kenny Chesney); Come Back To Me (Keith Urban); Better Dig Two (The Band Perry); Make You Miss Me (Sam Hunt); and Sangria (Blake Shelton).

While Old Dominion has managed to hit No. 1 on its own with Break Up With Him and Song For Another Time, perhaps the band could have enjoyed earlier success by recording a few of the songs that were passed on to other artists. Yet according to Ramsey, the band isn’t disappointed with the way it worked out with those particular songs.

“None of us regret any of those songs being recorded by other artists because that’s what we worked for a long time,” explained Ramsey in a recent telephone interview from Nashville. “That’s why we moved to Nashville, to write songs for other people. We don’t regret letting any of them go.

“I will say that Say You Do for Dierks Bentley is one that we played for quite a long time as a band before he picked it up and made it his own. He did a great job and it definitely opened a lot of doors for us. It was a big part of the journey of Old Dominion.”

Old Dominion is playing the main stage at Country Thunder Alberta on Sunday night, leading in to headliner Blake Shelton, and is touring in support of its second studio album Happy Endings. Scheduled for release on Aug. 25, the album follows Meat and Candy, which was released in 2015 and features the two No. 1 singles along with Snapback, which peaked at No. 2 on the charts.

With the success of Meat and Candy, expectations are high for Happy Endings. Those expectations have put a little pressure on Old Dominion but Ramsey said it’s nothing the band can’t handle.

“Yes, there is a certain amount of pressure but in the end we can only do what we feel is right,” said Ramsey. “We’ve been writing songs for a long time and we’ve been a band for a long time and the best successes we have ever had have come from the moments where we said, ‘Let’s just make the music that moves us. ‘Hopefully that works again. That worked with Meat and Candy. We buckled down and did that again and hopefully that works with Happy Endings.”

Given the band consists of a number of songwriters who are constantly producing material, it’s safe to assume that Old Dominion had a plethora of material to take into the studio to record Happy Endings.

With that being the case, how did the band narrow the candidates down and finalize which songs made it on to the album? “Lots and lots of debate,” Ramsey said with a chuckle. “We try things out on the road sometimes, you know? Sometimes a song that you think is going to connect, you just can’t seem to wrestle it into place. And then a song you never saw coming suddenly works.

“You just kind of keep trying them, keep playing them, keep listening, keep talking and we usually end up on the same page.”

Another consideration for the song choices was the fact Old Dominion had a specific plan for how it wanted Happy Endings to sound. Although it was proud of Meat and Candy, Old Dominion didn’t want to record another version of that particular album. Ramsey stressed they wanted Happy Endings to be able to stand on its own merits and display the evolution of the band.

“When we set out to make this album we wanted to show a little more depth, as far as our songwriting goes,” said Ramsey. “I think Meat and Candy was a really fun album and I love it so much that I think we just wanted to try and take a step further as songwriters and as a band to show how much we’ve grown as musicians and as writers.”

Old Dominion play Country Thunder Alberta on Aug. 20 at Prairie Winds Park, 223 Castleridge Blvd NE, Calgary. The festival runs from Aug. 18 to 20. Visitcountrythunder.com .

 

Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

Country Thunder returns to Calgary this weekend!

MORE THAN MUSIC AT COUNTRY THUNDER . . . 

 As the excitement continues to build for Country Thunder Alberta this weekend, it’s clear that headliners such as Blake Shelton, Thomas Rhett, Brad Paisley, Old Dominion, Dallas Smith and Randy Houser won’t be the only attractions hidden in the stunning natural beauty of Prairie Winds Park in Calgary

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“We understand that it’s the headline acts that get fans buying tickets,” says Country Thunder Music Festivals General Manager, Kim Blevins. “But it’s the overall experience and vibe that keeps them coming back year after year.
 
“In addition to the major renovations at the park, and improvements to our service model, there’s also a number of new food and beverage options, games, activations, and retailers on-site this year.”
 
Whether it’s body painting and beanbags at the Tito’s bar, recharging, snacks and phone-charging at the massive AMA tent, or a variety of games and swag from Country 105 (Plinko anyone?) BudweiserRanchman’s, Rockstar and 95.3 The Wild, there’s something for all of CT Nation at Country Thunder Alberta.
 
Don’t forget about line dance and western swing demonstrations and lessons from the Outlaw Country dance group, as well as tantalizing free food and beverage samples throughout the festival site – perhaps Dr Oetker pizza for the kids, and Fireball whiskey or Barefoot wine for the adults?
 
Show up hungry as you please for full meals, snacks and treats from vendors including, but not limited to The Dogg Father, Ms. Mac & Cheese, Vasili’s, Mardi Gras Grill, Spudmobeel, Sticky Ricky’s, Homestead – Best Burgers In The West, Family Squeeze Lemonade and Pizza 73.
 
Keep in mind that all food and beverage vendors at Country Thunder can accept credit cards as well as the food and drink tickets available on-site.
 
If music, sweet music, is still your primary reason for being at Prairie Winds Park this weekend, Alberta’s best and brightest artists appear all three days on the Country 105 Stage – see tomorrow’s main stage artists today!  
 
Best bets for getting to and from Prairie Winds Park remain the Westwinds LRT and the Ranchman’s Country Thunder Express bus shuttles (free with Country Thunder wristband). Taxi livery line on Castleridge and the Uber stand in the Superstore parking lot, are also good reasons to leave your car at home.


 
Country Thunder Alberta tickets available at countrythunder.com, or order by phone at 1-866-388-0007
 
See you there!
 

Breaking News: Glen Campbell Passes at 81

Country Music Hall of Fame member Glen Campbell has passed away after a long battle with Alzheimers. He was 81. The passing was confirmed on Campbell's official Facebook and on his website here.

Glen Travis Campbell

1936-2017

It is with the heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of our beloved husband, father, grandfather, and legendary singer and guitarist, Glen Travis Campbell, at the age of 81, following his long and courageous battle with Alzheimer's disease.

Glen is survived by his wife, Kim Campbell of Nashville, TN; their three children, Cal, Shannon and Ashley; his children from previous marriages, Debby, Kelli, Travis, Kane, and Dillon; ten grandchildren, great- and great-great-grandchildren; sisters Barbara, Sandra, and Jane; and brothers John Wallace “Shorty” and Gerald.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Glen Campbell Memorial Fund at BrightFocus Foundation through the CareLiving.org donation page.

A personal statement from Kim Campbell will follow.

The family appreciates your prayers and respect for their privacy at this time.

Glen Campbell Dead at 81

8/8/2017 by Jennifer Frederick

AP Photo/Dan Loftin

Glen Campbell photographed on Oct. 12, 1987.

Hits for the clean-cut crossover star included “Wichita Lineman,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Gentle on My Mind” and “Rhinestone Cowboy.”

Glen Campbell, the boyish singer-guitarist whose perfect blend of country and pop made for such hits as “Gentle on My Mind,” “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “Wichita Lineman” and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” died Tuesday (Aug. 8) after struggling with Alzheimer's disease for years, a rep confirmed to Billboard. He was 81. 

"It is with the heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of our beloved husband, father, grandfather, and legendary singer and guitarist, Glen Travis Campbell, at the age of 81, following his long and courageous battle with Alzheimer's disease," reads a statement from the family. "Glen is survived by his wife, Kim Campbell of Nashville, TN; their three children, Cal, Shannon and Ashley; his children from previous marriages, Debby, Kelli, Travis, Kane, and Dillon; ten grandchildren, great- and great-great-grandchildren; sisters Barbara, Sandra, and Jane; and brothers John Wallace “Shorty” and Gerald. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Glen Campbell Memorial Fund at BrightFocus Foundation through the CareLiving.org donation page. A personal statement from Kim Campbell will follow. The family appreciates your prayers and respect for their privacy at this time."

Campbell announced he was ill in June 2011 and was moved to a private care facility for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients near Nashville in April 2014.

In addition to “Wichita Lineman” and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” Campbell scored with another Jimmy Webb penned hit, “Galveston. ” His renditions of Larry Weiss’ “Rhinestone Cowboy” and Allen Toussaint’s “Southern Nights” each made it to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

READ MORE

Carl Jackson & Kim Campbell Discuss How Glen Campbell's Final Album 'Adios' Was a 'Labor of Love'

In paving a path for other successful country crossover artists, Campbell released more than 60 studio albums -- selling 45 million and accumulating 12 gold, four platinum and one double-platinum album -- during his half-century in show business. He collected six Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year in 1968 for By the Time I Get to Phoenix, and was the recipient of the organization’s Lifetime Achievement honor in 2012.

“He had that beautiful tenor with a crystal-clear guitar sound, playing lines that were so inventive,” Tom Petty once told Rolling Stone magazine. “It moved me.”

From 1969-72, the Delight, Ark., native hosted the CBS variety show The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, and he starred as young Texas Ranger La Boeuf in True Grit (1969) after being handpicked by John Wayne to star opposite him in the Hollywood icon’s lone Oscar-winning role. He also sang the Oscar-nominated title track, composed by Elmer Bernstein and Don Black.

Born on April 22, 1936, to poverty-stricken parents Wesley and Carrie Dell, who picked cotton on a farm, Glen Travis Campbell was the seventh son, one of 12 siblings.

He moved to Los Angeles in the late 1950s, where he began to write songs and record demos, and he became a sought-after session guitarist, playing for Elvis PresleyMerle HaggardThe Beach Boys (he played guitar on the Pet Sounds album and toured with the band for several months following the breakdown of Brian Wilson), Nat King ColeFrank Sinatra and The Monkees, to name a few. He became part of Phil Spector’s The Wrecking Crew, the famed session band that played on many of the world’s biggest hits at L.A.’s Gold Star Studios, creating the producer’s legendary “Wall of Sound.”

In 1961, Campbell released the single “Turn Around, Look at Me” on tiny Crest Records, grabbing the attention of music executives. A year later, he was signed to Capitol Records, where his career was met with only minor success until he partnered with producer Al De Lory and songwriters Webb and Hartford. 

Campbell teamed with De Lory on his fifth studio album Burning Bridges, a commercial breakthrough that was released by Capitol in 1967. His distinctive fingerpicking style and indelible guitar riffs were the perfect foundation that allowed his warm, personable vocals to shine, with the title track becoming a No. 18 Hot Country Songs hit. The two collaborated on John Hartford’s “Gentle on My Mind” that year, a top 40 hit on the pop and country charts.

Campbell’s biggest accomplishments came when he partnered with Webb in the late ’60s -- interpreting and singing his songs with a striking intimacy that made them his own. “On certain songs, the magic is undeniable: ‘Wichita Lineman’ and ‘By the Time I Get to Phoenix’…. it’s almost as though the song was waiting for the singer and the singer was waiting for the song,” Webb once said.

On The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour -- which began as a summer replacement for The Smothers Brothers Show and featured Steve Martin and Rob Reiner as writers and “Gentle on My Mind” as its theme song -- the clean-cut Campbell engaged in comedy skits when he wasn’t performing and featured many of his friends as musical guests, including The Monkees, Neil DiamondLinda RonstadtJohnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings.

He also starred as the title character in the 1970 film comedy Norwood, playing opposite NFL quarterback Joe Namath as Vietnam veterans returning home to Texas. And in 1982, he fronted the syndicated Glen Campbell Music Show for NBC.

Campbell also played host to the Los Angeles Open, the PGA Tour’s stop at Riviera Country Club, from 1971-83, and in 1994 he opened the 2,200-seat Glen Campbell Goodtime Theatre in Branson, Mo.

Campbell was married four times, the last to Kim Woollen, a Radio City Rockette whom he wed in 1982 when he was 46 and she was 24. She survives him. His earlier marriages included one to singer Mac Davis’ second wife, Sarah Barg. (He also dated fellow country star Tanya Tucker before meeting Kim.)

Campbell had five sons and three daughters. His youngest children Cal, Shannon and Ashley joined him as his backup band on his last series of concerts, dubbed The Goodbye Tour, which launched in Los Angeles in late 2011.

“He'll struggle with a guitar solo one day and the next he’ll just nail it completely,” Ashley told the Tampa Bay Times about her father’s deteriorating condition. She played banjo and keyboards, with Cal on drums and Shannon on guitar alongside their dad.

Campbell’s family and friends created an undeniable bond while sharing his musical legacy one last time. Director and friendJames Keach captured these precious moments along with his personal struggle with the disease in the documentary, Glen Campbell … I’ll Be Me, which premiered at the 2014 Nashville Film Festival.

Complications and struggles with Alzheimer’s didn’t stop him from jumping up on a stage, guitar in hand, and serenading fans during his final shows. Campbell fumbled lyrics, searched for guitar riffs and showed moments of confusion telling his stories, but with his children and wife by his side, they gently reminded him along the way.

Campbell released the albums Ghost on the Canvas in 2012, which USA Today called “a museum-quality masterpiece,” and See You There, an album for Surfdog Records that was produced by Dave Kaplan and Dave Darling, in 2013. For the latter, he performed such hits as "Rhinestone Cowboy" with a stripped-down feel. 

Speaking to Billboard of his final album, 2017's Adios, his wife Kim said “I miss my husband" in a recent interview. "It’s really sad. He’s in the late stages of Alzheimer’s. It’s so beautiful to me to hear him communicate with music. We’ll have that forever. It brings a tear to my eye. It’s a double-edged sword. It’s sweet, but it’s also bitter.”

Keach called Campbell “the original crossover musical genius, a man who is told to end his career and he does the opposite, inspiring the rest of us to live our lives in the moment and to be ourselves no matter what -- with no shame. He’s been down a rocky road and he still has a smile on his face and a song in his heart. That’s Glen.”

Glen Campbell, 'Rhinestone Cowboy' singer, dead at 81

Peter Cooper and Juli Thanki, For The TennesseanPublished 3:38 p.m. CT Aug. 8, 2017 | Updated 4:49 p.m. CT Aug. 8, 2017

Glen Travis Campbell brought country music to new audiences. He found success as a session musician before embarking on a solo career that included smashes “Gentle On My Mind,” “Galveston,” “Wichita Lineman” and “Rhinestone Cowboy” and that landed him in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

On Tuesday, his family released the following statement: "It is with the heaviest of hearts that we announce the passing of our beloved husband, father, grandfather, and legendary singer and guitarist, Glen Travis Campbell, at the age of 81, following his long and courageous battle with Alzheimer's disease."

"Had Glen Campbell 'only' played guitar and never voiced a note, he would have spent a lifetime as one of America’s most consequential recording musicians," said Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, in a statement. "Had he never played guitar and 'only' sung, his voice would rank with American music’s most riveting, expressive, and enduring. He left indelible marks as a musician, a singer, and an entertainer, and he bravely shared his incalculable talent with adoring audiences even as he fought a cruel and dreaded disease. To all of us who heard and loved his soulful music, he was a delight." 

A guitar virtuoso

Campbell was born on Apr. 22, 1936 in Delight, Arkansas, the seventh son of a seventh son in a farming family."I spent the early parts of my life looking at the north end of a southbound mule and it didn't take long to figure out that a guitar was a lot lighter than a plow handle," he said in a late 1970s press bio.

Each member of Campbell's family played guitar, and he received a $5 Sears & Roebuck guitar when he was 4 years old. By 6, he was a prodigy, internalizing music that ranged from simple country to sophisticated jazz. As a teenager, he dropped out of school in the 10th grade, left Arkansas and played in a New Mexico-based band led by his uncle, Dick Bills. He also married first wife Diane Kirk, though that marriage lasted fewer than three years.

While playing an Albuquerque club called the Hitching Post, Campbell met Billie Nunley, who soon became his second wife. The newlyweds left for California in 1960, riding to Los Angeles in a 1957 Chevrolet with $300 and a small trailer full of meager belongings. Mr. Campbell found work playing in rock groups including The Champs, a band that included Jim Seals and Dash Crofts, who would later become the hit-making duo Seals & Crofts.

Campbell's guitar acumen and versatility made him an essential player on Los Angeles' thriving recording scene in the 1960s, and he contributed to sessions for Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Rick Nelson, The Mamas and The Papas, Merle Haggard and many more. Campbell couldn’t read music, but he quickly became a respected, first-call player. He played on Elvis Presley’s “Viva Las Vegas,” The Monkees’ “Im’ a Believer,” Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night” and more. He played 12-string guitar on the Beach Boys’ “Sloop John B.,” and toured with the Beach Boys in 1965, as a replacement for the band’s troubled and reclusive leader, Brian Wilson.

Campbell was invited to join the Beach Boys as a full-time member in 1965, but he declined that opportunity. By then, he was set on establishing a solo career of his own.

Breaking into the mainstream

After recording a minor hit in 1961 with "Turn Around - Look at Me" for small, independent Crest Records, Campbell had signed with Capitol Records, releasing "Big Bluegrass Special" by "The Green River Boys Featuring Glen Campbell" in late 1962. His early albums received little in the way of attention or acclaim, but he broke into the mainstream in 1967, at first with the Top 20 country hit “Burning Bridges” but most notably with a nimble version of his friend John Hartford's drifter's masterpiece, "Gentle On My Mind."

“I still might run in silence, tears of joy might stain my face and the summer sun might burn me ‘til I’m blind,” Campbell sang, in a smooth, clear voice, with twang-less diction a broadcaster would envy. “But not to where I cannot see you walkin’ on the backroads, by the rivers flowing gentle on my mind.”

"Gentle On My Mind" did not ascend to the top of the Billboard country charts, but it was performing rights organization BMI's most-played song of 1969 and 1970. In 1999, BMI ranked “Gentle” as the second most-played country song of the century, and the 16th most-played song of the century in any genre. 

TV show shoots career into the stratosphere

Campbell’s affable stage presence and camera-ready looks made him a natural for television. 

"Someday, in the very near future," this talented young man is going to have his own television show," said comedian Joey Bishop in 1967, introducing Campbell on a late night variety show. Tommy Smothers of musical comedy act The Smothers Brothers watched and listened with interest. He also watched as Campbell’s follow-up to “Gentle,” the Jimmy Webb-penned “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” reached #2 on the “Billboard” country chart and #26 on the all-genre chart. In early 1968, Mr. Campbell won two Grammy awards for his recording of “Gentle On My Mind” and two more for “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” and the Smothers Brothers announced that Campbell would host his own television show, nationally televised on CBS.

Campbell’s show began as “The Summer Brothers Smothers Show,” a summer replacement for the Smothers Brothers, and it ran as a weekly variety show from January of 1969 through June of 1972. Each week, Campbell would sing the opening lines of “Gentle On My Mind” and then announce to viewers that they were watching “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.”

“I had albums before that, but once the TV show started everything really took off,” Campbell told The Tennessean in 2005. “I used that show to get every country act I could onto television.”

“The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour” featured much more than country. He performed Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” with Stevie Wonder and “Squares Make The World Go ‘Round” with the Smothers and Nancy Sinatra. He brought on teen favorites The Monkees (in earlier years, he’d played guitar on Monkees recording sessions) and west coast country-rock singer Linda Ronstadt. He stood and snapped his fingers like Frank Sinatra, and did a hip-shaking Elvis Presley impersonation. 

Still, he made his country roots clear both on and off-camera, helping himself to major country chart successes in 1968 with “I Wanna Live” (his first No. 1), “Dreams of the Everyday Housewife,” (a No. 3 Billboard country hit) and his first cross-over smash, “Wichita Lineman,” which topped country and adult contemporary charts and landed at No. 3 on the pop charts. Producer Al DeLory’s sophisticated arrangements complemented a soaring voice, and Campbell was at the forefront of a modern country movement.

“The change that has come over country music lately is simple,” he told “TV Guide” in 1969. “They’re not shuckin’ it right off the cob any more..... I think the public is getting tired of all that crazy acid rock and wants to get back to good melodies. Country music has more impact now, because it’s earthy material - stories of things that happen to everyday people. I call it ‘People Music.’”

In the late 1960s, the “People Music” business was booming. Campbell won Country Music Association awards for best entertainer and male vocalist, two Academy of Country Music awards for best album and two more for male vocalist, and a total of five Grammy trophies. In 1969, buoyed by another Jimmy Webb-written gem, the soldier’s lament “Galveston” (a No. 1 country and adult contemporary hit), Campbell out-sold the Beatles.

"Not since Elvis Presley's ascendancy more than a decade ago has a young soloist come along to capture the mass audience with such effectiveness as Glen Campbell," wrote Vernon Scott of United Press International.

In this 2013 video, Glen Campbell's wife, Kim, tells USA TODAY about his life with Alzheimer's disease and his continued passion for music.

Campbell’s manager, Nick Sevano, arranged for the singer to act in movies including “True Grit” with John Wayne and “Norwood” with Kim Darby and Joe Namath, but Sevano combatted the Presley comparisons.

“I don’t think he’s a new Elvis,” Sevano told “TV Guide.” “I think Glen has a broader audience than Elvis.”

‘Drinking and cocaining’

Four of Campbell’s singles reached country music’s Top 10 in 1970, but his sales domination began to subside in the new decade. CBS cancelled his show in 1972, and his marriage to Billie was in trouble. Campbell developed an over-fondness for Glenlivet scotch, and his dedication to touring and performing came at the expense of his recordings. 

But in 1975, after more than six years without a No. 1 hit, Campbell staged a comeback with “Rhinestone Cowboy.” Written by Larry Weiss, “Rhinestone Cowboy” topped both country and pop charts, and, reestablished Mr. Campbell as a hit-making, seat-filling force.

“I really just rode on the crest of that, to forget everything that was happening to Glen Campbell, personally,” Campbell told VH1’s “Behind the Music.”

“Rhinestone Cowboy” was a major anthem in the summer of 1975. In early fall, Billie Jean Campbell filed a divorce suit. By then, Campbell had, he would later reveal, begun using cocaine. That year, he also began dating Sarah Barg, the estranged wife of his friend and fellow performer, Mac Davis. He and Barg married in 1976, but Campbell’s cocaine use continued to escalate and the relationship suffered for that and other reasons. 

“We were drinking and cocaining, and nothing lasts when you’re doing that,” he told VH1.

Campbell returned to the top of the charts in 1977 with “Southern Nights,” his final No. 1 hit. His behavior, though, was increasingly erratic. Campbell and Barg divorced in 1980, the same year he began dating powerhouse singer Tanya Tucker. She was 21, he was 44. The couple announced an engagement in late 1980, but the relationship ended, angrily, in early 1981. Campbell spent much of that year completely out of control, but a near-overdose in Las Vegas, a new relationship with a Radio City Music Hall Rockette named Kimberley Woolen helped spur newfound faith and a change of direction.

“I accepted Jesus Christ on December the 21st, 1981,” he told The Tennessean. “I’m singin’ a new song.”

Campbell married Kim Woolen in October of 1982, and she would be a sustaining influence for the rest of his life. He dropped cocaine, and eventually halted his drinking, and he reached country music’s Top 10 with 1984’s “Faithless Love” and “A Lady Like You,” 1985’s “(Love Always) Letter To Home” and “It’s Just A Matter of Time,” 1987’s “The Hand That Rocks The Cradle” (with Steve Wariner) and “Still Within The Sound Of My Voice,” 1988’s “I Have You” and 1989’s “She’s Gone, Gone, Gone.” He also aided Alan Jackson’s ascent to country music stardom, suggesting Jackson move to Nashville and helping him to become a staff songwriter at his Glen Campbell Music publishing company.

The 1990s held no hits for Campbell, but he performed often, opening the Glen Campbell Goodtime Theatre in Branson in 1994 and starring there for three seasons. In 2003, he was arrested near his Phoenix home on drunk driving, hit-and-run and assault charges. He later pled guilty to extreme DUI, apologized to fans and entered a care facility. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005, by which point he was already showing signs of dementia, seeming shaky in interviews though he clearly understood and appreciated the honor.

“You can have ‘male vocalist’ and all that stuff,” he told The Tennessean. “I’ll take the Hall of Fame. It’s the highest honor you can have in country music, and this makes me feel so good.”

Capitol Records released Campbell’s 60th studio album, the critically acclaimed “Meet Glen Campbell” album in 2008, with Campbell covering songs written by rock royalty including U2, Lou Reed, Tom Petty and Dave Grohl. “Meet Glen Campbell” provided music fans a reintroduction to Campbell’s musicality, with his still-strong voice and still-potent guitar.

The Alzheimer’s diagnosis

In 2011, Campbell and his wife announced that he was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, but that he would release a new album and go on a “Goodbye Tour” while he could still perform. The new album, released on Surfdog Records, was praised by Will Hermes of “Rolling Stone” as “baroquely arranged drama that echos his string-swelled seventies hits..... Dude’s definitely not going out softly.”

Glen Campbell’s last record, “Adios," was “therapeutic” for the legendary country singer who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, said his daughter Ashley Campbell. The singer recorded the album after his diagnosis in 2011, and is now in the late stages of the disease, living in a memory care facility in Nashville, Tennessee. (June 15) AP

Campbell played his final Nashville show in early January of 2012, performing at the Ryman with a band that included three of his children. He opened with “Gentle On My Mind,” played many of his hits and thrilled an audience that included Tucker, “Grand Ole Opry” stars Jeannie Seely and Ricky Skaggs and fellow Country Music Hall of Famer Ralph Emery.

“Campbell remained in fine voice and proved to still be a staggeringly sharp and fluid guitarist, wowing the crowd early on with an explosive solo on ‘Gentle’ and muscular melodic licks on his classic ‘Galveston,’” wrote Dave Paulson of The Tennessean.

He read lyrics from a Teleprompter that night, but imbued each song with significant feeling.

“An encore in the tightly scripted show wasn’t a sure thing,” Paulson wrote. “But Campbell returned to the room’s delight for ‘In My Arms’ - another affirming cut from ‘Canvas’ - before taking bows with his band and giving his crowd a last - and clearly loving - wave goodbye.”

At the Grammy Awards in Feb. of 2012, The Band Perry performed “Gentle On My Mind,” and Blake Shelton sang “Southern Nights” before Campbell took the stage to sing “Rhinestone Cowboy,” with Paul McCartney pumping his fist from the audience in approval.

Campbell played his final show on Nov. 30, 2012 in Napa, Cal. Early in 2014, he showed up at the venerable Station Inn to watch daughter Ashley Campbell perform with his old friend, Carl Jackson. In April of 2014, his family confirmed that Campbell was staying in a Middle Tennessee memory-care facility. That month, "I'll Be Me," a documentary about Campbell's final tour, debuted at the Nashville Film Festival. The film's theme, "I'm Not Gonna Miss You," was written by Campbell and director Julian Raymond. It won the Best Country Song Grammy Award and was nominated for an Academy Award.

“There’s a lot of sadness, (but) we just continue to try to make the best of every day and keep a sense of humor,” his wife told “People” magazine.

Glen Campbell's wife to other Alzheimer's caregivers: You are not alone

In June, Campbell released his final album, “Adios," which was produced by his former bandmate and longtime friend Carl Jackson. The bittersweet record includes a duet with fellow legend Willie Nelson on “Funny How Time Slips Away.” Vince Gill contributes harmony vocals to “Am I All Alone (Or Is It Only Me).” Ashley Campbell appears on several tracks, including “Postcard from Paris,” which also features sons Cal and Shannon Campbell.

Campbell is survived by his wife, Kim Campbell of Nashville, TN; their three children, Cal, Shannon and Ashley; his children from previous marriages, Debby, Kelli, Travis, Kane, and Dillon; ten grandchildren, great- and great-great-grandchildren; sisters Barbara, Sandra, and Jane; and brothers John Wallace “Shorty” and Gerald.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Glen Campbell Memorial Fund at BrightFocus Foundation through careliving.org/glen-campbell-memorial-donation/.

Joe Nichols Talks New Album, Reflects On His 15-Year Career

Joe Nichols; Photo credit: Joseph Llanes

 

 CHUCK DAUPHIN • AUGUST 2, 2017 - 7:49 AM

Joe Nichols; Photo Credit: Joseph Llanes / Design by Glenn Sweitzer

Joe Nichols; Photo Credit: Joseph Llanes / Design by Glenn Sweitzer

 

It’s hard to believe, but Joe Nichols is celebrating fifteen years as a hit recording artist in 2017. It was back in 2002 when the singer first hit with “The Impossible.”

What goes through his mind when he looks back at his successes so far? “I’ve never had a job this long. It feels, at times, like it has been a struggle over the years. But, at the same time, it feels like every year has been a great year. I can’t describe it,” he shares with Sounds Like Nashville. “When you hear fifteen years put like that, it sounds like I should be having some kind of a reunion with somebody. There have been a lot of friends in my band and management that I have worked with over the years, as well as at record labels and writers and producers. I think about those people – not just the albums we’ve recorded or the shows that we’ve played. I think about all the people that participated in my career.”

The singer, who just released his tenth studio album, Never Gets Old, doesn’t really think of words like legacy in his career, as he’s still trying to create – and make a living. “I do think that people that have had fifteen year careers have been a lot bigger superstars, and maybe a lot more consistent,” he admits. “I will say that my story is a lot different than most, or any artist in Country music. My business manager, Chuck Flood, told me that one day he was going to write a book – he’s had many clients over the years – and has been in the business for a long time. He told me ‘If I ever write a book, I swear I’m going to devote an entire chapter to you and how interesting your career has been.’ There’s an element of what I’ve already done meaning something to me, but I’m still in young kid mode where I want to go into the studio and make something great. It’s not like I’m going in thinking that I want a number one record or something like that, but I want to make something great. I want to make a Country album – with steel guitar and fiddle blaring loud. I want to feel like I did when I was ten years old, and wanted to be George Strait. That’s what I have tried to do with every album, and hope I get the chance to do many more.”

Looking back on where he has been so far, what would Nichols tell himself about his career when he kicked it off, a la Brad Paisley’s “A Letter To Me?”

“It would be a long letter, but I would tell myself to enjoy the moments – the big gifts that we have – whether it be awards, number ones, or duets. Things like meeting Merle Haggard for the first time or George Jones. Sitting in the dressing room with George Strait and Alan Jackson at Madison Square Garden watching the CMA Awards because they didn’t want to sit in the crowd. It was just us three in the room watching the show. It was one of the greatest moments in my life. I would tell myself to enjoy those moments and savor them while they are happening. The other thing is to slow down. I was too fast and impatient at everything. I wanted so much more than I already had. I was so much in a hurry. Maybe if I had been a little more patient, I think I might not have had all the dips and the valleys that I have had in my career over the years.”

If fans of traditional Country have their way, Never Gets Old will be nothing short of a hit. The album leans the most in that direction than any Nichols project in a while, especially on “I’d Sing About You,” of which he says he’s a big fan of how it turned out. “The thing I love about that one is that it’s really Country. The steel guitar is as loud as anything. It’s a simple message – which is I am who I am. These guys who were icons sang about these things, and my special meaning is you.’ Mentioning all the song titles – which are women’s names definitely gives it a little bit of a story.”

It’s tracks such as that one and “Girl In The Song” that were written and performed with the female demographic in mind – much the same way that Conway Twitty patterned his career – to record songs that every woman wants to hear their lover say. “I think that Conway was brilliant at finding songs that spoke to women how they wanted to be spoken to. Songs like ‘I’d Love To Lay You Down’ and ‘Hello Darlin’ spoke to a woman. He had an ability to find amazing song after amazing song. His song selection was incredible.”

Twitty would no doubt be proud of the saucy “Hostage,” of which Nichols admits “is a little bit ‘Fifty Shades of Gray ‘ – a little bit,” he says with a laugh. “I think it has some energy for being that kind of song. It’s got some passion in it. it’s one of the more aggressive songs on the album. We went in the studio, and thought ‘This sounds like it could be something. Let’s see what we can do to it.’ It’s a pretty cool bedroom song, maybe a little bit risque.”

Nichols confesses that he never has played the seductive card in the studio with a song choice, so he had to stretch a bit. “It’s a little blushy for me. I’ve always been a little conservative with that kind of material. There’s a point where you can be tasteful, and there’s a point where you can go overboard and be blunt and crude. I think this is a little more in that way, but not too much.”

Nichols also lets listeners see a spiritual side Never Gets Old, particularly with “We All Carry Something,” which he says was a no-brainer for the project. “Lyrically, ‘We All Carry Something’ is beautiful. It’s got a sad yet a redeeming quality, and a message of compassion for other people. It’s got a lot of my own personal story in the song with the little boy that grows up in a pretty tough environment. Then, in the last verse about Jesus dying on the cross – he carried that for us. To me, it was important for that to be on this record. I am that way, and I do think that way. I feel that way, and am that spiritual. I wouldn’t sell that out and leave it off the record.”

And, Never Gets Old closes with a song that Nichols has been performing at his live shows for years – “Baby Got Back,” the classic 1992 hit from Sir Mix A Lot. “This song is interesting, because even the young teenagers that weren’t around when the song was huge, I think even they remember the song jamming to old school rap. It amazes me how many younger people know that song. Certainly, anyone thirty or older remembers how big that it was.”

Nichols put a very traditional spin on the Rap classic, which gets great reaction from his fans – and the original artist himself! “Pretty much, everyone when we kick into the song, they get that instant gut laughter. They start singing along, and it’s fun. It’s a quirky and different arrangement, and it fits well with what I do. I’ve talked to Sir Mix A Lot, and he said ‘I love this cover. You didn’t copy anything of what I did. You made this your song. For that reason, I love it.”

Never Gets Old is available for purchase on iTunes now.

Album Review: Joe Nichols’ ‘Never Gets Old’

 LAURA HOSTELLEY • JULY 26, 2017 - 6:00 AM

By mixing contemporary themes with traditional sounds, Joe Nichols stays true to his roots upon the release of his ninth studio album, Never Gets Old. The 12-track project is relatable and reflective as his smooth, baritone voice draws listeners in and the story-telling lyrics keep them entertained.

Best described as an easy-listening album, Nichols relies on catchy melodies and familiar topics for his latest project that long-time fans will find were worth the four-year wait. The Arkansas-native plays it safe on 11 out of the 12 tracks, throwing caution to the wind with track No. 12, a countrified version of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back,” that features comedian Darren Knight.

The title track, penned by Steve Moakler and Connie Harrington, offers nostalgia with a sweet sentiment – the love he experiences may be repetitive but that doesn’t mean it gets old. “Sometimes it feels like a broken record/But baby you never do,” Nichols croons, a line that much like the song, will never get old.

Nichols cuts deep in “We All Carry Something,” a track that tells of the various human experiences but concluding that what we experience shapes who we are, but no matter how bad it gets, you’re not going through it alone. “This Side of the River” is another story-song about life, appreciating it for what it is and being thankful for every minute of it.

“I’d Sing About You” stands out on the record with its simple lyrics and steel-filled melodies. The track is begging to be turned into a sing-along during his live show. The sultry “Breathless” could make even the hardest of hearts swoon and want more. It takes a different spin on the negative idea of leaving someone in a relationship, and turns it into a positive arrangement. “It’s so easy to slip out of touch/So that’s it girl I’ve had enough/I know you want me to/So tonight I’m leaving you/I’m leaving you breathless/Biting your lip/Leave you hanging on the heat of the next kiss.”

A couple of tunes on Never Gets Old may sound familiar to seasoned country music fans. Nichols reinvents the light-hearted song “Diamonds Makes Babies,” co-written by Chris Stapleton, Jim Beavers and Lee Thomas Miller and previously recorded by Dierks Bentley on his sixth studio album, Home. “Billy Graham’s Bible” is also recognizable, as Nichols released that track on his most recent 2013 album, Crickets.

Throughout Never Gets Old, Nichols proves why he has stayed a prominent name in country music for so long. His desire to stay relevant while staying true to his traditional country identity makes for a perfect contemporary blend of country sounds. Fans both new and old will distinguish the classic sound and country radio will be delivered a new supply of fresh tracks that their listeners are guaranteed to turn their volume dial up to.

Joe Nichols Puts a Southern Twang on Remake of ‘Baby Got Back’

 KELLY BRICKEY • AUGUST 1, 2017 - 11:55 AM

 

Step over, Sir Mix-a-Lot, because there’s a new guy in town who likes to sing about big butts and he goes by the name of Joe Nichols.

In a cheeky cover video for the 80s throwback jam, Nichols auditions in front of Sir Mix-a-Lot to prove he can make “Baby Got Back” new again in his classic country style. Laying on his thickest Southern accent atop a dobro-heavy rendition, Nichols catches the rapper’s attention with his alternative approach to the beat-driven track.

While the original version of the song may have originally created the ‘twerking’ trend long ago, Nichols’ sound would get those bums shaking in a two-step line dance variation. Even Sir Mix-a-Lot got into the swing of things by mouthing along the iconic lyrics which he gave a voice to just a couple decades ago.

Trading his classic fedora-like hat for that of a wide-brimmed cowboy look, Sir Mix-a-Lot applauded the country singer for his efforts in the empty auditorium setting before sending them a shout-out for their unique stylings on his biggest career hit.

“Baby Got Back” may be Nichols’ most hilarious video from his latest release, but it’s actually his title track called “Never Gets Old” that he chose to send out to country radio. Nevertheless, fans will be laughing with Nichols at his attempt to take on the famous rap tune.

Nichols’ latest album, Never Gets Old, was released recently and “Baby Got Back” marked one of the 12 tracks on the record. Fans can purchase the project in stores or stream it on digital platforms now.

Season 3 of The Ranch...Now Playing on Netflix

Love this show! Ten New Episodes of The Ranch starring Ashton Kutcher & Sam Elliott are now streaming on Netflix.  The second half of season 3 follows later this year.  Season 4 has also been confirmed for 2018.

Here are trailers for Season 3:

I aslo love all the great songs that are featured on the show and used as titles for show episodes. Here is the Spotify Playlist created from show music:

Blake Shelton Meets Cartoon Counterpart in ‘Doing It to Country Songs’ Video

 

 KELLY BRICKEY • JULY 19, 2017 - 11:27 AM

All the country critters came out to have a good time in the new animated music video for Blake Shelton’s latest release, “Doing It to Country Songs.”

Representing himself as ‘Blake Buck’ among his forest friends, Shelton’s vocals make his role as an antlered deer look like a party in the cartoon bar. Performing alongside the colorful animal versions of special guests The Oak Ridge Boys, Shelton brings the fun to the great outdoors even if they may be caricatures of the real thing.

Throughout the animated films, there are a few nods toward some of Shelton’s biggest hits hidden in sneaky scenes. Toward the beginning, fans can peek at the guitar case for names like “Austin,” “Hillbilly Bone” and “Some Beach.” Even as all of the characters get rowdy in the bar, they poke fun toward “Sangria” by having some stocked on the side and mention Shelton’s latest Spotify cover of “Elvira” on a drink napkin really quick.

The video marks a first for Shelton, as he’s never debuted a cartoon version of a music film in his career. The Oak Ridge Boys were also new to the toon game, but just as at their 2016 performance together, Shelton and the band sound better than ever during their chorus harmonies.

“Doing It to Country Songs” can be found on Blake Shelton’s most recent album, If I’m Honest, with other tracks such as “Came Here to Forget,” “Every Time I Hear That Song” and “A Guy With a Girl.” Fans can check out the album on streaming services or download it digitally to listen.

CALGARY, GET READY FOR THE GARTH EXPERIENCE!

LAST TOUR STOP FOR ALBERTA & SASKATCHEWAN

LOS ANGELES- July 19th, 2017 – The Garth Brooks World Tour with Trisha Yearwood is coming to Calgary, AB. The tour is presented by Amazon Music Unlimited. The concert will be Saturday, September 9th, 7:30 PM at Scotiabank Saddledome.

It’s the last show on the world tour for the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

Tickets will be on sale Friday, July 28th at 10:00 AM MDT. Official tickets can only be purchased at ticketmaster.ca/garthbrooks or either Ticketmaster Express 1-855-985-5500 or 1-855-985-5000. Please note, there will be an eight-ticket limit per purchase and no ticket sales at the venue box office or Ticketmaster outlets on July 28th.

Tickets will cost $65.83 plus a $7.90 tax and a $6.25 service charge for a total of $79.98. All seats sold are best available.

FOR MORE INFORMATION SEE THE CALGARY TOUR PAGE HERE.

Hat Trick: George Strait’s Long Ride

Photograph by Maxine Helfman for The New Yorker

For decades, he’s been country’s most consistent hitmaker. Can he keep holding on?

Illustration by Richie Pope

Illustration by Richie Pope

Strait has always been a singles artist; he built his career for maximum longevity, amassing one hit after another.

George Strait has discovered that when he isn’t wearing a cowboy hat people often don’t realize that he is George Strait. In San Antonio, where he lives, he can usually visit restaurants unmolested, so long as he doesn’t smile too widely—he is famous for his smile, which is bright and crooked. One time, in Key West, where he records, he was sitting outside the studio, naked from the neck up, when a woman accosted him. She said, “My husband says that George Strait is in there, cutting a record, and I told him that can’t be true. Why would he cut a record in this little place?”

Strait’s response was not, strictly speaking, a lie. “Honey,” he said, “I was just in there, and I didn’t see him.”

He is, by some measures, the most popular country-music singer of all time and, by any measure, the most consistent. Since 1981, when he made his début, he has placed eighty-six singles on Billboard’s Top 10 country chart, and more than half of them have gone to No. 1. Everywhere that there is a country radio station, there are generations of listeners who regard Strait’s music as part of the landscape; they are intimately connected to these songs, even if they can’t quite say that they are intimately connected to the man who sings them. When Strait first emerged, he was acclaimed as “the honky-tonk Frank Sinatra,” a designation that fits him even better now than it did then. Like Sinatra, Strait is chiefly an interpreter, not a songwriter, and he is committed to the old-fashioned idea that an entertainer’s job is to entertain, and not necessarily to bare his soul. He isn’t so much a great character as a great narrator, telling a variety of stories instead of returning endlessly to his own. “I don’t think there’s anything autobiographical about my material, unless it’s subconsciously,” Strait once said. “I just look for a song I like, and when I hear it I know it right away.”

On a Friday night earlier this year, at T-Mobile Arena, a few paces from the Las Vegas Strip, nearly twenty thousand fans came together to hear Strait make his way through more than thirty of his biggest hits—a fraction of the total. “We have a lot of songs to play for you tonight, a whole lot,” he said, and then he didn’t say much more. Strait prefers to give his audience as few distractions as possible: he likes to play on a stage in the center of the arena floor, with four microphones arranged like compass points; every two songs, he moves, counterclockwise, to the next microphone, so that people in each quadrant of the crowd can feel as if he were singing just to them. Because he was playing in the round, there was no backdrop, and nothing in the way of pyrotechnics, with the important exception of that smile. His onstage outfit, which has barely changed in forty years, includes, along with the cowboy hat and cowboy boots, a button-down shirt and bluejeans, ironed stiff enough to form an exoskeleton. A promotional contract obliges him to wear Wrangler jeans, and decades of ranching and roping inclines him to wear them stacked—that is, long and bunched up, so that he could, if necessary, mount a horse without fear of exposing any extra boot.

Strait doesn’t believe in disappointing paying customers, so he endeavors to play every song that anyone wants to hear. Casual listeners may know him best for “All My Ex’s Live in Texas,” a slightly drunken-sounding novelty song that long ago transcended its novelty status, elevated by countless bleary-eyed sing-alongs: “Texas is the place I’d dearly love to be / But all my ex’s live in Texas / And that’s why I hang my hat in Tennessee.” In this arena, though, people were just as excited for “Check Yes or No,” a good-natured radio perennial about a love affair that begins in the third grade and lasts well past the third chorus. One key to Strait’s success is that he is stubborn but not too stubborn. He adores the rough-hewn music and iconography of his native Texas, but he has never been too cool to sing sweeter, softer songs about suburban love gone right. He is a traditionalist, but not a revivalist: instead of evoking a bygone past, he prefers to evoke a familiar, unchanging present. The quintessential George Strait song involves a man who feels something strongly but can express it only winkingly. “If you leave me, I won’t miss you,” he declares, at the start of “Ocean Front Property,” followed by a chorus made up of declarations that are, likewise, lies. “I’ve got some oceanfront property in Arizona / From my front porch, you can see the sea,” he sings. “If you buy that, I’ll throw the Golden Gate in, free.”

A George Strait concert is a master class in the art of restraint. “He just stands there,” an executive once marvelled, “and people go fucking crazy.” Strait leans away from the high notes, sways gently with the up-tempo songs, and says just enough to remind fans that they are not, in fact, listening to his records; all night, he strums an acoustic guitar that no one can hear, maybe not even him.

In Las Vegas, he waited until near the end of his set for “Amarillo by Morning.” His crowds are generationally diverse, and some of the older fans had begun to sink into their seats by then. But just about everyone stood up at the sound of the fiddle overture that introduces the opening stanza, one of the most memorable in country music:

Amarillo by morning

Up from San Antone

Everything that I got

Is just what I’ve got on

The song—the stoic lament of a travelling rodeo pro—was originally recorded, in 1973, by Terry Stafford, a former rock-and-roll singer. Chris LeDoux, a real-life rodeo champion who also built a do-it-yourself career as a country act, cut a version a few years later, which found its way to Strait, who made the song his own. Stafford sang it with a crooner’s quaver, and LeDoux intoned the lyrics wistfully, accompanied by a harmonica. By comparison, Strait’s version, the only one that most people will ever hear, is masterfully plain. He occasionally approaches a syllable from above, using a mournful grace note, but he has an easy, conversational way of putting a melody across, as if he were singing to keep from talking.

Strait released “Amarillo by Morning” in 1983, and it helped establish him as one of the decade’s first new country stars. The song was so popular that he sometimes had to play it twice in a set, back when he was playing as many as four sets a night in Texas roadhouses. “It was probably our most requested song,” he says, “but it wasn’t a No. 1 record.” Like virtually all successful country singers, Strait pays attention to the charts, and he can discuss his placements with the unembarrassed candor of an athlete recalling his career statistics. “Amarillo by Morning” peaked at No. 4. Strait’s longtime manager, Erv Woolsey, noticed that some otherwise reliable radio stations declined to put Strait’s version into heavy rotation; he suspects that, especially in the Southwest, the modest success of the earlier recordings had made the song too familiar. “It was kind of wore out in certain places,” Woolsey says. But it resonated, and it has endured. Last year, a twenty-year-old contestant on “Mongolia’s Got Talent” became a viral video star because of his uncannily Strait-like rendition of “Amarillo by Morning.” And in Las Vegas “Amarillo by Morning” worked as well as it ever did. When it was over, Strait looked out at the crowd and gestured toward the roof with both hands—jokingly asking for more applause, as if he needed it.

Strait recently turned sixty-five, and he is officially semiretired. In 2012, he announced that he was quitting the touring life, and, after a two-year sendoff tour, he played a final show at AT&T Stadium, the home of the Dallas Cowboys, in front of more than a hundred thousand people. He didn’t quit recording, though, and in 2015 he announced a series of weekend concerts in Las Vegas. Louis Messina, Strait’s promoter, likes to point out that this is not a traditional Vegas residency: a washed-up star imprisoned in a casino theatre, entertaining a few hundred fans and gamblers, night after night. Strait is an arena headliner, not a lounge act, and every night the preshow playlist pays subtle tribute to his staying power. Concertgoers hear a selection of recent country hits: “Take a Back Road,” by Rodney Atkins; “Girl in a Country Song,” by Maddie & Tae; “Rewind,” by Rascal Flatts; “Might Get Lucky,” by Darius Rucker. What they have in common is that all of them mention Strait. Rucker sings, “Dance around the kitchen to a George Strait song”— hoping, like the others, to borrow some of Strait’s unimpeachable country credibility.

When Strait goes to Las Vegas, he flies from Texas in the plane he owns, and stays at the Mansion, a semiprivate hotel hidden next to the MGM Grand. But his bus comes, too, and remains parked behind the arena, allowing him to enjoy, in small doses, the life of a touring musician. It was Saturday afternoon in Las Vegas, and Strait was incognito on his bus, wearing a light-blue baseball cap and lightweight Nike running shoes. In the early decades of his career, he spent his downtime on horseback, turning himself into a decent competitor in the sport of team roping. He is still fit and trim, but these days he prefers fishing and golfing, and he enhances his year-round tan with frequent trips to the Bahamas and Mexico. In person, he is warm but watchful, and surprisingly shy; he seems like a man who does not crave attention, even though he has spent most of his life courting it.

“We had some rough edges last night, and I’ve already talked to my guys,” Strait said. Some members of his band have been playing with him since the nineteen-seventies, and they know him as an easygoing but exacting leader who wants his songs to sound just the way fans remember them. “A lot of times, maybe I’m the only one that notices,” Strait said. “But sometimes not.”

He has always been a singles artist, and even people who have worked closely with him sometimes struggle to name a favorite album—they like all his songs, especially the hits. Without quite planning it, he built his career for maximum longevity, amassing one hit after another, never allowing himself a year off or a radical musical departure. In the late nineteen-eighties and early nineties, he helped inspire a wave of cowboy-hat-wearing country singers who were known as “hat acts,” including Alan Jackson and Garth Brooks. Strait became a beloved elder statesman without giving up the role he values more: hitmaker. And then, around the beginning of this decade, something happened that was both inevitable and shocking: Strait’s songs stopped making their way up the country chart. “Radio’s not playing me anymore,” he said. “Which is a hard pill to swallow, after all these years.” His last album, “Cold Beer Conversation,” was released in 2015, and it was the first major release of his career that did not spawn a Top 10 hit. “I hung on for dear life, for a lot of years,” Strait said, chuckling softly.

There is, of course, life beyond the Billboard charts. Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton, for instance, remain two of the most revered and beloved stars in the country-music galaxy, even though they stopped making hits in the nineteen-eighties. But Strait has always resisted becoming a legacy act—indeed, his legacy is inseparable from his miraculous ability to stay current, reigning as the defining voice of country music throughout the eighties, the nineties, and the aughts. He is, by all accounts, intensely (if quietly) competitive: he wants to win, and radio spins and chart positions are an objective way of keeping score. On that Saturday night in Las Vegas, with those undetectable rough edges smoothed away, Strait and his band cruised through an even longer set, and he permitted himself to take some satisfaction in the fact that, once more, tens of thousands of fans had driven or flown into the desert just to watch him stand there and sing. “This is our eighth show in this building,” he said. “Sold out every one of ’em.”

George Strait grew up in Pearsall, Texas, near the interstate that runs south through Laredo to the Mexican border. His parents split when he was young, and Strait was brought up by his father, a math teacher who also became the proprietor of the family’s cattle ranch, down the road in Big Wells. Strait developed a lifelong obsession with ranching, although he also had other interests: after high school, he married his girlfriend, Norma, spent a few semesters in college, and then joined the Army, which assigned him to the 25th Infantry Division, stationed at Schofield Barracks, in Hawaii. The soldiers had to be ready to ship out to Vietnam at a few hours’ notice, but the call never came, and in his downtime—for no good reason that he has ever been able to articulate—Strait bought a battered guitar and some old songbooks and taught himself to play and sing. When the division put together a country band, Strait was chosen to lead it, and by the time he returned to Texas, in 1975, he had resolved to pursue a career in music.

It wasn’t an absurd idea: Texas was full of small bars where unpretentious country bands could bash out a living. Just to be safe, though, Strait enrolled at Southwest Texas State University, in San Marcos, where he studied agricultural education, and where, one day, he came upon a bulletin-board notice from a group in search of a singer. He auditioned with “Fraulein,” a country classic from the fifties, and was hired as the lead singer of the group, which was called the Ace in the Hole Band. One of the members was a pedal-steel player named Mike Daily, who has performed with Strait ever since. Daily’s grandfather was Pappy Daily, a legendary country impresario who discovered George Jones, and his father ran an independent label, which issued three Ace in the Hole Band singles in the late nineteen-seventies—Strait’s first recordings. Daily remembers that Strait wasn’t planning on staying local forever. “I’m here to try to make it,” Strait told the musicians, and Daily knew that making it would probably entail going to Nashville, where talent scouts typically signed singers, not bands.

In the late seventies, some of the most successful country singers were gentle balladeers like Kenny Rogers and Barbara Mandrell, and the executives who initially heard Strait’s demos thought he would likely remain a local favorite. His prospects may have improved with the release, in 1980, of “Urban Cowboy,” in which John Travolta and Debra Winger do battle with a mechanical bull in a honky-tonk called Gilley’s. (The film was not, despite its plot, a comedy.) “Urban Cowboy” glamorized rowdy Texas bars and all the creatures that called them home, and it created a new demand for singing cowboys like Strait. He got a record deal the next year, and had success with his début single, “Unwound,” a brisk drinking song built on a long-winded complaint: “That woman that I had wrapped around my finger just come unwound.” He recorded it with session musicians but continued to use the Ace in the Hole Band when he was on tour, as he almost always was. Strait was happy to go around the country promoting “Unwound,” but Woolsey, his manager, remembers rebuffing the record executives who wanted Strait to dress up, taking off his cowboy hat and trading his stacked jeans for slacks. “You don’t understand,” Woolsey told them. “Where he’s from, that is dressing up.”

From the beginning, Strait was marketed—and celebrated—as an avatar of “real” country, at a time of anxiety about country’s identity. The genre was getting popular and, not coincidentally, going pop, growing a bit more glamorous and a lot harder to define. In 1981, the year Strait emerged, Mandrell topped the chart with “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool,” a charming ode to country authenticity (flannel shirts, the Grand Ole Opry, “puttin’ peanuts in my Coke”) that seemed both defiant and defensive—its piano-driven arrangement was practically soft rock. Strait, whose music was sometimes described as “hard country,” espoused a more uncompromising aesthetic. News accounts invariably mentioned that he was “a real, live cowboy,” and headline writers rarely resisted the urge to connect his name to his style (“some real strait-forward country”; “playing it strait”; “country music served strait up”). After a string of hits, Strait parted with his original producer, Blake Mevis, telling one reporter that Mevis “was looking for more mass appeal, middle-of-the-road stuff,” while he wanted to record “basic country music.”

Many of Strait’s early records were produced by Jimmy Bowen, who was smart enough not to interfere too much. “I once told George Strait he might try to liven up his stage act just a touch,” Bowen has recalled. (Strait says that he does not remember the conversation.) “He did: he waved his cowboy hat a few times during the show. But George could get away with just standing there looking and sounding terrific.” Strait’s popularity was driven by his status as a sex symbol. Women deluged the stage with flowers, so many that disposal became a serious problem. At first, the bus would stop by a dumpster on the way out of town; later, the crew devised a system for donating them to local hospitals. Reba McEntire, who was also conquering country music at the time, once recalled a show that she played with Strait in Oklahoma. “The girls was gettin’ after him so bad,” she said, “that the club had to stack bales of hay in front of the stage.” (She added her own honest appraisal: “He’s a sexy little rascal.”) When Strait toured in the mid-eighties, he brought along, as his opening act, Kathy Mattea, who was then a rising star. Onstage, she made a habit of calling Strait “the Mark Harmon of country music,” by way of acknowledging his appeal. “He was handsome, and he was low-key, and he was charming,” Mattea says now. For her, the Mark Harmon line was an act of professional self-defense, a way of winning over his female fans by endorsing their fandom. “I had to relate to those women,” she says. “I had to show them that I could feel what they felt.”

Strait didn’t brag about his heartthrob status. (“I don’t know what it is, but I hope it doesn’t stop,” he told one reporter.) He did, however, find canny ways to capitalize on it. One of his most popular songs is “The Fireman,” the sly chronicle of a ladies’ man who serves as a kind of first responder in local bars, “making my rounds all over town, puttin’ out old flames.” And, in 1992, he starred in a feature film, “Pure Country,” playing a moodier, more reckless version of himself: a country singer named Dusty, who grows disillusioned with the music business and its compromises. Strait was reluctant to make a movie, but he was persuaded by the producer Jerry Weintraub, and by Colonel Tom Parker, the former manager of Elvis Presley, who was a friend of Weintraub’s. After a concert in Las Vegas, Parker told Strait how important Hollywood had been to Presley. “Elvis hated making those movies,” he said—but they transformed him from a pop star to an icon. Strait read a script and agreed to make the film, with some caveats. In the part where Dusty, having absconded from his own tour, takes refuge at a ranch, Strait wanted to do his own roping. And although the script had him falling in love with a humble woman from his home town, he thought that a proposed kissing scene was unnecessary (and potentially embarrassing), so he and his co-star, Isabel Glasser, made do with meaningful looks.

“Pure Country” was released in 1992, and attracted middling reviews—“Fans of the star will enjoy it more than dispassionate observers,” Roger Ebert said—and worse than middling returns, earning only fifteen million dollars at the box office. But the movie, which borrowed its plot from an old Presley vehicle, had an easygoing charm that encouraged repeat viewing. (Strait wears a white hat, and on two separate occasions he vanquishes a bad guy wearing a black hat.) “Pure Country” became one of the biggest home-video hits of the nineteen-nineties, and it has been a cable-television staple ever since. Near the end of the film, Dusty rejects sinful pyrotechnics, and recommits himself to the path of musical righteousness. “I’m going to play the guitar and sing,” he tells his manager. “No more smoke, no volcano blasts, and no more light shows.” In other words, Dusty finally sees the wisdom of conducting himself like George Strait. The film’s soundtrack inverted this process. “Heartland,” the movie’s energetic, rock-influenced opening song, marked a modest departure for Strait. “It’s about as rocked up and popped up as you can get and still pass it along to the country market,” he said at the time. At first, he hesitated to record it, until he realized that he could sing it in character, as Dusty. The song went to No. 1, and the soundtrack sold more than six million copies—it is the best-selling album of Strait’s career.

George Strait might be “pure country,” but country music has always been a mixed-up genre. As it happens, Hawaii, where Strait learned to sing, is one of the genre’s many wellsprings: it was there, in the late nineteenth century, that a guitarist named Joseph Kekuku figured out that he could bend pitches by laying the guitar on his lap and sliding a steel bar along the strings. In the early twentieth century, mainland musicians adopted the steel guitar, including Leon McAuliffe, a Texas virtuoso who played with one of the region’s most popular acts: Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. Wills was a fiddler, and in the nineteen-thirties and forties his group pioneered a style known as Western swing. This was dance music, fusing the lively rhythms of jazz to the lonesome sound of Western ballads, and Wills liked to call his group “the most versatile band in America.” (Among his big hits was “San Antonio Rose,” which was later recorded by Bing Crosby and Patsy Cline.) Wills had begun his career as a blackface minstrel, and most of his musical heroes were black jazz musicians, although his band was all white. His biographer, Charles R. Townsend, reported that Wills once, on a bender in Tulsa, asked a black trumpeter to join the group. “When Bob sobered up,” Townsend wrote, “he decided Oklahoma was not ready for an integrated band.”

By the time Wills died, in 1975, he was esteemed as a founding father of country music, even though he never thought of himself as “country,” in style or in sensibility. The term, as it is now used, is an abbreviation of “country and Western,” a category generally associated with rural white communities and meant to corral a wide range of styles that flourished from Appalachia to the Southwest. These styles were jammed together by a transformative technology: radio, and the “barn dance” variety shows that flourished on the airwaves. The most influential of these was the Grand Ole Opry, a Nashville show that began to be broadcast nationwide in 1939; it was so popular that it altered America’s musical economy, pulling in enough musicians and entrepreneurs to make Nashville the unquestioned home of country music. (Nowadays, hardly anyone stops to wonder why a city not known for ranching is synonymous with cowboy hats.) But a certain amount of tension between Nashville country and Texas country is built into the relationship, dating back at least as far as 1944, when Wills came to town to play the Opry and was nearly thrown out. The organizers were accustomed to string bands, and Wills insisted on performing with a drummer.

In an odd way, the rise of rock and roll strengthened country music’s sense of identity—after Presley, young people who chose to be country fans were also choosing to resist the hegemony of rock and pop. Strait was born in 1952, and by the time he got to high school he and his friends were listening to the Beatles and other rock-and-roll bands. Although the old country songs were part of the local environment, Strait didn’t start paying close attention until after college, when he encountered some albums by a brilliant and mercurial singer-songwriter from California: Merle Haggard, a country “outlaw” who was also obsessed with the genre’s history. In 1970, the same year as his anti-antiwar hit “The Fightin’ Side of Me,” Haggard released “A Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World (or, My Salute to Bob Wills),” which helped Strait discover the Texas classics that became the foundation of his first live sets. Strait, like many of his peers and most of his successors, is in some sense a convert to the genre: he is country by birth, but also by choice.

The early Ace in the Hole Band recordings featured some songs written by Strait, including a wonderfully mopey lament, “I Just Can’t Go on Dying Like This.” But after Strait got his record deal he decided that he had neither the time nor the inclination to compose. “I was finding what I thought were better songs than what I was writing,” he says now. “Maybe I was intimidated, a little bit.” As Strait grew more successful, he became especially popular among Nashville songwriters, who like nothing better than a reliable hitmaker who always needs material. When Strait came to town to record, songwriters would lie in wait outside the studio, carrying demo tapes with the most stereotypically George Strait songs they had: songs about cowboys, songs about Texas, songs about the Alamo. What Strait really wanted, though, was memorable and interesting melodies. His string of hits is in large part a result of his ability to identify a great tune. He would review hundreds of demos himself, often deciding within thirty seconds whether a song sounded like something he might want to cut. Occasionally, he asked to alter a word or two; in “All My Ex’s,” a reference to the Brazos River became a reference to the Frio River, which flows closer to his home town. Often, though, Strait learned each song quickly and sang it much the same way it sounded on the demo.

The songwriter whom Strait relied on most was Dean Dillon, who co-wrote his début single, “Unwound,” and whose songs have appeared on nearly every one of his albums since then. The two met a few years after Strait cut “Unwound.” (The song was originally pitched to Johnny Paycheck, who excelled at both singing and raising hell. “He was in jail, so they gave it to me,” Strait recalls.) Dillon had grown up in Tennessee, in love with country music but also with singer-songwriters like James Taylor and Carole King, who inspired him to experiment with unusual chords and structures. Dillon was once a recording artist, too, but he eventually decided that, since Strait was having so much success with his songs, he might as well become a full-time songwriter. Where Strait is polite and self-effacing, Dillon is a big, ornery personality: when Strait asked Dillon to put out his cigarette during their first meeting, he responded by exhaling a mouthful of smoke. “I didn’t give a shit, and I didn’t care who knew it,” he says. Their partnership has provided Strait’s music with a welcome dose of subversion, helping to keep him from becoming predictable. Dillon co-wrote “Marina Del Rey,” an early hit that upended listeners’ expectations of Strait: it was distinctly unrustic, a piano ballad about a man on an airplane, daydreaming about the woman he left behind on a Los Angeles beach. And “The Chair,” also co-written by Dillon, became one of Strait’s signature hits and a staple of his live sets, despite having nothing that could be considered a chorus. (It is a wry, lilting account of a man chatting up a woman in a bar.) Strait realized that, because his identity was so firmly fixed in fans’ minds, he could permit himself some latitude. “People looked at me as a traditional country singer,” he says. “So those songs were thought of as ‘Well, those are traditional, because George did it.’ ”

In 1986, Strait’s daughter, Jenifer, was killed in a car accident. She was thirteen, and although Strait resolved to keep working, he couldn’t bear to grieve in public. “I just kind of shut down,” he says. “I just didn’t feel like talking about it, so I quit doing interviews.” In 1988, he released an aching lament called “Baby Blue”: “Like a breath of spring, she came and left, and I still don’t know why / So here’s to you, and whoever holds my baby blue tonight.” Strait never explained why he chose to record “Baby Blue”—in the liner notes to his 1995 boxed set, he said only that it was a “pretty song,” and that Aaron Barker, who wrote it, cut such a good demo that Strait was hard-pressed to improve on it. Over the years, Strait’s temporary solution evolved into a permanent way of working, and of living: he stayed productive, and he stayed mum. Friends describe him as kind but quiet, and not easy to get to know. Messina, Strait’s promoter, has been working closely with him since the nineties; their relationship is close, but not overly familiar. “I tried never to cross the line,” Messina says. “We don’t talk about personal things.” Tony Brown produced nineteen of Strait’s albums, beginning with “Pure Country,” and he deserves as much credit as anyone for Strait’s longevity. But in 2014, when Strait decided that he was ready to work with someone else, Brown received the news not from Strait but from Erv Woolsey, his manager.

Successful country singers typically move to Nashville, but Strait never did. He lives outside San Antonio, and although he used to visit Nashville to record, he found that the climate exacerbated his allergies, which is why he now records in Key West, at a studio that belongs to his friend Jimmy Buffett. In Texas, Strait keeps a low profile; he has adopted the life style of a contented, golf-obsessed businessman without ceasing to represent, for many fans, a connection to an older, more rugged way of living. He emerges once a year for the George Strait Team Roping Classic, which he created in 1982 and has presided over ever since. Team roping is one of the seven events included in a rodeo competition, and, like many sports, it is based on a useful skill honed well past the point of usefulness. A steer—a castrated male—is released from a pen and pursued by two riders on horseback: one, called the header, throws a loop of rope around the steer’s horns, and the other, the heeler, ropes the steer’s hind legs, immobilizing the animal. Strait was a pretty good roper, and he used to compete in his own tournament, although he never won. He sometimes worked in partnership with his son, George, Jr., known as Bubba, who roped full time for several years, until a wayward loop nearly severed his index finger, prompting him to consider anew the sport’s punishing ratio of reward to risk.

This year’s roping event, the thirty-fifth, was held at the San Antonio Rose Palace, a dirt-floor arena on the northern edge of the city, largely untouched by time or technology. (It is down the road from Tapatio Springs, a golf resort that Strait and a partner recently bought and renovated.) A couple of announcers called the action, their voices both amplified and distorted by an antiquated public-address system. In the venders’ area, next to the arena, stands sold T-shirts, cowboy boots, jewelry, cattle feed; near the entrance, some kids were learning to heel by tossing loops at a dummy on wheels. More than five hundred teams competed over two days, creating an agreeably repetitive spectacle. A top roping team can finish its work in less than five seconds, after which the steer is released to trot back to the pen, and the next team gets ready. No less than Nashville, perhaps, the sport rewards perfectionism and patience: everyone is trying to solve the same problem, over and over again.

On Saturday morning, championship day, Strait made his grand arrival on horseback, taking a ceremonial lap around the arena as fans hung over the railings, angling for selfies. A cowboy preacher asked for protection: “We pray that no harm, in any form or fashion, comes near the horses, the steer, or the cowboys.” (In fact, many of the steer were destined to become steak, just not quite yet.) Strait watched with his family, from a box next to the announcer’s booth, descending when the action was finished to present the prizes—more than a hundred thousand dollars apiece for the two winners, along with new trucks and trailers. All weekend long, the loudspeakers played nothing but George Strait songs, and it is a testament to his legacy that some attendees might not have noticed. His music is so synonymous with the genre that a selection of his hits might simply sound, to the casual listener, like a classic-country playlist.

When Strait first emerged, he was sometimes grouped with other old-fashioned country singers, such as John Anderson and Ricky Skaggs, but he soon became the singular example for a generation to follow: the “hat acts,” they were called, and not always fondly. The most consequential of the hat acts was the one whom the term fit least well: Garth Brooks, who idolized Strait, also managed to succeed by refusing to follow Strait’s example. Where Strait was stoic, Brooks was eager and emotive, straining for high notes, quavering or snarling, amplifying his Oklahoma accent or diminishing it, doing whatever it took to make fans love him. In the nineteen-nineties, Brooks changed the genre, roaming stages with a wireless microphone, singing about ending racism and domestic violence; he also feuded with executives, retired for much of the aughts, and briefly tried to reinvent himself as a brooding rocker named Chris Gaines. Strait, by contrast, instinctively avoided controversy; in fact, he avoided anything that was likely to interrupt the smooth functioning of his hit-making machine. He is friendly with both Bush Presidents, but he has never made a public political statement, and he has gone out of his way not to criticize his fellow-singers, or the industry more generally.

For a long time, the ups and downs of Brooks and other country innovators only underscored Strait’s position as the genre’s most dependable act. A wide range of singers, from Martina McBride to Taylor Swift, first faced big crowds by serving as Strait’s opening act. When he moved up from arenas to stadiums, in the late nineties, he booked enough opening acts to create daylong mini-festivals, boosting the careers of Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Brooks & Dunn. For the shows earlier this year, in Las Vegas, his opening act was Kacey Musgraves, who is twenty-eight; when she was growing up, in East Texas, Strait was already a well-established star. After her own set, she reappeared with Strait to perform a duet on a song called “Run,” dancing a bit and adding some new harmonies while he stood still, singing it just like the record. “He’s the steady train,” she said, after the show. “And I can flit all around him.” Musgraves is a mischievous singer and songwriter, known for tweaking old country traditions. (“It’s high time to slow my roll, let the grass just grow,” she sings, with a knowing smile.) Even so, she was enjoying the challenge of trying to win over a George Strait crowd, not to mention the challenge of trying to get to know Strait himself. “I’ve gotten to hang out with him a little,” she said. “We mainly just talk about horses.”

Strait flew to Nashville recently—not to sing but to promote one of his newest projects, Código 1530, a “sippin’ tequila,” as he calls it, that he grew to love during golf trips to Mexico, and which he is helping to launch in America. (One of his partners is Ron Snyder, the executive behind Crocs.) There was a tasting in RCA Studio A, the same building in which Strait recorded his first album, and, despite having spent decades avoiding publicity events like this one, he seemed cheerful. “I’ve never been one to like to talk about myself a lot,” he said, nursing an añejo-tequila cocktail. By comparison, talking about his favorite drink wasn’t so bad.

Ever since 1981, Strait has been recording for the same label, MCA Nashville, outlasting virtually all the executives, to say nothing of his fellow-artists. The label is now part of Universal Music Group Nashville, whose chairman is Mike Dungan, a wry and garrulous music veteran from Cincinnati. Dungan became chairman in 2012, and one of his first trips was to San Antonio, to meet with Strait and his wife, along with Woolsey. “Let’s deal with reality,” Dungan told Strait. “There are some key radio guys that are ready to be done with you. It has nothing to do with you as an artist—it has to do with the fact that they played you in the eighties, they played you in the nineties, the two-thousands, and here we are in 2012, and nothing else in culture has held on that long.” Dungan remembers that Strait seemed both alarmed and fascinated. “I don’t think anyone had ever said those words to him before,” he said.

What Dungan proposed was not acquiescence but insurgence. He and his executives put together a campaign called Sixty for Sixty, in which they recruited fans and fellow-performers to urge radio programmers to play Strait’s latest single, a warm love song called “Give It All We Got Tonight.” The idea was to get Strait his sixtieth No. 1 hit before his sixtieth birthday, and, if Strait was too proud to beg, many of his fans were not. Some of the genre’s biggest names recorded testimonials: Brad Paisley, Darius Rucker, Eric Church, Little Big Town. The campaign came around the same time as Strait’s announcement that he was retiring from full-time touring, which gave the effort a valedictory aura. No one said that this would be Strait’s last No. 1 single, but his music had been growing more wistful over the years. (In 2008, he went to No. 7 with “Troubadour,” a late-career statement of purpose: “I was a young troubadour when I rode in on a song / And I’ll be an old troubadour when I’m gone.”) With Sixty for Sixty, the implication was hard to miss: a man who once topped the charts effortlessly now required one last collective push to get to No. 1.

Whether he made it is a matter of some debate. In the old days, when Strait emerged, the Billboard country chart operated according to an unwritten code: record labels pestered and fêted program directors, and program directors helped arrange an orderly succession of No. 1 hits, with a new song claiming the spot just about every week. In the past decade, though, the country chart has decelerated, as hits make slow progress through a big but diffuse musical marketplace. In 1981, when Strait made his début, there were forty-eight different No. 1 hits on Billboard’s country chart. Last year, there were nine. Billboard’s main country chart includes data from online streaming services, which means that crossover hits do especially well. (Country charts traditionally reflected the tastes of the country audience in particular; online, everyone who listens to a country song counts equally.) According to the Billboard chart, “Give It All We Got Tonight” was only a No. 7 hit, despite all the special pleading. But, according to the promotional materials, the Sixty for Sixty effort was a success: the song topped a different, more radio-oriented chart just after Strait’s sixtieth birthday. For his current Las Vegas concerts, Strait is playing these sixty songs over two nights, which required some extra rehearsals: many of these hits had long ago fallen out of his set lists, even though they were once among the most popular country songs in America. “Some of those songs, I forget about,” Strait says. “They just kind of go away after so long.”

Some people think that Strait’s trouble on the radio is simply a function of age. Perhaps his legacy bought him an extra decade or so: Toby Keith and Garth Brooks, who are fifty-five, as well as Alan Jackson, who is fifty-eight, have also largely disappeared from country-radio playlists, with the exception of so-called country-icons stations, which make a point of playing the old stuff. (Earlier this year, when a radio station in Corpus Christi adopted the icons format, it announced itself by broadcasting nothing but George Strait for an entire weekend.) Strait’s decision to stop touring was probably a factor, too: radio stations love playing songs by singers who are coming to town.

Among radio executives, conventional wisdom holds that old listeners have more patience for young singers than young listeners have for old singers. Tony Brown, the producer, thinks that Strait has hit a generational wall. “He could cut ‘Amarillo by Morning’ today, for the first time, and they wouldn’t play it,” Brown says. “It’s not because of his voice or the song. It’s because they want to play a younger demographic.” But it’s true, too, that the genre has evolved in a way that makes Strait seem like an outlier. Hat acts have given way to what Brown calls “cap acts”: younger, more frolicsome singers like Sam Hunt, whose latest single, “Body Like a Back Road,” has been Billboard’s country No. 1 for most of 2017. Many of these songs hint at hip-hop, through thumping beats or added syncopation in the vocal line—the next phase, perhaps, of the country-rhythm revolution begun by Bob Wills, in 1944.

As radio stations have lost interest in Strait, Strait is trying to figure out how he feels about them. He has started writing again, often with his son, Bubba, who quit roping so that he could settle down and join the other family business. Last year, Strait released an unusually acerbic song called “Kicked Outta Country,” which he co-wrote. The song pays tribute to George Jones, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and Johnny Cash, singers whose legends endured even when their radio careers did not: “They lived what they wrote, and they wrote what they sang / And getting kicked outta country didn’t hurt a thing.” (During concerts, Strait sings it with a smile, as if to reassure fans that the whole thing is just a misunderstanding.

Strait’s country heroes were, virtually without exception, outlandish characters, going all the way back to Bob Wills, who once reconciled with one of his many wives in the middle of a court hearing during which they were supposed to be discussing an annulment. “Kicked Outta Country” is in part a chronicle of the kind of bad behavior that captures fans’ imaginations. “Cash stomped out the footlights,” Strait sings, evoking the famous moment, in 1965, when Cash threw a tantrum on the Grand Ole Opry stage. Nowadays, just about everyone venerates Johnny Cash, even people who can name only a few of his songs. (If a rodeo played nothing but Johnny Cash for a whole weekend, people would definitely notice—and possibly object.) Strait, by contrast, is beloved both in theory and in practice. His brilliant, steady career was surely enabled by his disciplined disinclination to live out his music, and by his methodical approach to finding and recording great material. The result is a relative paucity of memorable stories, and an absolute surfeit of memorable songs—more, surely, than would exist if Strait had been less single-minded.

When Strait performed in Las Vegas, earlier this year, he made a point of including a recent single, “Goin’, Goin’, Gone,” a breezy account of how to lose a weekend, which failed to conquer the airwaves. “This next song was actually released on the radio,” he said. “I never heard it.” It was a complaint, delivered in good humor. But, for anyone skeptical about the abiding power and relevance of radio, this moment provided proof. Most of the people in the arena showed no signs of knowing the words; radio hadn’t played it, so they hadn’t memorized it. No matter: there were more than a dozen hits left for Strait to sing before he departed the stage, only and inevitably to be brought back for an encore. “Thank you very much,” he said, when he returned. “I think we got a few more in us.” ♦

George Strait: Uncharted Territory
Eighty-six of George Strait's songs have reached the Top 10 on Billboard's country chart. Here are some of the best of the rest.

 

This article appears in other versions of the July 24, 2017, issue, with the headline “Hat Trick.”

  • Kelefa Sanneh has contributed to the magazine since 2001.

    Read more »

Brooks and Dunn find familiar spark in Calgary reunion

Brooks & Dunn perform at the Scotiabank Saddledome during the Calgary Stampede on Thursday. GAVIN YOUNG / POSTMEDIA NEWS

 

JUSTINA CONTENTI
More from Justina Contenti

Published on: July 13, 2017 | Last Updated: July 13, 2017 10:23 PM MDT

 

For the first time in seven years, Calgarians welcomed the charismatic country duo of Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn to the Scotiabank Saddledome on Thursday night.

After performing together for almost 30 years and selling more than 30-million albums, Brooks & Dunn announced their retirement in 2009 and haven’t played together in Canada since their “We’re never doing this again tour,” in 2010, as Brooks said during the concert.

But when they heard the Calgary Stampede wanted them to come play, they decided to come down for the party.

And if it was a party they were looking for, they found it.

Despite taking a page out of the books of other country greats such as George Strait — ditching the theatrics and letting the music speak for itself — they showed they’re still able to put on a show.

With voices that apparently don’t age, many of their songs sounded like they came right off of one of their albums.

While both members of the duo have been performing on their own since the last tour, the rare chance to catch them on the same stage made Thursday night’s concert probably the most anticipated of this year’s Calgary Stampede.

As always, with anticipation comes high expectations, especially from a duo with more than 23 chart-topping singles and more than 80 industry awards.

As they rattled off some of their greatest hits, including Brand New Man, Red Dirt Road, Put A Girl In It and Play Something Country, the crowd was surprisingly slow to get on board.

Then, all of a sudden, as they led into Hillbilly Deluxe and Cowgirls Don’t Cry, the audience was on its feet. Was it the beer or the air conditioning? We may never know.

From then on, Brooks & Dunn and their seven band members failed to disappoint, delivering the classic country music their fans filed into the Dome to hear.

They’re a bucket list group for any country fan, but if you missed out, the two are preparing for another stint in Las Vegas with Reba McEntire, starting in late November.

Opening for Brooks & Dunn was West Texas cowboy Aaron Watson, who opened the night with the declaration that the audience wouldn’t be seeing, “Any skinny jeans on this stage, only real honky-tonk music.”

That was evident even before he finished his first song, These Old Boots Have Roots, which launched into the quick, banjo-heavy tune Freight Train.

The rest of the performance featured fairly standard country music fare, easy to listen to and entertaining, but overall a bit generic.

Watson’s 17-year career has been a bit of a slow burn but he continues to gain popularity in the United States with his 2015 album, The Underdog, debuting at the top of the Billboard Country Albums Chart. He recently followed that up with Vaquero, which he released in 2017.

Attendance: 10,138

Album Review: Rhonda Vincent & Daryle Singletary - “American Grandstand”

 

Posted By Matt Bjorke on Thursday July 06, 2017 at 07:26PM PST

With a dozen tracks, the duo shakes up the traditional country music world with their fantastic collection of classic country duets.

In a world that is as fast-paced and crazy as our world is these days, it is nice to be able to hear some genuine country music songs sung by two of the very best country singers on the planet. With American Grandstand, Rhonda Vincent and Daryle Singletary have brought 12 songs to the table to give us all one of the very best classic country albums released thus far into 2017.

The singers, quite simply, bring out the best in each other with Daryle Singletary and Rhonda Vincent both hitting notes that I’ve never heard them quite master before. “One” is one such case. They deliver strong tempo-filled duets on opener “Above And Beyond” and “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man” while tenderly singing of life, love and everything in between on tracks like “After The Fire Is Gone,” “We Must Have Been Out Of Our Minds” and “Up This Hill And Down.” As stated before, there are interesting blends of vocal harmony and lyric bending on display here, on nearly every track, with both not only trying to pay homage to their heroes but to also make the songs their very own.

The project’s lone new song, the title track, is a special moment in that it doesn’t feel outta place at all on the record and there’s quite an Oak Ridge Boys-like flavor to the harmony vocals on the track (which is is all Daryle Singletary). It gives us a glimpse in the kind of musical direction these talented artists can take any follow-up projects, especially if they’re as ear-pleasing asAmerican Grandstand.

Below is a story behind the song for one of the album's duets:

How Randy Travis Cheated Death and Became a Country Inspiration

 

Four years ago (July 7, 2013) Randy Travis suffered a debilitating stroke. Just a few days earlier, the country legend had been in good health, working out in his home gym and spending time with his now-wife, Mary. But just hours later, Travis was admitted to a Dallas hospital for congestive heart failure. Later on that evening, Travis complained to Mary that he was having difficulty breathing. Travis’ lungs were filled with fluid and he lost consciousness. Days later, doctors realized that the singer had suffered a stroke that left him with a one or two percent chance of survival.

But with the support of family and friends, Travis has made an incredible recovery. He’s re-gaining conversation skills, re-learning how to write and play guitar and still bringing crowds to their feet.

 

Amazing Grace

To say Randy Travis helped change the trajectory of country music is an understatement. In the wake of an increasingly Urban Cowboystyle pop format, the neo-traditionalist singer brought country back to its core with his 1986 album Storms of Life.

When Travis was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame last year, Garth Brooks said that Travis “took a format, turned it 180 degrees… back to where it came from and made it bigger than it has ever been before.”

Travis is an indelible part of the fabric of country music, and his voice is one that the country music community couldn’t stand to lose. Thankfully, Travis had no intention of letting that happen.

After months of rehabilitation, the country legend was able to sing “Amazing Grace”during his Hall of Fame induction, a pretty miraculous feat considering Travis’ was in such a dire condition following his stroke that he flatlined three times.

The song has become Travis’ anthem as he undergoes rehabilitation.

 

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And that wasn’t even Travis’ first public appearance since the health crisis. The singer appeared on the Grand Ole Opry just two years after his stroke and last year he made an unforgettable appearance at the CMA Awards, where he sang the final line of his iconic 1987 hit “Forever and Ever, Amen.”

A New Start

The country music community has rallied behind Travis during his recovery process. Back in February, thousands packed Nashville’s Bridgestone arena for a star studded tribute concert.

 

Although the singer is still regaining his strength, he’s made tremendous strides in just four years. According to Travis’ wife Mary, the singer is regaining use of his right arm and leg and uses his left hand to play guitar. Incredibly, he still remembers all of his song lyrics.

READ MORE: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Randy Travis

And Travis is using his battle to empower others. He and his wife formed the Randy Travis Foundation, an organization dedication to raising awareness for viral cardiomyopathy and providing medical funding.

Randy Travis embodies the spirit and grace of country music and continues to serve as a beacon for a new generation.

 

Joe Nichols to Release New Album, ‘Never Gets Old’

 

 SYDNEY SMITH • JULY 2, 2017 - 8:56 AM

Country crooner Joe Nichols is back and ready to release his tenth studio album, Never Gets Old. Set for release on July 28, the title track appears as the project’s lead single.

Known for his loyalty to traditional country sounds, Nichols promises to maintain his signature sound with tracks like “Never Gets Old” and “Billy Graham’s Bible,” which are both available now.  The single and title track features a traditional sounding guitar riff with a harmonica accompaniment as Nichols sings about how he can never grow tired of all the different aspects of being with his lover. He compares his love to sunshine and “Amazing Grace,” two things that people seem to get tired of.

“Billy Graham’s Bible,” a re-release from Nichols’s 2013 album, Crickets, has Nichols’s typical twang with a classic steel guitar in the background. He sings that he is like “Billy Graham’s bible / And that old guitar Willie plays,” because just like they were simple objects until they found their destiny with those important figures, he was just another man until he crossed paths with his lover.

The singer also expands his horizons with a cover of the 1990’s Sir Mix-A-Lot track, “Baby Got Back,” featuring comedian Darren Knight. Fans may have caught the interpretation at one of Nichols’ live shows, but the re-imagination has not been recorded until now.

Fans of all types can expect to hear something they like on Never Gets Old, which is currently available for pre-order on iTunes and Amazon.

Joe Nichols, Never Gets Old Track Listing:
“Diamonds Make Babies”
“Girl in the Song”
“We All Carry Something”
“I’d Sing About You”
“Breathless”
“Tall Boys”
“Hostage”
“Never Gets Old”
“Billy Graham’s Bible”
“So You’re Saying”
“This Side of the River”
“Baby Got Back” (feat. Darren Knight)

Jon Pardi in a California Haze with new video

Jon Pardi Gets Stuck in a California Haze in ‘Heartache on the Dance Floor’ Video

 KELLY BRICKEY • JUNE 19, 2017 - 2:28 PM

 

Jon Pardi floats through the haze of lust while dreaming on the beach throughout the music video for his current single, “Heartache on the Dance Floor.”

Set along the sunny shores of the California coastline, Pardi falls asleep in the sand and imagines a romantic night with an unknown mystery girl. Working up the courage to dance closely throughout the night at a beachside bar, Pardi and his lucky lady romanticize the sweetest moments of love: staring at the stars as the tide rolls in and creates peace between the two.

“Shooting the video for ‘Heartache on the Dance Floor’ was awesome. We were out in Venice Beach, California. There’s a lot of crazy people out there [laughs], but it was a lot of fun.  It was beautiful. It was great weather, and we got to explain the story of ‘Heartache on the Dance Floor,’ and it’s kind of a dream sequence where you kinda fall asleep where you dream about the girl on the dance floor and the party. It’s a lot of fun, and there’s a lot of cool coloring in there, a really cool car I drive around,” Pardi said about the video recently.

Highlighting the vibrant hues plastered through the lanes of Venice Beach, Pardi and his director wanted to capture the liveliness of the West Coast theme strung along throughout the lyric. While Pardi doesn’t trade his cowboy boots for a surfboard, he still embodies that California spirit thanks to the treatment of the passion-filled video.

“It’s a different video, but it’s kind of grungy in a way and it’s really beachy, kinda cool California style, so that’s why I was really excited about it. Carlos Ruiz, Carlos, Carlos Ruiz – he is from Colombia – he did the ‘Dirt on My Boots’ video and he also did this one. We work really good together. We’re buddies, and it’s been fun,” he explained.

“Heartache on the Dance Floor” is Jon Pardi’s third single off his album, California Sunrise, which is out now. Pardi is also traveling all summer long for Dierks Bentley’s What the Hell Tour and fans can find more details about the tour on his website.

Alan Jackson Delivers Hit After Hit During Nashville Show

Alan Jackson; Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images

 

 CHUCK DAUPHIN • MAY 20, 2017 - 2:12 PM

There seemed to be an emphasis on a certain musical style at Friday night’s (May 19) Alan Jackson concert at Nashville’s Ascend Amphitheater. More often than once, the term “Real Country Music” was uttered by Jackson, opening act Lee Ann Womack, as well as the fans in attendance for the show.

Taking to the stage with his 1994 anthem “Gone Country,” Jackson delivered one solid Country classic after the other, with each of the up-tempo songs transforming into a crowd sing-along in the process. With a video screen playing the original videos of the songs while Jackson and The Strayhorns performed them, the crowd was transported back in time with such hits as “I Don’t Even Know Your Name” and “Who’s Cheatin Who.” Jackson seemed to be in a very festive mood performing songs such as those, the rollicking “Good Time,” “Country Boy,” “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” and his signature hit, 1993’s “Chattahoochee.”

Of course, that’s only one side of the Alan Jackson success story. The Georgia native has had a multitude of successes with ballad recordings, and he performed many of his finest. The singer poured each and every ounce of raw emotion in such heartfelt performances as “Here In The Real World” and “Wanted,” which have lost none of their staying power since their release close to three decades ago.

Of course, fans were expecting the hits. That goes without saying. However, the singer was in more of a reflective mood during the show, sharing stories about the writing of the afore-mentioned hits as well as compositions as “Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow.” Quite possibly, it could be where Jackson is at this stage of his career – ranking as one of the format’s more esteemed veterans, or maybe the recent announcement of his forthcoming induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame – just a few blocks away, but Jackson’s sharing of his memories about his career proved to make the evening a little more memorable than just strictly a collection of hit records. His recollections of his early life with wife Denise made the lyrics of such songs as “Livin’ On Love” and “I’d Love You All Over Again” even more memorable.

 

Quite a few times during the evening, Jackson mentioned the phrase “Real Country Music,” and that was very much in evidence even before he took the stage. Delivering a flawless set, Lee Ann Womack served notice that she is one of the most exceptional female vocalists to ever record in Music City. She peppered such material as “I May Hate Myself In The Morning” and “Never Again, Again” with as much raw emotion and power as she did when she originally recorded them over a decade ago. She displayed plenty of fire on her recent recording “The Way I’m Livin” and delivered perhaps her finest moment of her set with the under-appreciated gem “Does My Ring Burn Your Finger.” Womack returned during Jackson’s set to team up with the singer on a cover of Vern Gosdin’s “Till’ The End,” as well as “Murder On Music Row,” which caused headlines when Jackson recorded it with George Strait back in 2000. One could say the song was very prophetic, considering the boundaries that the format continues to push now. However, if you are looking for “Real Country Music,” it is still very much there. It all depends on where you look!

Keith Urban Stuns with NHL Playoffs National Anthem

 

 LAUREN LAFFER • MAY 16, 2017 - 7:17 PM

With just one round standing between them and the Stanley Cup finals, the Nashville Predators are playing more fiercely and athletically than ever before. As the team prepares to take the ice within Bridgestone Arena against the Anaheim Ducks for Game Three in the series, the team once again surprised fans with an all-star performance for the National Anthem.

Standing in as the team’s seventh man is Keith Urban, who breathlessly serenaded the electric crowd within the Smashville walls.

Urban’s “The Fighter” collaborator Carrie Underwood was in the arena during the performance as she’s been one of the Predators’ most devoted fans. The singer has been on hand at all of the home games to support her husband and Preds captain, Mike Fisher. The Oklahoma native tweeted about the crowd’s electric energy.

“The energy in this building is incredible,” she wrote.

Minutes after Urban’s spell-binding performance, Underwood posted a video as she sang along to the duo’s collaboration being played on the organ within Bridgestone Arena.

“Name That Tune: Arena Organ Addition… You know you you’ve made it when! #TheFighter,” she wrote as she sang along.

Having a country superstar performer has been a running theme throughout the playoff season for the Preds, who have hosted the likes of Carrie UnderwoodLuke BryanLittle Big TownLady Antebellum and Vince Gill since the games began.

Heading into Tuesday Night’s game, the Nashville Predators and Anaheim Ducks are tied 1-1 with Game Three on the line. The following game will be hosted in Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, before heading back to California for Game 5.

Loretta Lynn’s Team Updates Fans on Medical Status

 

 KELLY BRICKEY • MAY 15, 2017 - 5:15 PM

 

Loretta Lynn fans can breathe easy as her team has officially passed on an update of her medical status.

The iconic country singer recently suffered from a stroke at her personal residence, forcing her to be hospitalized for the time being. At the time, it was announced that she was expected to make a full recovery and was receiving great care from a handful of doctors after being admitted in Nashville.

Ten days following the medical emergency, Lynn’s team went to social media to let her adoring fans know that she was on the up and up in her recovery time.

“Loretta thanks everyone for their prayers love and support. She has moved to rehabilitation and we’re happy to report she is doing great,” the team wrote via her various social media channels.

Her sister, Crystal Gayle, also sent out a previous shout out to all of the love the family received throughout Lynn’s hospitalization.

“Thank you for all of the prayers and well wishes for Loretta. Keep them coming! We are lucky, in this day and age, to have wonderful doctors and nurses taking great care of her. Plus, they have to put up with our dramatic and crazy family and friends. #PrayersForLoretta Love you! Crystal,” she said.

Lynn just hit a milestone mark during her birthday a couple weeks back, turning the big 8-5. Like the legend she is, Lynn celebrated with close friends at the famous Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

Although Lynn seems to be doing well during her resting period, doctors still advised that she stay off the road in order to properly recuperate. Rescheduling a few tour dates for later on in the year, she keeps true to her word on plans to continue playing shows across the country once she is fully healed. For more information on those specific dates, supporters can go to her website for more details.

Chris Young Releases ‘Losing Sleep’ As New Single

 

 KELLY BRICKEY • MAY 12, 2017 - 9:31 AM

It’s getting hot in here, but not because the summer months are quickly approaching—it’s due to Chris Young’s sexy new single, “Losing Sleep.”

Not wasting any time getting back into the game after his No.1 “Sober Saturday Night,” Young decided to amp the tempo up a notch with his progressive new track that rocks into a night to remember with the one you love. Put together a guitar-driven chorus with a hand-clap beat and Young sets himself up for a relatable upbeat love song.

Written by Young with Josh Hoge and Chris DeStefano, the three nail the idea of intimacy mixed with the contemporary country sounds that ride throughout the strong chorus. With lyrics like, “Fall into me / let me breathe the air you breathe / I can take you anywhere you want to be,” Young strives to bring the sensual elements in while still maintaining his romantic personality from previous songs.

“I think it’s still very much me. I don’t think anyone is going to hear it and think it doesn’t sound like me as an artist. It’s very, very forward production wise and definitely once the chorus hits, it’s a tempo. It’s a nice balance, and I think you have to have all of that,” Young said in an interview with The Tennessean.

“Losing Sleep” is the first little taste of what to expect from Young’s upcoming album, which he just so happened to co-write on all of the tracks. Announcing the exciting news to fans via social media a couple weeks ago, the country singer continues to work hard in the studio on his anticipated project for his supporters to fall in love with from first listen.

“Everything has its own slot on the record. I really think you guys are going to be excited to hear it. Pumped that we get to do it this soon,” he said through a previous Facebook Live session.

As fans await even more new music from Young, they can check out his new track, “Losing Sleep,” and see him perform live on the They Don’t Know Tour with Jason Aldean this summer.

Chris Young is wide awake for 'Losing Sleep'

The Tennessean12:01 a.m. CT May 12, 2017

Chris Young (Photo: David McClister)

Chris Young (Photo: David McClister)

Chris Young was wide awake with excitement Thursday, the day before his new single “Losing Sleep” was released to country radio.The song is the debut single from his forthcoming seventh studio album. 

“It’s a very sexy song, people have already pointed it out,” Young said of the progressive up-tempo. Young penned the song with his frequent collaborator and friend Josh Hoge and prolific country hit writer Chris DeStefano. “Losing Sleep” starts with a smooth R&B groove that flips into a full-blown contemporary country chorus.

“I know it’s different for me from the last record,” said Young, who has had nine No. 1 country hits. “We’ll see what everybody thinks about it when it actually gets out there.”

The men wrote “Losing Sleep” in December of 2015, soon after Young released his gold-selling “I’m Comin’ Over.” Young came to the songwriting appointment with the hook and DeStefano had an idea for the track. It was the first time Young, Hoge and DeStefano had worked together on the same song, but Young said, “It obviously worked out well.”

“You don’t want to make the same song over and over or the same sounds over and over on every record,” Young said. “I think it’s still very much me. I don’t think anyone is going to hear it and think it doesn’t sound like me as an artist. It’s very, very forward production wise and definitely once the chorus hits, it’s a tempo. It’s a nice balance, and I think you have to have all of that.”

“Losing Sleep” sets the tone for Young’s upcoming album on which he co-wrote every song. Like he did with Hoge and DeStefano, Young wrote with new pairings of people. He recorded songs he’d written with writers he’d never cut songs from before. And, there’s songs he penned with writers who will be familiar to fans of his other albums.

“It was really a blend of trying to keep a lot of the parts on the last record that made it special, but add to it,” he said. “I’m just excited people are going to have new music … and for it to be something I’m vocally proud of, I’m proud of as a songwriter and a producer. I hope everybody just enjoys it.”

Breaking News: Loretta Lynn hospitalized after stroke

Loretta Lynn performs at the Ryman Auditorium Friday, April 14, 2017 in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo: George Walker IV / The Tennessean)

USA TODAY NETWORK/Juli Thanki, The Tennessean   Published 7:38 p.m. ET May 5, 2017 

Loretta Lynn was Nashville's first prominent woman to write and record her own material, and was one of the first female music stars to generate her own hits. Karen Grigsby / USA Today Network - Tennessee

NASHVILLE — Country music legend Loretta Lynn suffered a stroke at her Tennessee home Thursday night and was hospitalized, according to a post on her official website.

Maria Malta, a publicist for Lynn, confirmed Friday that the 85-year-old singer and songwriter was admitted into a Nashville hospital after suffering the stroke at her home in Hurricane Mills, the Associated Press reported.

According to the Friday afternoon post on her website, Lynn is “currently under medical care and is responsive and expected to make a full recovery.”

Upcoming events on her tour schedule will be postponed; more information on those dates will be posted on Lynn’s website (LorettaLynn.com) in the coming days.

In April, Lynn celebrated her 85th birthday by playing two sold-out shows at the Ryman Auditorium. She’s scheduled to return to the Ryman in August; those concerts will coincide with the release of her forthcoming album Wouldn’t It Be Great.