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Articles and Interviews – 2013


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James King has been plowing the furrows of the bluegrass fields for more than 20 years now. He's a gifted storyteller whose emotionally expressive voice can make you cry on the sad songs and laugh at the tall tales some of the songs tell. His straight ahead guitar provides the rhythmic foundation on which he builds his stories of heartache, sacrifice, and joy.

On his new album, "Three Chords and the Truth," King renders his own versions of classic country songs ranging from Hank Williams' The Devil's Train and Harlan Howard's Sunday Morning Christian to Don Gibson's Blue Blue Day and Bobby Braddock and Claude Putnam's He Stopped Loving Her Today.

Tell me how you decided to make this album now. Why an album of country standards and not another bluegrass album?

Well, the legendary Ken Irwin has been my producer at Rounder for 20 years now, and he's been my mentor. He had this idea that he wanted me to try old country style music. I've... »»»

Husband and wife duo Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist have been creating intricate sonic sculptures with their musical brain trust Over the Rhine for the past two and a half decades and aren't any closer to being pinned to a specific genre than when they started out in Cincinnati in 1989.

Like the parable of the five blind men describing an elephant, assigning a single style to OTR based on limited exposure will result in flawed conclusions. Over the Rhine has gone from self-released independents to minor/major label artists (for IRS and Virgin) and back to indie status.

Through it all, Detweiler and Bergquist, utilizing a shifting and brilliantly talented supporting musical cast, have incorporated atmospheric elements of folk, country, rock and pop into their finished product, filtered through the couple's stunningly intuitive sensibility, varied influences and broad experience.

Over the Rhine's extensive catalog - 13 studio, five live and three demo/etc.... »»»

Mandy Barnett has been singing big since she was five years old, gracing county fairs, political rallies and church services with her riveting voice. At 18, she captured audiences' hearts at the Ryman Auditorium with her portrayal of Patsy Cline in "Always…Patsy Cline," channeling Cline's spacious alto.

On her new album, "I Can't Stop Loving You: The Songs of Don Gibson," chanteuse Barnett pays loving tribute to Gibson with captivating interpretations of his songs.

Why did you decide to make this album now? How long did it take you to make it?

I started making it a couple of years ago, but at the time I had no idea what I was going to do. I had met Don Gibson around 2000, and I got to be close friends with him and his wife, Bobbi. He and I talked about doing an album of duets, but he was not doing so well, so I told him I was going to record an album of his songs one day. I needed to get this out of my system, so in many ways the album's been a long time in the making.

Tell me about your relationship with Don Gibson.... »»»

Lindi Ortega has come a long way from her urban home of Toronto to her current digs in Nashville. Her songs about murder, love and the things that connect the two are reminiscent of country artists like Johnny Cash.

Far from an overnight sensation, Lindi Ortega independently released her first album "The Taste of Forbidden Fruit" back in 2001. She followed this up with a second full length and a couple of EPs over the seven years, including one for Interscope Records. Ortega built a following in her hometown of Toronto, but struggled to breakthrough outside of the city limits. She toured as a backup singer on The Killers' lead vocalist Brandon Flowers solo excursion, which she credits as inspiring her return to the front of the stage. After spending so much time on the side of the stage, Ortega was itching to sit down and write some new music of her own.

She never shied away taking chances with her music, whether touring with consistent punk mainstays Social Distortion or recording with innovative electro dub artists Major Lazer.... »»»

A few months shy of his 75th birthday, Del McCoury is at an age when many of his bluegrass contemporaries and peers are scaling back their recording and touring activities or even hanging it up altogether. No rocking chair for McCoury, though, as he remains one of the most active and energetic performers in American music. The latest Del McCoury Band release, "The Streets of Baltimore" dropped in September on his McCoury Music label.

The title track of the new disc is a cover of Bobby Bare's 1966 hit, and McCoury says, "This was kind of an afterthought, doing that song. I had a bunch of songs all ready to record, and I thought, ‘you know, I should do a song about Baltimore because that's kind of where I got started.'"

Born in York, Pa., a mere 50 miles or so northeast, McCoury served a musical apprenticeship of sorts playing in the assorted bars and clubs in downtown Baltimore and north and east of the city along U.S. Routes 1 and 40, which in the pre-interstate days... »»»

The Steep Canyon Rangers are riding high these days following the release of its new album, "Tell the Ones I Love." The band also gained some notoriety when Steve Martin joined them for an album, 2011's "Rare Bird Alert, "which was nominated for a Grammy; later that year, they won IBMA's Entertainer of the Year Award.

In 2012, the band went up to Levon Helm's studio in New York- he had invited them to come up and record just a few weeks before he passed away - to record the new album.

Banjo player Graham Sharp spoke in late September as the band was on the road to Raleigh, N.C. for the IBMA.

How did you end up at Levon Helm's studio? How long did it take to make the album?

We got to do one of the Rambles there in 2012; this wasn't too long before Levon passed away. He came over to us after we played and told us that they'd never made a bluegrass album at the Barn and he invited us to record one there. It was a magical place; we set up all the instruments in this... »»»

The son of a Methodist minister, Peter Cooper hails from Florence, S.C. and kicked around South Carolina and Virginia before landing in Nashville in 2000 as the Tennessean's music critic. He has worked in the studio as a performer, producer or session musician with Tom T. Hall, Todd Snider, Emmylou Harris, Nanci Griffith and Bobby Bare, among many others, and he's recorded two solo albums – "The Mission Door" (2008) and "The Lloyd Green Album" (2010) - and three duo albums with Eric Brace – "You Don't Have to Like Them Both" (2008), "Master Sessions" (2010), and "The Comeback Album" (2013).

As consummate a musician and songwriter as he is, Cooper is also Nashville's most trusted and respected music writer, and when he's not playing the bass or the guitar at the Family Wash or another Nashville establishment, he's reporting on a new singer around town or on one of country music legend's new projects.

In her new book, They Came to Nashville, Marshall Chapman asked the people she... »»»

As banjo player for 22 years in one of the most successful bands of the past quarter-century, Alison Krauss + Union Station, Ron Block has undoubtedly heard all the "banjo jokes" and has probably told more than a few himself. But as those who have seen Union Station live and bought the records know, he's also a gifted guitarist and songwriter whose contributions to the band and the catalogs of other artists are numerous.

Block is also an articulate and highly regarded commentator on a number of Internet sites devoted not only to the Christian theology he loves to discuss, but to the deeper and wider questions of philosophy and artistry as well. A chance meeting on one of these sites led to a songwriting partnership that led in turn to his third solo Rounder album, "Walking Song" (which, coincidentally, is set for release on Block's 49th birthday).

"Rebecca Reynolds wrote all the lyrics on the record. We are both on a site called the Rabbit Room, and it's really a... »»»

On a bright June afternoon, Darrin Vincent and his partner of six years, Jamie Dailey, are out on the road yet again, en route with their band from their Nashville base to a festival gig in Kentucky, just a few hundred more miles on the odometer of the bus that carries them around the country. The title of their new Rounder release, "Brothers Of The Highway" is a testament to the bond they've forged since going out on their own and taking the bluegrass world by storm in 2007.

The title track, an ode to truckers and a one-time hit for George Strait, was a late addition, but Vincent says it clicked with them right away.

"(That song) came in almost at the last hour from a publisher, and we immediately looked at each other and said, "Man, this is a great lyric.' The song, it talks about what we really do - even though we're not truck drivers, we're out there on the road every weekend, going up and down. And then when we heard it, we thought man, (former Statler Brother)... »»»

Some folks listening to Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison's new duet album, "Cheaters Game," may well exclaim, ‘Well, it's about time!' after finally hearing these two talented country singer/songwriters recording music as a pair for the first time.

Willis has built quite a following for her independently-minded feminine perspective, while Robison has written hits for the Dixie Chicks (Travelin' Soldier) and Tim McGraw and Faith Hill (Angry All the Time), as well as penning the ultimate Willie Nelson tribute, What Would Willie Do? and recording it as a solo act.

Now billed as the Bruce And Kelly Show live, these two talented individuals have pooled their resources together to create something really special.

"I think it was about a year and a half, maybe close to two years since Bruce and I started playing together with the intention of working up songs to do for this project, " Willis says, when asked how long "Cheaters Game" has been in the... »»»

Last fall, singer/songwriter Steve Forbert dropped the 14th studio album of his 35-year career, the impeccable "Over With You." Critics recognized the album as a return to the form Forbert displayed on his earliest works - 1978's stripped back and personal "Alive on Arrival" and 1979's more lushly produced and commercially accessible "Jackrabbit Slim" - but the fact is that Forbert has never strayed far from their basic folk/rock tenets.

As if to drive home that point, Blue Corn Records has reissued "Alive on Arrival" and "Jackrabbit Slim" as a double-disc package featuring bonus tracks from each album's sessions ("Slim" features a live take on Forbert's lone hit, Romeo's Tune, recorded in New York City just after the album's release).

Although nothing in the reissue could be considered unreleased - the bonus tracks were included in Forbert's "Young, Guitar Days" discs over a decade ago - this is the first time they've been programmed with their respective... »»»

Over the course of the past 20 years or so, Jim Lauderdale and Buddy Miller have both experienced a certain rise in their respective rootsy country profiles. Miller has become one of Nashville's hottest speed dial numbers, as an artist, a guitarist-for-hire (a role he has performed for Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris and Robert Plant, among others) and an intuitive producer (he's currently working with Executive Music Producer T Bone Burnett to provide the soundtrack for ABC's "Nashville" television series).

Lauderdale's success as an artist has been more of the cult variety, but he has just as surely become one of Music City's most dependable songwriters and collaborators, notching high-charting hits for the likes of the Dixie Chicks, George Strait and George Jones, earning a couple of Grammys for his work.

It's not terribly surprising that Lauderdale and Miller's friendship stretches back to a time when neither one of them was a known entity. When both were New York-based in the early '80s, they frequently backed each other up on different club dates, finding a mutual affinity for their talents and strengths.... »»»

For 16 years, Eddie Stubbs has ruled the airwaves in Nashville; since 1996, he's regaled listeners with stories about country and bluegrass artists new and old, cued up 45s and 78s of classic country songs, and introduced the pure strains of country music and the deep history of that music to everyone who's tuned into 650 WSM-AM.

From 7 p.m. to midnight, Monday through Friday, Stubbs' evening show can be heard over the airwaves on WSM from 38 states and parts of Canada as well as worldwide over wsmoline.com. As the longest-running DJ in that time slot in the 87-year history of the station, Stubbs - the 2002 Country Music Association's Large Market Broadcast Personality of the Year and 2012 inductee into the Country Radio Hall of Fame - has become a legend in his own time, adored by his listeners and beloved by country music artists.

The late Kitty Wells and her late husband, Johnnie Wright, brought Stubbs to Nashville in 1995 to play fiddle in their band. A life-long... »»»