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Articles and Interviews – 2014


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Before Ray Price died - just over one year ago, on Dec. 16, 2013 - he told his wife, Janie, that she would have to carry on his legacy by going out, promoting the album that he had just recorded, "Beauty Is…," and visiting with his legions of fans. He told me, Janie says, "you're gonna be the closest thing to me that people are going to want to reach out to."

Janie Price, who married the singer on June 11, 1970, started going out on the road to promote "Beauty Is…" and to visit with Ray's fans in April 2014. Ever since, she's been on the road almost nonstop. "It's given me a reason for getting up in the morning."

When she started out, though, she wasn't quite prepared for the outpouring of love and admiration with which she met every step of the way.

Price started out at Hastings in Tyler, Texas, on April 15; "we started in the morning, and the fans just kept coming and coming," she says. "The same thing happened that same afternoon when we went to the Cracker... »»»

John Fullbright didn' grow up around musicians or like-minded songwriters in his little hometown of Bearden, Okla. You'd never know it, though, from his raw, stark, pure and honest songwriting that's drawn comparisons to Townes Van Zandt.

His debut album, "From the Ground Up," was nominated for a 2013 Grammy as the Best Americana Album, catapulting him into the company of Bonnie Raitt, Mumford and Sons, The Lumineers and The Avett Brothers.

Fullbright's new album, "Songs," reinforces the simple complexity of his powerful lyrical talents; much like Neil Young's "After the Gold Rush" or most any of Guy Clark's albums, he captures forlornness, despair, hope and beauty in unadorned arrangements floating on the power of his guitar, piano and plainspoken voice.

Tell me story of the album.

Fulbright: Well, I'm not so good at having a clear picture of what I want to do. I had a handful of songs, and I really just wanted to go into the studio and try to get a good... »»»

Jake Brown can't stop writing about music. Over the past 10 years, he's published 35 books, ranging from "Rick Rubin: In the Studio" and "Suge Knight: The Rise, Fall and Rise of Death Row Records" to "Heart: In the Studio." In 2012, he won the Association for Recorded Sound Collections Awards in the category of Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research.

With his new book, "Nashville Songwriter: The Inside Stories Behind Country Music's Greatest Hit," Brown turns to country music and the writers behind the hits. He gathers original interviews with 20 songwriters ranging from Freddy Powers, who co-wrote "I Always Get Lucky With You" with Merle Haggard and Sonny Curtis, the pen behind the iconic pop and country hit "I Fought the Law" to Tom T. Hall, Chris DuBois (the writer of many Brad Paisley hits and also of Mark Willis' "19 Somethin'") and Ashley Gorley, whose first number one happened to be Carrie Underwood's "Don't Forget to Remember Me." ... »»»

Perhaps there are few more beloved names in the world of country and bluegrass music than Ricky Skaggs and his wife Sharon of the country music family act The Whites. The two have been close friends since their teenage years through music, first meeting at a festival where White was performing with her father Buck White and sister Cheryl and Skaggs was performing with Keith Whitley.

It was, however a bumpy road with a few difficult curves that finally led to them becoming husband and wife 33 years ago. But through those difficult times and sometimes painful places, the couple has built a strong relationship founded first on faith and second on family.

Though decades in the making, the couple have finally released a duets album, "Hearts Like Ours." The CD, featuring primarily love songs, has proven to be definitely worth the wait.

In 1987, when the couple won CMA Vocal Duo of the Year, the first married couple to win the award, for "Love Can't Ever Get Better Than... »»»

Taking a second look at the two-album deal he had recently signed with the Rounder/Concord group, and then at his busy upcoming touring schedule, Jerry Douglas suddenly realized he didn't have a lot of time to waste. The first album, "Three Bells," a collaboration with fellow resophonic guitar (aka "Dobro") titans Rob Ickes of Blue Highway and the late Mike Auldridge was pretty much ready to go, the sessions having been completed shortly before Auldridge's passing in December 2012 following a lengthy struggle with cancer.

Still to be recorded, however, was "The Earls of Leicester," a tribute to the music of Douglas' inspirations, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, with a new cast of "Foggy Mountain Boys" drawn from Douglas' Nashville peers. Working quickly, Douglas, a member of Alison Krauss' Union Station since 1998, had both albums ready by early September, with "Three Bells" slated for mid-month release, while the "Earls" would officially debut in late October.... »»»

Trampled By Turtles is an indie folk group, an alt.-country band or a bluegrass act - depending on how you choose to look at them. Perhaps it's best to view the outfit as the ultimate combo platter consisting of just about everything that's good about American music. They play wonderfully, yet they also write intelligent songs that draw everyone from Townes Van Zandt to Nirvana to Ralph Stanley. It's all good, and some (or all) of these influences can be spotted in most of Trampled By Turtles' enjoyable sounds.

Trampled By Turtles is also the sort of band name that has a little fun with nature. One doubts there has ever been a seriously damaging turtle stampede throughout history. Yet this Duluth, Minn. bluegrass-accented group decisively upped the animal ante by calling its latest full-length "Wild Animals." Why?

"It's kind of a hard question to answer," Trampled By Turtles lead singer Dave Simonett responds. "When we were putting the track order together, that song... »»»

If you move in alt.-country/Americana circles, you simply cannot get away from the name Parker Millsap. He's certainly one of the biggest buzz artists of 2014. Better still, his self-titled album lives up to all the hype.

He's a smart songwriter and a passionate singer and is essential listening for anybody looking for high quality contemporary music.

Millsap also creates music appealing to a wide variety of musical tastes. You can make a case that he's a country guy, but you can also hear a lot of blues and folk. And if you attempt to put a label on him, he'll quickly tear it right off.

"When people ask what kind of music I play, I always tell ‘em pop music," he explains, "which not everybody agrees with. But if it's not classical, orchestral or movie music, it's pop music. I'm drawing from a bunch of different places. If you wanna call it folk, that's fine. But as soon as you do that, I'm going to prove to you that I can also play rock and roll. I don't really care what it's called."... »»»

What a difference a year can make. Last year, Sturgill Simpson was overly anxious about the arrival of his debut album, "High Top Mountain." This year, Simpson is simultaneously anticipating the birth of his debut child and his just-released sophomore album, "Metamodern Sounds in Country Music," and his mood couldn't be more relaxed and joyous.

"They're giving me four weeks to get to know my newborn son, and then I'll probably see him again when he's two," jokes Simpson from his Nashville home. "This whole record thing has taken this giant back seat in my head, compared to everything else that's going on. With the first album, I worried about things that were completely out of my control, that you don't know enough to not worry about. This has been a much different situation. I did it with my band. So, I feel like I have a team of brothers, and we're all on the same mission. It's been a lot of fun."

Thirteen months ago, Simpson self-released his debut to the kind of... »»»

What is not expected is for a virtually unknown artist, turning 19 on the day before her album release and finishing high school during the recording of the album, to be the featured artist, with Dolly Parton, Vince Gill and the late Ray Price lending not only their vocals, but also their most-beloved standards in country music.

Texas-turned-Tennessee songbird Mary Sarah Gross – Mary Sarah is her stage name – saw that dream realized on her sophomore album "Bridges." While acknowledging an appreciation for almost all musical genres, Mary Sarah names musical influences such as Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert and Taylor Swift. Her voice is not unlike a young Underwood or LeAnn Rimes. What sets her apart from her contemporaries, though, is the addition of icons like Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline to that list of influences.

"They had such amazing songs and great lyrics. I can't explain the influence their music has had on my life," she says.... »»»

In October 2010, The Secret Sisters released their down home country meets the Everly Brothers debut to much acclaim. Positive reviews ensued. Having T Bone Burnett executive produce your introduction to the music world didn't hurt. Laura and Lydia Rogers hit the road hard, opening dates for the likes of Ray LaMontagne.

The Rogers sisters may not have enjoyed any hits from their self-titled disc, but they put their name on the map.

But then the Secret Sisters seemingly went off the radar screen. There's only so long you can tour behind one album. Last year, they only did about 20 shows, and the wait for a sophomore disc continued.

That finally ended in April for the Muscle Shoals, Ala. sisters with "Put Your Needle Down," produced by T Bone Burnett.

"A lot of it had to do with trying to find the right time," says Laura Rogers of the long gap in between releases. "The powers that be don't always fit in with your schedule." The older of the sister duo, who grew up... »»»

Levi Lowrey is best known for co-writing "Colder Weather," a number one hit, and "The Wind," both for his friends, Zac Brown Band. Lowrey also wrote "Day For The Dead," from last year's "The Grohl Sessions Vol. 1." In fact, Lowrey is often on the road opening for the group, but he also has his own career going. Lowrey just released his third disc, a self-titled effort on Brown's label, Southern Ground.

Lowrey began as a fiddle player, following in the family footsteps. His great-great-grandfather, the late Gid Tanner, was also a fiddle player with Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers, one of the most prominent string bands of the Twenties and Thirties. Lowrey went with the family instrument, playing in school orchestra, bluegrass festivals and weekly jam sessions in his hometown of Dacula, Ga. and with various relatives.

Lowrey released his first disc in 2008 and later joined the bluegrass band Cadillac Sky in 2010, staying until the band split only three months later.

Country Standard Time recently caught up with Lowrey by phone at his home in Dacula to talk about his new album and his life. ... »»»

Rosanne Cash may be the daughter of a famous country music icon, but like her late father, Cash is an artist first, and ‘country artist' is just one of the many labels applied to what she does. She's first and foremost a songwriter, and her latest album, "The River & the Thread," touches upon country, folk, blues and even gospel styles, with a lyrical focus that placed Cash face to face with her Southern roots.

The inspiration for what eventually became Cash's "The River & The Thread" album partially had its genesis with one particular song that eventually landed on the recording.

"I had written chorus to ‘Feather's Not A Bird,'" she recalls "and we took this trip through Alabama and Mississippi and Arkansas back to Memphis and that song started to form."

"And then [husband] John [Leventhal] said, ‘You know, I think there's something here.' So then we kept feeding it. We kept going back, and we would pick certain places or instances and start writing about them.... »»»

It is now more than 20 years since a pre-teenaged Ralph Stanley II (known since childhood by his family, friends and musical peers as "Two") first appeared on stage as part of the Clinch Mountain Boys, the band formed by his father Ralph and late uncle Carter Stanley.

Following Carter's passing in 1966, the roster of talents who took his place on lead vocals and guitar included Larry Sparks, Roy Lee Centers, Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley (who would become an inspirational figure for the younger Ralph). As the years rolled on, Ralph II earned his own slot in the band as lead vocalist, produced himself on a string of solo albums (two of which, "Stanley Blues" and "Carrying On" earned Grammy nominations), and started a family that now includes a daughter, Taylor, and a son named – of course – Ralph III.

Now in his mid-thirties, Ralph II has been prominent on his dad's recent recordings as a band member, but the recent release of "Side By Side" represents the first collaboration between father and son, and a continuation of the long association of the Stanley name with Rebel Records.... »»»

For 25 years, Gerry House spent every weekday morning in people's living rooms. As the host of the much-loved and much-acclaimed morning show, Gerry House and the House Foundation, House reigned on the airwaves on Nashville's WSIX-FM from 1983-2010, taking a brief hiatus to work for WSM-AM in Nashville and for KLAC in Los Angeles.

As a DJ, he's won numerous awards for his radio work from the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music. House interviewed many of country music's most visible artists; at the same time, he was writing or co-writing songs for folks like Reba McEntire (Little Rock), LeAnn Rimes (On the Side of Angels), George Strait (The Big One), Pam Tillis (The River and the Highway) and Clint Black ("Nothing But Taillights").

In 2003, House awoke one morning with a severe headache; he was diagnosed with a bleeding artery and had surgery for it, from which he is now fully recovered enough to joke about it in the title of his new book, "Country Music Broke My Brain: A Behind-the-Microphone Peek at Nashville's Famous & Fabulous Stars."... »»»

Expectations of being a "Carter Girl" - the way Carlene Carter refers to herself with her latest album title - must be extremely daunting at times. "It's as difficult as you want to make it," Carter explains. "I've always just embraced the fact that I was born into this family and very proud to be part of it."

However, much like her mother, June Carter Cash, Carlene has always been a free spirit and fiercely individualistic.

"I think in the very beginning, there were expectations of what I was supposed to sound like, or what kind of material I was supposed to do. We're talking back in '78, ‘79," Carter recalls. "And I just found I had a great label at the time who allowed me to experiment with different things and try different kinds of music. But all the time, I'm still a Carter girl. It doesn't matter what kind of music I'm singing. And being a songwriter, too, I'm just contributing to the catalogue of the Carter family, the way I look at it."... »»»

To take a page from Judy Collins' notebook, Lydia Loveless has seen life from both sides now. After a childhood in tiny Coshocton, Ohio, a move to Columbus and a gig playing bass in her family's new wave/rock band as a teenager, Loveless set out on her own musical path at the age of 17. In 2010, the 20-year-old Loveless released her debut album, "The Only Man," which was critically acclaimed, but just barely heard by the general public.

2010 also brought a Bloodshot Records showcase at South by Southwest and a subsequent contract, leading to 2012's brilliant "Indestructible Machine," featuring a great story hook with the song "Steve Earle" (not about the singer/songwriter, but a quasi-stalker/celebrity wannabe who shadowed Loveless).

Bloodshot's reputation and distribution resulted in an exponential rise in profile. Once the touring cycle for "Indestructible Machine" was completed, Loveless confronted the lingering question that faces every artist in the wake of sudden stratospheric success, namely how to follow up the vehicle of that success.... »»»

Mary Chapin Carpenter's songs have always transcended the mundane, whether through the introspective songs about life and death on albums like "The Age of Miracles" or "The Calling" or in the humorous ways she laughs at fate in songs such as I Feel Lucky or The Bug in order to show the chinks in our mortal facades. Her music has often helped us get beyond ourselves to see the places where real meaning lies, whether we decide to embrace such meaning or not.

Her new album, "Songs From the Movie," is a feat of musical transcendence as she and composer Vince Mendoza recast 10 of her songs in soaring orchestral arrangements. As Carpenter says, Mendoza's "arrangements gave these existing songs new meanings, new colors, new feelings, new destinations."

Carpenter talked in early February from her home in Virginia, just before she headed out to Los Angeles to perform the album at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Why did you decide to do this album now?... »»»

It's the Voice. Rhonda Vincent has been wrapping her soaring, golden-throated vocals around bluegrass tunes for a couple of decades now. The International Bluegrass Association named her Female Vocalist of the Year seven years running (2000-2006), and named her IBMA Entertained of the Year in 2001. From 2002-2006, Vincent carried home the Entertainer of the Year award from The Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass (SPBGMA). Early in her career, Vincent also recorded several country albums, before returning to bluegrass.

Yet, it was always her voice that gave every project its power, beauty, and character. On this new double album, Vincent not only demonstrates her vocal depth and breadth, but also honors the music that has inspired her over the years. With one album devoted to six bluegrass tunes and the other devoted to six country songs, she illustrates just how porous the borders between bluegrass and country music are, singing a duet with Willie Nelson (Only Me) on the bluegrass side and Beneath Still Waters on the country side.... »»»