While I’ve been too busy to write a real post these past few weeks, I haven’t been too busy to put together a bangin’ playlist for Hurricane Florence. If you’re looking for the perfect playlist for riding out the storm, then look no further! You’ll notice that not all of the songs relate to hurricanes so feel free to refer to this playlist for other inclement weather related events as well.
Brad Paisley– “Perfect Storm” – this song is about a girl and not about an actual storm but since lots of storms are named after ladies, you can make of this what you will Amanda Shires– “My Love (The Storm)” – with lyrics like those below, it’s almost as though this song was written for a September hurricane
“I am the storm at summer’s end Watch the willows mourn Watch the branches bend”
Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter– “Storms Never Last” – a hopeful reminder that storms, whether they’re weather, or a stormy patch in a relationship, will soon pass. #relationshipgoals John Prine and Lee Ann Womack also did a cover of this song, which you can find here. Brandi Carlile- “The Eye” – as Brandi sings, “you can dance in a hurricane but only if you’re standing in the eye.” Though I would recommend evacuating if you’re near a real hurricane. Maybe don’t stick around and dance? Sturgill Simpson- “The Storm” – songs about storms and love go together like thunder and lightning!
“There’s a lull and the wind is dying down Don’t let it fool you the storm ain’t done Flood waters rolling in and my heart’s gonna drown Our love wilted like a flower that ain’t got enough sun”
“Here I am, rock you like a hurricane!” – Florence
It only makes sense that the Scorpions‘ song “Rock You Like A Hurricane” tops this section. The Band of Heathens’ song “Hurricane” is also a great song for this time of year. While specific to New Orleans, I think it can apply to places like Charleston as well.
This is also a chance for me to highlight two of my favorite Bob Dylan songs: “A Hard Rains A-Gonna Fall” (an obvious choice) and “Hurricane” (and even more obvious choice though it has nothing to do with an actual hurricane). Would also including “Blowin’ In the Wind” here be too much of a stretch??
“Thunderbolt and Lighting, Very, Very Frightening Me”
Cody Jinks wrote the perfect song for a torrential downpour with “Loud and Heavy.” Crank this song up if you want to drown out the actual loud thunder and heavy rain happening outside. The Steel Woods– “Let the Rain Come Down” – let the rain come down? Oh it will! Zac Brown Band and Dave Grohl– “Let It Rain” – once again, it will! Garth Brooks- “The Thunder Rolls” – the thunder may roll and the lightning may strike but hopefully no loves are growing cold on sleepless nights like they are in this song (friendly reminder: the wife shoots her cheating husband in this song!) Live– “Lightning Crashes” – while it may be about reincarnation, I’m still including it Stevie Ray Vaughn– “Texas Flood” – this song might have been more relevant to Hurricane Harvey last year but as I said, this playlist is not specific to any one storm Clint Black– “Like the Rain” – if you like the rain, then you’ll like this song about liking the rain Guns N’ Roses– “November Rain” – there’s no song about September rain, so this one will just have to do Gary Allan– “Songs About Rain” and “Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain)” – Gary Allan gets it! As you’ll see in the former song, there is no shortage of songs about rain in country music. Here he references “Kentucky Rain,” “Rainy Night in Georgia,” and “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.” If he ever wants to do a sequel to this song, I think this playlist would be a great place for him to pull from. In the latter, the theme of storms of eventually ending returns. This song is a reminder that all bad parts of life will soon pass much like all storms will run out of rain. Eddie Rabbit– “I Love A Rainy Night” – if you’re in the storm’s path right now you must likely will be getting some rainy nights. If you love them as much as Eddie Rabbit does, you’re in for a treat! James Taylor– “Fire and Rain” – while you may be seeing rain, I hope nobody is seeing fire! Vance Joy– “Fire and the Flood” – once again, there may be flooding, but “God willing and the creek don’t rise” there aren’t any fires! Though I don’t know if a fire would really stand a chance in this weather.
Turnpike Troubadours– “A Tornado Warning” – while not about hurricanes and not really relevant to Miss Florence, this Turnpike Troubadours’ song offers another glimpse of hope by reminding us that storms, in this case a tornado, won’t last long.
“Yeah in the broken morning light That simple shade of blue The kind that always follow you”
In case you lose your power, you’re gonna want to have these songs downloaded! The link to the Spotify playlist for these songs (without Garth Brooks, of course) can be found here.
I hope this post didn’t come across as insensitive and trying to make light of the current situation with Hurricane Florence. Hurricanes are a serious matter and even though, as these songs remind us, they eventually end, the damage they leave behind can last for much longer. Everyone in the storm’s path, please stay safe!!
Happy Independence Day to my fellow Americans! And to all non-Americans, happy Wednesday!
If you were with me last year, you’ll remember that for this holiday I did a post on Celebrating America’s Diversity in Country Music. However, this year, I’m approaching this holiday from a different angle. That angle is a political one and for the occasion I’ve put together a list of songs that tackle some of the important issues facing our country. These songs touch on many things currently taking place in America- police killings of black men, the pay gap, guns, and more. And of course almost all of these songs fall into the Americana category- a genre that isn’t afraid to get political with artists who aren’t afraid to speak out. These men and women put the ‘American’ in Americana!
How do I love Margo Price? Let me count the ways! One of those ways would be her courage to sing about not-so-sexy topics like the pay gap. Aside from the pay gap, women in Nashville have a hard enough time making it as it is. And with the city’s “shut up and sing” mentality towards female artists, I imagine outspoken women like Margo have an even harder time. With this song she shows that she’ll speak out about what she thinks is important and just because she’s stopped to sing doesn’t mean she’s leaving her opinions behind- she’ll put them into a song. I respect Margo for sticking to her guns (not literal guns though) and singing about what she feels is important.
“We are all the same in the eyes of God But in the eyes of rich white men No more than a maid to be owned like a dog A second-class citizen”
Rhiannon Giddens’ voice is so powerful and moving that you almost forget she’s signing about police killing unarmed black men. It’s a topic that needs to be spoken (and sung) about and I admire Rhiannon for having the courage to do it. While this song came out in 2017 it’s still relevant a year later. Unless we see some real changes, I’m afraid this song will still be relevant for many years to come.
“(Young man was a good man) Did you stand your ground? (Young man was a good man) Is that why they took you down? (Young man was a good man) Or did you run that day? (Young man was a good man) Baby, they shot you anyway”
On her recently released album Coloured, whose style she calls “country soul,” Priscilla Renea sings about race relations and police brutality in her song “Land of the Free.” The song concludes with Jimi Hendrix playing the “Star Spangled Banner” and couldn’t be more appropriate for the holiday today. I’m proud to include yet another black female artist on this list (Rhiannon Giddens being the first) and hope that over time we will begin to see more diversity in both Americana and country music. Read more about Priscilla in this NPR interview, “Priscilla Renea Refuses To Be Quiet About Racism In Country Music.” Shout out to my friend who sent this to me!
“There’s enough to go around for everyone to share But a check from Uncle Sam? What would that repair? All the broken families, fathers in a cell Slavery’s abolished, but it’s still alive and well”
I know I talk about this song a lot but some things are worth repeating for redundancy’s sake. While this song deals heavily with race, mentioning both Native Americans and blacks, Jason also brings up sex, looking at the struggles his baby girl and wife face simply because they’re females. In spite of it all, Jason still has faith- “maybe it’s the fire in [his] little girl’s eyes.” While I’ve included this song here in this section, I could have also included it in the section below on the 2016 Election since it was written in response to it.
“I’m a white man looking in a black man’s eyes Wishing I’d never been one of the guys Who pretended not to hear another white man’s joke Oh, the times ain’t forgotten”
Not sure if Shakey (if I may) wrote this song in an attempt to address race relations or not, but the image of a man in a turban living next to a polyester suit wearing (presumably white) man made me think about how none of us really know our neighbors. Not just our figurative neighbor but our literal neighbor, like the person you park your car beside and whose mail sometimes accidentally finds its way into your box. That guy.
“Oh my neighbor, my neighbor At best we share a fence We smile at each other And we make up all the rest I see you Six-foot-two In the polyester suit Safe behind a cabin now Wonderin’ if I’m around ‘Cause who am I? Just some guy With a turban and a knife Only here to take away Only reason you’re afraid There’s no face There’s no man behind the name I’ve started to believe My neighbor, we’re the same”
Featured on their 2016 album American Band, this song is “directly inspired by civil rights activists’ successful campaign to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Statehouse after white supremacist Dylann Roof allegedly murdered nine African Americans at a Charleston church meeting, [it] casts an unsparing eye on those unable to abandon tradition even when the sin at its root has been fully exposed.”
“Does the color really matter? On the face you blame for failure On the shamin’ for a battle’s losing cause”
According to The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, “The Gun Control Act of 1968 requires anyone engaged in the business of selling guns to have a Federal Firearms License (FFL) and keep a record of their sales. However, this law does not cover all gun sellers. If a supplier is selling from his or her private collection and the principal objective is not to make a profit, the seller is not “engaged in the business” and is not required to have a license. Because they are unlicensed, these sellers are not required to keep records of sales and are not required to perform background checks on potential buyers, even those prohibited from purchasing guns by the Gun Control Act. The gun show loophole refers to the fact that prohibited purchasers can avoid required background checks by seeking out these unlicensed sellers at gun shows.” Yep, that gives me the blues too!
Brandi Carlile– “Hold Out Your Hand”
While you wouldn’t necessarily think “gun control” while listening to this song you will once you watch the video which features the March for Our Lives protest in Seattle. If there’s one thing Brandi Carlile is an expert at it’s knowing how to get me misty-eyed. This happened at her concert in May and also while watching this music video. #enoughisenough
“Well he came to my door to sell me the fear with some cameras and bullets and tension and here is a license for killing your own native son for a careless mistake and a fake plastic gun?
Deliver your brother from violence and greed for the mountains lay down for your faith like a seed. A morning is coming of silver and light there will be color and language and nobody wanting to fight. What a glorious sight”
Dispatch– “Dear Congress: Your Thoughts and Prayers Are Not Enough”
This song from Dispatch is in support of Common Sense Gun Reform. While I could post a powerful lyric from the song below for you, I’d rather you watch the video and read the Tweets that are posted and take in the images on the screen for yourself. I think that would say more than I ever could.
Following this trend is Will Hoge’s “Thoughts and Prayers,” which is also directed at Congress, or as he sings in this song, the people in “that big white dome” a.k.a. the whores to the NRA (his words, not mine. Though I don’t disagree.) You may remember Will from my liberal country music post from last year where I wrote about his song “Still a Southern Man.” Will has a history of writing songs about the not-so-pretty parts of America, from the confederate flag to gun violence.
“There’s a momma cryin’ ’cause the baby won’t come home You tell a father that you’re sorry that his son is gone While you sit and do nothin’ in that big white dome And just hope we all forget to care”
War (What Is It Good For?)
Mary Gauthier– “Brothers” (see also: the entire Rifles and Rosary Beads album)
Mary’s albumRifles and Rosary Beads was co-written with American veterans and their families, through the nonprofit SongwritingWith:Soldiers, and details the struggles that military men and women face not only overseas but at home too. This song in particular tells the story of a female soldier struggling to be considered an equal among her “brothers.” It’s fitting that we’re talking about this song on July 4th as one of the lines from the song reads, “I thought RPGs were fireworks, that’s how green I was at first.” You can read more about this project from Mary Gauthier’s NPR interview here. ALSO, I just want to add that I was at the gym this morning and saw Mary on CBS talking about this album! Glad others are getting to hear about her work on this holiday.
If anything, this album should serve as a wake-up call to the horrors of war. And not only the stuff that happens on the battlefield but after the war too. This country doesn’t do enough for its veterans and despite your views on war we should still take care of our military men and women. You can donate to the Wounded Warrior Project here.
“You broke my heart on veterans day Don’t you understand the words you say You raised a flag for the men you serve What about the women, what do we deserve?”
This song is from Bob’s album Bob Hombre (think of that title what you will.) He co-wrote this song with a veteran soldier who was stationed in Iraq, which makes its depiction of war all that more real. You can watch a video on the song-writing process behind this song here.
“80 miles from Baghdad, I killed my first man 3000 miles from nowhere, away from my homeland I didn’t go there seeking weapons or some foreign policy”
An oldie but a goodie! As John said at this concert just last month, he wrote this song in 1968 as a political song and it’s still a political song today. And he’s gonna keep playing it until they get it right!
“But your flag decal won’t get you into Heaven anymore They’re already overcrowded from your dirty little war Now Jesus don’t like killin’, no matter what the reason’s for And your flag decal won’t get you into Heaven anymore”
Here’s another John Prine song for you! Featured on Rolling Stone’s “Reader’s Poll: The 10 Saddest Songs of All Time,” it’s “Sam Stone,” a song about a war veteran returning home and turning to heroin. Sam Stone dies at the end of this song “when he popped his last balloon.” If Sam Stone’s story doesn’t convince you that soldiers need better access to mental health programs when they return from combat, nothing will. If you want to help, you can donate to The Soldiers Project here.
“Sam Stone came home, To the wife and family After serving in the conflict overseas. And the time that he served, Had shattered all his nerves, And left a little shrapnel in his knees.”
Feeling defeated after the 2016 election? Yeah, I know it’s been over a year and half but some of us are still dealing with this. Brandi Carlile’s “The Joke” looks at others who are also feeling this way. According to Brandi, “There are so many people feeling misrepresented [today],” she said. “So many people feeling unloved. Boys feeling marginalized and forced into these kind of awkward shapes of masculinity that they do or don’t belong in… so many men and boys are trans or disabled or shy. Little girls who got so excited for the last election, and are dealing with the fallout. The song is just for people that feel under-represented, unloved or illegal.”
Despite the content of this song, Brandi still manages to provide a glimmer of hope. As she sings, she’s been to the movies, she’s seen how this ends, and the joke is on them. Gee, I sure hope she’s right!
“They come to kick dirt in your face To call you weak and then displace you After carrying your baby on your back across the desert I saw your eyes behind your hair And you’re looking tired, but you don’t look scared”
How many of us can relate to waking up on November 9, 2016 and thinking that the world was on fire? (Probably a majority of us but I won’t get into that here. Stupid electoral college.) This song provides a sense of comfort in knowing that you weren’t the only person feeling this way that Wednesday morning. I always get emotional when I hear BJ Barham, American Aquarium frontman, sing the words below. Thanks for raising your daughter right, BJ!
“I got a baby girl comin’ in the spring I worry ’bout the world she’s comin’ into But she’ll have my fight, she’ll have her mama’s fire If anyone builds a wall in her journey Baby, bust right through it”
Delete and fast forward? If only it were that easy, Willie! I keep hitting the fast forward button but it seems like these four years are passing by at a snail’s pace. I guess if Willie can make it until 2020 then so can the rest of us!
“Delete and fast-forward, my son The elections are over and nobody won You think it’s all endin’ but it’s just settin’ in So delete and fast-forward, my friend”
A song about the environment? Andrew Combs is a man after my own heart (I write this as I sit drinking out of my reusable Starbucks cup). While I go back and forth on the whole “wanting to have kids someday thing,” one reason for my not wanting to is the fact that the environment only seems to be getting worse. Why would I want to have kids just so they can play in the “dirty rain,” as Andrew sings?
“Flattened static, paved in progress’s name But what will all our little children say When the only place to play Is in the dirty rain”
If you don’t care about the “bright blue marble” that we all live on, maybe watching the music video for this song can convince you otherwise. Perhaps iPhones turned into artifacts in a post-apocalyptic world will speak to you. The puppets from this video, which was directed by Chris Hopewell, were auctioned off and the proceeds were given to the Environmental Defense Fund. If you care about the environment, like I assume Father John Misty a.k.a. Josh Tillman does, then consider donating to this fund as well. Or, better yet, start recycling, reducing your waste, and eating less meat. You can also take part in Plastic Free July and join the challenge to refuse single-use plastic this month. And why stop there? Keep it going all twelve months!
Aaaannndddd…if you purchase anything from FJM’s web store between July 2nd – 6th, he’ll be donating all merchandise profits to the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES). You’ve still got two more days!
“It got too hot and so we overthrew the system ‘Cause there’s no place for human existence like right here On this bright blue marble orbited by trash Man, there’s no beating that It was no big thing to give up the way of life we had, oh”
I’ll let Alynda Lee Segarra of Hurray for the Riff Raff tell you about this song in her own words, “‘Rican Beach’ is a fictional place and the song is a cautionary tale.” “It tells the story of a city progressing rapidly into militarized and segregated areas. There’s a lot of symbolism in the song that reflects our times, of course. I felt the water protectors at Standing Rock and the people of Peñuelas were important to reflect on while listening to the lyrics. The point of view is one of resistance, people of color claiming their space and their right to exist. It is about claiming ancestry and recognizing a history of facing systemic oppression while protecting and connecting with the land. Even though it was written about an urban space, I think it speaks to the actions of these activists who are connected with the earth.”
He’s not wrong. Everything kind of is bullshit. The song’s title was inspired by Particle Kid’s (a.k.a. Micah Nelson who happens to be the son of Willie Nelson) girlfriend who said the phrase one day while watching the news. As Micah says, “To me it’s a healing song about facing the reality of how weird and out of control reality is, and finding some humor in there.”
“Post a picture for your Facebook Make a profile on your Snapchat Murder people from a distance Laugh at videos of cats”
One of my favorite things about Margo Price is that she sings about the ugly things that America is guilty of like the pay gap and the Iran-Contra Affair. Yep, the Iran-Contra Affair. Bet you never thought that would come up in an Americana song much less one that was released thirty years after the scandal took place. If you don’t remember the Iran-Contra Affair (I wasn’t even born yet), a condensed version of what happened is the following: “It consisted of three interconnected parts: The Reagan administration sold arms to Iran, a country desperate for materiel during its lengthy war with Iraq; in exchange for the arms, Iran was to use its influence to help gain the release of Americans held hostage in Lebanon; and the arms were purchased at high prices, with the excess profits diverted to fund the Reagan-favored “contras” fighting the Sandinista government in Nicaragua.” Hey, what can I say? It was “All American Made.”
“1987 and I didn’t know it then Reagan was selling weapons to the leaders of Iran And it won’t be the first time and, baby, it won’t be the end They were all American made”
Yeah, just hearing that title makes me scoff. Remember when Jason Isbell said it was a “white man’s world”? Well, it’s actually a conservative Christian, right-wing Republican, straight, white, American man’s world. However, this isn’t a new thing, it was this way in 2004 when this song was released, and it was that way long before. If you aren’t familiar with the creature of the “conservative Christian, right-wing Republican, straight, white, American male,” allow Todd Snider to fill you in.
“Conservative Christian, right wing Republican Straight, white, American males Gay bashin’, black fearin’ Poor fightin’, tree killin’ Regional leaders of sales Frat housin’, keg tappin’ Shirt tuckin’, back slappin’ Haters of hippies like me Tree huggin’, peace lovin’ Pot smokin’, porn watchin’ Lazy-ass hippies like me”
Childish Gambino– “This is America”
This song is not Americana but I would be remiss not to include it here. I’m also not going to include any lyrics here as a way to encourage you to watch the video instead. Take the next four minutes and four seconds to really watch this video. But really, is there anybody out there who HASN’T seen this yet? And do they live under a rock?
While this may be a song encouraging people “to get right with God,” I hear it as a call to people to just get right. Period. Especially the racists, fascists, and bigots Paul Cauthen references in this song. This song is political to me, and earns a spot on this list, because of the very fact that he calls out fascists. Y’all need to get right!
“You racists and fascists and nihilists and bigots, I’m callin’ you out my friend”
He’d make a better president than the one we’ve got that’s for sure, though I feel like he may be a single-issue politician. You already know the issue. Also, if this ever happens, I’ve already got the bumper sticker for it! I wonder who he would choose as his VP?
“If I could I’d vote for Willie to run our government “Good mornin’ America, how are you?” He’d say with his pigtails and a grin He would unite the whole nation with his guitar and his song It’s the only thing that makes perfect sense Willie Nelson for President”
Including this as a political song might be a bit of a stretch but if his dad can run for president (see above), surely Lukas Nelson can as well, as he sings in this song, “I’m gonna run for president, vote for me, I’m heaven sent.” I’m not opposed to a Nelson family dynasty in the least. Perhaps his campaign slogan could be, “It’s High Time You Vote for Lukas Nelson”?
“I’m gonna die for CNN Believing in the dream I’m in I’m gonna die for Fox News For skewed views And twisted spews”
I wanna be friends with this dog. Besides the obvious reason that dogs are awesome this particular dog appears to have good taste in politics. Perhaps he might be interested in the same Donald Trump chew toy I bought for my dog? You can find this toy (also available for cats) for sale here and on Amazon.
“I pay for all his healthcare and I buy everything he eats I provide him with a place to live just to keep him off the streets. Well, he just acts like he’s entitled, Even tried to unionize the cat, Yeah, I think my dog’s a Democrat.”
Leave it to a Canadian (Neil Young) to tell us that our country is already great! For all those wanting to make America great again, Neil Young is here to tell you that it’s already great! And he’s brought along his American friends, Promise of the Real, to help him relay his message. The song’s bridge is “no wall, no ban, no fascist USA.” While there are some nasty people calling for walls and bans, there are also Americans marching in the streets calling for “no wall, no ban.” It’s the latter of these two that make America “already great.”
I do have a question for Neil Young though- if he thinks America is already great, what does he think of our lovely neighbor to the north, his home country, dear old Canada?? I’ll go drool over pictures of Justin Trudeau while I wait for his response.
If you like this song, you’ll also like “When Bad Got Good,” also from The Visitor album. Throughout the song the words “lock him up” are chanted and the phrase “liar in chief” comes up.
“No wall No ban…
Not my words That’s just you the other day out on that street (My American friend) You’re looking at one of the lucky ones Came here from there to be free”
Invoking Hillel the Elder, though maybe not purposefully, this song is a “call to action” of sorts. If the things above bother you- gun violence, global warming, the pay gap- do something about it. Vote for politicians who care about the environment, who want common sense gun laws, who value women. Call your representatives, donate money, even if you only have a little, to organizations like the ACLU, Texas Civil Rights Project, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), and if you can’t donate your money, donate your time. Educate yourself and those around you. Speak out when you see injustice. Do what you can NOW. Because, as Aaron Lee Tasjan sings, “if not now, when?”
“Over and over again
You try and try to pretend
That it’s never gonna be the end
If not now, when?
If not now, when?”
America the Beautiful, despite her flaws
While I could have gone in another direction for this 4th of July post and posted about the most patriotic country songs out there, I wanted to instead highlight the artists out there singing about real problems facing this country. Rather than just singing about how much they love America and ignoring her flaws, they’re bringing attention to her flaws. You can still love your country and be critical of it. Wanting your country to be better because you care about her and her people is the best kind of patriotism.
You’ll also notice that with a few exceptions most of these songs fall under the “Americana” category. I’m not sure if mainstream country artists are singing about these issues because honestly I haven’t listened to country radio in quite some time. My guess is that they’re not. In fact, I just scrolled through the list of top country songs and if the song titles are any indication, they definitely aren’t (though maybe Luke Bryan’s “Most People Are Good” could be an exception to the rule.) Singing about politics and real issues would put them at risk of not being played on the radio and it’s all about that airplay, right? (Sarcasm!) It’s the courage displayed by the artists above to sing about these topics and about what they believe in that has steered me away from mainstream country and into the world of Americana.
So while some of you may be cranking up the Toby Keith and Lee Greenwood today, I’ll be listening to these guys and gals! All of the songs mentioned above can be found on a Spotify playlist I’ve created for this post. I’ve also included the liberal country music songs found in my other post on this playlist. Of course, this list isn’t comprehensive so if you’ve got any other political songs (from any genre) that I may have missed from the past few years, let me know!
Happy 4th, everyone!
Currently listening to: Turnpike Troubadours- “The Bird Hunters.” While this song doesn’t fit in with the other songs listed above, it does mention the 4th of July. I had the privilege of seeing them perform this song on Saturday night at the 9:30 club.
“And a flutter of feathers Then a shotgun to shoulder I thought of the Fourth of July She’ll be home on the Fourth of July I bet we’ll dance on the Fourth of July”
Another month (and some change) have passed which means it’s time for another concert roundup. While I’m always happy that my favorite artists come through DC, my wallet is not. This year I’ve definitely traded in travel (especially international travel) for music. Though I am traveling to Texas this summer, that trip is highly centered around country music. In fact, I’ll be going to a concert while I’m there- Cody Jinks at Whitewater Amphitheater in New Braunfels, Texas. Cody hasn’t come through DC since I’ve had the great fortune of discovering him so if Cody won’t come to me, I’ll go to him! You can find a full list of upcoming shows that I’ll be attending at the end of this post.
Brandi Carlile- The Anthem (May 20th)
Brandi Carlile‘s concert on May 20th at The Anthem is one I’ll always remember. It was the last night of her tour (and second night in a row at The Anthem) and she went out with a bang! Her new album By the Way, I Forgive You came out earlier this year and is truly a masterpiece. There are certain songs on this album, like the featured song below, that really resonated with me. This album was co-produced by Shooter Jennings and Dave Cobb so you know it’s good. Seriously, Dave Cobb is the King Midas of music- everything this guy touches turns to gold! Seeing her perform these songs live was an emotional experience to say the least. She started the night with the song on the album that hit me the hardest, “Every Time I Hear That Song,” which really choked me up. The struggle to hold back my waterworks also happened during “The Mother” and “The Joke,” both of which are off her latest album (the line in “The Joke” about carrying your baby on your back through the desert got me good!) And of course she played her most famous song, “The Story,” which would make even a statue get a little emotional. She performed every song from By the Way, I Forgive You and that was just fine by me because it meant I got to hear all of my favorite songs off the album like “Sugartooth” and “Hold Out Your Hand.” And as a new Brandi Carlile fan, this album helped launch me into full throttle fandom!
Some highlights from the night included Pete Souza (former Chief Official White House photographer for Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama) joining her and Darlingside, the opening act, on stage to perform during the encore. Together, they ended the night with “Hold Out Your Hand.” Pete is a big fan, which I already knew from following him on Instagram. Before calling him up on stage, Brandi called Pete “the shadiest mother fucker in DC.” That he is. Also, while singing “Hold Out Your Hand,” the lights came on and you could see everyone in the audience clapping their hands and singing along.
One of my favorite things about concerts is when the artists talk with the audience in between songs- I feel like it really gives you a glimpse into their personality. Brandi talked a lot at her show, which I loved. She’s funny and smart and talked about the things that matter most to her like being a mother and her family’s right to exist in this country. She also provided the stories behind some of the songs, like “Fulton County Jane Doe” (that’s an interesting story so look it up if you’ve got the time/inclination). Getting to know Brandi a little better in between her songs was a major highlight of the night!
This past month, the nominees for the Americana Music Honors and Awards were announced and of course Brandi was included in several categories. When the nominees first came out and I saw that Margo Price, Jason Isbell, John Prine, and Brandi Carlile were all nominated for “Artist of the Year,” my first thought was “can there be a four way tie??” Her album is also up for “Album of the Year” and despite being up against The Nashville Sound and All American Made, I can say that Brandi (and this album) deserves this. That’s saying a lot because if you know me you know that Margo Price is my idol and that I absolutely adore Jason Isbell. But guys, her album was THAT good! You can find the full list of nominees here.
Featured song: Brandi Carlile- “Every Time I Hear That Song”
Willie Nelson and Sturgill Simpson with Cris Jacobs- The Anthem (May 27th)
I was a little apprehensive going into Sunday night’s show. Willie Nelson was supposed to have performed the night before in Charlotte, NC but instead, after two attempts, he tossed his hat out into the audience, never actually performing. This was apparently due to a stomach bug. Thankfully, Willie had recovered enough by the next night to make it out on stage and play a full set. While I do love me some Willie, the main attraction that night was Sturgill Simpson. It was my second time seeing both Willie and Sturgill as I saw both of them back in September (though they weren’t together, I saw them within two days of each other). Unlike the last time I saw Sturgill, the audience was standing during this show, which I thought made the overall experience a lot better. Who can sit still and listen to Sturgill?! I was also five rows back from the stage (shout out to me for always being early and getting to take advantage of that GA seating!) which meant that I really got to see what was happening on stage (well, aside from the annoying couple in front of me who insisted on holding onto each other the entire set and forming one big person instead of two separate people. Y’all suck!) I also got several compliments on my “Who the Fuck is Sturgill Simpson?” t-shirt! I’m thinking that most people there knew who the fuck he was!
I will say that I was a little disappointed that Sturgill and Willie didn’t play a song together. That would have been such a cool performance to witness. Especially since Sturgill covers a song made famous by Willie on his first album- “I’d Have to Be Crazy.” I’m just happy that Willie, at the ripe old age of 85, is still willing and able to keep performing. As he sings on his latest album Last Man Standing, “I don’t wanna be the last man standin‘, or wait a minute maybe I do.” We’re happy to have you as the last man, Willie!
The opening act that night, Cris Jacobs, was from Baltimore (though two members of the group were from Richmond, VA). I had listened to them a little bit in preparation for that night and really like their sound. A couple songs of theirs worth checking out are “Jack the Whistle and the Hammer” and “The Devil or Jesse James.”
Now that I’ve attended two shows at The Anthem (within a week of each other), I want to say a quick word about this venue because it’s pretty dang cool! I like that the concession stands are in the same room as the performance so you don’t have to worry about missing your favorite song if you get up to grab a drink. I only stayed on the first level though so next time I’m there I’ll be sure to check out the upper levels and give you all a full report.
Featured song: Sturgill Simpson- “Brace For Impact (Live A Little)”
Justin Townes Earle with Lilly Hiatt- The Birchmere (May 29th)
When I first bought tickets to this show I must not have realized that Lilly Hiatt was also performing. After realizing it much later, I was pleasantly surprised to see her name on the lineup. With the release of her latest album Trinity Lane, I had gotten into Lilly’s music and really taken a liken to her. Getting to see both her and Justin Townes Earle made for a really special night!
Since this was a solo show, both of them played with just their guitar and microphone alone on stage. There were no bands and no big production, which made for an intimate show. And it was at The Birchmere in Alexandria- a cool venue with posters of past performers, like Waylon Jennings and Steve Earle (Justin’s dad!), decorating the hallway. You can also sit down and eat during the show. Warning: if you get the fish tacos, they are messy!
If we’re being honest, I liked Justin’s stories and commentary more than the music portion of the night. What’s great about small venues like The Birchmere is that artists feel more comfortable talking with the audience. The fact that this was a solo show also helped in that regard. I’m glad Justin felt comfortable enough to talk with us because he shared some crazy stories about his past (and also provided BBQ recommendations if you’re ever in Memphis). Sitting close to the stage at a solo show is also pretty neat because you get to really see the artist as they’re singing their songs. Justin does this thing where he makes little noises between verses sometimes. While I’m not sure why he does that, I like it. He’s also an incredible guitar player- being able to watch his hands on his guitar as he played each song was something to see! In between stories, Justin did manage to play some songs including his own stuff like “One More Night In Brooklyn” in addition to some blues songs.
What’s cool about both Justin and Lilly is that they’re the children of famous musicians- Justin Townes Earle being the son of Steve Earle and Lilly Hiatt being the daughter of John Hiatt. Justin’s namesake is also the late great Townes Van Zandt. But don’t think these two are just riding on their daddys’ names- they’re talented singers, songwriters, and musicians in their own right.
You can’t be the son of Steve Earle without getting political (check out my post on liberal country music featuring Steve Earle here). And that’s not a bad thing, in fact, we need more Steves and Justins in music now more than ever. Justin brought up the opiate crisis on stage and asked why something is only a crisis when white kids start dying from it. He elaborated on this topic and encouraged us to ask the right questions to people who are dealing with addiction. Instead of asking something insensitive like “what’s wrong with you?” or questions like that why not ask “why do you hurt?” Asking the right questions is a step in the right direction to understanding addiction and the crises that come from it. I’m sure someone in the audience needed to hear Justin’s words that night.
A highlight of the night was meeting Lilly. She was very personable and I loved that she came out after her set and after Justin’s set to greet fans and sign merchandise. I told her that I was going to Margo Price’s show on Friday and she told me to say hi to Margo and that Margo would like me. Though, as expected, I didn’t get the chance to meet Margo at her show a couple of nights later. I also think Margo is way too cool for me! I should also take this opportunity to mention that Lilly is a nominee for “Emerging Artist of the Year” for the Americana Music Honors and Awards. If you haven’t checked out her new album Trinity Lane yet, you need to get on that!
One cool piece of merchandise that I picked up at the show was a cassette tape of Justin’s Kids in the Street album. Problem is I don’t have a cassette player. Even still, it makes for a cool addition to my music collection. While vinyl has been back in style for a while now, I don’t actually see cassettes making a return.
Featured songs: Justin Townes Earle- “Harlem River Blues” and Lilly Hiatt “The Night David Bowie Died”
Margo Price and John Prine- Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts (June 1st)
Because this show was so early in June, I decided to include it in this post. What a night- I got to see Margo Price, who I’ve been a big fan of for quite some time, open up for John Prine, one of my songwriting idols. It was also my first time at Wolf Trap, which is a really beautiful venue.
I’ve been wanting to see Miss Margo Price in concert for quite some time and on Friday night that dream finally came true. When she’s not warning you about the “cocaine cowboys” she’s getting real about politics singing about issues like the pay gap and the Iran-Contra Scandal. (Though she didn’t sing any of those songs on Friday night). She also knows how to kick back and have fun as evidenced in songs like “Hurtin’ (On The Bottle).” I was happy that she performed stuff from her first album Midwest Farmer’s Daughter in addition to her new stuff. Her first album really helped make me a fan of Americana music. She was one of the first artists in that genre that really stood out to me and songs like “Hands of Time” and “How the Mighty Have Fallen” really made an impression on me. Getting to hear her perform “Hands of Time” and “Tennessee Song” that night was really special.
Friday night was my second time seeing the incredible (and one of my favorite singer/songwriters) John Prine live and oh boy was he great! His new album, The Tree of Forgiveness, came out on April 13th. Fun fact: I share a birthday with this album! I feel honored to share this day with such a great album. On The Tree of Forgiveness, Prine proves that he’s still got it (as if there was ever any doubt)! There are so many great songs on this album, adding themselves to the catalog of wonderful songs he has amassed in his lifetime. Songs like the summertime anthem, “Knockin’ On Your Screen Door” and a happy perspective on the afterlife, “When I Get To Heaven.”
The brightest highlight of the night included John and Margo singing “In Spite of Ourselves” together. I had hoped that Prine would seize upon the opportunity of having Margo there and decide to do this duet! Another highlight was Prine talking to the audience. This man is hilarious! A memorable quote of his from the night came right before he played “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore.” He said that he wrote that song in 1968 as a political song and it’s still a political song today. But he’ll keep playing it until they get it right! Here’s to hoping that one day John Prine doesn’t have to play this song anymore!
This post is chock full of Americana Music Honors and Awards nominees including both Margo and John. Both are nominated for “Artist of the Year” (along with Brandi Carlile and Jason Isbell). John won last year so I’m not sure what the chances are that he’ll win again, but hey, it’s possible! Margo is also nominated for “Album of the Year” for All American Made and for “Song of the Year” for “A Little Pain.”
Featured songs: John Prine- “Egg and Daughter Nite, Lincoln Nebraska, 1967” and Margo Price- “Hands of Time”
Upcoming Concerts (* means tickets are already purchased)
*6/8- The Steel Woods at Jammin’ Java *6/29- Turnpike Troubadours and Charley Crockett at Friday Cheers (Richmond, VA) *6/30– Turnpike Troubadours and Charley Crockett at 9:30 Club (yeah, I’ve got it on here twice. I may skip the Richmond show and go to the DC one but still TBD.) *7/6- Cody Jinks, Colter Wall, and Ward Davis at Whitewater Amphitheater(New Braunfels, TX) *7/21– Ray Wylie Hubbard at City Winery DC 7/22– Lori McKenna at City Winery DC 7/24- Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit at Wolf Trap *7/25- Nikki Lane at Rock & Roll Hotel 7/28– Arctic Monkeys at The Anthem (this show is already sold out but I’m hoping that some cheap ones appear on StubHub) 8/2– Amanda Shires and Sean Rowe at The Birchmere 8/22– Shooter Jennings at City Winery *9/12– Sarah Shook and the Disarmers at Pearl Street Warehouse 9/28– Jade Bird at Rock & Roll Hotel 10/5– Turnpike Troubadours at Spring Pavilion (Charlottesville, VA) 10/13- Chris Stapleton’s All-American Road Show at Jiffy Lube Live 10/15- Tyler Childers at 9:30 Club
Currently listening to: Dolly Parton- “The Story.” From Cover Stories: Brandi Carlile Celebrates 10 Years of The Story (An Album to Benefit War Child). This is a charity tribute album featuring various artists like Margo Price, Kris Kristofferson, and of course, Dolly Parton.
HELP! I’ve fallen into a YouTube hole and I can’t get out! Like Alice, I’ve encountered several interesting characters on my trip, though no hookah smoking caterpillars I’m afraid. My characters have come in the form of musicians and music videos that are expanding my tastes in music. Instead of Wonderland, my adventures are taking place in Musicland. You can find all of the characters I met after my tumble below.
The Dead South- “In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company.” I was just working out in my basement watching Turnpike Troubadours’ music videos (which I’ll get to later) and this video came on and stopped me dead in my tracks. I’m not sure if any burpees or lunges got done while this video was on as I was so captivated by what was on my screen. The video, the sound, the dance, everything about this mesmerized me. I’ve been listening to it consistently over the past few days because it’s been stuck in my head. You try listening to it and not have it do the same! Try not doing the toe-tapping, finger-snapping dance too- I double dog dare ya!
Other songs (and videos) worth checking out from these guys include “Banjo Odyssey” (Find me a better song about cousin loving. You can’t!) and “That Bastard Son.”
What lead me to the opening of this hole was the Turnpike Troubadours. I’ve been getting more into them lately and like many artists, watching them perform can be a way of getting to know their work better. There are some especially good performances on YouTube that serve as examples of this- Colter Wall’s “Kate McCannon” from the Great Western Brewing Brewery Sessions is a fine example of this (though the actual video is good too). You can also learn about songs that aren’t featured on albums this way too like Sturgill Simpson’s “Could You Love Me One More Time” and Tyler Childers and the Food Stamps’ “Messed Up Kid.”
Willie Watson- “Gallows Pole.” Since I mentioned Colter Wall above, I’ll take this opportunity to talk about a video that YouTube played after the “Kate McCannon” official music video just the other day. That video was Willie Watson’s “Gallows Pole.” The sound of this song is so mellow, and the harmonica rifts are so on point, that I couldn’t help but like this song. While folk is a genre that I’m still exploring, I think Willie Watson is an excellent person to follow as I go further down that path. Folk Yeah!
If Turnpike Troubadours’ “Gin, Smoke, Lies” wasn’t one of my favorite songs of theirs, after watching the video for this song, it just might be one of ’em. These guys could arguably be the best band in country music right now. While they don’t have too many music videos (they actually only have two official ones- this one and “Down Here“) they’ve got some other performances on YouTube worth checking out including “Before the Devil Knows We’re Dead” (video below). What’s my favorite thing about this video? Well that would be the fiddle player who moves seamlessly from fiddling to harmonzing with the band. See if you can spot him!
Charley Crockett- “Jamestown Ferry.” It’s appropriate that this video also come on down my spiral into this musical tunnel because Charley Crockett is opening for the Turnpike Troubadours at their show in Richmond, Virginia that I will be attending in June. This is another one of those song worms that crawls into your ear and into your brain, making itself a nice, cozy home, refusing to leave. I guess on this journey I’ve traded caterpillars for ear worms!
Shakey Graves feat. Esmé Patterson- “Dearly Departed.” Yesterday, while still reeling from my fall, I found this number from Shakey Graves (featuring Esmé Patterson). While I wasn’t familiar with absolutely anything from this guy, this song has got me curious. From what I see, he’s an incredible musician, which is evidenced perfectly in this video for “Roll the Bones” where he sings, plays the guitar, AND plays the kick drum all at the same time. Shakey Graves is also a cool name and sounds like someone you might find if you ever fell down into a dark hole.
Currently listening to: whatever else I find while falling down the hole that is YouTube music videos. Admittedly, I never read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland so I’m not sure how she ever got out of her hole. Not that it matters- I don’t plan on crawling out of this hole for quite some time! I should also mention Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” because it fits all too well with the theme of this post that it would almost be a crime not to mention it.
Discovering new music can sometimes be hard, especially when you find yourself wanting to listen to the same records over and over again (*cough* Jason Isbell *cough* Sturgill Simpson *cough*). Despite keeping Jason and Sturgill on a heavy rotation, I’ve still been able to find some great music, both old and new stuff, over these last few months.
The Tracks I’m Playing (January-March)
The first song on this list goes to the very deserving Shane Smith and the Saints, all the way from Austin, Texas and their song “All I See Is You.” Last week (March 15th) I had the pleasure of seeing Shane Smith & the Saints in concert at Gypsy Sally’s in DC. This song, which is probably their most popular song, is what first turned me onto these guys. They were great in concert- all of the guys (The Saints?) harmonized together perfectly. The fiddle player also wore overalls with no shirt on underneath, which I found to be a very stylish move. And it was my first time at Gypsy Sally’s so I got to cross another DC concert venue off of my bucket list this year. You can catch the acoustic version of this song below. The emotions that Shane Smith pours into this song come through in this video, just like they did at his show.
Flatland Calvary- “Stompin’ Grounds.” It only seems appropriate that Flatland Calvary should be mentioned next as they were the opening act for Shane Smith & the Saints. They’re a great Texas-based band with a heavy dose of fiddle and boot-stompin’ tunes, if you’re into that kinda thing (who isn’t?). This particular song starts off with the line, “tired of breathing in all this office air” and after a Thursday at the office, I was happy to get out and see Flatland Calvary do their thing.
Randy Newman- “Putin.” If there’s not a musical already in the works based on this song, there should be. I mean, I guess we do have the real Vladimir Putin, but a musical with the Putin Girls and a fictionalized Putin would be fun distraction from reality. And you gotta love Randy Newman, from everything he did for Toy Story (“You’ve Got a Friend In Me“) and his denunciation against short people, this guy is an American treasure. And he does it again in this song, invoking the Greeks, the Turks, and the Kurds in a great play on words about Kurds getting the way, which turns into “curds and whey” (Little Miss Muffet reference for ya there!) He also says that “sometimes a people is greater than their leader” giving Germany, Kentucky, and France as examples (wait, is that a Mitch McConnell reference? Please explain!) This song goes to show you that Randy Newman can make any topic fun, including Vladimir Putin.
The Band of Heathens- “Hurricane.” I had already planned on including this song (honestly!) even before Shane Smith & the Saints decided to cover it at their show. I instantly liked this song the first time I heard it. And while I’ve never been to New Orleans, though hopefully one day that’ll change, I can only imagine that this song fully embodies the spirit of a city that can’t be washed away with a hurricane. Also, as a fellow heathen myself, I greatly appreciate this band’s name!
“I was born in the rain on the Pontchartrain Underneath the Louisiana moon I don’t mind the strain of a hurricane They come around every June
High black water, a devil’s daughter She’s hard, she’s cold and she’s mean But nobody taught her it takes a lot of water To wash away New Orleans”
Amanda Shires- “When You Need a Train It Never Comes.” I’ll be honest and say that I’m still not 100% sure what this song is about. But does that stop me from liking it? Nope. Maybe the true meaning will come to me on the 100th listen, which I’m fast approaching. I’ve got some other songs from Amanda on the playlist for this quarter in case the train that is this song still isn’t coming- “My Love (The Storm)” and “Wasted and Rollin’.” I’ll also take this opportunity to talk about her cover of Madonna’s “Borderline” with Tommy Emmanuel, which if you haven’t seen it yet, you should. And you have no excuse because here is the link and all you have to do is click on it.
Chris Stapleton- “Midnight Train to Memphis.” Am I only including this song here so I have an excuse to talk about Sturgill Simpson joining Chris on stage for this SNL performance of this song earlier this year? I’ll leave that for you to decide. BUT SERIOUSLY, CAN WE TALK ABOUT THAT PERFORMANCE?? I mean, Sturgill and Chris- I must’ve died and gone to Kentucky heaven! Oh! And producer Dave Cobb is also up there playing with them- say what?! I just have three words- A, Ma, Zing! The version of this song off his album From A Room: Volume 2 (sans Sturgill) is great as well so also be sure to check that out.
Drive-By Truckers- “Goddamn Lonely Love.” When I refer to this song, I’m mostly referring to the Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit live version of it on his Live from Alabama album, though the song was originally from Jason’s time with the Drive-By Truckers. As if the man needed any more, here’s another testament to Jason’s songwriting ability. In fact, I’m still finding more songs from Isbell that further drive this point home including songs like “We’ve Met” from his Here We Rest album with the 400 Unit. While it’s not a real disease or medical condition, “Goddamn Lonely Love” is something we’ve all suffered from and have been in search of a cure for. It’s comforting to know that not only has Jason felt the same, but if the cheers from the crowd in the live version of this song are any indication, then hundreds, maybe thousands, of others have also felt this way. If misery loves company, then this song should provide you with a good dose of companionship.
John Prine- “Some Humans Ain’t Human.” This song came to me from the “American Folk” movie, which is a feel good movie about two strangers connecting after 9/11 through folk music. Songs like this are the reason John Prine will forever be included in my holy trinity of songwriters (along with Leonard Cohen and Jason Isbell). John’s new album The Tree of Forgiveness will be released on my birthday (that’s April 13th for all y’all not up to speed on all things Brittany). And it’s a Friday the 13th- a lucky day for me and hopefully for John Prine too! You can watch his performance on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series here and hear him play a song off this album, “Summer’s End.”
“Have you ever noticed When you’re feeling really good There’s always a pigeon That’ll come shit on your hood
Or you’re feeling your freedom And the world’s off your back Some cowboy from Texas Starts his own war in Iraq”
Margo Price- “Most Likely You Go Your Way.” Margo Price covering Bob Dylan? Thank you, sir, may I have another? Recorded as a Spotify Single, along with a special version of “A Little Pain,” Margo covered this song from Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde album in her own style. I can’t seem to find a video for this online, so I guess you’ll just have to click on my Spotify playlist and check it out there (along with the other songs mentioned in this post.)
Lee Ann Womack- “The Lonely, The Lonesome, & The Gone.” This song is the title track from her latest album, which also features bangers like “All the Trouble.” Lots of people know Lee Ann, but many only associate her with that one big hit she had back in 2000. You know the one I’m talking about- “I Hope You Dance.” People making this connection isn’t a problem, it’s a lovely song. It was also the song that was played at my fifth grade graduation so it’s sentimental in a way for me. But that was almost 18 years ago and Lee Ann Womack has come a long way since then, musically speaking. If you’re thinking she was just a one hit wonder, you couldn’t be more wrong! She not only had hits back in the day with songs like “A Little Past Little Rock” and “I’ll Think Of A Reason Later” but she’s put out other albums since then that embrace a more neotraditional sound, including her latest, which came out last year. I had the pleasure of seeing her perform Friday night (March 23rd) at The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia. She put on a great show and did not disappoint- playing two of my favorite songs- “Don’t Listen to the Wind” and “Does My Ring Burn Your Finger?” (the former written by Julie Miller and the latter written by Julie and her husband, Buddy Miller).
I also didn’t realize until Friday night after the concert that Lee Ann Womack’s daughter is Aubrie Sellers. It was then that I put two and two together and figured out that Aubrie Sellers is the oldest daughter featured in the music video for “I Hope You Dance.” MIND BLOWN! And since we’re on the topic of Aubrie Sellers, I’ll take this opportunity to talk about how great of an artist she is too. She calls her music “garage country,” which I think describes her sound perfectly. Some songs worth checking out are “Sit Here and Cry,” “Just to Be with You,” and “Liar, Liar,” which I highly recommend. The cute little girl from that music video has really grown up!
Ruby Boots- “It’s So Cruel.” If you’re listening to this song and thinking it’s from the 80s, you’re wrong. Though you wouldn’t be crazy for thinking that as the song does have a sound reminiscent of the 1980s. Her look also kinda reminds me of Tiffany. I’ll be seeing this lady in concert next month at Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe in DC (crossing another venue off my bucket list!)
The Ozark Mountain Daredevils- “If You Wanna Get to Heaven.” Apparently this song actually is from 1980! (Not like the song above). What the what?! It sounds like it could have come out within the past few years as part of the Americana/alt-country genre. Could’ve fooled me!
Some other great songs that I’ll just mention by name below without any wordy descriptions for the sake of space and not keeping you guys too long (are you even still reading this?) include:
Kacey Musgraves- “High Horse,” “Space Cowboy,” and “Butterflies.” AKA the three songs she’s released from her new Golden Hour album that will officially be out on Friday (March 30th). I. CAN’T. WAIT.
Like I mentioned above, be sure to check out my Spotify playlist to listen to all of these songs, along with some others not mentioned in this post. If you’ve got any music suggestions for me, don’t be shy, send ’em on my way! I’ll be on the hunt for some more good tunes this next quarter.
Currently listening to: Particle Kid- “Gunshow Loophole Blues.” This song only seems appropriate with all of the Marches for Our Lives that took place this weekend. Shout out to all the amazing people who took it to the streets yesterday, especially the students of this country- y’all are an inspiration! As always, the signs at this march were on point, including this one quoting the late great David Bowie.
Hello everyone- long time, no see! While I should take this time to apologize for my two month hiatus, I won’t simply because of the fact that I was spending that time well and doing things that make me happy. Since my last post, I’ve been lucky enough to see two of my favorite new artists in concert- Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit and Tyler Childers. After this past Thursday night’s Tyler Childers concert, I thought the blog could use another concert review. I actually started writing this yesterday with a pen and a notebook (old school, right?) since my power was out because of the crazy wind we’ve been having. I’ll try my best to make out my chicken scratch writing for the post below.
Before Thursday (March 1st) night’s concert , I said that “Tyler Childers could sing the phone book and I’d pay to listen.” I realize how outdated a saying like that is nowadays because who still uses a phone book? Seriously, we had one delivered to our house not too long ago and I stared at it like “what the hell am I supposed to do with this?” I reckon it might have made a good doorstop. Perhaps I should update the saying to be more 2018 appropriate- “Tyler Childers could sing the names of my Instagram followers and I’d pay to listen.” Does that work? If you have any better suggestions, send ’em my way.
No matter what I would listen to Tyler Childers sing, this post is about what he did in fact sing. The concert Thursday night was at the Rock and Roll Hotel in DC and it was my first time there. The show was sold out and needless to say the place was packed! I also waited too long to get my ticket and wound up paying about five times the original ticket price. But was it worth it? Yep!
Tyler sang some of my favorite songs from his latest album Purgatory, which Sturgill Simpson helped produce along with David Ferguson. Songs like “Feathered Indians,” “Honky Tonk Flame,” “Universal Sound,” “White House Road,” “I Swear (to God),” and the song he introduced by calling it a redneck interpretation of reincarnation (or something like that), “Born Again.” He also sang the love song for his wife off of that album, “Lady May.” After the song finished I heard the guy next to me tell the lady that he was with that she was his “Lady May.” I don’t think there’s anything sweeter a man could ever say to a woman. Who says rednecks aren’t romantic?
Tyler also sang a couple of songs that I was newly familiar with like “Charleston Girl.” I had only discovered the song the morning before the concert and instantly took a liking to it. There were a bunch of songs I had never heard before and I reckon many of these came from his time with his old band, The Food Stamps. This was the case at least for two of the songs I remember liking and later looked up- “Messed Up Kid” and “I Got Stoned and I Missed It.” While the guy in front of me was giving everyone in the room a contact high, I’m glad I wasn’t stoned and missed this concert.
Kelsey Waldon, another Kentuckian, opened for him and it was my first time seeing her in concert as well. I had listened to her just a little bit before Thursday night but hearing her perform live was a much better way to get introduced to her and her music. Not only does she have a beautiful voice but she’s super sweet in person. I made a new friend at the concert on Thursday (one I had known from Twitter and finally met IRL) and we hung around after the show and talked with Kelsey. He’s known Kelsey for a while- they’re from the same part of Kentucky and he’s somewhat related to her. The three of us had a nice chat that included talking about Margo Price and Buffalo Clover.
All around, Thursday night was a great time and I’m so glad that I made the last minute decision to go. You can bet that next time either of these two comes through the DMV that I’ll be there. I’ll also make sure to buy my ticket early next time so that I don’t wind up paying an arm and a leg to see them!
I’ll conclude this post with one final thought- KENTUCKY! This state just keeps on cranking them out- Chris Stapleton, Angaleena Presley, Sturgill Simpson, Tyler Childers, Kelsey Waldon plus the classics like Keith Whitley, The Judds (so many redheads!), and Loretta Lynn. The latest Oxford American magazine was even dedicated to Kentucky and featured some fantastic articles, especially the one on Sturgill Simpson by Leesa Cross-Smith titled, “Ain’t Half Bad,” which is a reference to Sturgill’s song “You Can Have the Crown.” I found myself agreeing so strongly with a lot of her article and it felt good to know that someone shared my opinions on Sturgill.
To celebrate, I created a Spotify playlist, “Kentucky Got Lucky.” This playlist features all of the great Kentuckians listed above along with songs that just remind me of Kentucky. Also, it has NAPPY ROOTS! (Throwback to my youth!) I only wish Sunday Valley (Sturgill’s old band) and the Food Stamps (Tyler’s old band) were available to stream so that I could add them to this playlist. You can find that playlist here.
Currently listening to: All of the wonderful sounds of Kentucky!
Happy Almost 2018, y’all! This post is coming to ya from Nashville where I’ll be celebrating New Year’s Eve! Be sure to grab your popcorn, hot cocoa, or whiskey (no judgement), and get ready for a long post! Enjoy!
The Good, The Bad, and the 2017
It’s no secret that 2017 sucked in a lot of ways- Donald Trump was inaugurated and allowed to make decisions that affect our lives, we lost Tom Petty, Don Williams, and Troy Gentry, Donald J. Trump became president, hurricanes devastated Puerto Rico and American cities like Houston, and Donald Trump moved into the White House. BUUTTTTT, this year hasn’t been all bad, especially since this is the year that I really found myself, musically speaking.
When I think about my taste in music and (lack of) country music knowledge at the beginning of 2017 compared to the end of 2017, it’s like comparing night and day. In the latter half of this year, I really found my musical niche and refined my musical interests. I have this blog to thank for that. Had I not started writing this blog back in June, I’m not sure that I would’ve ever found some of my now favorite artists. I also never knew that I was a fan of Americana music and find myself identifying with the music from this genre more than any other these days. When I finally learned about Americana and all of the artists that are a part of the Americana family, everything clicked into place- this was the musical home I had been searching for. This is where I belonged.
While some bloggers have been making their top albums/songs lists for 2017, I didn’t want to do that. Since so much of the music I found this year has been around for a while, only focusing on the stuff from 2017 would be silly. Instead, I’m gonna focus on all of the great artists who came into my life this year.
Have you ever met someone and felt like you’ve known them your entire life? You wonder how you two went so long without meeting and now that you’ve met, you know you’ll be friends for life. Well that’s how I feel about some of the musical artists I discovered this year. I think about how much better my life would’ve been with their songs to guide me through years ago. But instead of dwelling on the past and missed years, I’ll vow to keep playing their music for the rest of my life. This includes artists like Margo Price. She has been one of my greatest finds of 2017. I’ll do an essay on her later (inspired by the bookWoman Walk the Line: How the Women in Country Music Changed Our Lives), where I’ll dive deeper into how much of an inspiration she has been to me. Just as I had fallen in love with her first album, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter, she released her sophomore album, All American Made in October of this year. What I love about Margo, and her most recent album in particular, is that she sings about political issues like the pay gap and the Iran-Contra Scandal (throwback to the Reagan years!). She’s outspoken about her political views and doesn’t care about losing fans because of it. The world could use more Margos and country music needs more Margos!
Even though I already knew Sturgill Simpson before this year, I didn’t really know him. One day I felt compelled to listen to A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. The rest was history. In just six short months, I managed to fall in love with and immerse myself in Sturgill’s music, see him in concert, and purchase all of his albums on vinyl. In fact, he was my top played artist of 2017, according to Spotify. If you’ve talked to me at all these past few months, I’ve probably manged to name drop him at least once. Hopefully you all were listening to me and then decided to check out “The Sturge” for yourself! What I love about him is that he makes a record when he has something to say, not just to stay relevant. He wants to make records that people will still be playing 30 years from now. You don’t make records that stand the test of time by putting out album after album with nothing of substance on them. And if I have to wait ten years for another Sturgill Simpson record, I’m happy to do it. It’ll probably be the best damn album of all time!
“I’m just trying to constantly improve and become a better artist and then hopefully make records that people—I mean it’s great if they buy them today—but I’m more interested in making records that maybe people will still talk about in 30 years. That’s the goal for me. You can go crazy if you let yourself think, “How do I remain relevant?” or you can just go and try to make great music and the fans will react to it and it takes care of itself.” -“The Final Interview with Sturgill Simspon, According to Sturgill Simpson,” Noisey, November 30, 2017
I don’t remember what the first Jason Isbell song was that I listened to (maybe “Elephant?” or “Speed Trap Town?”) but I’m eternally grateful that the universe pointed me in his direction and had me press play. In a “Walking the Floor with Chris Shiflett” podcast interview with Jason, Chris brought up the fact that Jason is considered by some to be the “go to reference guy for songwriters in Nashville.” Just listen to one of his songs and it’s easy to see why. Though I’m glad it’s a part of my life now, I think about how useful a song like “Traveling Alone” could have been to me years ago. While Jason’s songs may not have had the opportunity to have been part of my past, they’re very much a part of my present, and I’m already making plans for them to be a part of my future. IF (please note this is both in bold and italics) I ever get married, I already know that “If We Were Vampires” will be on the playlist.
Something that the three artists mentioned above have in common is their politics. If you follow Margo Price and Jason Isbell on Twitter, you know how they feel about current events. And just last month, Sturgill Simpson decided to busk (verb; meaning to play music or otherwise perform for voluntary donations in the street or in subways) outside of the CMA Awards and talked crap about Donald Trump.
Another artist that I discovered this year is Cody Jinks. According to Spotify’s calculations, Cody’s song “Loud and Heavy” was my most played song this year (Sturgill’s “Sea Stories” was second). Unlike the artists mentioned above, Cody Jinks is less Americana and more what you would consider to be actual country. To me, he’s what real country music should sound like. Instead of calling country that ventures from the mainstream terms like “alt-country,” I think we should be calling the mainstream stuff a different name. After all, they’re the ones who have done more to change the music from its original sound, not guys like Cody Jinks who have a more authentic country sound. Some people might call Cody “Texas county” or “Red Dirt” country. While “Loud and Heavy” may have been my most played song this past year, it was “Somewhere in the Middle” and its simple message that being “somewhere in the middle is just fine” that resonated most with me. And if Cody finds himself somewhere in the middle of Texas “Red Dirt” country and alt-country, well, that’s just fine!
“John Prine is pretty good!” At least that’s what one of the stickers I purchased at this concert back in November says. But if you ask me, I think John Prine is really good! If writing songs is a craft like woodworking then John makes songs like the best cedar chest you’ve ever laid your eyes on. When I listen to his songs, I’m always impressed at how clever he is. In fact, one of my favorite lyrics of any song ever comes from a John Prine song. The song is “Spanish Pipedream” and the line is “I knew that topless lady had something up her sleeve.” I’ll say that line is pretty good!
While the five artists featured above really won me over this year, there were plenty more that also found their way into my heart. This year’s honorable mentions (who are not all country, not all Americana, but all pretty dang good) include: Dan Auerbach, Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett (wait! Am I also now a fan of Indie music? Who am I even?), Lori McKenna, Tyler Childers, Ray Wylie Hubbard,Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Ashley Monroe, Angaleena Presley, Nikki Lane,Aaron Lee Tasjan, Sam Outlaw, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, and Paul Cauthen.
A New Appreciation for the Old Stuff
It wasn’t just finding new artists that made this past year so exciting but it was also rediscovering artists from my past, learning more about country music legends, and gaining a deeper appreciation for the trailblazers who made all of this possible. One of those people is Jerry Reed. The man is a national treasure we should all be thankful that Jerry Reed songs exist. His songs are a surefire way to put a smile on my face. The Oak Ridge Boys are another example of feel good country music that I got into this year. And don’t forget Bobby Bare too! 2017 is also the year that I fell in love with Emmylou Harris. Her Pieces of the Sky album is the first brand new (not used from a record store) record I ever bought, which also took happened this year. Fun fact about this lady is that she was discovered in DC by Gram Parsons- at Clyde’s in Georgetown.
This year also saw my love of Waylon Jennings grow deeper as I explored more of his music. Some other classic artists that I spent time getting to know better this year include Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and Dolly Parton.
I’ve always loved her but this year I seemed to love Kacey Musgraves even more! Maybe it was because I realized how little credit she gets. She sings backup vocals for some of the bigger stars (Zac Brown Band’s “All the Best” and Dierks Bentley’s “Bourbon in Kentucky“) and does duets (Josh Abbot Band’s “Oh Tonight“), which is fine, but I really wish she got more credit for her solo stuff. To celebrate her, I’ve created a “A Very Kacey Playlist” on Spotify for her. She also has an album coming out early next year, Golden Hour, which I am stoked for! My appreciation and respect for Miranda Lambert also grew this year, which can be credited to her album The Weight of These Wings from 2016. There’s also been talk about a new Pistol Annies album, which can’t get here fast enough!
A Year of Concerts
This year my list of concerts attended grew substantially. Some of these concerts were for artists whose names I didn’t even know at the start of this year. People (who I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t know sooner) like Ray Wylie Hubbard, John Prine, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, and Nikki Lane. I even attended my first all-day music festival in Camden, NJ this year when I drove up for the Outlaw Music Festival. It was there that I got to see Willie Nelson for the first time and Eric Church for the seventh time. Other concerts that I attended this year included Sturgill Simpson, two different nights on Eric Church’s “Holdin’ My Own” tour (Pittsburgh and Washington, DC), and Mashrou’ Leila (a Lebanese band that has nothing to do with the rest of this post but they’re amazing and I love them!)
One really cool thing that happened to me this year was that I won free front row seats to a John Prine and Dan Auerbach concert at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, DC. I remember entering the contest for the tickets but I never win anything so I didn’t hold my breath on getting them. Funny thing is that the week leading up to the show I almost bit the bullet and bought a ticket for a nosebleed seat just so I could go. Well, good thing I didn’t, because a couple of days before the show, I got a call letting me know that I had won two tickets for front row seats along with a $50 merchandise voucher. Thanks to that voucher I am now the proud owner of a John Prine poster (painted to look like Ben’s Chili Bowl- a DC landmark) and The Missing Years on vinyl. I didn’t really know Dan Auberbach before that, aside from the fact that he is one half of The Black Keys, but after hearing him perform his solo stuff live, I became a fan. And how was that concert, you ask? “Pretty good, not bad, I can’t complain!”
And since we’re on the topic of cool concert experiences this year, I just want to mention that at Ray Wylie Hubbard‘s concert at Hill Country BBQ in DC this past August, he mentioned the name of this blog while on stage. Now that’s pretty damn cool!
Keeping Up and Catching Up
There are some people out there that listen to every new album that comes out in its entirety and can break down each track while talking about the album as a whole. Many of those people get paid to do just that. I, however, do not. Also, that’s not me. I feel like there’s always new music coming out so I’d just stress myself out trying to do that. It also takes a while for me to really get into songs sometimes. So if it’s two months after an album has come out before I really listen to it, so be it. I’m happy being late to some parties.
With that being said, I do try and listen to some of the new stuff as it comes out when I can. Some great stuff that’s just come out is Neil Young and Promise of the Real‘s The Visitor. This album combines Lukas Nelson’s band Promise of the Real with the iconic Neil Young. The 2016 presidential election is a theme that you can hear on this album in songs like “Already Great.” Why are people trying to make America great again when, as Neil Young says, it’s already great? If I were gonna go back and rewrite my post on liberal country music, this song would definitely be on that list.
Lots of other albums came out this year that I haven’t spent as much time with as I should have- Travis Meadows‘s First Cigarette is one of them. Though I will say that “Long Live Cool” is in fact a cool song. I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for this guy because he’s the incredibly talented songwriter behind one of my all-time favorite songs- Dierks Bentley’s “Riser.” (He’s also mentioned twice in my post about Eric Church’s songwriting, “Eric Church: An Outsider, A Songwriter,” since he was a co-writer on both “Dark Side” and “Knives of New Orleans.”)
I also liked Chris Stapleton’s “From a Room: Volume 1” but admittedly haven’t given “From a Room: Volume 2” as much attention as it probably deserves. Sorry folks! The same goes for Lee Ann Womack‘s new album The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone, whose title track I love but I haven’t really ventured too far past that.
Some artists that I want to spend some more time getting to know better in the coming year are Rhiannon Giddens and Turnpike Troubadours.
Photographs and Memories
If I had to sum up 2017 in one picture, it would be this one:
I also just wanted an excuse to post this picture!
Looking Ahead to 2018
It’s hard to say what 2018 will hold. Only time will tell what other great artists I’ll find in the coming year. Perhaps I’ll be talking about a completely different genre of music in 365 days. Here’s to hoping that 2018 leads to many new discoveries- both musical and in general!
Here’s to also hoping that Eric Church releases some brand new music next year- that’s not asking for too much, is it?
You can find all of my favorite songs from the artists mentioned in this post on the beltwayboots Spotify account. My “Best of 2017” playlist can be found here.
Currently listening to: All of the great music that I discovered this year!