Thursday, September 29, 2016

Jean Shepard, Grand Lady of the Grand Ole Opry, Passes Away at 82

K.F. Raizor, author of the website Raizor's Edge and the book We Can't Sing and We Ain't Funny: The World of Homer and Jethro is our guest writer today on That Nashville Sound. She's ever so gracious to provide wonderful tributes to honor those to whom the music we treasure just wouldn't be the same without. Thank you, K.F.

Country music legend Jean Shepard has died.

The matriarch of the "Grand Ladies of the Grand Ole Opry" passed away this morning (9/25), two days after entering hospice care for Parkinson's disease complications.

Born Ollie Imogene Shepard in 1933, Jean Shepard made her mark with the song "A Dear John Letter," the 1953 #1 smash that was the first hit for both her and her duet partner, Ferlin Husky.  After the follow-up, "Forgive Me, John," they went on separate music paths that took both to the Hall of Fame. 

Shepard was a trailblazing woman singer in country music.  Following in the (high) heels of Kitty Wells, she had several hits in the 1950s such as "A Satisfied Mind" (the same song that Porter Wagoner recorded) and "Beautiful Lies."

Her career waned after her marriage to Harold "Hawkshaw" Hawkins in 1960, as she concentrated on raising a family.  On March 5, 1963, Shepard, eight months pregnant with her son Harold Franklin Hawkins Jr., had (as she later wrote and recounted) "the most horrible feeling" hit her about the same time that the plane with her husband aboard crashed in Camden, killing him, Cowboy Copas, Patsy Cline, and Randy Hughes. 

After the tragedy Shepard nearly abandoned the music business completely, but she came back in 1964 with the Betty Amos composition "Second Fiddle (To an Old Guitar)."

More hits followed, including a number of Bill Anderson songs (from her album Poor Sweet Baby [And Ten More Bill Anderson Songs]), including the hits "Slippin' Away" and "At the Time." 

In 2011 she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.  Last year she celebrated her 60th anniversary as a member of the Grand Ole Opry.  Parkinson's forced her into retirement last November, just after her birthday.

In 1992 I got to interview her for an article I wrote on Bill Anderson.  She nearly dragged me into her dressing room and plopped me down on the sofa, then enthusiastically said, "Now, honey, what do you want to know about Bill Anderson?  I could talk about him all day!"

Her wonderful song, "A Tear Dropped By," certainly is fitting on this sad day:

A tear dropped by this morning
I found it in my eye
Funny it should be there
I hadn't planned to cry.

Jean Shepard was 82.
 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

New Live Performance Music Video From Jon Pardi - "Forever and Ever Amen" (Randy Travis Cover)

JT Hodges Preps After Midnight EP For Release This Week

Artist: JT Hodges
Album: After Midnight EP
Label: Buffalo Sound
Release date: Sept. 30, 2016

JT Hodges announced via his Facebook page that he has a brand new three song EP that will be available both in a physical format and across digital retailers on 9/30. The three songs included on the project are "After Midnight," "Let's Be Ghosts," and "Drink You Down."
“I have respected country music all of my life and no matter where country music goes stylistically it will always be a lyric based format,” Hodges said.  “It’s the kind of music where people want to hear a story and feel something real and honest. I think this new music has challenged me and set a new vibe within the sound of what everyone will hear when they listen.  I personally feel it is my best music yet.”
 Hodges originally signed with Show Dog-Universal Music in 2011 and released his debut single “Hunt You Down” from his album JT Hodges.  The follow up single “Goodbyes Made You Mine” also charted.  Another single off the album “Sleepy Little Town” spent two weeks at #1 on Sirius/XM’s The Highway.  That same year Hodges was nominated as a semi-finalist in the New Artist of the Year category for the 47th Annual Academy of Country Music (ACM) Awards.
“I am looking forward to getting my new music and the story behind it out,” Hodges said. “I’m very proud of what’s being created. It’s true to me, and I think any artist would say he or she has no regrets and can hold their head high if that’s the case.”

 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

New Live Farm Aid Performance Music Video From Margo Price - "Hands of Time"

Up and Coming New Nashville - Meet Kayla Ray

Music for me is about discovery. It's about connecting the dots between songwriters, producers, musicians and artists. It's about finding out who plays in whose sandbox, making music together. It's about recommendations from those that you trust. So when Erin Enderlin (writer for the likes of Randy Travis, Joey+Rory, Alan Jackson and Lee Ann Womack and whose I Let Her Talk was one of the best things we put in our ears in 2013) reaches out to you and suggests that you need to listen to a new artist... well... you listen. Literally. When you discover that her debut record and upcoming sophomore project were helmed by the preeminent singer/songwriter out of Texas, Jason Eady, it gets your attention and draws you in more. Lucky for you, I'm paying forward that favor regarding Kayla Ray.

Texan Kayla Ray comes by her classic country roots honestly. Immersed in the likes country music giants from an early age, her influences are legends such as Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Tanya Tucker, Merle Haggard, George Jones, and Willie Nelson. Growing up in the Waco area, she had countless opportunities to perform with Johnny, Dick and Emily Gimble. And with the help of Tommy Allsup, at 19 she toured two Christmas Ball circuits with The Texas Playboys. In 2012 Kayla began tour managing and with Jason Eady’s full band. In August 2014, Kayla released her first full length album, Love and Liquor. This album, produced by her employer, and mentor, Jason Eady, is a collection of all original- and traditional- country songs. It's raw and fraught with emotional deliveries.

In 2015 Kayla was named TRRMA’s “New Female Vocalist of the Year”. She is a 4 time MACT Female Vocalist of the year and the album Love and Liquor made many top ten lists in both 2014 and 2015.

And now she's back in the studio recording her sophomore album and is looking for fans of good music to be a part of it. For another week, Kayla will be hard at work promoting her Kickstarter effort to raise the funds to go back in and cut her follow-up to that outstanding debut album.  Says, Ray, "I am thrilled to say that my friend and mentor Jason Eady will sit, yet again, in the producer's chair. His presence in the studio is an asset I cannot put a monetary value on and I am so thankful to have him. I cannot thank you all enough for your continued love and support. To call you all fans feels a gross understatement. My friends, I truly am so grateful, you make my life something I only dreamed it could be. As always, I believe in country music, what it was and what it will be again!"  (Editor's note: I've contributed and I'd encourage my readers to do the same.)

That Nashville Sound had a chance to sit down with Kayla and discuss her music and musical direction in an interview:

That Nashville Sound: From the artist's perspective, describe your music for someone who hasn't had the privilege.

Kayla Ray: Well, often I struggle with this since my music is traditionally country-based. With the current state of country music it often isn't enough to just say "country music" although I do believe there will be a day when that will no longer be an issue. Someone in a recent interview called it something to the tune of "Unapologetic, Real, Country Music". I think that's as big of a compliment as any and, it is certainly what I am striving to create.

How will this new second project be different from Love and Liquor?

Mainly due to my experiences since the release of the first album, the subject matter will be equally as truthful, but it will have over tones of the coming to age joys of jaded acceptance of the passing of time, and the losses and gains of such. Rather than the tone of Love and Liquor, which I feel as a whole, represented an endless barroom night.

Tell me about the influence Jason Eady has had on both projects.

Wow. Where do I begin? I was in college at MCC majoring in Commercial Music Management in Waco, TX and I was given the opportunity to meet Jason.

This was prior to the release of his AM Country Heaven but I was already such a fan and couldn't wait for the release of his next album. Our meeting turned into me forming close relationships with the whole band, dating the tele picker for quite a few years, (what chick singer doesn't do that at least once right?!) But most importantly, it resulted in me tour managing for Jason for almost 3 years. If you can imagine a small frizzy headed woman, some what smart-mouthed, fresh-off-the-Waco-Texas turnip-truck and barely 21 managing a tour of men- whom I still love dearly,- all across the south and into the mid west, surely you will find I was fulfilling life long country music dreams.

That band and I became like family, a closer model to "family" than perhaps I had known before. I saw states and faces I never dreamed I would. I loaded gear, sang duets, opened shows, sold merchandise, (It was) anything and everything I could do or learn how to, to perpetuate the country music happenings.

Jason produced my first album with the patience and attentiveness of a protective older brother. He was around for the birth of most all of the tunes as we were always touring together. He is always open for any advice or help I need along the way and he is never fearful to be honest with me. Even when the truth isn't what I want to hear. Both professionally and platonically, I am so thankful to have Jason Eady present in my life. His wife Courtney is someone I love and respect just as much.

I am thrilled to see what Jason has in mind for the second album, with almost 30 originals to pick from I am anxious to get to work! We are currently in the process of raising money for the second album via Kickstarter. If we reach the goal, we have plans to be back in the studio in December. Jason will again sit in the producers chair. I have been touring my L&L album full time for the last two years and no longer tour managing for Jason.

And, although we haven't been around each other as much, we stay in touch and I cannot wait for chance to spend a few weeks with my buddies tracking this next album!

What or who else has been key influencers on your music and sound?

Dick Gimble, son of the legendary fiddle player Johnny Gimble, (a genius in his own right) remains a pillar in most all of my musical choices.

Although I am young to have a deep rooted history in traditional country music, I grew up with my grandmother Myrna Joyce Raborn. She loved all traditional country music. From Bob Wills and Jimmy Rogers, up to the slicker sounds of the late 70's- early 80's. I drench myself in this music still today and it is a heavy influence on my tunes.

As always, my unwavering favorite is the mighty Merle Haggard.

How does the unique Texas music scene play a role? 

I am thankful so much for the Texas scene. The folks at home are loyal and they are supportive. They encourage and nurture artists who aren't afraid of individuality. This is a great thing for me because in a white collar world of false perception,I tend to stick out like Minnie Pearls, younger less aware, twice removed cousin. Or.... Something equally as ridiculous.

What is country music to Kayla Ray?

This is a great question, one I love to attempt to tackle. I was raised in situations where I faced much adversity early on and very consistently. My grandmother showed me the music of adults endearing the same real world blues that can be devastating to the human psyche, much less that of a child. While I won't divulge the extremes, I will say than an outlet like a beautiful melody with truth marching clear through it saved my life. Positive people that such heart wrenching music has brought to my path, such as Jason Eady, Dick Gimble, and many many others only adds to the thought that it was God, or, the higher power of your choosing, throwing me a life preserver.

I feel very blessed to be given the opportunity to create music that speaks of real life. It is my hope that I can help others not feel so isolated in their own journey, just as country music has always done for me. In a nutshell, country music is my lifeblood. The pounding of good back beat sends the fluid coursing through my veins and it is a spring that I pray never runs dry.



Monday, September 26, 2016

New Grand Ole Opry Music Video Performance From Ashley Campbell - "How's the World Treating You?"

Interview Flashback - Second Acts And Next Chapters With Jessica Harp

I have been blessed to write contributions/reviews/interviews/opinion pieces for several country music and roots-oriented websites and publications over the years including Saving Country Music, Nashville Scene, Country California, Country Weekly, American Noise, The 9513 and Engine 145. As a regular contributor to the last two in that list, I did close to a 100 interviews with different artists- and since both of those great sites have come down, I will reprint some of those interviews here to give them a home in perpetuity. This interview was originally published in January 2010 on The 9513.

Jessica Harp is hoping for that rare successful second act in music. Don Henley did it after the Eagles. John Fogerty managed it after Creedence Clearwater Revival. Paul McCartney pulled it off twice after the Beatles and Wings. 

And while no one would compare the placement of Harp in music history with some of those legends, the comparison does underscore the difficulty of finding success as a solo artist after success in a band. Richie McDonald and Randy Owen have shown that impressive credentials as lead singers in bands like Lonestar and Alabama don’t always translate easily to successful radio play or album sales as individuals. 

For Harp, this next chapter in her career comes after a wildly successful first album in 2006 with then pop-star Michelle Branch under the band name of Wreckers (a shortened form of the band name “The Cass County Homewreckers” given to the girls by Branch’s husband). The band’s first and only album, Stand Still, Look Pretty, included the Billboard number one single “Leave The Pieces.” They would go on to win a CMA for Best Vocal Duo Of The Year and a Grammy For Best Duo or Group Performance for that same single. 

Fast-forward to 2009 and Harp has had a solo single called “Boy Like Me” that has reached the Top 30 and a brand new single that has just been released called “A Woman Needs.” This latter single is the title of her to-be-released album this next spring. 

The 9513 got a chance to sit down with the lovely songstress and talk about the new album and life after the Wreckers. 

Ken Morton, Jr.- You have a brand new album that will be coming out in the coming months- tell me about the new project.

Jessica Harp- The album doesn’t have a date quite yet, it’s the new single that’s coming out soon. The album isn’t actually going to be out until early spring. It’s sort of been pushed back. It was supposed to come out in September but my record label went through a bunch of changes and it ended up getting pushed back. The record is coming out early spring, but the new single is coming out called “A Woman Needs” which is the title track for the record. It has actually been shipped to country radio so people can start to hear it. I just shot the video
for it and that will hit CMT in January. 

KMJ- Is the overall album finished and in the can or are you still working on it?

JH- Nope, it’s been finished for awhile. I would have loved to have it out a year ago, but you know how things go in the music business. It’s slow going. It’s hurry up and wait. 

KMJ- Sonically, what can we expect from the album in influences and music?

JH- I would say that for anyone who listened to me when I was in The Wreckers, I think The Wreckers sort of had a folk-country influence to it, this record is
definitely straight up more modern country. What I really love about the record is that Jerry Flowers produced my record and he’s an up and coming producer. A lot of people don’t know this, but there are about five producers in Nashville that are incredible producers but they do everything you hear on the radio. I loved having someone with a fresh set of ears produce my record because while it’s very much modern country, it sounds very fresh to me. 

KMJ- I recognize Jerry’s name as the bass player in Keith Urban’s band- did you meet him while you were on tour with Urban as part of The Wreckers?

JH- Actually, my husband and Jerry have been friends for years. When we were going on tour with Keith, my husband said, “You have to write with Jerry. He’s an incredible writer.” And Jerry and I started writing and clicked and really hit it off. He wanted to get into producing. He took a chance on me and I took a chance on him and I’m really proud of what we came up with together. 

KMJ- What I’ve heard so far is decidedly more upbeat and more energetic than what we heard from The Wreckers. Did you make a conscious effort to write songs and pick songs that had more energy to them?

JH- Definitely. I would never knock The Wreckers at all. I love that record. But I definitely experienced a country festival of 30,000 people and had a set of a bunch of sad sappy songs. One of my biggest goals when putting this record together was making a record that would be a blast to play live. 

KMJ- I know you’ve written all but three of the songs on the upcoming record. How important was it for you to tell your story on this album versus look for outside songwriters?

JH- It’s always very important. I’m a singer but I’m also a songwriter and I always have been. It’s kind of cheesy, but my songs are kind of my personal journal. They’re my little diaries. They’re very autobiographical. I like to let people know who I am through my music. If I’m going to cut an outside song, it has to be a song that I think that I could have written or something that I’ve experienced. Because when I go into that vocal booth, I have to mean it. It’s very important that there’s a lot of me in any given song or record. 

KMJ- When you’re going through catalogs on songs that you didn’t write yourself, what specifically were you looking for- what kind of songs would catch your attention?

JH- One of them was “Boy Like Me.” That was a song that Jerry wrote and played for me early on and I just loved it because it was fun and sassy and I hadn’t heard anything like that before. I wanted to cut that one. Another one was a fun up-tempo throw your hair back type of song that I thought would be geared towards a live setting. The other one was a ballad that knocked me off my feet. It’s a beautiful and incredible ballad that I can completely relate to and feel like it was something I could have written. I listened to 300 to 400 different songs while writing for the record and preparing for the recording process. Those were the three that stuck out for me. 

KMJ- I know there’s a certain Country Music Hall-Of-Famer that’s on the record with you too, isn’t there?

JH- Yes! Vince Gill was quite kind in agreeing to come play on my record. I met Vince when The Wreckers played the Opry and he was hosting. He was actually a Wreckers fan and like the record and mentioned that he’d like to collaborate someday. After I started working on my record, there was a song called “Homemade Love” that we had cut that I felt would be just perfect for Vince to sing on. I was at an awards show and sort of tracked him down and stalked him. (Laughing) “Do you remember when you said you want to collaborate? Would you still like do that?” He was gracious enough to come in and sing on it and it made the song all that more special. 

KMJ- Do you have any favorite songs or tracks on the album yet?

JH- I think that one is probably one of my favorites- not only because Vince is on it, but because it was one of the first love songs that I’ve written that I didn’t was cheesy. I’ve always had a difficult time writing love songs. It’s a lot easier writing the sad songs. I really love that song. Also, “A Woman Needs” is special because it’s about women finding their own place in life and finding their path. I can really identify with that. It really sums up the theme of the record for me. 

KMJ- The Wreckers was more melancholy in theme. This new album seems a little feistier. Is that more representative of who you are as a person?

JH- Yes. I wanted people to see different sides of me. And while there are some of the sad heartbreak songs, there are definitely more feisty songs. That is definitely a piece of my personality. I wanted people to see all sides of me as an artist as well as a songwriter. 

KMJ- What do you have planned in touring or promotion as we get closer to the album’s release?

JH- I don’t have anything set in stone yet. I’m waiting for the new single to get up and going. But I’ll definitely be touring next year and I would imagine by the spring I’ll be hitting the road. That will be the point in time we start going and won’t be home for a year. We’ll be busy. 

KMJ- You need be spending time with your husband now while you can, right?

JH- Definitely. We’re enjoying a little downtime. 

KMJ- I’ve got a Wreckers question for you. Are you still in contact and communicate regularly with Michelle Branch at all?

JH- Absolutely. Absolutely. We’re label-mates and proud of each other and proud of each other’s records. That was a long friendship so there’s no way we couldn’t follow each other’s lives and careers closely.

KMJ- I have one last question for you- and this one is meant to be a little open-ended. What is country music to Jessica Harp?

JH- Country music has always been- and it’s probably why I was drawn to it at such an early age- songs about real people and real things. They’re songs that are easily relatable and songs that mean something to people. Growing up, being a country music fan, there were always a number of songs that really meant something to me. As a songwriter, I’ve always felt like Nashville and country
music were my home. 


Friday, September 23, 2016

New Music Video From Love and Theft - "Candyland"


New Music Video From Aaron Lewis - "That Ain't Country"

The Last Bandoleros Release New Self-Titled EP This Week

Artist: The Last Bandoleros
Album: Self-Titled EP
Label: Warner Nashville
Release date: 9/23/16

The Last Bandoleros, the pop country band featuring Tejano star Emilio Navaira's sons Diego and Emilio IV, just announced the release of their debut EP. The six-track record, on Warner Bros. Records/Warner Music Nashville, is streaming now on Spotify.

The Last Bandoleros -- Jerry Fuentes, guitar and vocals; Derek James, guitar and vocals; Emilio Navaira IV, drums and vocals; and Diego Navaira, bass and vocals -- is being marketed as a country act, but the songs on their debut EP play in the shadow of The Mavericks, drawing from all kinds of different influences including Tex-Mex, country, rock and pop. 

“When we originally started we were looking for a name that had a little bit of Spanish or Mexican sort of flare … Every single word that we came up with that had a little bit of that twist to it was already taken. Finding a band name is so ridiculously difficult,” they collectively explain.
 
“We were like, ‘Well we’re not the first Bandoleros because there’s already one so we might as well be the Last Bandoleros.’ The Last Bandoleros is cooler in hindsight, anyway.”

Track listing:
 Maria
Adios
Where Do You Go?
Get Down
I Don't Want to Know
Take Me to It

New Music Video From Maggie Rose - "Love Me More"


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

New Music Video From Kelleigh Bannen - "Welcome To The Party"

New Music Video From 30 Of Country Music's Finest - "Forever Country"

"Forever Country" artist list: Alabama, Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Brooks & Dunn, Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Brett Eldredge, Vince Gill, Faith Hill, Alan Jackson, Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert, Little Big Town, Martina McBride, Tim McGraw, Ronnie Milsap, Kacey Musgraves, Willie Nelson, Brad Paisley, Dolly Parton, Charley Pride, Rascal Flatts, Reba, Darius Rucker, Blake Shelton, George Strait, Randy Travis, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban and Trisha Yearwood.

New Music Video From American Young - "Soldier's Wife"

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Dean Brody Readies Beautiful Freakshow For Release Next Month

Artist: Dean Brody
Album: Beautiful Freakshow
Label: Universal
Release date: Oct. 21, 2016

Multiple-time Canadian Country Music Association Award-winner Dean Brody has announced that he'll be releasing his sixth new record late next month. According to the press release, The new project is a combination of new and old school influences, from modern country to a classic twist with a few guests to help out.  In an interview with Stephen Cooke from Local XPress.com, Brody talked about the new project:
"This new record is kind of a conglomerate of chaos," says Brody with a chuckle. "This is the problem with me, I love writing so much that I'm always trying different things. I don't know if it's a weakness or a strength. There's a reggae song that I wrote called Beautiful Girl   as you know I love Bob Marley and I love the vibe   that has a country lyric. I try all these different things, but my lyrics are always country. I try to stick to that, and tell a country story, but I just can't sit still when it comes to sitting down in the studio and going, 'We can use a pump organ? We can used a hammered dulcimer? We can get away with this? Let's try it!' "
The eclecticism is best exemplified by the title track, which features a whistled hook, harmonica, surf guitar and a vocal contribution by Halifax rapper Shevy Price that combines the California desert with Los Angeles night life.
"It's so old school that it's new," enthuses Brody. "It's arguably the most pop song on the record, but the harmonica part is so amazing, it reminds me of a spaghetti western soundtrack. It's out there, but it's not. It reminds me of old westerns and old Hollywood. There's a baritone guitar that comes in on the second verse, and the song is all about people from two different cultures falling in love and crossing that line. It's just like Romeo and Juliet, or an interracial romance that some in society might find offensive, but it could be a beautiful thing."
Other surprises in store on Beautiful Freakshow include a fun cover of the Sam Cooke classic Another Saturday Night, and the wistful ballad Blueberry Sky, that builds to a powerful climax thanks to a guitar solo assist from one of Brody's idols, Vince Gill.
"Vince's guitar part is soooo good!" he gushes. "I followed the patterns as far as my records go, with stuff that's rooted in traditional country as well as stuff that pushes the edges. I love doing both, and with an old world country song with a Vince Gill solo, it just doesn't get any better than that; you can sense the motive and the drive that goes into it. And then Time has a lyric that is reminiscent of a Clint Black kind of song. But then we've got songs like Bush Party and Beautiful Freakshow that are more towards the Sam Hunt end of the country spectrum. That's what I love about our genre, it's the ability to infuse it with so many different instruments and production elements."

New Music Video From William Michael Morgan - "I Know Who He Is"