- Cowboy Jack Clement’s famed home and studio, which he had dubbed The Cowboy Arms Hotel and Recording Spa, caught fire this past Saturday. All the people and pets thankfully escaped unharmed, but plenty of priceless memorabilia and unreleased reel-to-reel masters (of Johnny Cash, John Prine, Louis Armstrong, etc.) went up in flames. Very sad to hear, but I’m glad Cowboy’s okay.
- One item Clement did manage to save: a Gibson J200 guitar he bought in 1951. Coincidentally, Music Fog has just posted a video of Susan Gibson performing her ode to a seemingly charmed 1952 Gibson flat top, “The Wood Wouldn’t Burn.” Great song. It was one of our Prime Cuts a few months back.
- Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives will perform “Country Boy Rock & Roll” (a track from Ghost Train: The Studio B Sessions) on “The Late Show with David Letterman” this Wednesday night.
- Matraca Berg’s The Dreaming Fields got a 4-star review in Rolling Stone.
- Also getting some Rolling Stone love: Ashton Shepherd, who has been named an “Artist to Watch.”
- Most of my favorite songs on Jason Isbell’s latest album (“Codeine,” “Go It Alone,” “Alabama Pines”) are included in his NPR/WXPN World Cafe interview/performance spot, which you can hear here.
- The Los Angeles Times’ Mikael Wood rated Dolly Parton’s Better Day 3.5 of 4 stars:
Stylistically, “Better Day” lands somewhere between Parton’s recent bluegrass albums and 2008’s “Backwoods Barbie,” which the singer’s public-relations apparatus billed as her long-awaited return to “mainstream country.” In “Just Leaving” and “Somebody’s Missing You” she deploys rootsy string-band arrangements with banjo and fiddle, while the pumped-up power ballad “Holding Everything” sounds like Kelly Clarkson covering Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.”
- Longtime readers might recall my Two Dollar Pistols recommendation from way back when. Well, frontman John Howie Jr. is back with his new band, the Rosewood Bluff, and they’ve just put out their first album. Wilmington Star News has a feature on Howie and an audio stream of a track called “Handful of Heartaches” that all of you classic country fans will want to hear.
- Luke Bryan’s “Country Girl (Shake It for Me)” has been certified gold for digital sales of 500,000 copies. I don’t get people at all.
- Country Universe: 100 Greatest Men, #87: Billy Walker
- Wish Me Away, the documentary chronicling the build-up to and aftermath of Chely Wright’s coming out as the first openly gay country singer, took the Best Documentary award at the Los Angeles Film Festival.
- Occasional Hope covered the religious/inspirational portion of Randy Travis’ career for My Kind of Country, rating Inspirational Journey and Worship & Faith his strongest albums in that vein.
- A Truer Sound points out that all 114 minutes of the 1967 film The Road to Nashville can be viewed for free on Hulu. Includes performances by Johnny Cash, Kitty Wells, Lefty Frizzell, the Carter Family, Waylon Jennings, Marty Robbins, etc.
- Joe at the Guitars, Cadillacs blog thinks Ronnie Dunn’s “Cost of Livin'” is the pivotal, year-defining radio hit of 2011 — think “Stay,” “In Color,” “The House That Built Me.” Joe writes:
Much like those previously mentioned modern classics, “Cost of Livin’” features a bare-boned, acoustic arrangement that beautifully showcases the simple power of a great singer and a great song. But perhaps more importantly, the song’s timely and relevant story candidly captures the current mindset of so many Americans and the economic crisis which continues to haunt our nation. [...] If you don’t see your own individual story in these lyrics, you likely don’t have to look too far to find someone who can.
- Want to hear all of Gillian Welch’s new album, The Harrow and the Harvest? NPR has you covered.