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It’s not just hitting licks. She’s feeling words. Lee Ann is like the kind of musician that John Coltrane was. I guarantee you if Coltrane could sing like Lee Ann, he wouldn’t have picked up a horn. ●
— “The Way I’m Livin'” songwriter Adam Wright on Lee Ann Womack.
We’re all caught in this Americana lynch wrap. I think it all started when the record companies decided that Johnny Cash wasn’t country anymore. They decided that, because he was old and had warts on his face, they wanted something young and pink and fleshy to stand up there and shimmy and shake. And when Johnny Cash stopped being country, Americana was born. We’re in good company, but it’s made up, it’s not real. We really are a country band. This is country music. ●
— Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor. The (country) band’s new album is Remedy. The whole interview with Secor and Critter Fuqua by Rolling Stone’s Marissa R. Moss is well worth your time.
It’s not that I see myself operating outside of country music in that I don’t like it, or I don’t want to be there. I’d like to think that my music would be played on country radio if it were the ’90s, when they had a lot more singer-songwriters on there, like Lyle Lovett and Mary Chapin Carpenter. Now it’s all that “bro-country,” with Daisy Dukes, beer, tailgating, and fireworks. So everybody calls me an Americana artist or singer-songwriter, along with those people who are not mainstream enough for country radio today. I think “The Highway” is a country song, but radio doesn’t hear it that way, so I’m just living on the outskirts. ●
— Holly Williams, echoing Secor, to Mother Jones.
Bob Dylan is the greatest country music songwriter of all time, whether country music knows that or not. Bob Dylan opened up America’s ears and changed song craft forever. We’re all writing and singing and listening to interpretations of Bob Dylan’s very masterful 1,001 songs. ●
— Ketch Secor to Brian T. Atkinson for CMT Edge.
If I had to define something, I would say quirky goes into my style. I started off in bluegrass, but never got to record any until years later with Ralph Stanley. The country stuff I did, there was always something about it that was a little different that might not get me on the radio, but it worked out at a different time that other artists could record them and have hits on them. ●
— Jim Lauderdale to Chuck Dauphin. We reviewed the new Lauderdale album last week.
I had a theory that — not theory, necessarily, just a belief — that when you met somebody that mentioned, “Oh, I like Gram Parsons,” it was like you had an understanding or a link with that person. It was kind of the same with George Jones. There’s something about him that stood out so much. That voice was just magic. ●
— Jim Lauderdale to Jewly Hight for CMT Edge.
It’s odd that obviously it is a theater piece, a 90-minute musical comedy. But we’re perceived much differently as a music act, and we’ve discovered that kinda by accident, as we’ve done more traditional black-box theaters versus a music club. It just works better in a music club environment. I don’t know if it somehow oddly legitimizes us and lulls the audience into a false sense of security or what. ●
— Musical satirist and “Doyle and Debbie Show” mastermind Bruce Arnston.
I’d have to contact three managers, and some lawyers and all kinds of people to come up with a reasonable answer for that. Contracts are hard to read. Attorneys are hard to get on the phone. But if you’re in a situation where you’re supposed to be making money and you’re not, buddy, it’s up to you whether you quit or not. ●
— Jamey Johnson to Peter Cooper on whether he is currently signed to a label.
It’s like whistling by the graveyard. Every day I think about my son. He passed away in 2000 and today’s his birthday. Of course I can’t quit thinking about him. But I don’t think you’re supposed to. I don’t think you’re supposed to quit thinking about the people you love. I believe when people pass, the goodness in them — you remember that. Because that’s what makes you sorry they’re gone. And the goodness in them melts into you and you become a better person for it. ●
— Billy Joe Shaver, in an especially fine Chicago Sun-Times feature by Mark Guarino.
I think, as a songwriter, I would say his music influenced my writing more than anybody else. ●
— Craig Morgan on James Taylor, who you might recall singing lots of songs like “Corn Star” and “More Trucks Than Cars.”
People think I am nuts. But I want my girls to run through the cow pasture to my mom and dad’s house. I want them to go to school where I went to school. It’s important to me to see them growing up and having a normal childhood. ●
— Justin Moore on relocating his family to his hometown of Poyen, Arkansas, population 290.
Bentley fessed up that he had said no to Luke Bryan’s multi-week No. 1 song “Drink a Beer,” Lee Brice’s award-winning “I Drive Your Truck” and Gary Allan’s chart-topper “Watching Airplanes.” ●
— Dierks Bentley has passed on some big songs.
Early on, Brantley and I… I’m like ‘He’s a f—ing superstar!’ I don’t care whether you all get it or not. [Mocks critics] ‘Well, he doesn’t sing that good.’ I don’t care what you say, he’s a star! ●
— Colt Ford, quoted in a Taste of Country piece on “How Colt Ford Has Helped Shape Modern Country Music.”
When I hear what’s going on in mainstream radio, I go, ‘Well, why can’t you play me? You play the other stuff that is exactly what I do.’ That’s frustrating to me. ●
— Colt Ford again. Different interview.
I’ve always said I want to build an empire. I don’t think my empire will be in New York City in a high-rise. My empire is more of a backyard circus tent. ●
— Miranda Lambert to Bloomberg Businessweek on her expanding business interests.
If you’ve somehow missed hearing “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood this weekend, then go hunt it up before the end of the day. Even if you don’t like country music, and even if you can only stand to hear it once a year, this is the time to do it. As an American, it’s hard not to be moved when those lyrics come to you coated in such emotion.
Country music is uniquely American and largely Southern. Its fans are devoted to our nation and all for which it stands. ●
— Some lady in Pensacola wants you to listen to Lee Greenwood this weekend.
Still, there’s been an undeniable groundswell of fans posting their very vocal criticisms of certain artists and their latest works online, often lamenting the commercial nature of the music, its tenuous connection to the roots of the country genre, and a perceived lack of lyrical substance.
But maybe that’s just too pat an argument. After all, it’s very easy to look back on the past with a certain degree of rose-colored fondness — whether it’s in pop culture, politics or social trends — and long for the good old days, when everything was better. But it also tends to be selective. ●
— The Boot’s Sterling Whitaker wonders “Is Country Music Really Getting Dumber?” (Spoiler: Since he’s writing for The Boot, the answer is No.) Then nullifies what could be a decent argument by pointing to “I’m Gonna Hire a Wino to Decorate Our Home,” Tom T. Hall’s “I Love,” and others as lyrically insubstantial tracks that country purists selectively forget. Whereas most of the tracks named are either deliberately humorous rather than accidentally stupid… or actually quite good.
Frankly, Mary Sarah looks and sounds an awful lot like Carrie Underwood: All-American cheerleader good looks and a voice blessed with not only perfect pitch but dynamic range (which, unlike Underwood, she doesn’t overuse). On Bridges, she goes well beyond holding her own against some of the greatest talents in country-music history — most of whom are admittedly getting on in years — and pretty much steals the show. ●
— Houston Press’ Chris Gray endorses Bridges (out July 8), on which 18-year-old, mostly-unknown Mary Sarah duets with a gaggle of country legends that includes Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Vince Gill, Dolly Parton, Ray Price, the Oak Ridge Boys, Ronnie Milsap, Lynn Anderson, and Tanya Tucker. Color me intrigued.
To be one of the last people to sing with him – it’s still crazy to even think about it. Again, I was nervous as all get out. He looked so cool. He had his name on his big, Texas belt buckle and starched pants with his cardigan on. He’s the only guy who could pull that off. ●
— Mary Sarah on recording “Heartaches by the Number” with Ray Price.
Q: Who’s an up-and-coming artist that many people may not know about who impresses you?
A: Cody Johnson. He’s getting back to the basics of cowboys playing country music. Imagine such a thing! [Laughs] He’s beginning to get popular with the younger crowd. I think big things are coming for him. ●
— Roger Creager. One big thing has already come: Ken Morton Jr. named Cody Johnson’s Cowboy Like Me among his best albums of 2014 so far.
I think that she is so smart and so brilliant and such a wonderful, wonderful writer. To me she is one of the best that is out there right now. I love that she is able to tap into something that feels authentic and yet speaks to truth. It doesn’t always have to be shiny and perfect and yet it is real and gracious. I love what she’s able to do. ●
— Jennifer Nettles on Brandy Clark.
I love this new @MaddieandTae song. Somethin sexy bout a little shit talkin. Keep it up girls. #GirlInACountrySong ●
— Chase Rice, correctly deducing that the best compliment a bro can pay to the singers of “Girl in a Country Song” is to call their “shit talkin” (read: having any concept of themselves as people) “sexy,”
which is (naturally) the only admirable quality to be found in a woman. Well played, bro.