The Birthplace of Country Music Museum‘s resolution for 2021? To get folks talking, thinking, and reading in the New Year with programming that engages as it entertains. Better yet, participants can enjoy this programming from the comfort of their homes – at no cost.
The award-winning museum, located in Historic Downtown Bristol, Virginia, is once again utilizing its affiliation with the Smithsonian Institution to kick off a new virtual speaker series set to debut on Tuesday, January 12 at 7:00 p.m. EST featuring guest speaker Paula Johnson, Food History Curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History (NMAH).
“Our new Virtual Speaker Series is a monthly program where we will feature a variety of different speakers, exploring the work of museums, musicians and music history, regional issues and stories, Appalachian culture, and more!” said Head Curator Rene Rodgers. “We are especially excited to be able to leverage our Smithsonian affiliation in order to host Paula Johnson as our first speaker on January 12, and we know that her focus on food and foodways is one that our community and audiences will really connect with and enjoy. It is going to be a great way to kick off the new year and this new museum program.”
The conversation will center around the power of food as a lens for exploring history and the robust food history offerings at NMAH, including Julia Child’s home kitchen, programs on food justice, and live cooking demonstrations that feature chefs, home cooks, and recipes from regional cuisines across the country. Participants will learn how what’s on our plates relates to many strands of economic, political, technological, and social history. January’s Virtual Speaker Series featuring Paul Johnson is free and open to the public, but you must pre-register online to participate. The program is part of a partnership with the Smithsonian’s American Women’s History Initiative. Future speakers include WBCM Radio Bristol on-air personality and musician Bailey George discussing the multi-faceted personas of honky tonk women (coming in February), and Alona Norwood and William Isom II from Black in Appalachia talking about their work to record and amplify Black history and stories from the Appalachian region (in March).
To register for the Virtual Speaker Series, go to the Birthplace of Country Music’s Events page at BirthplaceOfCountryMusic.org.
Virtual Story Time, a new program for children and families, will also become regularly-scheduled programming starting this month. One or two children’s books will be featured in each session, with songs and sounds, learning sheets, or other related activities kids can enjoy from home. Though Virtual Story Time is primarily geared toward children ages 3-6, it may be enjoyed by older kids and adults as a fun activity to do together. Each story has been chosen to relate to museum content, cultural heritage, and Appalachian culture. Each show will premiere on the Birthplace of Country Music Museum’s social media channels twice monthly – usually on the 1st and 3rd Friday except in January – and on the Virtual Story Time web page at BirthplaceOfCountryMusic.org/bcm-at-home. This month’s dates are Friday, January 15 and Friday, January 29. Reading aloud is a major factor in advancing early literacy skills in young children, helps in language development, and opens up children’s imagination.
Additionally, the Birthplace of Country Music Museum has rolled out its 2021 roster of great literature to be discussed on its Radio Bristol Book Club program; the show airs on the 4th Thursday of each month at 11:00 a.m. EST on WBCM Radio Bristol, which broadcasts from the museum. Unlike your typical book club, Radio Bristol’s doesn’t meet in person. The program, in partnership with the Bristol Public Library, encourages its audience to read along independently and tune in to the show. At-home readers are also encouraged to send in questions or share their thoughts about each book by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Those who do may hear their questions and opinions on-air! Books are chosen to relate to the museum’s content, music history, a current special exhibit or programming, or stories derived from the Appalachian region. Related music is often incorporated into the show and, when possible, an interview with the author is included. The first Radio Book Club “meeting” in 2021 will air on January 28 with a discussion about the biography I Saw the Light: The Story of Hank Williams by Colin Escott.
2021 Radio Bristol Book Club List:
I Saw the Light: The Story of Hank Williams
by Colin EscottFebruary 25
The Devil’s Dream
by Lee Smith
Where the Dead Sit Talking
by Brandon Hobson
Affrilachian Tales: Folktales from the African-American Appalachian Tradition
by Lyn Ford
by Robert Gipe
Satan is Real: The Ballad of the Louvin Brothersby Charlie Louvin
Sharyn McCrumb’s Appalachia
by Sharyn McCrumbAugust 26
by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song
by David Laskey and Frank M. Young
The Moon-Eyed People: Folk Tales from Welsh America
by Peter Stevenson
Hear My Sad Story: The True Tales That Inspired “Stagolee,” “John Henry,” and Other Traditional American Folk Songs
by Richard Polenberg
Songteller: My Life in Lyrics
by Dolly Parton w/ Robert K. Oermann
To access and listen to archived Radio Bristol Book Club programs, visit the show’s webpage at ListenRadioBristol.org.
The Radio Bristol Book Club can be accessed by tuning in to 100.1 FM in the Bristol area; it also streams live on ListenRadioBristol.org, and through the station’s free mobile app.
The 20th anniversary of the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion music festival has been re-scheduled for September 10-12, 2021 after being cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Tanya Tucker, Blackberry Smoke, Yola, The Steeldrivers, Rhonda Vincent, Hayes Carll, Jim Lauderdale, Amythyst Kiah and more are scheduled to perform at the award-winning event which draws more than 40,000 people to Downtown Bristol each year. Weekend passes are on sale now at BristolRhythm.com with a convenient payment plan option.
For a complete list of events and a comprehensive look at everything the Birthplace of Country Music has to offer, visit BirthplaceOfCountryMusic.org.
BCM Museum to Host Virtual Speaker Series
Starting January 12
Join the Conversation with Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History
Bristol, Tenn./Va. (January 7, 2021) – The Birthplace of Country Music Museum in Historic Downtown Bristol, Tennessee-Virginia will premiere a free Virtual Speaker Series this month, and the first installment of the series will feature Paula Johnson, Food History Curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History (NMAH) on Tuesday, January 12 at 7:00 p.m. EST. Dr. Rene Rodgers, Head Curator at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, will facilitate the online discussion, and the public is invited to attend.
“We are excited to be kicking off the Virtual Speaker Series in 2021, and we are especially excited to be starting it in January with the National Museum of American HIstory’s Paula Johnson and her focus on food and foodways, a subject that is sure to connect with our community!” said Head Curator Rene Rodgers.”This series is an opportunity for us to host and feature a wide range of speakers and topics – from music history and regional stories to technology and behind-the-scenes work at museums – and will help us to fulfill our educational mission through engaging and interesting programming.”
The conversation will center on the power of food as a lens for exploring history, and participants will learn more about the NMAH’s robust food history offerings. From Julia Child’s home kitchen and programs on food justice to live cooking demonstrations that feature chefs, home cooks, and recipes from regional cuisines across the country, find out how what’s on your plate relates to the many strands of economical, political, technological, and social history.
This program is the first in the Birthplace of Country Music Museum’s monthly Virtual Speaker Series and part of a partnership with the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative (AWHI). The mission of the initiative is to create, educate, disseminate, and amplify the historical record of the accomplishments of American Women – a diversity of women’s stories that have not been widely shared. The Birthplace of Country Music Museum is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, and collaborates with them to bring a wide variety of programming, resources, and special exhibits from the Smithsonian to Bristol that would otherwise not be available in Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee.
Future speakers in the series will include regional musician and WBCM Radio Bristol on-air personality Bailey George, who will discuss the subject of honky tonk women and their music on February 2, and William Isom and Alona Norwood who will talk about the work of Black in Appalachia and the importance of amplifying Black narratives and histories on March 2.
Again, there is no cost to attend the Virtual Speaker Series, but those interested must pre-register online to participate. For more information and to register, visit the Events page at BirthplaceOfCountryMusic.org.
About Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative
In America’s most defining moments – times that shaped constitutional rights, yielded scientific breakthroughs, created symbols of our nation – a diversity of women’s stories has not been widely told. To create a more equitable and just American society, the Smithsonian’s American Women’s History Initiative (AWHI) will create, educate, disseminate, and amplify the historical record of the accomplishments of American women. The Smithsonian wants the role of women in American history to be well-known, accurate, acknowledged, and empowering.
With a digital-first mission and focus, the initiative uses technology to amplify a diversity of women’s voices – not in one gallery or museum, but throughout the Smithsonian’s many museums, research centers, cultural heritage affiliates, and wherever people are online – reaching millions of people in Washington, D.C., across the nation, and around the world. For more information about AWHI, visit WomensHistory.si.edu.About Birthplace of Country Music Museum
The Birthplace of Country Music Museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, explores the history of the 1927 Bristol Sessions and their lasting impact on our music heritage. From the Bristol Sessions and beyond, our region continues to influence music around the world.
The museum is located at 101 Country Music Way (corner of Moore & Cumberland Streets) in Historic Downtown Bristol, Virginia. Through multiple theater experiences, film and sound, and interactive, technology-infused displays – along with a variety of educational programs, music programs, and community events – the exciting story of this music and its far-reaching influence comes alive. Rotating exhibitions from other organizations and institutions, including the Smithsonian, are featured throughout the year in the Special Exhibits Gallery. The museum is also home to a relevant digital archive.
The Birthplace of Country Music Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Sunday, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. The museum is closed on Mondays and most major holidays; call ahead for clarification at 423-573-1927.
Hello my dear friends and music lovers of all forms. I write this with immense uncertainty for the upcoming live music situation next year. I personally never made any official withdraw announcement for the website, trust me I HAVE been watching and studying things. If YOUR favorite artist released a new album in 2020, chances are I have been equally enjoying it.
Now, as I prepare to wrap up my year and revel in my many accomplishments I made in 2020 on a personal level, I study all of the festivals that have already locked in new dates for 2021.
I have been making many phone calls and sending many emails to many groups of people all over America in order to do this. the extent of my studies put me on a whole different echelon here. There are so many avenues to explore and transfer to written form, to share with you, additionally I will include the links to the festivals so you can see the information yourself.
I had to step back from things directly before the pandemic even erupted nationally, to take care of a horrible dependency to pain pills. I have many health issues, and some of them require pain management, and I had to accept the fact I cannot manage the pills responsibly. I had to enroll in a rehabilitation program, and learn how to work the twelve steps of AA meetings.
I learned that there was no difference between an addiction full blown and a dependency, and that I was once again..an addict. Therefore, I realized I had a plethora of work to do on myself in order to retain my control of my personal life. I cannot do what I do on here without a clear head, AND NOW I have 9 months sober.
I moved my daughter down to Kentucky in April from Wisconsin, and I am currently reaching her the ways of independent music. She has never been exposed to the likes of Cody Jinks or Greensky Bluegrass. In my opinion, SHE IS the future of our precious music, and exposing her to the many bands that she has never heard on any radio makes me an elated father.
I had to put aside my written duties for several months, in order to help my daughter with her personal life and set her up to succeed in life. With a young adult, you have to set them up with finances and avenues of support. When you play Monopoly you start with money, right? Right. So with all of that being said…let’s move forward with my usual assault on the corporate mainstream crap that prostitutes your FM radio.
This is NOT a final list for 2021, in fact there are more than 150 festivals I have no information for as of yet. I’ll be actively adding new festivals and dates to this article all through the spring of next year, as we see about whether or not these can even transpire.
I HAVE BEEN watching, reading and keeping up with SO MANY new releases in 2020, and my crew has been working diligently with album reviews in my absence. We will ALL be releasing a TOP 50 of the year, so be looking for those to come around the week of Christmas.
This past weekend, I took my daughter to Alabama to see the grave of one of Country Music’s greatest superstars. Hank Williams is a hero to me, as well as many and I needed to visit him and become revitalized and recharged. I needed guidance and prayers in order to move forward and still become the force that I am for local music.
Known Dates For 2021 festivals :
30 A Festival – January 14 – 17th
Mardi Gras Texas – February 16th
Bluegrass 1st Class – February 19th – 21st
Outlaws And Legends – March-19-20th
Best Little Cowboy Gathering – March 12 – 20th
Suwanee Spring Weekend – March 18 – 21st
Heart Of Texas Music Festival – March 19 – 27th
Bluegrass Heritage Festival – April 23 – 25th
Mile 0 festival – April 27th – May 1st
Larry Joe Taylor Festival – April 19 – 24th
Winter Wondergrass – April 9 – 11th
James Wimmer Bristol Spring Bluegrass – April 9th – 10th
The Calf Fry – April 27-29th
Backwoods At Mullberry Mountain – April 29 – May 2nd
Red Dirt And Barbeque Festival – May 1st
DelFest – May 27 – 30th
Roots Under The Texas Sky – May 1st and 2nd
The Western Swing Out – May 28-31st
Rooster Walk – May 27 – 30th
Dr. Ralph Stanley Memorial – May 26 – 29th
Valley Bluegrass Festival – May 1 and 2nd
Moonrunners Music Festival – May 1 and 2nd
Texas Crab Festival – May 7 -9th
Bluegrass Island Festival – May 13 – 15th
Pickathon – June 25 – 27th
Palisade Bluegrass Festival – June 11 -13th
The Blue Ox – June 10 – 12th
Back 40 folk Festival – June 3 – 6th
Mountain Music Festival – June 3rd – 5th
Pondstock At Lake Hedke – June 10 – 12th
Pagosa Folk And Bluegrass – June 4th – 6th
Stringbean Memorial Bluegrass Festival – June 17 – 19th
ROMP – June 23 – 26th
So Cal Hoedown – June 26th
Camp Greensky – June 3 – 5th
Telluride Bluegrass Festival – June 17 – 20th
Tailgates And Tallboys – June 3 – 4th
Moccasin Creek Music festival – June 17th – 21st
Laurel Cove Music Festival – June 11th – 12th
Windy City Music Festival – July 9-11th
The Great Blue Heron – July 2 – 4th
Floyd Fest – July 21 – 25th
Winnipeg Folk Festival – July 8 – 11th
Northwest String Summit – July 22 – 25th
Red Ants Pants – July 21 – 25th
Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival – July 16-19th
The Redwood Ramble – July 15-18th
Red Wing Roots Music Festival – July 9 – 11th
Under The Big Sky Festival – July 17 – 18th
Rockygrass Bluegrass Festival – July 22 – 25th
Master Musicians Festival – July 16-17th
Oyster Ridge Music Festival – July 23-25th
Podunk Bluegrass Festival – August 12-15th
Pickin’ In Parsons – August 3 – 7th
Braun Brothers Reunion – August 12 – 14th
Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival – August 13 – 15th
Fayetteville Roots – August 26 – 29th
Hoxeyville Music Festival – August 13-15th
Symco Hotrod Weekender – August 13th and 14th
Railbird Music Festival – August 20-21st
Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival – August 13 – 16th
Moondance Festival – August 13-16th
Viva Las Vegas – September 9-12th
Merlefest – September 16 – 19th
Americanafest – september 21 – 26th
Doyle Lawson Bluegrass Festival – September 24- 26th
Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival – September 19 – 26th
Earl Scruggs Memorial Festival – September 3 – 4th
Redwood Ramble – September 27-29th
Chet Kingery Memorial Bluegrass – September 4th
Festival of The Horse – September – 10 – 12th
Dumplin Valley Bluegrass Festival – September 16 – 18th
Oldtone Roots Festival – September 12 – 14th
Bristol Rhythm And Roots – September 10 – 12th
Walnut Valley Bluegrass Festival – September 12-20th
New England Shake Up – September 24 – 26th
Freshgrass Bluegrass Festival – September 24-26th
Pickin’ In The Pines – September 17- 19th
Hoopla At Devil’s Backbone – September 25 – 27th
Vine Grove Bluegrass Festival – September 23 – 25th
Firewater music Festival – Sept 30th – October 2nd
Locki’n Music Festival – October 1-4th
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass – October 1- 3rd
Hangtown Music Festival – October 21 – 24th
ACL Fest – October 1 – 10th
Old Settler’s Music Festival – October 21st – 24th
Old Mill Music Festival – November 6 and 7th
I’m physically and mentally tired from all of this year’s pitfalls. It took me many weeks to catch up on everything here at Gary Hayes Country, and I had to spend many countless hours on the keyboard to do this. Part of that task has been the literally HUNDREDS of albums I had jotted down, in my email box and word of mouth, of all which are always considered for my ever popular TOP 50.
ONE THING I NEED TO STRESS HERE : IF YOU see something new or hear something new PLEASE BUY IT on the links below. ALL OF THESE folks have been out of work for the year…I don’t believe I need to elaborate on that fact any more ardently than I already do.
ONCE AGAIN I also need to establish that none of these “positions” are better than another ( accept my TOP 5 ). I REALLY ENJOYED these 50 albums in every way, and they contained songs that spoke to me more than others. I am not including all of the albums that make me ” look cool in the scene “, nor did I forget such and such albums. These are what I LIKED, and I’m NOT trying to be a benevolent dictator or shove anything down your throat. These albums satisfied my palate and my longing for real Country, Bluegrass, Rockabilly and a few more genres.
We have a BUNCH of new projects that will emanate out of 2021, and in the next few weeks I have SO MUCH to share with you. I certainly hope you enjoy these albums as much as I did and do. As always, I want to take the time to THANK YOU my dear friends, for reading my website. TIME….Time is very precious and it is indeed a special gift. Thank you for yours, from the bottom of my heart.
Album Of The Year
1. John Anderson Years.
OK I’m going to write about this album more than the others for many reasons, but the main one is the absolute immutable beauty of Mr. John’s vocals. Time has not faltered his pleasant but soaked in sin signature vocal style on this album. From the very first note he sings, you can immediately ascertain…”That’s John Anderson”.
There is a passionate desideratum in my heart and soul for this man and his ilk, and it should also exist within Country Music itself as a whole. With as many stars as 2020 has eradicated from us, I feel it is VERY integral to not only hold this man dear..but to let him know he IS NEEDED RIGHT NOW.
He physically labored to finish the vocals for “Years” because he has been having some surgical issues going on ( they haven’t divulged any information ) but he almost didn’t wake up. In fact, his wife stressed the fact he in fact flat lined three times. During his health scare, his website states that he lost his sense of pitch, and the ability to recognize his own songs on the radio. If you don’t mind I’d like to include some from his own website:
During his period of recovery, Anderson got a phone call out of the blue from Auerbach, who was simply calling as a fan, inspired by a conversation with David Ferguson (co-producer) about great singers. When Anderson later met them both in person at Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound studio in Nashville, they clicked as a unit immediately. On the spot, Anderson – a Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee — accepted an invitation to write the next day.
That first co-write yielded “Years,” an emotional centerpiece of the album sung from the perspective of a man with some miles on him. “I recall thinking to myself, ‘This is a pretty good song,’” Anderson says. “But we know there’s a lot of good songs that get written, and a lot of them never get heard. Nevertheless it was off to a good start.”
Auerbach kept setting writing dates with collaborators like Joe Allen, Pat McLaughlin, and Paul Overstreet. At Anderson’s request, Auerbach sang the work tapes. Instantly recognizing the caliber of the songs, Auerbach offered to make an album with studio players like Gene Chrisman, Dave Roe, Russ Pahl, Billy Sanford, and Bobby Wood. Although he had produced or co-produced his own albums since 1981, Anderson put his trust in Auerbach.
“I booked the session and here I’ve got a room full of musicians, and I really didn’t know if he was going to be able to hear in the headphones,” Auerbach remembers. “But we got him behind the microphone, he started singing and it was pure magic. His voice is like caramel magic coming out of those speakers.”
Listening to Anderson’s vocals on Years, it would be impossible to guess that anything was amiss. Delivered in that distinctive, rich baritone, “Celebrate” provides a perspective of gratitude while “Slow Down,” “All We’re Really Looking For” and “You’re Nearly Nothin’” are some of the most eloquent love songs he’s ever recorded.
Meanwhile, “I’m Still Hangin’ On” conveys the realities of a soldier living with PTSD, while “Tuesday I’ll Be Gone” – a breezy duet with good friend Blake Shelton – captures the joy of just getting away from it all. The rambling vibe of “Wild and Free” and irresistible rhythm of “What’s a Man Got to Do” feel like they’ve been in Anderson’s repertoire all along. Beyond Years, the sessions also yielded a rewarding new friendship between the artist and producer.
“John will sing it as many times as you want. He wants it to be great, but the thing is, once he starts singing, it’s almost right there, right from the first lick,” Auerbach says. “I feel incredibly lucky that I even had to the opportunity to make a record with John Anderson, let alone have all this meaning to it.”
Anderson adds, “We went in the studio, and I remember saying, ‘I’m going to do this like it might be my last.’ It still could be, but now the chances of that are getting slimmer and slimmer every day. I’m doing better so I’m not hardly thinking that way anymore. That’s a blessing, too.”
So now you might see just how integral this album is.
I’d like to take this portion of this to write my sentiments on the album as a whole. I truly loved 2015’s “Goldmine” And it made my TOP 50 of 2015. But he topped his last studio album with flying colors here.
It opens with a slow and poignant ballad called “I’m Still Hanging On”, about a soldier with PTSD. He makes the song believable, and he portrays the subject VERY well..you think he is singing about himself, and reflecting on his numerous fugatious peers of the 80’s.
When I finally heard the song “Years” on this album, I had to pull over and cry. I have crept past 50 myself, and the years have decayed my body along with diabetes. However my mind is sharp, and my memory is remained.
“What’s A Man Got To Do” is a song that came straight out of his prime here. I mean the lyrics and the twang on his vocals is just absolute gold. This male driven song that touches on our appetency to have their attention, spoke to me as a person.
“Slow Down” also sounds like a classic 80’s slow dance song. This album has an absolutely perfect ending here, and the only overall complaint from me was the length. At just over 30 minutes, it was a short but integral piece of 2020, and I thank Mr. John from the heart for being such a big part of my youth, and my life. It’s people like HIM that inspired me to build THIS WEBSITE.
2. Chris Stapleton Starting Over
This album is not aptly named, it should be called rocketing forward, in my opinion he started over on “Traveler”. It’s a perfectly done 53 minutes of heaven, that is embraced not only in the realms of mainstream music, but it has trickled into the underground as well.
I mean produced by Mr. Dave Cobb, and includes Mr. Paul Franklin on steel, simply supports my personal theory of what encapsulates a perfect Country album. Those three pillars are songwriter, producer and steel guitarist, as Mr. Willie Nelson does on “Red Headed Stranger”. ( Which if you read further you will see ).
“Devil Always Made Me think Twice” truly spoke to me as a recovered addict, whom is still struggling to roll into my one year chip mark. I’m not going back into the drug life again, but the Devil is always whispering in that ear about how great the high was. No matter your personal choice, that demon is always there.
“Arkansas” is another high fueled song that embellishes this album as the true gem it is. This is not a traditional Country album per se, rather a rootsy soul filled volume of tales of stray dogs like “Maggie’s Song”. In today’s times of doom and gloom, society really needed this album.
He co wrote 11 of the 14 total songs, and he included a really neat pun within the entire song list, combining the 2 songs “You Should Probably Leave….and Nashville Tennessee”. I think those sentiments combined with the album’s arrangement propelled him onto Mr. Sturgill Simpson’s radar, where he joined him on Saturday Night Live…speaking of Mr. Sturgill..
3. Sturgill Simpson Cuttin Grass volumes 1 and 2 .
I had so many choices here in 2020, I didn’t feel the need to separate the two albums at all. However in this two album match up I felt volume 2 was by far the better of the two, accept for volume 1 containing my favorite song of all from High Top Mountain…”Old King Coal’. If you ask me of my personal opinion, that was his best offering to date…however, to hear these songs from a whole new echelon is simply genius artistically AND from a marketing standpoint..I mean WHY NOT sell the same song TWICE?
The other quandary I had was how would ( or would he even try ) he pull off turning songs from Sound And Fury into this? Even though he didn’t he still amazed me, and satisfied my desires of selections from the first 3 albums. He totally revitalized his classic songs like “Railroad Of Sin” and “Turtles All The Way Down”, with an all star cast of Bluegrass heavyweights:
- Mike Bub – upright bass
- Stuart Duncan – fiddle, background vocals
- Mark Howard – background vocals, lead guitar, rhythm guitar
- Sierra Hull – mandolin, background vocals
- Miles Miller – percussion, background vocals
- Tim O’Brien – background vocals, lead guitar, rhythm guitar
- Sturgill Simpson – vocals, rhythm guitar
- Scott Vestal – banjo, background vocals
So, with an all star cast like that, WHY WOULD these albums NOT BE successful from a marketing standpoint? Well it was..IN FACT as of right now he has 2 albums simultaneously on the charts.
I cannot really tell you anything different about the meaning of the songs, that I haven’t already said about these individual albums. Just that I got to hear them all from a different musical arrangement, and that was exciting!
4. Elizabeth Cook Aftermath.
I think the world of Miss Elizabeth Cook, and what she means to local Nashville. In a way I consider her to be a local Legend, along with folks like Mr. Greg Garing and Mr. Boo Ray ( whom she has made GREAT music with ). Her ardent love for the Opry and for the local bars that I love, and for the city that no matter how others view it, is adored by me.
I’m going to completely honest here, my favorite album she has made was “Balls”..but this album REALLY rivals as her best offering to date. Aftermath gives me a good prospicience to her future, and I will continue to scream at the Opry to induct her, and a few other ladies into it’s fold. It’s my onus as a father to leave my daughter with a solid Country Music regime, as my elders left for me.
I know that some people may be critical of my choices here, out of saying many of my choices aren’t Country…and I could care less. This album painted a LOT of pretty scenes into my mind, when I sat back and just LISTENED to the stories on here.
This past February I had to check into a rehab center for a pill addiction, and the song “Bad Decisions” gives me goosebumps. I was slipping away from my website here, and I lost all of my fire. I felt like she was signing about ME on the song there, and I personally relate to ALL of those that suffer from dependency.
“Daddy, I Got Love For You” showcased the signature Elizabeth Cook vocals I know and love as a fan, and the most cleverly written song on the album for me was “Stanley By God Terry”. All of these songs here are pretty long to listen to, so unless you are an ardent music lover like me, it may divert your attention. But if you love a damn good story song, this album is loaded with gritty stuff!
The last song “Mary, The Submissing Years ” was one of the most beautiful songs she has ever put out, and I would love to hear her sing this one on the Opry. I know she would, because that is what’s in her heart.. stories and love for the tradition of Country Music.
5. Joshua Ray Walker Glad You Made It.
Every Country Music website I read speaks very highly of this young man, and justifiably so. He has been busting his ass in the Texas music scene for over a decade now, playing a whopping 250 shows a year, solo and as a sideman.
He and his producer Mr. John Pedigo brought us one ball buster of a Country album here, complete with beer joint tunes complimented by the sweet tone of Mr. Adam Kurt’s steel guitar. I’ll admit, he has become one of my favorite songwriters today.
He possesses a signature lonesome twang in his vocals, that differentiates him from others in the scene. You juxtapose that with habile songwriting, and you have honky tonk thumpers like “Bronco Billy’s”. It’s chocked full of bull riding stories, old fashioned drinking songs and tanned up floozies selling boats…like a redneck statue of liberty…what a line!
This album has some overall veridical stories of the darker side of life, and the cream doesn’t always rise to the top…sometimes the cream is just foam! “Play You A Song” talks about just that, however the song that GRABBED ME was “One Trick Pony”. That gorgeous piano work along with the two step thump, along with the fact that ( like me ), he is a janissary of Traditional Country Music.
6. Willie Nelson Red Headed Stranger Live From Austin City Limits.
Country Music Legend Mr. Willie Nelson is one of the few Legends that still remain with us today, after all of the crap 2020 has dealt us here. Time has taken a plethora of our Legends, so like my number 1 pick, this album is integral to my TOP list. In fact I will go so far as to say that this album in it’s studio form is the greatest album in Country Music history.
This album was released on TWO BIG DATES. One of those dates was one of the three Record Store Day drops of the year. Due to the virus this year, there was not only one entire day. Instead there were three different drops throughout the year, and this was one of them. The second date was the fact that it was released in 1975, so in today’s day, it is 45 years old.
Willie Nelson has appeared Austin City Limits more than any other artist, and this entire album’s performance was captured in 1976, as he performed the album complete from front to back onstage. It also encapsulates his classic family band in their prime, and on their highest echelon of talent.
Even though I have an acute appetency to talk about the songs of this album piece by piece, I do not feel the need to at this time other than some rare facts about the songs themselves. The title track was not even originally intended for Nelson, but instead was written for Perry Como. The rest of the album was originals and old songs mixed together to form a concept album about a preacher turned killer after his wife leaves him for an old flame.
Despite the pleas of MGM Records, Nelson decided to go against their wishes and the album was released as he recorded it. The gamble turned out to be an astronomically historic event, as it earned gold sales, and huge critical acclaim for it’s time.
7. Ashley McBryde Never Will.
This year had quite a few albums turn up on underground lists, that are more mainstream than anything else and this young lady is no exception to that rule. Fortunately, she has become a mirific beacon of hope to thousands like me that wish to bring the real music to a much larger audience.
This album came into fruition early in 2020, but right away when I heard the song “First Thing I Reach For” , which she wrote with Mr. Randall Clay and Mr. Mick Holland , quickly became one of the year’s BEST songs for me. It’s just a damn fine old fashioned honky tonker about all those wonderful sins of the flesh.
One of the first singles from the album was “Martha Divine”, which was an uptempo murder ballad, directed toward her father’s side lover. However I’m going to be honest here..her best vocals on this entire album were on the song “Velvet Red”. I enjoyed all of these 50 albums on this list equally, and not one is any more or less equal in value to me.
8. Rachel Brooke The Loneliness In Me.
I have been doing this website for about 12 years now, and very few of these on this TOP LIST hold the history with me, like Miss Rachel does. My love of non mainstream music began culminating long before I discovered her, however she heavily proliferated my love for it when I did find her. She sings like an angel, as fierce as a lion, and will weave poignant tales of misery…in a heavenly manner.
This album opens with a real kick in a man’s privates, as she croons about making her man cry in a seductive, but poignant fashion. This entire album is once again classic Rachel Brooke, and it is quite possibly her best album to date.
Although I equally enjoy her work with Lonesome Wyatt ( of Those Poor Bastards), the lapse in her last two albums had me salivating for new music. There are old time two steppers like the middle song “Picture On The Wall”, complete with some downright amazing piano work to compliment it.
Another high point of this album is the song “The Awful Parts Of Me”, funny thing about a line like “down at the bottom of your dried up wishing well” being a high point, right? Well it’s just that songwriting mastery combined with her signature vocals that make this album nothing short of amazing. In my opinion she will always be the queen of local music!
9. American Aquarium Lamentations
This was another album by a band that I hold in high regard, that is their finest album to date. The first song fades into a grand picture of rural America, and any middle aged person can easily identify with it..I mean WHO DOESN’T wonder if God has abandoned them? WHO HASN’T heard these politicians promise false jobs? I know I have, and I thought “Me And Mine ( Lamentations)” is one of their best songs ever. I loved it that much!
A lot of good feel good songs adorn this album like the song “Starts With You” which barrels right into “Brightleaf And Burley” which REALLY spoke to me as a middle Kentucky resident. Those farmers are getting screwed over every chance the Government gets, and hell I LIVE IN tobacco town U.S.A.
Another fact that makes this album so very good, is the fact that Ol Mr. Shooter Jennings produced it..in fact he produced A BUNCH of good albums this year. He is accumulating a TON of accolades for his work he is doing, and their combination is ringing true on songs like ‘the Luckier You Get”.
This band has grown by leaps and bounds in the last few years, and right now they are a well oiled machine cranking out some of their best tunes yet. “The Day I Learned To Lie To You”, as an addict this song makes me stomach sick. I can not fathom ever hearing this one live. I lied to so many people I loved, and took working the steps several times to make up all those shortcomings.
10. Jesse Daniel Rollin’ On
Now, for anybody that knows me and knows me well..just KNOWS I LOVE Country Music. I love most forms of it, and this young man is a loyal follower of the subject like I am. His albums are basically stripped down beer drinking music, and that is an endearing quality in my opinion. I want to publicly say that I have copious amounts of love and respect for this man and his music.
This album goes right into truck driving songs and twang filled drinking songs, that would have been equally accepted 40 years ago, as I accept them now. “If You Ain’t Happy Now (You Never Will Be)”, is a modern day masterpiece about not lamenting in the past. It is a good lesson in being content in the moment, but it is also the musicianship that makes this song…and album so good. And the fact that Mr. Tommy Detamore produced it, makes it an echelon better.
“Rollin’ On” is a rowdy ass classic Bakersfield sound truck driving song, or it can be taken as a true old fashioned road dog song. It makes me want to plug in the album, start my car and drive…..really….really…fast. It even has a good old instrumental.
BUT HEY It has a song that opens with a fiddle filled double stop, called “St, Claire’s Retreat”, and an in the doghouse song called “Bringin’ Home The Roses”. How many times have us husbands and boyfriends stayed out drunk, and had to come crawling home with flowers? There’s a good line in there that he might need those flowers more for himself ( meaning his gave ).
11. Tami Neilson CHICKABOOM!
It’s time once again for me to divert away from the more Traditional Country, and steer your attention over to some of the choices I made that were more Rockabilly and Country derivatives. Now, in 2008 I remember her first album Red Dirt Angel, and in these years it has been cool to watch her evolve..and to be honest I think this album has been VASTLY overlooked by everyone else.
“Call Your Mama” is one of my favorite female songs of 2020, but so was “Ten Tonne Truck”. It contains a clever line that when the pie gets bigger, everybody wants a slice…but I been cooking since back in 89. I mean, that is a terrific line about hard work. She is defiantly not afraid to sing about how hard she has paid her dues to get here.
“16 Miles Of Chain” was another good song in the middle of this album that stands out to me. As a divorced man of many years I truly related to this song here, and her vocal range was outstanding on this as well. It steam rolls right into a song called “Tell Me That You Love Me”, a true Rockabilly anthem, but yet it meanders into a wistful ballad like “Any Fool With A Heart”. This album will leave a sapid flavor into anybody’s vinyl collection.
12. Ward Davis Black Cats And Crows.
Ever feel so down on your luck lately? Ever listen to a song that describes someone whom is under the ball and chain of addiction? Well TO ME “Black Cats And Crows” is. I am not totally sure if he meant it to speak to me about my past addiction ( I’M ALMOST ONE YEAR CLEAN), but I felt like that on pills. There was no light and no way out, the Devil wanted me to believe I could not escape the clutches of the pills…but it did. This album came out right after my rehab, and I used it to help me.
“Colorado” is one of his trademark songs that has quickly been embraced by all of us as a local music anthem. But let me tell you what it means to me..a few years back I was supposed to go to Colorado to meet my birth mother ( I am adopted), and I think of Colorado often. Days before I was supposed to go, she changed her mind and didn’t want to meet me. So once again, I know that he has a different meaning for this song…it makes me cry.
One of the songs he began playing live at shows that ended up on this album is called “Papa And Mama”. This one is about an abusive father and husband, seen through the eyes of their son. As time passes the man continues the abuse, until the son has enough and kills his father. The song comes to a close during a visit to the prison between the son and the mother.
Mr. Ward is one of the most overlooked songwriters today, and if Nashville had any brains it would be more kind to him and his ilk, because he is well on his way to becoming a Legend. These 14 songs on this album are reminiscent of many of the Country albums we grew up with, and the wonderful writers that penned those songs. Mr. Ward is along that caliber of a writer, and delivers his cuts in his own fashion making his version of his song unique.
13. Steve Earle Ghosts Of West Virginia
There are a few artists out there as multi sided to me as Mr. Steve Earle and his antics. Equally unpredictable is his music with me, it’s either hit or miss. This time he hit the mark with me on an anthem for coal miners. As a father, my heart goes out to him, and I cannot begin to fathom the loss he feels. NO PARENT should bury their child..EVER. I have always been a fan of some of his music, and this album which was a concept album of sorts, was one of his best overall.
It focuses on the Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion that transpired in 2010 and killed 29 men. All of these songs together examine the historical role of coal in rural communities, and the political aspects of why many of them voted the way they did years ago. He wanted to speak to them on their own terms, in his own way.
It was a short album at only 30 minutes, but it was extremely redolent of regular life in the Appalachian region of the United States with songs like “Union, God And Country”. See the coal miners have a true brotherhood about them, and this album boasts of that honor, as he mentions all of their names passionately as he continues on “It’s About Blood”.
“Black Lung” two words every miner wants to avoid, and it laments the sorrow and pain behind laying around dying of it. Black Lung is caused by breathing the air in the coal mines, deep beneath the Earth. Mr. Steve’s gritty vocals on this album compliment the poignant subject matter here, and make this album pure gold.
14. Jaime Wyatt Neon Cross
Usually with many artists I do not enjoy their second album as wholeheartedly as their first, but in this instance, Miss Jaime knocked it out of the park the second time around. It starts out kind of slow with “Sweet Mess”, and I had to listen really close to get sucked into it…but it happened. We all have shattered breakup songs like this one, where we know we are forgotten.
“Neon Cross” was an amazing asking to be released song, so her soul can gravitate to the neon lifestyle she identifies with as a Country singer. Pitiful perfume, dark glasses, gold liquor and alligator shoes,” describes Miss Jaime quite well I think.
“Just A Woman” is one of the slow songs that adorn this album, filled with wonderful guest stars, like Miss Jessi Colter and my buddy Mr. Shooter Jennings who produced this album. Another of the songs that she is merchandising heavily off of is “Rattlesnake Girl”, which is indeed one of the high points of the album for me.
She has grown in her songwriting skills, and her vocals are also evolving quite well. She has found her niche in Country Music now, and I hope in the future she capitalizes on all of this, to become a juggernaut…after all SHE IS a rattlesnake girl!
15. Corb lund Agricultural Tragic
I personally LOVE Mr. Corb Lund’s music..I love it all. I relate to the “Old Men” that I love to learn from, they make the best corn liquor and can teach the best lessons. The duet on here with Miss Jaida Dreyer “I Think You Oughta Try Whiskey” is a downright heart raising honky tonk thumper that is sure to quench your thirst for good Country Music.
“Grizzly Bear Blues” is a good old fashioned jam, his lyrics are not very complex, just good old fashioned Country from the great white north (Canada to be exact). These 12 songs are nothing short of amazing, choked full of stories about famed western author Mr. Louis L’Amour. I spent many a nights reading his paperback books, not ever gunfight was won by the good guys for sure!
I love to just sit back and dwell on his western stories and prairie dog tales. They make me happy, and I listen to them when I don’t want to journey into things that are extremely complicated. When I just want to be a part of nature, whether it be as a predator or an observer…Mr. Corb never fails to disappoint me and I admire him for that.
16. Porter Union Loved And Lost
These two are a rare overlooked treasure for sure, and to begin with the song “Laundry” was one of the best songs of the year, right off the bat. A well written, twisted plot tale of cheating…and checking your pockets. Now, mind you these two have kind of gone on a hiatus for personal reasons. That by no means makes this album any less integral, and I pray with all my heart they return. These are two genuine good people sing genuine good music.
They don’t necessarily make music in a “duet” from per se, they kind of flip all over the board with songs like “We Got It Right”. I took this song from the stories of them meeting one another, but you can change it to speak to you as well.
To me, this album starts with “Loved And Lost”. Even though I do not have anybody to really love me as a man, and sometimes I am past that need where you accept the fact you are alone. It has a song called “Pennies” that I compared to an old Porter Waggoner song, but these lyrics are WAY deeper..and I KNOW that Mr. Porter himself would have LOVED this album.
And then we have the guest spot by a former TOP lister Miss Kayla Ray. Yes, this album is choked full of amazing, well written songs. Once again I MUST RAVE about how the song “Laundry” makes me cry some honky tonk tears. MEN GET CHEATED ON TOO, and secretly many of them don’t want to admit it…but they hit us too.
17. Brent Cobb Keep ‘Em On They Toes.
This young man couldn’t make a bad album or write bad songs in any way. “Shut Up And Sing” is a good answer song to the people that complain of politics in the music. It talks heavily about the current state of affairs in society. I just flat out enjoy this man’s vocals and it makes me RELAX and slow down, and sometimes that’s what a record is supposed to do.
“This Side Of The River” is another one of those songs that introduces him to us as a person, as the other albums mentioned places he grew up at. Miss Nikki Lane makes this album a true gem as she adds her vocals to the song “Soapbox”. He illustrates the need to vocalize your opinions are not as needed as to get off the soapbox and get along.
“The World Is Ending” was a good ending to a good album, it’s a good calm and easy feeling type song. Lastly, it goes into a good one called “Little Stuff”. It’s just a simple song about simple things in life, more often than not we let life overwhelm us, and all of the stress of our problems drive us off the deep end.
18. Zephaniah Ohora Listening To The Music.
Parts of this album I got to hear in the early stages, during the Ameripolitan Awards and I got to chat with him about it as well. I knew quite a bit about this album before it came into fruition. It was produced by Mr. Neal Casal and amazingly enough it was recorded in New York, and shortly after they finished the recording Mr. Neal passed away.
“Black And Blue” is a song about the stubbornness of lovers, and it goes right into the “It’s Not That Easy Today”. I guess going into old troubled relationships were easier the first few times, “like a worn out pair of shoes”. Once we REALLY look at ourselves into the mirror we sometimes see our true honest selves.
The title track here is a veridical perception of some of life’s ups and downs growing up in a place you weren’t really born and raised in. I did the same thing as a young adult. I would sit and listen to those old records, and lament that I was born too late to meet these heroes.
Songs like “Living Too Long” showcase his influences, as he sings his own songs in the style of a few old heroes I can hear. At the same time I always try to base my opinions on their own artistic ability, not just who they are influenced by. The steel guitar work on the song “You Make It Easy To Love Again” was amazing, and the words are nothing short of stunning.
19. David Adam Byrnes Neon Town
This album was a late entry that was sent to my email, and I am blown away by this one here! It truly is a genre crossing project that could be embraced by Traditional Country or Red Dirt, with well written songs that target all the right audiences. I can easily see today’s ladies enjoying the song “I Can Give You One”, while a guy like me can enjoy the up tempo beat, and the steel guitar work.
A good lost her breakup song on here is “She Only Wanted Flowers” made this album stand out above the rest of them, but the song called “Signs” was hands down one of the top 10 songs of 2020. I mean, I played it so many times my buddies at work know the words by heart.
If today’s Country could ever pull it’s head out of it’s ass, it could have this young man and folks like Mr. Jon Pardi filling the radio with songs everyone can understand like “Tequila Salt And Time”. If he ever outdoes this album “I Ain’t Seen It Yet”..
20. Dalton Mills Dalton Mills
This is another album that almost slipped under my radar, and I got a heads up from my buddy Mr. W.B.Walker, as he and I always swap music we know each other will admire. Boy, was he correct here..we have an up and coming dynamo here…let me tell you why.
This one starts out with “Tornadoes” now as a factory worker of 15 years, the first line grabbed me. As a recovered addict, I know VERY WELL about the company I kept bared a lot on me. When you loose faith in yourself, you cannot win. “John On The Run” was full of gravely vocals and quick hammer on notes, but it had a hidden meaning to others out there. It’s not easy to love or support an addict, this song suggests that, but it has a poignant end.
This album is full of well written tragedy and pain. “Outta Tune” is a very good picking tune with some good flow to it. It teaches us to look at both the good and the bad, but it flips to songs like “Too Many Dreams”.
That song is outstanding in every aspect, and is a classic story of a hard working man that destroyed himself. A story of a farmer with lots of dreams and even more demons, and some damn fine guitar work. I relate well with this song as well because I know my job is killing me as well.
21. Southern Culture On the Skids Kudzu Records Presents.
This is a breakthrough album in history, as they release their VERY RARE 2003 45 RPM box set (only 1000 exist). This new remastered album has been expanded to 12 songs…6 are new. This band is one of the few I BEGAN this musical journey with, and I owe them a big deal of gratitude. This band is just as integral to me as Split Lip Rayfield, Robbie Fulks and The Old 97’s.
All of the songs here are recorded quite well, and the opening song called “Whip It On Me”, brought me right into the feel that I enjoy from their music. Now, right off the bat I’ll begin by saying I do not collect 45s. I’m not really sure what songs were in the box set.
To a serious collector, this will not be a new album..but as of now I haven’t heard most of these yet. “Lost Weekend” was a great middle of the album song, every regular American waits for the weekend so they can wasted all weekend. If you keep drinking at the bar, you cannot afford a wife alright!
“Just Like I Treat You” is another one of them I liked a lot as it spirals toward the end of the album here. It’s just your typical relationship song, common sense male and female stuff. The album closes with “Jesus Took My Burden”, even though it had a few covers, I STILL LOVED this album and I bet you will too!
22. Clint Black Out Of Sane.
The amount of great albums that came out this year from some of the stars of the 80s and 90s was plentiful. Now, this album was one of those that amazed me. I did really like this album and to be honest it was one of his finest albums in some time.
“Hell Bent” is a great song to begin this ride with, and it displays his flawless vocals. Trust me, I am so very excited to see this, and hear this album. It makes me so very elated to see these names back onto my TOP lists. This is his first album in over 5 years, and his 23rd studio album.
“America (I’m Still In Love With You)” is another high point of the album, along with the toe tapping “Can’t Quit Thinkin'”. It immediately took me back to the days of all of the denim and dusters of my own local Country bar…my much younger days.
23. Arlo McKinley Die Midwestern.
Mr.Arlo was the last artist that Mr. John Prine and his son Mr. Jody both signed on Oh Boy Records, and this album was produced by Mr. Matt Ross-Spang. Now, if you have ever been to one of his shows, you will remember some of these songs. I myself heard him perform “Bag Of Pills” many times.
These ten songs were recorded in Memphis, and as I stated he has been playing most of them for many years. As a recovered addict, I myself have always related to “Bag Of Pills”. As 2020 passes, one of the greatest accomplishments was my sobriety from a pill addiction.
“Gone For Good” is another song that he has been playing for some time now live. He must have wrote that one after a long relationship, that must have had an abrupt ending. Right now, he is in his prime of everything and gaining steam every day. This album is by far his best offering yet, and I REALLY enjoyed it.
“Die Midwestern” is about his town of Cincinnati (which I myself love to visit being a Bengals fan), and the ups and downs of living there. It’s interesting to hear these songs from his perspective.
24. Mike And The Moonpies Touch Of You: The Lost Songs Of Gary Stewart.
Most people that ardently love Country Music know whom Mr. Gary Stewart was and how he embellished the genre as the King Of Honky Tonk. He is often vastly overlooked and unknown by many, and this album features 10 songs previously slated to come out at a later date.
Mr. Gary committed suicide in 2003, while mourning the death of his wife from pneumonia. His death rocked the Country Music realm, and left a gaping hole in the honky tonk area there. He wrote so many wonderful songs that he recorded, and many others cut as well.
Trying to place Mr. Gary’s vocals into these wonderful songs is the other half of the fun. “Bottom Of The Pile” is a song about a bar that workers go after the work bell rings for the day. However, the best song on this album for me was “The Gold Barstool”. The album was released on his May birthday, and produced by Mr. Adam Odor.
It features many other names on it like Miss Courtney Patton, Miss Jamie Lin Wilson, and more on some of the songs. The band itself did wonderful justice to the songs, and I’m quite sure Mr. Gary would have been so very proud of this album. I have gained a LOT of respect for mike And The Moonpies for their passionate gesture toward such a beautiful legend.
25. Jeannie Seely An American Classic.
Once again we encounter another true Country Music Legend among the ranks of my TOP 50 list. Not only is it important to enjoy and promote these albums, but I find many of them better than what is “popular” in the underground scene. We just do not have many of the Opry Grand ladies left, and I hope the Opry rekindles that spark here.
So many other big names adorn this album here like The Whites and Mr. Steve Wariner on the powerful song called “If You Could Call It That”. Anybody that does the regular work life can identify with this one. At the same time she is going through the motions of a breakup. Her vocals and ferocity in her tone were just flawlessly captured here on this album.
“When Two Worlds Collide” was one of her classic duets songs with the great Legend Mr. Bill Anderson. Everybody knows the subject and style of this song here, followed by a good song called “Old Flames (can’t Hold A Candle To You)” with another up and comer named Mr. Waylon Payne.
This album closes with so many good old fashioned two steps and ballads, and ANY TOP LIST that omits this album is foolish. It stands out like a shining beacon of true Country Music bliss in a modern day dumpster fire of “modern country music”…enough said.
26. The Panhandlers
This is Red Dirt’s biggest super group, and one of the damn finest albums that came out in 2020, the songs were well chosen and well written. “West Texas In My Eye” is about the life of a musician, and they take turns on the verses like many 4 member bands do. That fact doesn’t make me loose sight of the meaning of the song, which was what I was afraid of.
“The Flatland Life” is another good toe tapper with smooth vocals and even smoother fiddle work. The fiddle and banjo push this song forward quite nicely, as it goes into songs like “West Texas Girl”. That is a slow moving waltz with more well written lyrics. It painted a truly awesome picture in my mind of a ride with a honky tonk queen, a SINGLE one at that, and a fan of the jukebox. This song was perhaps one of the top 10 songs of 2020..just amazing.
This album is filled with truly amazing story songs that I love myself to be honest, I’m hoping you do too. “Cactus Flower” was a good one but it’s the almost 5 minute long closer called “Caprockin'” that is a grand finale.
27. Billy Don Burns The Country Blues.
Just like Mr. Arlo, I got to hear many of these songs before this album culminated. This is another terrific album from a Country Music Legend…folks, I’m going to proclaim this from the highest mountaintops. WE MUST pay mind to these few Legends we have left NOW. WHEN are we going to WAKE UP and acknowledge their contributions to this genre?
These 12 songs that were recorded and released this year from Mr. Billy were absolutely timeless classics, and I enjoyed this album ever so much. It has a bunch of songs he wrote with Songwriting Legend Mr. Mack Vickery like “No Shortage Of The Blues”.
He also cut the Billie Gant song called “No God In Juarez” , that we all have been enjoying all of these years. However, one of the songs that hit me here was “The Prison Song”. I remember VERY well when Mr. Billy went on his vacation. WE ALL wrote him and visited, and he wrote me back.
Another song on this album that spoke to me was ” You Lied Our Love Away”, when you were involved in a bad marriage like I was this song will ring true. Nobody can sing breakup songs like Mr. Billy Don Burns. Nobody will ever compare to his relevance or his importance to me, and to history in general.
Well, look what I found here…a debut album from someone new I found while digging one day. She and producer Mr. Luke Wooten have compiled a cache of 10 original songs here that are sure to please any hardcore Country Music fan.
“Your Forever Will Never Say Goodbye” is just amazingly transpicuous and her vocals are just heavenly. “Why Do I Still Want You” is a secular song that uses Bible themes do get her point across. That human wanting for someone that hurts us every time..this is a masterpiece of pain. This entire album is a total masterpiece of pain.
“Somebody’s Drinking About You” was another well written song about sneaking out and cheating. It is sung from the woman’s point of view as she stays home and drinks over him, and his antics.
‘Busy Counting Bridges” was another perfect honky tonk thumping song, about accumulating past mistakes in leaps and bounds. It’s full of guitar twang and holds a steady raging beat, with more easy to relate to lyrics. She has a spectacular voice with an even more spectacular range..you’ll be hearing more of her soon.
29. willie Nelson First Rose Of Spring.
I told you guys that my TOP list was going to be filled with many Legends of Country Music. Mr. Willie appears TWICE on my list, and brings his 70th (yeah you read that right)..album to us, produced by Mr. Buddy Cannon.
Ironically my favorite song on this album was one that Nelson did not write called “Stealing Home”. Yeah, father time stole my home from me too, it took all my relatives and my childhood play areas. Where I grew up is gone, replaced by things I no longer recognize.
It opens with a slow and pleasant “First Rose Of Spring”, that captures his vocals so passionately that you finally see why Mr. Willie Nelson is the strongest Legend we still have with us now. We aren’t going to have many more albums from these people like this, and we MUST hold them like treasures NOW.
“We Are The Cowboys” left us by the late Mr. Billy Joe Shaver, he worked a miraculous wonder on this song. He ran through several cover songs here, from a few of his fellow Outlaw buddies like Paycheck’s “I’m The Only Hell Momma Ever Raised”.
30. Doc Watson Doc Watson And Gaither Carlton.
I wrote a big article about this one back in August of this year. I KNEW then and there it would indeed be in my TOP list. I just LOVED ALL 50 of these records, and I have been spinning these albums all year. This whole performance was captured and preserved with as much love and care, as I had for in listening to it.
Many of the songs on here were wordless fiddle tunes, save for a few songs that have lyrics. “Willie Moore” had some lyrics, and had a story within the song. You can read more about this album up top on the link.
31. Saints Eleven This Town.
This one is another album that almost slipped past my radar, given to me by a PR company. It’s a short one, but it’s a good one, and you’re going to see a bunch more of this band on here in the future for sure.
“My Home Is” is a true road dog song, about watching kids grow up while you are away and working. You can view this one from a musician point of view or a truck drivers view, whichever speaks to you more. This Texas based band has three previous releases, and this album pretty much solidifies their sound and style.
“This Town” the title track of this album is a toe tapping song about meeting a past love, and past memories about days long ago. His ex girlfriends family, old houses and others. It goes into a song called “The Crown” with a bunch of Southern Rock flare mixed with other influences.
I thought the ferocity of their music mixed with their intense songwriting made this album one of the best new finds of 2020 for me. I’m glad I was turned onto their music and look forward to seeing them live soon.
32. T.J. Hernandez Destination Unknown.
I have been a huge fan of his for some time now, and this album here is his finest work to date, with 11 well done songs. One of them being “Desperate Men” by Mr. Billy Don Burns. Overall this album was done very well production wise and it sounds damn good.
Songs like “Catch Me If You Can” were well written story songs that paint an overall picture in your mind. Equally good was ” A Writer’s Mind”. Working two jobs and leaving the family behind for gigs, the fun, the hurt and the gamble of making no money haunt the writer’s mind. The songs these people leave behind will live on long after they pass away, and that fact alone should be the best reward.
“Ditches” was a good song with enough twang to fill your ears and challenge your rehabilitation attitude. Whatever demons haunt you if that road gets you in it’s ditches you are in trouble.
“Right All My Wrongs” was one of the better songs that closed out this album, along with the song “Blaze Your Own Trail”. A fight to stay sober was my 2020 fight and I am finally on my way to a bright and clean future.
33. Andrea And Mud Bad news Darlin’
And now it’s time for my friends from the Atlanta area Miss Andrea and Mr. Kyle Mud Moseley, whom once again released a damn fine new album this year. I’m not sure if many other media outlets even had this one on their radar..but I say they are foolish.
“Hellhounds” was classic Andrea And Mud shock rockabilly stuff, which is what I was looking for when I got my hands on this album. That GOOOOD smooth baritone voice of Mud on songs like “The Reasons Why She Cries”. Together these two make up a spooky but marvelous juggernaut duo.
You just cannot lump these two into a genre, or style at all. Folks I just list stuff I loved and stuff I thought spoke to me as an individual more than the rest. “Little Blue Truck” is a good steel guitar filled little ditty that pretty much sealed the deal for me here.
The last song on this album started out to be an old Skeeter Davis song, damn I miss her being on the Opry and the WSM dial. Followed by some damn fine surf type Rockabilly stuff. You need to have a different type of palate to enjoy all of my TOP 50 choices, and that is what I strive to do and what I strive to promote.
34. 49 Winchester III
Another album that I found by accident was this one by a band I found a year ago, these five guys can tear up some Country Music. This album might be a surprise to many, but once you finish reading and delving into this band..you’ll ascertain why I placed it on here.
“Long Hard Life” was a good opener, full of that familiar twang that I look for in a Country album. I think every guy can pretty much relate to this song, raising kids and you gotta pay bills..long hard life, and don’t end up in jail.
“Hays, Kansas” was one of the middle songs that spoke to me the most, with some fine guitar tone work. It’s followed by a damn fine toe tapper called “Chemistry” which clearly describes this band. They have a certain chemistry between them that made them different to me, I found them last year but their album came out too early to include them in 2019.
One of the best songs they have is on this album, and it’s called “You Never Did Love Me”. This is a typical bar banger that these honky tonk bands all too often pump out into the pipeline, and that is by no means a bad thing…if this band isn’t on your radar, you need to fine tune your radar!
35. Johnny Falstaff Lost In The City Lights.
Hey ONCE AGAIN y’all knew it…Legends adorn this TOP 50 list. Much like Southern Culture On The Skids and others THIS MAN ALSO began my descent into the halls of Texas Country Music. He’s been destroying stages for so many years that it would be ludicrous to omit this album.
The title track here opens on a marvelous note with a life lesson song, I been lost in many a city’s lights to be honest. After the first song you will easily tell that this will be one hell of a classic Falstaff album, with precise note for note guitar wizardry.
This was actually one of the albums on my TOP list that I LOVED every song on the album for sure. I only gave each album on here 4 paragraphs ( so I can publish it easier) so I couldn’t rave about this entire album part by part. “Move A Mountain” is another high point on this album.
‘Tonight” is a old time sounding toe tapper filled with Rockabilly twang and a high paced beat, you can cut a rug to. Hell any night is a good night to fall in love. So I hope that YOU fall in love with this album as much as I did.
36. Colter Wall Western Swing And Waltzes And Other Punchy Songs.
I simply would be remiss if I did not include this young man from Canada Mr. Colter. He means a lot to me, because his second album contained a song that my father pretty much passed away to. He had dementia very badly, and thought Kate McCannon was Marty Robbins. As soon as I heard his song “Big Iron” which REALLY WAS one Mr. Marty recorded, I loved this album.
“Henry And Sam” was one of the songs I heard him play live before, but many of the songs on this album are newly recorded by him. Some of them I do recognize as cover songs, and others I do not. This isn’t necessarily a “studio album”, but the song “Talkin’ Prairie Boy” was a funny story about being approached by a hipster in a hat.
He makes the kind of music I truly love the most, those old western tales. They take me back to being a kid…a young kid watching Clayton Moore as the Lone Ranger. He brings back some cherished memories to me about my Dad, and I drift off to dream during his music all the time.
“Diamond Joe” was a story about working for a man named Diamond Joe, and the album closes with a song called “Houlihans At The Holiday Inn” about the road and the singer life. There’s a good line in this song “staring through a dirty, cracked windshield”.
37. Kyle Nix Lightning On The Mountain And Other Short Stories.
Another album that will end up on a LOT of best of lists, is this one by former Turnpike Troubadour member Mr. Kyle Nix. In fact the band here are the Turnpikes, but make no mistake..this album solidifies his identity as a solo artist quite remarkably. I’ll admit I was kind of wary about this being an outlet to continue as Turnpike….how WRONG I WAS..and how happy I was about being wrong.
“Manifesto” is a bad ass song about how his Grandpa fought the nazis, and how he hopes his Grandpa loved his music. This whole album is full of that recognizable fiddle work, double stops and the warm flow of that tone that sticks out like a rooster wearing socks.
These 17 songs were a whopping 59 minutes, and that solidifies it as a top notch album with songs like “Blue Eyes”. Love and losing sure beats not living at all is correct. Love is a gamble you sometimes need to bet on. “Shelby ’65” is a rowdy one that it thunders into about teenagers in a fast fast car that evolves as they grow up. This whole album was so well written that I cannot stop spinning it, and I skip albums in my rotation to play this one again.
The overall length of this album prevents me from elaborating on it as a whole, but “Women Of Steel” is amazing….just beyond amazing..Mr. Wes Sharon did a downright outstanding job of capturing these tales of sorrow. This album moves him up to a whole new echelon in the music community.
38. Wade Bowen And Randy Rogers Hold My Beer Volume 2.
Many of the artists in the Texas Music community have side projects ( like my Panhandlers pick), and for years these two have knocked it out of the park here. They have a modern day Moe Bandy and Joe Stampley type format here, and that is not something anybody else really has out there.
“Rodeo Clown” is a downright amazing and cleverly written song about a woman who left him for an actual rodeo clown. The chorus has a terrific hook in it, and the steel guitar work on this song make it absolute GOLD. It goes right into “Habits” a drunk and high honkies in a honky tonk song, as they make references to Haggard and Jones in this one.
“Ode To Ben Dorcy” is a song to the best roadie that ever lived, it has Mr. Waylon and Mr. Shooter on it. I wrote a big article on him at one time, you can read that here. He was indeed a living Legend just as much as the stars were.
“Speak To Me Jukebox” was one of the closing songs here, which makes many references to old Country songs, is a self explanatory song about finding solace in the jukebox. Music can indeed heal many things indifferent ways, and sometimes you need that beloved jukebox.
39. TN Jet The Country.
I was introduced to his music a few years ago while he opened for Cody Jinks in Nashville.Since then he has been evolving and growing in leaps and bounds in the music community. He has gone from a one man band to full band, and back to one man band format..he does it all.
“Stray Dogs” displays this man’s mirific ability to write some truly amazing songs, and you juxtapose that with a full band, you have an amazing album here. “The Raven And The Dove” is about good and bad days in life, the ups and downs of life that everyone can relate to.
“Hands On You” is a good song about seeing your ex being held by another. It’s a sorrow filled, but upbeat song about a jealous ex lover. “Someone To You” has a clever twist to it about rather being a no one if you aren’t someone to you..that is ingenious and well composed.
This album closes with “Sparklin’ Burnin’ Fuse” a slow song about a crazy roller coaster ride love, and many other meanings. You can listen to it, and gather whatever meaning you want out of it. That is the beauty of music…you can take whatever meaning speaks to you and use it for your own therapy.
40. Waylon Payne Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher And Me.
This one was interesting to me, and I do not care who likes or dislikes the fact I added this one. This man faces many challenges in the business and the game given whom his parents are, topped with the fact he has come out as a gay man. Once you listen to songs like “Sins Of The Father” you have fist pumping Country songs about picking up bad habits from your father.
Drugs and drinking, hatred for men and women, not wanting to have kids…it’s all on this album here. He pulls no punches and holds nothing back, given the title of the album. I think it took a lot of courage to put this album out, and I’m glad he did. He did some damn fine work on the Jeannie Seely album, he wrote some terrific songs for others and he has contributed so much to Country Music that I couldn’t overlook this album.
As a recovered addict myself of heroin and pills I used “Back From The Grave” as my anthem for being 10 months clean and sober. I wanted him to know how much I admired his album, and what he has done for Country Music has not gone unnoticed.
Many people have no idea he even has another album out, and they have used the moniker ‘debut album”…but in a slightly weird way it is. I think this is being used as a catalyst for a whole new beginning, and that’s not a bad thing at all…nope.
41. Craig Gerdes Tough As Nails.
I feel the need to constantly reiterate to you, that number 41 is no less as liked or no less as good as number 3 or 4 here! I loved ALL 50 of these choices equally, and there was no specific reason I ordered them as I did. “If Guitars Were Guns” was one of the ones that opened this album here, about Jesse James, and being a seasoned road dog.
Throughout both of his albums, Mr. Craig has been paying his dues out there on the road, and in the smoke filled dive bars all over America. Filled with a ton of amazing twang filled guitar wizardry, this album has tons of rowdy songs like “Between The Cradle And The Grave”.
If you love steel guitar pushing a slow song into your head than you need to hear “Pennies, Feathers And Dimes” In my opinion it was one of the better songs on this album, it had everything a savant of Country Music could want.
“Tonight’s Not The Night” was a good doghouse song, about us men and our refusal to change. We go out and drink and come crawling home to our wives and girlfriends, promising to change….later. If that sounds like YOU, then YOU need this album in your collection.
42. Victoria Bailey Jesus, Red Wine And Patsy Cline.
A few of these last album were new finds for me, ones I got turned onto by others or I found by rabbit holing around on research. This one in fact is a debut album produced by Mr. Jeremy Long, it is 9 songs of whiskey soaked smooth and vibrant pure Country.
“Honky Tonk Woman” instantly displays her angelic vocals, and overall format of the album. It sets the tone up for some off the grid Traditional Country, that you need to find in websites like this one. She has an ardent passion about her music and a different demeanor than most I encounter.
“Homegrown Roots” was a more twangier almost Bluegrass tune, and I caught the shout out to the Station Inn. But more over all this song brings us closer to what makes her tick inside. Picking all night, many references to Hank Williams and Patsy.
One of the last good ones on this album was the song called “Skid Row”, a rolling and smooth dusty song about history. You know Country Music came from the poor and destroyed areas of the world. She even mentions the great Mr. Ralph Mooney! This young lady has all the right ideas and a DAMN FINE Country album.
43. India Ramey Shallow Graves.
I knew of this name before, but never delved into her last album, and I stumbled upon this one in fact just a few weeks ago. Almost right away I was swept away by her unique sound on songs like the title song “Shallow Graves”. Her vocals have been captured by producer Mr. Mark Petaccia with precision. The foggy guitar work makes this a poignant honky tonker, about having skeletons in the closet…we all have them that can bury us!
“Up To No Good” is an awesome and upbeat song about getting rowdy out there, from a local artists point of view. This isn’t an easy life at all, and it is not for the weary or weak. I been following these people around for years….she makes it clear that she won’t be used, but on the same token wants to be rowdy.
“You And Me Against The World” is one of the middle songs here, where she met a guy that got her attention by being an outlaw. But it has a few hidden meanings and twists..at least it did to me.
“Montgomery Behind Me” was one of the best songs on this album here, it is a good song about leaving your past. She didn’t exactly fit in or was accepted so she left her past. She closes the album with a haunting and poignant version of the Hank Williams song “Angel Of Death”.
44. Ali Harter Near The Knuckle.
This is another one I found in a late night of just browsing around for new bands from Oklahoma. She is popular in th Oklahoma community, but new to this website. It starts out with “Near The Knuckle” about a server who is picking for tips, down on her luck. She has some gravely vocals that have a totally different quality about her, ONE SONG will show you that she means business.
“Brandy And Joe” was a true honky tonk anthem about a trashy couple, and when Joe died, Brandy was happy..but he made it out alive. Started slashing tires and getting back at her. It’s a wild ride about huffing gasoline fumes and living on the edge.
“Lefty-Loosey, Righty-Tighty” is a damn masterpiece. Its one of those slick songs you have to really listen to, to get the whole meaning. You can use it to apply it to whatever work you do. Do what you love and do it well. “Great State Of Oklahoma” is one good way to get to know her as a person, and how they love to make fun of Texans.
The album starts to close with “You’re Crazy”, man I related to this one well. How do they drink all night and go to work in the morning like that? Well, 20 years ago, I could do that. This album has some bad ass songs on it , and when you mix it up with her unique vocals, you get one of the finest honky tonk albums I have heard all year.
45. Brandon Jesse Second Wind.
You want to find a VERY unique album, then you need to check into THIS ONE. It opens with a song called “85 Yards Behind”. This man has a RARE baritone voice, that you just don’t find anywhere else. You been sleeping with the wrong red headed girl buddy….cause he is a lot more scary and he is 85 yards behind!
“Gone Forever” is another good one about all of the good Outlaws being gone forever. If he is singing about Nashville then he hit it right on the head there, even though there are indeed some terrific albums coming from there..the big dogs are gone.
Many of his songs are fast paced high volume Country thumpers, until you get to the ballad called “Life Of Mine” which proves that not only can he master fast paced songs, he can croon a slow ballad just the same.
“Songwriter Song” is a warning to people that THINK they are ready for this business, and asks what about the ones that fail? It talks about the liars and the cheaters, sharp and poisoned tongues. This entire album was a pleasant ride around a different world all together.
46. The Dillards Old Road New Again.
I bet you wouldn’t even think of having the Dillards (AKA The Darlings) on my TOP list, did you? Well this album was much too awesome to NOT list on here. Mr. Rodney Dillard is in my opinion a Legend in his own right, and they were a big part of my youth.
‘Common Man” was a good smooth song about living under a lagom state of mind. But not only does this album have good songs, it has timeless feeling behind the vocals. “Always Gonna Be You” was a prime example of the fiddle work I’m looking for on a Bluegrass album.
This album boasts a plethora of big name guest stars like Mr. Don Henley, Mr. Sam Bush and Mr. Ricky Skaggs, as you hear on the song “The Whole World Round”. it goes into a song called “Tearing Our Liberty Down”, about the state of things in society right now. The amber waves of grain aren’t waving anymore…good line.
“Old Road New Again” was a good title for this album, and it sure was a pleasant feeling to hear some new recordings from this beloved man, and his band. I may face more criticism for including this one too….but I simply could care less. It is a good good album.
47. Margo PriceThat’s How Rumors Get Started.
Well we all have those people that every time their lips are parted, that’s how rumors get started…right. This was indeed one of the many albums I was really looking forward to. She did not disappoint me on this new album, choked full of fantastic songs.
I personally enjoyed her first album more than anything yet, however this one was really good in it’s own right. on “Twinkle Twinkle” I too remember the headphones in my mom’s car..and getting busted with underage liquor. Oh MAN did some of this one evoke some memories.
“Prisoner Of the Highway” is a good song about those rolling wheels, and being a road dog. She spent many years playing in dive bars and anywhere she could to get to where she is now. She overcame a lot of hurdles to become the Miss Margo we all know and love now. I mean, she even goes so far as to refer to her unborn child as she laments about being a prisoner of the highway.
“I’d Die For You” finished this album up here, now I used this song to speak to me in a different use, as I thought of my daughter. Every time I listen to this album, I discover something more I enjoy about it.
48. The Jensen Sisters Yellow Frames.
Here is another one I found in a night of searching for new bands. These two young ladies are from Minnesota, but they have been touring all over the nation together for a few years now. Despite a big push to them to become more radio friendly, they refused and chose to stick to their hearts…and THAT IS where they gain the attention of people like me.
“Beat Of A Bad Habit” sure brings you to an appreciation of their harmonies, and their sound. They stuck so ardently to their decision to remain this Country, and in time I fully think that it’s going to pan out for them!
“Matches” once again displayed some terrific vocals overall, and it was one of the better songs on the album. Again, we find another well written song on a rare find album here.
“Lightning Rods” is close to the end of the album, with a more modern sound to it, but it remains a traditional song. As long as they keep this formula, I am very sure they can keep gaining momentum here. It closes with “Yellow Frames” which was a REALLY cool song about glasses, but you can see a few other meanings if you really listen.
49. Charley Crockett Welcome To Hard Times.
“Welcome To Hard Times” is just a good old honky tonk song, I would be absolutely wrong if I did not include this man’s album on this list. I mean his very demeanor is as country as it gets. Even when he does cover songs like “Blackjack County Chains” his albums are still outstanding.
You can hear his style remains on this album, see many artists develop a certain style through time. I think that Mr. Charley already had his own style long ago, you can defiantly pick out his voice out.
On songs like “Paint It Blue” where we have an upbeat tempo, and an outstanding band accompanying his vocals here, you can listen and let the songs speak to you for your own meaning.
“The Man That Time Forgot” man have I felt like that before, many times..many times. Just one of those black cloud over my head songs, I know all of you can relate to this one at times.
50. Hellbound Glory Pure Scum.
I think this is another band that I love every album they make. I think not only did Mr. Shooter do an outstanding job of producing the last few albums, but Mr. Leroy has always been one hell of a songwriter to me. THIS IS SCUMBAG COUNTRY FOLKS!
The song “Neon Leon” is the song that sealed the deal for me, and once you listen you too will see what I mean about his spectacular songwriting skills. Flipping around to songs like “Hank Williams Lifestyle” you’ll find all kinds of sorrow filled Country songs here.
It comes with a disclaimer before going into “DUIORDIE” which is a song not for the skiddish or easily offended. I guess it is his own way of telling us NOT TO drink and drive. Their songs have always been full of drug references and bottom of the barrel sides of life, and that is part of the reason I enjoy it!
It may not make total sense to many of you why someone in recovery would enjoy songs like these, but you may not see the relevance or mastery of songs like ‘Damned Angel”. Maybe you never tried to love a broken woman before, maybe they just use broken as an excuse…who knows. Well…..Mr. Leroy does.
* BLUE OX MUSIC FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES ITS LINEUP FOR 2021 *
Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, Shakey Graves, Sam Bush Band, The Infamous Stringdusters, Leftover Salmon, Charlie Parr, Molly Tuttle, Lissie, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades plus 2 nights of Pert Near Sandstone, are among the artists to perform at the 7th annual Blue Ox Music Festival. The 2021 Blue Ox Music Festival will take place on August 19-21, 2021 at The Pines Music Park – formally known as Whispering Pines Campgrounds. Tickets are on-sale now at BlueOxMusicFestival.com
Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, Shakey Graves, Sam Bush Band, The Infamous Stringdusters, Leftover Salmon, Charlie Parr, Molly Tuttle, Lissie, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades plus 2 nights of Pert Near Sandstone, are among the artists to perform at the 7th annual Blue Ox Music Festival. The 2021 Blue Ox Music Festival will take place on August 19-21, 2021 at The Pines Music Park – formally known as Whispering Pines Campgrounds. Tickets are on-sale now at BlueOxMusicFestival.com
EAU CLAIRE, WISCONSIN – December 16, 2020 – Blue Ox Music Festival is pleased to announce its artist lineup, for the 7th annual Blue Ox Music Festival, to be held August 19, 20 and 21, 2021. Blue Ox Music Festival welcomes back the annual summer pilgrimage of Bluegrass, Americana, and Roots artists, and their devoted music festival fans; returning to the tall pines and hardwoods of northern Wisconsin.Moving into a new year Whispering Pines Campground has been re-branded as The Pines Music Park, reflecting a re-newed focus as a music venue that will host a variety of concerts throughout the summer.
With the same team in place, artists and attendees can expect the same level of passionate commitment to the music and camping experience that has earned loyalty and a reputation for quality over the past seven years.This year, Blue Ox honors a fine lineup of performances by heavy hitters – Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit, Shakey Graves, Sam Bush Band, The Infamous Stringdusters, Leftover Salmon, Charlie Parr, Molly Tuttle, Lissie, Horseshoes & Hand Grenades, Charley Crockett, The Lil Smokies, Kitchen Dwellers, Henhouse Prowlers with Tony Trischka, Lillie Mae, Them Coulee Boys, Sunny War, Julian Davis & The Situation, Nora Brown, Jon Stickley Trio, Arkansauce, Armchair Boogie, Kind Country, One Way Traffic, Short Round String Band, Feed The Dog, Intuitive Compass, Barbaro, and The High 48s. With Pert Near Sandstone hostingthe Blue Ox Music Festival for the seventh year, in addition to performing for two nights.
The return of the full Blue Ox Music Festival in 2021 will be one of historical celebration after a year of uncertainty and waiting, which has all but shuttered the live music industry. Artists, management, crews and venues alike, have all been affected by the COVID pandemic. Yet resilience, creativity and hope, have held the torch high as we discovered ways to stay united through live streaming performance concerts, and an abundance of exciting new music and collaboration.
Since its premiere in the summer of 2015, Blue Ox Music Festival has consistently brought together a lineup of top level regional and national acts that have set the stage and standard of artists for the true music festival fan’s experience for
years to come. With the vision of an intimate music and camping experience focused on Bluegrass, Americana Roots genres – the 3-day festival creates a unique experience with an impressive lineup of notable artists, in a familial and
beautiful outdoor venue setting.
New this year, in addition to the traditional Blue Ox late night sets – The Backwoods Stage will feature regional and emerging artists from 11:30AM to 6:30PM on Friday, August 20 and Saturday, August 21.
Performances for the 2021 Blue Ox Music Festival Backwoods Stage include – Miles Over Mountains, Good Morning Bedlam, The Thirsty River, Dig Deep, Never Come Down, Pit Wagon, Katey Bellville, Gabe Barnett, and Doug Otto and The Getaways.
This past year in 2020, Blue Ox Music Festival, and the Campout in the Pines summer series were dedicated to step forward bringing the artists and music fans unique experiences to watch live performance safely. The socially conscious
solidarity of the shows and live streams kept many loyal fans sane and connected to each other.
The music lives on in the loyal hearts of festival fans, and Blue Ox feels optimistic that it will be safe to come together with our festival family again in August; always following safety and health guidelines that are approved by the regional health authorities and well organized for all attendees of the festival.
The 2021 Blue Ox Music Festival will be a limited capacity event, and due to rollovers from 2020, tickets are currently 50% sold out. Fans are encouraged to buy their tickets soon in order to take advantage of the best prices available to
date. Please join Blue Ox Music Festival on August 19, 20, 21, 2021 – for three days of phenomenal music and camping in a family friendly, intimate atmosphere.
Fans can stay tuned for updates about the 2021 Blue Ox Music Festival and The Pines Music Park, by subscribing to the newsletters at www.blueoxmusicfestival.com and www.pinesmusicpark.com.
Blue Ox and The Pines Music Park look forward to the new year of music and live performance! As artists and ambassadors for the festival – members of Pert Near Sandstone, Nate Sipe and Justin Bruhn, produce and host the popular, Road to Blue Ox Podcast. In each episode, Bruhn and Sipe interview performing artists on the lineup, as well as highlighting key information and updates about the festival.
Nate and Justin are currently in the studio working on the 2021 season of the Road to Blue Ox Podcast.
The new episodes will include music premieres and exclusive interviews, news about the Blue Ox Music Festival, and some other surprises along the way. Tune in for new Road to Blue Ox Podcast episodes on Apple iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher and Pocket Casts.
Follow along on Spotify and be notified as soon as a new episode is released. Stay tuned for upcoming monthly installments of the Road to Blue Ox Podcast, featuring Bluegrass, Americana, and Roots, legends as well as new artists on the scene.
About Blue Ox Music Festival– Blue Ox creates and fosters a wonderful sense of artistic community and has become a cornerstone of the cultural renaissance movement in the Eau Claire area. Blue Ox Music Festival at The Pines Music
Park boasts 155 acres of pristine forest, walkable trails and green landscaped lawn with music presented on three distinct stages, (Main Stage, Saloon Stage, Backwoods Stage).
As a family friendly environment, diverse cultural events take place throughout the festival grounds, including music workshops, morning yoga, eclectic craft vendors, dance performance, kids activity stages as well as a disc golf course.
The variety of quality food and beverages offers something delicious for everyone to enjoy. All ages are welcome Children 13 and under are free with a paid adult.
General Admission Tickets are available for purchase, which gives you access to all entertainment and Unreserved Tent Camping. Car Camping Passes are available, for guests who prefer their car on the camp site next to their tent.
Reserved RV / Tent sites are also available for purchase. Camping accommodations include spaces for RVs, Family and Quiet Camping, and for those who wish to just arrive at the festival, enjoy and lay their heads – there are comfortable
“glamping” options for purchase.
Curtis Grimes Scores Double Win at the 2020 Texas Country Music Awards
Brand New Acoustic EP Drops December 11th
Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts critically-acclaimed new album ‘Nowhere To Go But Everywhere’ (Wicked Cool Records) is making waves across the pond.
In its debut week, the album landed on multiple UK charts including #7 Indie Album Breakers, #10 Record Store, #22 Independent Albums, and #82 Overall Albums, capping off a career-best for the band, a transatlantic collaboration, with frontman Ryan Hamilton hailing from just outside of Fort Worth, TX, while his backing band The Harlequin Ghosts are based in the U.K.
The LP has also generated high praise on social media from the likes of Frank Turner, Clem Burke, Drew Carey, Benmont Tench and Clint Boon of Inspiral Carpets and more.
The follow up to 2019’s ‘This Is The Sound’ (which won an Independent Music Award for ‘Best Indie Album’), ‘Nowhere To Go But Everywhere’ was written by Ryan during a long road trip across the USA with his dog Peaches, while coming to terms with his recent divorce. He filmed the trek, which resulted in ‘Communique’– an inspiring and deeply personal 7 part mini-documentary, which premiered on Glide Magazine.
And now, the songs of Nowhere To Go But Everywhere in Ryan’s own words…
Only A Dream
You know when you’re a kid, and you have a really bad dream, then you wake up and have the relief of, “it was only a dream.” This song is a grown-up version of that. Unfortunately when it comes to things like divorce, you can’t wish it away…or wake up. This song is about hoping something isn’t really happening, then dealing with the harsh realization that it is.
Super proud of the concept of this song. Flipping all those classic songs on their heads. Plus, I got to sing it with my friend Kay Hanley.
Jesus & John Lennon
Do you ever feel like, no matter what, some things are destined to fall apart? No matter what you do, the end result is the same. This song is about that, and I was thrilled to take the concept, and the song, to the next level, by having the opportunity to co-write it with Stevie Van Zandt.
Out Of My League
This is a song idea that was almost 10 years old. I found the old demo, and it rang true, considering what I was going through. So, I revisited the song, and reworked it into the version that it is now.
Let’s Go Slow
Dating after divorce is terrifying to me. This song is about the fear of dating again, after a relationship ends. There’s SO MUCH to navigate in today’s dating world. I wish things were simpler.
Can I Get An Amen
I was raised in church. We went two times a week to a very conservative Church of Christ. The struggle finding happiness, without all the guilt, is something I still deal with. Drugs, alcohol, sex…these very un-“Christian” things are all a part of my life. Not in a dangerous way. I’m a responsible adult. But sometimes, because it’s engrained in me, I feel like I’m going to Hell.
Don’t Fall Apart
This song is really a pep talk to myself. Sometimes, when things are especially difficult, all you want to do is give up. But you can’t. It’s important to keep it together for your family, and friends…but you have to get to a point where you LOVE YOURSELF enough to want to keep going.
I didn’t even know what a “Geordie” was until I met my ex-wife. Since then, I’ve been fascinated by Geordie women. I love their whole bad-ass attitude. Zero tolerance for bullshit. A tough exterior, but a big heart. Throwing some Geordie slang into the chorus of a new song is something I never thought this Texas boy would do. Haha.
Possibly my all time favorite Tom Petty song. I was so excited to put this song on the album, and I’m super proud of the version we created. It feels special. I think Tom would like it.
We Gave It Hell
When a relationship ends, you have a choice. You can let it consume you, or you can find a more positive way through it. I think it’s important to realize that sometimes, even though we give it hell, and do our best…it just isn’t going to work out. So, you say goodbye, wish the person well, pick up the pieces, and move on.
Pick Yourself Up
What’s the saying? Every end is a brand new beginning. I got that quote a little wrong, but you get the gist. Having the realization that a marriage ending is only a short chapter, in the book of life, was a BIG moment for me. I’m determined to make the rest of my story a good one.
About Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts
The open road has beckoned to generations of artists, writers, and seekers of authentic experience. For acclaimed singer/songwriter Ryan Hamilton, jumping into a minivan with his pup Peaches and driving from home near Fort Worth, Texas through the Southwest out to California last fall was not just catharsis, it was an unexpected impetus to create ‘Nowhere To Go But Everywhere,’ his formidable new album with The Harlequin Ghosts.
“I actually own Jack Kerouac’s belt,” Ryan reveals, referencing the legendary 1950s beat poet whose classic work ‘On The Road’ provides the album’s title. “I got it from the folks who handle his estate. It’s a cherished possession. The belt is actually pictured on the back of the new album art. Kerouac is a hero, and because of the way this album was written, his spirit is all over it.”
Hamilton made sure to drive along Route 66, the fabled American highway immortalized in song by Nat King Cole and The Rolling Stones. “While it was magical to take that storied route, it was more like driving through a graveyard version of what once was. Though ominous, it was still darkly beautiful.”
Those weeks adventuring out west gave Ryan time to reflect in the wake of his recent divorce.
Releasing September 18 on Wicked Cool Records, ‘Nowhere…’ follows quickly on the heels of the band’s 2019 label debut ‘This Is The Sound,’ which won Album of the Year at the Independent Music Awards and was praised as “masterful” (RPM) and “spectacular” (Adam Duritz of Counting Crows). Both the title cut and “Mamacita” were playlisted on more than 100 U.K. radio stations and heard throughout Europe and the Americas on syndicated radio.
The COVID-19 pandemic prevented Hamilton from accepting the IMA in New York, but he channeled his early quarantine energy into the recording of the ‘Incommunicado’ EP, which hit #1 on the iTunes Country Albums chart in the U.K. Proceeds from the sale of the EP were donated to the Music Venue Trust’s “Save Our Venues” campaign, a cause he’s passionate about from years of dedicated touring in the U.K., where the rest of his band is based.
Live highlights of the ‘This Is The Sound’ campaign included shows with The Alarm in the U.K. plus their Gathering festival in Wales and New York City, a U.S. tour with Roger Clyne & The Peacemakers, and featured NYC appearances at Duritz’s Underwater Sunshine fest as well as opening for Jesse Malin and guest Lucinda Williams on a live SiriusXM broadcast.
Wicked Cool honcho Stevie “Little Steven” Van Zandt has long championed Ryan’s talents. “The best advice he ever gave me was, ‘Get away from yourself,” Ryan shares. “But really, the songs are still coming from personal experience.”
Many of the ten new tunes – the album also includes a heartfelt cover of Tom Petty’s “Southern Accents” – were written on a guitar Ryan found on the road trip, at Norman’s Rare Guitars in the San Fernando Valley. “Norm and I got to talkin’, and before I knew it, I was leaving with a vintage Martin acoustic. That guitar feels like my child.”
Most of the album was recorded with producer Dave Draper just days before the pandemic hit, during a February 2020 U.K. tour. The rhythm section of Mickey Richards (drums) and Rob Lane (bass) return, while featured guests include Mike Peters of The Alarm (backing vocals on “Jesus & John Lennon”) and Kay Hanley of Letters To Cleo (vocals on “Oh No”).
The anthemic “Can I Get An Amen,” released as a single in January, and new single “Jesus & John Lennon” were both co-written with Van Zandt. “Oh No” builds its upbeat narrative through referencing Ryan’s own favorite classic records, from Nirvana and Oasis to Curtis Mayfield and The Clash, and “flipping them on their heads,” he says.
“Newcastle Charm” speaks to Ryan’s special connection with the North East English city where he’s played countless shows and also met his ex-wife. “Women from Newcastle have this really tough exterior. I like the idea of breaking through that and finding a big heart.”
After cutting his teeth with the bands Smile Smile and People On Vacation, the 2016 single “Fuck You Brain,” with Ginger Wildheart was named Track of the Week by Classic Rock Magazine. The album ‘Devil’s In The Detail’ as Ryan Hamilton and The Traitors caught Stevie’s ear in 2017, after which the backing band became known as The Harlequin Ghosts. RH and The HG’s are now very familiar to satellite radio listeners thanks to heavy rotation of numerous tracks.
The latest Wicked Cool release distributed by The Orchard, ‘Nowhere To Go But Everywhere’ is a top marketing priority for the label, whose 2020 slate also includes new music from Jesse Malin, WYLDLIFE, The Empty Hearts, Kurt Baker and Jessie Wagner.
If there is one piece of his life that singer-songwriter Josh Kelley is more than comfortable displaying, it’s how he feels about his family. The central line running through My Baby & The Band, out today, is the contentment he’s found in his life with his wife and three kids. Kelley paints a picture of a man who has found his place nestled deep into the small mountain town they call home, along with everything that entails: the simple, extraordinary moments, the disagreements, the makeups, and a deep love for one another. It’s wrapped in sonic packaging that’s true to who Kelley is, clear in its reverence for a great voice and song but unafraid to experiment with new textures surrounding it.
The album’s most recent release, “Hold Me My Lord,” exists thanks to some divine intervention. Originally written while searching for a thread of hope for himself, Kelley realized the world overall could use some of the same, resulting in the powerful video released two weeks ago. Co-produced by Grammy, Emmy and Dove award-winner Shannon Sanders, the track includes the addition of the remotely-recorded 30-member All Voices choir.
My Baby & The Band traces Kelley’s and his family’s story, a scenic walk through the evolution of a relationship, family, and growth. Kelley solidifies himself as a talented vocalist and lyricist while tapping into the details of everyday life: watching his kids develop their own personalities and continuing to find new reasons to love his wife after 15 years together.
“We Don’t Need The Money” offers a good bit of groove; “Back To You” begs for a sing-along, and “If That’s Alright” continues the theme. “You Can Count On Me,” with background vocals from his kids, takes its sonic inspiration from Bill Withers and Shuggie Otis, written with Alen Chang. “I Want You Tonight” and “Loves You Like Me” are straight-up love songs.
“You And I,” written with Nashville songwriter Dustin Christensen, slows things down with an ode to an all-consuming kind of love. Kelley also wrote the album’s title track with Christensen, all about sitting back with the one you love and listening to timeless music, in this case, specifically The Band.
My Baby & The Band follows the release of “Love Her Boy,” a clever, smooth and soulful number employing wordplay, and “Busy Making Memories,” a deeply personal excerpt, written on New Year’s Day while watching his kids play. Kelley and his wife, Katherine Heigl, collaborated on the video, featuring treasured memories and adventures on their ranch. Kelley produced and engineered the single himself; and in fact, creates most of his music in a barn that he’s converted into a studio.
Kelley released his solo debut, Changing Faces, while attending the University of Mississippi, and subsequently signed a record deal with Hollywood Records. His mainstream debut, For the Ride Home, found a Top Five single with “Amazing,” and his second album, Almost Honest, included the Top Ten single “Only You.” Kelley later released four independent albums, between 2006 and 2008; Georgia Clay was released in 2011 with MCA Nashville, and 2015’s New Lane Road with Sugar Hill Records. In 2017 he independently released an album of covers, titled Under the Covers, Vol. 1, and a holiday album, Christmas Traditions.
Kelley has appeared on “TODAY,” “Good Morning America,” “The Ellen Degeneres Show,” “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “Live with Regis & Kelly” and “Last Call with Carson Daly,” and his songs have been featured on such shows as “Smallville,” “Scrubs,” “Brothers and Sisters” and MTV’s “The Hills.” Kelley also wrote and performed the theme song for the TV sitcom “Mike and Molly,” scored the feature film Home Sweet Hell, and created the theme song for TV’s Golf Channel.
My Baby & The Band Track Listing:
1. We Don’t Need The Money
The central line running through Josh Kelley’s upcoming album, My Baby & The Band, set for Nov. 13 release, is his family. It’s fitting that the video for his gospel-soaked next single, “Hold Me My Lord,” was made with them in mind. The song was co-produced by Grammy, Emmy and Dove award-winner Shannon Sanders and includes the addition of the 30-member All Voices choir.
“I think in the instance of this song, my heart was calling for hope. I was trying to muddle through the dark nights of my soul and how I’ve managed to find my way again and again. When we started putting the video together for this song, we realized that this world has been suffering through a dark night of the soul. Despair, hurt, anger, violence, pain, suffering, disease and death have been the headlines every day for the last eight months,” Kelley said.
“I realized this song that came through me speaks to more than my own suffering. It speaks to humanity’s,” Kelley continued. “The video felt like an opportunity to unite us in our pain and in our hope. It felt like a way for me to make one small difference in this tumultuous time so I can look at my children, years from now, and tell them I did something. I didn’t just bury my head in the sand, or hide from the pain, or run from the fear. I did what I could do, and I did it for them.”
By Joshua Wallace
By all measures, 2020 was an insane year, however it was an amazing year for country music releases. I could have made a Top 100 list this year, but I stuck with tradition and did a Top 50. With that in mind, some of your favorites might be left off here. Don’t fret, they’re still good albums, it’s just that there were a ton of good releases this year. It seemed like every band was releasing their best work even when they weren’t able to fully tour on it. I could make a case for every record in my Top 10 to be my album of the year, however I went with American Aquarium’s Lamentations. Lamentations was my most anticipated album going into 2020 and it’s still my favorite album here in December. It’s no secret that American Aquarium is one of my favorite bands and when they release an album this good, it’s going to be hard to top. I’ll give my thoughts on each of the Top 20 and provide links to listen to the rest of the list. I encourage you to check out every record on this list as you might just find something new and that is my biggest goal in doing all of this.
**ALBUM OF THE YEAR** 01. American Aquarium – Lamentations **ALBUM OF THE YEAR**
When American Aquarium announced late 2019 that they were going into the studio with Shooter Jennings producing, I knew this album would be something special. I just didn’t know how special it would turn out to be. Songs like “The Long Haul”, “Starts With You”, “A Better South” and even the tear jerker “Six Years Come September” helped define my 2020. It is worth noting here that their last album which was 2018’s Things Change was my favorite record of that year too. I can only imagine that the next album they release will either top or come close to the top of this list in that year. This band is very consistent in that they keep getting better with every release. I can’t wait to hear what is next.
- Chris Stapleton – Starting Over
Chris Stapleton has quite possibly the best voice in modern country music. This album further solidifies that with performances like “Cold”, “Devil Always Made Me Think Twice”, “Watch You Burn” and more. This whole record is great top to bottom and it came very close to being my number one album of the year. It features Stapleton’s signature mix of rock, blues and country anchored by his amazing guitar playing throughout. This record features guests like former Heartbreaker Mike Campbell and the amazing pedal steel player Paul Franklin. I highly recommend giving this album a good listen as Chris Stapleton is 4 records in and only shows signs of getting better.
- Charley Crockett – Welcome To Hard Times
There was a period this year where this album was slated as my #1 record of 2020. It’s that good. Charley Crockett put out the best record of his career with Welcome To Hard Times and it hit all the right buttons with the psychedelic bend to it’s sound and a neo-western theme. The title track is one of my favorite jams of the year and I still love that piano riff that opens it. Check out “Welcome To Hard Times”, “Run Horse Run” and “The Man That Time Forgot”.
- Muscadine Bloodline – Burn It At Both Ends
I have been a fan of Muscadine Bloodline since “WD40” was making the rounds as a single a few years ago. This highly anticipated debut full length album delivers on all of the promise the band showed early on and then some. As for their sound, they kind of straddle the line of being polished for country radio and rough around the edges for the independent country crowd. It also helps to feature the likes of BJ Barham, Brent Cobb and Adam Hood on your debut record to give you a bit of a boost. Check out “Ain’t Just A Van”, “Good Chunk Of Change”, “After Midnight” and “Drunk Tattoo” for a few choice cuts from this one.
- Mike and The Moonpies – Touch Of You : The Lost Songs Of Gary Stewart
Mike and The Moonpies have released another great album with this collection of lost Gary Stewart songs. While you won’t get a cover of “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinking Doubles)” on this set, you will get some awesome Gary Stewart tunes that have never been recorded before. You can hear Gary Stewart’s influence on Mike and The Moonpies music and when you do, you will know that they were the perfect band for a project such as this. The band worked closely with Stewart’s daughter, Shannon Stewart, and his best friend Tommy Schwartz to compile the tracks for this project. The finished product is a great Moonpies album that slides in at number five in our countdown.
- Sturgill Simpson – Cuttin’ Grass – Vol. 1 (Butcher Shoppe Sessions) & Cuttin’ Grass Vol. 2 (The Cowboy Arms Sessions)
I told you this was an insane year. We got not one, but two great Sturgill Simpson albums this year. I’m lumping them together here because they’re essentially one long piece split into two. Sturgill promised fans that if they hit a certain goal on a charity drive he was doing that he would cut 2 albums this year. He came through with two sets of bluegrass versions of practically every song in his solo catalog. The only things missing are the covers from each album and “It Ain’t All Flowers”. He also threw in some Sunday Valley tunes and a new song he wrote with the late Merle Haggard titled “Hobo Cartoon”. I highly recommend giving these records a spin as a lot of these aren’t just re-recordings in a different genre. There are some new arrangements of old favorites here that I think anyone would enjoy.
- Ward Davis – Black Cats And Crows
Ward Davis has finally given us the follow up to 15 Years In A 10 Year Town and it was well worth the wait. This is a darker collection of songs with lots of heavy guitars setting the mood throughout. There are a couple of murder ballads on this record that I highly recommend. We also get Ward Davis’s version of Colorado a couple of years after Cody Jinks released his version on the album Lifers. Give this album a listen and you won’t be disappointed.
- Colter Wall – Western Swing & Waltzes and Other Punchy Songs
Colter Wall is finally giving us a full band western swing record and I am here for this. From amazing covers like “Big Iron” to originals like “Henry and Sam”, this record is all killer from top to bottom. This record puts Colter Wall up there with some of the premier western acts going today. Check it out.
- Ashley McBryde – Never Will
Ashley McBryde is back with her second major label album and another major hit with “One Night Standards”. This album is full of great songs and I highly recommend the murder ballad “Martha Divine”. Throw in some traditional country cuts like “First Thing I Reach For”, “Sparrow” and “Velvet Red” and you have one amazing album. I can’t wait to hear what is coming next.
- Zach Bryan – Quiet, Heavy Dreams EP
I initially had Zach Bryan’s Elizabeth record in this spot, but this EP is Zach Bryan’s first professionally recorded music and I had to include it here. With songs like “Birmingham”, “Crooked Teeth” and “November Air”, Zach Bryan is certainly going to be around for a long time. I hope to be able to see him live sometime in the near future, and with albums like this, I have no doubt he’ll be able to tour widely once it is safe to do so again.
- Joshua Ray Walker – Glad You Made It
Joshua Ray Walker’s sophomore record Glad You Made it improves on the working formula he created with 2019’s Wish You Were Here. Songs like “Voices” show off his incredible vocal range while deeper tracks like “D.B. Cooper” show a bit of experimentation with the soundscape Joshua Ray Walker is using on this record. Give it a listen and see why it’s in at number 11 on this list.
- Hailey Whitters – The Dream
Hailey Whitters album The Dream took a bit to grow on me, honestly. But it grew on me and I came to really enjoy a few tracks from this record. Check out “Janice At The Hotel Bar”, “Loose Strings”, her version of Stapleton’s “Devil Always Made Me Think Twice” and her version of “Happy People” which was also recorded by co-writer Lori McKenna on her 2018 album The Tree. This record is a fun album that deserves to be heard by more people. I hope I get the chance to see her live very soon.
- Brent Cobb – Keep ‘Em On They Toes
Brent Cobb has released another great album in Keep ‘Em On They Toes. I really love the title track and it quickly became one of my feel good favorites of 2020. Other highlights include the timely “The World Is Ending”, “Soapbox w/ Nikki Lane” and “Good Times and Good Love”. This album is a nice change in pace back to the slower country and folk songs of 2016’s Shine On Rainy Day.
- Kyle Nix – Lightning On The Mountain & Other Short Stories
While this year was rough for fans of Turnpike Troubadours, we got a bit of a reprieve in the form of a Kyle Nix solo album. I had a feeling this one would be special from the moment it was announced and I was right. Some favorites include “Graves”, “Shelby 65”, “If Ruby Ain’t Happy” and “Lightning On The Mountain”. This album is highlighted by some great fiddle playing and good songwriting. I really hope Kyle Nix gets to tour on this one soon as I would love to see these songs live.
- The Panhandlers – The Panhandlers
When I first heard about this super group of Texas Country talents, I knew we had something special coming. All four of these men are great with their own bands, but together they are a force to be reckoned with. “West Texas In My Eye” and “This Is My Life” are two highlights on this one for me. Give this one a listen if you haven’t, you won’t be disappointed.
- Parker McCollum – Hollywood Gold EP
Parker McCollum had a strong 2020 with some great single releases leading up to this EP. “Pretty Heart” actually got a lot of radio play and I really dig “Like A Cowboy”. I knew Parker McCollum was one to watch after 2017’s strong Probably Wrong LP. This EP is so good and it solidifies my opinion that he is destined for bigger things. Be on the lookout for his next full length as I belive that one will go places.
- Josh Abbott Band – The Highway Kind
I have been a fan of Josh Abbott Band since 2012’s Small Town Family Dream album and it has been a fun ride watching this band grow. They get better with every release and The Highway Kind is no different. Highlights include the title track, “Settle Me Down”, “24-7-365” and “Real Damn Good”. Give it a listen.
- Aubrie Sellers – Far From Home
While I wasn’t as much of a fan of Aubrie Sellers’s 2016 record New City Blues, this album blew me away. I dig the mixing of grungy garage rock and country music and it works here. Check out favorites like “Glad”, “Troublemaker”, “My Love Will Not Change w/ Steve Earle” and the title track.
- Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen – Hold My Beer, Vol. 2
With Hold My Beer, Vol. 2, Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen have put together two amazing country duo albums. This record is full of solid country gold. I love the comedy of “Rodeo Clown” and we finally get a title track for this collection with “Hold My Beer”. Also check out “Mi Amigo” with Asleep At The Wheel and “Speak To Me Jukebox” for more highlights.
- David Adam Byrnes – Neon Town
This record from David Adam Byrnes was one of those unexpected gems that you hear about and when you finally get around to listening to, it blows you away. Neon Town is just good Texas country and I can’t wait yi hear what is next.
- Corb Lund – Agricultural Tragic
- Waylon Payne – Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me
- Bella White – Just Like Leaving
- Jaime Wyatt – Neon Cross
- Scott H. Biram – Fever Dreams
- Jessi Alexander – Decatur County Red
- Brennen Leigh – Prairie Love Letter
- Lori McKenna – The Balladeer
- The Wilder Blue – Hill Country
- Tennessee Jet – The Country
- Elizabeth Cook – The Aftermath
- Margo Price – That’s How Rumors Get Started
- Ray Wylie Hubbard – Co-Starring
- Dalton Domino – Feverdreamer
- Zephania Ohora – Listening to the Music
- Marcus King – El Dorado
- Sunny Sweeney – Recorded Live at the Machine Shop Recording Studio
- Brandy Clark – Your Life Is A Record
- Chase Crawford – The Neon Lights Go On Forever EP
- Arlo McKinley – Die Midwestern
- Jesse Daniel – Rollin’ On
- Rachel Brooke – The Loneliness In Me
- Caleb Caudle – Better Hurry Up
- Kyle Keller – All It Does Is Rain
- Lilly Hiatt – Walking Proof
- John Baumann – Country Shade
- Daniel Donato – A Young Man’s Country
- S.G. Goodman – Old Time Feeling
- Kody West – Overgrown
- Katie Pruitt – Expectations
SPECIAL 2-NIGHT LIVE STREAM CHRISTMAS CONCERT! Join us via Facebook or YouTube on December 23rd and 24th at 8pm CT for a one-of-a-kind Christmas Concert Special showcasing holiday music and performances by some of your favorite MusicFest artists! This is a fundraiser to assist musicians and crew members whose main source of income has all but ceased for nearly the entire year with no end determined at this time. 100% of the donations received will be committed to the musicians and crews via HUCK Foundation (Helping Underprivileged, Citizens and Kids Foundation) Non-Profit 501 (c) (3).
4 EASY WAYS TO DONATE TO HUCK FOUNDATION:
1. Text “MUSICFEST” to 44321
3. Venmo: @HuckFoundation
4. Direct Mail: P.O. Box 1522, Buda, TX 78610
Now accepting donations! Join us via Facebook or YouTube on December 23rd and December 24th at 8pm CT for a one-of-a-kind Christmas Concert Special showcasing holiday music and performances by some of your favorite MusicFest artists! This will be a fundraiser to assist musicians and crew members whose main source of income has all but ceased for nearly the entire year with no end determined at this time. 100% of the donations received will be committed to the musicians and crews via HUCK Foundation (Helping Underprivileged, Citizens and Kids Foundation) Non-Profit 501 (c) (3).
I have always looked to do things in my writing forum differently than everyone else, and use an anomalous approach to get my feelings across to you. I cannot write some “same old informational” junk every other website will make about a Legend as special as Mr. Charley Pride. He was a totally different hero to me, and to Country Music in general. Not because he was black or because he faced so much prejudice…he was a hero because he sang with heart and soul, and he didn’t consider himself different from his peers.
Many times he was asked how it felt to be a black Country singer, and his answer was always “I don’t know, I just sing Country and I’m just a Country singer”. See, Mr. Charley sprouted out of RCA Victor during the 1960’s when two things were transpiring that were hurdles to him..the Outlaw movement and segregation.
But even then he faced another hurdle that not many people really know much about, and that is they used Mr. Charley as a pawn in their marketing strategies against rival label Capitol Records after 1971, when Capitol records introduced another black Country artist not many know about…Mr. Stoney Edwards. To top it all off not many know that the band that backed Mr. Stoney Edwards was none other than Asleep At The Wheel.
Now, one of the reasons I say that Mr. Charley was being pawned by the label was that he didn’t record many songs HE wrote, and Mr. Stoney, did. Don’t mistake my words my friends, because that fact alone bred some of Country Music’s BEST writers, like Mr. Jerry Foster and more. That marketing war also spawned the birth and proliferation of Asleep At The Wheel too.
Many of the others of his ilk were already going through the 1970’s garnering their own creative control of their music, which was coined by the media as the Outlaw movement. From my personal studies, I never concluded a judgement on whether it was HIS CHOICE to record songs he didn’t write..and I’ll spend more years trying to learn.
Back then the general public was either enjoying one of three “derivatives” of Country Music, and those were The Outlaw Movement, The Nashville Sound and The Bakersfield Eras. Funny thing was, was that Mr. Charley was NONE OF THEM! He was just self admittedly a regular old Country Singer. I think that fact placed him into the ranks of Mr. Gene Watson and Mr. Moe Bandy ( both of whom are still alive, touring and healthy today). Yeah, I know many of his 1970’s albums like “Pride Of America” were recorded at the Nashville Sound studio, but that doesn’t change the fact his sound was Country.
He faced so many boundaries with segregation and prejudice during his youth, they had to “discretely” place him into package deals to slip him into the most prominent theaters across America. From my studies Mr. Faron young, whom helped Mr. Charley break out into superstardom, was VERY prejudiced against blacks. But Pride earned the respect of many with his raw and honest vocals, and his ardent love of the music itself.
I was exposed to his album “Country Feelin” at age 8. For some reason, it just spoke to me as a person. AGE 8 I was identifying with this “sound” I was hearing, and the song I loved was called “The Man I Used To be” by Mr. Max D Barnes. Mr. max wrote one of Country Music’s saddest songs called “Chiseled in Stone”..ironically Charley Pride’s management team passed on the offer for him to record that song.
As a teenager I swiftly scooped up EVERY Pride record I could find. From 1973 and 1975 his two albums with a band called the Pridesmen are rare finds for vinyl collectors alike. When I moved to Nashville in 1996, to pursue a career in Country Music, pride was one of the first heroes I had that I went out to find. I got to meet him at the Midnite Jamboree, at the Ernest Tubb Record Store.
Mr. Charley Pride was one of the most prominent and active Opry members within it’s ranks celebrating his 25th year in 2018. That statement right there brings me to my last quandary, how is the Opry going to react to this gaping hole 2020 has left in the Opry membership problem?
Mr. Hal Ketchum and Miss Jan Howard were almost weekly Opry appearance mainstays, with Mr. Charlie Daniels recently following suit, playing almost every other week.
Does the Opry plan to refill the “Grand Ladies Of The Opry” anymore? There are a plethora of ladies out there that play the opry on a regular basis, that need to be inducted into membership like Miss Erin Enderlin and Miss Sunny Sweeney and Miss Elizaeth Cook.
Charley Pride was my 2017 Album Of The Year. Without question that album was probably one of pride’s best in the last 20 years of his career. Without question it made my TOP LIST the first few moments of my hearing it.
In closing, the death of Mr. Charley Pride has not only left a hollow gaping hole in this entire genre, but in the hearts of many. His kindness and genuine gentle mannerisms cannot be duplicated or even copied by any of today’s youth. The dignity that he embellished Country Music with cannot be repeated by anybody.
There will never be another hero like him. Ever.
Country music artist, Ken Wilber, has announced the release of three singles as a gift to his fans during the holiday season, “Bread On The Table, “Freedom Song” and “I Could Get Used To You,” are all part of his upcoming compilation project. All three tunes were recorded at Ocean Way Studios in Nashville and engineered and mixed by Tony Cottrill at The DAWg Houze in Hendersonville, TN and mastered by Benny Quinn. The new releases are available on all digital music platforms for streaming and download. “Bread On The Table” is available here. “Freedom Song”is available here and “I Could Get Used To You” is available here.
The three recordings were produced and co-written by Exile’s Sonny LeMaire, who stated “Ken has taken a timely lyric and injected it with a kickin’ vocal that makes you smile and want to dance with his version of “Bread On The Table.” Co-writers were hit songwriters Shane Minor and J.P. Pennington. LeMaire added, “New York born and bred, Ken really shows his vocal range on “Freedom Song,” by taking a tune that could be in any Southern Rock band’s repertoire and made it his own!” Clay Mills and Jimmy Ritchey joined LeMaire in writing this tune. “Rearranging a number one song originally recorded by Exile penned by J.P. Pennington and myself and turning it into a reggae sing along is a trick that Ken pulls off in fun fashion! I love playing and listening to this tune over and over,” concluded LeMaire.
Ken Wilber recollects that “Freedom Song was originally recorded by Blackberry Smoke, I really liked the Southern Rock flavor to it, as I grew up listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers. I was also heavily influenced by The Charlie Daniels Band, so this was a nice way to showcase that influence. This particular song has a great groove to it, it’s one of those songs that makes you want to roll the windows down in your car and hit the gas.”
““I Could Get Used to You” is my wife Amanda’s favorite Exile song,” exclaimed Wilber! “We knew that we wanted to cover it for this project, but we wanted to change it up a bit, so that it wasn’t a carbon copy of what they originally did. Sonny and I played around with some different stuff on this one and finally settled on a reggae feel. I’m really happy with the way that this one turned out, as it sounds totally different from the original, but is also recognizable to people who are familiar with the song.”
“A nice uptempo 90’s style barn-burner – Exile originally released “Bread On The Table” on an EP. I really responded to the lyrics of this song, as it’s all about the struggles of the everyday working family. Right now in the midst of the pandemic, I think this song rings true more than ever. Millions of people have lost their jobs and are worrying about how they are going to feed their families and pay the rent. As much as this song is about the struggles that we all go through, it also has a positive way at talking about those struggles.”
“Ken is a pleasure to work with and I’m always excited when he travels here to Nashville. It’s an honor to have the opportunity to record and mix his projects. He’s an amazing talent, incredible versatility in his singing, songwriting and his honest enthusiasm is infectious. Ken just keeps getting better and better as an artist and entertainer which will become obvious to the listener in these new releases,” exclaimed Tony Cottrill, Lonely Dog Productions and The DAWg Houze.
My friends out in Texas have many great festivals all through the state all year long, like this one many of them have to move at certain times. This festival is one of the Grandaddies of the Texas Music community, rich with history and ripe with relevance to the music world.
It began at Old Settler’s park in Round Rock Texas, but when the park flooded one year , they moved the festival to Stone Mountain Events Center in Dripping Springs Texas. In 2018 they moved the festival to it’s permanent home close to Austin Texas.
Some of their past lineups have blown my mind and made me want to finally get out west to cover their event, and much like Steamboat Springs…ONE DAY I’ll get out there to do some work for them.
I mean how many festivals juxtapose such an eclectic lineup as this:
2019 / 32ND ANNUAL
APRIL 11-14, 2019 THE HOMESTEAD, 1616 FM 3158, DALE (TILMON), TEXAS
BRANDI CARLILE, JASON ISBELL AND THE 400 UNIT, THE DEL MCCOURY BAND, GALACTIC, HAYES CARLL, WILD CHILD, PENNY & SPARROW, THE LONE BELLOW, SHINYRIBS, AMANDA SHIRES, LOS LEGENDS FT. FLACO JIMINEZ, RUBEN RAMOS, RICK TREVINO Y AMIGOS, MANDOLIN ORANGE, THE STEELDRIVERS, JAMES HUNTER SIX, ROBERT ELLIS, PAUL THORN, BLACK PUMAS, JOHN MORELAND, PAUL CAUTHEN, THE LAST BANDOLEROS, WOOD & WIRE, SAMANTHA FISH, SOUTH AUSTIN JUG BAND, MIPSO, SARAH GRACE AND THE SOUL, JAIMEE HARRIS, CALLIOPE MUSICALS, LEY LINE, BEN HUNTER & JOE SEAMONS, JEFF PLANKENHORN, IDA MAE, JOHN ELLIOTT, FEEDING LEROY, MCMERCY FAMILY BAND, BATTY JR., MIDDLESPOON
Way back in 2007, after I was done going through my divorce I began healing by delving into all types of music, including Red Dirt. Myspace helped me find so many of these great artists, including this man Mr. Aaron Watson.
At the time I discovered him, he was into his album called “Barbed Wire Halo” which in my opinion is an iconic album in the history of Red Dirt music. It boasted a religious theme and brought many people out to recognize a Legend we lost in 2020 Mr. Billy Joe Shaver, who recites many Bible verses during the album.
That’s the type of gigantic duende that he has for the heart and soul of Country Music. This year alone, he has surpassed album sales of his last two albums on an independent basis with no help from mainstream platforms of any kind. The only places that you can find his music thrive is on websites like this, and a few others.
The song “Barbed Wire Halo” is one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard in the past. I hope he continues to play this one on his live shows forever. Last year in January, he headlined his own show at the Ryman Auditorium..and it sold well.
His album “Vaquero” peaked at number 2 on the Top Country Albums chart, which was the follow up to his critically acclaimed 2015 album “Underdog”. The album ‘Underdog” debuted at number 1 on the charts, and at that time he was the first ever independent male artist ever to do so.
2021 is already a huge year full of anticipated albums from many different artists including Mr. Aaron Watson, as he announces his new album “American Soul” on February 5th. He released a portion of the lyrics from the title track.
I have a new song called “American Soul” out today. We weren’t
planning on releasing it until the end of the year, but decided to release it today because the American Soul needs a pep talk right now more than ever. We need to turn off the news, turn up the music and dance with the ones we love. This year has been filled with an overdose of hate and heartache and a shortage of hugs. I hope this new song fills your heart with hope during these troubled times.
In the song the Abilene native sings, “It’s the red white and blue, it’s the yellow, brown and black. It’s those rotten ol’ Republicans and those darned ol’ Democrats. We’re coming back around ’cause you can’t hold down the American Soul.”
Asleep At The Wheel Announce Merry Texas Christmas, Y’all!,
A Special Online Christmas Concert On December 19th
December 3, 2020 – Austin, TX – Texas and Americana music pioneers Asleep at the Wheel aren’t going to let the year end without one last digital hurrah. On December 19th, bandleader Ray Benson and crew will dust off the carols, spike the eggnog, and proceed to boogie—holiday style—with a very special 90-minute live stream concert dubbed Merry Texas Christmas, Y’all! The band will take the stage at the “Texas North Pole,” playing fan favorites as well as choice cuts from their three previously released Christmas albums. The festivities will begin at 7 pm CST on December 19th, and post-show, the special will be on-demand streaming until Santa makes his rounds. For more information and to purchase a ticket, please follow this link. One ticket will allow streaming on one device.
In addition to tickets, exclusive holiday bundles including VIP Zoom meet and greets with Ray Benson and Katie Shore, Asleep at the Wheel Christmas cards, autographed CDs, tote bags, and more are available now right here, powered by Friendly Sky.
What else has the Asleep at the Wheel been up to this year? In October, the band teamed up with Austin City Limits and PBS for ACL Presents: 50 Years of Asleep at the Wheel, a special retrospective of the band’s appearances on the beloved program. From performing on the series’ very first episode to modern-day collaborations with legends like Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett (in total, the band has appeared on eleven episodes), Asleep at the Wheel have woven a 50-year thread through Texas and American music history, and Austin City Limits played a quite the part in it. Fans can experience the journey right from the beginning with ACL Presents: 50 Years of Asleep at the Wheel; more information including a full broadcast schedule is available at acltv.com.
About Asleep at the Wheel: The stars aligned in 1970 when three friends Ray Benson, Lucky Oceans, and Leroy Preston moved to Paw Paw, West Virginia (it’s not a made-up place, you can look it up). It was there that their dream of forming a band began after a mutual friend gave them access to his uncle’s cabin on an apple orchard just outside of town. The three friends began to—quite literally—woodshed and found others who would join them in their mission to play old-style roots/Americana music. This was long before the genre even had a name. After a trip to the outhouse, Lucky lived up to his name and suggested the band be called Asleep at the Wheel and so it was to be for the next 50 years.
Since inception, Asleep at the Wheel has received 10 GRAMMY® Awards, was cited by the Country Music Association as 1976 Touring Band of the Year, and were given the 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award by the Americana Music Association. They have released 31 albums and charted more than 20 singles on country charts. Billboard commented on the band’s catalog most succinctly: “Everything this act has ever released is simply spectacular.”
Bo Armstrong’s full-length debut, Chasing Ballads, is both conversational and poetic, Americana with a tinge of Texas influence. Out today, the album focuses on chasing after what matters to you, whether that’s realizing lifelong dreams or finding the love you believe in.
Produced by Brian Douglas Phillips (David Ramirez, Rob Baird, Thomas Csorba) at Rattle Trap Audio in Austin, TX, Chasing Ballads follows Armstrong’s 2017 EP, Where We Are. Throughout the 11 tracks, Armstrong seamlessly transitions from love songs to declarations of his purpose and finding his own voice.
“My idea of what it means to ‘make it’ as a songwriter has changed over and over and over again,” Armstrong says about the album. “I’ve learned that—despite all the necessary collaboration—this is often a lonely pursuit. But what calms me when I’m feeling overwhelmed is the realization that such behavior isn’t unique to me; it’s not even unique to someone pursuing a career in the arts. We all experience these flurries of emotion, and we all have to find ways of coping with them. That is the very shared human experience that the storytellers I admire capture so gracefully, and it is what I aim to get better at myself in the years ahead.”
“Chasing Ballads is about finding love you believe in and going after it,” he continues. “It’s about acknowledging your past and letting it motivate your future. It’s about finding the courage to live in the moment without throwing caution to the wind, and learning that so little in life can be accomplished on your own, even if the road you’re on is sometimes a lonely one.”
“The album’s eleven tracks develop an inviting sense of intimacy by reflecting on life’s small moments, while its subdued instrumentation lets the songwriting truly shine, putting the focus on the lyrics and Armstrong’s soulful delivery.”
“Meet Me in Memphis” offers a rollicking start to the album, an ode to long-distance love. “Built to Last,” featuring Laurel Wright of The Young Fables, examines love that spans decades. “Where Are You, Lonesome” explores “the universal feeling of loneliness,” notes Wide Open Country. “Mama Sway” is a tried-and-true love song, written for Armstrong’s wife while watching her with their young son. “Chasing Ballads,” one of the most affecting tracks on the album, finds Armstrong digging his heels in on what he believes in and remaining true to himself. “You Know What I Look Like in the Dark” offers a rare look at what it means to really be vulnerable.
Born in Dallas, Texas, Armstrong played four years of NCAA ice hockey in upstate New York. Following graduation, he spent two years in the Mississippi Delta with Teach for America. After close to a decade in New York City, he convinced his wife in 2017 that they should move to Nashville, where he could finally give music a real shot. His songs have garnered the respect and subsequent mentorship of storied songwriters (and fellow Texans) Jack Ingram, Jon Randall, and Liz Rose.
Chasing Ballads Track Listing:
1. Meet Me in Memphis