Ken Burns, Country Music Series, PBS 2019

Ken Burns is the leading documentarian of American history and culture. The film catalog he and his team have produced in partnership with PBS is America’s cultural repository.

Ken Burns and company are working on Country Music, a series scheduled for PBS viewing in  2019.

Country Music will chronicle the history of a uniquely American art form, rising from the experiences of remarkable people in distinctive regions of our nation.  From southern Appalachia’s songs of struggle, heartbreak and faith to the rollicking western swing of Texas, from California honky tonks to Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry, we will follow the evolution of country music over the course of the twentieth century, as it eventually emerged to become America’s music.

It will be directed and produced by Ken Burns; written and produced by Dayton Duncan; and produced by Julie Dunfey—Emmy-award winning creators of PBS’s most-acclaimed and most-watched documentaries for more than a quarter century, including The Civil WarLewis & ClarkThe Journey of the Corps of DiscoveryThe National Parks: America’s Best IdeaThe Dust Bowl, and many more.

Country Music will be a sweeping, multi-episode series, exploring the questions, “What is country music?” “Where did it come from?” while focusing on the biographies of the fascinating characters who created it—from the Carter family, Jimmie Rodgers and Bob Wills, to Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Charley Pride, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Garth Brooks and many more—as well as the times in which they lived.  And like the music itself, Country Musicwill tell unforgettable stories—stories of the hardships and joys shared by everyday people.

We will trace its origins in minstrel music, ballads, hymns, and the blues, and its early years when it was called hillbilly music played across the airwaves on radio station barn dances. We will see how Hollywood B movies instituted the fad of singing cowboys like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, and watch how the rise of juke joints after World War II changed the musical style by bringing electric guitars and pedal steel guitars to the forefront.  We will follow the rise of bluegrass music with Bill Monroe and we will note how one of country music’s offspring—rockabilly—mutated into rock and roll in Memphis.  And we’ll see how Nashville slowly became not just the mecca of country music, but “Music City USA.” All the while, we will note the constant tug of war between the desire to make country music as mainstream as possible and the periodic reflexes to bring it back to its roots.

A tie-in collaboration event designed to celebrate the PBS première of Ken Burn’s Country Music is scheduled for the Jazz at Lincoln Center 2018-2019 Concert Series.

APR 25–27, 8PM • ROSE THEATER

WYNTON MARSALIS AND KEN BURNS: COUNTRY MUSIC

Iconic documentarian Ken Burns and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis explore the shared roots found throughout American music. With never-before-seen clips from Burns’ upcoming Country Music series, audiences will learn the fascinating and often intertwined histories of songs made famous by artists such as Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, and others. Then hear brand new arrangements of those songs written and performed by the JLCO.

Willie Nelson’s New Album – For the Good Times: A Tribute to Ray Price

I love everything about this soon to be available album from Willie Nelson. The retro cover is especially appealing as is the warm affection shown to Willie’s friend the late Ray Price.

Vince Gill makes a few appearances on this recording, backing up Nelson on a half-dozen tracks as a member of western swing supergroup the Time Jumpers.

1. “Heartaches by the Number” (featuring the Time Jumpers)

2. “I’ll Be There (If You Ever Want Me)” (featuring the Time Jumpers)

3. “Faded Love”

4. “It Always Will Be”

5. “City Lights” (featuring the Time Jumpers)

6. “Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me” (featuring the Time Jumpers)

7. “Make the World Go Away

8. “I’m Still Not Over You”

9. “Night Life”

10. “Crazy Arms” (featuring the Time Jumpers)

11. “Invitation to the Blues” (featuring the Time Jumpers)

12. “For the Good Times

American Masters – The Highway Men: Friends Till The End

From left to right Kris Kristofferson, Johnny ...
From left to right Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, who formed the country music supergroup, The Highwaymen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Public television continues to be one of the best avenues of American music specials.

Frequently referred to as “the Mount Rushmore of country music,” The HighwaymenWillie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson – were American country music’s first bona fide supergroup, an epic quartet comprised of the outlaw country genre’s pioneering stars. An essential musical and cultural influence, the Grammy-winning group was active from 1985 – 1995: recording three albums, touring the world and acting in the movie Stagecoach (1986). American Masters – The Highwaymen: Friends Till the Endpremiering nationwide Friday, May 27 at 9:00 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings) as part of the 30th anniversary season of THIRTEEN’s American Masters series, explores how these men came together and the fruits of their historic collaboration.

The Highwaymen Live – American Outlaws, a new 3 CD/1 DVD or Blu-ray box set of concert performances — including the complete Nassau Coliseum concert film seen in the American Masters documentary — will be available May 20 fromColumbia/Legacy, along with a new single-disc compilation CD, The Very Best of The Highwaymen. The Highwaymen: Live At Nassau Coliseum (a special broadcast edit of the concert film featured on The Highwaymen Live – American Outlaws) is part of special programming premiering on PBS stations as part of June Pledge 2016.

Our Musical Journey to Tennessee: Part 1 – Memphis, Home of the Blues, Birthplace to Rock ‘N’ Roll

July was an action packed music month for us. The month started with our vacation trip to Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee. Stay tuned for other music posts about more music events we experienced in July.

I brought along an essential music book to read on the plane, Mystery Train (Sixth Edition) by authoritative music journalist, Greil Marcus. The synergy of this book fit perfect with the music mission. The first chapter was about Harmonica Frank, 1951 (the year of my birth), Sam Phillips and Sun Studio. The book set the stage for the first leg of the music journey, Memphis. There was also a chapter about Elvis Presley but more about the King of Rock and Roll in Memphis later in this saga. 🙂

The path of American music discovery

A major goal in the music of our heart has been to visit the four homes (birthplaces) of American music, blues, country, jazz and rock n roll. We had previously visited the birthplace of jazz, New Orléans, Louisiana where we saw Preservation Hall on St. Peters Street.

We journeyed first to Memphis, Tennessee to learn more about the home of the blues and the birthplace of rock n roll. We stayed at the Hampton Inn at 175 Peabody Place a half block away from Beale Street.

The music on Beale Street spirited us out of the  hotel and around the block like a pied piper. We saw two blocks of motorcycles lining the pedestrian thoroughfare.

Bikes on Beale

“I’m walking in Memphis, Walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale” Marc Cohn ©Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Beale Street is a majestic street. We took note of B.B. Kings Blues Club at the top of Beale. We decided to have dinner and catch a show there the next night. We had to pay our respects to the King of the Blues.

From the 1920s to the 1940s, Louis Armstrong, Muddy Waters, Albert King, Memphis Minnie, B. B. King, Rufus Thomas, Rosco Gordon and other blues and jazz legends played on Beale Street and helped develop the style known as Memphis Blues. As a young man, B. B. King was billed as “the Beale Street Blues Boy”.

We had a fantastic dinner at the Flying Fish the first night. It was rated 4.5 stars. The fish was deeeelicious as my great-nephew Blake loves to say 🙂

The next day we signed up for a day tour of Memphis at the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau. We had a wonderful tour guide. Our first stop was Elvis Presley’s home, Graceland. I kept hearing the song, “Graceland” by Paul Simon in my head as we drove to the tourist attraction.

Graceland was a sight to behold. What knocked me out the most about Elvis’s estate was The Jungle Room and the sheer amount of awards he received in his lifetime for music and movies. Truly we were witnessing the King of Rock N Roll’s palace. What an honor it was to see it all.

The next stop on the Memphis tour was Sun Studio. A momentous place where Sam Phillips recorded, Howlin Wolf, Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. We didn’t take the studio tour as the place was mobbed. We looked around, took some pictures, bought some souvenirs and got back on the shuttle. Finally got to witness the birthplace of rock n roll.

(RoadTripSports.com photo by Kendall Webb)

I preordered the book that Peter Guralnick has been writing about Sam Phillips for 25 years. My goal is to learn more about Sam Phillips from his close friend.  Peter Guralnick is the definitive Memphis music historian. I can’t wait to get back to Memphis and continue the music discovery.

sphillips

Nashville Skyline  will be Part 2, stay tuned….

Dylan, Cash, and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City

Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville, Tennessee

March 27, 2015 – December 31, 2016

Dylan, Cash, and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City, presented by Citi highlights Dylan’s relationship with Cash. The two cemented their friendship at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival and were reunited in Nashville, in February 1969. Dylan had recorded most of Nashville Skyline when he went into the studio with Cash. They cut more than a dozen duets in two days. One, “Girl from the North Country,” appeared on Nashville Skyline, and Cash wrote Grammy-winning liner notes for the album.

A companion book to the exhibit Dylan, Cash, and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City looks at the Nashville music scene in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a time of great cultural vitality for Music City. This publication matches the Dylan, Cash and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard – Django and Jimmie

Sometimes you have to climb above your comfort zone when it comes to collecting music. I purchased the collaboration recording of Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, Django and Jimmie. It was an impulse buy I must admit. I’m real glad I bought this Sony Legacy recording. Its undeniable top-notch stuff.

“Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard – Django and Jimmie” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Willie_Nelson_%26_Merle_Haggard__Django_and_Jimmie.jpg#/media/File:Willie_Nelson_%26_Merle_Haggard_-_Django_and_Jimmie.jpg

The recording mix, the session musicians, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard’s vocals and guitar playing are an absolute delight. The mix of songs unfurled at a rhythmic pace that you’ll settle into so naturally.

There are a couple of special guests who complement Willie and Merle. I especially like “It’s All Going To Pot” sung with Jamey Johnson (who wrote the song with Buddy Cannon and Larry Shell) It was released as the first single on 420day.

Bobby Bare joins Willie and Merle on my album favorite, “Missing Ol’ Johnny Cash” written by Merle Haggard. The mutual respect will make the music of your heart smile warmly.

You’re going to treasure this 14 song masterpiece.

Johnny Cash – Out Among The Stars

Legacy Recordings and John Carter Cash have made an important discovery in the Sony Music Archive vault. Out Among The Starsa remarkable new album comprised of 12 recently discovered Johnny Cash studio recordings.

The tracks on Out Among The Stars were originally recorded in Nashville, Tennessee at Columbia Studios in 1981 and 1111 Sound Studios in 1984 and produced by Billy Sherrill, the architect of the “countrypolitan” sound who was heading A&R at CBS Records Nashville at the time.

On these songs—which include duets with June Carter Cash and Waylon Jennings—Johnny worked with an expanded ensemble featuring a young Marty Stuart on guitar and mandolin and Nashville A-Team members Jerry Kennedy (guitar), Pete Drake (steel guitar), Hargus “Pig” Robbins (piano) and Henry Strzelecki (bass).

The recordings, which have never been released in any form, are not demos, outtakes or alternate versions. They remained in the vaults during the years Columbia Records released Johnny Cash’s last albums for the label and were subsequently forgotten.

Johnny Cash – Out Among The Stars, Track Listing

1. Out Among The Stars
2. Baby Ride Easy – duet with June Carter Cash
3. She Used To Love Me A Lot
4. After All
5. I’m Movin’ On – Duet with Waylon Jennings
6. If I Told You Who It Was
7. Call Your Mother (Written by Johnny Cash)
8. I Drove Her Out Of My Mind
9. Tennessee
10. Rock and Roll Shoes
11. Don’t You Think It’s Come Our Time – Duet with June Carter Cash
12. I Came To Believe (Written by Johnny Cash)

Countrypolitan

In the early 1960s, the Nashville sound began to be challenged by the rival Bakersfield sound.[2] Nashville’s pop song structure became more pronounced and it morphed into what was called countrypolitan. Countrypolitan was aimed straight at mainstream markets and it sold well throughout the later 1960s into the early 1970s. Among the architects of this sound were producers Billy Sherrill (who was instrumental in shaping Tammy Wynette‘s early career) and Glenn Sutton. Artists who typified the countrypolitan sound initially included Wynette, Glen Campbell (who recorded in Hollywood and not Nashville), Lynn AndersonCharlie Rich, and Charley Pride.[3]

The Bakersfield sound, and later Outlaw Country, dominated country music among aficionados while countrypolitan reigned on the pop charts.[3]

To All The Girls… Willie Nelson

I love a beautifully sung duet, a musical composition for two performers. The sweet harmony of voices joined in unison, trading off song verses which enchants the music of our heart.

Willie Nelson recently released To All the Girls…  a series of duets recorded by Nelson with prominent female country singers. The performers featured on the eighteen tracks of the album are Dolly PartonMiranda LambertLoretta LynnCarrie Underwood,The Secret SistersRoseanne CashSheryl CrowWynonna JuddAlison Krauss, Melonie Cannon, Mavis StaplesNorah JonesShelby LynneEmmylou Harris, Lily Meola, Brandi Carlile, Tina Rose; and his daughter, Paula Nelson.

Congratulations Willie Nelson. According to Billboard Magazine he has extended his record for the most top 10s in the nearly 50-year history of Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart, as the duets “To All the Girls…” entered at No. 2,  He also claims his best Nielsen SoundScan week and highest rank on the tally in 24 years, as the set starts with 43,000 sold. Willie Nelson has secured 46 Top 10 Country albums an amazing achievement for the 80-year-old Red Headed Stranger 🙂

Willie Nelson ‘To All the Girls…’ Track Listing:

1. ‘From Here to the Moon and Back’ feat. Dolly Parton
2. ‘She Was No Good for Me’ feat. Miranda Lambert
3. ‘It Won’t Be Very Long’ feat. The Secret Sisters
4. ‘Please Don’t Tell Me How the Story Ends’ feat. Rosanne Cash
5. ‘Far Away Places’ feat. Sheryl Crow
6. ‘Bloody Mary Morning’ feat. Wynonna Judd
7. ‘Always on My Mind’ feat. Carrie Underwood
8. ‘Somewhere Between’ feat. Loretta Lynn
9. ‘No Mas Amor’ feat. Alison Krauss
10. ‘Back to Earth’ feat. Melonie Cannon
11. ‘Grandma’s Hands’ feat. Mavis Staples
12. ‘Walkin” feat. Norah Jones
13. ‘Till the End of the World’ feat. Shelby Lynne
14. ‘Will You Remember Mine’ feat. Lily Meola
15. ‘Dry Lightning’ feat. Emmylou Harris
16. ‘Making Believe’ feat. Brandi Carlile
17. ‘Have You Ever Seen the Rain’ feat. Paula Nelson
18. ‘After the Fire Is Gone’ feat. Tina Rose

Concert Review: Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, Mohegan Sun, May 4, 2013

Last night we ventured up the interstate to Mohegan Sun Casino to commune with our favorite rock and roller, Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band. Bob never disappoints us. This was our fourth Bob Seger concert in 17 years. I have been a Bob Seger fan since 1968 ;). Inside the music of our heart that translates to 45 years of wonderful music. Amazingly he showed no signs of stopping last night but it is imminent that he will retire in a few years.

My favorite moment of the night was when Bob said, “Okay, We go back to Live Bullet“, one of the best live rock albums of all time, bar none. He dug down deep transporting us back to Cobo Hall in Detroit Michigan, 1975. Bob and the Silver Bullet performed the connected songs, “Travelin Man” and “Beautiful Loser”. It was better than the original live recording. I became transfixed by the timeless passion he raised through these two songs.

He showcased two new songs from his forthcoming studio album that he projects will release August-September 2013, “All the Roads” and “California Stars”. Bob performed them seated at center stage with an acoustic guitar. When can I place my pre-order Capitol Records? C’mon. c’mon, c’mon 😉

I especially liked the song, “California Stars”,  with lyrics by Woody Guthrie. I urge the reader of this blog post to have a listen on Spotify to and then read up on the Nora Guthrie project, Mermaid Avenue Bob Seger has been majorly  influenced by Billy Bragg, Wilco and the memory of Woody Guthrie. I find Bob Seger’s country songs are perhaps his most heartfelt musical moments, as he shares his deep love for country music.

Bob Seger commented to the fans holding up “Happy Birthday Bob” birthday signs that his birthday was on Monday May 6th. He thanked them for recognizing the event ahead of time. He then stated, “I’m going to be 68 and I feel good.” Intuitively he followed those remarks with “Rock and Roll Never Forgets”, the last song of the night.

We left the arena feeling great about the legend, the person, Bob Seger. There were couples dancing in the hallway as we walked out with the night moves.

Set List:

  1. Long Twin Silver Line
  2. Tryin’ to Live My Life Without You
    (Written by Eugene Williams and Originally performed by soul singer, Otis Clay )
  3. The Fire Down Below
  4. Mainstreet
  5. Old Time Rock & Roll
  6. Her Strut
  7. Like a Rock
  8. Travelin’ Man/Beautiful Loser
  9. Roll Me Away
  10. Come To Poppa
  11. California Stars
    (Lyrics by Woody Guthrie, Song: Billy Bragg/Wilco)
  12. We’ve Got Tonight
  13. Turn the Page
  14. Sunspot Baby
  15. Katmandu

Encore #1

  1. Against the Wind
  2. Night Moves

Encore #2

  1. Hollywood Nights
  2. Rock and Roll Never Forgets