Country Music People December 2017 - Page 3

contents cmp December 2017 Features Old time music turned upside down SHE’S PLAYED THE OPRY AND SHARED THE STAGE WITH LORETTA AND SHE’S ONLY 13. HER ALBUM IS A ROOTSY TRIUMPH BUT KELLY GREGORY WONDERS IF NASHVILLE MIGHT BE MISSING THE BOAT. “W ho’s going to be the next Dolly Parton?” That’s what I was asked by Angaleena Presley just a few months ago when we were discussing the lack of female artists on the radio and country chart. It got me thinking quite a bit and I started listing names in my head - Margo Price, Brandy Clark, Miranda Lambert - of the women I thought could fill the shoes, so to speak, of the great female country artists. And then a few weeks later Ragged Dreams dropped through my door and I finally had the answer to that question. In country music it isn’t unusual for someone so young to be out there making a name for themselves and thirteen has been the lucky number for many. By the age of thirteen Dolly Parton had her first ever gig at the Grand Ole Opry hotel where she met Johnny Cash; Tanya Tucker had her first hit with Delta Dawn when she was only thirteen; and LeAnn Rimes rose to stardom at age thirteen following the release of her version of the Bill Mack song Blue. Emily Sunshine Hamilton seems to doing it by the Dolly method: making her Opry debut at ten years old and launching her professional career in churches and at local festivals. (She’s even written an homage to Porter and Dolly in the shape of Porter Wagoner Blues on her recent album.) However, since her breakout at just nine years old Emi has garnered more than 14 million YouTube views and half a million Facebook followers. “I think people first started noticing when I was around eight or nine years old. I had a video go viral when I was nine and that was when it really first started going. I think that people really started noticing us and we got to go to the Grand Ole Opry, and after that they started booking us at different gigs and they started taking us different places, and after that it’s just been going ever since. Our Facebook likes keep going up and things on YouTube would keep going and I think it’s really just one thing at a time. That’s always been my thing that I say, you’ve got to make one fan at a time or you can go to another place and then make all these fans and lose them one day. I think that making them and going out there and working hard to get them and being right there with them and just interacting with your crowd and being there for them, that’s how you get true fans. “The internet is a very powerful thing. It can either do good for you or it could fire one down. I feel like it’s a crazy thing that you’ve got to be careful with also and it can either make you or break you. I guess that it just kind of gave me a little bit of a push to go on my way and I think that now that’s practically the only way to get noticed, and I feel like I do get noticed. But it can only take you half the way. It can only take you a little 10 EmiSunshine She’s played the Opry and shared the stage with Loretta and she’s only 13. Her album is a rootsy triumph but Kelly Gregory wonders if Nashville might be missing the boat. 16 Randy Houser Duncan Warwick reckons he’s one of the good guys. When they sit down in London he finds Houser keen to get back to basics. 20 Christmas Gift Guide A CMP guide to what the country fan in your life might like for Christmas. 56 Lars Pluto Outspoken and opinionated, Lars Pluto is set to ruffle some feathers. What’s not to like? 60 Dale Ann Bradley Five-time IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year has pizza with Walt Trott. Reviews 10 cmp DECEMBER 2017 - cmp - DECEMBER 2017 11 Page 10 RANDY HOUSER One of the good guys randy houser haS TOPPED THE CHARTS AS BOTH A SONGWRITER AND A SINGER, BUT DUNCAN WARWICK FINDS A DESIRE IN HIM TO GET BACK TO BASICS. R andy Houser is one of the good guys. He might laugh it off and modestly say, “I try”, but Houser on any given day has more substance t han most of the Top 10 artists put together. Since he made his chart debut in 2008 there have been ups and downs, and several recording contracts, but the Mississippian singer and songwriter hasn’t just bounced back, he’s bounced higher each time. Nonchalant, though, doesn’t really do Houser justice. A casual observer might think he just doesn’t care, or that he’s not focused on his career, but it’s more a matter of integrity. Yes, he actually has some, and values his artistry above commercial success. It always seems as though Randy Houser would rather be performing his songs in a sweaty little club miles off the beaten track than swanning around at awards shows. Despite Houser’s first single, Anything Goes, being one of the best songs of the late noughties it criminally peaked at #17 and still sounds like a chart topper in anybody’s book even now. “I feel like that song was a bit ahead of its time,” he shares. “In today’s world, especially in the States, I think that song…Even then that song felt very refreshing even with as little airplay as it got. I think that it still felt like sort of a rose in the middle of a wheat field. It was just this thing that stuck out and I think it was a beautiful time then to put something like that out, but now I think that it would probably stand a better chance.” Highlighting Houser’s big voice, things panned out a little better for the follow-up single, Boots On, which came within a whisker of taking the top spot on the Billboard Chart but just a couple of years later Houser moved to Show Dog Records and his recording future looked less than secure. It seemed as though he was still riding on the coattails of recognition from being one of the writers of the Trace Adkins monster HonkyTonk Badonkadonk - his first cut after moving to Nashville to be a songwriter. 16 cmp - DECEMBER 2017 DECEMBER 2017 - cmp 17 Page 16 Nice to meet y’all... 30 Album Reviews 52 Live Reviews 55 Book Review Regulars post-country,countrypolitan, and twangcore. That's the official description of where dylan earl is at musically. intrigued? then step on in to a steel guitar-soaked world. My name is Earl Dylan Earl O fficially Dylan Earl is a post-country/ countrypolitan/twangcore songwriter currently based out of Fayetteville, Arkansas but he also puts it simply, “I make songs in the country and western persuasion.” With Dylan earl’s recent release - New Country To Be - looking like it dropped from a record rack of a store long ago shut down by the rise of the iPod, the sound is as delightfully retro as the singer’s moustachioed mug on the LP sleeve and Earl shares his desire to create a period piece. With a laugh he admits, “I’m a vinyl junky. I’m happy that I can go to shows now and leave with vinyl instead of a CD that might slide around my dashboard. It’s a physical artefact rather than a digital representation. “As far as designs go, I think people just realised that perhaps artists had largely already mastered album design concepts and styles. I guess there’s just more room to work with on an LP. In all seriousness, though, I’m glad I nailed something. Hopefully the book is better than its cover.” Dylan Earl’s debut EP was released in 2015 and boasted Daniel Romano in the production chair and the Juno-nominated Canadian has become something of a mentor. “My experience with Dan was important and certainly one that I didn’t see coming. My buddy Hayden Johnson (Holly Grove, AR) and I created a sad clown country band called Keyless Gentry to open a show for him at one of our favorite clubs in the great damn state of Arkansas, JR’s Lightbulb Club (RIP); It was a weird night. Anyway, that night I mentioned I was working on some solo stuff and they had me up that coming August to record. I put out Blessing in Disguise, which Dan produced, on his Mosey label in 2015. He was kind enough to have me out for his If I’ve Only One Time Askin’ tour shortly after and I think 22 cmp - DECEMBER 2017 4 News 8 Tour Guide 15 The David Allan Page 22 Nice to meet y’all - Dylan Earl 28 Week In The Life - Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn 29 Nashville Skinny 59 Americana Roundup DECEMBER 2017 - cmp 23 Page 22 HELLO C ountry music today might not be in such a sorry state if people would, as Dale Watson suggested in A Real Country Song, “speak up and say what’s wrong”. Artists, DJs, and anyone involved in the industry. Secretly they nearly all think it, but say something and you might watch your career go down the toilet quicker than the Dixie Chicks following a George Bush comment. Even George Strait and Alan Jackson had to backtrack when they recorded Murder On Music Row. We all know they meant every word but officially they had to say that it was just a bit of fun. Lars Pluto, however, will not be silenced. The Michigan-born singer and songwriter is these days based way out west… in deepest Devon where as a devoted family man he is fast losing his American accent. Catch one of his live shows and you’re sure to hear him sing his self-penned Dear Country Music, in which he asks in no uncertain terms, “Dear country music, what the fuck happened to you?” It’s a pertinent question that has disturbed many a country fan for the best part of twenty years. The song didn’t make it onto his recent album, The Remote Sessions, but he promises it will be on his next. Still, in a ‘you can kiss my country ass’ kind of way rather than some homoerotic imagery, Lars bares his butt on the cover of The Remote Sessions. Yes, Lars Pluto is a troublemaker and if this alone doesn’t endear the tattooed and quiffed singer to you then you’d better stick with your Kane Brown records. Just a few months ago Lars Pluto found himself nominated for a BCMA award and promptly posted a video of himself online in which he sets fire to the nomination. Sure, he might not be on a live telecast as Charlie Rich was when he set fire to the John Denver envelope at the 1975 CMA Awards show, but it still makes a statement. Trouble might well be his middle name, but for Lars Pluto actions speak even louder TROUBLE LARS PLUTO originally hailing from Michigan, these days lars pluto is now uk-based and more than happy to speak and say what is wrong with country music on both sides of the atlantic. quite a lot it turns out. he speaks to duncan warwick than words and he is responsible for putting on a show in Manchester in January which he hopes will highlight a world of country music far removed from that of The Shires. “Well, I do my best,” laughs Lars at the suggestion that he is a trouble maker. “I think a lot of the powers that be, BCMAs and whatnot, no one says anything to them and you’d be surprised by the amount of messages I get off performers that say, ‘Oh, I’m so glad you’re saying stuff’. And I’ll go, ‘Why aren’t you saying anything if you agree with me?’ And they’re like, ‘I don’t want to rock the boat or make anybody mad or whatever’. I personally don’t understand that kind of mentality. I’ve always been raised that if something feels wrong, sounds wrong, then you say something or you do something about it. I make my money elsewhere because there isn’t really no money in this BCMA type UK country music scene for the majority of the acts, even the larger ones who are winning these awards, they’re not making money off their job. And because I’m not holding to them in any way I feel like I’m free to be able to say whatever I want and I just always have. I don’t really know any other way to be but in some circles it makes me unpopular.” That Lars Pluto was even nominated at all he suspects might have been a ploy to silence him. “That seems to be the case,” he affirms, “I’ve been really, really vocal talking about... Look at all these people that are nominated. How many BCMAs has Luke Thomas won? Six. He’s won six BCMAs in six years. His mummy and daddy are on the committee so it’s not really rocket science when you start to look at the people they nominate and the people that win year after year after year, like Gary Quinn and his partner. His partner is also on the nominating committee and he’s been nominated for six years in a row. You see a lot of that. It’s all this cronyism and phonyism to me that just is so transparent and I’ve been really vocal. “I started being vocal because I just didn’t, I was like, ‘Well, they’re never going to nominate me because first of all I play real country music and they don’t nominate real country music.’ So I didn’t feel like I had anything to lose. I was never going to be quiet about it but then I got into a little bit of an online spat with Luke Thomas’s mother, she’s the director and secretary of BCMA, and got into a pretty decent, heated debate with her on it and then the very next day I was nominated for a Horizon Act. It was the only category where they had seven nominees, all the others were like four or five nominees, but they squeezed me in last minute. I honestly think they were trying to shut me up like, ‘Oh, we’ll give him a nominee and then he won’t be able to badmouth us and say that we’re rubbish and if we give him a nomination. He’ll shut up and go away.’ But I just took it as quite the opposite. I was like, ‘First of all it’s not really a nomination, second of all I honestly don’t believe that they count any of the votes cast by the BCMA members 56 cmp - DECEMBER 2017 DECEMBER 2017 - cmp 57 Page 56 Dale Ann Charts BRADLEY walt trott catches up with the five-time IBMA Female vocalist of the year over some pizza. D 64 Americana & UK Country Charts 65 Billboard Country Charts ale Ann Bradley breezed into town to prompt media to plug her new album, a follow-up to her first- production effort, the Grammy-nominated Pocket Full of Keys. Thanks to publicist Vernell Hackett, we exchanged pleasantries and proceeded to play 20 Questions, all about Dale Ann, at Edley’s, a popular pizza parlour in East Nashville. “When you make a record, you put your whole heart and soul on the line,” says Bradley, in her most charming Sweet Tea twang. “Everybody does, especially when you produce your own album. Fortunately, somebody liked that first one alright, and believe me, this ol’ girl was relieved and happy.” Earlier Bradley collections were produced by such bluegrass enthusiasts as Sonny Osborne, Alison Brown, Tim Austin and Dan Tyminski, collaborations that helped ensure five International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) wins for her as that genre’s best female vocalist. This year and last year, she and her all-girl band Sister Sadie were IBMA nominees, as was her 2016 premiere production CD, Pocket Full of Keys, in her first year as a solo artist for Pinecastle Records. Incidentally, her Sister Sadie team again nabbed a 2017 nominee as best emerging act (consisting of Tina Adair, Gena Britt, Beth Lawrence and Deanie Richardson), which we mistakenly thought was a one-year only category. Not so coincidentally, the Dale Ann Bradley backup band’s heard on the new CD, which we concluded was a comfort factor for the artist-producer, who agrees, “Well that and because of the connection and love we have for one another in this configuration (Mike Sumner, banjo; Tim Dishman, bass; Scotty Powers, mandolin; Matt Leadbetter, guitar). So many musicians come into your band through the years, and I loved ’em all, but this particular group seems to really enjoy being part of the program and truly love what we’re doing creatively. And hey, they treat me like a queen!” Aware the lady has umpteen albums to her credit, we wondered Courtesy of Billboard Inc. 60 cmp - DECEMBER 2017 aloud why this specific CD was self-titled, something usually affixed to an artist’s first-time project? “I’ve added it all up and with all the bands I’ve been a part of, this was the 14th album, but this time I just wanted to say, ‘This is me - Dale Ann Bradley - and I hope you like it!’ I wrote a couple songs on it, I sing and play, and produced it,” so sink or swim, it’s D.A.B. all the way. Seems self-penned Southern Memories or Now And Then (Dreams Do Come True) might have ser ved the purpose equally well, particularly the latter title, which she co-wrote with Jon Weisberger. Nonetheless, Jon’s pleased by the news, “Dale Ann Bradley’s got a new album coming out, and she’s recorded a song that she and I wrote for my album, I’ve Been Mostly Awake’(2015, featuring her vocals). Excited to hear what she and her band have done with it!” There’s also a much-touted duet on there - I Just Think I’ll Go Away - with superstar Vince Gill (now touring with an iconic, though reconstituted, vocal band The Eagles). So how did that old Carter Stanley song fit into the “D.A.B.” mix? “Vince loves bluegrass and unashamedly says so and means it,” Bradley responds. “We first met at the Opry, and he likes to help anyone, he’s just that way. I opened a show for him in Chattanooga, and he said we ought to record together sometime. Well, Pocket Full of Keys was underway and I invited him to sing on it, but the timing wasn’t right and it didn’t work out. Yet he said, ‘Remember me . . . call me.’ In fact, he ended up writing the liner notes for that album.” Apparently Gill remembered, too, and added a guest vocal with Dale Ann for this album, and like her, loves to poke around in the attic for old treasures, coming up with their duet title, originally performed by the Stanley Brothers (and later Keith Whitley). “We both love the Stanleys’ music. You may remember, Vince even performed, along with Ricky Skaggs and Patty Loveless, at Ralph’s funeral. Anyway, I Just Think I’ll Go Away was a song we both loved, and was on my bucket list, so we were anxious to sink our teeth into it. I think it came out OK, don’t you?” DECEMBER 2017 - cmp 61 Page 60