In the interest of disclosure, let me say that for well over a decade, I was a voting member of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (Nashville Chapter), creators of the Grammy Awards. That said, I've never taken the selection process all that seriously, feeling the process so fraught with politics, hype (especially the televised ceremonies) and nonsense that it lacks credibility. Sometimes worthy artists win; often it's the other way around.
Lee and Elaine Roy are a brother-sister bluegrass duo from Fitchburg, Massachusetts, raised in Canada, their sound leaning toward the "classic" acoustic bluegrass played by friend Ricky Skaggs and the late Keith Whitley. This. their first album for the revived Rural Rhythm label features accompanment from Skaggs' band Kentucky Thunder and was co-produced by the duo and Kentucky Thunder fiddler Andy Leftwich. Their solo vocals have personality and their harmonies are gorgeous, complimented by the band's solidly traditional sound, all well and good. As of today, it's at No. 7 on Billboard's Bluegrass Album chart.
Beatlemania ruled America when Ray Charles set up in LA's Shrine Civic Auditorium for a September 20, 1964 concert, three days before his 34th birthday. Artistically, it was a good period. A year earlier, he'd formed his Tangerine record label, and while he released the material through ABC Paramount Records, he was one of the early artists to own a major chunk of his recordings outright. Maintaining the momentum from his two Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music albums, his two most recent Top Tens had country tunes: the Hank Williams ballad "Take These Chains from My Heart" and Harlan Howard's "Busted," a Top Twenty hit for Johnny Cash.
On this week's "Believe Your Ears" podcast
P-G pop music critic/Weekend Magazine editor Scott Mervis talks with singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles. Music critic Rich Kienzle reviews new collections from two jazz icons -- "The Definitive Miles Davis on Prestige" and "The Definitive Bill Evans on Riverside and Fantasy."
It's a nice touch, Brad Paisley kicking off his H20 World Tour May 28th in the 'Burgh, the closest big city to his hometown of Glen Dale, West Virginia. To some, starting here might seem surprising. Popular perceptions of Pittsburgh music, after all, correctly deem it the birthplace of jazz icons, a hotbed of doo-wop, Porky and oldies, home base for Grushecky and Nardini and most recently, launching pad for Girl Talk, Mac Miller and Wiz Khalifa. In that context, of Western Pa. being fertile ground for country might seem far-fetched. But it's not.
Willie Nelson's November 26 marijuana possession arrest in Hudspeth County, Texas generated ample headlines. That's ramped up again as his case glides toward a resolution that's spawned media frenzy regarding whether he'd avoid jail by pleading guilty, paying a fine and singing in the courtroom. Willie, of course, is no stranger to pot. He's worked for its legalization and previously beat a 1994 Texas marijuana bust. That's all common knowledge. What's not so well known is the fact that he's far from the only Texas country musician with a taste for the stuff.
This week's "Believe Your Ears" music podcast just posted. It blends my review of Buddy Miller's latest album, Majestic Silver Strings, with an audio version of Scott Mervis's interview with Wiz Khalifa.
Ralph Mooney was already an acknowledged pedal steel guitar vitruoso when Waylon Jennings, a longtime fan, hired him in 1970. Over the next 20 years, "Moon" became the musical glue that held together Waylon's hell-for-leather backup band the Waylors. A member of the International Steel Guitar Hall of Fame since 1983, Mooney died March 20 of kidney cancer at his home in Kennedale, Texas. He was 82. His funeral took place March 23 in Texas.
Drummer Joe Morello, who rose to fame as a member of the Dave Brubeck Quartet and whose percussive gifts shaped landmark Brubeck recordings like "Take Five" and its 1959 parent album, "Time Out," an experiment with complex time signatures, died March 12 in New Jersey at age 82. Morello was one-fourth of the "classic" Brubeck Quartet. He and bassist Eugene Wright became the infallible rhythm section driving alto saxophonist (and "Take Five" composer) Paul Desmond and Brubeck's inventive, intricate piano.