Archives for category: Country

Friday night, Due West will hit the stage of The Grand Ole Opry for the first time. Due West is built like a brick house from the ground up, all three, Tim Gates, Brad Hull and Matt Lopez are accomplished musicians, songwriters, vocalists and performers.

 Due West have been paying their dues over the last few years, from playing on three stools in an intimate venue to rocking some of the biggest stages between Nashville and the Rocky Mountain West.

all photos courtesy Black River Entertainment

Currently, their single, “Things You Can’t Do In A Car” is #43 on the Mediabase charts.

 For Due West, it looks like the time is now.

 You could start with songwriting skills that quickly earned all three Publishing deals and help define their fresh, unique sound. You could start with Producer Garth Fundis, whose credits include Keith Whitley, Don Williams, Trisha Yearwood and Sugarland. Anyone who has heard them sing will tell you that the place to start with Due West is with their vocals, collectively a three-lane road to magic.

 It happened the first time they ever sang together when old friends Matt Lopez and Brad Hull met Tim Gates at a party. The three started harmonizing and the other attendees—Music Row stars, newcomers, and friends—kept asking how long they’d been a group. It’s been happening ever since as they’ve toured the country, visiting radio stations and playing for appreciative audiences along the way.

 “We’ve been told that when we sing harmony, it’s something special, “says Brad, “and we’ve learned to believe it.”

Tim Gates

“It just seems like anytime we play live,” adds Tim, “we usually end up with some long-term fans.”

 That phenomenon is about to get much bigger as Due West puts the finishing touches on new material, being released on Black River Entertainment in 2012, that is already garnering industry buzz.

 “The energy is definitely there,” says Matt. “We’re at a new label with new music. This is all about new beginnings.” They’re especially excited about the chance to work with legendary producer Garth Fundis and engineers Chad Carlson and Chuck Ainlay. Carlson and Ainlay engineered all of Taylor Swift’s work and some of Ainlay’s most recent credits include producing and engineering Miranda Lambert’s Four The Record and engineering Lionel Richie’s Tuskegee.

 Producer Garth Fundis says of the time spent in the studio, “This is one of the most fun and creative musical experiences I’ve had in a recording studio,” he says. “And we’ve only just begun.”

 The Nashville Bridge caught up with Due West just a few days before their turn on the Grand Ole Opry Stage to find out a few things about the Nashville tri-powered roof raisers!

 What should we know about Due West?

Matt Lopez

Matt: Due West is a vocal trio.

Tim: We love what we do, and have a good time doing it.

Brad:  Due West is a group of 3 guys who came from 3 different small towns in the Western U.S., but met in Nashville and became instant brothers from a musical standpoint.  We LOVE vocal harmony and we’ve talked about how amazing it is that when we “lock in” on a chord, we can not only hear it but we can feel it… We hope that the harmony we sing will pay homage to the great vocal groups of the past and pave a way for harmony to be a part of the future of country music.

Favorite concert stop so far? What happened?

Matt: The Gallivan Center in Salt Lake City was my favorite so far. It was a large super-energetic crowd, and a nice big stage to run around on!

Tim:  “The Crystal Palace” (The home of Buck Owens) in Bakersfield California.  Not only was it our first time playing there, but it was our first full band show this year after a long run of radio visits. It was a huge honor to play on that stage. 

Brad Hull

Brad:  We recently played a promotional show at a Kentucky Ford dealership in front of a few hundred radio station listeners.  The promotion would be giving away a 1 year truck lease to the grand prize winner and we were there to play our song “Things You Can’t Do In a Car” from the beds of 3 brand new pick-ups as the entertainment part of the promotion.  The gig was fun, but the coolest moment was when an unsuspecting crowd member won the grand prize.  Something in her eyes seemed to let us know how much of a blessing this prize was to her and how much it was needed in her life.  Obviously, I think anybody wouldn’t mind winning something like that, but we could tell that this was more special than that.  I looked at Matt and Tim as the M.C. called this woman’s name and there couldn’t have been 2 bigger smiles in the whole place!  I looked over at our tour manager and he had big tears in his eyes.  It’s cool to see our music change people’s lives, even if it’s indirectly, that’s the reward.

Biggest musical influences?

Matt: The Beatles, Diamond Rio & Boyz II Men

Tim:  Keith Whitley, Steve Wariner, George Strait and Randy Travis

Brad:  My musical influences span over a few different genres and really come from any musical experience that moves me, but I would say that George Strait and Brian McKnight would be two artists that I’ve really latched onto and drawn influence from. 

If you could only pick three albums out of your collection, what would they be?

Matt: James Taylor – Greatest Hits, Michael Jackson – History, Mark Nesler – I’m Just That Way

Tim: Bellamy Brothers – Rebels Without A Clue/ Steve Wariner- Life’s Highway/ Keith Whitley- Don’t Close Your Eyes

Brad:  George Strait – #7, Brad Paisley – Part Two, Dierks Bentley – Modern Day Drifter

Which guitar or piece of gear you can’t live without?

Matt: My Larivee D10-E acoustic guitar.

Tim: Definitely my iPhone.   

Brad:  A good tuner.  I can’t STAND to listen to out-of-tune guitars!  I think that makes me a little paranoid and keeps me tuning constantly.

Favorite song you have written so far?

Matt: “Love’s Lookin’ Good On You” – recorded by Lady Antebellum.

Tim: “Day Over Beautiful”- its a song that I wrote about my wife. 

Brad:  “So Long, My Friend.”  It may never be heard by the masses but I can never play that song without feeling the emotion I felt when I wrote it, I think because it came from a true, personal place.

Favorite place to eat in Nashville?

Matt: Chuy’s Mexican restaurant.

Tim:  Sushiyobi

Brad:  Sushiyobi.  Matt and Tim told me for YEARS that I would love sushi if I’d just try it, but it was my wife who finally got me to try it.  Of all the sushi restaurants I’ve been to across the U.S., Sushiyobi here in Nashville is still my fave!

What are your thoughts about playing the Grand Ole Opry for the first time?

Matt: Because it’s such an amazing honor and privilege, I’m trying to play it way down in my head; so that I don’t get freaked out and keel over dead on the stage!

Tim:  Just like my first kiss, or the first time I sat behind the wheel of a car, I get butterflies.    It’s gonna be a great experience!! 

Brad:  It is a dream come true for me.  I love the history and tradition of the Opry and I honor that.  I can’t wait to step inside of the “circle” and soak in that moment.  I have a lot of friends from my home town in Arizona who, without me even saying what a big deal it is, knew instantly that the opportunity to play the Opry is a HUGE deal!  They will all be there on Friday night to cheer us on.  I cannot wait!

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

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Tommy Dalton could very well be the next Nashville Graduating class’ Jeffrey Steele.  Following “Damn Jeans” endorsement deal with True Religion Jeans, Tommy continues to grow both directions as a Songwriter co-writing new material with Anne Marie Boskovitch and other up and comers as well as the ability to front a band and rock the house.

Tommy had a full band last night for The Billy Block Show at The Rutledge sharing the bill with 80’s teen sensation, Tiffany, who has been spending some time in Nashville recording new material at Yackland Studios. Just like Keith Urban and Elvis, there were girls up front who knew the words to all of his songs even though they may have just heard “Something To Die For” at local showcases for the most part.

Tommy Dalton had a tight band featuring Eric Seals’ Tommy Lee flare, stick twirling and skin pounding under The Billy Block Show banner. I was surprised when Tommy announced that the band had only practiced that morning.

Only in Nashville, like Bob Dylan found out when he recorded Blonde on Blonde, can you find such passionate playing with musicians who get it almost as fast as you can think it.

Okay so why can I say he could be the next Jeffrey Steele? I haven’t met anybody who wouldn’t like to co-write with him whether an upbeat piece or a ballad. Tommy’s songwriting chops have been doubling every year. I met Tommy when he came down from the North Country in 2008 when he played an open mic night at French Quarter Café. He had the charisma and, okay, magnetism, it really didn’t matter that a lot of the structure at that time spoke “Goo Goo Dolls”; it was the potential at that point.

Jeffrey Steele with Tommy

He is one of those guys that you want to see succeed and his willingness to develop both on stage and with a guitar and a piece of paper that has got long-timers like Brent Mason behind him.

There will be those that prefer to see Tommy do his own songs while musicians like Travis Wilbourn (T. Swift, Hello Kelly) say they know him mainly as a songwriter. I don’t know anybody else in town, give or take another year or two, who has the potential to follow in Jeffrey Steele’s footsteps as a great performer fronting a full band as well as being a great Songwriter.

Tommy has been here since 2008 and every year he increases his ability times ten. I met Jeffrey Steele back in 2008 after a sold out gig at 3rd and Lindsley. He said “Brad, it took me eight years before I got my first cut but after that it just kept going. Let me know how you’re doing”.

Tommy Dalton has been here for three. I think by the time year five comes around he will be part of Country Music’s new class of Writers and Performers.

 – Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

Garth Brooks 2nd show 10pm crowded entry

Just weeks after Nashville Scene had published its best shows of 2010 list where Paul McCartney took top honors, Garth Brooks, who had not played an arena show in town since 1998, shattered tickets sales records, 140, 000, with nine shows sold out in four hours and spread across five days at Bridgestone.

Garth came to town to do his part for flood relief along with his original band, every member from the shows that played arenas in the 90’s made it for the night as the Country Star who sold 100 million records in 10 years and set a new standard of what was possible for Country crossover did a “best of” show to a sing along crowd and raised closed to 4 million dollars for The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.

(Photo: Dipti Vaidya/Tennessean Staff )

This was a full production that was also being filmed for broadcast on the Armed Forces Network and the crowd benefitted from a multi angle camera production that was broadcast on several screens in the arena.  Garth made note that  “You’ve done your part, now we are going to do our part” before going into a greatest hits night that featured guest spots by his wife Trisha Yearwood and Steve Wariner who had won a Grammy for his Chet Atkins tribute album just a year ago.

Garth had just come out of retirement a year ago playing a show in Vegas that features him on acoustic guitar and a stool, with no backup band. As Garth says, getting back to where it all started. Not only was this the first Arena show in Nashville since 1998 but it was the first show with his original band.

Songwriter Sam Cooper/Mrs. Cooper/Mother first time from New Jersey

I was invited by a record executive who happened to have a spare ticket left to caravan with a group of songwriters and family to the second show. I had not seen a crowd that nuts since the first time I saw Van Halen. The entire audience was on their feet for almost the entire show singing along to every song.

It was Garth’s 10:00 late show the first night on Thursday and if he was worn out from the first set he didn’t show it other than maybe breaking a sweat now and then.  Rolling through hit after hit, Garth not only made eye contact but interacted several times with the audience.  At one point, he grabbed a camera from a fan up front and took pictures of the audience and his band before giving it back.

Crank it up/Full Video Production at Monitor Board

If this was meant to be a return to the stage, it was enough to land front page articles not only by local press, but from Rolling Stone, Billboard and every major press across the country. There were several well written pieces out the next couple of days.

Country Music fans are now used to Arena sized Country shows put on by Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley. Taylor Swift and Rascal Flatts but this was the artist that started it all with his blend of singer/songwriter style that blended country with influences from James Taylor to Billy Joel.  Garth figured out how to do “Arena Rock” size shows almost 20 years ago with high wire acts and smashing acoustic guitars.

Garth at Bridgestone Arena December 2010

Garth was in his element, walking around the entire 360 stage, egging on the audience and spotlighting band members as the night rolled toward the finishers “Friends in Low Places”, which  has become his “Honky Tonk Women” as well as the song he wished he was known by “The Dance” finished out the night.

In a year where several major stars returned to do huge shows to benefit those who suffered most in the historic floods in May this was the icing on the cake.  Now getting back to Paul McCartney, yes it was legendary that Paul played in Nashville for the first time. Paul has been playing a lot of second tier markets this go around. He also played Coachella for the first time in 2009. Those who know Nashville history know that Paul wrote “Juniors Farm” after staying at a Nashville area farm laying low one summer with Wings and the family.

Now back to Garth, as a personal triumph, this was as important as the Central Park Concert or playing at The Dallas Cowboys stadium. What started out as an offer to play a show turned out to be an avalanche of positive response with ticket buyers as far away as Canada to see Garth with the full band. Not bad for a member of “The Class of ‘89”.

Note*** First photos from my new HTC EVO 4G, we shall see…

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

A year in Exile

If there was any kind of recurrent theme this year, The Rolling Stones kept popping up on the radar. It started when I bought the Deadstring Brothers album Sao Paulo an obvious well done Stones influenced work of art. It would be in my Top Ten if it had come out in 2010 but it actually was released in 2009. It is a great album and when I saw them live at The Basement it came across really well.

It didn’t stop there; Exile on Main Street had been remastered with bonus tracks where The Stones actually brought in Mick Taylor to play his parts on some unfinished tracks. The Rolling Stones released a new single “Plundered My Soul” from the found tracks and released several versions of the album.

Grimey’s did a midnight screening of the Documentary Stones in Exile that took photographs, film, new interviews with the band as well as Bobby Keyes and others about recording Exile on Main Street in the south of France way back when at The Belcourt Theatre. “Exile” is now considered a pivotal record but at the time “Tumbling Dice” was considered a difficult single on a rather un-commercial record.

During the Americana Conference the Long Players augmented with Stones Sax Player Bobby Keyes, Dan Baird and several singers like Mike Farris, Grace Potter and others did the entire album live at The Cannery Ballroom. 

The Theatre release Ladies and Gentlemen The Rolling Stones which was filmed during the Exile promotional tour in the States was remastered and released on DVD in the fall. The set featured many of the songs from Exile that are not played much by latter day Stones such as “Sweet Virginia”. The sound and film looked phenomenal and it was good to see Mick Taylor at his best, an integral part of The Stones during that period and in truth is really missed nowadays.

Finally, to finish off the year of The Stones, Keith Richard’s Autobiography Life was released in November along with a compilation of his X-Pensive Winos recordings from the late Eighties.  The Rolling Stones managed to keep in the music news almost as much as Taylor Swift.

Original cover for Straight Up

It also seemed to be the year for catalog re-releases as Apple Records remastered most of the Apple back catalog of non-Beatles recordings by Badfinger, Mary Hopkins, James Taylor and released all of them at the same time.

FnA Records continued to not only re-release 80’s metal catalog but also unearthed several recordings that were set to release but never were by labels such as A&M and Geffen when the Seattle scene took over.  There were several recordings by different artists from The Thirteenth Floor Elevators 45’s to Carnival Season vinyl that saw their material released on CD for the first time.

Janie Hendrix continues exquisite releases of all things Jimi Hendrix with the release of West Coast Seattle Boy that not only has yet another Bob Dylan song done by Hendrix but goes back to the background of what he was doing before going to England with expanded packages that include a disc full of Isley Brothers and other nuggets, pre-Experience as well as a DVD Voodoo Child that even talks about his Nashville days.

Country continues to sell big, but real, traditional or Texas Country has been swallowed up by the Americana scene. At least it has found a home. As far as innovation in current pop country the last leap forward was Miranda Lambert’s Revolution and that was released last year.

Here are few honorable no less worthy than the list:

Ratt – Infestation

Merle Haggard – I Am What I Am

Kort – Invariable Heartache

Charlie Louvin – The Battles Rage On

Marty Stuart – Ghost Train

Jim Lauderdale – Patchwork River

Crazy Heart – (Soundtrack) Various Artists

Okay, now for my Top Ten. In making my choices, I not only looked at material, but innovation and game changers, records that made things interesting.

10- Carnival Season / Misguided Promises / ARRCO

This represents not only a re-issue on CD for the first time of regional Birmingham band Carnival Season that features local legend Tim Boykin, but, painstakingly includes every recording the band made during their short time together as well as extensive liner notes that tell the whole story of the late 80’s rockers. It sits well on the shelf with bands like Redd Kross as well as The Replacements. The band has been doing occasional reunion gigs playing not only this set but some new stuff as well over the last couple of years. This was one of the first alternative rock bands out of Birmingham, Alabama.

Featured tracks: “Misguided Promises”, “Please Don’t Send me to Heaven”

9- Robert Plant / Band of Joy / Rounder –Esparanza

Robert was in the middle of recording the follow up to Raising Sand with Allison Krauss when he pulled the plug when he felt the magic wasn’t there. He retreated to Nashville and entrusted Buddy Miller to put together a band that features Darrell Scott, Byron House, Marco Giovino and Patty Griffin and secluded into Woodland Studio to see what they would come up with. The result is obscure covers as well as a Plant-Page piece from Walking into Clarksdale that shows some Zeppelin flavor with uncharted Americana territory which sonically could have only happened with Nashville session players in such a short time. The band gelled in the studio and continues to roll across Europe and Stateside. This is probably Buddy Miller’s best Production effort yet.

Featured tracks:  “Angel Dance”, “You Can’t Buy My Love”, “House of Cards”

8 – Ryan Bingham and The Dead Horses / Junky Star / Lost Highway

Ryan tends to write like a modern day Dylan but his voice is more like John Kay from Steppenwolf. Ryan who comes from the red dirt scene of West Texas and now lives in so-L.A. got national notice with the Grammy winning “The Weary Kind” from the Crazy Heart soundtrack defiantly writes about a drifter leaving behind a dead end life to go to California only to end up sleeping on the Santa Monica pier.

Featured tracks: “The Wandering”, “Junky Star”

7- Sweet Apple / Love & Desperation / Tee Pee

Put together by members of Dinosaur Jr. and Witch, this little known defiantly Hard Rock and other worldly idea collection of songs with its Roxy Music rip off style album cover is actually closer to something between an early Alice Cooper (when they were a band) and Ziggy Stardust era Bowie. The album kicks off like a Raspberries send off with Guidedbyvoices production and then the desperation begins with some morbid love lost desperation with a chugging Alice Cooper band style with lyrics like ”Looking out the window, watching people fall, how I wish I could fall to death”. It’s a rock and roll gem this year.

Featured tracks: “Do You Remember”, “I’ve Got a Feeling (That Won’t Change)”

6 – Preservation Hall Jazz Band / Preservation / Preservation Hall Recordings

What a fantastic album. A collection of well-known New Orleans Ragtime with this important Horn based band where the tuba still carries much of the bass part, mashes PHJB with an all-star cast of vocalists such as Andrew Bird, Pete Seeger, Ani DiFranco, Ritchie Havens, Steve Earle as well as the sultry vocals of Memphis’ Amy LaVere.  The band ended up on tour with Maroon 5 this year.

Featured tracks: “Blue Skies”, “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home”

5- John Mellencamp / No Better Than This / Rounder

Recorded for the most part at Sun Studios with one RCA 44 ribbon mic into vintage Ampex Analog gear, John not only sounds like the old Sun recordings, this sounds like old tape that had to be baked in a microwave to finally put it on digital media. It was not only a great idea with equal parts Cash country, Rockabilly and blues but probably his best album since Scarecrow. The T Bone Burnett produced masterpiece even got airtime on WSM.

Featured tracks: “No Better Than This”, “Coming Down the Road”

4- Justin Townes Earle / Harlem River Blues / Bloodshot

If you missed it, Justin just rolled a third strike in three years. Every album has been decidedly Justin with marked differences and excellent songwriting. This would be his “Ode to New York City” where he now calls his second home.  Jason Isbell (Drive by Truckers, The 400 Unit) puts in guitar duties and gives this more of an edgy guitar feel as well as some straight up Rockabilly. It really would be cool to see a pure Rockabilly album in the future.

Featured tracks: “Move Over Mama”, “Workin’ for the MTA”, “Christchurch Woman”

3- Black Mountain / Wilderness Heart / Jagjaguwar

This album sometimes feels like Led Zep III and Deep Purple Fireball at the same time. The duality vocals of Stephen and Amber still remind me of a haunting Jefferson Airplane with the production sounding very early 70’s analog, sometimes acoustic but when they rock it’s got Jon Lord style Hammond B3 all over the place. Although the first album by this Vancouver band may have been a defining moment this is the one that makes me wants to crank the stereo full blast on road trips.

Featured tracks:  “The Hair Song”, “Old Fangs”, “Let Spirits Ride”

2- Mike Farris and The Cumberland Saints / The Night The Cumberland Came Alive / Entertainment One

Recorded in just six hours just two weeks after the Nashville Flood in a downtown Nashville church just blocks from the flooding, Mike shows that his bluesy/gospel voice can sound fantastic over anywhere he wants to go. Mike has been everywhere from Indie Rock, Blues, Gospel, working with Double Trouble to now this pre-war Gospel Blues style gem working with The McCrary Sisters, Sam Bush, Byron House and members of The Old Crow Medicine Show, his originals mesh well with the rare covers. He showcased the album at Cannery Ballroom during the Americana Music Festival and it was electrifying.

Featured tracks: “Wrapped Up, Tangled Up”, “Down on Me”

1-She & Him /Volume Two / Merge

Zooey Deschannel & M. Ward are some kind of modern Indie Captain and Tennille and somehow it works. Zooey has a sunny California breeze running through her muse that translates into a digital era take on The Beach Boys versus Phil Spector. Even though the material is fresh it makes me daydream of being back on the beach in Santa Cruz when I was six with my Mom and little sister.

Featured tracks: “In The Sun”, “Don’t Look Back”,”Lingering Still”

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

 

Don Rich on Tele with The Buckaroos

Eileen Sisk, in her recent biography of Buck Owens disclosed a good amount of information on how much The Buckaroos made working for the King of Bakersfield. It gave a lot of insight into the sacrifices that were made to be a Buckaroo.

Don Rich made $75 per week when he started to play with Buck. In addition to that, he was to turn over any money he made from outside jobs. Don and the other Buckaroos could make extra money by making a commission on concession sales. Don won many awards as a guitarist; in fact he won awards before Buck was recognized by Country Music associations. Don could have played on many sessions but opted to stay by Buck’s side even though the money was not that great. Buck and Don were a team much like  Tom Petty and Mike Campbell, but, only Buck saw the real money. He was really an employer. 

1960's Merle

In 1963, Merle Haggard was persuaded to take a cut in pay and play bass for Buck. Merle was making $150 per week playing Bakersfield Honky Tonks. Buck hired him to play Bass in his band for $75 per week.  Merle only lasted 2-3 weeks depending on who you talk to before quitting Buck’s band. During those three weeks Merle nicknamed the band The Buckaroos. Merle came up with the name for Buck’s band.

Even though the money was not that good, it was hard to turn down a chance to play in Buck’s band who at the time were considered probably the best in Country Music. Many sidemen today only earn about $200-$400 per week for dates at fairs or other steady venues.

It can be worse for an Indie Rock band. I recently went to a show at The Nick in Birmingham where a band I knew had traveled playing several Southern clubs got their share for the night, $34 after splitting the door with three other bands and the club Sound Engineer.

Early Ozzy, Black Sabbath Days

Ozzy, in his recent autobiography, tells how he never really saw money during his days in Black Sabbath. Black Sabbath was selling records and selling out shows yet rarely saw money. He learned from other members of the band that he could contact management and request a car like a Rolls Royce or something and it would be at the front door the next day. The car could then be sold and converted to cash in his pocket to use as he wished. Essentially, he was living as many bands did back then and that was on the management credit card, both literally and figuratively.

Even Elvis, who commanded big money, was at the mercy of his Manager Col. Tom Parker. At times, he would discuss getting out of his contract or not wanting to do certain concert dates or whatever only to be reminded how deeply in debt he was. In the early days, accounting and taxes were known to be above the heads of many artists and the business knowledge had by Management and Label Executives enabled them to use scare tactics to keep their roster in line.

Semisonic  drummer, Jacob Slichter, wrote a great autobiography from the journals that he kept during his fifteen minutes of fame called “So You Wanna Be A Rock & Roll Star”. He not only went through how the music business worked in the 90’s but talked about how much money it took to have a number one record.  It took close to a million dollars when all was said and done in promotion to get the song “Closing Time” to number one. All the money it takes in promoting a band as well as the cost of touring including a bus that costs several thousand dollars each week eat into profits. In the end, most bands don’t see much unless things really hit big.

During the early days of  Van Halen things were kept lean to put money back into their show and work on becoming headliners. Eddie Van Halen was still living at home with his parents when he married Valerie Bertinelli according to her own book, “Losing It: and Gaining my Life Back One Pound at a Time”.  Even though he could have probably bought a house by the third album when he was dating Valerie it made life easier to keep a room at home with the parents.

When I was 16 I had the opportunity to meet Thin Lizzy on the “Johnny the Fox” tour. The song “The Boys are Back in Town” was a hit on the radio and they were out on tour opening for Queen who had a big album with “A Night at The Opera”. By the time they came to Fresno, California, Freddie Mercury was sick and Queen cancelled. Thin Lizzy became the headliner with Sammy Hagar brought in to open the show.

Hey Scott, so how much you make?

I was at sound check at Selland Arena and had the chance to hang and talk to guitarist, Scott Gorham. We talked about guitarists that he knew such as Ritchie Blackmore and how I was surprised he was from L.A. when I had expected an Irish or British accent. I had one big question since I was a guitar player that wanted to be in a twin lead rock band like Thin Lizzy, but, only played the occasional dances or talent shows with my garage band. How much did he make probably for the year? You know, he knew I was sincere and he was honest with me. He estimated about $24,000 per year. Back in 1976, that would be about $50,000 or so in today’s dollars. It was okay, but, I was expecting $100,000 or something.

In reality, the big payoff for some well-known names in the business did not happen until after years of solid work and paying lots of taxes.

Alex Chilton, Big Star days

What does that mean today especially for an indie act where you don’t want to look too big or be a sell out in the music business? It may mean adjusting one’s lifestyle in order to accommodate the need to create. At one time,   Alex Chilton , the cult hero behind The Box Tops and Big Star  was living in a tent on a friend’s property outside Memphis. He did find a home in New Orleans, but, after a lifetime worth of work he made enough to keep a modest lifestyle.

The music business may be whatever you are able to do yourself. The big labels don’t touch anything that doesn’t want to be developed by a Manager for the masses such as Kesha or Katy Perry. It’s entertainment, but, is it talent? Is it originality or is it a play developed for the artist to walk into? Most musician/songwriters don’t want to even go there as they write and record their music.

It remains to be seen how many musicians will be able to consider what they do as a career after free downloading has taken much of their livelihood. It is estimated that Nashville has lost about 60% of its songwriters due to illegal downloading. The Music Industry has lost jobs in the tens of thousands.

In a way, the clock has turned back to where a new “ Sun” records or other regional could end up making a big impression with innovation. A band, a cooperative or an entrepreneur with deep pockets and web know how could end up being the next big player. Ultimately, the music has to be interesting enough to get the listener to go look for it on the web.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN

Ray LaMontagne

Four of the top ten records this week in Billboard are a reflection of  Tennessee on the national charts and music in general these days.  A showcase of different styles that all have one common source.

Ray LaMontagne & The Pariah Dogs’  “God Willin’ and the Creek Don’t Rise” with the prominent pedal steel of  Greg Leisz,  may be considered “Contemporary Folk” and could be cross genred with “Americana Music” has its roots in the original Bob Dylan sessions for “Nashville Skyline”  and the phenomenal pedal steel player, Pete Drake. Pete was a first call session player on Nashville Country sessions that became known for his work on “Lay Lady Lay” as well the George Harrison’ “All Things Must Pass” album as well as Producing Ringo Starr’s “Beaucoups of “Blues” .  Greg Leisz work is prominently featured on “New York City’s Killing Me” and the title cut. The record debuts this week at number three on Billboard.

Trace Adkins’ new disc, “Cowboy’s Back in Town” debuts at number five on the national Billboard charts showing his strong audience pull beyond “The Apprentice”.  In a way Trace Adkins, although part of this generations Country Music, represents traditionally Country with his every man and ”what you see is what you get” type persona. He is one of the crop of newer artists that is defining himself much in the way the original icons such as Johnny Cash were able to do.

Lady Antebellum

Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” has gone beyond the country charts with the right pick of material and masterful production and presentation.  “Need You Now”, co-written by Lady Antebellum and Josh Kear spent five weeks at number one on the Billboard Hot Country Songs, before going #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 is now certified triple platinum  and can be heard on just about every radio format. The single has been in the top five on International Charts in Canada, Ireland and Norway as well as a top ten hit in the Netherlands and Norway.  I don’t know of anybody that doesn’t know that song. Again, the pedal steel lick on the chorus is as important as the vocal delivery. I can hear it in my head right now. The follow up singles “American Honey”, “I Run to You” and “Our Kind of Love” have continued the chart topping success.

John at Sun, Memphis

John Mellencamp and T Bone Burnett were right on with “No Better Than This”.  The first week on Billboard that album enters at Number 10 in all its ragged glory. “No Better Than This” was recorded in much the same way as Sam Phillips recorded early tracks at Sun Studios by Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. A vintage mono Ampex Reel to Reel fed by a vintage solo RCA ribbon mic figure in a big way in the Sonics of this album. This features great songs by John Mellencamp being heard on rock, pop and country radio.  The single “Coming Down the Road” being played locally as part of their “Americana Files” on WSM 650, “The Home of Country Music”. If you didn’t know it was a new cut by John Mellencamp you would swear it was an obscure but great track recorded at Sun back in 1956 that is now just coming to light. John will be a part of the Americana Music Awards being held in Nashville being held on September 9th at The Ryman Auditorium.

Americana Music, in general, is the new underground. It doesn’t even have its own chart on Billboard yet. WSM 650 in Nashville is paying attention and participating big time with hosting the “Music City Roots” show at The Loveless Barn every Wednesday night. In times like these, with people searching for jobs and worrying about the future, sometimes the familiarity of Country songs themes and the roots of Americana and Folk that go back to the days of The Carter Family are a way of easing and soothing our troubled minds.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN

Robert Plant and Buddy Miller pre "Band of Joy"

The Led Zeppelin world might find it strange as Robert Plant’s world revolves more and more around life in Tennessee whether it be Memphis or Nashville.

It has been going on for quite a while. You will find Robert’s picture at The Loveless Cafe, maybe some local Guitar shop in Mississippi or a Blues Cd store on Beale Street.

As for us residents, we are enjoying the music. The work he did with T Bone Burnette and the subsequent tour with Allison Krauss that featured Buddy Miller on guitar was a great success.

Robert has already cut one song with Buddy Miller on”Written in Chalk” which was number two as one of the best CD’s of 2009 as voted by local critics at Nashville Scene. Buddy Miller recorded the touring band with he and Robert trading vocal duties on “What You  Gonna Do Leroy” somewhere backstage during that tour. It could be a preview of what the “Band of Joy” project may be about.

Track 4, Robert and Buddy, pre Band of Joy

Led Zeppelin did so much to preserve the work of so many blues greats such as Memphis Minnie. It is great that Robert is still exploring the music of the south.

Although a Led Zeppelin reunion would be on my bucket list. It’s fine with me that he is hanging out at Buddy’s house coming up with some new harmonies and new takes on regional music.

Besides, who can beat the biscuits at Loveless Cafe?  Robert, if you haven’t bought a house here yet, I think it is about time.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN