MusicRowPics: For King & Country

Word Label Group recording artist For King & Country (brothers Joel and Luke Smallbone) stopped by MusicRow’s offices last week to perform a few songs from their new album Crave. The led MR staffers through an audience participation section on “Fine Fine Life,” and told the inspiration behind their hopeful anthem “Light It Up.” They also have, to my knowledge, the first and only MR conference room performance with glockenspiel and harmonium.


The Cleverlys Charm Nashville’s Station Inn

The Cleverlys (L-R): Vernon Dean, Miles (not present at Station Inn), Digger, Harvey D, Otto.

It’s all right there in the name.

The Cleverlys, the faux family band brainchild of comedian-musician Paul Harris, is a novelty act in the sense that no one’s doing anything quite like them. As ringleader Digger Cleverly, Harris refers to his five-piece band as a “trio” and romps through acoustic covers of Top 40 hits. It sounds a little goofy on paper, but the band members are so committed to the concept that it transcends mere gimmickry. It’s high-concept performance art (albeit with some lowbrow humor)—a high lonesome Spinal Tap that doesn’t go to 11 because it isn’t plugged in.

The band played to a packed house at Nashville’s beloved bluegrass haunt The Station Inn on Thursday, Feb. 16. Harris came out in plain clothes as a stand-up comedian to warm up the crowd before the main event. He works in a similar vein to some of the Blue Collar guys, but it seems sincere without being so aggressively “redneck.”

On rodeos: “‘Cowboy up.’ That means something big and important when you’re 19. When you’re 40 it means, ‘You’re gonna get hurt, you idiot!”

On earthquakes in Arkansas: “Our house ain’t shook that bad since they parked it here.”

On the phenomenon of Shark Week: “Come through my living room in that speedo, I’ll bite you too!”

As Digger Cleverly, Harris is all-but unrecognizable from his civilian self. Tinted aviator glasses hide his eyes and his uniform is coordinated precisely with the other members of his band, who all wear hats of varying degrees of width. All members also have an elaborate family mythology that originates from the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas.

They led the show off with the family friendly version of Cee-Lo Green’s unforgettable “Forget You,” followed by Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” where the titular jewelry item becomes “rang,” and The Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feelin’.” “We’re so tickled you like that good old bluegrass music,” quipped Digger.

More good old bluegrass favorites followed, including Stone Temple Pilots “Plush,” Shaggy’s “Angel,” and The Zombies’ “She’s Not There.”

As musicians, The Cleverlys are more than capable of delivering the goods. Band members include Vernon Dean “VD” Cleverly on banjo, who wowed kids of the 80s with a note-perfect rendition of the Super Mario Bros. game theme music; Monroe “Lil Mon” Cleverly on bass, filling in for absent Miles Cleverly; Harvey D Cleverly on drums, who “bit his tongue off in a donkey basketball game”; and Otto Cleverly on banjo and mandolin, who is also the face of something called Otto’s Meats. I’ll let you figure out where the punchlines went from there.

In addition to the Top 40 and R&B covers, the band does have some riotous original material. Digger set up one song by saying it was about his “dead friend who died who’s no longer with us.” That song, set to a lilting traditional country beat, was titled “Girl With No Pantyline.” “Podophiliac” branded the band as foot fetishists, and Otto Cleverly even harassed women in the front row by leering underneath the tables.

For those who hadn’t figured it out yet, The Cleverlys drew the The Spinal Tap parallel very clearly during a cover of the ‘70s obscurity “Hocus Pocus” by Focus. During one long instrumental breakdown, “VD” the banjo player kneeled and acted out a portion of the famed “Stonehenge” scene from the movie.

It was, for lack of a better way to put it, very clever.

Charlie Daniels To Perform At Lipscomb University

Charlie Daniels will perform for military families as part of the inaugural stop on the 2012 Charlie Daniels’ Scholarships for Heroes Tour to support David Lipscomb University’s Yellow Ribbon Enhancement Program. The free show takes place Tues., March 6 at Lipscomb’s Allen Arena.

The 2012 tour, which includes Chris Young, Darryl Worley, The Grascals and actor Gary Sinise, is designed to create awareness of the Veterans Yellow Ribbon education program. Lipscomb offers Post 9/11 GI Bill veterans and their family a tuition-free, or greatly-reduced tuition rate for graduate or undergraduate degrees.

Tickets are available at all Middle Tennessee Daily’s locations and the Lipscomb University box office. Since its inception in fall 2009, Lipscomb’s Yellow Ribbon Program has grown from 20 original participants to more than 150 veterans enrolled this spring.

“Our veterans know that freedom isn’t free, but we think their education should be,” said Jim Humphrey, Assistant Dean of Campus Life/Director of Veterans Services at Lipscomb.

Aldean Adds Atlanta Show

Last Friday (2/17), Jason Aldean sold out his May 19 show at Atlanta, GA’s Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood in four minutes. A second show has been added at Lakewood for Friday, May 18. Tickets for that show will go on sale Friday, Feb. 24 at 9 AM/CT.

“It feels like 2011 was sort of my coming out year, but this is a milestone I’ve been working toward for over a decade,” said Aldean. “From the days when my mom used to drive me all over Georgia and I was playing clubs for 20 people my dream was always to play for 20,000.”

All tickets for Aldean’s 2012 My Kinda Party dates can be purchased online or phone through Ticketmaster (1-800-745-3000).

Aldean is nominated for six ACM Awards, including his second consecutive nods for Entertainer of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year. He’s also nominated for Album of the Year for My Kinda Party, Single Record of the Year, Vocal Event of the Year and Video of the Year. The April 1 show will air live from Las Vegas on CBS.

AES Nashville Presents Recording Workshop + Expo 2012

Keb Mo will give the opening keynote address.

The Nashville Recording Workshop + Expo 2012 will be held March 2-3, 2012 at Rocketown and is designed to help musicians use their personal studios to the fullest potential. The event is a production of AES Nashville in conjunction with the Audio
Engineering Society, Inc. in New York.

Keb Mo will open the event with a keynote address and Q&A. Additionally, his engineer John Schirmer will walk the audience through the production of a song from start to finish in the final session of the first day.

The capstone session of NRW+E 2012 will feature acclaimed singer/songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman. The session will follow Chapman’s production from its beginnings in a personal recording space through tracking, mixing and mastering, illuminating the production elements added at each stage by a number of professional participants, including tracking engineer Trina Shoemaker and mix engineer David Leonard.

Additional presenters include leading producers, engineers, publishing professionals and artists.

Cosette Collier is Chairman of the Nashville Section of AES.

Registration includes two full days of program content, lunch both days and the first evening reception. Registration for AES members and members of participating professional songwriter, performance, musician and engineering organizations is $99, non-members $109, student members $59, and non-member students $79.

For details visit

Neal McCoy Plans New Release

Following a five-year hiatus, Neal McCoy will release his new album XII (Blaster Records) on March 6, 2012. He enlisted the help of Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert, as well as guitarist extraordinaire Brent Rowan, to produce and record the album. Full tracklist appears below.

“Neal is not only a friend of mine, but my hero,” commented Blake Shelton. “Our first priority with this album was that Neal only cut songs that he truly loved and was excited about. That was very important to us.” Miranda Lambert added, “It was a blast seeing Neal and Blake together…had the place laughing all the time. I think fans will hear three different artists coming together on this album with their individual takes on the music.”

Writers featured on the project include Tom Douglas, Rivers Rutherford, Jamey Johnson, Allen Shamblin, Rhett Akins, Luke Laird, George Teren and more. The lead off single, which performed well on MusicRow’s CountryBreakout Chart, was the feel-good “A-OK” with harmony vocals from Blake and Miranda.

“It’s like my shows, a little bit of everything that makes music special,” said McCoy. “XII has a little bit of church, a little bit of bar-room, a couple ballads that’ll encourage, and a real Texas thing about finding your groove in the midst of heartbreak with a cold beer and a good jukebox. Blake and Miranda had definite ideas about what this should be – you almost couldn’t hold ‘em back.”

XII tracklist:
1. A-OK
2. Real Good Feel Good
3. Judge A Man By The Woman
4. Mouth
5. Shotgun Rider
6. That’s You
7. Crazy Women
8. Lucky Enough
9. Every Fire
10. That’s Just How She Gets
11. Borderline Crazy
12. Van Gogh

Industry Ink Monday

Mercury Records singer/songwriter Canaan Smith recently performed a packed industry showcase at famed L.A. venue The Mint. Among those in attendance were executives from Creative Artists Agency, Disney Music Publishing and ASCAP. (L-R): Julie Enzer (Disney Music Group), Rob Light (CAA), Rod Essig (CAA), Canaan Smith, and Erin Culley (CAA). Photo: Arlene Muller

• Condolences to Warner Music Nashville VP of Brand Management Kelli Cashiola and fiance Dave Haywood on the passing of her father, Ned Joseph Cashiola, Jr. Services will be held at Woodcreek Church, 3400 E. Renner Rd., Richardson, TX 75082 on Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 2:00 pm. In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations be made to Richardson Area Young Life, 1131 Rockingham Dr., Ste 104, Richardson, TX 75080-4300.

The Tennessean’s Peter Cooper explains in-depth how this year’s restructured Grammy categories impacted Nashville nominees.

Michael Puryear’s Final Four Music has partnered with Ken Harding’s New Haven Records/Harding Music Group to develop new writers and catalog, as well as facilitate exploitation of existing catalog. Harding’s catalog includes cuts by Glen Campbell and Point of Grace. Final Four Music boasts cuts by Amy Grant, The Oak Ridge Boys, Michael W. Smith, and Vince Gill. Puryear is a Dove Awards winner with three decades of experience as a writer and publisher.

• Congrats to Flying Island recording artist Levi Riggs and his wife Brittany on the birth of baby girl Stella LaRue Riggs. She was born Feb. 4 in Indianapolis, where her dad was playing the NFL Tailgate Party before the Super Bowl. She weighed 6 lbs. 10 oz.

Pete Dodge has been appointed to General Manager/VP of Kobalt Artist and Label Services. He was previously Managing Director of IODA UK and VP IODA International. Dodge, a well-known executive in the distribution and marketing space, will be based in London reporting to Paul Hitchman, who joined Kobalt this month as Managing Director of Kobalt Artist and Label Services.

Hit songwriter Neil Thrasher celebrated his first No. 1 since signing with peermusic, Jason Aldean’s “Tattoos on This Town." (L-R): Michael Knox (Aldean's producer and peermusic Sr. Creative Director), Kim Wiggins (peermusic Creative Manager), Neil Thrasher, Jason Aldean, Kevin Lamb (VP, peermusic Nashville) and Shalacy Griffin (Sr. Creative Director of Music Knox). Photo: ASCAP/Erika Goldring

Bobby Karl Works the Johnny Cash Museum Press Conference

Chapter 387

Johnny Cash in 1959. Photo by Sony Music Entertainment

I don’t care where you are in the world; if you tell someone you’re from Nashville, you will almost inevitably get this response, “Ah! Johnny Cash!”

He is unquestionably our single greatest icon, and at a ceremony Tuesday morning (2/14) it was officially announced that Cash is getting his own museum in Music City.

The event was billed as a “Press Conference and Social.” It was social, all right. The attending mob was so packed together that you couldn’t help being “social.”

Mayor Karl Dean said that it was appropriate that the gig was being staged on Valentine’s Day, because, “Everybody loves Johnny Cash.” He added, “The one name that will draw people to Nashville over and over again is Johnny Cash.” Both statements are abundantly true.

Museum founder Bill Miller was deeply emotional during his remarks. He choked up when reminiscing about his late friend of more than 30 years.

“This is something for Johnny,” Miller said, “something that Johnny deserves. We intend to make this the best single celebrity museum in the world.”

The press conference was held at the museum’s site, 119 3rd Avenue South, downtown. The facility, set to open this summer, will eventually include a permanent exhibit that will be “a walk through Johnny Cash’s life,” space for rotating exhibits, a 250-seat performance venue, radio and TV facilities, food vendors, a store and an archive in 18,000 square feet of space. The historic former warehouse is just behind the Schermerhorn Symphony Center and just around the corner from the Music City Convention Center and the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum, plus an easy stroll from the hubbub of Lower Broadway.

Miller promises it will have, “the most comprehensive Johnny Cash collection in the world.” A portion of the iconic Cash lakeside home will be excavated and rebuilt in the museum, thanks to the generosity of current owners Barry & Linda Gibb. Various displays will recreate Cash’s Arkansas cotton-patch childhood, his time in the Air Force and other significant biographical milestones.

“There is no death in this museum,” Miller vows. “Johnny Cash is everywhere.” In addition to Miller’s extensive collection of artifacts, the museum will incorporate materials from the Cash estate and interactive components.

Many members of the Cash family attended, including brother Tommy Cash, sister Joanne Cash, Rosanne’s daughter Chelsea Crowell, Johnny’s daughter-in-law Laura Cash, grandson Joey Cash and niece Kelly Hancock.

Son John Carter Cash said, “Seeing this come together is a blessing. It’s the unity of spirit that made this happen.

“My mother and father had a way of preserving their integrity. I truly believe my dad would be excited about this.” He dedicated the museum to, “people who love and respect Dad and what he did and how he touched the world.”

Cash publicist Hugh Waddell added to the throng, “God bless you, and God bless Johnny Cash.”

Massed shoulder to shoulder were Bonnie Sugarman, Craig Hayes, David Olney, Bonita Hill, Doak Turner, Bill Carter, Jimmy Carter, Chuck Thompson, Shannon Miller, Heather Byrd, Pam Lewis and a blue-zillion Cash fan club members. We schmoozed and sampled a barbecue lunch. Souvenir Johnny Cash Valentine’s Day red M&Ms and commemorative Cash “backstage” laminates were given to the V.I.P. attendees. The space was decorated with wall-sized Johnny Cash photographic portraits.

Johnny Cash’s Facebook page still has more than 8 million followers, way more than most living entertainers. He has 17 Grammy Awards, has sold more than 100 million records and is a member of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Songwriter Sue Fabisch Scores With Hit Musical

Sue Fabisch is the Queen Mother—just not the one you’re thinking of. The songwriter and brains behind Motherhood The Musical has built a successful career by celebrating the ups and downs of mommydom, including, as the show’s tag line goes: “The Good, The Bad, and The Laundry.”

The hit theater production is wooing audiences on a nationwide tour, and continuing a two-year trek through Australia. It runs indefinitely in Philadelphia, and has upcoming dates in Huntsville, Atlanta, Chicago, and more.

Fabisch’s real life plays like a scene from her show—she talked exclusively to MusicRow while running errands in her minivan in Franklin.

• • •

Sue Fabisch is proof that there’s more than one way to write a hit song.

In 2000, she moved to Nashville to focus on commercial songwriting, and eventually discovered her funny songs about parenthood were resonating much more loudly than her country efforts. “People come to Nashville to learn to write songs, and that’s what I did,” she recalls. With three children—four if you count her husband like she does—Fabisch found plenty of inspiration on the home front, and she began to hone in on the mom market.

In 2002 she debuted the show O’ Mother, Where Art Thou? at the Bluebird Cafe, which spawned the parody hit “The MOM of Constant Sorrow.” She went on to found her own Mommy Music label and release a few moderately successful albums, including Music 4 Mommies: Volume 1- Songs To Make You Laugh,  which was a Billboard Top 10 Comedy hit in 2006. She also began hosting a weekly talk show called “MommyTime Radio” with radio personality Karla Lawson.

Eventually, Fabisch had so much mommy material that she compiled it into a one-woman show that she performed at luncheons and other events. The production evolved and Fabisch added dialogue. “I wanted my songs to have a home,” she explains of the play. Then she upped the ante by adding a cast. “Once I put it in the four-woman format, everything took off.”

After successful readings and workshops in Tennessee, Fabisch took her production to the big leagues. Ironically, the New York native had come to Nashville, written a musical, and was taking it back to the theater epicenter, New York. She organized readings in front of several producers, and against the advice of Broadway big-wigs, she used the Music City cast for the New York readings. By December 2008 she had three production offers on the table.

The result is Motherhood The Musical, featuring 20 songs Fabisch wrote or cowrote with fellow Nashville tunesmiths including Bill Flowerree, Jesse Goldberg, and Ilene Angel, who has since relocated. The play centers around four women at a baby shower, with a song list that runs from hilarious to touching with titles such as “Baby Weight Blues,” “Costco Queen,” “Grannyland,” and “Minivan.”

Today, the show is produced by GFour Productions & Management, which is also behind the hits 9 to 5 The Musical, Ring of Fire, and Menopause the Musical.

The early Nashville cast included Janna Landry, Jaclyn Brown, Jewel Lucien and Fabisch. Today’s touring incarnation recruits local cast members for each stop. Unfortunately for Music City moms, there aren’t any plans for a Nashville run, partly due to lack of theater availability.

Fabisch credits NSAI’s Bart Herbison as one of her biggest early supporters, especially when other execs on the Row dismissed her idea as niche and unmarketable. Her success proves the importance of thinking outside the box when it comes to songwriting. “I encourage people to open their blinders a little bit,” she adds. “And while everyone keeps calling it a niche market, I would beg to differ. Everyone either has a mom, had a mom, or is a mom, right? Doesn’t sound too niche to me.”

DISClaimer Single Reviews (2/15/12)

Eric Church and David Nail are finishing in a dead heat for the Disc of the Day award.

David’s single is a range-y ballad. Eric’s is a throbbing tempo tune. What’s interesting is that they are both singing about how deeply blue-collar rock classics can penetrate your heart and mind. We can all relate to the extraordinary lyrics of “The Sound of a Million Dreams” and “Springsteen.” These songs are both smashes, folks.

The DisCovery Award goes to Thomas Rhett. This kid comes out rocking.

Writer: none listed; Producer: Justin Niebank; Publisher: none listed; Warner Bros. (track)
—I like these guys, and this is their best yet. This time around, the ultra-cool lead vocal is answered by a ghostly “Greek chorus” commenting on his heartbreak while the country-rock track canters along with chiming guitars and dusty percussion. Delicious sounding.

RECKLESS KELLY/I Never Liked St. Valentine
Writer: Willy Braun/Todd Snider; Producer: David Abeyta, Cody Braun & Willy Braun; Publisher: C&P Fah-Q/Nobody’s Collecting on These Songs, BMI; No Big Deal (track)
—He praises St. Cecelia for music, St. Francis for companionship, St. Patrick for booze, plus St. Christopher and St. Nick and but forget that heartbreaker Valentine. This mid-tempo, acoustic-based groover has a drawling wit that’s hard to resist. Timely, too, considering the season.

DAVID NAIL/The Sound of a Million Dreams
Writer: Scooter Carusoe/Phil Vassar; Producer: Chuck Ainlay & Frank Liddell; Publisher: Scrambler/Abbott’s Creek/Carnival/Phylvester, ASCAP; MCA Nashville (track)
—Magical. He’s not only a world-class vocalist, but this song about the power of music on your memory is downright breath taking. Chuck Leavell’s rippling piano accompaniment is simply gorgeous.

Writer: Adam Gregory/James Dean Hicks/Jamie Houston; Producer: Mark Moffatt; Publisher: On the Mantel/BPJ/Seven Peaks/John and Nancye’s Sons/Adam Gregory/Marc Isle/Walkerbout, BMI/ASCAP; Calusa/GMV Nashville (track) (
—Sung with confidence, produced with panache and written with craftsmanship. This rolling groove is more than ready for airplay. Well worth your spins.

ERIC CHURCH/Springsteen
Writer: Eric Church/Ryan Tyndell/Jeff Hyde; Producer: Jay Joyce; Publisher: Sony-ATV Tree/Sinnerlina/Purple Cape/Bug, BMI; EMI (track)
—The deep rumbling thump and the wistful vocal both pushed my buttons immediately. And any lyric about the nostalgia conjured by hearing “Born to Run” and “I’m on Fire” hits me directly in the heart. Amen, brother.

Writer: Sonia Leigh; Producer: Zac Brown, Matt Mangano & The Southern Ground Recording Group; Publisher: Southern Ground, BMI; Southern Ground (
—She sings with Southern-accented moxie and the rollicking song is tailor-made for Saturday night. Unapologetic drinking songs sung by women are as scarce as hen’s teeth, and this one’s as raucous as they come.

Writer: Darryl Worley/Brett Jones; Producer: Jim “Moose” Brown; Publisher: none listed; Tenacity (
—This jaunty bopper is a sunny ode to enduring romance. It’s not the deepest thing you’ll ever hear, but it goes down easily. I particularly liked the silky organ playing in the production.

Writer: S. Ripley/T. DuBois/J. Wooley/B. Anderson; Producer: none listed; Publisher: Time Standing Still/NuBois/Laugh-Thot-I’d-Die/Mr. Bubba/Sony-ATV, BMI/ASCAP; TWI (
—These veterans sound strikingly contemporary here. The echoey, evocative production is wonderfully moody. The lyric about people and things that are no more is as haunting as the trembling melody. Ear opening, to say the least. If you’re a country fan, definitely give this a listen.

THOMAS RHETT/Something to Do with My Hands
Writer: Thomas Rhett Akins/Lee Thomas Miller/Chris Stapleton; Producer: Jay Joyce; Publisher: EMI Blackwood/Cricket on the Line/Writers of Sea Gayle/Itchy Baby/House of Sea Gayle/New Son of a Miner, BMI/ASCAP; Valory
—What a debut. This kid comes out swinging with a frenzied, insistent country rocker that grabs you by the lapels from the opening note and never lets go. The song is a sexy come-on with winks to spare.

LUKE BRYAN/Drunk on You
Writer: Rodney Clawson/Chris Tompkins/Josh Kear; Producer: Jeff Stevens; Publisher: Big Red Toe/Amarillo Sky/Big Loud Songs/Angel River/Global Dog/Lunalight, BMI/ASCAP; Capitol (track)
—It might be winter outside, but this tune is all about the heat of summer and romance. It simmers and shimmers and sizzles like a July heat wave.

DERYL DODD/Anybody Out There
Writer: Deryl Dodd; Producer: Deryl Dodd; Publisher: none listed; Smith Entertainment (track) (
—This Texan’s current CD is Random As I Am, and this track from it shows us a side of him we haven’t seen before. It’s a contemplative power ballad about feeling like an outsider, wondering who you are and seeking understanding. Different, and different is good. He has evidently undergone a strong songwriting spurt, because 10 of the album’s 13 tracks are Deryl solo compositions.