CMA National Broadcast Personality Winner Revealed

Kix Brooks

Kix Brooks scored his second CMA National Broadcast Personality of the Year award. Good friend Tim McGraw surprised Brooks by calling him during last night’s (10/18) taping of syndicated radio show “American Country Countdown with Kix Brooks.”

McGraw’s call wrapped up a day of surprises for several radio stations and broadcast professionals across the United States after Taylor Swift and Kid Rock also helped share the good news by calling radio stations. Yesterday morning Swift called Station and Broadcast Personality of the Year winners in Major, Large, Medium, and Small Markets.

Later in the afternoon, Detroit, Mich. native Kid Rock surprised Chuck Edwards and Linda Lee of WYCD’s “Edwards and Lee” by calling in with news of their Major Market Broadcast Personality Year win. WYCD was announced as Major Market Station of the Year winner by Swift earlier in the morning.

This year’s list of winners is filled with new faces. With the exception of the National Broadcast Personality of the Year, all of the 2011 CMA Broadcast Award recipients are first time winners in their categories.

The recipients will be recognized during “The 45th Annual CMA Awards,” hosted by Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood and airing live Wednesday, Nov. 9 (8:00-11:00 PM/ET) on the ABC Television Network from the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.


Bobby Karl Works the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame

(L-R): Inductees Alan Jackson and Thom Schuyler; Mentor Award winner David Conrad; and inductees John Bettis, Allen Shamblin and Garth Brooks. Photo: Alan Mayor

Chapter 379

Just about everyone you know in the music business turned out for the sold-out, 41st annual Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame ceremony at the Renaissance Hotel Sunday (10/16).

The attractions were the inductions of Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, Thom Schuyler, Allen Shamblin and John Bettis. Not to mention the companionship galore.

After welcoming remarks by host John Van Mol, the current chairman of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Foundation board, NSAI’s Bart Herbison and Steve Bogard took the stage.

“We’re going to have a spectacular night tonight,” Steve promised. His prophecy was fulfilled.

The annual “10 Songs I Wish I’d Written” NSAI honors went to “American Honey” by Shane Stevens, Cary Barlowe and Hillary Lindsey; “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not” by Jim Collins and David Lee Murphy; “Hello World” by Tom Douglas, Tony Lane and David Lee; “Homeboy” by Casey Beathard and Eric Church; “Honey Bee” by Ben Hayslip and Rhett Akins; “Mean” by Taylor Swift; “Pretty Good at Drinkin’ Beer” by Troy Jones; “The Boys of Fall” by Casey Beathard and Dave Turnbull; and “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking” by Earl Bud Lee and John Wiggins; plus the Song of the Year winning “If I Die Young” by Kimberly Perry.

The Band Perry was on the road, but Kimberly sent a video saying, “Thank-you to the Good Lord for whispering it in my ear.”

For the fourth time in five years, Taylor Swift received a standing ovation as the Artist/Writer of the Year. “Just the fact that the people in this room were standing up is overwhelming for me,” she said. “I can’t believe I’m here with my heroes.”

Frequent Brad Paisley collaborator Chris DuBois won his second straight NSAI Songwriter of the Year award. “There’s no award that means more to me as a songwriter,” he said.

The NSHoF’s Van Mol retook the podium to recognize board members, sponsors and the 2011 passings of Hall of Famers Charlie Louvin and Don Wayne. “Their work lives on in our memories,” he said.

Lance Freed presented David Conrad with the Frances Williams Preston Mentor Award. When Almo-Irving wanted to open a Nashville office in 1981, Frances recommended David as its leader. “Over the next 22 years, David Conrad was responsible for 186 top-10 country hits,” Lance recalled. “David worked for the songwriter, not the other way around. He trusted them. They trusted him. He’s a special man who cares deeply about people.”

“This can’t be right: When did I do this?” David blurted, adding that when he was informed of the honor, “Just to be safe, I ran out that week and mentored the hell out of everybody.” He thanked, “My best friend, my best mentor and my true love, my wife Karen.” David also recalled Chet Atkins, Owen Bradley, Harlan Howard and Tom Collins as his own mentors. “You’re really lucky when you have people like that in your life [especially] the ‘serial mentor,’ Frances Williams Preston.

“There was love there: I loved writers and I love songs,” David added. “It’s a circle, as the song says, and I hope we never break it.”

The 2011 Hall of Famers were inducted alphabetically. That meant John Bettis came first. Michael Clark spoke at length about his collaborator, saying, “John is the consummate psychologist, and he’s a communicator.”

Brett James and Wayne Kirkpatrick sang a medley of Bettis hits, including “Heartland,” “Yesterday Once More,” “Slow Hand” and “Human Nature.” Lynn Anderson vividly reprised her 1973 chart-topper “Top of the World.”

“This is the room, isn’t it?” said John in accepting. “This is where we want to be. This is where we all belong. I’m glad we have this room. It’s nice to know we can get together like this and appreciate each other. I thank you very much for the greatest honor I’ve ever gotten. God bless you.”

Allen Reynolds and Bob Doyle did the honors for Garth Brooks. “Who can measure the impact of the songs that have come from Garth’s own pen?” asked Allen. “You’ve been a blessing and an inspiration to many, and we thank you.”

“The songs you’ve written have endured and stayed relevant,” added Bob.

Jenny Yates saluted the inductee with “When You Come Back to Me Again.” Pat Alger sang “The Thunder Rolls.” Stephanie Davis offered “We Shall Be Free.” Kent Blazy did “If Tomorrow Never Comes.” Victoria Shaw sang “The River” and invited the crowd to join her in its last chorus.

“I’m already choked up, because these are my friends, and I love them so much,” Garth responded. He thanked God, his co-writers, his mentors, his parents and his wife, Trisha Yearwood. “This is the home of songwriters. In the music business, the greatest award you can receive is to be called a songwriter.”

Mike Dungan recited Alan Jackson’s accomplishments and hits, adding “This man has made his mark on the world. He has moved away from, but never out of, his humble beginnings. Thank you for making the world a better place.”

The Wrights performed a medley of “Good Time,” “Remember When,” “Chattahoochie,” “Don’t Rock the Jukebox” and “Here in the Real World.” (Adam Wright is Alan’s nephew and was the ring bearer at his wedding.) Taylor Swift sang “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning).”

(L-R): The Wrights (Shannon and Adam Wright), Alan Jackson, Taylor Swift and Capitol Nashville Pres./CEO Mike Dungan. Photo: Alan Mayor

Alan reminisced, “I was just stupid enough not to be scared, so we just came up here….and it’s been goin’ pretty good….I just write whatever I feel….It’s just life, and that’s what country music has always been to me. I can’t stand up here and feel worthy when I see that list of names [of prior inductees]. Thank y’all for including me. I feel blessed.”

Don Schlitz and Thom Schuyler are BFF’s, and Don was clearly moved by Thom’s long overdue induction. “There are so many of us who consider him their best friend,” said Don. “For all the songwriters who ever walked on Music Row, he wrote our anthem.”

J. Fred Knobloch kicked off the musical tribute with “Love Will Turn You Around.” Tony Arata followed with “My Old Yellow Car” and “Years After You,” then Fred returned with “Long Line of Love.” Lacy J. Dalton drew cheers with the aforementioned anthem, “16th Avenue.” Jellyroll Johnson backed all three on harmonica.

The always-eloquent Thom responded, “I am honored more than you can know to be a part of this community of songwriters on Music Row. This is the greatest songwriting community on God’s Green Earth. Thank you for setting a place for me at your lovely table.”

Mike Reid lauded Allen Shamblin for writing, “songs that do more than entertain.” Lionel Cartwright provided a medley of Shamblin’s “He Walked on Water,” “Don’t Laugh at Me” and “The House That Built Me.” Wynonna sang “I Can’t Make you Love Me.”

“This is amazing,” said Allen. “It’s a miracle I’m here tonight….For me, growing up, there was food, water, air and songs.” Echoing the theme of companionship and camaraderie that ran through the evening, he added, “You are my families and my friends. I love y’all. This means more to me than I can ever say.”

Like I said, everyone who is anyone was there. That would include such world-class fabulons as Troy Tomlinson, Fletcher Foster, Jerry Foster, Jerry Chestnut, Bonita Hill, Dan Hill, Bobby Braddock, Bobby Rymer, Bob Regan, Tim Wipperman, Tim Fink, Tim DuBois, Gretchen Peters, Pete Fisher, Bucky Wilkin, Becky Harris, Ted Harris, Emmylou Harris, Judy Harris and Harry Chapman.

Luke Laird has four songs on the charts right now, including the current No. 1, “Take a Back Road.” He was schmoozing, as were Dickie Lee, Rick Sanjek, John Scott Sherrill, Sherrill Blackmon, Kenny O’Dell, Kerry O’Neill, Kye Fleming, Kyle Lehning, Paul Kennerley, Shelby Kennedy, Ron Stuve, Ron Cox, Dean Dillon, Mayor Karl Dean, Nashville first lady Anne Davis, Mac Davis, Caroline Davis, Mark Bright, Mark D. Sanders, Pat Higdon, Pam Tillis, Dave Loggins, Dennis Morgan, Dwight Wiles, Dallas Frazier, Dene Anton, Wayne Carson, Wayne Halper, Bill Rice, Barry Coburn, Brett Eldredge, Bernie Nelson, Gary Burr, Holly Bell, Steve & Ree Guyer Buchanan, Woody Bomar, R.C. Bannon and Max T. Barnes.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you: The ballroom also held Joey + Rory, Jody Williams, Andrew Kintz, Andy Childs, Rattlesnake Annie, Anthony Smith, Tia Sillers, Even Stevens, Whitey Shafer and Gilles Godard, whose “Trains I Missed” was recently named the bluegrass Song of the Year at the IBMA awards. Not to mention Celia Froelig, Amy Kurland, Wayland Holyfield, Tracy Gershon, Lori Badgett, Hugh Prestwood, Diane Pearson, Chip Petrie, Roger Murrah, Melanie Howard, Perry Howard, Kathy Louvin, Karen Oertley, Jewel Coburn, Ralph Murphy, Deborah Allen and the irrepressible Shawn Camp.

We dined on huge roast beef portions, scalloped potatoes, asparagus and a julienned vegetable medley, followed by chocolate cake and/or banana pudding cups topped with whipped cream.

It’s a good thing we love each other. The cocktail hour was at 5:00 p.m., and we didn’t leave the ballroom until 10:30. Now that’s companionship.

Americana Fest: Thursday Night Showcases

So much to see and do, man.

Thursday, October 13, was the second night of the Americana Music Association’s Conference and Festival and also the organization’s 10th Annual Honors and Awards. For those who couldn’t make it out to that fine affair, I’d suggest reading about it right here.

Nightly showcases got off to a late start because of the Awards, so many bands across town weren’t hitting the stages until after 10 pm. But once again we were off to our beloved Mercy Lounge, where Athens, Ga.-based songwriter Lera Lynn started off the evening. The young performer favored a rock band setup for her music, which drew on influences of British and American folk, and jangly 60s rock. She even paid homage to one of the forebears of Americana and Country, turning in an eerie minor-key version of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.”

Carrie Rodriguez performs at The Cannery Ballroom, Courtesy of the Americana Music Association. Photo: Krissie Gregory

Downstairs in the Cannery Ballroom, performer Carrie Rodriguez was delighting the audience with her dazzling fiddle skills, leading the band through some hypnotic instrumental jams. Her set also included “La Punalada Trapera,” a Spanish language song written by her great aunt that appears on her 2010 album Love and Circumstance.

Nashville singer/songwriter Will Hoge was next up on the Mercy Lounge stage, and by the time I made it upstairs he and band were ripping through “Sex, Lies and Money” from his 2007’s Draw The Curtains. He joked that he and his musical compatriots had journeyed to the show from “a faraway land, called Inglewood.”

Hoge, it must be said, is a dynamite live performer. His voice last night was pure soul, adding the precise amount of emotional heft to tracks like “When I Get My Wings,” a standout from his current album Number 7. Other selections included “Trying To Be A Man,” “Fool’s Gonna Fly,” and “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” which Eli Young Band cut for their recently-released Life At Best collection.

Will Hoge and band at the Mercy Lounge, Courtesy of the Americana Music Association. Photo: Stacie Huckeba

Mark Olson of the Jayhawks at the Cannery Ballroom, Courtesy of the Americana Music Association. Photo: Krissie Gregory

Attendees were also crammed into the Cannery Ballroom to see the Jayhawks perform. The Minnesota band has been mining the fertile lands of planet country-rock since well before “Americana” had a name, and they played an important role in shaping its current sound. Band principals Gary Louris and Mark Olson sounded uncannily like their finest recordings, blending their voices in pristine harmony. Their set featured “Two Hearts,” “She Walks In So Many Ways,” “I’d Run Away,” “Tiny Arrows,” and their gorgeous, enduring minor hit “Blue” from 1995’s Tomorrow The Green Grass.

Americana opened its borders for Romantica, a folk-rock band from Minneapolis-via-Belfast and the final performers at Mercy Lounge on Thursday. Their sound fused the obligatory Gram Parsons influence with a little chamber pop and classic rock ‘n’ roll.

Band leader Ben Kyle professed his love of Nashville mid-set. “I love this town, because it’s where country music comes from.” Hey, we like it too!

Lori McKenna performs at the Rutledge, courtesy of the Americana Music Association. Photo: Kim Jameson

Across town at the Rutledge, songwriter Lori McKenna played a with a full-band that included her producer, Barry Dean. Performances included the title track from her 2011 album Lorraine, “Buy This Town,” “Witness To Your Life” and “Stealing Kisses,” which Faith Hill cut in 2005.

Performers around town included Mollie O’Brien & Rich Moore, followed by JD Souther at The Station Inn. The lineup at the Basement included Amanda Shires, Pokey LaFarge & The South City Three, and Malcolm Holcombe, who set the Twitterverse abuzz following his set.

Last night was a late one for yours truly, so feel free to rattle me awake tonight if you catch me dozing against the wall. On tap for later: Matraca Berg, Will Kimbrough, Amy LaVere, Elizabeth Cook, Jim Lauderdale and Buddy Miller, and much more.

Also: look on for more coverage of AMA showcases tomorrow and Sunday.

SESAC hosted the opening reception at the 12th Annual Americana Music Festival and Conference on Wednesday, October 12 at Sheraton Downtown Nashville. The event featured performances by Americana artists Amy Black and Robby Hecht. (L-R): SESAC’s Amy Beth Hale, Robby Hecht, Amy Black and SESAC’s Tim Fink. Photo: Peyton Hoge

Bobby Karl Works the AMA Awards

Buddy Miller Photo: Erika Goldring

Chapter 378

The Americana Music Association’s Honors and Awards gala celebrated its 10th anniversary on Thursday night (10/13) by taking a big step forward.

For the first time, the event was telecast. And although the WNPT-TV live coverage was plagued by technical glitches, the vibe inside the Ryman Auditorium was toasty warm. The show will be edited for rebroadcast on PBS nationally. For a complete list of winners CLICK HERE.

Buddy Miller was the big winner. He led the house band, triumphed again as Instrumentalist of the Year and, in a surprise, walked off with Artist of the Year instead of the favored Robert Plant.

Jed Hilly, Robert Plant, Justin Townes Earl and Bob Harris. Photo: Kay Williams

“This is not right, and thank-you,” he exclaimed in accepting the Artist trophy. “Just to be mentioned in the same sentence with all those other folks means a lot to me.” In addition to Miller and Plant, the other nominees were Elizabeth Cook and Hayes Carll.

“I feel like I get away with murder,” Miller said when he accepted his Instrumentalist prize. “I’m really, really not that good. But I get to play with some really incredible people.”

The Miller love continued when Plant accepted the Album of the Year award for Band of Joy. “I have to thank, really, especially, Buddy Miller….the consummate player,” said Plant. “I’ve been welcomed by some spectacular people, especially in this town.”

Luke Lewis and Lucinda Williams. Photo: Kay Williams

Among the show’s highlights were the presentations of five Lifetime Achievement Awards. First up was Lucinda Williams, honored for her Songwriter accomplishments.

“She loves language as much as she loves music,” said presenter Luke Lewis. “Her thoughts are golden arrows….She is a poet. She has created 10 albums, all of which will endure.”

“I’ve just been all a-pitter-patter backstage,” Williams told the cheering crowd. “I want this honor to stand for the perseverance and heart it takes to make it all come true….a life in music.” She then performed the title tune to her CD, “Blessed.”

Jerry Douglas was given his Lifetime Award for his work as an Instrumentalist. “He has made a life of communicating emotions to people all over the world,” said presenter Alison Krauss. “He has been my co-worker for 15 years. It couldn’t go to a more perfect guy. This is so right.” Douglas received one of the evening’s many standing ovations.

“Thirty-eight years ago, I climbed aboard my first tour bus,” he recalled of joining The Country Gentlemen as a teen. “They told me, ‘Our bathroom doesn’t work. Here’s your plastic jug.’ It has gotten better since then.

Jerry Douglas. Photo: Kay Williams

“The Dobro guitar has always been my voice,” he added on a more serious note. To him, the award was, “more than a decoration. It’s a big ‘Yeah!’ from people like you.”

Keb’ Mo’ presented a Performer Lifetime Achievement honor to Gregg Allman. “Every time he opens his mouth to sing, we are given a glimpse into his soul,” Keb’ said. “He has held a torch for the traditions of soul and the blues.”

“You are too kind,” responded Allman. “I’ve always said I can sing to you, but I can’t talk to you.” He thanked his 94-year-old mother, The Allman Brothers and Rounder Records, which handled his excellent Low Country Blues CD this year. “I was born in this city, and it’s good to be back. God bless you.”

Later in the show, Allman returned to perform a stately, plaintive version of his 1972 classic “Melissa.”

The Executive Lifetime honor went to Muscle Shoals producer/publisher Rick Hall. Soul star Candi Staton said that, “Working with Rick was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had in music. The music I made in Muscle Shoals has taken me all over the world.”

Gregg Allman. Photo: Erika Goldring

Hall recalled, “When I was 16 years old, I was sitting in the Ryman Auditorium, and I saw Hank Williams sing the ‘Lovesick Blues.’ And I knew I wanted to be in music.

“My son said, ‘Dad, be humble, and make it short.’ So, thank you.” Staton and The McCrary Sisters sang “Heart on a String” to salute her producer.

British radio and TV broadcaster Bob Harris was given the Trailblazer Lifetime Achievement Award. “It’s a bit of a dream come true to walk out on this stage,” he said. “The level of musicianship here [in Nashville] I truly believe is the best in the world. You are the warmest people and the friendliest. I really believe in you, and I believe in this music.”

The Americana convention has grown by 15% each year for the past four years. This year’s awards show was the first to become a sold-out event.

Joy Williams (The Civil Wars), Candi Staton, Rick Hall and John Paul White (The Civil Wars). Photo: Kay Williams

Musically, Emmylou Harris kicked things off with “I’ll Fly Away” with vocal harmonies by Miller and Krauss. The song was on the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack, which is also celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Amos Lee and The McCrary Sisters were soulful and inspiring on “Cup of Sorrow” from his Mission Bell CD. Elizabeth Cook turned in a rollicking “El Camino.” Justin Townes Earle and the McCrarys offered a punchy “Harlem River Blues,” which won Song of the Year. Jessica Lee Mayfield was winsome; Group of the Year winners The Avett Brothers were rootsy; and show host Jim Lauderdale was honky tonking.

A massive shout of acclamation and a standing ovation followed The Civil Wars haunting, ethereal performance of “Barton Hollow.”  Hayes Carll rocked hard on his CD title tune “KMAG YOYO.” Buddy Miller and Regina McCrary teamed up on the bluesy “Gasoline and Matches.” Robert Plant, Patty Griffin and the Band of Joy were throbbing and mysterious on “Monkey.”

After The Secret Sisters sang “Why Don’t You Love Me,” Lauderdale said, “I think Hank would be proud of them. And he used to stand right there.”

The finale was “Glory, Glory Hallelujah,” sung by the M.V.P. McCrarys, Plant, Allman, Lauderdale, Griffin and Lee. The McCrary Sisters, by the way, will issue their new CD, Our Journey, on Tuesday.

Whooping it up in the crowd were Garth Fundis, Tim McFadden, Michael Martin Murphey, Mary Martin, Tim Fink, Michael McCall, John Lomax III, Charlie Feldman, Charlie Stefl, John Beiter, Nancy Shapiro, Fletcher Foster, Ron Cox, Webb Wilder, Susan Stewart, Carrie Rodriguez, Raul Malo, John Oates, Mindy Smith, The Greencards, Dan Auerbach, Marshall Chapman, Nina Miller and, natch, Jed Hilly.

“This has been a night of great magic,” concluded Jim Lauderdale. “Thank y’all so much for coming out.”

Americana Fest: Wednesday Night Showcases

Once again it’s time for some twang, because the Americana Music Festival is upon us. The week-long festival and conference, held every October, is above all a celebration of music and, buddy, they’ve got that in spades.

Candi Station at Muscle Shoals tribute, Courtesy of the Americana Music Association. Photo: Stacie Huckeba

One need only check out the Alabama-themed lineup at Cannery Ballroom Wednesday night (Oct. 12) for evidence that Americana is a big tent with doors open. The performance schedule included a two-hour Muscle Shoals tribute, followed by gospel legends the Blind Boys of Alabama, and indie success story of the year the Civil Wars, who had to cancel last minute over John Paul White’s vocal woes.

Alabama Music Hall of Fame director Wiley Barnard greeted the crowd before introducing Renaissance man Webb Wilder, who hosted the Muscle Shoals tribute. The outstanding band was a revolving cast of Shoals session pros including Spooner Oldham, Jimmy Johnson, Clayton Ivey, Charles Rose, David Hood and many others.

The music started on an adorable note with AMA Exec Dir. Jed Hilly’s young son Charlie singing the Osmonds’ Jackson 5-channeling “One Bad Apple,” digging into the soulful choruses with gusto. Lake Street Dive singer Rachael Price came out to tackle Aretha Franklin’s 1967 hit “I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Loved You).” That song’s B-Side “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” was performed by sultry alto belter Sherrie Phillips later in the show. Lake Street Dive was also on the bill over at The Basement.

Host Wilder tackled Arthur Alexander’s timeless “Anna (Go To Him),” also covered by The Beatles on Please Please Me. Musician, songwriter, and actor Donnie Fritts came out to perform his song “We Had It All,” which Waylon Jennings recorded on his 1973 album Honky Tonk Heroes.

Connie Smith and Marty Stuart at the Rutledge, Courtesy of the Americana Music Association. Photo: Erika Goldring

Across town, AMA-related Tweets were blowing up about Brian Wright’s 8 pm performance at the Basement, as well as the sets Marty Stuart and Connie Smith delivered at The Rutledge.

At Cannery, the Muscle Shoals performances continued to impress. T. Graham Brown, with a full-on white Santa beard, growled out a spirited version of Wilson Pickett’s “Mustang Sally.” Then R&B legend Candi Staton came to the stage to perform her 1969 song “He Called Me Baby.” In a just world, Staton could have been just as famous as Aretha Franklin. And you know what? She’s still that good nearly 40 years later. Screaming Cheetah Wheelies singer Mike Farris stole the show however, with his devastating from-the-gut performance of Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind,” which was recorded at FAME in Muscle Shoals.

Kenny Vaughan at Mercy Lounge, Courtesy of the Americana Music Association. Photo: Erika Goldring

Other guests included Nashville soul man Charles Walker on Luther Ingram’s “If Loving You Is Wrong (I Don’t Want To Be Right),” former Prince & the Revolution member (and Nashville resident) Dez Dickerson on the Rolling Stones hit “Brown Sugar,” former Wet Willie leader Jimmy Hall on Pickett’s “Land of 1000 Dances” and Solomon Burke’s “Everybody Needs Somebody To Love,” singer/songwriter Dan Penn performing his “I’m Your Puppet” (a hit for James & Bobby Purify), and Billy Burnette leading the ensemble cast through Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock N’ Roll.”

Meanwhile the Kenny Vaughan Organ Trio was upstairs in the Mercy Lounge, wowing the crowds with virtuosic chops that fused blues, jazz, country and the kitchen sink. Vaughan is also a member of Marty Stuart’s Fabulous Superlatives, and his first solo album V was just released in September.

Foster & Lloyd at the Mercy Lounge, courtesy of the Americana Music Association. Photo: Kim Jameson

While the Blind Boys of Alabama showcased downstairs in the Cannery, a reunited Foster & Lloyd took the stage at Mercy Lounge. The duo’s set started with “It’s Already Tomorrow” from the independently-released 2011 album of the same name. After working out some initial guitar sound troubles, Radney and Bill rocked through a quick collection that included “Fair Shake,” “It’s Already Tomorrow,” “Something ‘Bout Forever,” “Hiding Out,” and “Picasso’s Mandolin.”

Hayes Carll, Courtesy of the Americana Music Association. Photo: Kim Jameson

Americana favorite Hayes Carll rounded out the lineup at Mercy Lounge, leading his band through a rollicking set of alternately hilarious and sad songs including “The Letter,” “Faulkner Street,” “Wish I Hadn’t Stayed So Long,” “KMAG YOYO” (title track from his latest album), “Grand Parade,” the unrecorded “Ain’t Enough Of Me To Go Around” (with help from Austin musician John Evans), “The Lovin’ Cup,” “Hard Out Here,” “Stomp and Holler,” and the Tom Waits classic “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart.”

His encore consisted of KMAG YOYO cut “Another Like You,” with Carll singing both his and duet partner Cary Ann Hearst’s parts, followed by “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up” and “Little Rock.”

Carll made a point to thank everyone for supporting his music and all Americana acts. “I’ve been coming to the Americana festival for 10 years now, and it gets better every year,” he said.

So far, I have no argument with that.

Coming up tonight: the Americana Honors & Awards, followed by venue showcases from Lori McKenna, Will Hoge, The Jayhawks, JD Souther and many more.

Hot Videos From LBT, Urban, Nichols and More

Urban and Ellen

• Keith Urban and Ellen are promoting his new Phoenix cologne in this hilarious ad spoof.

Little Big Town's "Shut Up Train"

• Little Big Town’s “Shut Up Train” is iTunes’ Free Video of the Week through Tues., Oct. 18. See it here.

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• The music video for Joe Nichols’ latest single, “Take It Off,” has passed 1.3 million views on YouTube.

• CMT will world premiere eight new music videos this weekend as part of its fifth CMT Big New Music Weekend, kicking off tomorrow (10/14) with videos from Zac Brown Band (“Keep Me In Mind”), Luke Bryan (“If You Ain’t Here to Party”), Tony Bennett and Faith Hill (“The Way You Look Tonight”), Toby Keith (“Red Solo Cup”), Chris Young (“You”), Justin Moore (“Bait A Hook”), Kevin Fowler (“That Girl”) and CMT’s Next Big Thing artist, Casey James (“Let’s Don’t Call It A Night”).

ACA Nominations Revealed

Jason Aldean and Zac Brown Band lead the American Country Awards nominations with eight nods each, it was announced this morning [10/13]. The second annual ACAs will air live on FOX from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas Mon., Dec. 5 (8:00-10:00 PM ET live/PT tape-delayed), with hosts Trace Adkins and Kristin Chenoweth. Other top nominees include Thompson Square with seven, and The Band Perry and Taylor Swift with six apiece.

The nominees were determined by four media measurement companies: BigChampagne (record sales and media consumption), Great American Country (video airplay), Mediabase (radio airplay), and Pollstar (touring data).

Starting today, fans can vote once each day at Voting is open until Friday, Nov. 11 for all categories, except for Artist of the Year, which closes on Friday, Dec. 2.

Performers and presenters will be announced soon.

Artist of the Year: Jason Aldean, Kenny Chesney, Lady Antebellum, Taylor Swift, Zac Brown Band

Artist of the Year—Male: Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley, Blake Shelton

Artist of the Year—Female: Sara Evans, Alison Krauss, Miranda Lambert, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood

Artist of the Year—Duo or Group: The Band Perry, Lady Antebellum, Rascal Flatts, Sugarland, Zac Brown Band

Artist of the Year—Breakthrough Artist: Eric Church, Eli Young Band, Justin Moore, Jake Owen, Chris Young

Artist of the Year—New Artist: The Band Perry, Scotty McCreery, Jerrod Niemann, Pistol Annies, Thompson Square

Album of the Year
Jason Aldean, My Kinda Party
Kenny Chesney, Hemingway’s Whiskey
Brad Paisley, This Is Country Music
Taylor Swift, Speak Now
Keith Urban, Get Closer
Zac Brown Band, You Get What You Give

Single of the Year
Billy Currington, “Let Me Down Easy”
Tim McGraw, “Felt Good On My Lips”
Thompson Square, “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not”
Chris Young, “Voices”
Zac Brown Band with Alan Jackson, “As She’s Walking Away”

Single of the Year—Male
Jason Aldean, “My Kinda Party”
Luke Bryan, “Someone Else Calling You Baby”
Billy Currington, “Let Me Down Easy”
Tim McGraw, “Felt Good On My Lips”
Chris Young, “Voices”

Single of the Year—Female
Sara Evans, “A Little Bit Stronger”
Miranda Lambert, “Heart Like Mine”
Reba, “Turn On The Radio”
Taylor Swift, “Mean”
Carrie Underwood, “Mama’s Song”

Single of the Year—Duo or Group
The Band Perry, “You Lie”
Rascal Flatts, “Why Wait”
Sugarland, “Stuck Like Glue”
Thompson Square, “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not”
Zac Brown Band, “Colder Weather”

Single of the Year—New Artist
The Band Perry, “You Lie”
Craig Campbell, “Family Man”
The JaneDear Girls, “Wildflower”
Jerrod Niemann, “What Do You Want”
Thompson Square, “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not”

Single of the Year—Vocal Collaboration
Jason Aldean with Kelly Clarkson, “Don’t You Wanna Stay”
Kenny Chesney featuring Grace Potter, “You and Tequila”
Brad Paisley with Alabama, “Old Alabama”
Zac Brown Band with Jimmy Buffet, “Knee Deep”
Zac Brown Band with Alan Jackson, “As She’s Walking Away”

Touring Headline Act of the Year: Jason Aldean, Kenny Chesney, Toby Keith, Tim McGraw, Brad Paisley, Rascal Flatts, George Strait, Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban

Music Video of the Year
Sara Evans, “A Little Bit Stronger”
Jerrod Niemann, “What Do You Want”
Blake Shelton, “Who Are you When I’m Not Looking”
Thompson Square, “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not”
Josh Turner, “I Wouldn’t Be A Man”

Music Video—Male
Jason Aldean, “My Kinda Party”
Jerrod Niemann, “What Do You Want”
Blake Shelton, “Who Are You When I’m Not Looking”
Josh Turner, “I Wouldn’t Be A Man”
Keith Urban, “Put You In A Song”

Music Video—Female
Sara Evans, “A Little Bit Stronger”
Reba, “Turn On The Radio”
Ashton Shepherd, “Look It Up”
Taylor Swift, “Back To December”
Carrie Underwood, “Mama’s Song”

Music Video—Duo, Group or Collaboration
Jason Aldean with Kelly Clarkson, “Don’t You Wanna Stay”
The Band Perry, “You Lie”
Lady Antebellum, “Hello World”
Thompson Square, “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not”
Zac Brown Band with Alan Jackson, “As She’s Walking Away”

Music Video—New Artist
The Band Perry, “You Lie”
Craig Campbell, “Family Man”
Brett Eldredge, “Raymond”
Jerrod Niemann, “What Do You Want”
Thompson Square, “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not”

American Country Awards is executive-produced by Bob Bain (Teen Choice 2011, Kids’ Choice Awards). Fletcher Foster, Paul Flattery and Tisha Fein serve as producers; and Greg Sills is supervising producer. Michael Dempsey will direct the special.

EXCLUSIVE: Interview With Actress/ Songwriter Mary Steenburgen

From her Academy Award®-winning performance in Melvin and Howard to her role as an adulteress in the critically acclaimed What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Mary Steenburgen is best known for her brilliant acting talent. She has appeared in over 50 films including Parenthood, Miss Firecracker, Back to the Future III, The Butcher’s Wife, and The Help. Her impressive TV roles include such notables as Joan of Arcadia and Curb Your Enthusiasm. But in recent years, this Arkansas native has embarked on a new creative journey and spoke exclusively with MusicRow to discuss her deep plunge into the world of songwriting.

“I’m going to be really honest with you,” says Steenburgen. “It’s still a bit of a mystery [how I got into songwriting]. Before October 17, 2007, I had never written music nor had I even contemplated writing music. I don’t know exactly what happened and I never will, but on that day, I wrote my first song and saying I became ‘obsessed’ would be putting it mildly. Some people suggest that what I’ve done my whole life, telling stories on a daily basis, is perhaps part of it. My entire life I’ve worked with words. I’ve listened to the best way to make them sound and the truest way to say them.” She is also inspired by stepdaughter and singer Katrina Danson, and is driven to help the younger woman’s career.

After writing between 60 and 90 songs, she made a demo of her best 12 on Martha’s Vineyard with musician Mike Benjamin. He sent out the demo under an assumed name, which eventually resulted in Steenburgen being signed by Monti Olson at Universal Music Publishing Group—Los Angeles.

While writing in LA, someone mentioned the idea of co-writing. She admits she didn’t initially understand the process, “I thought they were saying this because they felt my music wasn’t good enough, and I needed to write with other people to make it better.” Being open to everything and always saying “yes,” Steenburgen agreed to co-write but the appointments always fell through. “It was very frustrating for me because I have a really strong work ethic. I’ve never missed a performance in my life, so I’m sure not going to miss a co-writing session. People said to me, ‘you know, that won’t happen to you in Nashville.’”

She then met Nashville songwriter Darrell Brown. “Darrell spoke about Nashville is such a loving way,” she recalls. “He got to know me and he said, ‘if anybody is going to love Nashville, it’s you. You love the South. You love Southern culture. You love writing as much as anyone.’ So I went to Nashville.” Upon arrival, Universal Music Publishing Group’s Pat Higdon and Whitney Williams were wonderful advisers, introducing her to songwriters on Music Row and helping her navigate the business.

She fell for Music City as quickly as songwriting. “I fell in love with Nashville because it’s a city of poets,” says Steenburgen. “It’s a city that actually truly cares about writing and about music. I’ve described it before as the most effortlessly hip city in America and I really think that’s true. The restaurants, the people…I think it’s the coolest city in America. When I come and go from Nashville, people actually care. When I come and go from LA, nobody notices. And that’s the God’s honest truth. It’s not that you are seen and not spoken to [in Nashville], it’s that you’re seen and understood a little bit. That’s what matters in Nashville.”

Her first two local writing sessions were with Brown. She confesses, “I was so blown away by the talent of these people that I got intimidated and didn’t open my mouth.” The third session was with Danny Orton and Barry Dean, and they collaborated on a song about Steenburgen’s mom, who had passed away two weeks earlier. That day proved to be a very emotional journey. Steenburgen says, “to have two people be so open and brave, brilliant and creative, and to dive in and be willing to experience something so powerful with me—a total stranger. They put aside any part of the fact that I’m an actor. They embraced it, but it wasn’t what was important. What was important, about me to them, was the experience of writing this song together. Literally, this is one of the most important experiences of my life and it just exploded from there.”

Listing the other songwriters she’s worked with reads like the credits of a chart-topping hit: Matraca Berg, Troy Verges, Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna and many others. She is quick to point out her enormous admiration for these talented songwriters, “If people call me a songwriter, I am honored to be called that. I’m keenly aware that I’m lucky to get to work with these writers.”

Photo: Jason Merritt – © 2011 Getty Images – Image courtesy

Steenburgen’s collaborations are already starting to bear fruit. She co-wrote a song called “Fall Again” with Berg, which is on the latter’s new album, Dreaming Fields. She also penned a song with Melissa Manchester called “Rainbird,” that will be featured in a new movie from the Weinstein Company called Dirty Girl. Steenburgen has a couple of songs written for a TV pilot she shot in Nashville recently that includes collaborations with Shooter Jennings, Verges, and Lindsey. She notes that Tim McGraw is recording a song she wrote with Dean and McKenna.

Steenburgen’s passion for writing runs deep. “It isn’t a dabbling or vanity thing,” she explains. “I actually don’t care about performing the music at all. I want the best people to sing the songs I write. If my name were taken off every single song I ever did for the rest of my life, I would still do it. It’s that important for me as a form of expression.”

She loves the fact that every songwriter is completely different; which relates strongly to her acting life. She has worked with everyone from Lasse Hallström to Woody Allen, from Ron Howard to Oliver Stone, and like co-writing, each experience is unique and rewarding. “That sense of walking in a room and opening yourself up to this unique individual and this person’s style and this person’s life and this person’s way of writing and this person’s relationship to music. I love that!” says Steenburgen.

She also finds similarities between her improvisational work and writing, and finds being open to others’ ideas thrilling. She says, “In improvisation, the first rule is that you never say ‘no.’ You never halt an idea within an improvisational. If you do, you kill the improv. I find the same thing in songwriting. I would never say ‘oh that’s a bad idea’ or ‘no,’ you just don’t say that. You don’t even say it inwardly. You just dive in. It’s like jumping in a river that you’ve never been in before. You’re going to stay afloat and see where it takes you.”

Fortunately for us, it took her to Nashville.

• • • •

You can catch Mary Steenburgen this Fri., Oct. 14, at The Hermitage Hotel when she joins her Nashville songwriter friends for a special in-the-round performance. The upcoming show includes accomplished tunesmiths Shawn Camp, Kim Carnes, Trent Dabbs, Kat Danson, Barry Dean, Natalie Hemby, Audrey Dean Kelley, Luke Laird, Lori McKenna, and Troy Verges.

The event corresponds with the Southern Festival of Books & Americana Music Festival and proceeds benefit The Oxford American, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Tickets are $250 per person. Click here to purchase, or call (501) 320-5730.


DISClaimer Single Reviews (10/12/11)

Top-tier country radio stars, the triumphant return of a veteran and a stunning debut album are all ingredients in this week’s audio recipe.

The radio stars in question include Brad Paisley, Craig Morgan, Lee Brice and our Disc of the Day winner, Dierks Bentley.

The comeback belongs to K.D. Lang & The Sis Boom Bang. Their Nashville-recorded Sing It Loud album sizzles with excellence.

The Damn Quails have one of the finest freshman collections I’ve heard all year. It is titled Down the Hatch. The debut single is out now, and the rest of the disc drops on Oct. 25. Brand new band. Brand new label. Brand new sound. The core of the group is a pair of singer-songwriters, Gabriel Marshall and Bryon White. Give those boys a DisCovery Award.

Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Black River (ERG)

—Sunny, romantic and utterly optimistic. Plus, he still sings his face off.

Writer: Dan Wilson/Brett Beavers/Dierks Bentley; Producer: Brett Beavers & Luke Wooten; Publisher: Chrysalis/Sugar Lake/BMG Rights Management/Chestnut Barn/Big White Tracks, ASCAP/IMRO/BMI; Capitol Nashville (CDX)

—Stirring and uplifting. This manages the tricky task of being patriotic without being jingoistic. In addition to being well written, it is brilliantly produced, with a rumbling, drumming undertow and subtle, judiciously placed chimes.

Writer: Bryon White; Producer: Mike McClure & Joe Hardy; Publisher: C.P. Sparkman, BMI; 598 (track)

—Refreshing, with a splash of harmonica, a dash of dobro, an acoustic-guitar solo, lightly crunchy rhythm and jaunty, folkie vocals. Oklahoma strikes again.

LEE BRICE/A Woman Like You
Writer: Johnny Buford/Phil Barton/Jon Stone; Producer: Jon Stone & Lee Brice; Publisher: Warner-Tamerlane/3JB/Sixteen Stars/How Bout That Skyline/Songs From Ferry Street/BMG Chrysalis, BMI; Curb

—Charming. She asks him what he’d be like if he hadn’t met her. He rattles off a list that includes poker, fishing, football, golf, poor dietary choices and more. But the payoff is that he’d also be looking for her.

WADE BOWEN/Saturday Night
Writer: Wade Bowen/Lee Thomas Miller; Producer: Justin Niebank; Publisher: House of Sea Gayle/Sparks to Strings/Itchy Baby, ASCAP/BMI; Sea Gayle/BNA

—Very cool. He sings with a lot of heart, and the track is cooking with gas. Best of all, the song is superbly written: He’s alone, out on the town and miserable, so why is everybody in love with Saturday night?

Writer: Brad Paisley/Chris DuBois/Kelley Lovelace; Producer: Frank Rogers; Publisher: House of Sea Gayle/Words & Music/EMI April/Didn’t  Have To Be, ASCAP; Arista

—I generally dislike records with crowd cheering/shouting in the track.

COREY WAGAR/I Hate My Boyfriend
Writer: P. Brust/C. Brown/C. Wagar; Producer: Kent Wells; Publisher: none listed; GTR (track)

—It rocks with plenty of percussion and screaming guitars. She wants to go out and party with her friends, but he doesn’t like that, hence the title.

Writer: R.J. Ritchie/M. Young/H. Boone/C. Harris; Producer: none listed; Publisher: RJR/Kobalt/Jo Ray Dean/Sony ATV/Family Three/Universal/Crown Club/Warner-Tamerlane, BMI/ASCAP; Atlantic/Top Dog/Quaterback

—Alas, all the time he’s spent in Nashville has not made him a country songwriter.

ANSON CARTER/One Of Those Days
Writer: Arlis Albritten/Mickey Jack Cones/ Chad Hudson; Producer: Michael Bowen & Anson Carter; Publisher: none listed; Black Gold (track) (

—It’s a little thin sounding, but he gets the job done vocally.

Writer: K.D. Lang/Daniel Clarke/Joshua Grange; Producer: K.D. Lang & Joe Pisapia; Publisher: Bromelain/It All Works/De La Grange, ASCAP; Nonesuch (track) (

—Lang returned to Music City to craft her new Sing It Loud CD, and her new Sis Boom Bang band is comprised of East Nashvillians. The album’s lead-off single has an Orbison-bolero vibe that simmers with sensuous heat. Essential listening.

Toby Keith: New No. 1, New Song, New Video

TKO Artist Management celebrated Toby Keith's No. 1 single, "Made In America," at this past weekend's Atlanta stop on his standing-room only Locked & Loaded Tour Presented by Ford F-Series. (Back, L-R): TK Kimbrell - Pres./Owner, Berkley Myers - Assist. to TK, Laura Covington - Dir. of Special Markets, Toby Ketih, Cassie Petty - General Manager, Alex Bridge - Artist Representative, Taylor Shults - Artist Representative, (Front, L-R): Emily Jennings - Receptionist, Misha Williams - Publishing Administrator & Jessica Johnston - Office Assist.

Toby Keith celebrates his 29th No. 1 single, “Made In America.” It topped MusicRow’s CountryBreakout Chart and is one of the fastest rising releases of his career.

For Keith, the song is almost an unexpected hit. “I’ve done so much patriotic stuff that I have people sending me and bringing me those kinds of ideas daily,” he says. “And when I hear most of this stuff it’s like, I’ve already done that. I’ve already done my warrior song— ‘American Soldier.’ I’ve already done my battle cry— ‘Courtesy Of The Red, White And Blue.’ I’ve already done my fun uptempo— ‘American Ride.'”

Frequent Keith co-writer Bobby Pinson offered up an idea anyway. “We got to talking about how when we were kids, if your car broke down your dad could take a wrench, WD40, bailing wire and a screw driver and about fix it,” Keith explains. “We jumped on that, started writing. I just couldn’t get past thinking that my old man was that old man.”

“Made In America” is one of 11 new tracks on Clancy’s Tavern, which will be released Oct. 24. A Deluxe Edition also includes four extra songs that are covers recorded live at Keith’s 2010 Incognito Bandito club show at The Fillmore in New York City.

A new song from Keith’s Clancy’s Tavern is “Red Solo Cup,” an ode to the classic party beverage receptacle written by Brett and Jim Beavers with Brad and Brett Warren. The four writers also star in the song’s video.

Guests in the clip include TV host Craig Ferguson; sports icons Roger Clemens and Larry Bird; fishing guru Jimmy Houston; entertainers Jeff Dunham (with Bubba J), Carrot Top and Lance Burton; and fellow recording artists Sammy Hagar, Ted Nugent, Eric Church, Joe Nichols, JT Hodges, Carter’s Chord, Rose Falcon and Trailer Choir’s Butter.