Category Archives: Music

duets

Linda Ronstadt Returns To The Billboard Chart With ‘DUETS’

duetsMusic icon Linda Ronstadt is back on the Billboard charts! Her latest release, Duets, a compilation of some of the stunning duets she has recorded over the years, Ms. Ronstadt debuts on the Billboard 200 at number 32. (The entry is her best chart ranking since 1990.) The album includes Ronstadt singing along with Don Henley, Bette Midler, James Taylor, Frank Sinatra, Aaron Neville, Dolly Parton, James Ingram and others. The 15-song album also features one previously unreleased cut: “Pretty Bird” (with Laurie Lewis). For those of us who can never get enough of the genre-defying queen of country/pop/rock, this is a happy event.

In her career, Linda Ronstadt has collaborated on music from every spectrum of the musical rainbow, from Nelson Riddle to Gilbert & Sullivan to mariachi music. Let’s take a look at a few of Linda Ronstadt’s more memorable duets (not necessarily featured on her new album)…

“I Never Will Marry” (with Johnny Cash)…

“Long, Long Time / Carolina In My Mind” (with Glen Campbell…

“Don’t Know Much” (featuring Aaron Neville)…

“Medley” (with Smokey Robinson)…

“Talk To Me Of Mendocino” (with Kate and Anna McGarrigle)…

The new album and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction comes at something a time of crossroads for the singer. Last year, Linda released her memoir, Simple Dreams, and revealed she has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which has left her unable to sing.

Ms. Ronstadt could not attend the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony on April 10th, as travel is very difficult for her at this point. She was celebrated at the event via an all-star performance featuring Sheryl Crow, Emmylou Harris, Stevie Nicks, Bonnie Raitt and Carrie Underwood.

Nonetheless, Duets is her 35th charting album, in an impressive career that goes back to the 1970′s. She achieved ten Billboard top 10 LPs, including three No. 1 albums: “Heart Like a Wheel” (1975), “Simple Dreams” (1977) and “Living in the USA” (1978). On the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, Ms. Ronstadt charted 34 songs, 10 of which reached the top 10 and one of which hit No. 1: 1975′s “You’re No Good.”

“Time Flies” (with Rosemary Clooney)…

Track Listing:
1. “Adieu False Heart” with Ann Savoy
2. “I Can’t Get Over You” with Ann Savoy
3. “Walk Away Renee” with Ann Savoy
4. “The New Partner Waltz” with Carl Jackson
5. “I Never Will Marry” with Dolly Parton
6. “Pretty Bird” with Laurie Lewis*
7. “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still in Love With You)” with Emmylou Harris
8. “Hasten Down The Wind” with Don Henley
9. “Prisoner In Disguise” with J.D. Souther
10. “I Think It’s Gonna Work Out Fine” with James Taylor
11. “Don’t Know Much” with Aaron Neville
12. “All My Life” with Aaron Neville
13. “Somewhere Out There” with James Ingram
14. “Sisters” with Bette Midler
15. “Moonlight In Vermont” with Frank Sinatra

To preview or purchase this album on iTunes, click here.

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Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the worlds of tennis and country music for Parcbench. Based in New York City and frequently on the road.

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SONY MASTERWORKS AND DOLLY PARTON CELEBRATE RECORD STORE DAY 2014

SONY DSCDolly Parton Will Release A Limited Edition Blue Vinyl, Featuring 2 Tracks From Her New CD BLUE SMOKE

Sony Masterworks and internationally-renowned superstar Dolly Parton celebrate Record Store Day on Saturday, April 19, with the release of a limited 7-inch vinyl. The blue vinyl features two tracks from Parton’s upcoming album Blue Smoke – “Blue Smoke” and “Home.”

Blue Smoke will be released by Sony Masterworks and Dolly Records on May 13, 2014. It is available for pre-order now. The album includes 12 bluegrass and country songs including covers of Bob Dylan and Bon Jovi classics, and duets with Willie Nelson and Kenny Rogers. Blue Smoke marks the first release of new music from Parton since 2011.

Record Store Day was conceived in 2007 at a gathering of independent record store owners and employees as a way to celebrate and spread the word about the unique culture surrounding nearly 1000 independently owned record stores in the US and thousands of similar stores internationally. This is a day for the people who make up the world of the record store – the staff, the customers, and the artists – to come together and celebrate the unique culture of a record store and the special role these independently owned stores play in their communities. Special vinyl and CD releases and various promotional products are made exclusively for the day and hundreds of artists in the United States and in various countries across the globe make special appearances and performances.

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Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the worlds of tennis and country music for Parcbench. Based in New York City and frequently on the road.

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Eric Church - The Outsiders  CD cover art

Eric Church Releases ‘The Outsiders’ On Vinyl For National Record Store Day

Eric Church - The Outsiders  CD cover artVinyl Album Features Two Bonus Tracks and Exclusive Album Poster

EMI Records Nashville recording artist Eric Church will release a double gatefold vinyl version of his album The Outsiders on Saturday, April 19, in recognition of National Record Store Day. The vinyl package will also include an exclusive album poster. The Outsiders originally debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200 and the Billboard Top Country Albums chart when it was released earlier this year in February. The album features his top-five-and-rising hit “Give Me Back My Hometown” as well as the raucous debut title track. This is Church’s second vinyl project in honor of National Record Store Day; last year, he released a vinyl version of his live album, Caught in the Act: Live.

The Outsiders (vinyl version) track listing:
Side 1
1. “The Outsiders”
2. “A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young”
3. “Cold One”
4. “Roller Coaster Ride”
Side 2
1. “Talladega”
2. “Broke Record”
3. “Like a Wrecking Ball”
4. “That’s Damn Rock & Roll”
Side 3
1. “Dark Side”
2. “Devil, Devil (Prelude: Princess of Darkness)”
Side 4
1. “Give Me Back My Hometown”
2. “The Joint”
3. “The Outsiders (Extended Version)” – bonus track
4. “Come Together” – bonus track

Entertainment Weekly called The Outsiders “the still-rising star’s most brazen, brilliant disc yet, and the first great album of this year.” “ … this is the kind of record critics imagine Kanye keeps making: a freakish statement of confidence and power from an artist in full command of his gifts,” said Spin Magazine, before continuing, “Church can turn from consummate studio pro to unruly rebel rouser on a midnight-train-whine-thin dime. Nashville has the deepest grab-bag in contemporary pop right now, but nothing else comes together like Eric Church in the wild.” People just named The Outsiders one of 2014’s Ten Best Albums of the Year (so far).
Church recently announced the launch of The Outsiders World Tour, beginning on Sept. 11 in Bossier City, Louisiana. Special guest for the entire tour is Dwight Yoakam, with Brothers Osborne, Brandy Clark, and Halestorm alternating as opening act. The first tour dates will go on sale this Friday, Apr. 18, with more on-sale dates to be announced soon. For tour updates and more information or to purchase The Outsiders on vinyl, visit www.EricChurch.com.

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Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the worlds of tennis and country music for Parcbench. Based in New York City and frequently on the road.

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Yep, Yep, It’s True — Country’s Dustin Lynch Has A Huge New Hit With “Where It’s At”

DustinLynch_WhereItsAtDustin Lynch – “Where It’s At” (single)
Label: Broken Bow Records

“Where It’s At” is the first song to be released from Dustin Lynch’s upcoming second album (which should come out later this year). Will you love this song? Yep, yep. Will you be able to keep it out of your head once you’ve heard it a few times? Nope, nope.

Dustin Lynch may be from Tullahoma, Tennessee, but he belongs to the entire world of country music. He may think he needs country music, but country music actually needs him more. Lynch is one of the rare, rising country stars who has the ability to project a fresh energy and sound while also honoring the tradition that gives the country genre the integrity that keeps fans so loyal. I’m guessing that he can do it all, given the chance.

He has a brand new single titled “Where It’s At.” If you want to know where “Where It’s At” is at, you’ll probably have to check near the top of the Billboard country chart. Already a Top 40 hit, this perfect summertime country anthem is also number 4 on the iTunes Top Country Songs list.

Some artists are probably just meant to be stars. Let’s face it, he’s the real deal; he has miles of down home charm, that wide-brimmed hat that suggests he is one of the good guys, and then he has the chiseled profile, steely blue eyes and easy grin that a country superhero would have — if there were a country superhero. And he can sing. Boy, can he sing. It’s enough to make you think it’s possible for the Western movie musical genre to make a comeback.

“Where It’s At” (written by Cary Barlowe, Zach Crowell and Matt Jenkins and produced by Mickey Jack Cones) celebrates the idea that as long as you’re with the one that matters, then that’s “where it’s at.” It’s a simple declaration of a positive idea, and it achieves what Dustin Lynch should be proud of — it takes the cliché of many contemporary Nashville songs (the obsession from afar of an object of desire) and brings it to a happy conclusion. The voice in this song doesn’t pine away about dancing with a girl he sees across a crowded bar; he does something about it and the song ends with them in a real-life grown-up intimate situation. It’s a country song that is as hip as any, but not aimed at the tween set. Furthermore, in the song Dustin reminds all that the need for a fancy setting or an expensive situation that would have a potential cowboy Romeo paying down his credit card for years is totally unnecessary. One plus one still equals two, and as long as it’s the right two, that’s all that matters. Talk about a country superhero.

Clearly, Dustin Lynch knows what country music fans want. In delivering “Where It’s At,” he’s giving them the 2014 summertime country smash they will be craving by May. The song fuses country grit with elements of pop (a beat that begs to be clapped along to and a catchy guitar wave that brings the listener a spray of “Yep, Yep” relief as if it were a splashing wave that cools on a sweltering summer day) that today’s country fans are familiar with. Who says country can’t please its ever-growing fan base and still enter high quality new musical territory? It is songs like “Where It’s At” that keep country music the most vital and healthy genre of all.

To purchase this song on iTunes, click here.

To stay in touch with Dustin’s music, check out his website, or visit his Facebook page, or follow him on Twitter (@dustinlynch).

(Photo courtesy of Glenn Sweitzer)

(Photo courtesy of Glenn Sweitzer)

I had the chance to talk with Dustin Lynch this week about his music and his new single, “Where It’s At.” Here are just a few of the responses he had to some of the questions I asked him…

GV: It’s obvious that you really appreciate your fans. Where does that come from?
DL: For me, it’s easy. They allow me to do what I love and that’s perform country music live. They spend their hard-earned money to drive God knows how long, book a hotel room, book show tickets and then purchase overpriced alcohol at our shows all night. And so, I love ‘em for it. Also, it comes from me following Garth Brooks’ career for so long. He’s one of the best entertainers, in my opinion, of all time, and on top of that he’s (from what I can tell) one of the most sincere guys there is.

GV: Of all the songs you’ve written, which is your personal favorite?
DL: That’s tough. I think “Cowboys and Angels” has touched the most people, because it’s gotten the most radio play. And the stories I hear on how that song has touched people’s lives and become a part of their life’s soundtrack is unbelievable. It wrecks my world, some of the stories I hear on what the song means to guys and girls. It’s a connection that I didn’t realize happens with music on that level. Those are the kind of songs that I continue to strive to write.

GV: You have two songs on this other album that I fell in love with recently — Working Man’s Poet: A Merle Haggard Tribute. (Those two songs are “That’s the Way Love Goes” and “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here And Drink”).
DL: Oh, man. That Haggard album is so good. That’s actually what’s in my truck right now.
GV: Really good stuff. How were those two songs chosen for you to sing on it?
DL: They gave me a choice. I had a big list to choose from. “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink” is a song that I’ve sung a thousand times down in those honky-tonks on Lower Broadway in Nashville. That was an easy pick, ‘cause I already knew it and I already knew what I was gonna do with it. “That’s The Way Love Goes” is probably my favorite Haggard song. I really wanted to nail that vocal.
GV: You really did. Your phrasing…
DL: Well, thank you.
GV: …just the way your voice barely breaks, entering a phrase… it’s a great contrast to the other song and it shows what a serious vocalist you are.
DL: Thank you, Greg. I’m really happy with how that one came out, too.

GV: Have you been approached to appear on the TV show Nashville yet?
DL: I had a song that I co-wrote a few years ago, called “It’s On Tonight,” close the show a couple weeks ago. So I’ve been a part of it that way.
(Here’s a YouTube clip of Dustin singing “It’s On Tonight”…)

GV: Are you excited about “Where It’s At”?
DL: It’s awesome. We’re already Top 40 and we’re not even two weeks into it. It’s unheard of. We have twice as many radio stations playing it the first week than we have had with any other single. It’s one of those songs — it’s gonna be a huge blessing in my life and in my band’s life. Unless I screw it up, you know, it’s gonna be a really good summer for us. It really is.
GV: So you’re already singing it in concert, because you’re out on the road right now, aren’t you?
DL: Absolutely.
GV: Are the audiences singing along with it yet?
DL: Yeah. You know, the “yep, yep” part everyone picks up on the first listen.
GV: Will there be a video for the song?
DL: There will be. We’re going to shoot it in the next month or so.

GV: In closing, what’s the best advice you’ve been given, and who gave it to you?
DL: It came from Garth Brooks and his manager. Always record the best songs you can. That’s what’s kept up going all these years. Whether you write them or whether you find them, make sure they’re the best and the rest will come easy. And I just keep that in mind as we’re moving forward and writing songs and picking songs for the album. It all begins with the song. Without a good song, you got nothin’.

(Photo Credit: Justin Nolan Key)

(Photo Credit: Justin Nolan Key)

Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the worlds of tennis and country music for Parcbench. Based in New York City and frequently on the road.

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Photo Courtesy: Stoney Creek Records

COUNTRY MUSIC’S RANDY HOUSER LANDS THIRD CONSECUTIVE NO. 1 WITH “GOODNIGHT KISS”

Photo Courtesy: Stoney Creek Records

Photo Courtesy: Stoney Creek Records

Randy Houser’s latest single follows Platinum chart-toppers “How Country Feels” and “Runnin’ Outta Moonlight”

Stoney Creek Records artist Randy Houser rocketed to the top of the charts this week with his current smash hit “Goodnight Kiss.” Following the Platinum No. 1 singles “How Country Feels” and “Runnin’ Outta Moonlight,” “Goodnight Kiss” marks Houser’s third consecutive No. 1 off his 2013 debut album for the label, How Country Feels. It also marks his first No. 1 as a songwriter, Houser having penned “Goodnight Kiss” with Rob Hatch and Jason Sellers.

Known amongst fans and industry insiders alike for his powerhouse vocals and versatile songwriting abilities, Houser’s previous successes include the 2009 No. 2 hit “Boots On” (written by Houser and Brandon Kinney) and debut power ballad “Anything Goes.” He has had a hand in writing numerous hits for other artists, including Trace Adkins’ 2006 smash “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk,” which also peaked just shy of the top at No. 2. While “How Country Feels” and “Runnin’ Outta Moonlight” each gave Houser the well-earned No. 1 spot as an artist, “Goodnight Kiss” is an especially sweet victory for the seasoned songsmith.

“I have been so blessed this past year to have such incredible success on country radio and have three number-one’s in a row,” said Houser. “But it’s especially cool to see ‘Goodnight Kiss’ up there this week and to have that recognition now as a songwriter, too.”

Houser is currently performing headlining dates across the country and will open for country superstar Brad Paisley this summer. For more information and current tour dates, please visit www.RandyHouser.com or follow on Twitter and Facebook @RandyHouser.

Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the worlds of tennis and country music for Parcbench. Based in New York City and frequently on the road.

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RONNIE-DUNN-CD

A New Album From Ronnie Dunn? I’ll Take It! (Especially One Titled ‘Peace, Love And Country Music’)

RONNIE-DUNN-CDRonnie Dunn – Peace, Love and Country Music
*** ½ (out of 4 stars)
Label: Little Will-E Records

Isn’t it nice to hear an instantly recognizable, trustworthy voice singing new tunes? Especially a voice that rocks and rolls as easily (and believably) as it soothes. I’m writing, of course, about the unique sound of Ronnie Dunn. He sounds better than ever and the new material is worthy of his vocal chops.

From the first thunderous chords of Ronnie Dunn’s new album, Peace, Love and Country Music, it is clear that he means business. He means what he sings and he sings what he means, which is, of course all about peace, love and especially country music. Produced by Dunn and Jeff Balding, Peace Love and Country Music is Dunn’s second album as a solo artist. After more than 20 years as half of country music’s most-awarded duo (Brooks & Dunn), Ronnie Dunn wasn’t done. He has continued to be generous with his musical talents as an individual artist and songwriter, and he wrote or co-wrote six of the 14 songs on the new album.

The title track is the embodiment of the values it espouses. With a simple chorus that will ring in your ears long after the music is over, the song is a humble plea for a few things we could all use a little bit more of. It’s a twenty-first century country music mantra in the same way the 1970s song, “What The World Needs Now (Is Love)” spoke for its times. That 1970s hit became the soundtrack to one of the most famous Coca-Cola commercials of all time, and this song could do the same if given the chance.

It’s always a thrill to hear an artist whose originality and style you admire interpret a classic, and Dunn’s delivery of “You Don’t Know Me” deserves thanks. To tackle an oldie takes courage in these times, but fans love hearing them, and Dunn knows how to honor his fans. He must have a blast singing it, because he sings it like he was in church and sharing nothing but good news. It’s a definite highlight on the album and it is placed perfectly in the running order; it comes as a surprise and it helps to create a dramatic arc to the tracks.

But the pièce de résistance (you can say “pièce de résistance” when you’re talkin’ country music, can’t you?) is the instantly hummable “Country In Texas.” It’ll remind you of the days when you first fell in love with authentic country music — the kind with steel guitars and a solid Texas dance hall beat — that’s too hard to find these days. Rather than seeming nostalgic, Dunn’s delivery keeps the song entirely contemporary and timeless.

(If you’d like to see Ronnie Dunn perform a song from the album, he’ll be singing “Country This” on ABC-TV’s “The View” tomorrow, April 9.)

Essential Downloads: “Grown Damn Man,” “You Should See You Now,” “You Don’t Know Me,” “Country In Texas,” “Peace, Love and Country Music.”

To preview or purchase this album on iTunes, click here.

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Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the worlds of tennis and country music for Parcbench. Based in New York City and frequently on the road.

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Rachele Lynae’s Debut Album Is Full Of Promise

1Rachele Lynae – Rachele Lynae
*** (out of 4 stars)
Label: Momentum Label Group

With explosive and enthusiastic vocals that seem perfect for getting a crowd out of their seats, Rachele Lynae just might be the female equivalent of… say, Luke Bryan. Which isn’t bad for a debut album. In fact, it could be the beginning of something big. Her self-titled debut album has a little bit of something for every taste, but most of all, it will not disappoint country music fans who like their country full of the kind of energy that gets the party started.

The album, produced by Jamie O’Neal, will be released at select retail stores and digital outlets, including Amazon and iTunes, on April 22, 2014.

Rachele Lynae CRS – Fishing For Something from Travis Television on Vimeo.

Rachele Lynae has a very strong voice. It is the kind of voice that sounds familiar the moment you hear it. It has a down home, comfy feel while still claiming an original tone all its own. It’s also a vocal instrument that has a lot more where that came from. If she were given the task of singing songs with a power that some singers would be scared to attempt, I bet she’d nail it. The songs here (mostly confrontational defensive dating ditties or fragile introspective ballads) are not that challenging, however. They are a nice introduction to her talent, but they are sometimes a little simplistic. But that’s alright for a developing artist with the potential that Rachele Lynae has. If there’s a future hit single in the collection, I’d vote for “Clean” — a song which allows Lynae to tell a story and connect on an emotional level with the listener. I suspect that someday we will look back and think that the material on this debut album didn’t quite live up to her full potential. But in the meantime, it’s a great start.

Essential Downloads: “Touch The Stars,” “Party ‘Til The Cows Come Home,” “Clean.”

To preview or purchase this album on iTunes, click here.

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Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the worlds of tennis and country music for Parcbench. Based in New York City and frequently on the road.

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Jesse Whitley Honors His Father’s Memory with Return of Keith Whitley’s Homecoming Concert on May 9, 2014

1The concert will feature performances by Jesse Whitley and guests, Stephen Cochran and Bryan Moffitt, and will be held in Sandy Hook, KY.

Jesse Keith Whitley, the son of country music icon, Keith Whitley, is bringing back the Keith Whitley Homecoming Concert to honor his father’s memory on May 9, 2014 in Sandy Hook, Ky.

May 9, 2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the passing of Keith Whitley, who was 34-years-old at the time of his death. When Keith first achieved major success in the early 1980s, he began returning each year to his hometown of Sandy Hook, Ky. for what would become an annual Keith Whitley Homecoming Concert. It was his way of giving back to the community and the people he loved and cherished.

To honor his father’s memory and music, Jesse Keith Whitley is reviving the Homecoming Concert tradition this year, with special guests Stephen Cochran and Bryan Moffitt.

The special concert will be held on May 9 at 7 p.m. ET at Lakeside Elementary School, 155 Lakeside School Road, in Sandy Hook, Ky. Advanced tickets are $10 and day of tickets are $15. Kids 12 and under are free. To buy tickets or for more information visit
www.keithwhitleyhomecoming.com or call 606-207-1077.

Jesse will recapture some of his dad’s magic in the homecoming show, performing many of Keith’s songs, including “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” “Kentucky Bluebird” and “Miami, My Amy.” He will also debut his own forthcoming single, “Shadows,” a story about an envisioned conversation between him and his father, who is indeed a “hard act to follow.”

Though Jesse’s voice is hauntingly reminiscent of his dad’s, he has worked to craft his own distinctive style. At 26-years-old, he is touring extensively and has already shared the stage for sold-out concerts with many artists, including Mark Chesnutt, Sammy Kershaw, Little Big Town, Rascal Flatts and The Eli Young Band. In addition, he made his debut on the Grand Ole Opry on May 9, 2013 to a standing ovation and an encore.

He is a rising star that comes from country royalty on both sides of his family. His mother is country superstar Lorrie Morgan and his grandfather is Grand Ole Opry legend George Morgan.

For more information, please visit www.keithwhitleyhomecoming.com.

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Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the worlds of tennis and country music for Parcbench. Based in New York City and frequently on the road.

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‘Working Man’s Poet: A Tribute to Merle Haggard’ (Featuring Parmalee, Dustin Lynch, Jason Aldean, Thompson Square, Ben Haggard And Many More)

working-man-s-poet-a-tribute-to-merle-haggardWorking Man’s Poet: A Tribute to Merle Haggard (Various Amazing Artists)
**** (out of 4 stars)
Label: Broken Bow Records

“Do I contradict myself?

Very well then I contradict myself

(I am huge, I contain multitudes.)”
– Walt Whitman (”Song Of Myself”)

There have been plenty of tributes to singer/songwriter Merle Haggard over the years. Whether it’s a spirited affair (like at the Country Music Hall of Fame) or a dressed up, bloated, random television show (like the Kennedy Center Honors), Merle Haggard has had his share of having to sit there and listen to others sing the songs he lived and wrote. I’m guessing that he is going to love the latest tribute — Working Man’s Poet: A Tribute to Merle Haggard.

No one in country music captures the stuff that gives us wrinkles, smiles, sore feet, heartaches and heart flutters more completely than Merle Haggard. His songs are so truthful that, even though the songs are country, the insights are universal. In that sense, he must be regarded as one of the great chroniclers of the American experience — the Walt Whitman of the working man. His songs give voice to people on the borders of life, with an intimacy that few other songwriters could match. Whether sung by a prisoner, a field hand, a labor camp worker or merely a dusty troubadour passing through town, Mr. Haggard’s songs become the musical equivalent of a John Steinbeck novel; overlooked aspects of complicated lives appeared in his lyrics, making sense of it all, for better or for worse.

Mele Haggard was the heir to Hank Williams’ place as the singer/songwriter who was the voice for his generation in country music. Maybe the next Merle Haggard hasn’t come along yet, but that’s just fine because Mr. Haggard is still around (and doin’ just fine), as are his profound songs. Working Man’s Poet: A Tribute to Merle Haggard, a newly released compilation of 20 songs honor Haggard’s contribution in the best way possible — by letting the songs live on with new conviction, new gusto and new understanding from new artists who are more than up to the task. This is not one of those tribute albums that will end up in the back section of your CD collection, destined never to be heard again. Nor is it one of those tribute albums that sends you running for the original versions just to cleanse your aural palate. It is that rare tribute album — one that stands on its own as a true companion to the originals. It’s an impressive achievement considering who the original is.

This isn’t just another tribute album. It’s a smart move by an insightful record label to showcase some of their most talented artists while giving listeners the chance to hear them sing twenty of the greatest country songs ever written. The end result is up to those performers (performers like Dustin Lynch, Ben Haggard, Joe Nichols, Parmalee, Randy Houser, Jason Aldean, Thompson Square, Jake Owens, Garth Brooks, Luke Bryan, Dierks Bentley, James Wesley, Kristy Lee Cook and Toby Keith), and for the most part they all exceed high expectations. Do they have what it takes to let us hear a Haggard song the way it should be heard — with the experiences of our own lives acting as a sort of sub-woofer as they convey the experiences of their lives while singing the notes and words that Merle Haggard wrote down about his own life? Almost every track on Working Man’s Poet: A Tribute to Merle Haggard deserves the praise I’m sure will come it’s way when the collection is released tomorrow (April 1).

The album is loaded with top-notch tracks, including two songs (“Mama Tried” and “Sing Me Back Home”) recorded by Merle’s son, Ben Haggard, who plays guitar in his father’s band, The Strangers. Ben offers an understanding of the songs that few could and his phrasing is inspired. Another definite highlight is “Workin’ Man Blues,” performed by Parmalee with a proper blend of sweat and swagger. The one track that doesn’t quite live up to the original (and that also doesn’t come up with its own valid interpretation) is “Pancho and Lefty,” performed here by a listless Luke Bryan and an afterthought of Dierks Bentley. It is too safe, too predetermined and suffers from a lack of purpose. Don’t worry, though – that track is followed by one of the album’s great surprises — a fun performance of “Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down” by Garth Brooks. (Note: Garth Brooks will present Merle Haggard with the Academy of Country Music’s Crystal Milestone Award during the Academy of Country Music Awards on April 6 — Haggard’s 77th birthday. Miranda Lambert and George Strait will also perform a tribute medley of Haggard’s hits during the show and he’ll receive the ACM’s Crystal Milestone award, honoring his 50th anniversary in country music.) Other tracks that succeed on many levels include “Misery and Gin” (Randy Houser), “Going Where The Lonely Go” (Jason Aldean)
, “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here And Drink” (Dustin Lynch) and “Carolyn” (Toby Keith).

Merle Haggard is indeed the poet laureate of the working man (and woman). His labor created songs of everyday survival… songs of honesty whose very existence brought dignity and democratic nobility to those who understood them. Seems like whenever a country artist is asked to name someone who has influenced their music, Merle Haggard is a standard, immediate response. What country singer wouldn’t love to perform a tribute to the man? Luckily for us, Broken Bow Records has such a talented stable of artists to assign this dream task to. The versions these artists perform prove their respect and reverence. Listening to Working Man’s Poet: A Tribute To Merle Haggard is a reminder of why we have ears.

A track listing of Working Man’s Poet: A Tribute To Merle Haggard:
1. “Misery And Gin” (performed by Randy Houser)

2. “Footlights” (performed by Joe Nichols)

3. “Going Where The Lonely Go” (performed by Jason Aldean)

4. “Today I Started Loving You Again” (performed by Kristy Lee Cook)

5. “Carolyn” (performed by Toby Keith)

6. “Pancho And Lefty” (performed by Luke Bryan & Dierks Bentley)

7. “Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down” (* performed by Garth Brooks) 

8. “You Take Me For Granted” (performed by Thompson Square)

9. “Mama Tried” (performed by Ben Haggard)

10. “That’s The Way Love Goes” (performed by Dustin Lynch)

11. “Make Up and Faded Blue Jeans” (performed by Jake Owen)

12. “I’m A Lonesome Fugitive” (performed by James Wesley)

13. “Workin’ Man Blues” (performed by Parmalee)

14. “Are The Good Times Really Over” (performed by Jason Aldean)

15. “Let’s Chase Each Other Around The Room” (performed by Thompson Square)

16. “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here And Drink” (performed by Dustin Lynch)

17. “The Fightin’ Side Of Me” (performed by James Wesley)

18. “My Favorite Memory” (performed by Joe Nichols)

19. “Ramblin’ Fever” (performed by Randy Houser)

20. “Sing Me Back Home” (performed by Ben Haggard)
*Appears only on the Walmart exclusive

Essential Downloads: “Misery and Gin” (Randy Houser), “Footlights” (Joe Nichols), “You Take Me For Granted” (Thompson Square), “That’s The Way Love Goes” (Dustin Lynch), “Workin’ Man’s Blues” (Parmalee), “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here And Drink” (Dustin Lynch), “Sing Me Back Home” (Ben Haggard).

merle-haggard

Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the worlds of tennis and country music for Parcbench. Based in New York City and frequently on the road.

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CharlieDanielsCD

New Music: Charlie Daniels Band Performs Songs Of Bob Dylan

CharlieDanielsCDCharlie Daniels Band — Off The Grid — Doin’ It Dylan
***1/2 (out of 4 stars)
Label: Blue Hat Records (available April 1)

Let’s just start with the songs. (Usually this list ends a review, but when the songs are this important, it’s best to share up front — so the reader knows what level of material we’re discussing here):
“Tangled Up In Blue”
“Times They Are a Changin’”
“I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight”
“Gotta Serve Somebody”
“I Shall Be Released”
“Country Pie”
“Mr. Tambourine Man”
“Hard Rains A Gonna Fall”
“Just Like A Woman”
“Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)”

Yeah, it’s not your usual iTunes Top 10 level of song… it’s a compact collection of just some of the songs that Bob Dylan used to change the stifling rigidity of musical genres. With Off The Grid — Doin’ It Dylan, one of the most revered musicians of this generation, Charlie Daniels (and his band) pay tribute to Dylan. The music is Dylan’s, but the style is pure Charlie Daniels. And the encounter between the original and the rebel is inspired.

While at first it may seem an unlikely pairing, the result is an opportunity to hear the many sides of Dylan’s music (prophetic, flirty, spiritual, visionary) even more clearly, due to Daniels’ unmatched storytelling ability. Daniels has one of those unique voices that conveys equal parts authority and familiarity. To hear Daniels singing a Dylan song is to hear the small truths (the ones that Dylan always conveyed with microscopic clarity), while also discovering the larger themes that have proven themselves even truer in the decades since the songs were introduced. (For the record, Charlie Daniels worked on a couple of Bob Dylan albums… including Nashville Skyline.)

The musicianship on this album matches the material as well. Each guitar, drum, fiddle, mandolin, piano and harmonica moment is solid and satisfying. It’s an acoustically-driven album, which is entirely fitting, but the similarities to Dylan’s sound ends there. Daniels provides his own arrangements, phrasings and emphases. Between the singer and the songs, it’s almost an embarrassment of riches. The diversity of style that Daniels offers in his own discography is matched with this album, with the selection of songs ranging from folk to blues to jazz to country. Longtime Charlie Daniels will respond well to Off the Grid; it’s just a natural progression of the musical journey he’s been taking them on for years.

Essential Downloads: “Gotta Serve Somebody,” “A Hard Rains A-Gonna Fall,” “Just Like A Woman.”

To preview or purchase this album on Amazon.com, click here. (Bonus for LP collectors: Off the Grid is also available in vinyl!)

CharlieDaniels_pic

The Charlie Daniels Band are currently on the road with their Off the Grid tour. The dates are:

4/04 – Durant, Okla.
4/05 – Reklaw, Texas
4/10 – Nashville, Tenn.
4/12 – Bremen, Ga.
4/19 – Altoona, Iowa
4/25 – Las Cruces, N.M.
4/26 – Spring, Texas
4/27 – Biloxi, Miss.
5/02 – Live Oak, Fla.
5/03 – Winchester, Tenn.
5/16 – Pharr, Texas
5/17 – Rockwall, Texas
5/20 – Nashville, Tenn.
5/24 – Greenwood Village, Colo.
5/29 – Torrington, Ct.
5/30 – Wilkes-Barre, Penn.
5/31 – Albany, N.Y.
6/01 – Rochester, N.Y.
6/07 – De Queen, Ark.
6/13 – N. Lawrence, Ohio
6/14 – Big Flats, N.Y.
6/15 – Gilford, N.H.
6/20 – Cullman, Ala.
6/21 – Pinnacle, N.C.
6/27 – St. Cloud, Minn.
6/29 – Cadott, Wis.
7/03 – Caruthersville, Mo.
7/04 – Sparta, Ill.
7/05 – Eldon, Mo.
7/11 – Mahnomen, Minn.
7/12 – Craven, Saskatchewan
7/17 – Livingston, Mont.
7/18 – Wendover, Nev.
7/19 – Forsyth, Mont.
7/23 – Vernal, Utah
7/25 – Guthrie, Iowa
7/26 – Union Grove, Wis.
8/01 – Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada
8/02 – Shediac, Neb.
8/03 – Tracadie, Neb.
8/08 – Rainbow City, Ala.
8/09 – Fayetteville, Ga.
8/17 – Pittsburgh, Penn.
8/21 – Bartlett, Tenn.
8/22 – Blue Ash, Ohio
8/23 – Frankfort, Ky.
8/26 – Monroe, Wash.
8/27 – Walla Walla, Wash.
8/28 – Salem, Ore.
8/29 – Minden, Nev.
9/05 – Rocky Mount, N.C.
9/06 – Mechanicsville, Md.
9/11 – Knoxville, Tenn.
9/13 – Westbury, N.Y.
9/14 – Webster, Mass.
9/19 – Stafford, Texas
9/20 – Oklahoma City, Okla.
10/03 – Chicago, Ill.
10/09 – Cumming, Ga.
10/17 – Austin, Texas
10/18 – Bossier City, La.
10/23 – Glenside, Penn.
10/24 – Ridgefield, Ct.
11/07 – Branson, Mo.
11/08 – Springfield, Ill.
11/15 – Biloxi, Miss.
11/21 – St. Louis, Mo.
11/22 – Hinton, Okla.
12/12 – Las Vegas, Nev.
12/13 – Las Vegas, Nev.

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Greg Victor

Greg Victor (Parcbench Culture Editor) covers the worlds of tennis and country music for Parcbench. Based in New York City and frequently on the road.

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