Tag Archives: country music

Artist Profiles: Courtney Granger

Courtney Granger

Courtney Granger is a virtuoso fiddler, guitarist and outstanding singer. He was born in Eunice, Louisiana. Granger is Christine Balfa’s cousin and was the youngest member of Balfa Toujours. He recorded his debut CD for Rounder Records at the age of 15. He quickly became a reputable musician in the Cajun music scene and received several Cajun French Music association (CFMA) awards.

In 1999 Courtney joined Balfa Toujours on bass and fiddle playing together with the great Kevin Wimmer. Courtney also recorded with the legendary bluegrass musician Tim O’Brien.

Courtney’s repertoire includes Cajun and classic country tunes. His masterful fiddling and soulful singing has made him one of the most sought-after Cajun fiddlers, playing with renowned artists Jason Frey Dirk Powell and Horace Trahan. He joined the famous Cajun band The Pine Leaf Boys in summer 2008.

In 2016 he released Beneath Still Waters, his first solo country album.

Discography:

Un Bal Chez Balfa (Rounder, 1999)

Live at Whiskey River Landing, with Balfa Toujours (Rounder CD 696 2000)

Live at 2009 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, with The Pine Leaf Boys (2009)

Back Home, with The Pine Leaf Boys (Valcour Records, 2010)

Live at Jazzfest 2012, with The Pine Leaf Boys (2012)

Danser, with The Pine Leaf Boys (2013)

Beneath Still Waters (Valcour Records, 2016)

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Artist Profiles: Cindy Cashdollar

Cindy Cashdollar – Photo by Chuck Holley

 

American slide guitarist Cindy Cashdollar was born May 25, 1956. She specializes in steel guitar and dobro.

Cindy Cashdollar grew up in Woodstock, New York. She improved her skills playing with bluegrass musician John Herald; blues icon Paul Butterfield; and roots rock musicians Levon Helm and Rick Danko of The Band; and many other artists who lived in the small mountain town in the Catskills.

For eight years she performed with one of the leading western swing bands, Asleep at the Wheel. This opportunity opened the door to collaborations with country music artists such as Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton and The Dixie Chicks.

 

Cindy Cashdollar – Photo by Dale Haussner

 

Her debut album Slide Show includes an impressive lineup of American roots artists such as Sonny Landreth, Marcia Ball, Mike Auldridge, Redd Volkaert, Herb Remington, Jorma Kaukonen and Steve James.

 

 

Cindy was inducted into the Texas Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in 2011 (the first woman to be instated) and The Texas Music Hall of Fame in 2012.

In 2017 she appeared in Mamadou Kelly’s album Politiki (Clermont Music CLE 016CD, 2017)

 

Discography:

Slide Show (Silver Shot Records, 2003)
Slide Guitar Summit (Aquinnah, 2015)

Videos:

Learning Bluegrass Dobro (Homespun Tapes)
Dobro Variations – Explorations in Minor, Swing and Rockabilly Styles (Homespun Tapes)
Learn To Play Western Swing Steel Guitar #1 (Homespun Tapes)
Learn To Play Western Swing Steel Guitar #2 (Homespun Tapes)

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Artist Profiles: Chet Atkins

Chet Atkins

Chet Atkins grew up in the Great Smoky Mountains. He was a disciple of the legendary guitarist Merle Travis (Chet named his daughter Merle). Together with Merle Travis and Doc Watson he made up the trinity of country guitar. Chet was able to record with his hero before his death.

Chester Burton Atkins was born June 2, 1924 on a farm near Luttrell eastern Tennessee about 2 miles northeast of Knoxville. Chet Atkins’ origins were humble. Suffering with asthma throughout his youth he was a sickly child who nonetheless had to face working his family’s farm when his parents separated. He was only 1 at that time. But his father was a music teacher and song-leader with a number of traveling evangelists and his brother Jimmy -13 years older than Chet- was himself an accomplished guitar player.

Chet’s first instrument was a ukulele strung with wire from a screen door which he was able to get music out of for only short periods of time before the soft steel strands broke. Chet moved to Georgia when he was 1 to live with his father hoping the climate would be easier on his asthma. By this time he was playing a Sears Silvertone guitar which inexpensive as it was at least did not rely upon scrap metal for strings.

He left high school at age 17 knowing he wanted to pursue a career in music. In fact he admits that his childhood adversity was a significant motivator in driving him to be “the greatest at what he did.”

A series of performance slots on a number of radio stations as well as the popular Old Dominion Barn Dance often ended in Chet’s dismissal largely because he was already a sophisticated well-versed musician working for employers who wanted nothing but simple twangy “hillbilly” guitar.

His big break came when a gig with the legendary Carter Family led him to the Grand Ole Opry where his talents were finally appreciated. Chet became a sought-after session player working on records by some of the great pioneers of both country and rock’n’roll including the Everly Brothers and a kid from Tupelo Mississippi named Presley.

When he became RCA Records’ Manager of Operations Chet convinced the label to build an office and studio on Music Row in Nashville spearheading the music industry’s migration to Music City.

He was the main architect of the “Nashville Sound “which saved commercial country by marrying the music to pop sensibilities. His legacy to the industry he helped found and the culture he defined is undeniable. Upon leaving RCA Chet continued his highly successful career as a recording artist when he signed with Columbia Records where he remained till his death.

Chet Atkins is country music. He has played with Maybelle Carter Homer &Jethro Hank Snow Elvis Presley Eddy Arnold Jerry Reed Les Paul Ray Charles Hank Williams Sr. Kitty Wells Faron Young Lester Flatt &Earl Scruggs the Louvin Brothers Ernest Tubb Marty Robbins Webb Pierce Johnnie &Jack George Morgan Wanda Jackson George Jones etc. He has produced albums by Patsy Cline the Everly Brothers Floyd Cramer Waylon Jennings Skeeter Davis Skeets McDonald Porter Wagoner Charlie Pride Charlie Rich Hank Locklin Roger Miller Roy Orbison Don Gibson Bobby Bare etc. As a talent scout Chet helped sign Willie Nelson Dolly Parton Guy Clark Steve Wariner Tom T. Hall Connie Smith Dottie West and countless others.

A historical meeting between Chet Atkins and Doc Watson two of the 20th century’s most influential American guitarists was documented in 1980. Released for the first time on CD Reflections was an artifact for the ages and should be inspiration for guitarists for generations to come.

Chet while humble about his place in the world of music and obviously at peace with both himself and his plans for the future made it clear that he and his guitar had a lasting romance that shows no signs of abating. “There may come a day when I can’t play anymore ” Chet said “but otherwise I’ll be playing as long as I live. I could never put the guitar down ” he concluded laughing. “It might forget who I was.”

Atkins recorded more than 75 albums. In the years before his death he collaborated with many artists representing diverse genres such as Mark Knopfler Paul McCartney Eric Johnson George Benson and Earl Klugh.

Chet Atkins died of cancer on Saturday June 3, 2001 at this home in Nashville. He was 77 years old.

There were rumors started just a few months after Chet’s passing about a collection of unreleased solo guitar recordings Chet had made in his home studio. Chet’s Grandson Jonathan his engineer Mike Poston and longtime friend and sideman Paul Yandell all went down into Chet’s home studio. What they found were 28 cuts of Chet playing solo guitar arrangements some newly arranged solo performances of some of Chet’s favorite songs some songs that had never been recorded in any form. It was a special solo project Chet had undertaken himself over a 10 year period beginning in 1982. The recordings became available in 2003 under the title: Chet Atkins: Solo Sessions.

Selected discography:

A Master and his Music (Sony Legacy)
Essential Chet Atkins (Sony Legacy)
Guitar Legend: The RCA Years (Sony Legacy)
19 Original Albums, 10 CD boxed set
8 Classic Albums (Real Gone Music)

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Artist Profiles: Bryan Sutton

Bryan Sutton

Born near Asheville, North Carolina in 1973, Bryan Sutton started playing the guitar at the age of 8. Sutton first came to prominence as part of Ricky Skaggs’ bluegrass band Kentucky Thunder. At the beginning of 1999, Bryan followed his heart and retired from Kentucky Thunder to devote himself to the recording work he finds so fascinating and rewarding.

As a leading session guitarist, he continues to appear on numerous recordings, from gospel albums to Rhonda Vincent’s Back Home Again to million-sellers like the Dixie Chicks’ Fly. His guitar playing anchors Dolly Parton’s sensational bluegrass albums, Little Sparrow and The Grass Is Blue (Sugar Hill), and the singer returned the favor by contributing to Bryan’s album, Ready To Go.

Bryan Sutton

Filling in for the injured Tony Rice with the Bluegrass Sessions gave Bryan continued acclaim as he continually amazed audiences with his distinctive precision guitar leads.

Bryan has been honored as IBMA Guitarist of the Year in 2000, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007, was awarded a Grammy in 2007 and in 2011 was named Speciality Instrument Player of the Year at the Annual Academy of Country Music Awards.

Discography:

Ready to Go (Sugar Hill Records, 2000)
Bluegrass Guitar (Sugar Hill Records, 2003)
Not Too Far from the Tree (Sugar Hill Records, 2006)
Almost Live (Sugar Hill Records, 2009)
Into My Own (Sugar Hill Records, 2014)
The More I Learn (Sugar Hill Records, 2016)

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Artist Profiles: Chris Austin

Chris Austin
Chris Austin
Chris Austin was born February 24, 1964 in Boone, North Carolina.

Austin worked as a sideman for Ricky Skaggs for three years, singing and playing guitar, banjo, mandolin and fiddle. During that time, he was discovered by executives at Warner Brothers Nashville, who offered him a recording contract.

The multi-instrumentalist and vocalist released several singles including “Blues Stay Away from Me,” “I Know There’s a Heart in There Somewhere” and “Out of Step.” Austin also developed his songwriting skills, as evidenced in “Same Ol’ Love,” recorded by Skaggs in 1991.

On March 16, 1991, Austin died when the private plane carrying him and six other members of Reba McEntire’s band, as well as her tour manager, crashed in the mountains near San Diego.

Pete Fisher, who at that time worked for Warnersongs and currently general manager of the Grand Ole Opry, and Kari Estrin, then MerleFest consultant and “Pickin’ for Merle” video associate producer, initiated the annual Chris Austin Songwriting Contest to honor Austin’s memory.

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Jazz Innovator John Scofield to Perform at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro

John Scofield
John Scofield

Jazz guitar maestro John Scofield is set to perform at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro, North Carolina, on Wednesday, February 8th, 2017.

Scofield is a jazz guitar modernizer, who has recorded over 40 albums. He has produced and performed bebop, blues, jazz-funk, organ jazz, acoustic chamber jazz, electronically tinged groove music, jam band style and orchestral music with ease and passion.

In his latest project, “Country for Old Men”, Scofield reinterprets classic country melodies, performing with several of his closest musical colleagues from the Jazz community – Steve Swallow, Bill Stewart and Larry Goldings.

We’re going to turn ‘outlaw’ country tunes into Jazz vehicles,” says Scofield. “Rather than go to Nashville and record with ‘real’ country players in a country style, I’m joining forces with my jazz cronies to play the songs with our jazz approach. We improvise while keeping the integrity, character and twang of this wonderful American music. I’ve always loved Country music and am super excited to put my treatment of them into play.”

John Scofield - Country for Old Men
John Scofield – Country for Old Men

Scofield and his bandmates will perform jazz renditions of classic tunes by George Jones, Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, Bob Wills, Patti Page and even Shania Twain.

Doors: 7:00 p.m.
Show: 8:00 p.m.
Earl & Rhoda Wynn Theater
The ArtsCenter
300-G E Main st.
Carrboro, NC 27510
Tickets: artscenterlive.secure.force.com

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Tejano Music Singer Emilio Navaira III Dies at 53

Tejano and country music singer-songwriter and musician Emilio Navaira III passed away May 16, 2016 in New Braunfels, Texas. Emilio was also one of the few Tejano artists to have considerable success in both the United States and Mexico.

Emilio Navaira III was born August 23, 1962 in San Antonio, Texas to Mexican-American parents.

Possessing one of the greatest voices in the history of Tejano music, Emilio Navaira was an icon in the genre. Both a GRAMMY and a Latin GRAMMY Award winner, he showcased his strong Texas roots in everything he did,” said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy. “From his relentless touring schedule to his impressive lyrics and signature sound, Emilio was beloved by many, and helped to shape an entire genre of music. Our creative community has lost a uniquely gifted talent, and our deepest condolences go out to his family, friends, and all those who had the privilege and honor of working with him. He will be missed.”

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Country and folk musician and songwriter Guy Clark Dies at 74

American country and folk music singer-songwriter and musician Guy Clark passed away May 17, 2016 in Austin, Texas.

Guy Clark was born November 6, 1941 in Monahans, Texas. He moved to Nashville in 1971 and was one of the creators of progressive country and outlaw country.

Guy Clark was truly gifted, both as a songwriter and folk musician. Having penned classics like “Desperados Waiting For A Train” and “L.A. Freeway,” Guy became one of the most admired figures in Nashville, and served as a songwriting mentor to many other talented musicians,” said Neil Portnow, President/CEO of The Recording Academy. “Guy’s songs were recorded by artists such as Johnny Cash, Kenny Chesney, Vince Gill, and Ricky Skaggs, with many reaching the upper echelon of the country songs chart. And his much-acclaimed album, My Favorite Picture Of You, earned him a GRAMMY Award for Best Folk Album for 2013. We have lost a cherished artist and our sincerest condolences go out to Guy’s family, friends, and collaborators.”

In 2004, Guy Clark was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He received the Americana Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005, and in 2013, he received the Academy of Country Music’s Poet’s Award, along with Hank Williams.

Clark was a mentor to artists such as Steve Earle and Rodney Crowell and his songs have been covered by a multitude of artists, including Johnny Cash, Brad Paisley, David Allen Coe, Ricky Skaggs, Vince Gill, Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney, Jimmy Buffet, Asleep At The Wheel and many others.

Photo credit: Guy Clark photo by Nashvilleportraits.com

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MerleFest Announces 2016 Chris Austin Songwriting Contest Finalists

merlefest_2016

The Chris Austin Songwriting Contest, presented by MerleFest, announced the finalists for the 2016 contest.

Writers of 12 songs, selected from over 744 entries, will compete on the Austin Stage in Alumni Hall at MerleFest on Friday, April 29:

Bluegrass

Cindy Giejda (Farmingdale, New Jersey) – “Jail Break”
Courtney Rorrer (Madison, North Carolina) and Asa Gravley (Beckley, West Vieginia) – “Midnight Tears”
Aaron Bibelhauser (Louisville, Kentucky) – “Blue Collar Dreams”

Gospel/Inspirational

Austin Stanley (Nashville, Tennessee.) – “The Face of God”
Marcy Each (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) – “On the Cross Built for Me”
Corey Smith and Allen Smith (Fayetteville, North Carolina) – “The Road”

Country

Sarah Morris (Shoreview, Minnesota) – “I Go Back”
Meris Gantt of Handlebar Betty (Blowing Rock, North Carolina) – “House of Cards”
Buddy Guido (Mohawk, New York), Paul Kelly (Santa Fe, New Mexico) and Willie Scheollkopf (Buffalo, New York) – “This Livin’ May Be Killing Me”

General

David Morris (Gaithersburg, Maryland) and Chris Dockins (Burke, Va.) – “Weeds”
Sarah Sample (Sheridan, Wyoming) – “A Heart That Falls Apart”
Adam Bonomo (Brooklyn, New York) – “Redshifted”

Now in its 24th year, the contest is an opportunity for aspiring writers to have their original songs heard and judged by a panel of music industry professionals, under the direction of volunteer contest chairperson, Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Jim Lauderdale. The first place winners will receive $600 cash from MerleFest and a performance slot on the Cabin Stage on Friday night.

All finalists will get to take part in a songwriting mentoring session with Jim Lauderdale and the on-site judges for the final round of this year’s Chris Austin Songwriting Contest.

The first round of the CASC competition takes place in Nashville, Tennessee, and is narrowed down to 12 finalists representing four categories: bluegrass, country, general and gospel/inspirational.

Judging is based on a song¹s originality, lyrics, melody and overall commercial potential. The contest is open to those whose primary source of income (50 percent or more) is not derived from songwriting or publishing.

Net proceeds from the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest help support the Wilkes Community College Chris Austin Memorial Scholarship. Since its inception the scholarship has awarded over $34,600 to 84 deserving students.

MerleFest 2016 will take place from April 28-May 1, on the campus of Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina.

For more details about the contest, visit www.MerleFest.org/ChrisAustinSongwritingContest.

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Country Music Star Merle Haggard Dies at 79

Merle Haggard
Merle Haggard

Acclaimed country music singer-songwriter, guitarist and fiddler Merle Haggard passed away April 6, 2016. The Recording Academy’s CEO, Neil Portnow, released the following statement: “Two-time GRAMMY Award winner and 2006 Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Merle Haggard was an uncommon hero in country music. An exceptional multi-talented singer-songwriter, guitarist, and fiddler, Merle’s massive success was rooted in his masterful ability to celebrate the outlaws and the underdogs.

Merle’s extraordinary talent resulted in more than 30 No. 1 country hits and his remarkable performances will forever live on and inspire music creators worldwide. We have lost an innovative member of the music community and our sincerest condolences go out to Merle’s family, friends, collaborators and all who have been impacted by his incredible work. He will truly be missed.”

Today, upon learning of the death of the renowned Merle Haggard, many country music stars have reacted expressing their love and admiration for one of the genre’s greatest artists:

When we lost George Jones, I said, ‘Years ago someone asked Coach Bum Phillips if Earl Campbell was in a class by himself. Bum replied, ‘Well if he ain’t, it sure don’t take long to check roll.’ The same applies for the great Merle Haggard. I will miss my friend.”
-Larry Gatlin

Now in the presence of the One his sweet Mama told him about. We will miss you, but you won’t be missing us!
-Ricky Skaggs

We’ve lost a unique voice and writer of great country songs. God Bless you Merle…I just wish you’d ‘made it through December’ a few more times.”
-Ray Stevens

Merle Haggard has been a huge influence in my life, to my music and my career. Thank you very much Hag and God bless you.”
-Sammy Kershaw

I don’t think it’s a hyperbole to say Merle Haggard was a national treasure. He was. Haggard is as American as apple pie and baseball. He was the poet laureate of country music. Try to find one songwriter in Nashville who didn’t idolize Hag. You can’t. It’s impossible.”
-Pam Tillis

I was fortunate enough to get to play several shows with Merle and he always had great advice to give me. We have lost an icon and a legend.”
-Aaron Tippin

After meeting and being around Country legends such as Merle Haggard, it increased my respect and my desire of getting to know him, which I accomplished. His loss will be deeply mourned by everyone in Country music as well as by those of other music genres. May he rest in peace.”
-Doug Gray on behalf of The Marshall Tucker Band

I am dumbfounded by this news. Merle Haggard was probably my greatest musical influence and my hero. I never shook his hand, but the music he made shook my soul to the core. It hurts to think about no more Haggard but honestly, we all know, that he made enough music to last us a lifetime. I just hope his passing might call attention to some of the stuff that made country music a mainstay. Maybe this generation will go back and listen to what shaped and molded the genre. I guess it’s okay to veer off in a different direction but the end product needs to have the same impact. The question is, how does today’s country music stack up when compared to one of the masters like Merle Haggard? Give it some thought. You don’t need my help with that one. I feel confident, you’ll figure it out. Thanks, Merle, for all the great songs and all the great music. It’ll never be the same.”
-Darryl Worley

Merle Haggard was a ‘must see’ artist, a cornerstone of country. Eloquent as a poet and singer, he was completely authentic…imitated but never equaled. Timeless music at its best. Restless Heart and all other bands owe him a great debt.”
-Dave Innis on behalf of Restless Heart

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