Saturday, January 28, 2017

Week-end Country Music Countdown & Country Music News...January 28, 2017


COUNTRY CHART Weekend of January 28-29:

2 BLAKE SHELTON A Guy With a Girl
3 KEITH URBAN Blue Ain’t Your Color
4 THOMAS RHETT Star Of The Show
7 GRANGER SMITH If The Boot Fits
8 CHRIS YOUNG Sober Saturday Night
9 MAREN MORRIS 80s Mercedes
10 ERIC CHURCH Kill A Word
12 MICHAEL RAY Think A Little Less
13 JON PARDI Dirt On My Boots
14 LAUREN ALAINA Road Less Traveled
18 GARTH BROOKS Baby Let’s Lay Down & Dance
19 HIGH VALLEY Make You Mine


ACM Party for a Cause: Kip Moore, Kelsea Ballerini, Chris Stapleton and More Help Vegas Go Country

Four-Day Charity Event Starts March 30 

The ACM will offer 11 different places to party during the fifth annual ACM Party for a Cause in Las Vegas on March 30-April 2.
Several venues throughout Sin City will host the four-day event with performances by Kelsea Ballerini, Billy Currington, Ryan Follese, Lady Antebellum, LOCASH, Kip Moore, Jake Owen, Chris Stapleton, Michael Tyler, Clay Walker, Brett Young and many others.
The music starts March 30 with an all-star guitar pull at the Red Rock Casino Resort Spa’s Red Rock Ballroom.
Proceeds from the ACM Party for a Cause will support ACM Lifting Lives, the ACM’s charity initiative. Ticket information and the most updated schedule is available at the event’s website.
The 52nd Academy of Country Music Awards will air live from Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena on April 2.


Keith Urban and Little Big Town Join Grammy Salute to the Bee Gees

Feb. 14 Concert Taping Honors Saturday Night Fever’s 40th Anniversary 

Keith Urban and Little Big Town will go disco at the Recording Academy’s concert tribute Stayin’ Alive: A Grammy Salute to the Music of the Bee Gees. The live concert taping is set for Feb. 14 at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles and honors the 40th anniversary of Saturday Night Fever.
The night will feature performances by Andra Day, Celine Dion, DNCE, Nick Jonas, Tori Kelly, John Legend, Demi Lovato and Pentatonix.
Seven-time Grammy winner and Bee Gees co-founder Barry Gibb will also be on hand to perform a selection of songs from the soundtrack, which won album of the year in 1978. Additional performers and an air date on CBS will be announced in the coming weeks.
Urban heads to the Grammys with two nominations. He is the only guy nominated for best country solo performance for “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” while Ripcord is up for album of the year. “Blue” is also in the best country song category.
Little Big Town have won two Grammys for best country duo/group performance.
“Girl Crush” co-writers Hillary Lindsey and Lori McKenna head to the Grammys as friendly competitors in the best country song category. McKenna, who is a four-time Grammy nominee this year, scored her nod for “Humble and Kind,” while Lindsey is nominated as a co-writer of “Blue Ain’t Your Color.”
The 59th annual Grammy Awards show takes place Feb. 12 in Los Angeles.


Tift Merritt’s Stitch of the World Explores the Ties That Bind

New Album Written in the Wake of Several Life Changes 
 Don Henley’s Grammy-nominated album Cass County kicks off with a music memory that can never be taken away from Tift Merritt. The collection opens with the title song of her 2002 debut Bramble Rose and features Henley, Mick Jagger and Miranda Lambert each taking turns singing her words.
“It was such a huge gift that Don gave me,” Merritt told “I’m so grateful. He wrote me an email that I’ll never forget while I was on tour with Andrew Bird. I was totally hung over after a hometown show with my friends and I just thought, ‘I cannot be reading this right.’ It just took my breath away. You don’t have very many moments like that in your career. It’s something you can present to your parents, ‘Look! See you believed in me. Sorry it was really scary along the way and that it still is sometimes.’”
Merritt is speaking over the phone from her New York apartment before a coffee outing with classical pianist and former tourmate Simone Dinnerstein.
On Friday (Jan. 27), Merritt released her sixth studio album Stitch of the World — a collection of songs written in the wake of several life changes. She was turning 40, her marriage was ending, and she decided to take a year off the road to see what would happen.
After touring with Bird and his old-time band Hands of Glory in 2015, she secluded herself in nature to put her life to music. She visited a friend’s ranch in Marfa, Texas, where pastoral scenes on the high plains provided daily inspiration. Watching the ranch hands carry out their daily routine led to “Love Soldiers On,” a song about how love persists and pushes forward no matter what.
Watching birds learning to fly and dust themselves in the driveway inspired “Icarus.” The concrete jungle of New York City led to “Something Came Over Me” and “Eastern Light.” Hiking the trails near her California cabin led to “Heartache Is an Uphill Climb,” “Proclamation Bones” and the title track.
“‘Stitch of the World’ started with looking at a vista in California, and it was so beautiful,” she said. “It just felt not real and like it was sewn together. I thought how lucky I was to be sewn into that picture, too.
“I also do a lot of thinking about the invisible emotional things that tie us together and how you can’t pull on things too hard or hold things too tightly. There was a certain emotional resonance that I could follow. Suddenly, it was like sewing life. When the needle goes into your heart, you can’t pull too hard on the thread, or it will break.
“It felt very honest for me to think about emotional life in that way. I sort of hastened myself to jump gladly into it all.”
By fall 2015, she started recording with MC Taylor for one of his Hiss Golden Messenger projects, and around the same time, Merritt found out that she and her boyfriend were expecting. While she was six months pregnant, Stitch of the World was recorded over four days in Los Angeles with Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam co-producing.
During our recent interview, her daughter could be heard baby talking on the other end of the line between questions.
CMT: Are you seeing the world through a different eyes raising your daughter?
Merritt: That’s almost an understatement. I revert back to I am who I am, but having a child, I didn’t know I would like it so much. I really and truly would settle down on the farm and have five more if that was in the cards.
How do you perfect your use of words in music?
My first love is really writing, and that’s my way into songs. I feel really at home writing prose. … When I write music and when I write prose, there’s rhythm, melody, excitement and tension. You just have to give yourself time most of all.
What was the hardest song to write?
I think the hardest one to write was “Stitch of the World.” I spent a lot of time on the lyrics — not so much in a difficult way — just trying to get them right. “Eastern Light” was a hard one to write because I think really straight forward songs are often really emotional to write. So I think maybe that one was somewhat difficult.
How does writing about love and heartache help you understand it more?
Sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it’s just digging a hole. It really depends on where your heart is. It’s about being honest with yourself — whether you’re covering terrain you’ve already covered — and it helps if you’re asking the right questions. If you’re just beating the shit out of yourself, that’s not really helpful. If you’re just mad at someone else, that’s not generally helpful, either.
Was nature your favorite co-writer this time around?
Absolutely. That’s so right because these beautiful landscapes that I was staying at were really lifting my heart and my eyes. I think that emotional life has cycles just like nature does in the way nature changes from day to night. … There’s something good about walking that’s really good for thinking.
How did working with Sam bring out the best in you?
He’s a wonderful person. He has the biggest heart. My favorite thing about Sam is his ability to find counter melodies and getting insight in my own writing when I didn’t have a lot of perspective on my writing. I think it really helps to have somebody to talk about that stuff to see what’s actually coming across instead of what’s speaking to you. Sam is great at that, and that was a huge gift that he gave me.
Did your time working with Andrew Bird, MC Taylor and Dinnerstein influence the sound of the new collection?
To watch other people in their process and watch them cultivate their noise is just super rewarding and inspiring. Andrew and Simone are such musical virtuosos. The thought and care they put in every single note is just stunning. It’s just this really thoughtful way to fill space with music. There’s a lot you can think about.
Does it kind of surprise you to look back on your work from when you first started?
Absolutely — probably not in the way that you would expect. Sometimes I look back at my work and I’m full of uncertainty and anxiety. I can pick out a few moments where I wonder, “Wow, I wonder how I did that.” But I will always be my toughest critic, and I will always know all of the scenes behind everything that was made. So I probably look back with pretty harsh eyes but with a lot of love, too. I’m very proud of all the things that I’ve done and especially of the people that I’ve worked with. My critical eye is one that is raised on my writing and what is still left to cross.
Does life feel like a country song?
Yes, there have certainly been moments where life feels like a country song, but I think it feels more like a really long poem. It’s a little too multi-faceted to just put in one song. Life is always changing so if it is a country song one minute it is a different song the next minute.
Merritt starts a three-week tour through the Netherlands and the U.K. starting Saturday (Jan. 28) in Amsterdam. Her 2017 tour picks up stateside on Feb. 19 in Kansas City. 


Grammy Nominees Celebrated at Annual Nashville Party

Maren Morris, Thomas Rhett, Kelsea Ballerini Among Country Artists Attending 
 An especially wide range of 2017 contenders flocked to Loews Vanderbilt Hotel Thursday evening (Jan. 26) for the annual Grammy nominees party.
Among the earliest to inch past television crews on the brightly lighted red carpet were members of the Time Jumpers, whose Kid Sister is up for best Americana album, and Doyle Lawson, resplendent in a black jacket with gold brocade, whose Burden Bearer is vying for the best bluegrass album prize.
Also attending were Maren Morris (best new artist, best country album for Hero, best country song and best country solo performance for “My Church”), Kelsea Ballerini (best new artist), Thomas Rhett (best country song for “Die a Happy Man.”), Cassadee Pope (best country duo/group performance for “Think of You” with Chris Young) and Lori McKenna (best country song for “Humble and Kind,” best American roots song and performance for “Wreck You” and best Americana album for The Bird & the Rifle).
The gauntlet of interviewers strove mightily to find new ways of asking each Grammy aspirant, “How does it feel to … ?” and “What did you think when … ?”
The Nashville chapter of the Recording Academy — the organization that awards the Grammys — has nominees in 24 different categories this year, ranging from best new artist and album of the year to such relatively arcane divisions best classical instrumental solo and best engineered album.
Winners will be announced on the CBS-TV Grammy special Feb. 12.
Once past the red carpet, guests entered an enormous party room, there to mingle around the three bars and long food table, the latter of which bore such prettily presented comestibles as Kobe beef sliders, barbecued chicken, hot chicken, mushroom and truffles flat bread, fig and duck confit flat bread, truffled mac ‘n’ cheese and apple, pear and walnut salad.
 NASHVILLE, TN - JANUARY 26:  General view of atmosphere as seen during the Nashville Chapter Nominee Celebration at the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel on January 26, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Anna Webber/WireImage for The Recording Academy)  
We need not dwell unseemly on the table of miniature fruit pies — some so tiny that a single blackberry and half a strawberry filled them entirely — other than to observe they tended to clog the throat when ingested by the handful.

 NASHVILLE, TN - JANUARY 26:  General view of atmosphere as seen during the Nashville Chapter Nominee Celebration at the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel on January 26, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Anna Webber/WireImage for The Recording Academy) 

This year, instead of being exiled to a remote corner of the room, the oh-so-cool Birdsong jazz trio entertained from an elevated stage, much to the delight of the crowd.
Facing the stage on the opposite side of the room was a gigantic replica of the Grammy award, beside and in front of which many a picture was being taken.
To seasoned Music Row partygoers, this is the best bash of the year, a chance to drink hard, eat intemperately and rub shoulders with the people who actually make the music.
Near the end of the evening, Grammy representatives took to the stage to praise the artists, musicians and songwriters being spotlighted.
“There’s a reason the Grammy is considered the industry’s highest honor,” Susan Stewart, the Academy’s southern regional director told the crowd. “It’s a peer-voted award. Your competitors are also your collaborators, your mentors, your friends.”
Songwriters Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin were recognized for having co-written “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” Bonnie Raitt’s 1991 recording of which is being inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Addressing his remarks to young songwriters, Reid said, “What I wish for you is to write something you love and have absolutely the best artist to sing it.”
Shamblin added, “I wish every young songwriter who comes to Nashville could have a mentor like Mike Reid.”
Both Reid and Shamblin are members of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
By the time the stage cleared, the TV crews were starting to pack up their gear and head toward less glamorous assignments.
And nearly all the fruit pies were gone.


Faith Hill, Word for Word

The Shack Soundtrack Album Also Features Brett Eldredge, Lady Antebellum, Dierks Bentley 
 “Ain’t it the sinner who gets all the grace sometimes?”
That’s one of my favorite lines from the new Faith Hill/Tim McGraw duet, “Keep Your Eyes on Me.”
Officially, the song isn’t a single, and technically, I haven’t heard it all the way through. But I’ve been to enough movies recently where I’ve seen the full-length trailer for The Shack and have heard almost all of the movie’s theme song.
Plus, Hill just posted the lyrics on her Instagram page.
So I know now I love the lyrics already, with lines like “It’s human to hurt the one you love the most,” and “You can’t find your way home sometimes,” and “Keep your eyes on me when the light in your heart is too burned out to see.”
Hill and McGraw wrote this one together, which is rare for them. But if this song is any indication of how good they are as co-writers, I hope they’ll add more songwriting credits to their long list of accomplishments.
McGraw is featured in the the movie, playing the role of Willie, a good friend to the grieving father Mack.
The soundtrack album, The Shack — Music From and Inspired by the Motion Picture, will be released on Feb. 24, and the movie is set to open on March 3.
The album also includes several other country artists, including Brett Eldredge (“Phone Call to God”), Lady Antebellum (“Lay Our Flowers Down”), Dierks Bentley (“Days of Dark”) and Dan + Shay (“When I Pray for You”), along with Kelly Clarkson and Aloe Blacc’s collaboration on ” Love Goes On.”


Brantley Gilbert: “I Enjoy the Opportunity to Be Judged”

The Devil Don’t Sleep Arrives Friday 
 Brantley Gilbert feels comfortable driving his motorcycle without wearing a helmet in states with no-helmet laws. But the Jefferson, Georgia, native, joked he might need one if he’s driving in snow.
At the time of our interview, an inch of the white stuff was accumulating on the streets of downtown Nashville, turning Lower Broadway into a winter wonderland.
“I could drive in it, but I wouldn’t want to,” he said. “I don’t do snow well. I used to hate wintertime, but now I don’t mind it as much because it’s hunting season. But this — on a work day — no, sir. I need to be in front of a fireplace with my wife and my dog.”
Gilbert forewent the use of a helmet while performing his own stunts driving an ATV in the music video for “The Weekend,” the lead single from his new album The Devil Don’t Sleep. The deluxe edition offers 26 songs all written or co-written by Gilbert himself, except for a cover of Hank Williams Jr.’s “Outlaw Women,” which was recorded live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado. 

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