BONUS TRACKS: Dolly Parton’s Delicious New Venture, a Big Change for Robert Earl Keen, and More
Dolly Parton's line of cake mixes and frostings will arrive on store shelves in March. (Photo via Duncan Hines)
It’s shaping up to be a big year for Dolly Parton, not that she has any other kind. Run, Rose, Run, a book co-authored with James Patterson and a companion album of 12 songs, is coming in March. And this week she announced a partnership with Duncan Hines for a line of cake mixes and frostings inspired by her own family recipes. A kit with the entire collection — plus a spatula, tea towel, and other goodies — went on sale on the Duncan Hines website Wednesday, but sold out almost immediately; you can join a list to be notified when it’s back in stock. If your sweet tooth can wait just a little longer, the mixes (coconut cake and banana cake) and frostings (creamy buttercream and chocolate buttercream) will hit store shelves in March.
A new organization called RAMPD (for Recording Artists and Music Professionals with Disabilities) launched last week with an aim of changing “how artists with disabilities are perceived in the music industry — moving away from inspirational tokenism, and towards competent and competitive professionals who deserve respect and recognition in their chosen field,” the group says. Co-founded by singer-songwriters Lachi and Gaelynn Lea, RAMPD plans to spotlight artists with disabilities, meet with leaders from record labels and other parts of the music industry, and issue a “RAMPD Stamp” to recognize venues that have gone beyond ADA compliance to ensure access for disabled artists and audiences. Another goal is to make accessibility ramps visible during broadcasts of award shows, a way of normalizing disability in the entertainment industry. Learn more about RAMPD in this story from Billboard, and find ways to support the group on its website.
Spring still feels far away on the calendar, at least from where I sit with my hot drinks and another snowstorm in the forecast, but festivals are getting us warmed up with their lineup announcements. The FreshGrass Festival’s Bentonville, Arkansas, iteration is back in its spring position on the calendar, and the first lineup announcement is sunny indeed, with Emmylou Harris, Margo Price, and Amythyst Kiah slated to perform. That FreshGrass Festival, May 20 and 21, and the original one in North Adams, Massachusetts, each September are part of the FreshGrass Foundation, the roots-music-supporting nonprofit organization that publishes No Depression. Learn more and get your tickets here.
In a sad dispatch from Texas, alt-country couple Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison announced on social media that they are ending their marriage. They married in 1996 and since then have recorded four albums together and raised four children. “Our lives are so entwined we know we will work together, be a family together and continue to be in each other’s corner,” they said in a joint announcement. Read more about the couple’s history in this look back from The Boot.
Unfortunately, that’s not the only bittersweet news from Texas recently. Beloved troubadour Robert Earl Keen announced earlier this month that he’ll no longer tour or perform in public as of September of this year, though he does plan to continue writing songs and hosting his Americana Podcast, which interviews fellow artists. “I’m not sick or experiencing any existential crisis,” Keen explains in a statement posted on his website. “I feel that making a decision and quitting the road while I still love it, is the way I want to leave it.” In the meantime, the road goes on a little longer; you can see his tour schedule here, and Rolling Stone reports he plans a “fan-appreciation party” on Sept. 5, though no details have been announced yet.
For every heartwarming story of a GoFundMe gone viral, there’s nearly always a dark shadow cast, the specter of a system that fails its people, creating the need in the first place. That’s certainly the case with Hugh Prestwood, a one-time Nashville songwriter who penned ’90s country hits like Trisha Yearwood’s “The Song Remembers When” and Shenandoah’s “Ghost in This House.” With hits like that, you’d think he’d be set, but recently, at age 79, he and his wife found themselves facing homelessness, out of options in a tight housing market and out of money after being drained by the cost of private health insurance. He’d already sold the rights to his catalog, and his song royalties dwindled in the age of streaming — and he’s far from alone. An article in Rolling Stone places Prestwood’s plight in the larger context of struggling songwriters and how it’s become nearly impossible for these incredibly valuable creative forces to make a living.
WHAT WE’RE LISTENING TO
Here’s a sampling of the songs, albums, bands, and sounds No Depression staffers have been into this week:
Colin Hay, featuring Ringo Star – “Now and the Evermore,” the title track from Hay’s new album, coming in March
Jake Xerxes Fussell – Good and Green Again
Cleveland Francis – “The Willow Tree,” from an anthology of songs coming in April
David Ramirez – “I Believe You”
Julie Doiron – I Thought of You
Basia Bulat – “Fables”
Emmylou Harris and The Nash Ramblers – Ramble in Music City: The Lost Concert
Silvana Estrada – Marchita
Sierra Ferrell – “Hey Me, Hey Mama” (Ray LaMontagne cover)
Angel Olsen – “Something On Your Mind” (Karen Dalton cover)
Valerie June – “Pink Moon” (Nick Drake cover)
Mipso – “I Will Follow You into the Dark” (Death Cab for Cutie cover)
Corb Lund – “Highway 87,” from his new album, Songs My Friends Wrote, coming in April