BONUS TRACKS: The Season of Surprise Albums and Selling Off Song Catalogs
December is not supposed to be a busy music news season! Generally in December, releases slow to a trickle, tours (back when those were a thing) wrap up, and aside from year-end lists, there’s just not much to talk about. But, as in so many other ways, 2020 is … different. On Monday came news that Bob Dylan (gasp!) sold his entire songwriting catalog to (gasp!) Universal Music Publishing Group for upwards of $300 million (faints). Some are handwringing that this might lead to more use of Dylan’s songs in commercials – but he’s no stranger to that as it is (anyone else remember that Victoria’s Secret … situation … a decade or so ago?). And what does song ownership even mean, anyway? The New Yorker has an interesting look into that. If you read deep into the details of the transaction, you might have seen that rights to “The Weight” were part of the sale. You bet your bottom dollar there’s a backstory to that, and you can read it here from Rolling Stone. Stevie Nicks has likewise sold a chunk of her catalog recently, as have Blondie, Rick James, Barry Manilow, and others. David Crosby has said he’s seeking to do the same thing, and he isn’t being coy about his reasons: With touring off the table and streaming revenue more of a trickle than a flood for artists, he’s got to pay the bills some kind of way. The times, it seems, they are a-changin’ (and I probably owe someone a check for that terrible pun).
By late in the week the spotlight had swung to surprise album releases (in December, of all things!). It took me some time to come around to Taylor Swift, but folklore (surprise released in July), got me fully on board. And judging from the ballots so far in our Year-End Readers Poll (which closes Sunday, so rock that vote if you haven’t already!), I’m not alone among roots music listeners. evermore, which Swift describes as “folklore’s sister record,” came out at midnight. I didn’t stay up for it (who stays up ’til midnight anymore?), but I laid out my best cardigan so I’d be ready to listen this morning.
BUT! It turns out that Swift wasn’t the only surprise today had in store for us. We early bedtimers woke up to news that Sturgill Simpson‘s Cuttin’ Grass Vol. 2: The Cowboy Arms Sessions, a continuation of his bluegrass project that first came to us in October, has landed. Like The Butcher Shoppe Sessions, this volume revisits previous Simpson songs and features guests from bluegrass royalty, including Sierra Hull, Mike Bub, Stuart Duncan, and Tim O’Brien. While Simpson’s feet are still firmly planted in bluegrass here, expect to hear the tradition taken in some new directions. Simpson says in the album announcement: “On Volume 2, we recorded everything I was too afraid to do on Volume 1.”
AND! Chris Cornell‘s estate has a released an album today of the late Soundgarden frontman’s favorite covers, his last fully completed studio album, which he made in 2016. Tracks include John Lennon’s “Watching the Wheels,” Harry Nilsson’s “Jump into the Fire,” Guns N’ Roses’ “Patience,” and Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U.” Read more about No One Sings Like You Anymore here.
As the Americana Music Association pivoted its annual AmericanaFest into a virtual event called Thriving Roots in September, one vital piece had to be left behind: The Americana Honors & Awards show, usually held in the Ryman Auditorium. With COVID-19 still in full swing then and now, the show, unfortunately, could not go on, but association members voted on award nominees nonetheless, and the winners will be announced next Tuesday. Check out the list of nominees and our photo gallery from last June, and tune in to the Americana Music Association’s social media channels Tuesday at 10 a.m. Central to hear the announcement live.
If you’ve seen Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams live, you can feel the love they have for each other, and you can hear it in their music, too. A new 10-episode series called It Was the Music tells the duo’s personal and professional story, filmed over 15 months as they were on the road, with footage from both onstage and behind the scenes. And you know it has a killer soundtrack. The series debuts Sunday at 8 p.m. and can be viewed streaming platform FANS. You can watch the trailer here.
WHAT WE’RE LISTENING TO
Here’s a sampling of the songs, albums, bands, and sounds No Depression staffers have been into this week:
Katie Pruitt – “After the Gold Rush”
Jyoti (Georgia Anne Muldrow) – Mama, You Can Bet
Clifford Jordan Quartet – Glass Bead Games
Shinyribs – The Kringle Tingle
Jake Blount – “The Angels Done Bowed Down” (with new video!)
Béla Fleck & Abigail Washburn – “Christmas Time’s A Coming (And I Know I’m Staying Home)”