Field Reportings from Issue #45
WAR ON WAR: Artists within the country and Americana music communities have expressed their views on the war in Iraq recently in a variety of ways, and have provoked a variety of reactions. Media attention has focused primarily on the Dixie Chicks after singer Natalie Maines commented to a London audience on March 10, “Just so you know, we’re ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.” Maines later apologized in a statement on the band’s website, saying “my remark was disrespectful” but also expressing a desire for the pursuit of non-military solutions to the Iraq issue. In the meantime, dozens of mainstream country radio stations across the country pulled the Dixie Chicks from their playlists. Many cited listener feedback as the primary reason for the ban, although a New York Times article in late March observed that many of the stations banning the Chicks were owned by Clear Channel Communications, a monolithic corporation that has close ties to the Bush administration and which favors further FCC deregulation of the broadcast industry. Clear Channel, which also is a major player in the concert industry, was also accused (according to a recent report on Salon.com) of trying to prevent onstage political speech and booth representation of political groups at an Ani DiFranco concert in March at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (which is owned by Clear Channel)….
Among the opinions voiced by country musicians in the wake of the Dixie Chicks controversy was Travis Tritt, who said, as part of a 400-word statement issued March 17, “Hearing negative comments from fellow Americans — especially those in the public eye — is destructive and damaging to the morale of our servicemen and women and to our country in general.” Charlie Daniels made his perspective about protesters public shortly before the Chicks controversy, in a 600-word statement released March 4 through Webster & Associates Public Relations, titled “An Open Letter To The Hollywood Bunch”: “You people are some of the most disgusting examples of a waste of protoplasm I’ve ever had the displeasure to hear about….America is in imminent danger. You’re either for her or against her. There is no middle ground.” …
Jimmie Dale Gilmore expressed his displeasure with the policies of the Bush administration at a March 9 concert in Houston, according to a report in the Houston Press. Among Gilmore’s comments to the audience included, “I’m not a Texan. I’m not an American. I’m a citizen of the world. And I just can’t believe what the citizens of the world are doing to each other.”…
Singer Iris DeMent, for her part, chose to speak with silence. DeMent decided not to perform a scheduled March 21 show a couple days after the attack on Iraq commenced. According to an Associated Press report, DeMent told the audience, “It would be trivializing the fact that my tax dollars are causing great suffering and sending a message to the world that might is right.”
THE BIG SEVEN-OH: In addition to the new collection The Essential Willie Nelson (reviewed in this issue’s Not Fade Away section), Legacy Recordings marks The Country Yoda’s 70th birthday with a slew of reissues of his classic albums over the next few months. Scheduled for May are Willie & Family Live (1978) San Antonio Rose (1980, with Ray Price); Pancho & Lefty (1982, with Merle Haggard); and Always On My Mind (1982). Coming this summer will be the Lefty Frizell tribute To Lefty From Willie (1977); the soundtrack to Honeysuckle Rose (1980); and the concept album Tougher Than Leather (1983), plus a greatest-hits collection and a heretofore unreleased live album.
COMING SOON: A June 17 release date is set for Decoration Day, the New West Records debut of the Drive-By Truckers. The album was recorded last year for Lost Highway Records, but the label and band parted ways in February. The Truckers’ management bought back the rights to the record and subsequently took it to New West. Lost Highway retains the rights to the band’s Southern Rock Opera, which was originally self-released in 2001 before being picked up for broader distribution last year by Lost Highway (which recently issued it in a double-LP vinyl format as well)….
A new album from Gillian Welch, titled Soul Journey, is scheduled for a June 3 release on her own Acony Records label. Welch and longtime partner David Rawlings will be touring in June as the opening act for recent multi-Grammy winner Norah Jones….
The second Sugar Hill Records album from former V-Roys leader Scott Miller, Upside/Downside, is slated for a June 10 release….
Also due in June, on Rounder Records, is a new record from Flatlanders member Joe Ely….
Dualtone Records is aiming for a late-summer release for a new disc by June Carter Cash. The label also recently reissued Press On, her 1999 Grammy-winning disc originally released on the independent label Small Hairy Dog….
BMG Heritage has scheduled June 3 for the release of The Ultimate Dolly Parton, a 20-track career retrospective — which begs the question, why has there never been a Dolly Parton box set?
LIFE’S LITTLE UPS & DOWNS: King Of Bluegrass: The Life And Times Of Jimmy Martin, a documentary feature about the bluegrass legend, made its debut at the Nashville Film Festival on April 29. More information about the film is available at www.kingofbluegrass.com….
Highlights of the seventh annual Twangfest, June 4-7 in St. Louis, Missouri, include Jason Ringenberg, Bobby Bare Jr., Scott Miller & the Commonwealth, and Diesel Island, a side-project of Bottle Rockets ringleader Brian Henneman….
Elizabeth Cook, whose debut album Hey Y’all came out last year on Warner Bros., is no longer on the label. Cook had originally signed with Atlantic’s Nashville division but was shuttled within the WEA structure to Los-Angeles based Warner Bros. when Atlantic Nashville shut down….
New additions to the Kelly Willis & Bruce Robison household are Benjamin James and Abigail Esme, born March 24 in Austin, Texas. They join 2-year-old brother Deral Otis.
ALL THE FIXINS:The last name of the drummer for the Drunk Stuntmen was misspelled in the article on the band in ND #44. It is O’Connell….
A review of a John Fahey album in ND #44 incorrectly stated that the band Cul de Sac is from Chicago. They are from Boston.