In keeping with tradition I am naming the my picks for who I think should have won the Country Music Association (CMA) awards, the anti-CMA’s if you will, on the day after the awards were handed out. As usual, I have made up my own rules so don’t worry if something on here is more than a year old, they’re based on things I’ve discovered over the past year. With that, I give you The Junkies.
Entertainer: Jackson Taylor & The Sinners. I have been a huge fan of Jackson’s music since I first heard it three years ago. I always thought he had one of the best voices in music and considered his songwriting to be right up there with the best of them but it wasn’t until I saw his live show in a dancehall in Texas this year that I realized how truly exceptional he is. That particular night the crowd was unusually thin, but that didn’t bother Jackson or his band, The Sinners, they delivered an out-of-this world show like they were playing for 3000 people. I consider it to be somewhere in the top 5 shows I’ve seen. Ever. He is a true triple threat–singer, songwriter, performer and he more than deserves to be this years HonkyTonkJunkie.com’s Entertainer of the Year.
Single (for the artist): Tore Up by Carter Falco. It was three months before I realized that this track didn’t have drums on it because I was so captivated by the vocals, the tempo changes and the haunting steel guitar. When I found out that this, the best country song I’d heard in 2011, was written and performed by a guy who I used to live down the street from in Venice Beach, who I never met, I flipped out. I have since met Carter and seen him perform the song live with just a steel player and Carter on acoustic and I have to say, it knocked me out live as well.
Song (for the writer): Mi Tornillo by Jason & The Punknecks. The first time I heard it, it stuck with me for weeks, and for a day or two I considered the implications of playing this song on HonkyTonkJunkie.com. The song details Jason Punkneck’s feelings with being a marginalized English-speaking American. He says what a lot of us think when he sings, I don’t want to speak any of your Spanish. Ultimately I decided I would play it and let the chips fall where they may because one of the reasons I started this station was so songs and messages that more than likely would never get mainstream airplay would have an outlet. Guess what happened. The song shot straight to #1 and stayed there for 6 weeks.
Album: W.C. Edgar Old School Survivor. With a voice reminiscent of Johnny Paycheck and a Waylon Jennings/George Jones vibe, how can you go wrong? W.C. Edgar is a steel guitar player who has played with everyone from Dale Watson to Tim McGraw who is now going it on his own. This is one of those records I can’t get enough of and I’m still playing cuts from it as well as from his first album Alcohol of Fame.
Group: Shivering Denizens. These guys are highly entertaining. I brought a couple of non-country/honky tonk fans to one of their shows and needless to say, they became hooked. These guys are serious about their music but don’t take themselves too seriously. How can you go wrong with a band that sings about Good Times at the Gates of Hell.
Music Event: The Merle Haggard/Kris Kristofferson Tour. This was the year I got to see many of my heroes play live. This tour gave me the opportunity for a two-fer. It was great to see these two share the stage and trade songs, stories and banter. Never mind country music royalty, these guys are American music royalty.
New Artist: Whitey Morgan and the 78’s. Sure they have two CD’s out and have been around for a few years but if the CMA can give the New Artist award to Joe Nichols after two CD’s and seven years in the biz, I can too. These guys are a stand-out, blue collar, honky tonk band from Flint, Michigan. If you don’t believe they know a thing or two about grit and hard times then you should just go listen to Taylor Swift.
Musician: Boo Reiners. According to his biography, he’s a Grammy-winning, multi-instrumentalist. That alone would make anyone take notice but in my world it’s all about the twang and I thought his Telecaster work with the Demolition String Band was simply stunning.
Favorite Steel Guitar Performance: Dan Johnson. I met Dan a few times when he was playing with Doug Moreland and again recently while he was playing with Jackson Taylor and the Sinners. My friends and I still talk about those performances and how we had never seen or heard anyone play a steel guitar the way Dan does. We didn’t even know you could play one like that. For lack of a better term, Dan makes that thing his bitch.
Favorite Record From A Band From My Neck Of The Woods: The self-titled CD by The Far West. When I first heard this I thought it sounded like a mix of Ryan Bingham and Bakersfield twang. Since then I’d have to add a little Gram Parsons in there as well. But even with hints of their influences, they managed to put out something totally original and honest. I’m already looking forward to their future projects.
Favorite Rediscovery: George Jones. Last year when I got my hands on the CD by Georgette Jones, George’s daughter with Tammy Wynette, I’ve been on an outright George Jones kick. Get a little liquor in me and I’ll outright cry to his duet with Georgette, You and Me and Time. I’ve had a great time this past year going through his lengthy catalog of material and finding some gems I never knew about and I’m not done yet. Long live George Jones.