by Julian Spivey
The Eagles brought their multi-year “History of the Eagles” summer tour to Verizon Arena in North Little Rock, Ark. on Monday, July 27 for what amounted to an almost three hour thrilling performance of their greatest hits.
The “History of the Eagles” is an incredibly interesting format for a tour, where the Eagles play the exact same 27-song set every night of the tour running through the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame career of the band and the many changes it has seen over its five decades.
Every night co-creators of the group Don Henley and Glenn Frey kick off the show with the first song that wrote together: “Saturday Night.” The duo then brings out original Eagles guitarist Bernie Leadon to the stage, exclaiming that they sought him out to be their guitarist on the recommendation of Linda Ronstadt, whose band Henley and Frey started out in, to perform “Train Leaves Here This Morning” with Leadon on lead vocals. Frey explained to the likely sold out audience that these might not be the two most known performances in the group’s discography, but were integral to the beginnings of the group.
From there on out Leadon remains on the stage for the early Eagles hits and the group is joined by fellow bandmates Timothy B. Schmit and Joe Walsh, despite the fact that those two wouldn’t join the band until the late ‘70s.
The early part of the concert was truly fascinating for me as a bigger fan of the Eagles’ early country-rock days than some of their later hits. This segment of the show featured the exquisite performances of “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” “Tequila Sunrise,” “Already Gone,” “Lyin’ Eyes” and “Take It To the Limit,” all with Frey on lead vocals. The first segment of the show also featured awesome performances of “Witchy Woman,” “Best of My Love” and “One of These Nights” with Don Henley on the vocals sounding as great as he ever has.
Because of the “History of the Eagles” theme the group plays many of its hits almost chronologically through the night, which led to the first half being my favorite as a fan of their earliest country-rock stuff.
After a short 20-or-so minute break the Eagles returned back to the stage saying that they had reached the period of the late ‘70s where Schmit and Walsh had joined the band and this meant it was time to shine for those two. Schmit has always been my least favorite Eagles member, which sounds a little harsher I know than I really mean it to be. His songs are solid, it’s just that his high register love songs like “I Can’t Tell You Why” and “Love Will Keep Us Alive” come off a little cornier than I’d like. Almost as if they belong more at a REO Speedwagon concert than that of the Eagles.
Walsh’s performances all seemed to excite the crowd, and with good reason as he’s an incredibly talented guitarist, one of the best all-time really, and has an infectious personality that really comes across on stage. He’s always the playful one of the bunch and the audience rewards him with much applause. Despite being the “History of the Eagles” tour Walsh is given the chance to shine on some of his solo work like the crowd pleasing “Life’s Been Good” and “Funk #49,” which he recorded with the James Gang. He also took lead on his Eagles songs “Pretty Maids All in a Row” and “In the City,” which aren’t my favorite Eagles tunes. I guess you could say I’m definitely a Henley and Frey guy.
Among the highlights of the second part of the Eagles’ set were Frey’s lead vocals on “Heartache Tonight,” the last of the group’s five career No. 1 hits, as well as Henley taking lead on the rocking “Life in the Fast Lane.”
Following “Life in the Fast Lane” the group left the stage briefly to uproarious applause before returning for a terrific version of what is likely their most beloved song, “Hotel California.” “Hotel California” is an American standard, but because of this is one of those songs you hear so much early on in life that you get to a point with it where you almost turn the radio station more when it comes on than actually listen to it. However, seeing Henley and the boys do it live truly reminds you why it’s one of the all-time greatest rock songs to begin with.
The Eagles briefly left the stage once more after “Hotel California” before returning again for a terrific three-song second encore that began with Frey taking vocals on “Take It Easy,” one of my all-time favorites. Walsh then got one last chance to thrill the audience by doing another one of his solo classics “Rocky Mountain Way,” in which you could hear the bulk of the people in attendance yelling along in unison.
The Eagles saved their very best for last, in Henley’s rendition of “Desperado.” “Desperado” has always been my favorite Eagles song and hearing them close out their “History of the Eagles” show by performing it was perfection.
by Julian Spivey
Rock and Roll Hall of Famers and one of the most popular and highest-selling rock bands of all-time the Eagles are performing at Verizon Arena in North Little Rock, Ark. as part of their multi-year “History of the Eagles” tour, which features a set list of essentially their 20-25 greatest hits that will be sure to thrill and mesmerize the audience for an evening.
In honor and celebration of their performance in town tonight here is a list of the Eagles’ 10 greatest song …
10. The Last Resort (1977)
9. Seven Bridges Road (1980)
8. Life in the Fastlane (1977)
7. Take it to the Limit (1975)
6. How Long (2007)
5. Peaceful Easy Feeling (1972)
4. Hotel California (1977)
3. Tequila Sunrise (1973)
2. Take it Easy (1972)
1. Desperado (1973)
Let us know what your favorite Eagles song is in the comments below ...
by Aprille Hanson
On July 20, my husband and I celebrated our one-month anniversary of being married. Now, sadly, we must end things because country’s power couple Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert have announced they are getting a divorce after four years of marriage. This means that all hope is lost.
This is sarcasm.
Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t have to explain that my husband and I will NOT be breaking up because of the Shelton/Lambert split, but these are crazy times if you look at social media.
Humanity is lost. There’s no hope for love. If Blake and Miranda can’t make it, there’s not hope for the rest of us. One person actually tweeted: “@blakeshelton @mirandalambert I can’t believe you would do this to me I’m deeply hurt” … followed by eight sad faces.
I kid you not, this has been the response. I would hope that most would be saying this as a joke, but the more you scroll through the twitter hashtags, the more it seems that this is honestly how people feel.
Pull it together humans. We have wars, natural disasters, poverty, hunger, but it’s this divorce that sends the world into despair?
It’s fine to be upset. I sure was. I, along with all their other fans, watched their love blossom just like a country love song. From the moment they sang together on “You’re the Reason God Made Oklahoma” on CMT in 2005 to their marriage five years later to their string of musical collaborations (most notably “Over You,” sung by Lambert and co-written by them as an ode Shelton’s brother killed in a car accident) to the string of endless country music awards that followed that success. They were this generations Tim and Faith, George and Tammy, Johnny and June.
They were the country “It” couple and whenever they recorded a love song like Lambert’s, “Oklahoma Sky” or Shelton’s “Honey Bee” you couldn’t help but imagine they were singing about each other, even if they didn’t write it. We lived out their love story vicariously through their music.
This is exactly why their break-up is so devastating for fans. We watched these low-on-the-totem-pole country stars build not only their love but ultimately their careers. It was a joy to root for them.
But they have always been frank that their courtship has been on shaky ground. After all, they fell in love on that stage during that duet when Shelton was still married. Then, both have admitted that five years of dating while touring and focusing on their music was filled with hurdles. Then of course after getting married, managing even bigger careers, plus Shelton’s TV fame as a judge (THE judge really) on NBC’s singing competition “The Voice,” just added more obstacles.
It’s also hard to comprehend because of Lambert’s past bold statements about divorce. In an April 2013 article in Country Weekly, the country queen said, “Like I always say, my mom said to my dad, ‘Divorce is not an option.’ So, we really love each other and have a real marriage outside of all of this.”
Then there are the lyrics to her hit single “Automatic” off of her most recent album Platinum. Co-written by Lambert, it includes the line, “Staying married was the only way to work your problems out.” Often during performances, she’d hold up her left hand, flashing her ring to drive the point home.
News outlets have reported that the papers have been filed for a while, but Monday it became official. I hate to cite TMZ, but they have said Shelton was the one to file in Oklahoma. That’s one of those facts I can’t see them pulling out of thin air.
The fans feel such a deep connection to the stars through their music and Twitter that it was such a gut-punch when we read the statement released by their representatives (not them personally and no mention on their Twitter feeds) to the Associated Press: “This is not the future we envisioned,” the statement read, “And it is with heavy hearts that we move forward separately. We are real people, with real lives, with real families, friends and colleagues. Therefore, we kindly ask for privacy and compassion concerning this very personal matter.”
They are real people, but with extremely public lives. Their divorce may be all worked out on paper between them, but it will be messy with speculation and rumors swirling and there’s nothing they can do to stop it. I could come up with a bunch of different theories on what caused the split, but what’s the point? Truths will come out piece by piece but no one really knows except for the couple what causes that final straw to break the camel’s back.
It’s a sad day for fans, but a much sadder day for this couple that couldn’t make it work. Let’s not forget we do not truly know either one of these people and to act like we’re personally offended or that the tragedy is ours, is cruel to them. The more appropriate use of our time would be to pray for them as they wade through this murky water.
They will continue to make great music and we’ll continue to listen … and remember when God made Oklahoma.
by Julian Spivey
Old Crow Medicine Show, the old-timey folk, bluegrass, country, Americana string-band out of Nashville, might very well be the single-most talented band in all of America and proved as much on Thursday, July 16 during their show on the lawn of the President Bill Clinton Library in Little Rock, Ark.
Old Crow Medicine Show put on one helluva performance over two hours at the Clinton Presidential Library, the first such concert to be performed on the lawn there (something that should continue in the future) going through much of their discography from their 10-plus years in the music business.
The band, fresh off of winning a Grammy Award earlier this year for Best Folk Album for their 2014 release Remedy, features an old timey sound equipped with fiddle, mandolin, banjo and upright bass. The group is so in sync with each other that it’s almost as if every member of the six-piece band shares the same brain.
It’s truly remarkable how talented Old Crow Medicine Show is with most of the members taking turns at the microphone and nearly every one of them proficient in multiple instruments. The group is also among the most exciting you’ll ever have the pleasure of seeing on stage with a high energy that few other groups can even come close to equaling.
O.C.M.S. kicked off their fantastic set with their latest single “Brushy Mountain Conjugal Trailer,” one of their patented rip-roaring bluegrass tunes. The high energy performances just kept coming one after another with “Alabama High-Test,” “Bootlegger’s Boy,” “Mississippi Saturday Night” and “Carry Me Back to Virginia” with the jam-packed crowd on the small Clinton Presidential Library lawn attempting to keep up with Ketch Secor’s fast-paced lyrics and screaming their voices hoarse on every chorus.
The great thing about an O.C.M.S. show is seeing the multi-talented instrumentalists of the group also get a chance to take the mic for a song or two. Banjo, slide guitar and drummer Critter Fuqua gets the most vocals of the group behind Secor, who fronts most of the songs, with fantastic lead performances on stuff like “Take ‘em Away” and “Big Time in the Jungle.” Guitarist and second fiddle player (behind Secor) Chance McCoy entertained the audience with “Down Home Girl” and guitjo (the rare combination of a guitar and banjo) player Kevin Hayes truly enthralled the audience with fan-favorite “Humdinger,” as well as “Country Gal.”
Drummer, mandolin and keyboardist Cory Younts was a big hit among the audience as he’s a local Arkansan who performed in an Arkansas Razorbacks T-shirt, as well as occasionally a rubber Razorbacks head. Despite being a first-class musician the thing he particularly amazed the packed audience with was his buckdancing (or clogging, if you will).
Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor said onstage that the group always likes to perform some local songs when going from town-to-town and rehearsed some before the show to perform on the night: the choices were a modernized version of “Arkansas Traveler” and a cover of the little known Johnny Cash song “Arkansas Lovin’ Man.” O.C.M.S. also proved to be proficient in the blues with a cover of the standard “C.C. Rider.”
Opening act Robert Ellis, one of the best young singer-songwriters today in the Americana genre, joined O.C.M.S. on stage a couple of times throughout their set. Ellis took lead on their song “Genevieve,” as well as taking part with Secor and Fuqua on the modern version of “Arkansas Traveler.” He would later rejoin the band on stage during their encore for a fantastic cover of the George Jones classic “White Lightning.”
Ellis’ opening set was brilliant and perfectly showcased both his talented songwriting and his terrific voice on stuff like “Good Intentions” and “Sing Along” from his incredible 2014 album The Lights from the Chemical Plant. He also debuted some new songs like “Couples Skate” and “Perfect Strangers” that will surely highlight an upcoming album.
My only complaint of the entire night of perfect music was that the crowd didn’t seem to give a damn about Ellis, despite the fact he’s truly a special singer-songwriter. This is something you’ll see frequently for opening acts and is always irritating. How are people supposed to find great, new music if they won’t actually pay attention to it?
Back to the main attraction, though. Old Crow Medicine Show’s biggest hit and most well-known song is “Wagon Wheel” and their performance was truly magical with every single person in the audience singing along and filling the humid Arkansas night with their voices.
O.C.M.S. finished their set with yet another one of their amazing fast-paced jams “8 Dogs 8 Banjos” that had much of the audience clapping their hands and stomping their feet along to the tune.
After an incredible ovation from the crowd the band returned to the stage for a wonderful three song encore that began with another crowd favorite in “Tell It To Me,” Ellis’ cover of “White Lightning” and then finished with an epic cover of my personal favorite Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ song “American Girl,” with Fuqua on lead vocals and one of Secor’s very best fiddle solos of the night, which truly adds to the sound of the song in place of electric guitar.
Old Crow Medicine Show is truly a must-see act for anybody who loves great and especially traditional music. The group brings more energy to the stage than the highest selling acts in any genre from country to rock to pop and hip hop. If they come to your town you better not miss the opportunity. It’ll likely end up as one of the very best concerts you’ll ever see.
By Aprille Hanson
Modern country music tries to tell us who we are. People in small towns are supposed to party in cornfields, cuss on Mondays and pray on Sundays, drink moonshine, tear up a dirt road with a girl in painted on cut-off jeans riding shotgun who, if they’re lucky, which they always are, will get “some of that” before the sun comes up. Living in a small town is a redneck party so let’s drink up.
Thank God for Kacey Musgraves who never once tries to tell us who we are. In fact, she is quite the opposite. She uses her folksy, cute charm mixed with her tough Southern roots to explain reality, that our uniqueness should be celebrated. This honesty makes her the most real star in country music right now. Because of that, you won’t hear her on the radio, because life is just a party with a good back beat streaming through the stereo speakers.
In her sophomore album Pageant Material, Musgraves delivers a sound similar to her debut album Same Trailer Different Park. While some (very few, but worth mentioning) critics have scolded her for beating the same drum of celebrating our uniqueness, it just seems silly. Sure, songs like “Cup of Tea” and “Somebody to Love,” are along the same lines of her hit “Follow Your Arrow,” but so what. They are lyrically brilliant, real-life anthems. “Cup of Tea” points out real problems people have – “maybe you married the wrong person first … maybe you dropped out of college, but hey life goes on” and then the most perfect line, “we all have the right to be wrong.” It’s a bouncy tune, unlike the more contemplative ‘Love’ which hits on more thought-provoking realities including how we all “wrangle with religion” and how “we’re not cool, but man we’re trying.”
Ok critics, let’s chastise Musgraves for doing similar songs, but let’s let all the bro-country artists sing about beer, dirt roads and cutoffs in EVERY SINGLE they release. At least this compilation will go down as one of the genre’s finest now and years from now. Most critics thankfully agree that it’s a perfect album.
Hidden in the coal mine of what country music now is, you can find 14 gold nuggets on this album (including the unlisted cover “Are You Sure” with the man himself, Willie Nelson), all co-written by Musgraves and some other notable names like Shane McAnally and Brandy Clark.
Her first single “Biscuits,” is so charming, witty and downright fun, it’s a trip with a moral message – “Mind your own biscuits and life will be gravy.” The best part of the song is when she gives her take on that old Southern bit of, “God bless your heart” : “Pouring salt in my sugar won’t make yours any sweeter / pissin’ in my yard won’t make yours any greener … I’ll just do me and honey you can just do you.”
Musgraves tends to shine best on songs that you can believe relate directly to her life. For instance, “Dime Store Cowgirl,” (which she was called by a pageant stage mom once according to her album “thank-yous”) chronicles the adventures she’s had with fame so far, but realizing she’ll always be the girl from Golden, Texas. And speaking of Golden, it’s small. It’s an unincorporated community in Wood County, Texas, known mostly for its sweet potato festival … and now Musgraves. She starts out “This Town” with a sound bite of her grandmother telling someone else how a “belligerent” woman actually bit a nurse to the point where you could see the marks from “all her teeth.” It’s an odd way to start a song, but perfect for this one, because as Musgraves explains, that no matter how big the town gets, it’s too small to be mean: “Way too small for secrets because they’re way too hard to keep.” The imagery is also really what small town life is – there’s a grocery shop or two, a Mexican restaurant, a Baptist, Methodist and Church of the Nazarene … drive through a small Southern town and yeah, this is pretty much what you’ll find.
A song surely to piss off most of the Southern belles is the title track to her album. In “Pageant Material” she explains how in the South, many girls are just expected to have this grace about them and, of course, compete in a beauty pageants. But for those of us who are just not pageant material, we now have an anthem, with a fantastic chorus that includes an amazing line: “And it ain’t that I don’t care about world peace but I don’t see how I can fix it in a swimsuit on a stage.”
The most telling part of the song though is this line: “God bless the girls who smile and hug when they’re called out as the runner-up on TV / I wish I could, but I just can’t wear a smile when a smile ain’t what I’m feelin’.” When Miranda Lambert was won the 47th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards, Female Vocalist of the Year honor, the TV showed the other nominees faces and while most smiled and clapped, Musgraves was caught stone faced. She caught hell for it. Clearly, she just felt disappointed, how anyone would and instead of slapping on a fake smile, she just sat there. It’s proof again that she’s a real person, not a “too big for her britches” star.
She’s not afraid to voice her true feelings and does so with wit and sarcasm on “Good Ol’ Boys Club,” explaining how she’s not willing to be a part of the “cigars and handshakes” and “another gear in a big machine” in the country music industry. While country duo Maddie and Tae attacked the notion of bro-country in a pop-country “Girl in a Country Song,” here is Musgraves going after the industry and execs. It’s what others are too afraid to do and say out loud, with lines like “Favors for friends will get you in and get you far / when did it become about who you know and not about how good you are.”
She takes a break on some of the bounce, but not the bite (just a little softer) on songs like “Late to the Party,” “Miserable,” “Fine,” “Die Fun” and the hidden “Are You Sure.” Musgraves told TheBoot.com that asking Willie why he never played the song live anymore led to the two recording it.
And I can’t forget to mention “High Time” because it’s also a great song … and I literally can’t forget it. It will get stuck in your head for days, but at least it’s a relaxing ditty about letting go of the flash of life and just celebrating some “high time,” however you want to take the reference.
I say all this to lead into the best song on the album, “Family is Family.” It’s a fun upbeat song that explains how your family might be in church or in prison, but family is family. The geniuses of Musgraves, McAnally and Josh Osborne on this song are just too much to handle with lyrics like: “They own too much wicker, they drink too much liquor / you’d wash your hands of them but blood’s always thicker” and “They’re there when you’re married, divorced and remarried / You fall out of touch, but then someone gets buried.” It’s just a testament to her ability to take the small observations in life and make them great songs. Because for many it’s true, “You might look just like ‘em, but that don’t mean you like ‘em but you love ‘em.”
Kacey Musgrave is not pageant material, but she just took the crown of country royalty and a sash that should say “perfect album.”
by Julian Spivey
Willie Nelson’s 42nd annual Fourth of July Picnic was good for my soul.
Imagine if nearly every one of your favorite current artists could be at one music festival on the same day doing staggered sets so you could see absolutely every one of them. It sounds like a dream, doesn’t it?
It truly was.
When I heard that Willie Nelson’s annual Fourth of July concert would include Merle Haggard, Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Jamey Johnson, Kacey Musgraves and Eric Church I just knew that I had to buy tickets and make the trek from Central Arkansas to Austin, Texas (eight hours each way).
It was worth every second and penny.
In a time where country music is utter bullshit featuring talentless hacks like Sam Hunt, Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan wreaking havoc on the radio it was nice to be able to go to a place where you could hear real country music and real songwriting talent. For 14 ½ hours on Saturday, July 4 I was in music heaven. It truly was Independence Day and the best one I’ve ever had and probably ever will.
More than 20 artists took the stage on Saturday at the Austin360 Amphitheater just outside of Austin, Texas on two separate stages to perform sets that ranged from as a few as two songs to about 75 minutes.
Because of the way the sets were staggered and the close proximity of the stages I had the great pleasure of seeing every single performance at Willie’s annual party.
It was blistering hot in that central Texas heat on Saturday, but I didn’t care about a little sunburn or slight heat exhaustion with the talents of Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Jamey Johnson and on and on singing their hearts out for the biggest concert crowd I’ve ever seen.
How do you even go about reviewing something this massive?
Maybe just the highlights …
The best thing of the entire day was seeing Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson perform three songs together at the end of Merle’s set. When Willie came out on stage to join Haggard on their classic early ‘80s duet “Pancho & Lefty,” written by the great Townes Van Zandt, it was easily and automatically one of the three greatest concert moments I’ve ever seen and honestly was almost enough to have me crying tears of joy had every ounce of liquid not already escaped through my pores in that sweltering Texas sun earlier in the day.
Merle might be 78 and Willie might be 82, but they are still better than just about anybody else you’re ever going to see. It was my third time seeing Haggard and my fourth seeing Nelson and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything else in the world.
At one point in his set Haggard performed Johnny Cash’s iconic “Folsom Prison Blues” and his classic “Mama Tried” back-to-back and I turned to my wife, Aprille, and said: “He just freakin’ played two of the three greatest country songs ever written in succession.”
Speaking of hearing one of the greatest country songs ever written … Jamey Johnson covered George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” the song many experts rank as the greatest country song ever recorded, during his set at the smaller Budweiser stage and it was breathtaking. Johnson did both the song and Jones proud.
Saturday marked the fourth time I’d see both Nelson and Eric Church, my third time seeing Haggard, Johnson and Jason Isbell and my second time seeing Kacey Musgraves. I’ve been truly blessed to see so many terrific artists over this last decade of my life … but I’d never seen Kris Kristofferson (who might be the greatest songwriter country music has ever known).
I didn’t think I’d ever see him. He wasn’t initially supposed to be part of Willie’s Fourth of July Picnic this year.
But, just a couple of days before leaving for Austin I saw online that he’d been added to the lineup. A bucket list moment I hadn’t even expected is what this resulted in. Kristofferson, just equipped with his guitar and the wrong harmonica (which unfortunately cut “Me & Bobby McGee” slightly short), took the stage and sounded amazing (which frankly surprised me because oftentimes when I’ve seen him perform on TV he’s been honestly incoherent).
Kristofferson wrote “Me & Bobby McGee” (made famous by Janis Joplin), “Sunday Morning Comin’ Down” (made famous by Johnny Cash), “Help Me Make It Through the Night” (made famous by Sammi Smith) and “For the Good Times” (made famous by Ray Price) all in the span of about a year and they became massive hits for those respective artists in about the same time. I can say with absolute certainty that no songwriter has ever had that kind of output in such a short amount of time. On Saturday I got to see the genius behind every one of those songs. Unfortunately – and this is one of the few complaints I had on Saturday – some ignorant woman right behind me talked throughout Kristofferson’s entire set (which was quiet with just his voice and acoustic guitar) about how she only came to Willie’s festival to see her favorite David Allan Coe and how great he was (he wasn’t). Kristofferson is a legend. Coe just thinks he is. I couldn’t believe this woman didn’t give a damn about the legend on stage.
Kristofferson’s songwriting is potentially equaled in greatness by Americana darling Jason Isbell – who without a doubt has been my favorite singer-songwriter of the last three years. Isbell is always perfect on stage and his vocals are always exquisite. The highlight of his half hour set on Saturday was two songs I absolutely adore of his that I hadn’t had the pleasure of seeing him perform the two previous times I’d seen him: “Dress Blues,” about a young soldier killed in a pointless war (which I thought was a perfect tune for the Fourth of July), and “Decoration Day,” truly one of the greatest story songs of the last dozen or so years. I don’t believe I belted out songs along with the artists louder than these two all day …
Well, maybe I did when Sturgill Simpson performed “Living the Dream” from his excellent 2014 album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, which I have no doubt was the best written and recorded country song released last year and topped my annual list. Simpson is a revelation in a day and age where country music just doesn’t sound like country music anymore. He gives 100 percent every second he’s on stage both vocally and musically and his vocals when he really ramps them up are Waylon Jennings-esque. Sturgill is the real deal and I’m glad he’s developed a cult following of us fans pissed at country’s current state and is selling out venues all across America. He was worth the price of admission alone.
Jamey Johnson was billed as “Tradition & Truth” on the T-shirt bearing his likeness that I just had to purchase on Saturday and that’s an apt description. This true and talented songwriter loves real country music and loves to cover it. Every time I’ve seen him he fills his shows with great covers and I previously mentioned him doing George Jones justice, but one of the truly American things I saw on the Fourth of July at this festival was him covering Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” with the jam-packed crowd singing along in unison.
Saturday’s festival was chock full of badasses on the stage. But, when it comes to badassery it’s damn hard to top both Ray Wylie Hubbard and Billy Joe Shaver. These men are the real deal and I thoroughly enjoyed every single second of both of their sets. There were certainly better songs performed during this day (it’s hard to top Merle Haggard, after all), but the one that truly got itself wedged in between my ears was Hubbard’s “Snake Farm” – who’s joyfulness in performing truly shines through on stage. I’m of the feeling that Jason Aldean is perhaps the biggest poseur in the history of country music with his supposed bad boy schtick that all of real outlaw music fans can see straight through and needs to be kicked down a notch or two (or even six feet below), so hearing Billy Joe Shaver do “Hard to Be An Outlaw” with its lines like “some super stars nowadays get too far off the ground/singing ‘bout the backroads they never have been down/they go and call it ‘country’, but that ain’t the way it sounds/it’s enough to make a renegade want to terrorize the town” really made my day.
Eric Church is a guy that I swear gets a bad rep from some of those “saving country music” guys, but this one right here sees he’s the real deal. It only takes a little deeper listening to realize this. There’s more to his music both lyrically and musically than those other bro-country dudes ruining the genre and I’m surprised people don’t get or hear this in his music. Saturday night was the third time I’ve see “Chief” do “Springsteen” in person and the song still gets me every time. It’s the best mainstream country song since Jamey Johnson released “In Color.”
Kacey Musgraves is my favorite current tomato in country music. Anybody who doesn’t get that reference hasn’t really been paying a whole lot of attention to the state of country music lately and ignorant comments made by executive Keith Hill who claimed if country radio wants to thrive it must eschew all female singers. Musgraves is a little too real for mainstream country, but that’s why she fits in so well with the crowd at Willie’s festival. Musgraves has this cutesy, but at the same time tough as hell thing (Loretta Lynn had that), about her that works for her so well. Her new album Pageant Material is going to be one of the best albums of the year and she was a real ball of fire on Saturday evening.
There were other highlights on Saturday – hearing real Texas Swing in Texas thanks to Asleep at the Wheel, hearing Chris Stapleton belt a tune like no other, watching Willie’s granddaughter Raelyn Nelson rock out to Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” and more – but if I were to write about every great thing I saw and heard on Saturday we’d be here all day.
I’ll just say this – if you weren’t at Willie Nelson’s Fourth of July Picnic this past Saturday you missed one of the greatest shows there’s ever going to be.
100 Best Performances From Willie's Fourth of July Picnic:
1. Pancho & Lefty – Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard
2. Mama Tried – Merle Haggard
3. Folsom Prison Blues – Merle Haggard
4. For the Good Times – Kris Kristofferson
5. Decoration Day – Jason Isbell
6. Me & Bobby McGee – Kris Kristofferson
7. It’s All Going to Pot – Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard
8. Dress Blues – Jason Isbell
9. Living the Dream – Sturgill Simpson
10. He Stopped Loving Her Today – Jamey Johnson
11. Sunday Morning Comin’ Down – Kris Kristofferson
12. Springsteen – Eric Church
13. The Weight – Eric Church & Chris Stapleton
14. Long White Line – Sturgill Simpson
15. Hard to Be An Outlaw – Billy Joe Shaver
16. Listening to the Rain – Sturgill Simpson
17. Snake Farm – Ray Wylie Hubbard
18. Whiskey River – Willie Nelson
19. The Pilgrim – Kris Kristofferson
20. Outfit – Jason Isbell
21. Big City – Merle Haggard
22. Stockholm – Jason Isbell
23. Life of Sin – Sturgill Simpson
24. This Land is Your Land – Jamey Johnson
25. Silver Wings – Merle Haggard
26. Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain – Willie Nelson
27. Super 8 – Jason Isbell
28. Follow Your Arrow – Kacey Musgraves
29. Bad Reputation – Raelyn Nelson Band
30. Traveller – Chris Stapleton
31. Are the Good Times Really Over? – Merle Haggard
32. I Think I’ll Just Stay Here & Drink – Merle Haggard
33. That Lonesome Song – Jamey Johnson
34. Old Chunk of Coal – Billy Joe Shaver
35. Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother – Ray Wylie Hubbard
36. Route 66 – Asleep at the Wheel
37. Merry Go ‘Round – Kacey Musgraves
38. Always On My Mind – Willie Nelson
39. Bob Wills is Still the King – Asleep at the Wheel
40. Roll Me Up (And Smoke Me When I Die) – Willie Nelson
41. This Town – Kacey Musgraves
42. The Bottle Let Me Down – Merle Haggard
43. The Trailer Song – Kacey Musgraves
44. These Boots – Eric Church
45. Railroad of Sin – Sturgill Simpson
46. Set ‘em Up Joe – Jamey Johnson
47. What She Said Last Night – Billy Joe Shaver
48. High Time – Kacey Musgraves
49. Tennessee Whiskey – Chris Stapleton
50. Mama’s Broken Heart – Kacey Musgraves
51. Help Me Make It Through the Night – Kris Kristofferson
52. On the Road Again – Willie Nelson
53. Reasons to Quit – Merle Haggard & Willie Nelson
54. Why Me – Kris Kristofferson
55. Pageant Material – Kacey Musgraves
56. Smoke a Little Smoke – Eric Church
57. Good Hearted Woman – Willie Nelson
58. Something More Than Free – Jason Isbell
59. 24 Frames – Jason Isbell
60. Get a Room – Raelyn Nelson Band
61. Creepin’ – Eric Church
62. Georgia On My Mind – Willie Nelson
63. Ride Me Down Easy – Billy Joe Shaver
64. Can’t Cash My Checks – Jamey Johnson
65. Wanna Rock & Roll – Ray Wylie Hubbard
66. Knock Me Up – Folk Uke
67. These Boots Are Made for Walking – Kacey Musgraves
68. Me & Paul – Willie Nelson
69. Loving Her Was Easier – Kris Kristofferson
70. Over When It’s Over – Eric Church
71. Screw You, We’re From Texas – Ray Wylie Hubbard
72. Jambalaya (On the Bayou) – Leon Russell
73. Hank Williams Medley (Jambalaya, Hey Good Lookin’ & Move It Over) – Willie Nelson
74. Still is Still Moving to Me – Willie Nelson
75. That’s The Way Love Goes – Merle Haggard
76. Homeboy – Eric Church
77. If You’ve Got the Money (I’ve Got the Time) – Willie Nelson
78. The Silver Tongue Devil & I – Kris Kristofferson
79. I Got a Woman – Leon Russell
80. Just to Satisfy You – Paula Nelson
81. Jumpin’ Jack Flash/Papa Was a Rolling Stone – Leon Russell
82. Twinkle, Twinkly Lucky Star – Merle Haggard
83. Outlaw State of Mind – Chris Stapleton
84. Cold One – Eric Church
85. Orange Blossom Special – Greezy Wheels
86. Like a Wrecking Ball – Eric Church
87. Daddy Frank (The Guitar Man) – Merle Haggard
88. I’m Getting Stoned – Eric Church
89. Crazy/Night Life/Funny How Time Slips Away – Willie Nelson
90. Jack Daniels – Eric Church
91. Georgia On a Fast Train – Willie Nelson
92. Drink In My Hand – Eric Church
93. Step Off/Three Little Birds – Kacey Musgraves
94. There Stands the Glass – Johnny Bush
95. Will the Circle Be Unbroken?/I’ll Fly Away – Willie Nelson
96. Please Don’t Tell Me How the Story Ends – Kris Kristofferson
97. Stranger in a Strange Land – Leon Russell
98. Stupid – Kacey Musgraves
99. Fire Away – Chris Stapleton
100. You Can’t Always Get What You Want – Hudson Moore
by Julian Spivey
I was thrilled when I found out that Brian Wilson, the brains behind the Beach Boys, was going to be in Nashville during my time there on my honeymoon. It’s not every day you get to see rock ‘n’ roll royalty and my bride, Aprille, and I had hoped to see some music while in town. We initially planned on the Grand Ole Opry, but why spend a lot of money to see a lineup led by Gene Watson (no offense) when you could see a legend for roughly the same price? The Opry, still a dream of mine, would have to wait.
Brian Wilson, along with fellow Beach Boy Al Jardine, appeared at the Carl Black Chevy Woods Amphitheater just outside of Nashville, Tenn. on Saturday, June 27 for a fantastic set that included nearly all of the great Beach Boys’ classics as part of his No Pier Pressure Tour.
Wilson is one of the real musical geniuses and most talented songwriters of the last 50-plus years and his talent was shown off brilliantly on Saturday night as he and his supremely talented band led the audience on a blissful ride of more than 30 performances.
The surf rock of the Beach Boys’ early years was on full display early on during the show with performances of “California Girls,” “Little Deuce Coupe” and “I Get Around,” which had the packed outdoor audience shuffling around on the grass and singing along at full blast.
Wilson being joined on stage all night long by fellow Beach Boy Al Jardine was a true highlight for those in attendance, especially when Jardine took lead vocals on The Crystals’ cover “Then I Kissed Her” and the Leadbelly cover “Cotton Fields.”
My favorite Beach Boys tunes have always been Wilson’s more thoughtful ballads, as opposed to the fun sound of the band’s surf rock hits of their early days. I prefer songs such as “In My Room,” “Surfer Girl” and “God Only Knows.”
When Wilson performed “God Only Knows,” one of my 10 all-time favorite rock tunes, late during his set it was a true concert bucket list moment for me. “God Only Knows” is easily one of the best written and most beautiful love songs ever in any genre of music.
Wilson, who just turned 73 on June 20th, doesn’t have quite the vocal range that he once had and so he greatly utilized band member Matt Jardine, the son of Al Jardine, on songs like “Don’t Worry Baby” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” which proved to be among the many highlights of the show.
Another great highlight from the night was the addition of Blondie Chaplin on stage. Chaplin was a member of the Beach Boys during the early ‘70s and regaled the audience on lead vocals of “Sail On, Sailor,” as well as with his fantastic guitar playing.
Wilson didn’t just rely on old Beach Boys’ classics all night long, but also entertained the audience with some new solo stuff including the somewhat disco influenced “Runaway Dancer,” which really had people in attendance grooving at their seats.
Among the other fantastic performances of the evening were “Sloop John B” and “Good Vibrations” from the Beach Boys’ most acclaimed album Pet Sounds, which VH1 once named the greatest album of all-time, as well as “Surf’s Up” and “Heroes & Villains.”
After a terrific version of “Good Vibrations,” Wilson and his band rejoined the stage for a fascinating encore that included some of the Beach Boys’ earliest hits like “Help Me, Rhonda,” “Barbara Ann,” “Surfin’ USA” and “Fun, Fun, Fun.”
Wilson then ended the concert with a beautiful vocal on “Love & Mercy,” which is the name of the movie focusing on his life currently in theaters in which Paul Dano and John Cusack both portray Wilson at different points in his life.
Seeing Wilson in person is definitely one of those concerts I’m never going to forget, and I’ve had the great luxury of seeing some of my all-time favorite artists in person. It certainly made the last night of my honeymoon a perfect ending to a perfect week.