Birthday Gift

Willie Nelson’s new studio album, A Beautiful Time, will be released April 29 via Legacy Records, arriving on the icon’s 89th birthday. “I’ll Love You Till the Day I Die,” the first single and video from the album, premiered Feb. 10. The track is Nelson’s studio performance of a new Rodney Crowell/Chris Stapleton composition.

The majority of songs on A Beautiful Time were co-written by Nelson and Buddy Cannon, Nelson’s longtime musical collaborator, who produced the album. The LP also includes covers of The Beatles’ classic “With a Little Help From My Friends” and Leonard Cohen’s 1988 “Tower of Song.”

Nelson’s most recent albums, the Frank Sinatra tribute That’s Life and the collaborative studio full-length The Willie Nelson Family, were both released in 2021. That same year, he teamed up with Michael McDonald to cover Dreams of the San Joaquin to raise money for migrant farm workers. He also covered David Bowie and Queen’s hit “Under Pressure” with Karen O.

 A Beautiful Time is described in a press release as “a fully realized studio album showcasing Willie and Trigger (his signature guitar) playing with musicians including Jim ‘Moose’ Brown (B-3 organ, Wurlitzer), Fred Elringham (drums), Barry Bales (upright bass), Bob Terry (electric guitar, acoustic guitar, steel guitar), James Mitchell (electric guitar) and the patented harmonic stylings of Mickey Raphael.”

 

ACM Awards Nominations

Miranda Lambert earned her 16th ACM Awards nomination for Female Artist of the Year — tying her with Reba McEntire for most ever — along with four additional nominations, including Entertainer of the Year, while Kacey Musgraves and Mickey Guyton were both snubbed. The nominations were announced Feb. 10.

Miranda Lambert

Lambert, who’s also nominated for Album of the Year with Jack Ingram and Jon Randall for The Marfa Tapes, says she was “humbled by our industry’s recognition of the music we’re making … I can’t believe we get to do this, and do this together —to follow our dreams and be part of such a supportive community.”

Other Texans nominated include Maren Morris for Female Artist of the Year; Maddie & Tae for Duo of the Year; Midland for Group of the Year; Parker McCollum for New Male Artist of the Year; and Lambert, who, along with Elle King, is nominated for Video of the Year for “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home).”

Musgraves’ latest album, Star-Crossed, likely wasn’t considered country enough to be considered — the Grammys also snubbed her — while Guyton, who was arguably as much in the media cycle as any mainstream country performer (and who sang the National Anthem at this year’s Super Bowl) underperformed in sales and on radio charts. Her album, Remember Her Name, was a critical success, but a Black female artist hasn’t had a country “hit” in five decades (Linda Martell’s “Color Him Father” reached No. 22 in 1969), so radio play seems an invalid standard by which to measure Guyton’s artistry.

Mickey Guyton

On a more positive note, Billy Bob’s Texas in Fort Worth continues to demonstrate why its reputation as one of the most iconic places to visit has held true for decades, having earned yet another nomination for Club of the Year. The legendary venue, known as the “World’s Largest Honky Tonk,” continues to impress by bringing in noteworthy figures in the music industry.

“It’s an honor to be nominated for another ACM ‘Club of the Year’ award,” says club partner Billy Minick. “Our team has worked so hard through the challenges of the last two years. From being one of the first venues to reopen in 2020 to celebrating our 40th anniversary in 2021, Billy Bob’s has remained dedicated to safely bringing in great entertainment.”

The ACM Awards will be held March 7 at Las Vegas’ Allegiant Stadium.

Gary Clark Jr.’s Clydesdale Moment

This year’s Budweiser Clydesdale Super Bowl ad had a lot of the staples of a classic Bud big-game commercial: wide-open American plains, Clydesdale in trouble, a concerned dog. Some found it uplifting and mildly memorable, others a bit corny. The best part about it, though, was the guitar work provided by Gary Clark Jr.

Clark provided a tense and ethereal background for the ad. The goal of the commercial, directed by Chole Zhao, who won Academy Awards for best director and best picture for her 2020 film Nomadland, was, according to Zhao, “To tell a story of perseverance, hope and friendship through the lens of the beloved Clydesdales.”

As the ad begins, the Clydesdale is showboating somewhere in the panoramic American West, attempting a leap over a section of barbed wire. Clark’s version of The Star-Spangled Banner plays underneath. A friendly blonde lab is watching the action. Then … tragedy strikes. The massive horse catches a furry foot on the wire. The fence post breaks. Horse falls to the ground. Dirt flies. The dog barks in shock.

Cut to a bandage being wrapped around the Clydesdale’s ankle in the barn. Dog is looking on in concern. Horse’s head lolls. Clark’s guitar feedback highlights the worry on the Native American caretaker’s faces, as they drink cold Buds in the early evening. Embers spark in the fire.

It’s now early morning. The Clydesdale tests his gimpy leg. The dog, still worried, is in the back of the guy’s pickup truck. But wait — he senses something from the barn. We can see a snort of the horse’s breath from the stable. As the music picks up, we see the silhouette of the horse making its way through the barn. The dog barks.

Cue the bridge to Clark’s “Numb,” accenting this veterinary miracle. The horse is on its feet — the drums pound, the guitar soars. The dog runs. The horse runs. Clippety-clomp, clippety-clomp.

No explanation is given for this wonder of horse-foot science, but the caption reads, “In the home of the brave.”

‘9 to 5’ — Updated

Dolly Parton has joined forces with Kelly Clarkson for a “haunting” new version of the hit song “9 To 5.”

As Variety reported Feb. 10, the pair recorded a collaborative take on Parton’s classic 1980 single for an upcoming documentary called Still Working 9 To 5. The film, which is co-directed/produced by Gary Lane, is due to premiere at this year’s SXSW.

Still Working 9 To 5 “examines the 40-year evolution of gender inequality and discrimination in the workplace since 1980,” according to a press release. “[It] explores why workplace inequality 40 years later was never a laughing matter.”

Said Lane, “We could do a documentary just on the making of the duet.” 

Kelly Clarkson (l) and Dolly Parton

Speaking of how the new version of  “9 To 5” differs from the much-loved original, co-director/producer Camille Hardman explained, “The first iteration, Dolly’s original version, was upbeat. There was a lot of hope in the song. But this version is more melancholic.”

Lane added that Parton had dubbed the new collaboration “9 To 5: The Slow Version,” saying it’s “definitely slowed down and more haunting.” He added: “Kelly — you can’t believe how she changes it, too. It’s really mind-blowing.”

Best Songs About Texas?

Michael Barnes of the Austin American-Statesman headed a group of the newspaper’s culture writers to assemble a list of the best songs about Texas, which was released in his Jan. 25 “Think, Texas” column. (Barnes characterized such an ambitious enterprise as “[taking] another whack at the hornet’s nest.”) The diverse list of the 25 best featured, predictably, “Deep in the Heart of Texas” (recorded by many artists, including Gene Autry), George Strait’s “Amarillo by Morning” and Waylon Jennings’ “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)” but also included some surprises, like Gary Clark Jr.’s “This Land,” El Tule’s “Pulga 290” and Fat Pat’s “Tops Drop.” 

A second list, also chosen by the paper’s culture writers, entitled “Other Fine Texas Songs About Texas,” was included as an addendum. Strait’s “All My Exes Live in Texas” was on that list, as was Gary P. Nunn’s “London Homesick Blues” (the Austin City Limits theme song) and “Yellow Rose of Texas.”

Naturally, readers had their own thoughts about what songs should be included, and they weren’t shy about expressing their opinions, especially when it came to songs they believed were inexplicably omitted. Recognizing he should also honor his readers’ picks, Barnes included a third list two weeks later of five songs about Texas — with a promise of more to come — that “you liked the most.” Surprisingly, three of the five hadn’t made either of the first two lists. While Ernest Tubb’s “Waltz Across Texas” and Marty Robbins’ “El Paso” made the second list of 25, ZZ Top’s “La Grange,” Stephen Fromholz’s “Texas Trilogy” and Bob Wills’ “San Antonio Rose” appeared on neither.

Barnes noted that the goal of his endeavor “was meant to spark an exchange of ideas, not to end it.” While many took issue with the selections, naturally, none could argue that Barnes hadn’t accomplished what he set out to do. He promises a fourth list this week.

 

Olympic Soundtrack

When the Big Air skiers and snowboarders fly off a towering ramp at the Winter Olympics in Beijing, they soar to the sounds of North Texas D.J. Erik Jorgensen, reports nbcdfw.com.

Known to fans as D.J. E.J., he’s the music man at the venue built on the site of an old steel mill in the heart of Beijing. “If I can play a song that helps bring that energy up,” Jorgensen says, “that’s what gets me going and gives me that adrenaline rush.”

This isn’t Jorgensen’s first Olympics. He kept the party going at one of the hockey arenas at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. China, however, is a unique challenge. “The fans allowed at the Beijing Games are only from China,” he explains, “so I’m really trying to expand my library to keep those fans entertained.”

Jorgensen already has a huge library. He’s the D.J. for several professional sports teams, including the Dallas Cowboys. But whether he’s at AT&T Stadium or halfway around the world, D.J. E.J. says the goal is always the same.

“Just seeing the joy on fans’ faces when I play a song that people can dance to or sing along to,” he says, “is a really neat feeling.”

Story Behind the Song: Don Henley’s
(not Tom Petty’s) “The Boys of Summer” 

Following the breakup of the EaglesDon Henley transitioned from being the drummer and co-lead singer of one of the biggest rock bands in America to a solo artist armed with little more than an acoustic guitar. The success of his single, “Dirty Laundry,” which reached No. 3 on the Billboard charts, lay the foundation for a glittering new career. But if it wasn’t for Tom Petty’s decision to reject a demo made by Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell, that career may well have fizzled out. Because that same rejected song would go on to be one of Henley’s biggest solo hits of all time: 1984’s “The Boys Of Summer.”

Campbell crafted the demo for “The Boys Of Summer” using the newly-unveiled Linn drum machine, which ended up defining the sound of ’80s music and was practically inescapable for a time. It was used by the likes of ABC, Devo and, notably, Michael Jackson, who used the Linn LM-1 in his track “Thriller.” Campbell used the Linn LM-1 to form the basis of the “Boys Of Summer” demo and then overdubbed all the other parts except for the vocal line. After playing the track for Petty and producer Jimmy Iovine, Campbell could tell they were distinctly unimpressed with his efforts.

Speaking on Brian Koppelman’s podcast, The Moment, Campbell said: “In Tom’s defense, he heard a slightly inferior version. And I remember when it went by, we were kind of grooving to it, and it got to that chord and Jimmy Iovine goes, ‘Eh, it sounds like jazz.’”

Mortified by this assessment, Campbell set about reworking the track, changing the chords for the chorus and re-recording the demo. Just as he was finishing up, he received a call from Iovine, who suggested that he play the song for Henley, who at the time was looking for tracks for his forthcoming album, Building the Perfect Beast. Campbell was disappointed that Petty hadn’t been impressed by the first demo, but accepted that he probably wouldn’t be easily convinced to give it another go. Campbell agreed to take the re-worked track to Henley’s house.

Campbell recalled arriving at the drummer’s house, his hands quivering. “It was just me and him,” he began. “We sat at a big table. He sat at the other end like the judge, totally quiet and didn’t bat an eye — just listened with his eyes closed.” As he listened, Henley’s expression was utterly impenetrable — so much so that Campbell couldn’t tell if he liked the song or not. “And then he said, ‘Okay, maybe I can do something with that.’”

A few days later, Campbell received a phone call from Henley, who told him: “I just wrote the best song of my life to your music.” Unfortunately, the demo was in a key ill-matched to Henley’s vocal range, so Campbell was forced to transpose all the guitar parts he’d improvised on the demo into a lower key. In the process of transposing the song, however, Campbell ended up making another surprise addition: the song’s iconic guitar solo.

On release, “The Boys Of Summer” reached No. 5 on the Billboard charts. As Campbell recalled, for a time the track was ubiquitous. He remembered getting in a car with Petty to go and listen to some mixes for Petty’s album Southern Accents. When Campbell turned the ignition, “The Boys Of Summer” started blaring out of the stereo, so he quickly changed the radio station — fearful that it might hurt Petty’s feelings. Unfortunately, the song was playing on that radio station, too, and indeed, just about all the other stations he tuned into. Petty turned to face his friend. “Boy, you know, you were really lucky with that,” Petty said. “I wish I’d have had the presence of mind to not let that get away.” 

Spoon-Fed

Spoon has taken a sonic fork in the road and, appropriately enough, the first single from their new album mentions another piece of silverware — a knife. “The Hardest Cut” — complete with the line “We live on a knife” — roars with a dark, grunge-meets-’70s guitar energy, a signal of what’s to come from the Austin-based band on their 10-track 10th album, Lucifer on the Sofa.

“We wanted to make a rock ’n’ roll record, a great rock ’n’ roll record,” frontman Britt Daniel says. “I just don’t feel like there’s enough great rock ’n’ roll records being made these days.”

Lucifer on the Sofa, on Matador Records, is a turn toward more muscular, minimalist classic rock, more aggressive and rehearsed than the band’s predecessor Hot Thoughts, where synths were prominent and songs were constructed on the fly.

“We always tend to want to react a bit against the record we just did,” Daniel says. “That last record was more of a pieced-together record, a produced record. It was a record where a lot of times we started recording and we didn’t know what the song really was.”

For Lucifer on the Sofa, drummer Jim Eno says Spoon tried to lean into Texas rock and early ZZ Top, using more real instruments than effects. “The stuff that sounds like a band playing in a room has always been the kind of records that we grew up listening to,” Eno says. “So it was trying to capture some of that.”

Daniel estimates the new album was two-thirds done when the pandemic hit in March 2020. “I found myself with a lot of alone time and I wrote a lot more songs,” he says. “That was the thing that kind of made me feel normal during the harshest part of lockdown.”

While some songs the band had been kicking around for a few years, several were informed by the pandemic, including “The Devil & Mister Jones,” about a bad dude, and “Wild,” about the drudgery of life. “We like to challenge ourselves and not repeat ourselves,” Eno says. “I feel like some bands have the exact same formula over and over again. We try not to do that.”

The album starts with a cover of Smog’s “Held” and chugs along in a rock vein until getting a little spacey with “Astral Jacket” and “Satellite,” before taking a weird and cool detour with the title track. “The Lucifer on the sofa is me,” Daniel says. “It’s the character I can become when I’m at my worst. And I think a lot of people have that same kind of character. My way of trying to get past it in this song is to get up off that sofa.”

Members of Spoon have lately returned to Austin full-time and Daniel says he’s most enjoying listening to live music on a daily basis. “It’s a town where it’s all about live performances and bands that are doing it because it’s fun and not doing it with an eye on the music industry,” he says. “It’s the life I like.”

 

St. Vincent’s Bowie Tribute (Via Peloton)

Peloton has added David Bowie’s discography to its line of workout equipment, and St. Vincent is among three performer to contribute exclusive remixes of his songs. (Honey Dijon and TOKiMONSTA are the others.)

For the new collection, St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) took on Bowie’s 1980 track “It’s No Game (No. 1),” off his 14th album Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps).

“It has a part 2 on the record, and I figured maybe Bowie wouldn’t mind so much if I made a part 3,” Clark says. “I wanted to take Bowie’s throat-shredding vocal take from part 1, and make it front and center … ‘Three steps to heavaaaaaaaaaaaahn…’”

 

In Memoriam: Sad Frosty (1997-2022)

The hip-hop world continues to mourn the death of rapper Sad Frosty, who died Jan. 14 from undisclosed causes. He was just 24.

The Houston musician’s passing was confirmed in a post on his official Instagram account.

“Long Live Sad Frosty 3/4/97-1/14/22” reads the announcement to his more than 230,000 followers, although it didn’t reveal a cause of death. The message was one of only two posts on the account — with the other being a pic of Frosty with fellow rapper Chief Keef.

Little is known of the deceased lyricist’s personal life. Born and raised in Houston, Frosty — whose real name remains unknown — broke into the music scene with the single “ADHD Freestyle.”

He also famously collaborated with fellow hip-hopper DC the Don on a single called “Beavis and Butthead,” a video of which has nearly 1.5 million views on Frosty’s YouTube channel, which boasted nearly 95,000 subscribers and millions more views on other tracks at the time of his death.

Needless to say, the singer’s death sent shockwaves through the rap community, with many fans hoping the death announcement was a hoax.

“Rip Bro smh” wrote bereaved Florida rapper DJ Scheme on Instagram, while Oklahoma influencer and rapper B. Lou added, “LOVE YOU DAWG RIP FLY HIGH.”