Cody Johnson took home two CMA Awards at the annual ceremony in Nashville Nov. 9: video of the year and single of the year, both for “Til You Can’t,” the sentimental anthem that pays tribute to the most meaningful moments in life. The wins were the first for the Sebastopol, Texas, native, who also wowed the crowd with his moving performance of the song, complete with a fog machine and blue neon lights. Johnson was also nominated in two additional categories: male vocalist and, curiously, new artist.
“This has been 15 years in the making,” Johnson told reporters backstage. “For those of you guys who don’t know my story, I know what it’s like to go hungry and still go play shows, and have a wife who has two jobs back home supporting you, and … uh … not gonna get emotional! I just wanna say thanks.”
Johnson was the lone Texan winner on the right. Other nominees included Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris, Midland, Maddie & Tae, Brooks & Dunn, and Parker McCollum.
And on a related note … Kelly Clarkson offered a stellar version of Johnson’s “Till You Can’t” on the Kelly Clarkson Show Nov. 8 — one day prior to Johnson winning his two CMAs for the song. Clarkson’s performance nodded to a fellow Texan during the “Kellyoke” segment of her show.
Miranda Gets Personal
Miranda Lambert — along with Reba McEntire and Carrie Underwood — paid tribute to Loretta Lynn at the CMA Awards show, and not just because of Lynn’s place in country history. Lambert also has had a strong personal connection to the music legend.
“I spent some time with her, and you meet a lot of people in a career, but it’s one of those memories that’s forever burned into my heart,” Lambert said on the CMA red carpet. “She was such a lovely human being and made me feel so at home. It’s kind of intimidating to hang out with your hero all day, but she made me just feel like an old friend.”
Lambert, 39, also holds dear the several times she and Lynn got to sing together, “and I’m thankful for every time she held my hand and signed my guitar and told me about a memory and gave me advice.”
That treasured guitar, she said, is now kept at her house: “I play it at home. I don’t take it on the road.”
King of Swing
Country legend George Strait visited Minute Maid Park Nov. 5 ahead of the World Series-clinching Game 6 between the Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies. Strait gave the “Play Ball” call before the start of the game.
Prior to the first pitch, Strait met with the crowd on the field, including Astros Hall-of-Famer Craig Biggio, who was on hand for the team’s playoff run
The music legend also shared a moment with Astros manager Dusty Baker. The two chatted for a bit as the skipper signed an autograph for Strait’s family.
Strait and his family met with the players from both teams during batting practice.
Robtoberfest: the Sequel
Jazz visionary Robert Glasper had quite the busy month. From Oct. 4 to Nov. 6, the Houston-based pianist took over New York’s legendary Blue Note Jazz Club for his fourth annual “Robtoberfest” residency.
Over the course of 26 nights, the Grammy winner performed 52 shows, with special guests including Dave Chapelle, Jill Scott, Andra Day, Lalah Hathaway, Common, Rapsody, Miguel and more.
“My approach to Robtober is kind of, like, anything goes,” the multiple Grammy winner says of organizing the residency. “I get to curate my favorite musicians, my favorite artists,” Glasper says. “It’s a musical playground — it’s like all the thoughts in my head … I can actually do those.”
“This residency is more than a series of shows,” says Blue Note’s director of programming, Alex Kurland. “It’s a playlist of unique happenings and experiences within an intimate jazz club setting with the greatest artists and bands bobbing and weaving in and out, on and off stage. Every night is a feast of unbelievable artistic and culturally iconic moments.”
Adds Kirkland, “Robert is a legend who embodies what it means to be authentic as an artist and as a person. With this residency, we’re literally watching history unfold in real time — led by truly the coolest person alive.”
The only known poster from the “Day the Music Died,” the concert that Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper were traveling to when their plane crashed on Feb. 3, 1959, sold for a record-setting $447,000 Nov. 11 at Heritage Auctions in Dallas.
The poster’s final price shattered the house’s previous record price of $275,000, previously held by a Beatles 1966 Shea Stadium concert poster, which sold April 18.
While rather morbid, the poster’s value and rarity are beyond question: Holly, Valens and the Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson) died when their plane crashed near Clear Lake, Iowa, on their way to a show in Moorhead, Minnesota. The concert was to take place as part of the “Winter Dance Party” tour at the Moorhead Armory; the crash, of course, has been immortalized as the “Day the Music Died” in Don McLean’s 1971 hit “American Pie.”
“Heritage is thrilled to break the previous record for a concert poster by more than $170,000,” said Heritage Auctions’ Pete Howard, “but not the least bit surprised, given the importance, the uniqueness and the gravitas of this amazing window card, which advertised rock ’n’ roll’s first tragedy.”
A good country song, or so the saying goes, takes a page out of somebody’s life and puts it to music. To this end, Flaco Jimenez and Rick Orozco have turned Orozco’s painful experience with loss into an moving musical portrayal of family and grief.
The Tejano country ballad, “A Man’s Best Friend Is Time,” channels the mixed musical heritage of singer-songwriter Orozco and of legendary accordionist Jimenez. It’s infused with the melancholy heartbreak of country and the warm, passionate tones of traditional Spanish folk music.
The new single was co-written by the duo shortly after Orozco’s father passed away. As such, the cathartic song touches on enduring themes like family, love and loss, and the songwriting pair trusts that others will be moved by their intimate, honest and heart-wrenching story of grief.
To accompany the lyrics, the two performers have crafted a slow and moody ballad that features Orozco’s quintessential evocative guitar work and Jimenez’s iconic accordion.
Britt Daniel was well into his thirties when he first got into dub music. In 2006, as his band, Spoon, was working on its sixth album — and eventual commercial peak — Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, producer Mike McCarthy told Daniel to check out a new compilation, King Tubby’s In Fine Style, by the Jamaican sound engineer and dub pioneer King Tubby.
“That record had a big impact on the sound of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga,” the 51-year-old Spoon frontman says. “That’s not a dub record., but there are trippy little dub elements all throughout it.”
For instance, “Finer Feelings” opens with a prominent sample from reggae singer Mikey Dread — which Daniel remembers clearing with Dread himself. “He was a real character — very friendly to me. But at the same time, he seemed to hate lawyers,” Daniel recalls. “I was like, ‘Yeah, I know you want to do it, but we do have to have something on paper.’ And if it came from the lawyer, he’d say, ‘No, no, no. This isn’t right.’”
In the years since, Spoon fans could be forgiven for not sensing much dub influence in the band’s famously exacting indie-rock. Now, though, comes a fully fledged fusion: on Nov. 4, the Austin band released Lucifer on the Moon, their first remix album, which is a song-by-song deconstruction of Spoon’s recent album, Lucifer on the Sofa, by Adrian Sherwood, the English dub producer and founder of On-U Sound Records. Sherwood turns tightly chiseled rockers like “On the Radio” and “The Hardest Cut” inside out, reimagining them with rattling rhythms, wobbly bass sounds and disorienting waves of vocal echo.
For Spoon, Lucifer on the Moon culminates a triumphant year of renewal and reinvigoration. After releasing Lucifer on the Sofa in February, the band spent a big chunk of 2022 on the road, touring both with labelmates Interpol and on their own headlining tour.
Texas in Montana
Sure, Yellowstone, the wildly popular Western drama that returned for Season 5 Nov. 13, is set in the mountains of Montana. But let’s be honest: It’s a pretty Texas show, from its writer and creator to its spinoffs to its horses. Yes, even the show’s horses, at least some of them, are straight from North Texas.
But what really establishes the show as Lone Star proud is its soundtrack, an underrated gem of the show. And while the selections aren’t exclusive to Texas, the show has featured plenty of artists and bands with a Texas connection, including Ryan Bingham, Whiskey Myers, Midland, Kacey Musgraves, Cody Jinks, Hayes Carll, Charley Crockett, Cody Johnson, the Turnpike Troubadours, Rob Baird, and the Panhandlers.
And if that wasn’t enough, Robert Earl Keen announced Nov. 10 that his song “Shades of Gray” will make an appearance on the season premiere.
Tangled Up in Dylan
One of Steve Earle’s oft-quoted lines is when he claimed Townes Van Zandt was a better songwriter than Bob Dylan — “and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that,” he boasted.
Well, turns out Earle is a bigger fan of Dylan than that quote might suggest. “It’s all about Bob for me,” Earle says. “I define myself as a post-Bob Dylan songwriter.” His lyrics transcended guitar music to high art, Earle claims. And no one, he says, did that better than Dylan.
“I’m always quoted saying that Townes was the best songwriter. That was something I said when I was asked for a ‘bumper sticker’ for a Townes record that was coming out. It was marketing. Bob’s never had any trouble promoting Bob. Townes always shot himself in the foot. Townes’ response to that line was: ‘I heard what you said, and that’s very nice.’”
Van Zandt was also quoted, in response to Earle’s quip, “I’ve met Bob Dylan’s bodyguards, and if Steve Earle thinks he can stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table, he’s sadly mistaken.”
Slow Pace of Change
The country music landscape has become more inclusive in the last decade, as powerful voices have used their platforms to advocate for equality and positive social change. Despite the significant shift, Mickey Guyton believes the genre still has “such a long way to go.”
The “Remember Her Name” singer joined Apple Music’s Fancy Hagood on Trailblazers Radio Nov. 10 for an in-depth discussion about the change and inclusion in music city.
While numerous Black musicians like Jimmie Allen, Blanco Brown, BRELAND, Reyna Roberts, Brittney Spencer and more have fearlessly claimed their space in Nashville, Guyton believes a seat at the table isn’t enough. She pointed out that new conversations must happen as a whole to keep evolving.
“I’ve realized that the change really starts with us, and we’ve been in this town for a very, very long time. And yes, our existence is enough. Our existence and our willingness to be in this town that’s so hard … that’s so important. But then I realized for years we’ve been having the same conversations and so many closed doors and rooms,” she explained. “They’re not supporting us. They’re not doing this. And still, not much has changed. I mean it, there’s some change, but we have such a long way to go.”
The singer acknowledged that “change” is similar to a domino effect, and has to start with one person. “Change starts with us,” she emphasized. “It starts with me. It starts with you. It starts with this entire industry, whether you are gay, straight, white, black, Latino, whatever. It starts with all of us. And for us to really see change, we’re going to have to stick our neck out to make sure that happens.”
Guyton will join the Nashville Symphony Dec. 15–18 for Music City Christmas, an annual holiday tradition.
West Texas Fame
Three musicians were inducted into the West Texas Walk of Fame Nov. 10 in Lubbock. Amanda Shires, Hoyle Nix and Jody Nix will have their names on the wall at 18th and Crickets Avenue in Lubbock. Bess Hubbard, a sculptor and printmaker, was also inducted.
Shires, Texas Music’s artist of the year in 2011, graduated from Lubbock High School, attended South Plains College and graduated from Texas Tech in 2004. While she was honored for her contributions to West Texas, Shires feels like she should be honoring West Texas instead.
“West Texas has everything to do with my development as an artist,” Shires said. “It’s the foundation of it.”
Jody Nix started music when he was 8 years old alongside his father, Hoyle, the great fiddler and bandleader who is also a 2022 inductee. “When Don Caldwell called me and said, ‘We’re gonna do it. They’re gonna put you in here,’ I just praised God,” Jody said.
Hoyle Nix and his brother Ben formed the West Texas Cowboys in 1946 and patterned the band after Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys. In 1954 the Nix brothers built a small, popular dance hall on the Snyder highway just outside of Big Spring and named it the Stampede.
Jody, meanwhile, has enjoyed an impressive career in his own right. He’s in the Western Swing Society Hall of Fame, the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame and the Cowboy Hall of Fame at the Big Spring Heritage Museum. He says to be honored beside such big names means everything to him.
“All these other great people who’ve come before me — Bob Wills, Waylon Jennings, Buddy Holly, the Maines Brothers — to be a part of this is just a great honor,” Jody said. More than that, however, the wall is also a place to remember his father, he noted.
A mural in Vernon for Roy Orbison has been redone after high winds damaged it in April.
Following the damage, contractors determined most of the wall had to come down, taking the mural with it.
The City of Vernon then met with the original artist, Selena Mize, and worked out a deal to let her repaint it.
Mize said the process took 17 days of painting, with some breaks in between. She said she and her assistant, Marie Alaniz, wanted to get it done before it got too cold outside to paint.
Mize said it was easier to map out certain elements since this was her second time painting the mural. The repair was completed at the end of October.
The Texas Conjunto Music Hall of Fame and Museum in San Benito celebrated its newly formed alliance with the Texas Music Hall of Fame Commission Nov. 5.
Julio Avila, grandson of the late Rey Avila Sr., founder of the Conjunto Museum, traveled to Kilgore to officially accept the invitation of the Commission and sign the Official Charter Alliance of the Texas Music Hall of Fame.
This alliance allows the organization to network, share ideas and consult with other music-based museums throughout the state that share the value of preserving, educating and promoting Texas music history.
The Conjunto Museum will now also be included in the Texas Music History Trail. Backed by federal funding, this trail map was designed to promote and attract tourists from around the world to visit music halls of fame and museums throughout Texas.
According to Avila, the Commission had attempted to garner funds from the state only to be turned away multiple times. Despite submitting a bill to the 84th legislature seeking to establish the Texas Music History Trail, the state voted against the bill, and two years later introduced a bill of their own, using the Commission’s original bill while attempting to establish the official Texas Music Museum in Austin.
“What these organizations were trying to argue was that while Austin can tell you about Texas music history, Austin is not Texas music history,” Avila said. “There are so many other places, our Conjunto Museum being one of them, where an authentic genre of music was created.”