Denver’s Civic Center Park

The Civic Center in Denver, at the intersection of Colfax and Broadway, is the beating heart of Colorado, stretching from the Colorado Capitol to Denver City Hall.  The statue on the west steps of the Capitol Building is a Civil War cavalryman, dismounted with rifle in hand, in Memorial of the Colorado soldiers who fought and died in the War Between the States.


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Modernism Overlooking Tradition

Pagosa Sun
Pagosa Springs, Colorado, is a tourist town, and we want to encourage our visitors to stop downtown and admire the scenery…and our shops. Pagosa Springs also has a rich heritage and tradition as a Western, Mountain town, far from fancy modern steel and glass stylish architecture.

The Town this last year dropped a pretty penny replacing the Overlook deck structure thingy along the river, above the hot springs (after which Pagosa Springs is named), in the heart of downtown. A local architect designed the fancy, and he’s a good guy. But I struggle to see any local context in this modern masterpiece. The local Historic Preservation Board review committee asked to participate in the design review and were quickly alienated by the Town fathers–the parking overlook is not technically part of the downtown Historic District, but it certainly felt like the centerpiece of the Historic District.

Instead, we get not-so-cheap and easy modernism. It’s not bad, just an amazing opportunity lost.

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Spring 1918 on the Western Front

In March 1918, Bolshevik Russia signed the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk with the Central Powers ending the Great War on the Eastern Front. This freed up Germany for Operation Michael and a last great Spring Offensive on the Western Front.

The German Empire began their Kaiserschlacht on 21 March 1918, with the first of four offensive operations.  The global conflict that had begun in late summer 1914 had turned into a war of attrition and Germany was having an increasingly difficult time with food and supplies.  After defeating Russia, the Austria-Hungary Empire was occupied on the Italian Front and in occupation of Romania, leaving Germany to fight the Western Front in Flanders and France.  With the American entry in 1917, it became clear to the German High Command that decisive action was necessary before U.S. troops became a decisive factor.  And almost a year after President Wilson’s declaration of War, the U.S. Army was just getting mobilized in France, the main theater of the Western Front.

The German army had also adopted training and tactics that had proven successful against the Russian army on the Eastern Front.  For example, new elite Stormtrooper (Stoßtruppen) assault troop units specialized in small, fast-moving infiltration tactics, by-passing heavily defended infantry positions to cut communications and supply lines.  British and French troops, by contrast, had been bogged down in trench warfare along the 300 mile long Hindenburg Line since the winter of 1916, with little opportunity for innovation.

The 21st of March was a Thursday in 1918.  At 4:30 in the morning, the Germans opened an artillery bombardment on British positions at Saint-Quentin, in the Aisne area of northern France.  This area, along with Somme and Pas-de-Calais areas in the modern Hauts-de-France region, had been devastated in the Battle of the Somme in 1916.  The bombardment spread with mortars, mustard gas, chlorine gas, tear gas and smoke canisters filling the foggy day along a 40 mile front.  The objective was to isolate the British from the French and force a British withdrawal back across the Channel.  On the first day, the Germans gained ground.  Friday and Saturday (22-23 March) were also foggy, and British troops fell back in fighting retreats to maintain communications.  The lines were badly fragmented by Sunday the 24th and Monday the 25th, and some British units along the Somme retreated with the French army.  The French were increasingly concerned with defending routes to the capital in Paris, which was in range of German long-range artillery.

On Tuesday the 26th of March, leading French and British leaders (including Winston Churchill) met at the Doullens Conference in an attempt to form a more unified command.  French General Ferdinand Foch was tapped, officially given the title of Commander-in-Chief later, on 3 April, at Beauvais, including American forces and later Italian forces.  Unified Allied command proved essential to defeating the Central Powers through the rest of 1918.

The Germans continued to advance over 26th-28th, advancing about 40 miles into France at one point, with a final assault coming Saturday the 30th on the French south of the Somme and on the British near Amiens, with fighting continuing through the 4th and 5th of April. While the German army had captured ground and gained morale, they had not achieved their strategic objectives.  Both sides had about 250,000 casualties apiece, with little difference in situation.  If anything, by being forced to accept unified command, the Allies came out stronger for their losses.

Operation Michael was followed by Georgette (Battle of Lys) in April, Blücher-Yorck (3rd Aisne) in late May, and Gneisenau in June, generally with slight German gains in territory with casualties comparable on both sides.  However, by July the advantage swung to the Allies.  The German Army had lost about 1,000,000 fighting men in the first 6 months of 1918 and faced ever increasing challenges with supplies.  With the first major American action begun, the Allies recovered from the Spring Offensives and went on the counter-offensive that ultimately won World War I.



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Winter 1918 on the Eastern Front

While the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia in the October Revolution in early November 1917, their revolution continued to sport contradictions between the Old Style and the New through the Winter of 1918.  On 1 Feb 1919 Old Style, Russia jumped forward to 14 February 1918 New Style, adopting the Gregorian calendar introduced in Roman Catholic countries in 1582, and in the British Empire in 1752.

Internally, the winter was hard on the Red Guard–history might have been a very different thing.  Although the White Army’s General Alexeyev & his Don Cossacks took action against the Bolsheviks at the same time as the time change, they were defeated and the Red Army had time to solidify their forces.  Externally, Leon Trotski tried to argue for an end to the state of war on the Eastern Front between Russia and Germany without a formal treaty, but on the 18th of February the Germans resumed hostilities and on the 19th the Bolsheviks said they would sign a peace treaty, nominally ceasing hostilities on 28 February 1918.

In the Baltics, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania also adopted the Gregorian calendar on 15 February 1918.  On the 16th of February, Lithuania declared independence from Russia 7 Germany, followed by Estonia on 24 February.  Meanwhile, on 22 February, Germany claimed the Baltic states, Finland and Ukraine from Russia, while the White Guard in Finland pursued a counter-revolution against the Bolshevik Red Guard.

The Russian Civl War continued through 1922, but the effect of the closing of the first phase with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918 freed Germany and the Central Powers to focus on the Western Front.  In a way, the Bolsheviks’ capitulation set the stage for the later Cold War between Eastern and Western Blocs.



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Kukla, Fran & Ollie: A Nation of Immigrants

Burr Tillstrom—the puppeteer behind the Kukla, Fran & Ollie children’s show—is my family’s claim to fame.

I missed his centenary last autumn.  Franklin Burr Tillstrom was born 13 October 1917 in Chicago, Illinois, and had an older brother Richard (1911-2008).  Their mother was Alice Burr and their father was Bert Frank Tillstrom, a doctor.  They lived on Lakewood Ave in Chicago when Dr. Tillstrom registered for the World War I draft in September 1918. At the time of the World War II draft in 1942, the Tillstroms lived on Sherwin Ave. in Chicago.  Bert & Alice returned to their native state of Michigan in retirement.

Bert Tillstrom’s grandfather, Nils Peter Nilsson, is my 3rd great grandfather, on my dad’s side.  Nils Peter was born in 1818 in Småland, near Kalmar in Sweden, and emigrated to Michigan in 1880.  Gunnar Karlberg, a Stockholm cousin and Kukla, Fran & Ollie fan, traced the family history in Swedish, Steenssons (Joen) attlingar fran Kristdala socken Norra Kalmar lan.  I don’t know Swedish, but Google translate & some online family history helped guesstimate the family tree back to Steen Danielson (c.1640-1702), with many generations between in military service to the crown when Sweden was considered a Great Power.

Nils Peter was a farmer, not a soldier, and his eldest son August Nilsson emigrated to Michigan after the Civil War, where there was good farmland to be settled.  August adopted the Americanized surname Tillstrom and crossed over the big stream to build a life on the shores of the Great Lakes.  Burr’s grandfather (Bert’s father) Frans Oscar Nilsson was the youngest son, and emigrated with Nils Peter in 1880, adopting the Americanized name Frank Tillstrom.  They also had two other brothers, Carl Johan and Sven Magnus, who emigrated to Michigan, and two sisters, Maria and Johanna, who stayed with their families in Sweden.

Burr Tillstrom was an inspiration to me and a heck of a lot of other people.  -Muppets creator Jim Henson in The Golden Age of Chicago Children’s Television (2004).

So Burr Tillstrom is my 2nd cousin twice removed.  He left the University of Chicago in the Depression to work for the WPA-Chicago Parks District Theatre, and later at the Marshall Field’s flagship store on State Street downtown.  He pioneered children’s television programming, participating in the 1939 New York World’s Fair with RCA Victor, then on Chicago local TV, and in 1949 nationally on NBC with former school teacher Fran Allison (1907-1989).  His brother Richard was also a puppeteer and went on to host his own show in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  In 1953, the show was one of the first experimental broadcasts in color television.  Kukla, Fran & Ollie won two Emmy awards, in 1954 and 1971, and inspired a generation (or two) of children and their families.

Fast Tube

Burr Tillstrom maintained ties to the family with a summer home at Saugatuck, a small arts & tourist destination on Lake Michigan. He passed way in 1985, in Palm Springs, California.  From the forests of Sweden to the farms of Michigan and live TV in the Windy City and beyond, each generation has spread their wings to find their own way.  Some stayed close to home, others ventured far afield.  All dared to live the American Dream.  We are all a nation of immigrants.



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JC’s Top Tunes of 2017 say art thrives in the face of chaos, that genius requires difficulty that must be overcome. 2017 was a difficult year for many—to the benefit of roots music, and hopefully, eventually, to the greater good.  We lost friends like Glen Campbell and Don Williams, and met many new friends, here in Colorado and across the Americana landscape.

To answer the poet Robbie Burns, no, auld acquaintance should not be forgot, neither the artists nor their art. That’s what makes good roots music: We honor where we came from, we look to where we are going, and wonder how we do better today.

ArtistsTop 25 Artists Played in 2017

I scrobbled a LOT of music in 2017:  37,023 tracks played, most since I joined back in radio days.  That’s likely to abate in 2018, since the corporate masters at won’t update the Scrobbler app for iOS.  And their ads are increasingly spammy.  I don’t mind ads, when they don’t screw up the technology.  It’s like radio for the 21st Century.  But, and increasingly Spotify, really could step up their user experience other than trying to drive us to paid content.

Back in March, I warned you Alison Krauss was going to dominate 2017 and she certainly did on my playlist.  Many of the trendy reviewers dismissed Windy City as a covers album. I don’t care though the multiple editions were confusing.  I’ve also got some other anomalies in the Scrobble lists:

  • Halden Wofford & the Hi-Beams / Walden Wofford & the Hi*Beams / Halden Wofford and the Hi-Beams—My favorite Colorado band and only band my wife & I both agree to see live whenever we can.  They are on Spotify now with “and” instead of Ampersand, a perpetual bane of consistent scrobbling.  I prefer the ‘&’ since that’s what’s on their album covers.  So, anyway, add in 249 scrobbles to #24’s 272 pushes them way up to 521 and the honky tonkers push Johnny Cash out of 4th Place Artist of 2017.
  • Zephaniah Ohora and The 18 Wheelers / Zephaniah Ohora—new artist debut with a catchy classic Country sound.  Spotify initially had the full band name, then changed it for most of the album. 142 for the band + 81 for the artist slots Zephaniah at 223, tied with Sand Sheff at #36 but he floats to the top in Album & Track lists.

AlbumsTop 25 Albums Played in 2017

Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives brought it home for me with Way Out West, a net-traditional Country & Western album that evokes the scenery out my back door, deserts and mountains and the good and not-so-good in this life.  The AMA got it right recognizing Marty & the Superlatives for Americana Group of the Year.  The album isn’t so straight-forward as Marty’s Badlands: Ballads of the Lakota yet it clearly builds on that sonic experience.  And while I played one track more than others it’s not an album of singles—it’s an album of songs and stories.

  • Alison Krauss’ Windy City came out in multiple editions—regularly, crispy & extra crispy.  No, actually, but I have one version on my phone, another ripped from the Target Deluxe Edition, and other plays from Spotify.  So add 136 + 183 to 304 and #4 becomes 623 to take the #1 spot, by alot.
  • Halden Wofford and the Hi-Beams’ Missing Link, add 101 played on iTunes with ‘&’ to 190 on Spotify for 291 at album #5.
  • Zephaniah Ohora‘s was a debut with no prior singles (at least not on Spotify) so the artist spins = album spins 223, which pushes Jason Isbell & his band out of Album #11.

With so much good roots music coming out this year, and playing so much music all year long, my year end list does strongly resemble my first-half of the year album list.  This includes Marty Stuart, Aaron Watson’s Vaquero, and last year’s top album Left Arm Tan’s Lorene, which didn’t show up on Spotify until later this year.  Jason Isbell and Chris Stapleton released good music that was recognized by AMA radio and many fans, but I think they can both do better.  Lee Ann Womack, Dori Freeman and Whitney Rose released VERY strong country/folk albums late in the year.  Lot of staying power that will form a foundation for 2018.


Top 25 Songs Played in 2017

The Mavericks released another catchy album in Brand New Day and the title track became my optimistic start to many a band new day in 2017, usually followed by Alison & “Windy City”.  To counter that unnatural optimism, I counter programmed Lindi Ortega’s “Til the Goin’ Gets Gone”, Sunny Sweeney’s “Bottle by My Bed.”  and Amanda Anne Platt’s “Eden”.  Sweeney’s lament is just a darn good song.  Amanda Anne’s (of The Honeycutters) story of going home to the Midwest hit a nerve.  And fortunately Lindi decided to go back on tour and counter her own swan song, crowdsourcing funding for a new album this year.  The internets sometimes give as well as take away.

  • Halden Wofford and the Hi-Beam‘s title track “Missing Link” adds 20 from ‘&’ for 112 spins to push fellow Coloradoans Songs of the Fall‘s “Lucky” out of #5.
  • Zephaniah Ohora “High Class City Girl from the Country”, my favorite track on his debut, got 40 with the artist and 40 with the band, so 80 equals #14 on the singles chart.

I continued to spin last year’s top track, Dori Freeman’s “Where I Stood”.  Corb Lund’s “S Lazy H” actually got more love this year than last. Corb just struck a cord on a very difficult year with a classic Country & Western lament of doing your darnedest in the face of adversity.  That’s my country, too.



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2017 Blog Posts in Review—Political Order, Political Decay

Online traffic follows the new.  In 2017, wasn’t so much of the new and our numbers reflect that.  But that’s OK.  I played a lot of music.  I read a lot of books.  I didn’t get out to play as much as I should, but that’s OK too.  Goals for next/this year.

We had about 1,500 visitors give the blog 2,200 views, down from 2,000 visitors with 3,000 views the year before.  Most of y’all are from the U.S., too.  My civil war series pulled in a lot of traffic back in 2014-2015, though these numbers are more likely given I’m mostly writing these days about music and books, and occasionally how to built really cool places to live (my day job).

#1 post of 2017:  Repeat winner by far,  Cheyenne-Laramie County, Wyoming, Historical Timeline: a 2014 keyword-rich retrospective of the capital of the Cowboy State, which celebrated 150th Anniversary this year.

#2 Diary of Orrin Brown—Dec 15, 1864 / #7 The Diary of Pvt. Orrin Brown:  Also from 2014, Pvt. Brown was outside Savannah, when John Bell Hood’s Rebels pinned down John Schofield’s Union rearguard in the Battle of Nashville.  Same post was #2 last year & year before.  The introductory post of the series is also in the Top 10.

#3 Behind the Bakken Boom: I really need to update my series on Oil & Gas drilling out here in the West.  We have a few natural gas wells here in Southwest Colorado, too.

#4 The Election of 1916: “America First” to First World War / #8 On the Brink of War — America’s Christmas 1916:  Post 2016 election look at the events of 100 years before.

#5 All Things Shepard:  History meets genealogy. Back up a spot.  Due for an update.  Rootsweb got hacked, though, and Ancestry has it down for the time so it may take a while.

#6 The Day the Music Died:  Bye bye Miss American Pie, 50th anniversary post from February 2009.  If 50th anniversary posts are this popular, I’ll have to do some retrospectives from 1968 this year.

#9 / #1 New Post of 2017 Political Order and Political Decay in the Time of Trump: Book review of Francis Fukuyama’s The Origins of Political Order and Political Order and Political Decay.  A key examination of how effective states are built, and how they seemingly, inevitably, decay.

#10 Little (Lego) House on the Prairie (Style):  Perennially popular post from 2009, where Lego goes all Frank Lloyd Wright, down several spots from last year.

Last year’s Blog Posts in Review came in at #2 New Post of 2017.  Pancho Villa and the Declaration of a State of War from 1917 came in #3 & #5 new posts.  My review of Alison Krauss’ album Windy City ranks #4 followed by the rest of the new music posts for 2017.

2018 is a Brand New Day.  Thank you for stopping by and brightening my day.—



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Americana Radio Albums 2017

The Americana Music Association released their 2017 Americana Airplay Chart Top 100 Albums.

Jason Isbell's The Nashville Sound

I tend to track the AMA Radio chart fairly closely through the year.  Spotify helps feed the new music habit—or is that “enable the new music habit”? While I’ve streamed most of these albums, my spins for 2017* may tune a different frequency but are mostly on similar bandwidth.

(*They do technically chart 6 December 2016 – 4 December 2017.)

Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit
The Nashville Sound
Chris Stapleton
From A Room:  Volume 1
Nikki Lane
Highway Queen
Ryan Adams
Steve Earle
So You Wannabe An Outlaw
Band Of Heathens
Justin Townes Earle
Kids In The Street
Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real
Lukas Nelson & Promise Of The Real
Son Volt
Notes of Blue
Old 97s
Graveyard Whistling
Willie Nelson
God’s Problem Child
Rodney Crowell
Close Ties
Brand New Day
Valerie June
The Order Of Time
Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives
Way Out West
JD McPherson
Undivided Heart And Soul
Pokey LaFarge
Manic Revelations
Jamestown Revival
The Education Of A Wandering Man
Delbert McClinton & Self-Made Men
Prick Of The Litter
Gregg Allman
Southern Blood
Taj Mahal & Keb Mo
Tift Merritt
Stitch Of The World
Slaid Cleaves
Ghost On The Car Radio
North Mississippi Allstars
Prayer For Peace
Rhiannon Giddens
Freedom Highway
Alison Krauss
Windy City
David Rawlings
Poor David’s Almanack
Dan Auerbach
Waiting On A Song
Secret Sisters
You Don’t Own Me Anymore
Ray Wylie Hubbard
Tell The Devil I’m Gettin’ There As Fast As I Can
Will Hoge
Infamous Stringdusters
Laws Of Gravity
Drive-By Truckers
American Band
Alejandro Escovedo
Burn Something Beautiful
Tyler Childers
Aaron Lee Tasjan
Silver Tears
John Prine
For Better, Or Worse
Kasey Chambers
Reckless Kelly
Sunset Motel
Sunny Sweeney
Josh Ritter
Bruce Robison & The Back Porch Band
Bruce Robison & The Back Porch Band
Brent Cobb
Shine On Rainy Day
Old Crow Medicine Show
50 Years Of Blonde On Blonde
Jason Eady
Jason Eady
Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer
Not Dark Yet
Chuck Prophet
Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins
I Got Your Medicine
Jim Lauderdale
London Southern
Hurray For The Riff Raff
The Navigator
Shannon McNally
Black Irish
Angaleena Presley
Dustbowl Revival
The Dustbowl Revival
Margo Price
All American Made
Robert Earl Keen
Live Dinner Reunion
Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors
Bruce Cockburn
Bone On Bone
Gillian Welch
Boots No. 1: The Official Revival Bootleg
Transient Lullaby
Iron & Wine
Beast Epic
Hiss Golden Messenger
Hallelujah Anyhow
Jim Lauderdale
This Changes Everything
Eilen Jewell
Down Hearted Blues
John Moreland
Big Bad Luv
Blackie and the Rodeo Kings
Kings And Kings
Todd Snider
Eastside Bulldog
Various – The Life & Songs Of Emmylou Harris
An All-Star Concert Celebration
Neil Young
Peace Trail
Brigitte DeMeyer & Will Kimbrough
Mockingbird Soul
Samantha Fish
Chills & Fever
Blackberry Smoke
Like An Arrow
Ruthie Foster
Joy Comes Back
Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters
Amanda Anne Platt & The Honeycutters
David Luning
Jesse Dayton
The Revealer
Old Crow Medicine Show
Best Of Old Crow Medicine Show
Paul Cauthen
My Gospel
Ray Davies
Wayne Hancock
Slingin’ Rhythm
Colter Wall
Colter Wall
Chris Hillman
Bidin’ My Time
Radney Foster
For You To See The Stars
Amanda Shires
My Piece Of Land
Jade Jackson
Lucinda Williams
This Sweet Old World
Chuck Berry
Jackie Greene
The Modern Lives Vol. 1
Govt Mule
Revolution Come…Revolution Go
Tim O’Brien
Where The River Meets The Road
Lillie Mae
Forever And Then Some
Yonder Mountain String Band
Love. Ain’t Love
Joan Osborne
Songs Of Bob Dylan
Dead Man Winter
Seth Walker
Gotta Get Back
Jeffery Halford & The Healers
Lo-Fi Dreams
Dwight Yoakam
Swimmin’ Pools, Movie Stars…
Whiskey Gentry
Dead Ringer
Great American Taxi
Dr. Feel Good’s Traveling Medicine Show
Moot Davis
Hierarchy Of Crows



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Three Ladies and a Cowboy: Buy Good Roots Music for Xmas

Lee Ann Womack - Wikipedia

Black Friday. Small Biz Saturday. Sunday. Cyber Monday. Whatever Whenever.

There’s no good excuse not to buy somebody you love some good music for Christmas. Or Hanukkah, Or Kwanzaa, Or Yuletide. Or Whatever.

The Americana Radio Charts et al are bursting with late year releases of Roots and Traditional Country music.  New stuff is Autumn is good for stocking stuffers even if they won’t garner enough spins for many Top 10 year-long lists.  So while you wait for my Top 10 (or Top 20 or Top 30 or whatever) lists, here’s three ladies & a cowboy to start off your Xmas shopping:

Lee Ann Womack—The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone:  Lee Ann Womack, a Nashville veteran, goes home to deliver 14 tracks of country gold. Released in October, Wikipedia (where I borrowed the cover image) quotes (apparently Rolling Stone with unclear attribution) “I wanted to get out of Nashville, and tap the deep music and vibe of East Texas. I wanted to make sure this record had a lot of soul in it, because real country music has soul. I wanted to remind people of that.”

Margo Price—All American Made: Margo Rae Price knocked Lucas Nelson off the top spot on the AMA radio chart this week with her sophomore album that features a duet with his father, Willie Nelson. Increasingly noticed as an outspoken critic around Nashville.  I like the first 11 tracks on this album (and unclick the title track that would be right at home on a Steve Earle album). Price is a great songwriter and performer. She may take her craft down Earle’s blatantly political track. I’m hoping she matures more subtle like Nelson. We’ll see. For now, this is a sure bet if you have cousins in the Resistance.

Dori Freeman—Letters Never Read: Dori Freeman‘s cut “Where I Stood” was my favorite (or at least most played) song of 2016.  Dori is also opinionated in an already subtle, quieter manner that strikes me as both mature and wise like an ancient murder ballad come to life (except this time the villain gets the knife). The Galax, Virginia, singer-songwriter’s follow up to her self-titled debut continues to draw on both Appalachian country-folk traditions and modern sensibilities.  The album has also drawn kudos from Rolling Stone and NPR.

Ned LeDoux—Sagebrush:  First off, yes, Ned LeDoux is the son of famed country & western artist and rodeo cowboy Chris LeDoux of Kaycee, Wyoming (pop. 263), and played in his father’s band.  Yet while he rides for the brand keeping that tradition alive, Ned wears his 0wn hat.  Sagebrush is a full-length debut building on the 5-song Forever a Cowboy EP released in 2016.  I’m partial to “Johnson County War” but you’ll find a variety  from rodeo to radio-friendly tunes that will keep your Christmas stocking two-stepping.

After you’ve filled your Amazon cart (or amazed your local record shop with your amazing good taste in music), go ahead and check out:

    • Folkish:  Nora Jane Struthers—Champion
    • Folkish Trio:  The Wailin’ Jennys—Fifteen
    • Jamin’ Country Folky (more country than Music Row):  Turnpike Troubadours—A Long Way from Your Heart
    • Neotrad Texas Country:  Whitney Rose—Rule 62
    • Pop Country (it’s Texas if you gotta): Granger Smith—When the Good Guys Win




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Americana Music Awards 2017

As autumn leaves turn golden hues, music awards season begins each Fall with awards for golden tunes.  Each September, the Americana Music Association bestows Honors and Awards on the previous year’s crop and the genre’s legends.

The Americana Honors & Awards show is fairly well established these days.  The Call for Nominees goes out in May to the membership—I was a member back when I was on KRFC, longer ago with each passing season.  Eligibility for “Of the Year” runs April-March prior, which is a bit of an odd growing season, but it gives a flavor for the later, more well known, awards shows.

Through the year, I use Americana Radio chart to watch for what I might want to listen to.  The AMA radio chart is getting a dust up next year, but the current iteration anyway is a pretty good indicator of pretty good music.  The annual AMA music awards are also a pretty good indicator, but they tend to be a bit more political and a bit more, well, “hippie” maybe, then my more Traditional Country Music leanings.

My 2016 favorite/most played music tended to encompass most of the AMA winners.  Sturgill’s A Sailor’s Guide showed up at #20 album scrobbled, and Amanda Shires scored #23 for her album My Piece of Land.  At the end of 2016, Sturgill took the top spot in the No Depression reader poll, followed by Drive-By Truckers, Lucinda Williams, Margo Price and John Prine, with Shires at #10.  The Lumineers gained #4 on the AMA radio chart, with Sturgill at #8.  I’m surprised, otherwise, that the AMA radio chart didn’t predict the AMA nominees more closely, something to watch as the radio chart methodology is adjusted.  I don’t listen to the Riff Raff or Billy Bragg, and the Lumineers are on the Pop end of my taste.  Lori McKenna, as usual, turned in solid songwriting on The Bird & The Rifle, released in June 2016, but Rodney Crowell is an AMA institution.

Adjusting my stats to the eligibility period (4/16-3/17), A Sailor’s Guide rises to #15—I played Elizabeth Cook’s Exodus of Venus, and Brandy Clark’s Big Day in a Small Town twice or three times more and they are both June 2016 releases solidly in the AMA universe.  Jason Isbell’s new album with the 400 Unit was released after the nomination period, and will threaten all comers at next year’s awards.  Margo Price’s Midwest Farmer’s Daughter came out in March 2016, earned her recognition last year (her promising new album came out Friday 10/20/17).  MacArthur “Genius” Rhiannon Giddens and Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives are scoring in my 2017 charts (Freedom Highway was released 13 February 2017 and Way Out West was released 10 March, both fresh for AMA nominations).

Fast Tube


AMERICAN BAND by Drive-By Truckers
CLOSE TIES by Rodney Crowell
FREEDOM HIGHWAY, Rhiannon Giddens
THE NAVIGATOR, Hurray for the Riff Raff
A SAILOR’S GUIDE TO EARTH, Sturgill Simpson winner








“ALL AROUND YOU” Sturgill Simpson, Written by Sturgill Simpson
“IT AIN’T OVER YET” Rodney Crowell, Written by Rodney Crowell winner
“TO BE WITHOUT YOU” Ryan Adams, Written by Ryan Adams
“WRECK YOU” Lori McKenna, Written by Lori McKenna and Felix McTeigue



Regarding the Lifetime Achievement awards, well, I don’t know much what to say.  I’ve never paid much attention to Van Morrison other than to recognize background music that’s not unpleasant.  And Hi Rhythm Section is R&B or Soul or whatnot but Americana?  C’mon, this is just more of what shoe-horned the talented  R&B artist William Bell into the Americana Grammy.

Sir George & Mr. Cray & Graham Nash (along with the late, great Tom Petty) are among the legacy R&B and Album-Oriented Rock musicians which Americana is adopting as they lose any place on commercial radio.  That’s fine.  I like them, yes.

It just feels like we’re claiming others’  glories when there are plenty of our own to tout.

Iris DeMent, on the other hand, is an obvious Americana treasure with a unique vocal style.  Her duets with John Prine are precious.  I’m not sure what music earned Charlie Sexton the Instrumentalist of the Year.  Knowing there’s always new (to me) music out there helps make the Sweet Old World worth exploring through another season.

Fast Tube















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