Kacey and Cash and country music

October 17 — The recording of “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” by Pete Seeger turned out to be such a good song that The Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul and Mary and even Trini Lopez and Johnny Rivers have had success with.

Although this is a song about the loss of life resulting from the war, the last line of the song can also be attributed to the music industry as well as to surrounding organizations – in this case the Recording Academy, which distributes the annual Grammy Awards.

This time the issue revolves around Kacey Musgraves, the Texas-born singer who won numerous Grammy Awards in 2019 tied to her 2018 album, “Golden Hour” – including Grammys for Country Album of the Year. , as well as Grammys for a few singles from the album: Best Country Song for “Space Cowboy” and Best Country Solo Performance for “Butterflies”.

After her victories in the country music category, Kacey’s “Golden Hour” won the grand prize for album of the year, which includes all genres of music.

During her acceptance speech, she said, “I love country music with all that I am. And I’m so proud to be able to share my version with the world.”

It wasn’t the first time Kacey had won Grammys in the country music category. She also won the Grammy Awards for Country Album of the Year in 2014 for her debut album “Same Trailer Different Park” and for Country Song of the Year for “Merry Go Round”.

If the executives of the Recording Academy are successful, however, 2019 could be the last year Musgrave wins a Grammy in the country music category.

This is because a Recording Academy selection committee determined that Kasey’s new album, “Star-Crossed” will not count towards the Country Music category when voting begins, moving the album to the pop category.

Kacey responded on Instagram saying, “You can take the girl out of the country (like) but you can’t take the girl out of the country.”

She has an advocate in Cindy Mabe, president of Kacey’s label, UMG Nashville. Mabe sent a letter to the Recording Academy protesting the action, claiming that sonically, “Star-Crossed” has more country instruments than “Golden Hour” – which she claims won the Grammy for Best Album by. country music in 2019 before winning the best Grammy album in all categories that year.

So, does Kacey’s new album sound like a traditional county music record? No, is the short answer – but how do you define country music these days? I haven’t heard all of “Star-Crossed” yet, but the tracks I’ve heard have a distinctive pop sparkle, brought to the fore even more thanks to its brilliant production.

Still defining what country music is supposed to sound like can be a bit short-sighted. Patsy Clines’ resplendent 1960s recordings of songs such as “I Fall to Pieces”, “She’s Got You” and “Crazy” by Willie Nelson did not have much in common with the music of Roy Acuff or Ernest. Tubb, let alone Grandpa Jones, but his Owen Bradley-produced recordings were adopted by the country music community at the time.

What if the electrified, upbeat country sounds of Bakersfield-based Buck Owens produced with his Buckaroos had been dismissed because they bore no resemblance to the sometimes syrupy over-orchestrated records that often came out of Nashville in the mid-1960s, such as ” Make the world go ”by Eddie Arnold?

The Buck Owens and the standalone Buckaroos – who recorded their music at Capitol Records in Los Angeles – sometimes seemed to have more in common with The Beatles than with much of what was coming out of Nashville at that time. The Beatles must have noticed it too, as they recorded their own version of Buck and the Buckaroos’ hit song, “Act Naturally”, with Ringo Starr on vocals. They must have thought about it a lot, because the Beatles put their version of “Act Naturally” on the “B” side of their last release at the time, a little song you might have heard called “Yesterday” – which has undoubtedly provided a cornucopia of royalties to the man who wrote it, Nashville singer and songwriter Johnny Russell.

Another thing about Kacey’s new album. When she performed a few tracks from “Star-Crossed” on “Saturday Night Live” two weeks ago, “Justified” and “Camera Roll”, she performed with a backing band – and the arrangements of the song. suddenly sounded much more country. to their essence. Kacey too!

All the hubbub about Grammy eligibility reminds me of another time the Grammy Awards were involved in a situation involving a country music singer.

Johnny Cash had had a hard time when it came to his contemporary record sales in the mid-1980s, even though he was still a large number of gigs. Despite this, he opened the newspaper one day in 1986 and read that his longtime label, Columbia Records, had unceremoniously removed it from their list at the behest of then Columbia Records manager Rick Blackburn.

Yes, after making his fortune in Columbia with years of successful singles and albums, ranging from “Ring of Fire” to “A Boy Named Sue,” Cash suddenly found himself with a recording deal. excellent work, including the album “Water from the Wells”, featuring guest artists such as Paul McCartney and Glen Campbell.

Yet in the late 1990s, when Cash found himself without a recording contract again, he received an offer from an unlikely source. Producer Rick Rubin, who had worked with the Beastie Boys and many other bands, approached Cash to make an album, with only Cash and his guitar. The 1994 album titled “American Recordings” proved to be a huge success, rejuvenating Cash’s record sales and bringing him a whole new audience. “American Recordings” won the Grammy for Best Folk Album in 1995, but none of the tracks were broadcast on country radio.

Cash and Rubin recorded a follow-up, titled “Unchained,” featuring guest artists including Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Although the album reached No. 26 on the country music charts, the country music industry and country music radio stations played little to no album.

This prompted Rubin to add to Billboard magazine a photo taken of Cash when the singer gave a live concert at San Quentin Prison in 1969. When photographer Jim Marshal asked to take a photo for the director. Cash responded with a snarling look on his face and stuck out a finger – and it wasn’t the index finger.

Rubin included the photo of Cash – making a point, so to speak – in the sarcastic ad, saying, “American Recordings and Johnny Cash would like to thank the Nashville Music Establishment and Country Radio for your support. “

I’m sure Kacey is aware of the announcement, as following her country music snub at the Recording Academy, she posted a photo of herself standing on stage, with a guitar strapped to her shoulders, doing the same point as Cash had made – except that she is using both hands.

Artists don’t need frames to define their music. They do it themselves every time they play, write a song, or walk into a recording studio.

I always come back to Kris Kristofferson’s spoken word introduction to his original recording of “Me and Bobby McGee”, when he said “If that sounds country man, this is what it is. It’s a country song. . “

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.

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