HOT TALK: Channeling Waylon, Documenting Country

(HOT TALK is a weekly column by longtime CMT.com contributing writer and former Billboard country music editor Edward Morris.)

Diffie, Haggard and Jones Wonder “What Would Waylon Do?”
George Jones and Merle Haggard are joining Joe Diffie to ask the musical question “What Would Waylon Do?” “It’s a really cool song about life on the road [and] how Waylon would correct all the problems out there,” explains Diffie’s manager, Bernard Porter. The song will be featured on Diffie’s first album for Broken Bow Records, a project he’s co-producing with Lonnie Wilson. Look for the first single from the album this summer. Porter also reports that the golden-voiced Oklahoman in mulling over some book-writing projects — both fiction and non. “Writing has always been an interest of his,” says Porter. In the meantime, Diffie continues his successful Rockin’ Roadhouse tour with Mark Chesnutt and Tracy Lawrence . They’ll do about 120 shows this year.

Patty Loveless Completes New Album
Patty Loveless ‘ follow-up album to her career-boosting Mountain Soul will be out Sept. 30. Called On Your Way Home, the collection returns Loveless to her basic country sound. A source who’s heard an advance copy of the album describes it as being “more along the lines of Only What I Feel [1993] and When Fallen Angels Fly [1994].”

Country Music Documentaries on Tap at Nashville Film Festival
Three documentaries of interest to country music fans will make their bow at the Nashville Film Festival, April 28-May 4. They are Alive at Brushy Mountain, which stars Mark Collie, The King of Bluegrass: The Life and Times of Jimmy Martin and Music City Long Shot, a chronicle of songwriter Jon Robbin, who co-wrote the Chris Cagle hit, “I Breathe In, I Breathe Out” and Lorrie Morgan ‘s “I Guess You Had to Be There.”

In Alive at Brushy Mountain, Collie takes viewers on a tour of the maximum security prison in eastern Tennessee and introduces them to a number of talented musicians inside the walls. The tour culminates with Collie, Tim McGraw , Kelly Willis and Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown performing for the inmates. Directed by Thom Oliphant, this film was originally intended to be a companion piece to a live Collie album for MCA Records. Collie had recorded for MCA during the early 1990s, and Brushy Mountain was to mark his return to new five-album contract with the label. However, the team that signed Collie was ousted last year when MCA and Mercury Records were combined into the umbrella group, UMG Nashville, under the leadership of Luke Lewis. A source at MCA tells Hot Talk that Collie is no longer with the label and that there are no plans for releasing the album.

Tippin and Brown Join Anderson for City Lights Fest
Aaron Tippin and T. Graham Brown are among the artists who will perform with event host Bill Anderson at the seventh annual City Lights Festival in Commerce, Ga., June 19-20. It was while working as a disc jockey in Commerce in 1958 that Anderson was inspired to write his first hit, “City Lights.” The festival begins Thursday morning (June 19) with a celebrity golf tournament at Sandy Creek Golf Course and will be followed that evening with a community dinner with the stars at the Commerce Civic Center. Attending and performing at the dinner will be Grand Ole Opry star and Anderson’s former singing partner Jan Howard , T. G. Sheppard and comedian T. Bubba Bechtol. On Friday evening (June 20), Tippin and Graham will co-headline a show with Anderson and his band, the Po’ Folks, at the Commerce High School football field.

Oh Boy Signs Kris Kristofferson, Janis Ian; Albums on the Way
Oh Boy Records, the longtime label home of John Prine, has signed two more legendary singer-songwriters: Kris Kristofferson and Janis Ian. Both are expected to have albums out by mid to late summer. Kristofferson’s album was recorded live last June in San Francisco with producer Alan Abrahams and is made up of standards and newer and lesser known songs. Ian, who is best known for her pop hits “Society’s Child” and “At Seventeen,” will make her Oh Boy debut with a two-CD self-produced greatest hits collection. It, too, was recorded live.

On May 13, Oh Boy will release Todd Snider’s 15-song collection, Near Truths and Hotel Rooms. Snider wrote “Alright Guy,” the title cut of Gary Allan’s 2001 album.

The Business of Being Tim McGraw
Yours truly has authored a longish, statistic-riddled article about the business side of Tim McGraw for the next issue of The Journal of Country Music. It traces McGraw’s rise to stardom and focuses on what it costs — and pays — to be a superstar. The magazine should be out in early May and will be available from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

IBMA Seeking TV Slot for Award Show
The International Blue Grass Music Association has commissioned Edge Marketing, of Charlotte, N. C., to find a television berth for its annual awards. To date, the increasingly popular event has been broadcast only on radio. Speaking of the TV prospects, an IBMA source tells Hot Talk, “It’s looking pretty positive, but we don’t have any definites yet.”

“Have You Forgotten” Co-Writer Recording Album
Wynn Varble, the co-writer of Darryl Worley ‘s current hit, “Have You Forgotten?”, is working on his first album for Columbia Records, with Anthony S. Martin producing. A publicist for Columbia says the label has no intention of rushing the album to ride the tail of Worley’s patriotic comet. But he does promise that Varble will be delivering some “real storytelling country music.”

So What Kind Of Music Is It, Marty?
In an admirable example of truth-in-packaging, Marty Stuart has titled his first album for Lucky Dog/Columbia Records Country Music. The package will be released July 1 and will be spotlighted on his upcoming Electric Barnyard tour with Merle Haggard. The dynamic duo will be on the road throughout July and August. Stuart is also putting the finishing touches on a Christmas album he produced for Andy Griffith on Sparrow Records.

Flatt & Scruggs’ Mercury Recordings Reissued
Lester Flatt , Earl Scruggs & The Foggy Mountain Boys were the best bluegrass band ever. If you doubt it, check out Flatt & Scruggs: The Complete Mercury Recordings, which covers the group’s fertile 1948-50 period. While Flatt & Scruggs would become world famous during their subsequent 19-year association with Columbia Records, the Mercury sessions yielded such gems as “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” (later to become the theme song of the movie Bonnie & Clyde), “We’ll Meet Again Sweetheart,” “My Cabin In Caroline” and “Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms.” The 28-cut collection will be on store shelves Tuesday (April 22).

Beverly Hillbillies Backlash
The Associated Press reports that a delegation of Appalachian coal miners will go to New York next month to protest the proposed CBS-TV “reality” series, The Real Beverly Hillbillies. The premise of the show is to install a poor rural family in a Hollywood mansion and then televise its adjustment to the lush life. To counter this impending infamy, members of the United Mine Workers of America have vowed to invade the May 21 Viacom shareholders’ meeting unless the culturally “demeaning” series is rescinded. (Viacom is the parent company of CBS and of CMT and CMT.com.)

It seems to me that the network could save itself a lot of money and create the same kind of rags-to-riches comedy by filming certain country singers and songwriters who suddenly strike gold and then go on a spending spree for Humvees and McMansions in the Nashville suburb of Franklin, Tenn. And besides, haven’t we country folk encouraged this stereotyping with our silly cowboy costumes and all those songs about the delights of being poor, the horrors of city living and the desire to go back home to Mama? If we hillbillies weren’t looked down on, what would we have to sing about? So I say to CBS, “Bring it on! Nashville will turn your jeers into platinum.”

Quick now! Rush to your keyboard and tell me how I’ve once again aggrieved you. The sign on my mailbox reads HotTalk@cmt.com.

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