(HOT TALK is a weekly column by longtime CMT.com contributing writer and former Billboard country music editor Edward Morris.)
Darryl Worley Is People’s Choice
Who knew that the war with Iraq would turn out to be the biggest boost to country music since Garth Brooks came along? OK, we’re still not selling as many albums as we did in Garth’s heyday, but the big national magazines are noticing us again. At least they’re noticing the artists who’ve been the most vocal in their opinions about the war. By now you’ve probably seen the Dixie Chicks ’ bare-it-all cover for Entertainment Weekly, which shows their bodies stenciled with some of the more colorful names they’ve been called in response to lead singer Natalie Maines’ remarks against the war. Well, coming soon will be a People magazine feature on Darryl Worley , who’s still riding high on his militant single, “Have You Forgotten?” Worley will be interviewed and photographed this week in his hometown of Savannah, Tenn. No word yet on whether he, too, will strip for the cause.
Montgomery Brothers Toast Club That Launched Their Careers
Brothers John Michael and Eddie Montgomery (the latter of Montgomery Gentry , of course) returned to their old hangout, the Austin City Saloon in Lexington, Ky., a few evenings ago to help the club celebrate its 20th anniversary. This is the joint the guys played for years until they got their record deals in Nashville. “They’re still just the biggest hometown heroes,” Hot Talk’s spy for the occasion reports. John Michael and Eddie each did a set and then joined up for a hot jam. A high point of the evening was the unveiling of a neon Budweiser sign that was personalized with John Michael’s name. Our spy says the singer had lobbied for his own sign since noticing that Montgomery Gentry, Tim McGraw and current club headliner, George Molton, all had individualized Bud neons on display. Like his predecessors, Molton is looking for a label deal and has already signed a songwriting contract with Nashville’s HoriPro Entertainment. After the show, John Michael returned to Music City to continue work on a Christmas album.
Waylon Jennings Remembered at Scottsdale Benefit
Waylon Jennings ’ family and friends convened at a club in Scottsdale, Ariz., April 13 to reminisce and sing for the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Hot Talk reader Diane Bowker was there. She reports that Jessi Colter, Jennings’ widow, “looks beautiful and sounds great” and that their son, Shooter Jennings, is “going to be a big star.” Also performing were Kris Kristofferson , who toured and recorded with the elder Jennings as a member of the Highwaymen; Andy Griggs , one of Jennings’ favorite new country artists; producer and family friend Don Was; and Ray Herndon of McBride & the Ride .
Ty Herndon Touring, Writing, Shopping
A lot of you have inquired about the current fortunes of Ty Herndon . His manager, Dana Miller, says the former Epic Records artist is now doing a Ty Herndon Unplugged tour of clubs, on which he is backed by three acoustic guitarists. He’s also working some casino dates with a full band. And he’s writing songs with Los Angeles-based country artist, Waylon Payne. In May, Herndon will wrap up a new Christmas album he plans to release on his own label. In the meantime, he’ll be shopping the songs he’s written and looking to link up with another major record company. Miller says Herndon is disappointed that Epic didn’t release the last album he recorded, electing instead to put out a greatest hits package. “He’s recorded 10 songs that Epic owns that no one will ever hear,” Miller complains. Miller says he tried to buy the album but that the label turned him down. Herndon will be in Nashville during Fan Fair to host his annual fan club party.
Emmylou Harris Recording With New Producer
Emmylou Harris is working on another album for Nonesuch Records, her publicist says. Harris’s producer for the project is Malcolm Bum, who’s undertaken similar chores for Patti Smith, Iggy Pop and Better Than Ezra.
Silk N Saddle: Ready for the Big Ride?
By the oddest of circumstances — accepting a showcase invitation that did not specify free drinks — I found myself listening to an acoustic string band last week that I’m betting we’ll all be hearing more from soon. It’s a family band called Silk N Saddle (I’ll get back to the name), and its music absolutely sparkles. Led by Forrest Carter, who plays stand-up bass, the band consists of his son Frank on guitar and daughters Amber-Dawn and Lillie on fiddles and Scarlett on mandolin. Given the band’s repertoire, it’s tempting to label its music bluegrass. But there’s no banjo or Dobro involved, and some of the songs are closer to Broadway than backwoods Kentucky.
Carter, who looks more like an older brother than a dad, told Hot Talk that the group used to perform as the Carters. This led many to confuse them with the original Carter Family , to whom they’re not related. Then they did a turn as the Forrest Carter Band. Finally, they settled on Silk N Saddle. In the brief set I heard, the band ranged masterfully from such bluegrass staples as “Uncle Pen,” “Diesel on My Tail” and “Wheel Hoss” to an angelic cover of the Beatles “All My Loving” to jazzy arrangements of “Lady Be Good” and “Route 66.” They even coaxed a few extra rays of sunshine from George Gershwin’s dreamily euphoric “Summertime.” Super producer Billy Joe Walker sat in the audience beaming.
While all the kids are intimidatingly good pickers, 11-year-old Lillie bears special watching. Besides her bravura fiddle work on such exhibition pieces as “Billy in the Low Ground” and “Orange Blossom Special,” she sings and yodels like an old-timer. Frank, 15, is a champion flat-picker who can also do vocal justice to a country classic like “The Grand Tour.” Bubbly Amber-Dawn, age unannounced, handles most of the talking and lead vocals and is a superbly fluid fiddler. Scarlett, the least demonstrative of the group, weaves in her minimalist mandolin lines with exquisite restraint and taste. They are a video waiting to be made.
Haven’t I been good to you? So tell me everything. I’m waiting at HotTalk@cmt.com.