HOT TALK: Tour Salutes Farmers, Marcel Talks Songwriting

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

Cyrus, Anderson, Tucker on Breaking Ground Tour & Expo
Billy Ray Cyrus, John Anderson and Tanya Tucker have been confirmed to perform at various dates on the Breaking Ground Tour & Expo, which is scheduled to kick off June 21 at the Lakeland Center in Lakeland, Fla. Other artists and dates are still being secured. “This tour is to celebrate the American farmer and to call attention to that lifestyle,” explains tour producer, Miles Bell. Each stop on the 20-city tour will consist of displays and demonstrations of agricultural products and implements, followed by a concert featuring four major country artists. Bell says his goal is to keep the ticket price at $20 or under. The tour is being backed by Raley Entertainment of Dothan, Ala., and will wrap up Nov. 8 at the Savannah (Georgia) Civic Center. G. Gerald Roy is the talent coordinator. I’ll list all the tour sites and performers as soon as they’re locked in.

“Life Is Like a Road Trip,” Marcel Muses
In speaking recently about his new album, You, Me and the Windshield, Mercury Records artist Marcel waxed philosophical about his concept of songwriting and why so many of his songs involve journeys — either real or metaphysical. “Life’s like a road trip,” he mused. “I’m just kind of like the guy driving in the car. My writing is based on true stories and on what I’m feeling. I don’t like to write songs that don’t have anything to do with me or something I’ve seen or something someone’s told me. It’s all about writing true songs. To me, that’s what listeners want to hear — stuff that they’ve been through.”

Cyndi Thomson Still in the Game
Former Capitol Records thrush Cyndi Thomson continues to decline invitations to discuss her sudden decision last year to give up a promising recording career — one that began triumphantly with a gold album. But she hasn’t turned her back on the music business. A spokesman for Sony/ATV, Thomson’s publishing company, confirms, “She’s an active writer. Her songs are getting action.”

I Think I Heard Some Hits
Taunt me viciously if I’m wrong, but I’m betting that at least one of the following songs will be a big country hit within a year — even though none of them has yet been recorded. So write down the titles and keep your eye on the charts. Here they are: “Choose Your Partner,” “My Last Words,” “Times Like This,” “You’re Like That Song,” “When You Get to Me,” “You Can’t Help Who You Love,” “The River of You,” “If You Never Loved Me” and “Too Far From the Sun.”

These nine compositions were issued from the talented pens of Marv Green, Bill Luther and Marcus Hummon. The songwriters performed them on Wednesday (May 14) at a luncheon that BMI, the performance rights organization, threw for producers and record company song scouts. Green’s writing credits include “Amazed” and “It’s Always Something”; Luther numbers among his hits “Let’s Make Love” and “My Best Friend”; and Hummon has captured our ears with “Cowboy Take Me Away,” “Born to Fly” and “One of These Days.” All three writers are affiliated with BMG Music Publishing.

As the listeners chewed and nodded appreciatively, the writers took turns dazzling them with droll and engaging stories, stunningly apt phrases and tattoo-sharp images. It was all post honky-tonk music — literate, sensitive, multi-layered and ironic, new country for a new generation. And it was all pretty serious stuff. But Hummon wasn’t above inserting some comic relief. After Luther concluded the lovely “When You Get to Me,” the lament of a man who waits patiently for his woman to get her priorities straight, Hummon waited patiently for the applause to subside and then cracked, “Sure, if you like melodic, commercial stuff, that’s really good.” And when it came time to end the show, Hummon called co-writer Chuck Jones out of the crowd, saying, “Let’s do our song we can never get cut.” The song? “Too Far From the Sun.” Let’s see if it gets cut now. BMI plans to spotlight a different publisher every month.

Since You Asked: Reeves, Pruett Backing Away From Opry
Reader Bill Montgomery wants to know what’s happened to Grand Ole Opry members Del Reeves and Jeanne Pruett, neither of whom he’s heard on the show for some time. So I put his question to Opry manager Pete Fisher when our paths crossed last Tuesday (May 13) at the block party sponsored by the Grammy people. Fisher said Reeves has told him that he’s retiring from the business. Pruett, he added, has not responded lately to the form the Opry sends its members each month to find out when they’re available for work.

New Book Spotlights Elvis’ Shadowy Manager
Alanna Nash, who gave us the first intimate peek into the life of the divine Miss Parton with her 1978 biography, Dolly, has another book coming out in July that sounds every bit as fascinating. It’s called The Colonel: The Extraordinary Story of Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley. Says Publishers Weekly, “Using the cunning of a detective and the straightforward prose of a journalist, Nash, to the delight of Elvis lovers everywhere, answers some lingering questions while posing a few new ones about the man who made the King and then stole his crown.” Nash was able to interview the elusive Parker for her study not long before he died.

“The Happy Wanderer” Wanders Back
In the spring of 1954, when a certain columnist we both hold dear was a feckless high school senior, a ditty called “The Happy Wanderer” swept America like a mild infection. Insanely upbeat and vaguely Third Reich in its intensity, the song extolled the joys of “wandering along the mountain track,” all the while singing and lugging a knapsack. Had the play not been five years in the future, you would have sworn the song was ripped straight from The Sound of Music. Well, there’s good news for those of you who missed the hit its first time around and those who’ve waited 49 years for its return. LynnMarie, the Nashville-based and Grammy-nominated polka queen, has recorded “The Happy Wanderer” for her next album. Still untitled, the album will be out in June. I’ll keep you posted.

If you write it, I will read. Deluge me with your complaints, encomia and petty gossip at HotTalk@cmt.com.