(HOT TALK is a weekly column by longtime CMT.com contributing writer and former Billboard country music editor Edward Morris.)
Chicks May Have Live Package for the Holidays
Sony Records may release a live album
on the Dixie Chicks before Christmas, possibly a double album and possibly in DVD format. Although he would not give any details,
a source at Sony's New York headquarters confirmed to Hot Talk that the label is in the process of putting a Chicks
package together. The group's manager referred all questions on the matter to Sony/New York, as did Sony's Nashville division.
Albums Cashing in Big
Last week, there were 19 Johnny Cash titles on Billboard's Top Country Albums and
Top Country Catalog Albums charts. Together, according to Nielsen Soundscan, they sold a grand total 101,008 units for the
Lawrence Bows on DreamWorks With "Paint Me a Birmingham"
Tracy Lawrence will make his official
debut on DreamWorks Records Oct. 13 with the release of the single, "Paint Me a Birmingham." If it sounds familiar, it may
be because Ken Mellons released the same song on Home Records on Aug. 7 (with Vince Gill singing harmony). Some stations have
jumped the gun and are already playing Lawrence's version. This sounds like a song that could take him back to the top.
Marcel is no longer on Mercury Records, a publicist there confirms. The mono-monikered singer from
Michigan made his single debut last summer with "Country Rock Star." His followup, "Tennessee" (which was accompanied by a
music video), failed to chart. Mercury released his album, You, Me and the Windshield, this past May. Marcel continues
to date Jessica Andrews, for and with whom he co-wrote the hit "There's More to Me Than You."
Phil Vassar Launches
The first Phil Vassar homecoming concert, designed to be an annual event, will be held Dec.
27 at the Civic Center Auditorium in Roanoke, Va. It will come as no surprise that the aforesaid Mr. Vassar will headline.
Details are still sketchy but I'm told that tickets will go on sale Oct. 11.
Billy Currington Thanks Old Pal for
Browsing through the liner notes of Billy Currington's new self-titled album, I came across this intriguing
credit: "[To] Matt Thompson for buying my lunch in school when I couldn't." So I asked Currington about it. "For years we
were really good friends," he explained. "Like [from] the fifth grade through high school. We never really talked about it,
but I never found lunch money on the table on my way to school. That wasn't because my mom didn't want to. It was just because
she didn't have it. So we never asked. We just kind of went and fended for ourselves for years at school. It was the borrowing
factor so many different times. But [Matt] was the one that would always ... come up and ask me, 'Hey, Billy, you got lunch
money today?' And I was like, 'To be honest, man, I don't.' He'd say, 'Here's your buck' or 'Here's your buck-fifty' -- whatever
it was. He was blessed to have financially successful parents who helped him out. And, in return, he helped me. I've lost
touch with him because I think he moved off to Hawaii. Recently, somebody said they'd found [his] phone number and that they
were going to send it to me." I hope the two pals meet again. In a business in which people routinely forget the friends who
gave them a boost on their way up, it's heartwarming to find one who still remembers -- and still acknowledges -- them. Way
to go, Billy! You're off to an honest start.
Nickel Creek Muses and Celebrates
Chris Thile, Sean Watkins
and Sara Watkins -- the youthful string wizards who comprise Nickel Creek-- ambled into ASCAP's Nashville headquarters last
Wednesday (Sept. 24) to pick up an armload of awards. Their single, "The Smoothie Song," had gone No. 1 on the Radio &
Records Triple A charts, and their second album, This Side, was just certified gold. "You carry the hopes and dreams
of a lot of creative kids," ASCAP's Dan Keen told the trio as he handed out the trophies. He said their first album, Nickel
Creek, will probably hit the platinum mark by year's end. (A gold designation means that record stores have ordered 500,000
copies of a particular; platinum signifies a million copies ordered.) Alison Krauss, Nickel Creek's producer, couldn't attend
the celebration but did send them a gift basket.
Before the event started, Thile and the Watkins spoke to reporters
on a wide range of subjects. All three conceded that there's nothing wrong with listening to undemanding "bubble gum" music,
even though their own music explores the riskier reaches of bluegrass and jazz. "Ultimately, the problem [when dealing with
serious music] is that we're lazy," Thile observed. "There's great music out there being made," he continued, "and fortunately
most people who make great music can make a living [at it]." Asked about the group's initial aspirations, Sean said, "Our
big secret was that we hoped we might sell 100,000 records." "It was a deep, dark secret," Thile chimed in.
a lighter take on the music industry's obsession with sales numbers. She suggested that a better measurement might be the
number of albums that are quickly sold back to used-record stores instead of kept and treasured. She revealed that she is
following the lead of her two partners and making a solo record. "Basically, it's going to be me singing songs that I like,"
she said, adding that she didn't yet consider herself a capable songwriter. "She could release her demos," Thile said admiringly.
"They sound great."
Being classified as country musicians, as they were early in their career, has done Nickel Creek
no damage, they all agreed. "It's been more helpful than detrimental," Sean concluded. "[We want] any ear, just any ear,"
Thile emphasized. Turning to the death of Johnny Cash, Sean noted, "What's inspiring to me was that in the last few years
of his life, he was so influential." Added Thile, "Whatever was going on, Cash made it into his own. And that's what a great
All New Recordings for Riders' Album
Allow me to clear this point up. There will be no
previously released cuts on the forthcoming Riders in the Sky double album, which I told you about in last week's column.
It will consist entirely of newly recorded music. However, some of the songs on the album are ones the Riders have recorded
before for other labels.
By Their Songs You Shall Know Them
Anyone who's ever watched a crying drunk
shove quarters into a jukebox knows there's a strong connection between the songs we love and our mental state. Lisa Tucker
takes this fact to its logical conclusion in her fine new novel The Song Reader. Her central character, Mary Beth Norris,
actually sets up a practice in which she discerns what's ailing people psychologically by having them tell her about the song
lyrics that gnaw at their brains. Some of her clients are haunted by such familiar Music Row tunes as "Lucille" and "Please
Come to Boston." But before you rush out and buy the book, you should know that the "song reading" is a relatively small part
of the story, which is told by Norris' younger sister, Leeann. By the way, Leeann hates "country and western" songs.
Box: New York City?
I am not a country music purist. If Yo Yo Ma wants to play "Louie Louie" on a samisen
and sell it as "country music," he will get no grief from me. After all, Garth Brooks and Shania Twain have paid more of my
bills than Uncle Dave Macon ever did. Let record companies sell records, I say, and museums sweep up our history. That being
the case, it is with puzzlement rather than rancor that I ask the Country Music Association, "What the hell are you doing?
Why would you think of moving the awards show to New York --even for a year? In short, how will this sell more country records?"
case you haven't heard, the CMA has hinted that it will stage its 2005 awards show in New York. Practically speaking, this
will mean a huge leap in production, transportation and lodging costs -- plus enormous personal inconveniences for everyone
involved. And to what end? It surely can't be for ratings. The show will look the same and attract the same viewing audience,
whether it's broadcast from the Grand Ole Opry House or Madison Square Garden. It's not a big enough event to set the national
media twittering. So, is this just a ploy to make Nashville appreciate and subsidize you more, as it was when you suggested
you might move Fan Fair out of the Nashville city limits? Tell us the truth, CMA. The real truth. You're flirting with mutiny.
Calumny. Sycophancy. Bluster. Vituperation. Taunting. Eye-rolling. Bring 'em on. I am large, I contain multitudes. Reach me