In the process of promoting their own new albums, two of our most important country artists have taken public swipes at the very format that gave them their careers. How shameful! It’s OK for critics to proclaim what’s good and what’s bad about music. That’s their function and only value. But when performers openly criticize the work of their peers, it carries the hot metallic smell of jealousy. It is ungenerous, uncompassionate, and ultimately self-destructive.
There’s no reason to cite these truly talented artists by name, but here are samples of their gratuitous bad-mouthing from recently published interviews: “Every record sounds the same that’s coming out of this town,” asserted one truculently, “and you can quote me on that.” Said the other, “I think we’ve had a lot of garbage on the radio over the past several years.... On top of all these artists that sound alike, the production is poor and the quality of the writing is just terrible.”
I can’t believe these two really think all the music sounds alike, what with such varied stylists as John Berry, Alison Krauss, Mark Chesnutt, Collin Raye, Lee Roy Parnell, Paul Brandt, and Martina McBride still being programmed.
But even if they do believe what they’ve said, what’s the point of saying it publicly? They have the same right, of course, to bitch and moan as the rest of us; but they should also have the wisdom to know when it’s perilous to exercise that right. Don’t they recall how fragile their egos were when they were just starting out? Don’t they know how unjust it is to have their best art lumped in with the worst? And if their bitter comments should succeed in driving people away from country music, don’t they realize they’ve shrunk their own potential market? No one should have to be a shill for something they detest. But sometimes there’s a real virtue in just shutting the hell up.
♦ The Women in Music Business Association (WMBA) will hold its third national conference Sept. 20-22 at the Crowne Plaza. The keynote speaker for the meeting is Susan Levy, vice president of artist development for Capitol Nashville. Other industry speakers and the topics they’ll be discussing include Mary Boswell on publishing; Stan Moress and Joni Foraker on management; Cyndi Benavides, Lisa Beavers, and Lori McAlister on fan clubs; Veronica Stewart on keeping current with the Internet; Liza Jane Edwards and Jeffrey Steele on the artist’s point of view; Pamela Lewis and Bob Patton on publicity and record promotion; D’Leslie Davis, Lynn Morro, and Cynthia Cleves on legal matters; and Joe Tassi on how to approach a label’s A&R representative. Registration is open to anyone in the music business. Details are available from Val Minett, WMBA’s Nashville coordinator, at 299-9661.
♦ New from Warner Western Records: The Looney West, an album that pairs the label’s top singers with Warner Bros.’ Looney Tunes characters. Promotions include servicing the album and its accompanying singles to 2,000 country and children-oriented radio stations; providing record stores with counter displays, posters, and souvenir buttons; and releasing a music video, “Cowboy Logic,” featuring Michael Martin Murphey, Bugs Bunny, Sylvester, Foghorn Leghorn, Porky Pig, Yosemite Sam, and Daffy Duck. (“Cowboy Logic” was originally released as a single and music video for Murphey in 1990.)
The 10-song collection includes such Western standards as “Back in the Saddle Again,” “Happy Trails,” “Cattle Call,” “Cool Water,” and “Home on the Range.” In addition to Murphey, performers include Herb Jeffries, Don Edwards, Sons of the San Joaquin, Jeff Foxworthy, Waddie Mitchell, Rex Allen Jr., Rex Allen Sr., Roy Rogers, and Suzy Bogguss.
♦ Nashville-based Hallway Entertainment is producing a documentary on the history and influence of the Gibson Guitar company. A Century of Hot Licks will be released both as a two-hour television special and as a home video/laserdisc package. It is expected to be completed by the end of next February. Spotlighted in the company-authorized documentary will be Steve Winwood, Johnny Winter, the Cranberries, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Scotty Moore, B.B. King, Les Paul, Johnny Winter, Ron Wood (Rolling Stones), Dave Stewart (Eurythmics), Tommy Iommi (Black Sabbath), Steve Howe (Yes), Mick Ralphs (Bad Company), Dave Davies (Kinks), Justin Hayward (Moody Blues), Roger Hodgson (Supertramp), Randy Bachman (Guess Who, Bachman-Turner Overdrive), Don Felder (Eagles), Nancy Wilson (Heart), and Jack Cassady (Jefferson Airplane). Gregg Hall, Hallway’s president, says a distributor has not yet been picked for the TV special. ABC Video and Image Laserdisc will handle the home video packages.
Hallway is also putting together a television special of the 25th anniversary edition of the Juno Awards, the Canadian counterpart to the Grammys. Hallway is packaging the original two-hour show into a one-hour program for distribution outside of Canada through Filmoption International, Montreal. Staged in March of this year and hosted by Anne Murray, the special featured performances by Alanis Morisette, k.d. lang, Gordon Lightfoot, the Rankin Family, and others. The awards also featured Shania Twain accepting the entertainer of the year award, as well as various inductions into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
♦ Sammy Kershaw, Kathy Mattea, Connie Smith, and James Bonamy have been added to the list of performers for “Hello, Darlin’A Tribute to Conway Twitty.” The concert, which will benefit the EAR Foundation at Baptist Hospital, will be held Sept. 19 at the Grand Ole Opry House. Although Loretta Lynn was originally scheduled to perform, she is no longer expected to because of the recent death of her husband. Performers announced earlier for the event are Travis Tritt, Joe Diffie, Tracy Lawrence, Diamond Rio, and Sam Moore. Vicki Lawrence will host the event. High Five Entertainment will tape the concert for use as a television special. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.
♦ Clarence Spalding, of Titley-Spalding Management, will speak at the Songwriters Guild of America’s upcoming Ask-a-Pro session. The meeting will be held noon Sept. 16 at the SGA office, 1222 16th Ave. S. Spalding currently manages Brooks & Dunn; his firm’s roster also includes Kathy Mattea. The event is free to SGA members and $2 for others.
♦ Pam Tillis, Kathy Mattea, K.T. Oslin, Mandy Barnett, and others will perform at a charity concert for Musicity CARES, Oct. 6 at War Memorial Auditorium. Details on ticket costs and other concert matters are available from Nashville CARES at 259-4866.
♦ AristoMedia is offering an electronic press kit for the group Shaver that can be turned into a half-hour video special. The 18-minute kit has interview and performance footage which, the company suggests, can be woven around two of Shaver’s six existing videos to make a complete 30-minute show. AristoMedia services and promotes music videos to programmers around the country.
♦ Kingsley Brock and Chris Steward have signed songwriting deals with Monk Family Music Group.