Morgan Wallen is ‘flavor of the month’ right now.
On January 8, Wallen released his new 30-track album, aptly titled Dangerous: The Double Album – making it the first album from any country artist to be released in 2021.
This week’s Sunday Tennessean featured a full-page photo of Wallen on the cover of its Portfolio section plus a two-page feature inside. Unusually for a Country artist, Wallen was the subject of a feature article in this month’s GQ and received a three-page review in the New Yorker magazine – an addition to all the usual country music places, in print and online.
2020 was shaping up to be a disaster for Wallen: he was all set to headline his own tour with four consecutive No. 1 hits under his belt. But Covid-19 slammed the doors on touring, making it difficult for Wallen to capitalize on that momentum.
Then he made headlines, getting arrested for public intoxication and disorderly conduct outside Kid Rock’s honky-tonk in Nashville. Later, Saturday Night Live canceled his appearance for violating the show’s safety protocols after he was caught partying maskless “in close quarters” with fans in bars following an Alabama football game. However, he was invited back to SNL in December and even participated in a sketch, spoofing his own ‘misconduct. The title track, “Dangerous”, is based on his shenanigans that got him into that spot of trouble.
- Wallen’s impulses seem to have rarely steered him wrong. Except when they do.” – Dave Paulson writing in the Sunday Tennessean, Jan 10, 2021
Wallen made the most of time away from the arena stage during those months when touring was a no-no, writing and co-writing many of the thirty songs that made it to the album. Those ‘new’ tracks joined songs he had put together over the previous couple of years but had never totally finished.
Wallen’s co-writes, covers and vocal guests on the new album include some of Nashville’s hottest artists and hit songwriters: Thomas Rhett, Eric Church, HARDY, Ernest, Devin Dawson, Ryan Hurd, Niko Moon, Rhett Akins, Jason Isbell, Diplo, Josh Osborne, Ashley Gorley, Josh Thompson, Dallas Davidson and Shane McAnally. It was produced by Joey Moi (Nickleback, FGL) who also produced Wallen’s debut album, If I Know Me.
Wallen ‘teased’ several of the tracks to fans ahead of the album’s release, including “7 Summers” that became his latest No 1.
Wallen’s now-famous retro ‘mullet’ hairstyle was inspired by his dad who sported that ‘do’ in the late 80s and early 90s and Wallen found photos to prove it in his parents’ wedding album.
I expect Dangerous: The Double Album to debut at – or very close to – the top of Billboard’s Country Albums chart.
- Walmart had to publicly apologize to Wallen after several of its stores sold the album ahead of its Jan 8 release date. Wallen took to social media to let Walmart (and his fans) know he did not appreciate it. Early sales can adversely affect chart placement if they are big enough to dilute the official sales figures on the actual release date. Walmart admitted their error and said they were “deeply apologetic.”
- The Voice recently concluded its nineteenth season and Morgan Wallen is the only former contestant to have ever scored a Top Ten hit on Billboard’s Hot 100.
1990s country stalwarts McBride & The Ride’s catalog is now available for the first time in its entirety on Spotify. Albums include Amarillo Sky, Hurry Sundown and Sacred Ground featuring the band’s hits, “Sacred Ground,” “Love on the Loose,” “Heart on the Run,” “Going Out of My Mind” and more.
The band’s Terry McBride released his first-ever full-length solo effort last fall, Rebels & Angels. The project was produced by acclaimed producer and songwriter, Luke Laird and released by Creative Nation / TMc Records.
McBride & The Ride got their start with the help of Tony Brown who signed the group to MCA in 1989. Together they have five studio albums and countless singles that have been cherished throughout the ‘90s by country fans everywhere. Now, 18 years later, the original McBride & The Ride are back together and making plans to hit the road in 2021. Tour dates will be announced soon. Details about Terry McBride’s album, Rebels & Angels, and McBride & the Ride at www.terrymcbridemusic.com.
Tim McGraw is joining with FGL’s Tyler Hubbard to release a new song together. Titled “Undivided” McGraw and Hubbard have described it as an “upbeat and heartfelt collaboration” that pledges faith and unity amid the troubles that we are all dealing with at present.
“Undivided” is officially released on January 13, 2021, but both McGraw and Hubbard teased the track on Instagram.
On January 6, McGraw posted: “@tylerhubbard sent me this song a few months ago and from the first time I heard it….I knew it was one I wanted to be singing for a long time. We got together in the studio last month and created something real special. Hope y’all agree when you hear it!!”
The concept originated from Hubbard’s experience quarantining on his tour bus after testing positive for COVID-19, leading to two weeks of isolation and reflection. Hubbard co-wrote “Undivided” with Chris Loocke [pronounced ‘Lock’], a songwriter and producer as well as an in-demand guitar player.
Lyrics of “Undivided” include:
I think it’s time to come together / You and I can make a change /
Maybe we can make a difference / Make the world a better place
Songwriter Ed Bruce passed away, aged 81, on January 8. He is best-known for co-writing “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” that became a hit for Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson after they included it on their 1978 album Waylon & Willie. Bruce had earlier recorded the song himself (co-written with then-wife Patsy Bruce) and scored a Top 20 Country hit with it in 1975.
As an artist, in the 1980s, he scored a number of country hits with songs such as “You’re the Best Break This Old Heart Ever Had,” “Ever, Never Lovin’ You,” “After All” and “You Turn Me On (Like a Radio).”
He looked like a cowboy and appeared in several western movies, including “The Last Days of Frank and Jesse James” and TV westerns such as “Bret Maverick.”
On January 7, we also lost Jamie O’Hara, a songwriter whose hits included “Grandpa, tell Me ‘Bout the Good Old Days” recorded by The Judds, which earned him a Grammy. His other hits as a writer included “older Women” and “Wandering Eyes” recorded by Ronnie McDowell.
He also had a successful recording career, both solo and with Kieran Kane as The O’Kanes that charted seven singles on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles charts.
Another sad loss: Misty Morgan passed away January 1, 2021, aged 75. With Jack Blanchard she debuted on the country charts in 1969 with “Big Black Bird (Spirit of Our Love)” and scored a country No. 1 in 1970 with “Tennessee Bird Walk.” That song was nominated for a Grammy Award as Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group (they lost to Johnny Cash & June Carter).
With “Tennessee Bird Walk” Misty became the first female to be listed as Producer on a hit country song. The duo placed 15 titles on the country charts in 1969-1976, according to an article in MusicRow by Robert K. Oermann.
I Know Country Q&A from the book I Know Country by Preshias Harris www.iknowcountry.com
QUESTION: Name the singer who was released from prison on January 12, 1991, after serving 22 months of a seven-year sentence for shooting a man in an Ohio bar in 1985.
Thirsty? On January 11, Thomas Rhett and his cousin, pecan magnate Jeff Worn, launched their new ultra-premium tequila brand, Dos Primos. Spanish for “Two Cousins,” Dos Primos is a blanco tequila made from hand-harvested 100% Blue Agave sourced from estates in Los Altos and the valley area of Jalisco, Mexico.
Rhett, the reigning ACM Awards Entertainer of the Year, explained, “Our decision to create a new tequila brand grew out of just loving being with family. Dos Primos is all about who we are and what’s important to us.” More at dosprimostequila.com.
Other country artists who have gotten into the alcohol business include: Jake Owens (American Beach Whiskey), Little Big Town (Four Cellars Wine), Willie Nelson (old Whiskey River Bourbon), John Rich (Redneck Riviera Whiskey), Zac Brown (Z. Alexander Brown Uncaged Wine), Kix Brooks (Arrington Vinyards), Toby Keith (Wild Shot Mezcal), Darius Rucker (Backstage Southern Whiskey, Florida Georgia Line (Old Camp Peach Pecan Whiskey), Blake Shelton (Smithworks American Made Vodka), Kenny Chesney (Blue Chair Bay Rum), George Strait (Codigo Tequila), Miranda Lambert (Red 55 Winery), Cole Swindell (Sugarlands Shine) and Brandi Carlile (XOBC Cellars wine).
Can a Morgan Wallen brand be far behind?
Lady A has topped both the Mediabase/Country Aircheck Singles chart and Billboard’s Country Airplay chart – as well as MusicRow’s chart – with “Champagne Night” (BMLG Records) making it their 11th career chart-topping hit. The multi-week No. One is the first song from NBC’s primetime series Songland to become a radio single and can now be found on the recent expansion of Lady A’s No. One album, the Ocean Deluxe Edition available at https://la.lnk.to/OceanDeluxePR.
“I can’t believe we get to start 2021 off with a multi-week No. One….it almost feels unreal,” said Lady A’s Hillary Scott.
After serving as the guest artist for the season two premiere of Songland, they chose the winning song, “Champagne Night,” penned by the show’s mentor Shane McAnally, alongside aspiring songwriter Madeline Merlo and the trio. The song began life as “I’ll Drink to That.” Lady A and McAnally reworked the track into “Champagne Night.”
More info at www.ladya.com.
This Week In Country Music
Jan 11, 2017 Tommy Allsup passed away, aged 85. (Allsup lost a coin-toss, giving up his seat on the plane to Ritchie Valence who died in the crash on February 3, 1959, that also killed Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper.)
Jan 13, 1968 Johnny Cash recorded a show at Folsom Prison that became a best-selling album.
This Week’s Country Music Birthdays
January 11 Naomi Judd, 1946
Robert Earle Keen, 1956
January 12 Woodward Maurice “Tex” Ritter, 1905
Ray Price, 1926
William Lee Golden (Oak Ridge Boys), 1939
Ricky Van Shelton, 1952
January 13 Trace Adkins, 1962
January 14 Billie Jo Spears, 1937
January 16 Ronnie Milsap, 1943
I Know Country Q&A ANSWER: Johnny Paycheck. He was pardoned by then-Ohio Governor Richard Celeste. Paycheck passed away in February 2003
This Week’s Top 5 Songs on Billboard Country Airplay Charts
For chart dated Jan 16
- (1) “Champagne Night” Lady A
- (6) “Better Together” Luke Combs
- (2) “Love You Like I Used To” Russell Dickerson
- (5) “I Should Probably Go To Bed” Dan + Shay
- (4) “Happy Anywhere” Blake Shelton ft. Gwen Stefani
On the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart (combining radio airplay, sales data and streaming) Gabby Barrett remains at No. 1 for the 24th week. This ties her with FGL’s “Cruise” for the third-longest stay at No. 1 in the chart’s history. FGL and Bebe Rexha hold the record at 50 weeks with “Meant To Be” followed by Sam Hunt’s “Body Like a Back Road” that held onto No. 1 for 34 weeks.
Preshias Harris is a music career development consultant with the emphasis on new and aspiring artists and songwriters. Visit www.collegeofsongology.com for more details. Follow her blog at www.nashvillemusicline.com
Harris is also the author of “I Know Country” with 366 daily country music questions and answers. You can buy and instantly download your e-book copy at www.IKnowCountry.com.