Vince Gill, Amber Digby, Craig Morgan, Jeannie Seely, Lee Brice, The Whites, Dale Watson, & Tyler FarrCountry
Norman OK | Country
"Vince Gill is quite simply a living prism refracting all that is good in country music. He uses the crystal planes of his songwriting, his playing, and his singing to give us a musical rainbow that embraces all men and spans all seasons." - Kyle Young/Country Music Foundation on Vince's induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Read more at http://www.VinceGill.com
Houston TX United States | Country
Texas claims Amber Digby, but her roots (both musically and geographically) lie in Nashville, TN. Born and raised in the birthplace of Country Music, Amber comes from a long line of Classic Country Music Royalty. Amber's father is Dennis Digby, longtime bass player in the Coal Miners, Loretta Lynn’s road band. Amber's mother, Dee, was a backup singer for artists such as Connie Smith. Amber's stepfather, Dicky Overbey, is a steel guitar legend who recorded and performed with Faron Young, Connie Smith, Hank Williams, Jr., Ronnie Milsap, and Johnny Bush. And Amber is the niece of Darrell McCall, who garnered a #1 hit when he wrote 'Eleven Roses", on top of his own solo top 40 hits.
When Craig Morgan was ten years old and on a school field trip to Nashville, he sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" well enough to catch the ear of a distinctive older lady in the crowd. "She walked up to me and said, 'Son, someday you're gonna be a famous singer,'" Morgan remembers. Two-plus decades later, he'd be looking at a picture of the woman-Minnie Pearl-in the Ryman Auditorium dressing room that bears her name, getting ready for his first performance on the Grand Ole Opry. What Minnie didn't know was that before his moment in the spotlight finally came, Morgan would be an EMT, a contractor, a sheriff's deputy and a Wal-Mart assistant dairy manager. He'd also spend ten years serving his country in the U.S. Army.
But That's Why Morgan is one of country music's most beloved performers. It doesn't matter if he's jumping out of airplanes, putting gallon jugs on a refrigerated shelf or singing hits like "Redneck Yacht Club," "Almost Home" and "Tough"-his honesty, humility and work ethic stand out as strongly as his talent. That's Why, the long-awaited follow-up to 2006's Little Bit of Life, is Morgan's fifth album and BNA Records debut. From the evocative and instantly familiar single "Love Remembers" to the rural rally cry of "Sticks" to the church-choir epic "Ordinary Angels," it's the sound of an artist soaring to new heights as both a vocalist and songwriter, but with his steel-toed boots still firmly on the ground (the same cannot be said, however, for the tires of his Kawasaki motorbike). As Music Row's Bob Oermann wrote, "Craig Morgan is country music's champion of the Everyman-a loyal husband and father, unblushingly sentimental, tough enough to kick your butt if you cross him, and the kind of friend everyone would like to have."
That's why I keep swinging this hammer...break my back for a slice of that American pie, Morgan sings on That's Why's stirring title track, his stout voice ringing out with such authority and passion that you know the sentiment is no less true now that the hammer's been replaced with a guitar. Morgan's father played in country bands (and his grandfather was a farmer), but "I didn't think music was something that I'd ever do for a living," he says. As it turns out, selling records, being on the radio and playing some 200 shows a year has only made him embrace fatherhood and family more firmly. Morgan has four children with his wife, Karen, as well as a daughter from a previous marriage; they live just a few miles from the farmland in Dickson, Tennessee, where his mother and father went on their first date. "Family truly is the thing that's most important," Morgan says. "I love the music; I love singing and writing songs and producing records. But ultimately, I do what I have to do to take care of my family. Even someone who has the greatest job in the world would rather spend more time at home. I know I would, and I have the best job in the world."
He's certainly become quite good at it. "That's What I Love About Sunday," from Morgan's 2005 album My Kind of Livin', was the most played country song that year. Three songs off of Little Bit of Life (the title track, "Tough" and "International Harvester"), enjoyed stays in the Top 10, and he was nominated for Top New Male Vocalist by the Academy of Country Music in both 2006 and 2007. Truth is, you can't tune in to a country station anywhere in the United States without hearing a Craig Morgan song within the hour. But he's also just a bit like that great actor everybody knows and recognizes from a big successful movie, yet can't quite place on sight. Oh, that guy! "People know the music," Morgan says. "When they come to my shows, they might know the latest single, or they may know a previous single. But sometimes I can read their lips: they're going, 'oh, I didn't know he sang that one!' Or, 'I forgot about that song!'"
The move to BNA from indie Broken Bow (after a heated bidding war) is bound to change that quickly. It's a full-circle move for Morgan, who released his self-titled first record for Atlantic Nashville in 2000, but declined to stay with Warners when the imprint folded. Instead, he went on a five-year run as country's most successful independent mainstream artist. Even in this troubled time for the recording industry, Morgan welcomes the additional support and distribution oomph of a more established label. "I went to an independent when everybody thought it was crazy, and now I'm going to a major when everybody thinks that's crazy," Morgan says. "I'm hoping this one works out as well as the first decision did."
Morgan and his longtime friend and partner Phil "Philbilly" O'Donnell have always been actively involved in choosing the songs they didn't write themselves, and always co-produced the records. "Producing is an aspect of the business that I love, because there's a creative process that takes place in the studio, outside and away from the writing and the singing," he says. Nothing's changed this time around. "We did all the same stuff we've done on the past three records. The only difference is, we get pitched better material. Both the writers I already know and people that I haven't written with, because of the success we've had, have started pitching me great songs."
Morgan's gift is for, as he puts it, "real-life stuff." His eye for the everyday, whether he's trying to make sense of a world where kids want iPods for Christmas instead of BB guns, or describing girls with ponytails tucked in their baseball caps, is so unerring that it's easy to overlook just how much goes into the songwriting. On the aching, piano-and-steel tinged ballad "Lookin' Back with You," Morgan spins today's most precious moments into tomorrow's cherished memories-nearly every line is ripped right from his life, but every line is also the work of an exquisite craftsman, whether he's going for humor, pathos or a mundane detail. When my new truck is my old truck/and I take off these big old tires/and it's our turn to slow down traffic everywhere, he sings. Elsewhere, "Sticks," with its bluegrass bar band vibe, seems destined to supplant John Mellencamp's "Small Town" as an American classic of both rock'n'roll and country. I was raised in the sticks/that's where I get my kicks ... tailgatin' with my buddies/boots and dog and tires all muddy. And if Morgan keeps writing songs like "Planet Her" for Karen, he may not ever need to get her birthday presents. "Ah, she's not much for the music," he jokes. "She'd still rather have a Corvette."
On "Lookin' Back with You," Morgan envisions the two of them in "Cracker Barrel rockers" but it's probably safe to say he isn't ready to trade in his KX-450 yet. Before most concerts Morgan jumps his bike across the stage; he attended the 2006 ACM Awards on crutches after crashing in a race. At the same time, he's also famously at home going 5 mph on a combine (International Harvester is now one of Morgan's sponsors). "I find great comfort and ease of mind at both," he says. "The great thing about being on a tractor is it slows your world down a little bit. Your thought process changes. It gives you a chance to reflect. On the motorcycle, I'm not thinking about anything but riding. For me, relaxing is getting on my motorcycle and going as fast as I can and as long as I can through the woods."
Needless to say, Morgan's full-on personality made him well-suited for the military. He spent 10 years on active duty in the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions, and goes overseas to perform USO shows every chance he gets. "Sometimes you walk away feeling regret: that I should be there with them still," he says. "But I'm starting to appreciate what I can do now for those men and women outside of being a soldier. Doing stuff for the USO will always be a priority for me." Morgan received the 2006 USO Merit Award for his involvement, joining the likes of Steven Spielberg, Elizabeth Taylor, and Bob Hope as a recipient.
As with the touring, being in the military made him value home and family as much as ever. And he still runs his country music operation like an Army unit. "My dad and mom raised me to be grateful and thankful and appreciative," he says. "They always told me, if somebody loans you something, give it back in better shape than what you get it in." Thus, Morgan and the band and road crew sweep the stage before and after shows, and are not likely to ever get an angry phone call from a motel clerk. After most gigs Morgan's right there with them loading up the truck. "Something in my genes and my blood requires that I work-right or wrong, it makes me feel like a man," Morgan says with a laugh. "People ask me how I stay grounded ... man, I go home and I still mow my own grass. I clean my own pool. I have kids that I get onto and play with and love the same as everybody else. I will always be that same guy. Just like the people who buy our records and listen to our music."
Titusville PA | Country
Along with many accolades including awards from Billboard, Cashbox and Record World, country music legend Jeannie Seely has achieved No. 1 songs as a solo artist, as a duet partner and as a songwriter. Her deeply moving vocals earned her the nickname of "Miss Country Soul".
Jeannie’s recording of "Don’t Touch Me" not only topped the charts, but also earned her a Grammy Award for the "Best Country Vocal Performance by a Female". It is ranked at No. 97 in the book "Country Music’s 500 Greatest Singles" published by the Country Music Foundation, and also included in "The Stories Behind Country Music’s All-Time Greatest 100 Songs".
Born in Titusville, Pennsylvania, and raised on a farm outside of nearby Townville, Jeannie was singing on Meadville radio station WMGW at age 11, and by 16 was performing on TV station WICU in Erie. When she moved to Nashville upon the encouragement of friend Dottie West, Jeannie only had $50 and a Ford Falcon to her name, but within a month Porter Wagoner hired her as the female singer for his road and television series.
Lee Brice is a man whose time has come. On his stunning sophomore album, Hard 2 Love (Curb Records), the four-time Academy of Country Music nominee demonstrates a new maturity and patience, both in his songwriting and vocals.
“I made my first album, Love Like Crazy, over six years,” explains the South Carolina native, lifting his trademark turned-around ball cap and rubbing his forehead. “It didn’t feel like a cohesive record, but more like a lot of different songs. And six years later, I’ve grown as an artist and a writer.
“Everything on the new album is very pertinent to who I am right now and where I am in my life. I have some very personal stuff on there, and I had to be really honest with it. Hopefully, folks will see that.”
Certainly radio listeners are already aware of “A Woman Like You,” a married couple’s starkly honest meditation on love and devotion. Immediately upon release, the mid-tempo ballad became iTunes’ number five most-purchased song and sold more than 30,000 copies a week. Not bad for a first single off an album. “It’s moving faster than anything I’ve ever had,” Brice says with a smile in his warm, familiar baritone. “It’s just so real.” As “A Woman Like You” suggests, Brice presents himself throughout the album as a man who fully knows who he is and steps up to own it. He co-produced every track, bringing in friends Kyle Jacobs, Jon Stone, Doug Johnson and Matt McClure to share production duties on various cuts. “At 32, I’m growing up, and I’ve done a lot more singing, not just in the studio but live. I’ve done about 200 shows a year for the last five years, and I realized that you can move people and peel their faces back without necessarily screaming at them. I’m just learning there is a patience that you gain with experience and I’m trying to dig in. You could be a great singer or performer, but it’s the whole package that makes an artist. It starts with the music that’s out there.”
As co-writer of eight of the thirteen tracks on Hard 2 Love, Brice has aimed for strong melodies and smart, emotional storytelling that aims straight for the heart of the human condition: the bluesy sigh of “See About a Girl;” the tailgate reverie of “Parking Lot Party;” the bittersweet tug of love in “Seven Days A Thousand Times;” and the down-on-your-knees gratitude of “One More Day.”
Much of Brice’s new self-awareness comes from his engagement to longtime girlfriend Sara Reeveley. The two have a son, Takoda, “a Mini-Me...a Mini-Lee,” as his father describes him, chuckling.
“The last year and a half opened my eyes to really how amazing Sara is,” Brice explains. “But I had to be ready, and something just happened over the last six months. I realized just how much I miss her. I used to love being on the road, but now I want to get home to see her. And I can’t stand being away from Takoda. He needs his daddy. I’ve gotten to the point where my family means everything to me. I just bought my first house and my goal is for us to spend next Christmas there together.”
While Sara and Takoda are the inspiration for some of the most memorable songs on the album, Brice’s writing has been lauded in industry circles for some time now. Early credits include “Still” for Tim McGraw, “Not Every Man Lives” for Jason Aldean and “Crazy Days” and “What it Takes” for Adam Gregory. “Crazy Girl,” which Brice co-wrote with Liz Rose, and which was a number one hit for the Eli Young Band, was recently nominated for an ACM award in the prestigious “Song of the Year” category. “Crazy Girl” was Billboard’s number one country song for 2011.
Yet the amiable and (at six-foot-three) imposing artist had already made history twice. Garth Brooks’ “More Than A Memory,” which Brice co-wrote with Billy Montana and Kyle Jacobs, became the first song on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart to debut at number one. Then, the title track off of his own album, Love Like Crazy, was named Billboard's most played country song of 2010. It still holds the record for the longest-charting song in the history of Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart.
Writing since he was literally a child growing up in Sumter, S.C., Brice was fascinated by music. By age seven, he’d balance himself at his Aunt Henrietta’s upright piano to plunk out gospel tunes and make up his own melodies. Filled with the joy and power of music, he performed first for his family and then at church.
In high school, the sounds of such country artists as Garth Brooks, Hank Williams, Jr., Alabama, The Oak Ridge Boys and Vince Gill vied with pop icons Aerosmith, Guns N’ Roses, Pearl Jam and Tupac Shakur for his attention. Though he soaked up the varied styles, it was Brooks’ story-driven songs that most moved him and influenced his own original music. His classmates took notice: For three years running, he captured the high school talent pageants, while also distinguishing himself as an All-Conference football player.
Still, Brice might have gone on to become a civil engineer had a football injury not derailed him at Clemson University. Recuperating from surgery on his arm, he reevaluated his life goals and dreams: It was music, not engineering that drove him.
Recalling a spring break in Nashville when producer Doug Johnson promised to help him should he move to town, he left school and packed his bags. Johnson made good on his offer, later arranging a writing deal for him with Curb Music Publishing.
The first year, Brice co-wrote some 150 songs. With his knack for inhabiting and not just delivering a song, the buzz around town was that Brice was a talent on the rise. His tours with Willie Nelson, Jamey Johnson and Luke Bryan bore that out.
And yet it’s only now that it has all come together... big nominations, large tours, first house, a wedding in the wings, and Hard 2 Love, the album on which Lee Brice finally gets to say, “Here’s who I am, in all sides of my personality. I hope you’ll like me.” Chances are, you already know the answer.
"There's nothing like playing music to bring a family together," says Sharon White, but that's not exactly right; over 30 years have shown that the music of The Whites - sisters, Sharon and Cheryl, and father Buck - has just as much power to bring audiences together in a feeling that resembles that of one giant, extended family.
The story of The Whites begins in Texas, when a young Buck White started his musical career not long after the end of World War II, working the dance halls and radio shows in a succession of bands. Honky-tonk music called for the piano and the bluegrass mandolin, and so he became proficient on both, absorbing the many varieties of Texas country and blues to fashion his own distinctive style - one that kept him in steady demand as a sideman throughout the 1950s. In 1961, tired of the rough-and-tumble life of a honky-tonk musician and wanting to raise his family in a more wholesome environment, White moved to Arkansas. Yet within a matter of months, he and wife Pat were once again making music, forming a band with another couple that eventually called themselves the Down Home Folks. As Sharon and Cheryl grew, they, too, were drawn to music ("Mama said I could carry a tune before I could talk," Sharon recalls.) at first forming the Down Home Kids with the children of other Down Home Folks members in the mid-1960s, then moving up to join their parents in a growing number of bluegrass festival appearances.
The first big turning point for the Whites came in 1971, when a successful trip to Bill Monroe's Bean Blossom festival convinced the family that the time was right to move to Nashville and pursue a more serious music career. Though Pat retired from the band in 1973, the move paid off as Buck White and the Down Home Folks began their recording career, featuring the striking family harmonies and top-notch instrumental work that has characterized their music ever since. The remainder of the decade saw them make a steady ascent in the world of bluegrass, recording five acclaimed albums for various labels and working a busy touring schedule, even as they gained a toehold in the country music field thanks to their powerful vocals and broad repertoire. The former, in particular, attracted the attention of Emmylou Harris, who brought them in to sing on her Blue Kentucky Girl album of 1979 and then took them on the road with her as an opening act.
The early part of the 1980s brought The Whites - by then renamed to reflect their family ties - to national prominence as their simple, traditionally-rooted yet dynamic sound put them on Billboard's country charts with a succession of Top 20 hits. Favorites like their first Top 10, "You Put The Blue In Me," as well as "Hangin' Around," "Give Me Back That Old Familiar Feeling," and "Pins And Needles," - the latter all produced by Sharon's husband, Ricky Skaggs (the two married in 1981) - introduced them to new audiences, culminating in the induction as members of the Grand Ole Opry in 1984.
Since then, The Whites have entertained and inspired literally millions of listeners at thousands of personal appearances with their unique sound. Time has also brought renewed attention to Buck White's mandolin playing; as bluegrass historian Neil V. Rosenberg recently said, "insiders have long known of his prowess," and with his appearance on Bluegrass Mandolin Extravaganza, released in 1999, a wider audience has been introduced to his masterful style and compositions.
Their first release for Skaggs Family Records, A Lifetime in the Making, (produced by one of their former sidemen, the legendary Jerry Douglas) proves once again The Whites are among the top ranks of artists able to combine a respect for - and mastery of - traditional country and bluegrass. "We're always falling between the cracks when it comes to styles, but that's just the way our music is. We have dobro, fiddle, and mandolin on this album, as well as some piano. It has the same kind of feel as those singles we made back in the early 1980s, but it's as bluegrass as anything The Whites ever did." Released in the fall of 2000, A Lifetime in the Making received substantial critical acclaim, winning an INDIE Award for 'Best Country Album' (2001), as well as a Golden Voice Award at CMA Music Festival's third annual awards show in Nashville.
In 2001, acoustic music blasted onto the mainstream with the smash hit movie and soundtrack, O Brother Where Art Thou? Buck and the girls were hand selected among bluegrass music's finest to participate in the soundtrack and appear in the film. The Whites were recognized at the International Bluegrass Music Association's (IBMA) Awards Show in 2001, where they won two awards including the well-respected 'Album of the Year' honor. In November of 2001, The Whites were recognized at the 35th Annual Country Music Association (CMA) Awards in the highly esteemed 'Album of the Year' category. Their involvement in the film and soundtrack brought further acclaim the following year, including the highest industry honor achievable - a GRAMMY Award - in the revered 'Album of the Year' category; as well as the 'Album of the Year' nod from the Academy of Country Music (ACM). Along with all the industry accolades, The Whites made numerous appearances in promotion of O Brother, including their involvement in the first 18-city 'Down from the Mountain' tour, a stop at David Letterman's "Late Show" with fellow O Brother artist, Dr. Ralph Stanley, and a featured spot on the follow up tours - the 40 plus city 'Down from the Mountain' summer tour in 2002 and the 'Great High Mountain' tour in the summer of 2004.
In 2007, after years of blending their voices from the living room to the stage, The Whites teamed up with Ricky Skaggs on Salt of the Earth, their first collaborative effort, which earned them a Grammy Award for Best Southern, Country, or Bluegrass Gospel Album and a Dove Award for Bluegrass Recorded Album of the Year. Buck, Sharon, Cheryl, and Ricky share lead vocals with Skaggs' award winning band Kentucky Thunder laying the foundation for their tight family harmony. Traditional hymns, a few familiar favorites, and brand new treasures flow throughout the album providing an intimate look into the heart of one of music's most beloved families.
In 2008, proud Texans Buck, Sharon, and Cheryl received the ultimate honor from their home state with their induction into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame. For those who have heard The Whites before, that's good news indeed - and for those who haven't, it will be an exciting introduction to a rich, yet comfortable musical world. They may not use the name anymore, but Buck, Sharon, and Cheryl White are still creating music that's as good and as real as everything conjured up by the phrase "down home folks."
Austin TX | Country
Though Dale Watson’s recording career spans two decades, the maverick country traditionalist has never before released an album like this. “There’s nothing here that’s retro,” insists Dale of Carryin’ On. “I was really hoping to make a record with today’s technology, but with the musicians who played on the music I grew up on. I’m pretty happy with the way we’ve merged today with yesterday on this album. It will remind people of the old records, but it sounds like something new.” The new album on a new label marks a fresh start for Watson, a major leap from the hardscrabble honky-tonk that has won him an international following, earned him induction into the Austin Music Hall of Fame and established him as a leading crusader against the “Nashville Rash” plaguing the country music industry. Without compromising his musical values, he sounds here like a singer with nothing to prove and no one to fight. The angry young man has matured. The result, says Dale, is “the pinnacle of what I
Tyler Farr was born and raised in the small town of Garden City, Missouri. The singer was first introduced to country music at age 16, when he spent a summer on the road with his stepfather, who played lead guitar for country icon George Jones. Farr grew to love country music, and he decided to make the move to Nashville to pursue a career as an artist.
He landed a job working as a bouncer at the legendary Tootsie's Orchid Lounge for five months until he was able to convince the management to let him sing. For the next few years, he would play the Tootsie's stage four nights a week, in addition to working security at the door.
An avid outdoorsman, Farr found a friend in award-winning songwriter and fellow outdoorsman, Rhett Akins. Rhett had heard some of Farr's music, and he wanted to work with him. After writing with some of the best songwriters in Nashville, Farr eventually landed a publishing deal with Sony ATV/Monument Publishing, and it was that connection that ultimately helped him land his recording contract on Sony Music Nashville's BNA Records.
In addition to recording and songwriting, Farr has toured extensively with Colt Ford, for whom Tyler wrote the song, "Hey Y'all," as well as opening for Jerrod Niemann and Lee Brice in early 2011 on The Higher Education Tour. Tyler's four-song digital album, Camouflage - EP, is available now.