Expanded Box Set With New Black Country Artists

May 31, 2024 - News

In April, Beyoncé and Shaboozey made history on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. First, Beyoncé became the first Black woman to top the chart with “Texas Hold ‘Em.” The following week, “Texas Hold ‘Em” was replaced at the chart’s pinnacle by Shaboozey’s “A Bar Song (Tipsy),’ marking the first time two Black artists have held the chart’s top spot consecutively.


See latest videos, charts and news

See latest videos, charts and news

Beyoncé’s Cowboy Carter album also featured Black country artists past and present, including pioneer Linda Martell (the first Black woman artist to perform on the Grand Ole Opry) and newcomers Brittney Spencer, Willie Jones, Tanner Adell, Tiera Kennedy, Reyna Roberts and, indeed, her Hot Country Songs successor Shaboozey.

The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and Warner Music Nashville aim to add deeper, historical context to these accomplishments with the expanded version of the boxed set From Where I Stand: The Black Experience in Country Music, a collection that spotlights the creative works of Black country and Americana artists in country music. The Hall and Warner Music Nashville had originally released the three-CD set in 1998.

Out today (May 31), the updated collection boasts more than 80 songs, spanning approximately a century of country music, and features an added fourth CD that highlights music from Black country and Americana artists that have emerged since 2000. The compilation is joined by an online experience, as well as a concert.

Rissi Palmer, whose 2007 song “Country Girl” is included on the updated set, says she has often referenced the original boxed set for her groundbreaking Apple Music radio show Color Me Country, which spotlights the music, stories and perspectives of country artists of color.

“It’s such an iconic thing to be a part of, because it really does tell a great story about our involvement in country music from the very beginning,” Palmer tells Billboard. “I hope that people who are loving Cowboy Carter and Shaboozey, that they take this project and are like, ‘Let me dive deeper. Let me see all of the amazing Black artists who have contributed to and helped build this genre.’”

“With Beyoncé and Shaboozey, it’s reinvigorated and rekindled the discussion, and it’s at the forefront of pop culture right now,” the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s vp of museum services Michael Gray tells Billboard.

From Where I Stand: The Black Experience in Country Music was originally released at the urging of Black country artist Cleve Francis and American Baptist College exec Nelson Wilson.

Though Black musicians directly influenced the sounds of country music pillars, including The Carter Family patriarch A.P. Carter, Jimmie Rodgers and Hank Williams — while the banjo itself also has West African origins — the music, creativity and influence of Black country artists have largely gone unrecognized for decades. Even in the commercial origins of country music, record executives divided the sound of country music along racial lines, classifying them as either “hillbilly records” or “race records,” based on a marketing construct. While Charley Pride became country music’s first Black country superstar in the 1960s and 1970s, it would be decades before another Black country artist, Darius Rucker, would become a mainstay hitmaker in the format, notching his first No. 1 country single in 2008.

Palmer herself notes that she first became aware of the music of Martell, whose 1969 song “Color Him Father” serves as the namesake for Palmer’s radio show, in the early 2000s, after taking part in the CMT documentary Waiting in the Wings: African-Americans in Country Music: “That was my first glimpse that there had been Black women country performers — because up until that point, all anybody talked about was Charley Pride. So if you’re not digging super-deep, you would think that the only Black contribution to country music was Charley Pride.”

The first disc in From Where I Stand: The Black Experience in Country Music explored the work of Black artists in the pre-World War II string band era, featuring songs from harmonica player DeFord Bailey, the first Black man to perform at the Grand Ole Opry, as well as music from Mississippi Sheiks, Lead Belly and The Dallas String Band. Disc 2’s Soul Country featured classics from Ray Charles, including “I Can’t Stop Lovin’ You” from his groundbreaking Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, and “Down on the Farm” from Big Al Downing — as well as tunes from Bobby Hebb, Solomon Burke and Etta James. Disc 3’s Forward with Pride offers several songs from Pride, including “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’,” and “The Snakes Crawl at Night.” The disc also features songs from Martell, Stoney Edwards, O.B. McClinton, Ruby Falls, Herb Jeffries, Francis, Barrence Whitfield and Grammy winners Aaron Neville and The Pointer Sisters.

“When approaching updating this boxed set, there was the question of, ‘Do we go back and retool the first three discs? Do we start from scratch?’” Gray says. “We decided that the first three discs were a good representation and tell an important story, and it’s an artifact of its own time.” However, Gray says there were a few exceptions, with the addition of some obscurities discovered since the original release, including one by complete happenstance. The museum had contacted Jo Ann Sweeney about photos and ephemera on her father, Jimmy Sweeney — who was featured in its Night Train to Nashville exhibit. “She mentioned that she had made some country records in the early ‘70s — like eight sides altogether,” Gray says. “They were great, and the staff that was working on this boxed set back in 1998 maybe wasn’t aware of her, so we included her.”

New to the set is Disc 4’s Reclaiming the Heritage, spotlighting artists who have emerged since 2000, including Rucker’s 2008 hit “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It.” The new disc also includes music from 11-time Country Airplay chart-topper Kane Brown, as well as Rhiannon Giddens, Yola, “The Git Up” hitmaker Blanco Brown, Breland, Spencer, and Grammy-nominated artists Mickey Guyton and The War and Treaty.

“We tried to choose songs that would best represent the story,” Gray says. “By no means is it exhaustive. It’s not the final word on the topic. It’s not complete — we don’t pretend that in any way. But we do feel like it continues the story and is a good representation.”

The expanded set extends the work the Country Music Hall of Fame has already been doing to highlight Black artists’ work in building the genre. That includes weaving the work of Black artists throughout the museum’s core permanent exhibit, Sing Me Back Home, and introducing an exhibit highlighting session musicians, which includes the work of Willie Weeks (who has played with Stevie Wonder and George Harrison, as well as Vince Gill and Wynonna), as well as the American Currents exhibit, which has highlighted the work of Black artists including SistaStrings, Allison Russell, Joy Oladokun and the work of the Black Opry.

The new boxed set will be accompanied by an in-depth, free online experience on the Country Music Hall of Fame’s website, which also launches today. The experience will also feature music that was unable to be licensed for the physical boxed set, including the Beyoncé/The Chicks collaborative version of Bey’s “Daddy Lessons,” Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” and Al Green’s version of “For the Good Times.” The web portal also highlights new essays from artists Rhiannon Giddens and Palmer, adding them to the original project’s essays from journalists/historians Bill Ivey, Bill C. Malone, Ron Wynn and the late Claudia Perry.

“We felt, of course, that we needed to absolutely have Black voices telling their experience, and it was important to get the experience and perspective of artists who have emerged in the past 20 years,” Gray says. “Rhiannon and Rissi, they are doing the work not only as musicians, but Rissi with her Color Me Country radio show and Rhiannon doing speaking engagements and writing, all the scholarships she’s been doing.”

“The most beautiful thing to me about the Black country renaissance is that its stars, who are finally starting to get the recognition they deserve, are truly using country music the way that, to me, it was born to be used,” Giddens writes in her essay. “Their music reflects and highlights a cultural viewpoint that has been traditionally suppressed, shows the best of the American narrative, and, in the end, tells the important stories of now, for the generations of tomorrow.”

Though most of the Cowboy Carter collaborators are not on the expanded physical set, Gray says the online experience could be updated to showcase even more artists of the moment. “I do see it as a living organism,” he offers. “We’ve been getting the site ready for May 31st, but I think that’s definitely something we should consider. One thing I love about the museum is we have so many different platforms to be able to flesh out the story of country music.”

On June 18, the Country Music Hall of Fame will host a celebration concert in the CMA Theater. Led by Palmer and BMI Nashville executive Shannon Sanders, the performers’ lineup will feature Brown, Cowboy Troy, Tony Jackson, Hubby Jenkins, Miko Marks, Wendy Moten, Palmer, Rucker, The War and Treaty and Whitfield.

“This is a dream come true for me,” Palmer says. “I have long dreamed of there being an opportunity for artists from different periods to come together and play in one place and celebrate our contributions and our place in this music. It’s going to be really special. This is one of those things for the ages.”

Source link

Play Cover Track Title
Track Authors