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Tom T. Hall once said that music awards involved finding out you were in a contest you didn't realize you had entered, then being disappointed when you found out that you had lost.
Music charts can be like that as well, and there are plenty of charts these days. Right now, my new CD, The Lloyd Green Album, is No. 1 on the Roots Music Report chart and nowhere at all on the Americana chart. And my new duo CD with Eric Brace, The Master Sessions, is in the Top 40 of the Americana chart and nowhere at all on Roots Music Report. The previous Eric Brace and Peter Cooper album, You Don't Have To Like Them Both, made it into the Americana Top 10, and a song from it was No. 1 on the Folk DJ chart. My debut album, Mission Door, went to No. 2 on the Euro-Americana chart, a situation that caused me to ponder what on earth the Euro-Americana chat was, and then to be jealous of whoever it was that was at No. 1.
Mind you, I'm not complaining a bit. If I wasn't interested, I wouldn't know any of this stuff. And I have in the past and present hired people to promote the music to interested radio stations. I am always thrilled when music is played on the radio: Last weekend, I heard the should-be Country Music Hall of Famer Jack Clement introducing a song of mine on Sirius/XM radio, and I won't even pretend that such a thing isn't meaningful to me. Music of the sort that I make, that Eric and I make and that most of my songwriting heroes either make or made isn't in fashion at Top 40 country stations these days. That's no knock at those stations, although I can certainly knock ("Farmers Daughter" is Top 10, and Jamey Johnson isn't?). Contemporary country is whatever it is, and if it wasn't raking in listeners and advertisers being what it is then it would be something else.
Being interested in charts doesn't mean I think music's worth is bound to those charts. Some of my favorite records are Willis Alan Ramsey's self-titled debut, Eric Taylor's Scuffletown, Joe Henry's Kindness of the World, Guy Clark's Old No. 1 and The Wright's current Red and Yellow, Blue and Green, none of which were/are chart successes to my knowledge. Music is music, not sports. The cream doesn't necessarily rise. And I also accept the argument that in music there's no cream: I don't go home and listen to Justin Bieber, whereas plenty of 15-year-olds do. That doesn't mean that my opinion is worth more than any of those kids' opinions, anymore than it means that my Tuesday vote is worth more than yours.
Mostly, I'm happy to be out there playing music on stages. My bucket list stage was always Nashville's Ryman Auditorium, and I got to play there recently, singing with Eric and opening for Don Williams. Keith Urban, who does fine on all sorts of charts, texted me the day of the gig to say, "Don't be nervous... it's just the (something or another) Ryman!!!!!!!!!!" The building's excellence isn't merely a product of its historical import. Playing that stage feels like playing inside of the world's biggest guitar. The sound is all-enveloping. Plus, the audience was enthusiastic and kind, and my boy, 6-month-old Baker Cooper, took a bow at set's end. Took me 40 years, took him half a year. Again, that's no knock. He's a good looking young man, and he's already singing along to Tom T. Hall.
What else is going on? Glad you asked, or glad to ignore the fact that you didn't. Works either way. I'm having a ball, playing shows all over the place. Eric and I have plotted out the rest of our year, with duo shows on the east and west coasts and in the midwest, and I'm ending the year in my native South Carolina. And I have completed tracking on next year's major project, which is likely to be called I Love: Tom T. Hall's Songs of Fox Hollow. It's a tribute to Tom T's great children's album, and it features performances from Tom T., Patty Griffin, Buddy Miller, Duane Eddy, Bobby Bare, Fayssoux McLean, Jim Lauderdale, Elizabeth Cook, Tim Carroll, Gary Bennett, Yours Truly, Eric Brace, Jon Byrd and many more. Lloyd Green is on steel, Jen Gunderman plays keyboards, and there's a rhythm section of Mark Horn and Mike Bub. It'll come out as a co-endeavor of Red Beet Records and the Country Music Hall of Fame. And it's just about my favorite thing in the world, chart or no chart.
In the meantime, please drop me a line if you've anything to mention. I'll answer all mail sent to this website, from gig inquiries to complaints.
Yours in Chartdom,