1. Greetings & Happy 2014!
*Today would have been Elvis’s 79th birthday, so we’ll dedicate this newsletter to Elvis fans and music lovers everywhere—and to everyone who’s been touched or influenced or affected by Elvis in some essential way. In other words, here’s to everybody!
(The January newsletter’s story of the month is a salute to the flesh and blood, real Elvis. Check it out below….)
*This was written and posted on January 8.
a. Introducing the New Agrarians: CD pre-release
Pierce Pettis and Kate Campbell are two of my all time favorite singer-songwriters. At Pierce’s suggestion, we got together, wrote a batch of soulful songs, and last year we somehow recorded an album. Now we’re making pre-release copies available to our friends and fans. Hell yeah.
The album, wouldn’t you know it, is called “The New Agrarians,” and it is subtitled “Songs & Stories of the American South.”
We’ll be waving a promotional flag for it in the months ahead, putting up a new website etc. In the meantime, pre-release copies are available now at my website, HERE.
This entire project’s been a real labor of love, and I pray you’ll enjoy it.
b. Waymores CD to radio… at last!
Don Henry, Sally Barris and I make up The Waymores. Last year we released our self-titled debut album, and we’re kicking off 2014 with an honest to God radio promotion. The album ships to stations on January 20, and we’re hoping (fingers crossed) that radio will love it half as much as we do. Airplay is a wonderful thing.
c. Ireland Tours Summer 2014
Seats remain on my July 26-August 4 tour of Counties Mayo, Galway and Clare. If you’ve longed to visit the Emerald Isle, this is an exceptional way to take in its deep soul, impossible beauty and heart stirring music. Those of us on past tours have been touched, entertained, inspired and changed in the sweetest ways.
For all the info click HERE.
[Note: my August tour has sold out.]
d. Posi Music Fest & Awards January 17-20
Next week I’m off to Orlando, FL for the 9th Annual emPower Posi Music Festival and Totally Cool Song School.
I’ll also be teaching 2 classes at the festival’s “Totally Cool Song School” on January 16 and 17. All the info’s HERE (including link to registration).
e. Song to be featured on PBS and BBC
My song “When You Know” (co-written with long time collaborator Jeff Franzel) was the title song on a 2008 album by four time Grammy-winning jazz great Dianne Reeves. Since then it’s been a staple in her shows, and in November her performance of the song at the Kennedy Center was filmed for a documentary called “American Voices,” which will air later this year on PBS as part of its “Great Performances” series.
(Jeff called me New Year’s Day with the news. I’m taking it as a positive sign for the coming year!)
3. Drawing Board for the New Year
With the New Agrarians CD release and the Waymores album being promoted to radio, it’s time now for me to turn my attention to…
a. …recording a new solo album
b. …and publishing my long-in-the-works songbook.
As my Waymores partner Don Henry is fond of saying, “Gonna make it happ’n Cap’n!”
4. TK Story of the Month: On the Occasion of Elvis’s Birthday
A quick note on the story:
Elvis would’ve been seventy-nine years old today. He was born right here in Tupelo, Mississippi in 1935, not too far from where I’m writing this newsletter.
I was recently asked by a local newspaper to write a little something about my earliest memory of Elvis. After sending in a few words for print I did a little more reminiscing.
“On the Occasion of Elvis’s Birthday”
I was born in Memphis in 1953, and my mother became one of those young women who thought Elvis belonged to her. And while I surely first heard Elvis in Memphis on local radio and my mother’s suitcase record player, it was as a small boy in Alabama that I began to get far too much attention doing a living room song and dance rendition of “Hound Dog.”
Today, on what would have been Elvis’s seventy-ninth birthday, my most vivid early Elvis memory is of being completely captivated while listening alone in my bedroom one afternoon to my mother’s treasure trove of vinyl and hitting upon his killer cover of Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally” (from Elvis’s second RCA album). I was on fire!
I remember the weight of the record in my hand, the texture of the cover, the sound of the needle on the album’s surface between songs… the exploding downbeat of “Long Tall Sally!” Magic!
Over the years I’ve often felt like something of a missionary for Elvis’s early work—I own every track he recorded before he was drafted into the Army in 1958, and countless times I’ve encouraged unschooled peers and young songwriters and musicians to immerse themselves in that music.
This year, on his birthday, I find myself living in Elvis’s hometown of Tupelo, and what is now perhaps most significant to me about Elvis is the fact that of everyone I’ve met here in town who has a personal Elvis story—and there are more than a few—and of all the musicians and singers I’ve met in Nashville over the years who knew Elvis or worked with him—I’ve never known a single person to speak ill of him. In fact, quite the opposite. He’s spoken of with sincere reverence and affection. His generosity of spirit is well known, and around here most everyone knows of someone who was a beneficiary of a gift or other kindness.
I’ve often said that everyone who visits Graceland should be required to drive on down to Tupelo and visit Elvis’s birthplace. It’s a tiny two room whitewashed wooden crackerbox of a house, and if Graceland is one end of the American Dream, surely the little cottage in Tupelo is the other.
So here’s a salute to a man who lived a nearly impossible and all-too-short life between the two extremes of that dream, and in so doing somehow shaped contemporary popular music and culture like no other.
Thank you, Mr. Presley.
5. January Food for Thought: Elvis, in his own words
“Animals don’t hate, and we’re supposed to be better than them.”
“When things go wrong, don’t go with them.”
“Truth is like the sun. You can shut it out for a time, but it ain’t going away.”
“Friends are people you can talk to… without words when you have to.”
“…the image is one thing and the human being is another…it’s very hard to live up to an image.”
“I’ve come too far, and I don’t know how to get back.”
6. Recommended: Early Elvis!
The two essential Elvis albums in my collection:
a. The Sun Sessions
This is where it all started. The raw energy is astonishing. You can hear the music of a generation literally taking shape in Sun’s little Memphis studio. Elvis on acoustic guitar, Scotty Moore on electric guitar and Bill Black on double bass equals many times over the sum of their parts.
b. The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Complete 50s Masters
This 5 CD boxed seat contains every still-existing recording made by before he was drafted into the army in 1958. An astonishingly good collection.
(Note: This RCA box also contains all tracks from the Sun Sessions album I recommend here, and it can often be found online for less than $30. Deal of the century!)