Wonder Valley California

Telling lies and spilling whiskey on the floor

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Artist Spotlight - Richie Allbright

As my readers know I like pure country honky tonk sounds and I am always on the lookout for good stuff.

I met Richie back when I was spending lots of time in the Honky Tonks in Texas. Richie is the real deal and he has lived it friends. Richie and I discussed his new record and how it came about.

Ronnie: Richie, what do you love most about music 

Richie: That it moves us all in some way. Whether it's happy, sad, or sappy. I think good music is relatable. In a world where folks disagree on so much, music is the common ground that touches all of us because we've all lived through good times, hard times, heartaches and loss. It can bring us a smile, sadness and even peace and comfort. And if we're really lucky, it can bring about change and healing for us.  

Ronnie: I know you have spent time in Texas and Nashville.. Tell me how that has influenced your music. 

Richie: As far as style goes, I was much more influenced by the music I heard growing up in South Texas. The stuff by my heroes that made me want to play music to begin with. Of course, alot of it was made in Nashville, Bakersfield and L.A. By the time I got to Nashville in 1994, country music had changed so much that there wasn't room for guys like me anymore. The same can be said for the situation when I came back to Texas 15 years later. For a guy who's known for being obsessive about organization and punctuality, it seems that I'm always showing up 20-30 years late where music is concerned. 

Ronnie: That's not a bad thing (laughing), is the new record more Nashville or more Texas? 

Richie: Good question. Maybe a little of both. I took a couple of songs by one of my favorite Texas songwriters and friends Jarrod Birmingham with me to Nashville. Along with an old Haggard song written by the late Mark Yeary who played piano for Merle for 20 years, as well as one of my favorite Dolly songs that was written by Porter Wagoner. I only wrote one on this new "Back To Nashville"  EP. And it's a song about traveling musicians and marijuana called "Reefer Road". 

As far as production goes, I think people would call it more "polished" and less "raw" than some of my previous stuff. But I attribute that to great musicians, a great studio and great engineering and producing by Aaron Rodgers. If that makes it sound "polished" to some folks, then so be it. But it certainly isn't the kind of music that usually comes out of Nashville these days. Or Texas for that matter.

Ronnie:  I agree, hey.. Loretta Lynn recently said Country Music is dead.. what do you think?

Richie: I don't think it's dead. But it's certainly on life support. It's just harder to find, and you have to know where to look. There are many of us still playing it out here. And we'll always be here. Will we ever be what's most popular and on top again? Probably not. But there's a huge independent scene where we can exist, have creative control and if we're lucky, make a living.  

Ronnie: I was addressing that in last week's column so I wanted your input. Ya know I love the prominent honky tonk feel of the new one... What are some of your favorite honky tonks to play?

Richie: I started out playing little, smoke filled, rough joints in South Texas when I was 14. And I'm still most at home in those kind of places. I enjoy playing anywhere people want to hear real country music and the owner of the establishment supports it and treats me fairly. There are many here in Texas and other places. Some legendary ones here in Texas as you know. 

Since we've moved to New Braunfels now, I hope to play places like Gruene Hall and Riley's Tavern more. I was just up at Coupland Dancehall with my friend Jarrod Birmingham a few weeks ago and will be playing Luckenbach for the first time later this month. 

Ronnie: What's the best thing about your new record? What are you most proud of?

Richie: Other than the fact that I finally got around to recording some things that I've been wanting to cut for a long time, my favorite thing is how it all came about and was done with old friends of mine in Nashville. Some that I've known for 25 years and shared the stage with there back in the 90s. Guys who played with some of my heroes and legends. And others who I just met when I got to the studio that were also great to work with. But the best part is that Aaron Rodgers reached out to me and said "I want to produce your next record at my studio. We'll use some of our common friends that know and love you and will be glad to do it". There was no big financial backer needed. No rushing me through it to get on to the next sucker who would write a big check. No one thinking that they knew better than I do about what and who I am. 

My Wife Kim was involved as always. My 24 year old guitar player Tyler Fink got to play on an album in a Nashville studio with some of the best. These are the things that matter to me in this business. I never know which one will be my last. Could be this one. Who knows? At the moment it looks like it could be. But it's looked that way before. If it is, I'm proud that it will be part of what I leave behind in this world. 

Ronnie: Well let's hope there are plenty more, where can people download it?

Richie: All the usual places. Apple/iTunes, Amazon. Streaming on Spotify, YouTube etc. Hard copies are in the works. 

Thanks buddy, folks download Richie's new record, I guarantee you will love it.

[ Booking Info ]

Book Richie 

Richie Allbright

Kim Allbright- 361-254-2588

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Hey Loretta! You are partially right!

Just the other day this article about something one of the queens of country music Lorreta Lynn had to say about the state of country music today has been getting a lot of commentary so I figured I would write about my thoughts.

First let's talk a bit about where Loretta is coming from. Back in 2004 Lorreta was all but forgotten by the general public and the industry. Her latest record in 2000 was her first in twelve years and didn't do that well, enter Jack White of the White Stripes as producer for 2004's Van Lear Rose and all of a sudden her career is back on track. 

This should remind you of Rick Rubin's work with Johnny Cash who had also been abandoned by his record company and the Nashville establishment.  Jack White has since produced other records for country artists like Margo Price to critical acclaim. 

So as a baseline I understand where Lorreta is coming from especially as a woman because Nashville has a misogyny problem unlike producers such as Jack White and Rick Rubin. Things may be turning around, Dean Miller, son of Roger Miller has done a great record with Georgette Lennon, daughter of George Jones and Tammy Wynette. Tanya Tucker's first record in ten years produced by Brandi Carlyle and Shooter Jennings (yeah.. Waylon's kid) won Country Song of the Year at the Grammys last week.
Where I differ with Loretta, or maybe have a more nuanced view is I think the music industry in general has lost its way.

Somewhere along the way, over the last two decades, music in general has become something to work out to or just listen to on the car radio. Folks just stream play lists from Pandora or Apple Music, in fact as we know people don't buy music anymore they buy subscriptions for their background music. Classic Country is not music to work out with on the treadmill in fact that's why the bouncy pop country sounds of the day are popular. There are two kinds of music now, radio, streaming friendly and music to seriously listen to. Sure many listen to serious music through their smart buds by Apple, Google and Bose but most still stream that through one of the services.

How did all this start you might ask?  My opinion is it started with the Music Industry's wrong headed response to Napster and digital music. Had they embraced Napster and possibly even bought the company things may have been different. Think about how it would have changed the outcome if every CD purchased included unlimited streaming and MP3 files to download?  That instead of trying to sue kids and parents for copyright infringement.  This was exactly when kids (now adults) started viewing music as a commodity instead of a CD or record to cherish. 

Back now to present day.

The industry and it's talent procurement side are looking for music that is stream friendly. Bouncy pablum for the work out crowd not the serious listener. CD sales are at an all time low and it's due to decisions made years ago.

Country Music is not dead, it's just not on FM radio. Now if you want to hear Margo Price on your radio you must buy a subscription which keeps kids from buying the music they like. Subscription or a few CDs a month is the choice. Most people are choosing the former not the latter.

So now how do artists survive? Well, they have to either tour non stop selling T-Shirts they have printed or ball caps they have made or they have day jobs.  Some lately, like Margo or Kacey Musgraves, get picked up by labels (Thanks Jack White for signing Margo) but most must struggle to get CDs produced that sales of will never equal a rent payment.

I will finish with this... Good music is not dead but the music industry is dead to great musicians and that friends is damn sad.

Ronnie Ruff
Wonder Valley, California