ACMs Commentary : Give Them Reba, or Give Them Death

Howdy, friends.

Last night, the 53rd Annual ACM Awards aired.  I live-posted the entire event on my Facebook! Here's the full commentary from Facebook --with my added SHOW SUMMARY below.

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** Reba looks great. Don't fuck with Reba. Nobody should be fuckin' with the Reebs. Sure, the opening monologue was a little stiff but county music awards ain’t really known for their cutting edge comedy.  We're more a "situationally" funny crowd, amirite?

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** Kenny Chesney opened the show. His song didn’t do nothin' for me- however I do commend his lifelong commitment to the sleeveless shirt. His song was called “why can’t we all just get along” and one of the ways he suggested we all “chill” included to “buy a boat” — very dialed in, very poignant. NOT.

Here’s a better song that gets the sentiment right:

( John Prine, “Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore)

** Maren Morris is playing a song called “RICH." I like her. She’s not playing a country song, but who cares. If you got a catchy (good) pop song,  you won’t catch me “country shaming” nobody.

** Chris Young is playing a song, but I sadly missed it. I did catch that he was lit dramatically like he was in the band Saliva in their prime. Reba said he wrote a bunch of songs. I’ll do more research and update.

UPDATE: I didn't do more research yet.  I don't know if I will. 

** Florida/ Georgia Line is on. And they are with a woman named Bebe Rex-Ha who seems pretty talented, but who I will forever quietly ( who am I kidding? I mean publicly) smite for being on this toilet song to acquire “big” and in my opinion “temporary” — “relevance”. Those guys are the turds in the punch bowl. I will always be open to a redeeming quality in any human, let alone artist. These are turds.

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Turd people above.  Turd people below.

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** Miranda Lambert won the first thing. More on her later.

** I went and got my two liter of crisp, cold Mello Yello from the fridge and missed who this one performer guy just was. He had on a plaid shirt and I heard one line of him and he kinda looked like a Ken Doll. If anyone knows who that was..well, I’m sure he’s a nice man.

EDIT: Still don't know who this was.  A comment on Facebook just said "oh you mean the goat man."  I still do not know if I meant the goat man or not.

** update: the commercial I just saw with John Legend singing goofy ad copy for Google Assistant was a pretty stark reminder of the landscape outside popular country and the rest of the world. I change my previously open-minded opinion : everything sucks except Reba.

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** update 2.0: Applebee’s commercial using Melissa Etheridge sync causes me even more frustration.

** Reba’s back. She has a white fringe beauty on.

** Alan Jackson is doing Chattahoochee. It kinda hurts. I don’t know why. I get that we’re celebrating 20 years. More on this later, too. Oh, John Pardi took a verse.

** Sugarland look like actors hired to play Sugarland.

** Chris Stapleton won Album of the Year. He’s not there 'cuz him and his wife are delivering babies. Everyone stood and applauded the babies.

** And there's Lady Antebellum begging to stay relevant. Hate this. Wangs. I get why this woman got signed, but who looked at those other two dweeb-heads and said YES THIS! This package is IT!

(PS : full disclosure: I was once edited out of a Lady Antebellum music video and I can testify that this does not influence my opinion.)

** oh, Bono’s here. Just kidding. It’s Dierks.

I was gonna shit on this song, but it seems to me that there are images of cancer survivors flashing on the screen behind Dierks and this is possibly about his wife? I will refrain.

But it’s not a good song.

** Commercial Time again: I love the new Pepsi cans with the throwback logos.  Don't you?

** Reba’s back again. She’s wearing a velvet gown. She looks bangin’  - If she doesn't need a restraining order from her famous fan Wheeler Walker Jr by now, she will after these awards.

** Blake Shelton is up now. Reba said he was “her buddy” —

And ya know, I was ready with two (half-hearted, keyboard warrior) guns blazing to obliterate whatever garbage Blake paraded out here because I’ve always been upset when he takes huge musical mis-steps. But, turns out — he has given what I consider the smartest performance tonight and played a real country song, dialed back, and it’s worth a listen.

It’s called “I Lived It” and it gave me a little hope. (Blake didn’t write it, FYI, but doesn’t change the good cut.)

Here's a copped YouTube video of it:


** Kane Brown came on stage to make us all rationalize that Fla/ Ga Line isn’t that bad.

(They are.)

I wish a real rapper would come spank his little ass.

** Its commercial time again. I’m one liter into the Mello. I love awards shows.

** Keith Urban is on stage. Here’s what Keith has going for him: he is a fantastic guitar player and he is married to Nicole Kidman. Everything else is swirling near — you guessed it — a toilet. This song is the same song as his other toilet tune “John 3:16” with different words.

Shitfire, that was painfully uncool.

** Old Dominion won “Vocal Group of the Year” and they said “they look good, feel good, are friends, making music” and to me they “look old(ish) and like they might be shitty people behind closed doors.”  I have no insider knowledge of this fact or data other than my Scorpio senses.

** Commercials are on again. Want a hamburger. Still thinking about how uncool Keith Urban is. I feel less cool for watching that performance.  I didn't feel unbelievably cool for watching the ACMs to begin with.

** Kelsie Ballerini is on now. She is sitting in a heart-shaped light. She is singing “Tennessee Whiskey” with different words. Just kidding. Or am I. This is called “I Hate Love Songs” - it’s awful. 

** Jason Aldean is on now. He’s still rockin an earring. Oh, both earrings.  

One time I said Jason Aldean looked like a potato. I regret that because I said it out of anger and there’s a lot of great songwriters who I’d never call a potato even though they look like a potato, too.

Out of respect, ya know.

** Miranda Lambert is on now. Freshest face/ voice on there tonight.

Playing a Loretta Lynn-autographed guitar. Nice homage.

This song is called “Keeper of the Flame” and it’s catchy and dang good. That’s refreshing.

** Its commercial time again. There were no good commercials.

** Eve has come out on stage as a presenter.  Who is Eve’s manager? What is Eve doing here?

* places bets that her JAM duet way back with Gwen Stefani and friendship there got her on this random presenter gig by way of the Ol “Blake Shelton Balls By-Way” *

That song was a jam, though.  


** Little Big Town is singing Elton John.

Upsides: Elton John has great songs and they are singing them in a pretty way.

Downside: I don’t like them. Not sure anyone will remember this. Not sure I remember it and I haven’t finished typing ...

** Toby Keith is dressed like his name is Tony Keith.

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** Midland played next. They made Tony Keith look like he walked out of GQ.

Seriously: They are playing caricatures of country music and that is disrespectful and I will never drink that kool-aid.  Give me a fuh-reek-in break.

** Commercials are on again. JIF had a cute one. I wish peanut butter would become the new trendy food like Kale or Avocados. Viva La ‘Nut Butter Revolution!

** Here’s some folks I think should be in the running for host next year:

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Alex Jones

Connie Collingsworth

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 Gwen Stefani & Nicole Kidman

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** Carrie Underwood is on now. She can certainly sing her ass off. She is beautiful and powerful.

I didn’t love this song.

I also didn’t love super random guitar player man emerging in a faux sexy manner from the smoke or any of that faux stage flirtation.

I also don't give one rip about her nose.

** Ashton Kutcher and Sam Elliot from “The Ranch” are on. I freakin love Sam Elliot.

** Keith Urban just won “Vocal Event of the Year” which is a weird category I’ve never heard of. It was for his song “The Fighter” which is still kind of a toilet, but a gold-plated toilet with a warm seat. I have admittedly listened to it and been ashamed, but let it play. Keith is probably nice: I’m sorry for what I said before, Keith. Bad, uncool music happens to good people.

For those who want to know what qualifies as gold plated, warm seat, toilet:

** Here to confirm I thought “Dan and Shay” were a girl indie duo until this moment.

** Also here to confirm that I’d rather puke tequila like on a devastating 21 year old hangover than hear Dan or Shay (don’t know which is which) over-sing romantically about it ever again.

** during this commercial break, I discovered my ol' buddy Ian Noe is making hamburgers downstairs. He wants to know when Taylor Big Swifty is coming on.

** Darius Rucker is the Bruce Springsteen of over-50 black males in country music.

Yes, I died laughing at myself writing that.

Mello everywhere.

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Just fact checked to make sure: Darius is 51. He’s also a Taurus for any interested parties.

** Lindsey Vonn looks great. I hope she never sings.

** Female Vocalist of the Year is taken by Miranda Lambert. Her dress is great. Praise Jesus.

** Thomas Rhett has terrible songs. He’s playing one of them now. My opinion: If you’re gonna write sucky lyrics, you better ride them on incredible up-tempo melody. A ballad of sucky lyrics is the got-dang worst.

** Commercials again. One is for Bounty. I haven’t bought a name brand paper towel in a long time.

** Reba just came out in another velvet stunner. Meow.

** Luke Bryan is on now. There's another one who has sang some terrible songs in his day.

Side Note: a ton of people I know have told me Luke Bryan is a super nice guy and fantastic to work with. That’s worth something to me.  

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This song is called ( I assume) “I believe most people are good” and it falls into a category I have created in my mind called “Wow, that could have been a great song but wasn’t” songs — this song lives there now.  

** Ian just came upstairs with hamburgers.  Our discussion below.

Me, sighing: “This song is in my category of songs that could have been good, but just weren’t.”

Ian: “That’s not a category.  That's just every bad song, Mary.”

Well, ain't that the truth.

** Single Record of the Year: “Body Like a Back Road” by Sam Hunt. 🚽🚽🚽

** I missed this girl’s name because I was having a hard time finding the toilet emoji on my keyboard, which is real weird because I use it ALOT. She’s whatever. She’s fine.

**A Note: I’m now watching a commercial with George Clooney for Nespresso. I don’t drink coffee, but I would for that gold standard, silver fox.

** Male Vocalist of the Year : Chris Stapleton. They all stood up and clapped for the just-born babies, again.

** Kelly Clarkson is a great singer. I refuse to comment in detail on the purple sequin error on her body.

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** And Reba is a fuckin vision. Sounds better than anyone on this whole program..

** I wish they’d kiss.

** No, I don't.

** Entertainer of the Year: Jason Aldean

Immediate comment from a hamburger-wielding Ian Noe:

“Nobody’s winning”

Well, ain't that the truth.

** This Chris Jansen man is a psycho. 

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I just googled him. Well, hell - this is the “buy me a boat” guy. 🚽

But - to be fair - he did just shake me awake long enough for me to recognize nobody else has played a barn burner all night.  Points for getting my attention.  Deduction for a lyric about mountain dew, as we know we're a Mello Yello household here.

** And, I've had enough.  Run the credits. Reba, won’t you just run the damn credits.


These days, a lot of folks hate-watch awards shows.  I want to make it very clear that the above commentary is not a pointed, hate-watch.   Instead, it is very much a regular watch with my realistic commentary.  And I just realistically didn't *like* a lot of what I saw on the ACMs.

That being said, I think it is so important (for me particularly, and in the case of music, particularly) to be aware of our collective musical landscape.  When the forest catches fire, should we hate all of the trees?  Stand with our backs to the flame, til a loose ember crawls on our neck.  Hide in our own small pocket of trees, not yet burned up.  Or so we think.  

Fuck a bunch of that noise, I say.  The hardest part of healing is to face the ugliness of pain straight on.  And to me and - I will speak for an obvious, real and still very much alive audience of country music listeners -- the current environment of popular country music... hurts.   Hurts to look at it, hear it.  I think thats why Alan Jackson's throwback performance of a light song like freakin' Chattahoochee harkened a feeling of unknown-origin type sadness in me.  

To me, mainstream country music doesn't feel good.  It feels outdated.  It feels somewhere between trying-too-hard and caring-too-little.   I spend a lot of time in the car and I have listened to popular country radio stations (for the sake of that same awareness I constantly seek) and the greatest epiphany I've had?  I didn't feel sad after listening.  I didn't feel happy.  I didn't feel a thing.  (Insert me shrugging my shoulders to an indifferent instrumental melody here.)

Without the pillars of authentic (oh yes, the word pains me too because it's been so abused) mainstream country entertainers who still know how to cut a good song , whether they wrote it or not-- Miranda, Carrie, Stapleton are my three  -- we'd all just be swirling in a toilet.  I'd love to say it's not that bad, but it is.   It is that bad.

Lucky for us, artists don't have to fit the mainstream mold to be successful now.  And lucky for us, there's a whole big, beautiful world out there of brilliant artists (older ones! young ones, too!  damn beautiful stars!) that will not forfeit great writing, or their artistic merit for that temporary relevance I mentioned earlier.  The ACMs intermittent pulse likely isn't even aware of that class of artist I'm speaking of.   But I hope they are one day.   Why, why give a shit?  Because that platform (50+ years archaic as it may be) has the potential to showcase something wonderful again.  Many something wonderfuls.

In the meantime, I'll be over here dousing my Mello Yello commentary on every shitty Florida/Georgia Line spark that gets ignited.  

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Posted on April 16, 2018 .

Back from the Cave: Updates!

Howdy, friends.

Lengthly post, here.

The cave I crawled into for the holiday season has now closed. I have been shoved back into the light. It was a nice cave. There was HBO in there, a velvet Nate Berkus comforter set and an almost endless supply of crab rangoon and lo mein.

But it's real nice out here. So, hey howdy!







Photo by: Melissa Stilwell

Photo by: Melissa Stilwell

2017 was (obviously) crazy for Colter Wall. Everyone knows I've forever been his biggest fan -- so, maybe I'll be more like him (simple and to the point) in this post and not wax on about him. I'm proud of him. He worked really hard.  He toured his ass off.  And he wrote even more brilliant fuckin songs.  'Nuf said.

But our YMR TEAM?  That's who deserves some waxing on about. They worked HARD -- particularly Travis Blankenship (who spent most of his year on the road: driving, brewing throat coat tea, twisting arms, shaking hands, tirelessly accounting) -- alongside Colter) and Connie Collingsworth (who spent most of her year running between a printer, a copy machine, a mac, Fedex and a never-ending back and forth of boxes. These are two people that took time away from their personal goals and personal lives for us.  That's real shit.

While I believe that Colter's music would reach people and touch people if he was being managed by a plastic palm tree, I am grateful everyday that I get the opportunity and that the people we have with us (said in my best Tony Soprano, "on the INSIDE, in da family") are people that care like we care.

To a 2018 that leaves us even more fulfilled and exhausted than 2017!

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You can roll over to Colter's website and check out his 2018 WORLD TOUR -- which kicks off this month after a SOLD OUT one-off show with John Moreland right here in my beautiful home state!   Come see us!  TOUR DATES are : HERE

(PS.  I have a ton more to say about our team, about Nashville, about Thirty Tigers, Paradigm Talent Agency, about Dave Cobb and RCA Studio, about that entire landscape and its value --  which I edited out from this blog to put in a blog of its own.,  COMIN SOON.)


Photo by: Melissa Stilwell

Photo by: Melissa Stilwell

Taking on a management client is serious shit to me. 

I love music -- hell,  I love musicians.   I have very real friendships with many artists -- saying i love them isn't hyperbole.  I do!  I have a gazillion projects I want to do in 2018 with a diverse range of artists.  But management.  Management. Lord, I'm sighing even typing about it.  Management for me is only on the table with an artist if all the checks are checked in my neurotic self-curated management checklist.  Ian -- like Colter before him -- checked every box.

For those of you who have somehow skirted around my relentless pushing of Ian on social media as we get that train a-rollin -- He is a Beattyville, KY native with an impressive pile of songs (to say he went to the school of Prine, Dylan, Young, Merle and Tom T. Hall would be an understatement) and each tune is carried on his distinct voice.  It's not good shit.  It's great shit. It's fire.  And ya know me and my mantra -- We only fuck with fire. 

Ian has a four-song EP, Off this Mountaintop, available now.  You can get it with a quickness: on itunes: HERE , on google play: HERE or grab a physical cd directly from us: HERE.   

Ian will be joining Colter in support in Europe starting in Milan on January 30.  Tour dates: HERE.


Our YMR CO Official T-Shirts are in the webstore now!  Just sayin'  -- they rule.  Click to order!

Our YMR CO Official T-Shirts are in the webstore now!  Just sayin'  -- they rule.  Click to order!

In 2017, YMR Co. had our first ever releases!  Woo wee!  We released an EP on Appalachian coal miner / badass Justin Dean Payne and an EP on R&B southern crooner / badass David Vaughn Lindsey.  

I said it before and I'll say it again -- I couldn't be more thrilled for these two humans to be my inaugural indie label releases.  Both Lindsey and Payne are writing -- and  before I use this term, please erase all the window dressing that has been put on it -- real music about real life.   

Have you been sleeping on those?  Don't be a dummy.  Get 'em both in our webstore: HERE

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And while we're on the topic of badasses  --  Our boy Justin Payne is featured in the upcoming documentary, "The Unknown Tour" -- an incredible film about underground artists produced by my friends Billy & Jimmet.   Spoiler: I just saw the rough cut and it 'bout drove me to tears with pride.  Will keep y'all posted when it's officially released!

As for 2018?  What's coming down the pike, release-wise?  Gotta lotta stuff in my backpocket, front pocket, side pockets, up my sleeves, hell -- I might have a rabbit to pull out of an upturned top hat.   You got a musician I should hear?  Are you one?  Gonna have an open submissions period, soon -- where everyone gets a reply  -- wait for the announcement!  


* leads you down dark hallway*

* comes to a heavy red curtain *

* cue overzealous hand gestures *

"and behind this curtain, THERE's MOREEEEEE."

*flails back curtain to reveal a single empty chair at the end of a long buffet-style table completely piled with messy stacks of paper*

That's all I can really say about it.  Really.  Sure, I'm being coy -- but I'm also being honest.  I'll tell ya when I can tell ya!  Let's just put it succinctly -- I've been working on several other projects/goal that are personal to me and I hope (with some new partnerships) to talk about them soon.

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But in the meantime, you can follow me (and our gang) day-to-day via

ye olde instagram (your best bet) : HERE

ye olde Facebook (where I use less cuss words) : HERE

ye olde Twitter (where i mostly complain to airlines) : HERE.

And last, but certainly not least -- thank you for reading the first long-winded post of 2018 here at the YMR blog. So many of you fine folks have supported this very personall journey of mine -- you've bought the official YMR shirt, bought every record we've put out or even mentioned with praise or endorsed, you've left honest feedback to my queries, you've been positively present in my life -- and that is so special to me.  I know I hammer my mantra of #neverrefuseamuse -- but to each of you following along these very words right now --  you're my most important muse of all.  I can't wait to tell you about it all as we kick 2018 square in the teeth.

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Posted on January 9, 2018 .

Five Things Thursday // 06.22.17

Come back every Thursday for a little blog gift from Young M of five things that are just plain good and you oughta know about.  Some of them things are gon' be exciting news and happenings over here at YMR / Hillpeople Headquarters -- and some of them are just gon' be exiting news and happenings from out in the massive, wildly-connected world.  Plain and simple.  Let's get to it.

1. Jason Isbell's practically perfect interview on the Daily Show:


It isn't often that my long-winded ass will just say -- "Really, that's all that needs to be said."  But really - that's all that needs to be said.  

And on a personal note -- this interview cleansed my "work" palate this morning and sure was a call-to-action to keep on with the good work ( for myself as an artist and the other artists I work with) just like Mr. Isbell.  

2. The Appalachian treasure Ron Smith and this amazing 10 minute trailer for "My Blue Star" :

Ron Smith - who was first introduced to me as "Kuzzen Wyldweed" - passed away suddenly this week.  He was a true gem and an active member (and one of the most honest, sweet supporters) of the Appalachian arts and music community.  I wrote about Ron on a blog I had many years ago and interviewed him about the film he had been working on about underground hillbilly rock and roller Hasil Adkins.   We became instant friends and have been friends ever since.  In his honor, I just wanted to post this trailer, which is still fascinating and wonderful -- just like Ron was -- and you can see it below:


I will never forget Ron's kindness toward me in some very challenging moments in my life and like so many his friends, family and honestly - fans of his unique, wise commentaries on life- I'll miss him everyday.  

3. Track Preview of David Vaughn Lindsey's EP Next -- Available for Digital Pre-Order tomorrow:

// Cover Art: Connie Collingsworth. // Cover Image: Melissa Stilwell // 

// Cover Art: Connie Collingsworth. // Cover Image: Melissa Stilwell // 

I'm writing a Why I Care post about the oh-so-fuckin-talented-I-can't-stand-it David Vaughn Lindsey soon -- but in the meantime, how's about a little sneak of audio for all y'all that follow along with this blog as a nifty reward?

I am so very proud to be involved -- in any capacity -- in helping David tell this story (which in part, is a story we share) through these touching, melodic songs.  If you put that jam on up there and don't feel somethin' about chronic struggle, self-awareness, and plain ol' fuckin up - then, well -- you just ain't listening.  It's a heavy record carried by a beautiful soul.  And as DVL would say -- that's for real.

4. Justin Payne's Coal Camp project has raised over $2k toward local food banks -- and we ain't done

Huge thanks to Don Duncan and V Club of Huntington, WV for hosting this event (Colter Wall and John Clay supporting this bill) and for all the holler people who came out for this cause as well as all those who have purchased Justin's record.   You can see the whole credits list at the bottom of the "Why I Care" blog HERE --  but I'll tell you I've done more than one "pride cry" about the goodness of the human spirit and the unifying power of music and stories.

Beyond this initial amount, I know Justin has already sold all the physical cd stock I gave him -- and I'm sending another box over Nellis way soon -- so, if you've been sleepin' on it, here's your chance again:


5. Colter Wall's LP Praised as "Top 50 Records of 2017 So Far" by Rolling Stone:

While I ain't the biggest fan of "Year So Far" lists - I am a fan of a list that places Colter's record a stone's throw from Jason Isbell's new one (well, shitfire, this Five Things Thursday just went about full circle, didn't it?).  I am also a fan of a publication with the readership and size of Rolling Stone recognizing and praising a record like the one Colter made in today's music landscape.  Feels pretty good.  But to tell you the truth --I don't need nobody to tell me how good that record is or how good he is.  I've just always known.  

In case you've been sleepin on Colter's record -- or in a coma, really, if you follow along any of my psychotic social media things -- you can do that right hurr:

Google Play:


*BONUS* : Jump on the Handmaid's Tale bandwagon

I tend to think folks who appreciate good music and storytelling (and my readers particularly, you sweet angel darlings, you) also appreciate good pop culture of any kind.  So I'ma try to do an unrelated music bonus each week, too.

If ya ain't watching the Handmaid's Tale -- as my pop culture sponge boyfriend says : Get. In There. On title alone, there is a suggestion this might be a "little house on the prairie" super lady melodrama thing -- don't let it lead you astray.  It's not just some ladies -- it's women, real fuckin' strong ones.  And It's not melodrama, or even drama -- it's stark scary-ass pseudo-reality.  This show is so dark and deep on story alone, but also a chilling commentary on the political climates of the past, the present, and the theoretical future told within a tense, jarring narrative.  Brilliant casting.  Brilliant cinematography. Brilliant writing.  It's great, I tell ya!  

Got something to add?  Love some of this shit, too?  Hate some of this shit?  Comment are open below!  

Or do YOU got a THING that I should know about, but maybe don't?  I'm dangerously curious and not yet jaded -- email me: -- but be forewarned, not yet jaded does not mean not yet opinionated. 

Thanks for reading and aye,

Posted on June 22, 2017 .

WHY I CARE: Justin Payne & Coal Camp Edition

WHY I CARE is a YMR series dedicated to what so many folks behind the curtain here in this fancy music business don't elaborate on : why we really care.  This is not about how an artist performs well on social media, how an artist draws in certain markets, or how an artist's brand is so accessible. Do those things matter? Absolutely. Do I care about these variables everyday of my life in some capacity in my job as a manager? Absolutely.  Is that what drives me to put out records on an artist, take on a management client, or even help someone book a show in a backyard somewhere?  Absolutely not.  The thing that makes me go and never ever wanna stop is the WHY I CARE.   Of course, I intend to talk about lots of music-related topics on this blog, but these posts will always be the most important.  And I couldn't be prouder for the first one to be about Justin Payne.

Photo by: Melissa Stilwell

Photo by: Melissa Stilwell

Why I Care #1 : First Impressions

The first time I saw Justin Payne, he was waiting to take the stage at the V Club in Huntington, WV, wearing a hospital wristband.  

"Is that a hospital thingy on his wrist?" I asked some fat-headed guy in the crowd beside me.

"Oh yeah," Fathead told me, "That's Justin Payne. I don't know him real good, but my girlfriend said he's a real nice guy and he'd probably play if he'd been run over by a car because he's just that way."

"Ah," I said, nodding, "Does he play out a lot?"

Fathead's girlfriend leaned around the side of him to answer me, "No, he don't play out a lot.  I wish he did.  He sounds like Waylon and he even writes some of his own songs."


I will tell you that, for me --  after being on the road with Shooter Jennings for 2+ years --  "sounds like Waylon" and "writes some of his own songs" does not twist my nobs.  I love Waylon. I love folks that write their own songs.  But Fathead's girlfriend's testimony didn't leave me satiated for this obviously feverish, unwell ginger man to get his show goin' at all.

From left to right: JJ Waters ( Honky Tonk Heroes Association), WB Walker (Old Soul Radio Show), Justin Payne (ill and still amazing), Timmy Ty Childers (New Record on the Way NOW, ya oughta git it, it's real good.)   Photo by: April Cassidy

From left to right: JJ Waters ( Honky Tonk Heroes Association), WB Walker (Old Soul Radio Show), Justin Payne (ill and still amazing), Timmy Ty Childers (New Record on the Way NOW, ya oughta git it, it's real good.)   Photo by: April Cassidy

A note: I'm wrong all the time.  

Second note : I'm right after I'm wrong pretty consistently as well.

Third note: This is an example of that.

I don't remember what Justin Payne even played that night.  But I remember it was good. And I remember the crowd ate it up.  His voice -- sure, it had a Waylon honey tone to it -- but it was still unequivocally his.  The bill was overstacked, too  (always is when WB Walker runs the show because he's too good of a damn tastemaker and the reason I know well over half the good shit I know about, don't tell nobody) - and I bet I saw 12 new faces I hadn't heard play before.  But the next day, someone asked me -- "You see anything really great in West Virginia last night?" and I said, "Yeah, it was all good.  But my favorite was Justin Payne."

He still is.

Photo by : Melissa Stilwell

Photo by : Melissa Stilwell

Why I Care #2 : The Reality of Appalachia

A story unrelated to Justin Payne but totally related to Justin Payne: A lady on a plane heard my Southern accent.  She asked if I was from the South.  I said, yes, Kentucky.  She said, oh you're appa-lay-chain? Yes, appa-la-chun.  She said, oh that place has had some rough times, I've heard.  Yes, ma'am, you could say that, but I promise you more than the rough times, it's a beautiful place with wonderful people.  We talked a bit longer and she discovered I hadn't spent much time there as an adult.  And she asked, tone kind of curious and squeamish, but went on, now that you're out of there, do you think its worse or better than you did when you were there?  I paused, thinking.  And then she said to me, I mean, do they actually know how bad it is?

I think that there's a misconception that Appalachian people don't talk about Appalachian problems the way that non-Appalachian people talk about Appalachian problems.   I know, I know -- what a jumble.  But, you know what I mean?  

One of the first conversations I had with Justin Payne was about coal mining.  As soon as I found out he had a long history in the coal mines, I started in with questions.   Was clean coal real?  Does he personally care about the environment?  What are working conditions like?  What do people in his town that don't work at the mines do?  Will coal technology ever be extinct?  What about alternative energy?  How bad is it? I was basically Oprah-ing him (with no extensive television stage set or hope of winning a free car) and he obliged me.  I was the lady on the plane, and he was me.   He spoke in detail about his complex, well-founded ideas and challenged me on some of my own.  And then, he told me about his idea for this Coal Camp EP.  

In addition to the stigmas of being uneducated, wildly conservative,  and poor -- there's this added notion I come across constantly that my people, the hill people, have no semblance of self-awareness.  You think that we don't know that things are screwed up?  You think coal miners drive to work in the coal mines simply because they don't know any better?  That those men and women haven't ever critically thought on their own about things like the environment, economy, and future?   Or that we've created some folkloric monster who eats our mountain tops, or worse - we just don't notice they're even gone?  When a coal miner goes underground and never comes back out, we know what happened to him.   We're aware.  We talk.  And we're still doing -- in the cases that I consider most purely Appalachian, the cases like Justin Payne - the best that we can.

Photo by: Melissa Stilwell

Photo by: Melissa Stilwell

WHY I Care #3 : Six Beautiful Songs

This collection of songs are written by Justin Payne about his personal experience growing up in Appalachia and living, working in the coal fields and raising a family in Boone County, WV.  They're most certainly his stories.  But as most great writers do, Payne writes what he knows in this accessible way that makes his story turn quickly into our collective story.  On the second track -- Holler Home -- which is my (personally) most played song on the record -- Payne sings : 

"I've been drivin' through the night / I've been drivin' all week long

Listening to old tires whine / like a too-long highway song

Tell me will this wolf survive? / I'm a stranger coming home

Feeling lucky to be alive / I've been away for far too long

Get me back to those green rolling hills / of West Virginia

Ol rough roads  / that lead me to

my holler home ,

where I know that she'll be  / more than happy

just to see me ,

She'll be standing at the screen door / nothing but the shadows on,

back in my holler home."

Ahh.  Content sigh. Here we have this personal and universal ballad of the hard-working man.  I bet I've listened to Holler Home 100 times and particularly never tire of the line "She'll be standing at the screen door, nothing but the shadows on." -- how succinctly Justin draws a picture in the listener's mind of a woman who is both soft and stark (naked, even) and also, waiting. Not just waiting, waiting for him.  As a romantic myself and a woman who - as  I type this - waits with excitement for my own man to come home from being away, I feel you, Justin Payne.  Hell, we all feel you.

While Holler Home is my fan favorite of the moment, the other 5 songs in this collection will knock you right in the feels, too.  And like Holler Home, they're stock full of well-crafted, honest writing.  

On this record, Justin wrote what he knew -- his stories are as light as the sun coming over the Appalachian Mountains and as dark as the Dingess Tunnel.  He's a brilliant voice telling -- simply and beautifully-- some of Appalachia's complex story.   That's why I care.   And that's why you should care, too.

** Get your copy now.  All proceeds will benefit local food banks and charities in Justin's community.

CREDITS // I'm going to write another blog about the experience of cutting my first record on this label and the collaborating I've done with musicians and producers and my YMR Creative team to help me (and most honestly, carry my naive ass) to make any of my YMR releases a reality.  But for this process, I'd like to specifically thank :

Justin Payne - shit, he did write the whole damn thing

Duane Lundy - the brilliant brain behind-the-boards at Shangri-La Studios in Lexington, KY who has always been accommodating and so very open to any and all projects I've brought his way

Colter Wall - who I rely on as my songwriter of songwriters, who keeps me grounded and who I consider my ride-or-die -- and who also sang and played on this'n as well as served as a catalyst for many of the resources and newfound friends that made this possible

Kentucky John Clay - who - regardless of what I ever ask or the associated challenges involved - always comes ready to play, and did play dang near everything on this'n - and who I rely on heavily as my creative partner for his unmatched musical brain and taste

J. Tom Hnatow & Nathan Crockett - who came in the clutch to throw pedal steel and fiddle on this thing with some of the most efficient, lovely playing I ever did hear

Melissa Stilwell - a visionary -- who shot all the photos and video content -- for many long, long hours -- and has been just as personally invested in telling this story as the rest of us.

Connie Collingsworth - our art director -- who is responsible for the package design, art, and layout of this record and who I'm thankful everyday knows how to perfectly fit the aesthetic to the artist and their songs.

Bobby Simmons - our wonderful manufacturing maniac at Nashville Tape Supply - who keeps my brain train on the rails to make quick production deadlines as well as has been more than accommodating to walk me through this process so sweetly as can be as a newbie client, 

THANK YOU all from the bottom of my heart for not refusing this muse.


Posted on June 16, 2017 .

Howdy, folks.

Welcome to the Young Mary's Record Co. blog.

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are never directly reflective of the artists on this label -- but the direct expression of me, Young Mary -- and when otherwise noted, members of my Lionpack and the various guest bloggers I have somehow carnied into joining our beautiful circus.

While the YMR brand has been involved with many artists, brands, and projects over the years -- 2017 marks the year of our first official releases -- I am so proud to be the home of music from Colter Wall, David Vaughn Lindsey, and Justin Payne.   You can read a little more about those guys and their records on our RELEASES page.

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For some context -- As I write this post, I'm sitting in the hotel lobby of the Holiday Inn Express in Birmingham, England.  I've had myself half of a chocolate croissant this morning and a regrettable cheeseburger (Brits -- can you please get your act together on a damn meat sandwich?) last night.  I'm here because I'm currently on tour with Colter -- who I also manage -- and who is also one of my very best friends.  Colter is playing gigs here with Brent Cobb (brilliant artist from Atlantic: HERE) and John Clay ( brilliant artist in the YMR family: HERE).  Also in our gang are Ash Seiter and Travis Blankenship (found on the LIONPACK page) who are my two pillars of logistics and quite literally keeping this ol' train on the rails.  What I'm getting at is I'll never be the type of label owner (or manager) you can get in touch with by scheduling with a secretary and meeting me in a glass-walled office.   What I'm getting at, part deux : This label isn't for weak shit.   We play hard.  We work hard.  We only fuck with fire.

Don't want to know this much personal shit about me, like what I ate for breakfast?  That's all fine.  Just meander away from the blog and hang out on the RELEASES page or e-swipe that sexy credit card of yours in the STORE.  

Do like feeling as connected to me as I feel to these artists and this cause?  Come back and read blog #2 : Why I Care.  And in the meantime,  follow the YMR Facebook or Instagram.  

And aye, Never Refuse a Muse,

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Posted on May 26, 2017 .