Inside Track on Music Row: April 2020 Music News


Jan Howard passed away March 28. The Grand Ole Opry icon was 91. Jan was painfully shy and never imagined herself as a performer despite having such a great voice. It was her third husband, songwriter Harlan Howard, who heard her singing and realized her talent.  It was the first time she’d ever let anyone hear her sing. Jan sang a demo of Harlan’s song, “Mommy For a Day” which was a hit for Kitty Wells in 1958. She recorded many more demos that became hits for other artists, particularly Patsy Cline, until she was signed to a recording deal by Decca Records’ Owen Bradley. Jan was plagued by anxiety, many phobias and stage fright. After her divorce from Harlan Howard, Jan became a songwriter herself and also recorded numerous duets with Bill Anderson and found emotional support from fellow Opry members Jean Shepard, Skeeter Davis and Patsy Cline. Her big solo hits included “The One You Slip Around With” (1960), “Bad Seed” (1966) and the Grammy-nominated singles “Evil On Your Mind” (1966) and “My Son” (1968). See many tributes from fellow artists at  


Wes and Laurel, the Young Fables duo, have released a homemade EP.  “We have a hard time sitting still so we decided to create something ourselves for y’all,” said Wes. “Since we’ve had a lot of time on our hands, Laurel came up with the idea of releasing an Old Songs EP. I learned how to work Logic (home studio software) and we did the best we could with the equipment we had in our apartment. We created something special, intimate and familiar for you guys. We hope this brings a little sunshine to your day because your love and encouragement in this time brings a lot to ours.” Larel added, “The EP starts at $10 but you can donate as much as you want because 10% of each sale will go towards Habitat for Humanity Blount County (where Wes and I are from). I am very passionate about this organization and all they do for our community. I’m really excited to give back and can’t do it without your help.” Find it at  


Blackberry Smoke will release a special new EP, Live From Capricorn Sound Studios, on June 19 with a portion of all proceeds going to the Recording Academy’s MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund. Recorded earlier this year at Capricorn Sound Studios in Macon, GA, the project consists of six new versions of songs with special ties to the historic studio and town and will be released as a lead up to the band’s anticipated Spirit of the South Tour: A Celebration of Southern Rock and Roll Music this summer. Produced by Blackberry Smoke, the EP is now available for both CD and vinyl pre-order. Ahead of the release, Blackberry Smoke’s new version of “Midnight Rider,” premiered in celebration of two special anniversaries: the formation of The Allman Brothers Band on March 26, 1969 and the release of “Midnight Rider” on the same day in 1971. The track has a special connection to Capricorn Sound Studios as Gregg Allman broke into the studio to record the song’s original demo. Music and tour updates at  


It’s NOT only make-believe: There is now a street named after Conway Twitty. In March, family members and Hendersonville, TN, city officials gathered in Drake’s Creek Park for a ceremony to unveil the sign for Conway Twitty Lane. Twitty found success with songs that scored on the pop, rockabilly and R&B charts as well as Country. Born Harold Lloyd Jenkins, after high school he was offered the chance to play pro-baseball with the Philadelphia Phillies organization but was drafted into the US Army where he began to write and sing rock & roll songs.  He allegedly chose his stage name after looking at a road map and seeing Conway, Arkansas and Twitty, Texas.  He was a long-time resident of Hendersonville and fans flocked to ‘Twitty City’ particularly during the Christmas season.  Full disclosure: I wrote the liner notes for the album Timeless, Conway Twitty’s first album release in 26 years. You can find the album at   


Anyone who has ever been through a breakup needs to hear “Part of Me,” the new single from country newcomer Joe Hanson. Set to an uptempo, pop-influenced melody, Hanson sings about how half of him is ready to move on, while the other half can’t. Throughout the song, the Naperville, Ill. native reflects on an emotional push and pull, in the end concluding in the hook that “part of me can’t be apart from you.” Written by Hanson with Victoria Banks and Justin Morgan and produced by Austin Shawn, listen to the song at   “As a songwriter and artist, it’s important to me that every song I sing I can relate to it, that’s what allows it to be most authentic. ‘Part of Me’ was certainly a song that I lived and got inspiration from when dealing with a very difficult breakup not too long ago.” said Hanson. This year, Hanson is focused on an EP, creating content and adding shows to his calendar. For more information about Hanson go to 

Veteran indie recording artist, Charles Parker (CMP Records, Baltimore, MD), is slated to release his fourth single, titled “When Jesus Calls,” via all digital outlets and streaming platforms on Friday, April 10, 2020.  Check out the “When Jesus Calls” Pre-sale Event at  Co-produced alongside Frank Starchak, the self-penned emotionally heart-felt and uplifting redemptive track beams with big instrumental builds, spotlighting piano, cello, and string quartets reminiscent of Peter Gabriel, 70s rock guitar licks (a la Guns N Roses and Super Tramp) and choir vocals bold enough to raise the roof off a church. Working alongside award-winning musician Brent Mason, Parker lent his talents to perform on guitar and piano. “I wrote from a songwriter’s perspective that Jesus needed me with him so that I could help share his message,” said Parker. “The storyline is to say that if we answer his call, maybe we can make all of the world believe in his plan.” Videos, music and more at  


BMG has launched a new record label, Renew Records, that will focus on the Americana recording market.  The imprint will be headed by BMG executive VP David Hirshland, a 20+ year publishing veteran, described as the company’s in-house ‘roots music expert.’ Renew joins BMG’s stable of U.S.-based labels that include Rise Records and Broken Bow Records. Renew’s first release will be Wilcovered, a Wilco tribute album. The release will coincide with the rescheduled Record Store Day, now set for June 20. Also set for a 2021 release: a 1968 Johnny Cash live recording. Hirshland told Billboard that the recording is a key moment in Cash’s career. “He had just come out of a deep, dark place. He married June [Carter] a month before, so here he was, playing for 700 hippies in San Francisco and just having a blast doing it.” Details at  



Brett Young has released an acoustic version of “I Do,” his duet with Norwegian singer/songwriter Astrid via Virgin EMI Records / Universal Music Norway. LISTEN NOW:   The Norwegian singer/songwriter confesses lingering adoration for a past relationship in the arrangement, which shares vocals with Young. The pair also unveiled an accompanying performance video, filmed at a Germantown loft in Nashville with director Steve Jawn of 10:10 Creative.   The song has already garnered 5.7 million streams in under three weeks, proving their global appeal. With five consecutive Multi-Platinum No. 1 singles, Young has also achieved a Platinum-selling self-titled debut album and topped the Billboard Country Album charts with his latest release Ticket to L.A. via BMLG Records. More at  

(Capitol Records/Nashville)

 With a sound that recalls Country music’s acid-washed and Aqua Netted golden era, the ’90s influenced band Hot Country Knights has finally revealed more details about their debut album The K Is Silent (Capitol Records Nashville), available May 1st. Produced by Dierks Bentley, the multi-Platinum entertainer also serves as a co-writer on over half of the 10 brawny tracks and serves up one of the most musically satisfying debut albums since 1999. The K Is Silent is now available for pre-order at all digital retailers via the Knights’ website:  

“We were out on the road singing a lot of other people’s hits, and we called them Greatest Hits because by us singing them, it actually made them great,” Doug Douglason explains. “But this is a step beyond our Greatest Hits. This is all original material, and it’s the best stuff to come out of Nashville from a man band in several decades.” The album includes the single “Pick Her Up,” featuring Travis Tritt. 


Following his March 20 death at age 81, Kenny Rogers scores his first No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart in over 34 years. For the album chart dated April 4, The Best of Kenny Rogers: Through the Years rocketed to the top. According to Nielsen Music.  It is Rogers’ 12th Top Country Albums No. 1 and first since The Heart of the Matter.  The album also rose to No. 9 on the all-genre Billboard 200 album chart while “The Gambler” was No. 1 on the Billboard Country Digital Sales chart. 

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