Photo: Elisabeth Kokesh
Meet Riddy Arman: The Singer/Songwriter Creating A New Country & Folk Tradition
Montana-based singer/songwriter Riddy Arman's traditional country and folk music comes from the unique perspective of a female farmhand. With a new documentary and an upcoming tour, Arman speaks to GRAMMY.com about singing in "crooked time."
With the release of an album documentary by filmmaker Keenan O’Reilly, and a new set of shows this summer, singer/songwriter Riddy Arman is enjoying an extended run of momentum ignited by her powerful debut album. It’s no wonder: Arman’s 2021 self-titled collection contains one gut-wrenching gem after another, her voice like a cello, narrating weary, leathery, patient stories drawn from a sparse Western landscape.
After listening to the mesmerizing record several times, I noticed that on some verses, Arman’s vocals come in a beat late. It’s subtle, but halting, like a horse switching its lead, and I thought it contributed to the deliberate pace — and tone — of her songs. When I got to ask her about it recently, she laughed and said, "yeah, some people I make music with tease me about my crooked time."
I wasn’t immediately familiar with the phrase "crooked time," which describes extra or missing notes in verses or measures, deviations from the expected beat pattern. Crooked time is typically associated with old-time North American or Irish music, bluegrass or anything with a fiddle.
Rooted in traditions, in other words, but a deviation from the expected. There may be no better way to describe Riddy Arman. It’s not merely her playful vocal stylings. Her songs are grounded in familiar soundscapes — Western, folk, original country — and are told through the knowing voice of a working ranch hand. Yet, as a woman making music that reasons with horse manure, or pushing pairs of cows up a draw, she is the exception not the rule.
"When you see someone onstage in Wranglers, a western shirt, and a hat that has real dust on it, you’re not usually looking at a woman," says Connie Collingsworth, Co-Founder of LaHonda Records, the label Riddy calls home.
For the listener, it makes for a crooked experience where a familiar sound is told through a new and unexpected perspective. Consider the song, "Barbed Wire," which iterates on the lonesome cowboy trope. Arman’s man is separated from his lover, and the only relief from his pain is fencing, the most tedious, monotonous and despised work on a ranch. We don’t know what’s keeping the lovers apart, but you get the sense it’s his pride:
"There's one thing he wants and can't seem to find/ So he sits atop his horse as his dog trails beside/ Seeking freedom from his mind under sunny desert skies/ The wind will dry his tears that fall as if he's never cried," Arman sings. In that interpretation, the famed cowboy stubbornness and stoicism are cautionary tale rather than celebration.
While women have long found success in country music, the specific trail Arman has traveled had not been blazed yet. She knew of no female role model who wrote old-time folk and country songs in between shifts on the ranch. But her confidence to even try was instilled in those very settings. "Women working in ag, working in the West, they’re held in as high regard as men if they can do the work," Arman told GRAMMY.com. She knew she could do the work – whether it was on a ranch or writing her own music.
Arman met Colter Wall after his show in New Orleans,along with his manager and the other co-founder of LaHonda Records, Travis Blankenship. A short time later, after Collingsworth and Blankenship listened to her songs and offered Arman a spot on the label. In addition to her music, the two were drawn to her playfulness and self-possession — a combination of qualities they figured, and hoped, would bring surprises.
My favorite surprise on her album is a simple lyrical one. The opening track, "Spirits, Angels, or Lies" is a beautiful telling of her father’s passing, and an invitation to consider what might happen at death. But in the final line of the chorus, and song, Arman strays from the story of her dad, and what happens in the final moments of one’s life, and zooms out to say, "We never know what someone sees with their own eyes." The line lands as a timely plea from a guarded, broken world crying out for empathy, and an understanding of other people’s perspectives.
It was songwriting like that which drew the attention of Los Angeles-based filmmaker O'Reilly. "I listened to two verses of 'Spirits, Angels, Or Lies' and I called out to my wife to come listen. Anyone who hears the first lines of a Riddy song knows she’s legit," he says.
O'Reilly was so moved by Arman's music that he called LaHonda Records and asked if he could make a film and music video — on his own dime. Collingsworth recalls the phone call and still shakes her head about their good fortune. "We’re just so lucky to have people like Keenan who want to support our artists," she says. O'Reilly and a crew spent five days with Arman in western Montana where she lives and does ranch work. He was impressed with what he called her "raw humanity," and his reverence for her comes across in the beautiful film he and LaHonda jointly released on July 12.
"I made the film and the video for 'Both of My Hands' because I want to look back in 40 years and be proud that I played a role in supporting music that stood the test of time," he says, alluding to not only Riddy but the cohort of talented artists making traditional folk and country music right now, and who are ushering in a surging revival.
Arman recently announced that she and her fiancé are expecting a baby at the end of the year. She canceled some of her upcoming shows but promised her fans that she would be "here in Montana, writing y’all a new album."
The reference to a new record suddenly reminded that she just has the one out so far. Given the richness of the songs on her first album, and her old-soul presence, it feels like more. But it was also a joyful reminder that Riddy Arman is just getting started.
Photo: Evening Standard / Stringer via Getty Images
Remembering Christine McVie Of Fleetwood Mac Through Her GRAMMY Triumphs, From 'Rumours' Onward
Unflashy and undramatic, McVie's contributions to Fleetwood Mac led to some of their greatest contributions to popular song — with two GRAMMY wins to boot.
In an acclaimed career that spanned more than half a century, Christine McVie staked her claim as one of the most potent singer-songwriters of her generation. A beloved original member of the seminal rock group Fleetwood Mac, with whom she sang, wrote and played keyboard, she and her bandmates catapulted to fame in the early '70s, scoring GRAMMY gold and influencing generations of musicians.
"As a GRAMMY Award winner and 2018 Person of the Year honoree, the Recording Academy has been honored to celebrate Christine McVie and her work with Fleetwood Mac throughout her legendary career," Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr. stated. In an announcement of her death, the remaining members of Fleetwood Mac mourned her passing by saying "She was truly one-of-a-kind, special, and talented beyond measure."
McVie, who passed away Nov. 30 at 79 after a brief illness, may have not been as flashy, or as dramatic, as fellow Fleetwood Mac members Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. But McVie's contributions to the band led to some of their greatest contributions to popular song, with two GRAMMY wins among seven nominations.
The tour de force that is Rumours is one of the most acclaimed and best-selling albums of all time and an inductee into GRAMMY Hall Of Fame. The masterpiece earned McVie her first GRAMMY (for Album of the Year no less) at the 20th Annual Ceremony in 1978, also earning a nomination for Best Pop Vocal Performance By A Group.
Fleetwood Mac's 11th studio album, Rumours was actually McVie's 7th album with the band after making her name in the English blues scene, rising through the ranks as part of the band Chicken Shack, and even releasing a solo album.
In 1971, McVie joined Fleetwood Mac alongside her then-husband John McVie. The potent combination of the McVies, along with Mick Fleetwood, Buckingham and Nicks, catalyzed and detonated into the stratospheric Rumours.
"It's hard to say (what it was like) because we were looking at it from the inside," McVie said about the iconic album earlier this year. "We were having a blast and it felt incredible to us that we were writing those songs. That's all I can say about it, really."
McVie's coyness may stem from the fact that prior to its production, Christine and John divorced after eight years of marriage. Meanwhile, Buckingham and Nicks were having a tumultuous relationship themselves.
McVie is credited as sole songwriter on a handful of instant-classic Rumours tracks, all written during a perilous moment. "I thought I was drying up," explained McVie. "I was practically panicking because every time I sat down at a piano, nothing came out. Then, one day, I just sat down and wrote in the studio, and the four-and-a-half songs of mine on the album are a result of that."
That includes "Don't Stop," an ironically peppy ode considering the turmoil McVie and her bandmates were grappling with at the time. With lyrics that staunchly proclaim "Yesterday's gone!," the song was reportedly written as a plea from Christine to John to move on from their relationship.
"I dare say, if I hadn't joined Fleetwood Mac, we might still be together. I just think it's impossible to work in the band with your spouse," McVie later said. John, meanwhile, was oblivious to the song's message during its production and early acclaim. He revealed in 2015: "I've been playing it for years and it wasn't until somebody told me, 'Chris wrote that about you.' Oh really?"
John was also equally ignorant to the source inspiration of "You Make Loving Fun"; McVie told him the joyful song ("Sweet wonderful you/ You make me happy with the things you do") was about her dog. In reality, it was about an affair with the band's lighting designer.
"It was a therapeutic move," McVie later mused of her lyrical penchant for hiding brutal honesty in plain sight. "The only way we could get this stuff out was to say it, and it came out in a way that was difficult. Imagine trying to sing those songs onstage with the people you're singing them about."
When McVie was asked earlier this year what song she written she was most proud of, it was an easy answer: the Rumours track "Songbird."
"For some peculiar reason, I wrote "Songbird" in half an hour; I've never been able to figure out how I did that," she told People. "I woke up in the middle of the night and the song was there in my brain, chords, lyrics, melody, everything. I played it in my bedroom and didn't have anything to tape it on. So I had to stay awake all night so I wouldn't forget it and I came in the next morning to the studio and had (producer) Ken Callait put it on a 2-track. That was how the song ended up being. I don't know where that came from."
McVie's most recent GRAMMY nominations were for her contributions to The Dance, Fleetwood Mac's 1997 live album that featured her stand-outs from Rumours along with the McVie penned-tracks "Say You Love Me" and "Everywhere."
The album earned McVie and the band GRAMMY nominations for Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal (for the Lindsay Buckingham-written "The Chain") and Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal (for "Silver Springs," penned by Stevie Nicks). It also landed a nomination for Best Pop Album. It was her final album with the band before a 15-year self-imposed retirement.
In her final years, McVie was a vital member of Fleetwood Mac, including in 2018 when they became the first band honored as MusicCare's Person of the Year.
Speaking to the Recording Academy before the ceremony, Nicks expressed that her initial goal upon joining the group was a humble one: "Christine and I made a pact. We said we will never, ever be treated as a second-class citizen amongst our peers."
Photos (L-R): Joseph Okpako/WireImage; Tim Mosenfelder/FilmMagic; Prince Williams/Wireimage; Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Justin Combs Events; Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images
15 Must-Hear New Albums Out This Month: SZA, Neil Young, A Boogie Wit da Hoodie, NCT Dream & More
Rounding out the year, here are the can't-miss releases and massive new albums dropping in December 2022 from Weezer, Metro Boomin, NOFX, Jacquees, Ab-Soul, and many others.
And just like that, 2022 is almost done — but not before we get another round of must-hear albums. December's slate of releases is set to send the year out on a high note, with something for all tastes.
This month heralds much-anticipated returns from R&B innovator SZA, with S.O.S., and rap super-producer Metro Boomin, with the mysterious HEROES & VILLAINS. December's riches also include Bad MFs from West Coast hip-hop supergroup Mount Westmore, indie-rock lifers Weezer dropping SZNZ: Winter and a loaded, possibly final album from punk-rock misfits NOFX. There's also new-generation R&B (RINI’s Ultraviolet EP and Jacquees' Sincerely For You), dark techno (Terence Fixmer's Shifting Signals), soul-baring indie (Sophie Jamieson's Choosing), and much more.
Below, check out a guide to the 15 essential albums dropping just in time for the festive season. — Jack Tregoning
Contributed reporting by Ashlee Mitchell
SZA - S.O.S.
Release date: TBD
Five years after her GRAMMY-nominated debut album, Ctrl, it's about to be SZA season all over again. While details are still pending, the alternative R&B star is expected to drop her second album, S.O.S., this month, following the single "Shirt" and its teaser follow-up, "PSA."
In a revealing Billboard cover story, SZA spoke frankly about the pressure she feels to release the album while navigating the music industry and her fans' expectations. As always with SZA, the music itself speaks volumes, and the darkly seductive "Shirt" (accompanied by a music video co-starring SZA and Academy Award nominee LaKeith Stanfield in a riff on Bonnie and Clyde) suggests S.O.S. will be something to savor. — J.T.
Metro Boomin - HEROES & VILLAINS
Release date: December 2
To prepare fans for his new album, HEROES & VILLAINS, sought-after rap producer Metro Boomin went all-out on a short film starring his collaborators Young Thug and Gunna alongside celebrated actors Morgan Freeman and LaKeith Stanfield. Following that flex, the artist's first solo LP in four years is set to feature a who's who of rap, with an exact tracklist still to be announced.
Metro Boomin's previous album, 2018's Not All Heroes Wear Capes, featured the likes of Travis Scott, 21 Savage and Gucci Mane rapping over the producer's dark, trap-centric beats. This time around, he's keeping his cards close to his chest, slyly sharing a video of the studio sessions on his Instagram with the caption, "When the sequel is even better than the first." All will be revealed on Dec. 2. — J.T.
Neil Young - Harvest (50th Anniversary Edition)
Release date: December 2
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Neil Young's seminal folk-rock album Harvest, released to great acclaim in 1972. Featuring indelible songs like "Heart of Gold," "Old Man" and "The Needle and The Damage Done," Harvest was the best-selling album of that year in the US.
To celebrate the milestone, Young is releasing a special anniversary edition, available in either CD or vinyl box-set. Extras include a new two-hour documentary called Harvest Time, an official release of Young's BBC In Concert performance, and a hardcover book featuring never-before-seen photos and notes by legendary rock photographer Joel Bernstein. Consider this the festive gift for the Neil Young completist in your life. — J.T.
RINI - UltraViolet
Release date: December 2
After breaking out with his 2021 debut album, Constellations, RINI returns this month with the seven-track EP, Ultraviolet. The Filipino-Australian R&B talent, who now calls Los Angeles home, pairs his indelible voice with slinky, late-night production that pulls the listener close.
Ahead of Ultraviolet, RINI has released the singles "Haunt Me" and "Selfish," featuring GRAMMY-winning rapper BEAM, which pair his themes of love and longing with gauzy, head-nodding beats. "I want to be able to show the world and myself that I'm growing, not just in music, but as a person," RINI told Uproxx in May. On Ultraviolet, which also features the slick bedroom jams "Something to Feel" and "Your Eyes," that evolution is evident. — J.T.
NOFX - Double Album
Release date: December 2
SoCal punk veterans NOFX have always kept up a prolific output, and this month the band returns with their 15th LP, Double Album. Following last year's Single Album, the conveniently titled Double Album features 10 new songs with perfectly NOFX titles like "Punk Rock Cliché" and "Is It Too Soon if Time Is Relative?" Lead single "Darby Crashing Your Party" showcases the band at their hard-riffing, rowdy best, with frontman Fat Mike clearly relishing lyrical volleys like, "A middle-class clown waging lower class war/A Beverly Hillbilly peeled off the floor."
In a statement announcing the new album, Fat Mike revealed the songs were recorded at the same time as Single Album, then finished off later. "I think it's a very enjoyable album, and maybe our funniest," he added. It could also be NOFX's parting gift — responding to a fan’s Instagram comment, Fat Mike announced that 2023 will be the band's "last year" after an "amazing run." — J.T.
Terence Fixmer - Shifting Signals
Release date: December 2
French producer Terence Fixmer has been one of the most intriguing figures in the electronic music scene for well over a decade. Over six past solo albums, numerous EPs and standalone releases, Fixmer has perfected a dark, gritty sound that melds techno with the looser industrial spirit of electronic body music (EBM).
Fixmer's seventh album, Shifting Signals, continues in that vein while allowing for new textures to creep in. "On each album I aim for something different but I retain the core sound, which is always there and often dark and melancholic," the producer wrote in a statement. "Sometimes the balance tips slightly and on this album, I'm striving to be freer and open myself up more to melody."
That openness to different modes is showcased on the atmospheric, piano-led "Synthetic Minds," which evokes a John Carpenter film score, while fellow singles "Corne de Brume" and "No Latitude for Errors" are built for heady techno dance floors. — J.T.
Sophie Jamieson - Choosing
Release date: December 2
On her debut album, Choosing, London-based singer-songwriter Sophie Jamieson doesn't shy from difficult or uncomfortable emotions. Lead single, "Sink" lays bare her push-pull relationship with alcohol over a lulling bed of piano and drums. That theme of emotional vulnerability carries through the LP's 11 songs, which foreground Jamieson's enchanting voice and plain-spoken lyrics.
"The title of this album is so important," Jamieson wrote in a statement. "Without it, this might sound like another record about self-destruction and pain, but at heart, it's about hope, and finding strength. It's about finding the light at the end of the tunnel and crawling towards it." Choosing arrives via Bella Union, the tastemaking label led by Simon Raymonde, formerly of Scottish dream pop band Cocteau Twins. — J.T.
White Lung - Premonition
Release date: December 2
Canadian punk rockers White Lung weren't expecting to take six years to follow up 2016's celebrated Paradise. As the story goes, the band got together in their hometown of Vancouver in 2017, expecting to rip out their final album before parting ways. In the studio, frontwoman Mish Barber-Way discovered she was pregnant with her first child — which, along with a global pandemic and another child, put the album plans on ice.
Fast forward to 2022, and White Lung's fifth and final album, Premonition, is finally here. With all that extra time to marinate, Premonition is a thrilling return from the trio, mining deeper themes with the same raucous, kick-down-the-door energy that fans expect. The album opens furiously with "Hysteric", and also features the singles "Date Night" and "Tomorrow," which match Barber-Way's impassioned vocals with muscular punk-rock riffing.
"We felt like this record was the right endpoint and we are happy the songs will finally be released," the band wrote in a statement. — J.T.
A Boogie Wit da Hoodie - Me vs. Myself
Release date: December 9
New York's A Boogie wit da Hoodie has been steadily hyping the release of his fourth album, Me Vs Myself, throughout 2022. Originally scheduled for November, the album will drop this month, right in time for A Boogie's hometown album launch at the iconic Apollo Theater in Harlem.
Me Vs Myself was preceded by a pair of singles, "Take Shots," featuring Tory Lanez, and "Ballin," which both showcase the rapper's supremely confident flow and wavy beats. While the full tracklist is not yet confirmed, A Boogie's previous album, ARTIST 2.0, covered the R&B and rap spectrum with guests like Summer Walker, Khalid, Young Thug and Lil Uzi Vert, without pulling focus from the main star. The rapper has already lined up dates for the Me Vs Myself tour stretching into 2023, so it's a great time to bet on A Boogie. — J.T.
Mount Westmore - Snoop, Cube, 40, $hort
Release date: December 9
When living legends Snoop Dogg, E-40, Too Short and Ice Cube formed the supergroup Mount Westmore, West Coast rap heads took notice. After several hints that a collaborative album was coming, Mount Westmore made the surprise decision to release their debut, Bad MFs, exclusively as an NFT via the blockchain-based platform Gala Music.
The album arrives on streaming services this month under a new title, Snoop, Cube, 40, $hort, featuring additional songs not included on the NFT version. A spirit of loose fun and ride-or-die friendship carries through all the singles released so far, including the swaggering "Bad MFs" and the bass-heavy, light-hearted "Big Subwoofer." As Snoop put it to HotNewHipHop, "You bring the legends of the West Coast together, something great will always happen." — J.T.
Leland Whitty - Anyhow
Release date: December 9
Best known as a member of Toronto-based jazz ensemble BADBADNOTGOOD, Leland Whitty is a true multi-instrumentalist. On his seven-track solo release, Anyhow, Whitty oversaw all production and composition, moving deftly between guitar, synthesizer, woodwinds and strings.
Following his scores for indie films Disappearance at Clifton Hill and Learn to Swim, Whitty was inspired to combine cinematic composition with rock and jazz instrumentation in his own project. Lead single "Awake" perfectly strikes that balance with twinkling keys, mournful strings and an insistent drum beat, while follow-up "Glass Moon" conjures a similarly beguiling mood. Members of BADBADNOTGOOD and Whitty's musician brother also joined the studio sessions, making Anyhow a family affair. — J.T.
Jacquees - Sincerely For You
Release date: December 16
On "Say Yea", the sultry bedroom anthem he dropped back in May, Jacquees croons, "Girl, you overdue for some romantic s—." That simple line is something of a mission statement for the R&B casanova, whose third album, Sincerely For You, drops this month.
The LP features "Say Yea" alongside 16 more R&B jams, including singles "Tipsy," which captures the singer's blurry plea to a lover, and the smoothly boastful "Still That." Elsewhere, Sincerely For You offers up guest turns from Future (who also executive produced the album), 21 Savage and Tory Lanez, plus the R&B dream team of 6lack and Summer Walker on "Tell Me It's Over." On his socials, Jacquees dedicated the album to "everybody who been there for me along the way" and promised to deliver only "real R&B." — J.T.
Ab-Soul - Herbert
Release date: December 16
Six hard-won years after his last album, the divisive, conspiracy theory-heavy Do What Thou Wilt., Ab-Soul has found his drive again. The rapper from Carson, California returns this month with a deeply personal album that shares his birth name, Herbert.
Ab-Soul's new outlook was previewed in lead single "Do Better," which reckons with the scars of his past and looks to the future with powerful clarity. The next single, "Gang'Nem," featuring Houston rapper FRE$H and produced by fellow Top Dawg Entertainment mainstay Sounwave, also revisits his upbringing and pays respect to L.A. street culture over a woozy, hard-hitting beat.
For fans of Ab-Soul's dense lyrical style and gravelly flow, Herbert is an eagerly-anticipated return to the rap limelight. — J.T.
NCT DREAM - Candy
Release date: December 19
NCT Dream, the youngest sub-group of Neo Culture Technology (NCT), has seen exponential growth since they rebranded as a fixed unit in 2020. The septet is set to release a winter special EP called Candy on Dec. 19. The mini-album's six tracks, include lead single "Candy," which was originally performed by H.O.T. in 1996. The album will be the first holiday release for any NCT sub-group, following a slew of successful releases from NCT Dream this year.
The group released their second studio album, Glitch, in March 2022, followed by their repackaged Beatbox in May. Their first feature film, NCT Dream The Movie: In a Dream, released worldwide on Nov. 30 and Dec. 3 and documents the opening days of their tour in Seoul. The group will finish their tour in Japan by February 2023. — Ashlee Mitchell
Weezer - SZNZ: Winter
Release date: December 21
This has been a remarkably good year to be a Weezer fan. Always pleasingly prolific, in 2022 the band decided to release a four-EP series under the name SZNZ, each timed to coincide with a new season.
Following Spring, Summer and Autumn editions, SZNZ: Winter arrives just in time for peak coziness. While the complete tracklist is not yet known, Weezer performed the EP in full for an intimate crowd at the Troubadour in Los Angeles (using their favored alias Goat Punishment), with new highlights including "I Want A Dog" and "The One That Got Away."
While frontman Rivers Cuomo has described SZNZ: Winter as having a sad vibe that suits snowed-in days, you can always count on Weezer to cut the melancholy with some power-pop verve. — J.T.
Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images
GRAMMY Rewind: Dua Lipa Champions Happiness As She Accepts Her GRAMMY For Best Pop Vocal Album In 2021
As Dua Lipa held her new GRAMMY, she reflected on how "jaded" she felt before putting out 'Future Nostalgia' — and how the album taught her the importance of happiness.
Three-time GRAMMY-winner Dua Lipa already had two golden gramophones to her name going into the 2021 GRAMMYs. But her third win — and her first for Best Pop Vocal Album — may have been the happiest of them all.
In this episode of GRAMMY Rewind, revisit the special moment when Dua Lipa took the stage to claim her trophy for her album, Future Nostalgia. The second studio album of the singer's career, Future Nostalgia earned her six nominations, including the coveted Album Of The Year as well as Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year for lead single "Don't Start Now."
As she held her new trophy, Lipa reflected on what she's learned through the process of making Future Nostalgia, making special mention of the power of happiness, and putting out happy music.
"I felt really jaded at the end of my last album, where I felt like I only had to make sad music to feel like it mattered," she explained. "And I'm just so grateful and so honored, because happiness is something that we all deserve, and it's something that we all need in our lives."
The singer also threw a spotlight on her fans, team and co-writers during her time onstage. "This means so much," she concluded, adding a shout-out to her family and friends who were watching from home. "I love you, thank you."
Press play on the video above to watch Dua Lipa's complete acceptance speech at the 63rd GRAMMY Awards, and keep checking back to GRAMMY.com every Friday for more new episodes of GRAMMY Rewind.
Photo: Beth Gwinn/Getty Images
Listen To GRAMMY.com's Outlaw Country Playlist: 32 Songs From Honky Tonk Heroes Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard & More
Ahead of the GRAMMY Museum's Dec. 5 event previewing the new documentary 'They Called Us Outlaws,' listen to a 32-song playlist of outlaw country greats.
Outlaw: a noun meaning someone unconventional, rebellious, or active outside the law.
In the mid-1970s, journalist Hazel Smith, country’s self-described "mother hen," coined the term "outlaw music" to describe artists like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings that did not fit the Music Row mold. These renegades rejected the norms — replacing saccharine sounds with storied songs.
Long before this country subgenre had a name, Hank Williams ("I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry"), Johnny Cash ("Folsom Prison Blues'') and Merle Haggard ("Mama Tried") were the original outlaws. In the early 1970s, Nelson's Shotgun Willie further forged the style of outlaw country.
Nashville initially ignored them. But, in 1976, after the compilation Wanted! The Outlaws became the first country album certified platinum, these outsiders earned industry respect. Today, the music endures. SiriusXM has a station devoted to these misfits. And a new six-part docuseries — They Called Us Outlaws: Cosmic Cowboys, Honky Tonk Heroes and the Rise of Renegade Troubadours (narrated by Jack Ingram) — will debut in 2023.
The GRAMMY Museum will hold an event on Dec. 5 to preview part of this new 12-hour documentary. Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiflett will lead a discussion with the filmmakers, and the evening will feature performances from Tyler Childers, John R. Miller and Abby Hamilton, Shooter Jennings and Jesse Daniel.