Beyoncé Takes Fans Behind-the-Scenes of the Making of Lion King-Inspired Album The Gift

Beyoncé is showing her creative process!

The singer, 37, will be giving fans a behind-the-scenes look at the making of her album The Lion King: The Gift, which she dropped in July in conjunction with her appearance in the reboot of the beloved 1994 Disney classic as Nala.

In Beyoncé Presents: Making The Gift, she shares candid footage and interviews about each track on the album with the people who made it possible, including her 7-year-old daughter Blue Ivy.

“Viewers will be taken through the creative process as Beyoncé carefully curates the album, creating new music and collaborating with exceptionally talented artists and producers, while seeking inspiration from deeply rooted African influences,” the synopsis reads. “This creativity is informed by her travels throughout the continent, from the tranquility of the pyramids of Egypt to the bustling and joyous atmospheres of Nigeria and South Africa. The narrative, steeped in love and appreciation, highlights the beauty of the people and the vibrant sounds of a pulsating continent.”

The album — which is separate from the movie’s official soundtrack — features Kendrick Lamar, Pharrell Williams and Wiz Kid, as well as her husband JAY-Z. Her daughter Blue Ivy has a writing credit on the song “Brown Skin Girl.”

Beyoncé’s costar Donald Glover, who plays Simba in the 2019 version of the film, also appears on her album as his musical pseudonym, Childish Gambino

Calling The Gift “a love letter to Africa,” the mother of three previously told ABC News when the album was released, “I wanted to make sure we found the best talent from Africa, and not just use some of the sounds and did my interpretation of it. I wanted it to be authentic to what is beautiful about the music in Africa.”

Beyoncé Presents: Making The Gift follows the April release of her Netflix concert film, Homecoming, which was nominated for six Creative Arts Emmys including: outstanding variety special (pre-recorded), outstanding costumes for variety, non-fiction or reality programming; outstanding directing for a variety special; outstanding music direction; outstanding production design for a variety special and outstanding writing for a variety special.

The “Lemonade” singer was also a nominee herself in all categories but outstanding costumes and production design. However, despite the 10 total nominations, she did not receive a single Creative Emmy at the awards night on Saturday.

Beyoncé Presents: Making The Gift will premiere on Sept. 16 on ABC following the premiere of Dancing with the Stars.

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Ken Burns’ ‘Country Music’: 10 Things We Learned From Week 1

“There was a saying: ‘The blues had a baby and they called it rock & roll.’ I always say, ‘Yeah, and I think the daddy was a hillbilly.” That’s Country Music Hall of Fame member Bobby Braddock, writer of songs including “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” on the genesis of rock music. He makes the case that its birth, near the end of the first half of the 20th century, was as influenced by country music as it was the blues.

Braddock is just one of the many esteemed contributors participating in Ken Burns’ Country Music, which premieres Sunday, September 15th, on PBS. Tracing country’s roots back to Africa, where the banjo was first invented, and to the fiddle music of European immigrants who settled in the Appalachian Mountains, Episodes One through Four include appearances from Dolly Parton, Marty Stuart, Rhiannon Giddens, and Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show, as country musicians and scholars, including author Alice Randall and historian Bill C. Malone, provide historical context and colorful detail to accompany the literally hundreds of still and moving images onscreen.

Narrated by actor Peter Coyote, the first four episodes of the exhaustively researched and intensely compelling film run through Wednesday, with the second part beginning a week September 22nd. Here are 10 things we learned from Week One.

Fiddlin’ John Carson, one of country music’s first major stars, performed throughout the South at some controversial events.
John Carson was a 50-year-old factory worker in Atlanta in the early Twenties, making $10 a week. Passionate about music since his grandfather had given him a fiddle when he was 10, he performed as Fiddlin’ John Carson, playing with fellow part-time musicians at square dances, store openings, and Confederate veterans’ reunions — as well as political events including Ku Klux Klan gatherings and a rally for Communist organizers. He would soon begin playing regularly on Atlanta’s WSB, the South’s first radio station.

African-American musician Lesley Riddle played a vital role in developing country music by assisting the Carter Family in “songcatching.”
Carter Family patriarch A.P. Carter gathered songs from the hills and hollers of Appalachia with invaluable help from Riddle, who had a facility for remembering melodies and music, while Carter focused on the lyrics and stories. A.P.’s sister-in-law, Maybelle, invented a style of guitar-playing known as the “Carter scratch,” which directly influenced rock guitarist Duane Allman. When their records began to sell, A.P.’s wife, singer Sara Carter, and Maybelle both bought motorcycles with their royalty checks while A.P. purchased land.

Jimmie Rodgers collaborated with a jazz legend and had a fan in one of the most notorious outlaws of the Thirties.
Jimmie Rodgers, nicknamed “the Singing Brakeman” for his work on the railroad, is considered the Father of Country Music. He often spent his paychecks on Black Narcissus, a men’s perfume he discovered in New Orleans, which he felt masked the overpowering smell of railroad fumes. Rodgers collaborated with trumpeter and singer Louis Armstrong and his wife, pianist Lil Hardin Armstrong, who added jazz licks to Rodgers’ recording of “Blue Yodel No. 9.” During a crime spree with partner Clyde Barrow, Bonnie Parker spent a portion of the stolen cash on every Rodgers record she could find.

Singing cowboy and actor Gene Autry, who would sell millions of records with “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” once appeared in a sci-fi-themed musical Western.
In 1935, Autry landed his first lead role, playing himself in The Phantom Empire, a 12-part serial centered on Murania, an ancient underground civilization that’s discovered below Autry’s ranch. Autry’s popularity would soon be eclipsed by that of another cowboy singing star, Leonard Slye, better known as Roy Rogers. Rogers would become the only Country Music Hall of Fame member enshrined twice — as a solo act and as one of the Sons of the Pioneers.

After a shaky start, Roy Acuff became the Grand Ole Opry’s biggest draw, with Hank Williams noting he could outsell God.
Acuff and his band, then called the Crazy Tennesseans, had auditioned to appear on the Opry in the late Thirties, when the show was still taking place at the Dixie Tabernacle. Changing the name of his group to the Smoky Mountain Boys, he soon became the Opry’s most popular act. Acuff, who often balanced his fiddle bow, and sometimes his fiddle, on the end of his nose, was the main attraction of the Opry’s half-hour program nationally broadcast by NBC radio beginning in 1939. “For drawing power in the South, it was Roy Acuff, then God,” Hank Williams said later.

Life magazine went to Virginia to photograph the Carter Family for a cover story that never happened.
In November 1941, Life was preparing an extensive story about the growing popularity of country music. The members of the Carter Family were photographed at home and young June Carter saved all the used flashbulbs from the photographer’s camera as a souvenir. The story was pulled from the cover, however, in the wake of the December 7th attack on Pearl Harbor and the start of WWII. Several country stars would forgo their careers temporarily to enlist in the armed services.

Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys once had a young show promoter named Willie Nelson.
Texas teenager Willie Nelson promoted a local show by Wills and his band. The Western swing outfit, which was among the first to controversially introduce drums and trumpets on the Grand Ole Opry stage (along with Pee Wee King’s band), were shot into space in 1969, when astronaut Pete Conrad took a tape of the group’s “New San Antonio Rose” onboard Apollo 12, beaming the song to the entire world below. Nelson, meanwhile, went on to write the most popular jukebox hit of all time, “Crazy,” which was originally titled “Stupid.”

The rise of honky-tonk music also popularized flashier stage costumes.
Honky-tonk music was a sort of pared-down version of Western swing, with electrified instruments and drums but fewer members taking up space on the stage. Flamboyant stage outfits and more elaborate staging soon accompanied the boogie-woogie-inspired beat, which predated rock & roll. One of the most successful acts to take full advantage of this was the Maddox Brothers and Rose, four brothers and their sister originally from Alabama, who had migrated west during the Depression and lived for a while in a concrete culvert in Oakland. Hollywood tailor Nathan Turk designed clothes for them, while Turk’s biggest competitor, Nudie Cohn, made rhinestone suits that Little Jimmy Dickens was the first to wear on the Opry.

A Jimmie Rodgers memorial concert in Mississippi led to several country music-related reconciliations.
In May 1953, five months after the death of Hank Williams, the first-ever Jimmie Rodgers Day was held in Meridian to honor Rodgers on the 20th anniversary of his death.  The event drew more than 30,000 people and would mark the first time in 10 years the members of the original Carter Family would perform together, since, by that time, A.P. and Sara Carter had divorced. The event also brought an end — for the day, at least — to a longstanding feud between Bill Monroe and his brother Charlie, who had split as a duo in 1938.

Songwriters Boudleaux and Felice Bryant had producer-musician Chet Atkins to thank for preserving some of their song ideas.
The married couple, who penned such classics as “Rocky Top,” “Love Hurts” and several of the Everly Brothers biggest hits, including “Wake Up Little Susie,” “Bye Bye Love,” and “Devoted to You” were incredibly prolific. One day, when 14 of Boudleaux’s song ideas were lost after his raincoat with the slips of paper containing those ideas disappeared, Atkins bought him a leather-bound ledger in which to write down lyrics. To date, more than 900 of the Bryants songs have been recorded, selling in excess of 500 million copies around the world.

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Gene Simmons’ Minor Medical Procedure Puts KISS’ Utah Concert on Delay

Along with an apology for the gig postponement, the rock band frontman assures fans that there is nothing serious with him, and thanks them for their good wishes.

AceShowbizKISS have postponed their Saturday night, September 14, concert in Salt Lake City, Utah, so bassist Gene Simmons can undergo a minor medical procedure.

The rocker took to Twitter on Friday to assure fans he was OK, but needed to be elsewhere and couldn’t perform at the weekend show.

“Apologies to the fans in Salt Lake City,” he wrote. “We will come back and do the show at a later date”.

“The truth is, I have to fly to LA to do a medical procedure. Nothing serious. But it must be taken care of now. Thank you for your good wishes. All is well”.

Gene Simmons apologizes to fans for delayed tour.

Earlier this month, the band postponed upcoming shows in Oakland and Los Angeles due to “unforeseen scheduling issues”.

Both the California concerts have now been scheduled for March, 2020.

The group’s “End of the Road” farewell tour began in January.

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Ruel: ‘It’s weird to think it is normal, even though I know it isn’t’

The first thing you notice about Ruel Vincent van Dijk – simply Ruel, to his adoring fans – is his height. At 16, the London-born, Sydney-raised singer-songwriter stands at about 195 centimetres if puts on his black leather bucket hat, which he does during this interview when searching for something to fidget with.

Walking into a boardroom at Sony’s East Sydney offices and extending his hand with a friendly smile, he’s as boyishly handsome in real life as he is in photos, dressed in a black collared shirt with ornamental zips, black pants and an over-sized black blazer. With wisps of hair framing each side of his face, and a nervous laugh that punctuates many of his answers, he seems every inch the school kid – only he left student life behind last year when he completed year 10 at Cremorne’s Redlands Grammar School.

Sixteen-year-old Sydney boy Ruel Vincent Van Dijk, who goes by the stage name of Ruel, is now one of the hottest performers on the planet, championed by the likes of Elton John. Credit:James Brickwood

“I did all my exams and passed all of them so I could legally leave,” he says, acknowledging that he hopes to return and finish year 12 “if things start to slow down”. “On my American tour [last year] I was having to do exams an hour before the show, so that got pretty hectic.”

There are elements of school he misses. “I really miss English. Going into English class and analysing a poem or book, I found that so much fun. Science,” he says, screwing up his face. “I’m so happy I’m not doing that anymore. When it came to biology and chemistry, I had no interest. Why do I need to know how it works? I’m just happy that it does.”

An inquisitive student “if I’m interested in the subject”, by the end of his tenure at Redlands life in the schoolyard was getting weird. “I’d come out for recess and there’d be year 8s or 9s asking me for photos, and that got pretty strange,” he says. “It just got awkward with my friends.”

Earlier this year, Ruel became the youngest ever male performer to headline and sell-out the Sydney Opera House – a feat he managed on two consecutive nights. He invited a group of those friends on the second evening, and laughs when recalling their reaction as a roomful of predominantly teenage girls screamed for Ruel at a pitch and volume that must surely have sent Sydney’s dog population into a tailspin. “I just saw nine dudes sitting down being like, ‘What is happening? Why do these people like you?’”

Born in London to an advertising executive father and film industry mother, Ruel’s family moved to Sydney when he was “three or four”, setting up home on the northern beaches. His first musical memory is bashing away on his dad’s electronic drum kit and his first live performances were recitals at the Big Music instrument shop in Crows Nest, where he took singing and guitar lessons.

By 10 his brain was flooded with music, thanks largely to his “music nerd” father who had introduced him to artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Dave Brubeck, Amy Winehouse, Bill Withers and British singer-songwriter James Morrison, the latter providing the inspiration for Ruel to start learning guitar at the age of eight. “But I never thought of it as a career,” he says. “I never thought of it as anything I could actually do. I was just thinking about becoming a professional NBL basketball player.”

All that changed at the age of 12 when his father met Melbourne-based manager Nate Flagrant, with whom he was working on an ad campaign, and handed him a demo of his son performing a cover of James Bay’s Let It Go. Enthralled by what he heard, Flagrant played it to Grammy Award-winning producer M-Phazes, and the two took the young vocalist under their collective wing, spellbound by this boy with the voice of a weathered soul singer. “I never really had a goal,” says Ruel. “But they opened my mind about this life I could live if I worked hard and gave it my best shot.”

For the next three years, Ruel developed his songwriting with Flagrant and M-Phazes, eventually releasing his debut single, Golden Years, in 2017. His real breakthrough came later that year when he became the youngest artist to perform on Triple J’s Like A Version, singing Golden Years and a cover of Jack Garratt’s Weathered with M-Phazes.

Within 48 hours, the video of that performance had received more than half-a-million views, and Flagrant started fielding calls from American record companies. Before long, Ruel was in the US meeting with labels, tasked with convincing them to take a chance on him.

He’d performed in front of intimidating crowds before. As a 10-year-old he started busking at the Corso in Manly, and laughs when he recounts the time “a full ex-bikie” with “tattoos over his face” approached him ominously, only to start dancing when Ruel started playing an Ed Sheeran cover.

This, however, was next level scary. “You’d walk into a conference room, you’d be squashed into a corner, all these execs would come in, they’d all have their phones and notepads, and they’d sit down and look down,” says Ruel. “And the dude who invited me would be the only charismatic one – he’d be like [enthusiastically], ‘OK, you want to sing your first song, Ruel? This is Ruel, guys, this is Ruel! The next big thing!’ And I’d be like, ‘What is happening?!’

“And I just remember singing Golden Years and [second single] Don’t Tell Me, Stay by Rihanna and Who Did That To You? by John Legend. After each song there would be, like, a very awkward, slow clap.”

On occasion, Ruel would arrive at his hotel prior to one of these meetings to find a gift from a prospective record label. “There’d be a big platter, like a cheese platter,” he says, smiling. “And I was like, as a [kid], 'What the f— is Brie?'”

Having since signed an international record deal with RCA/Sony Music ANZ, Ruel is now arguably one of the hottest performers on the planet. He’s been championed by Elton John, who played Don’t Tell Me on his Beats 1 radio show and requested a meeting with Ruel last time he toured Australia.  He’s performed at festivals such as Coachella and sold out shows throughout the UK, Europe and Asia. Last year he became the youngest ever performer to win an ARIA, taking home Breakthrough Artist. Ruel's global streams to date tally more than 300 million – a figure that will surely multiply with the release of this month’s Free Time EP, the follow-up to last year’s Ready.

On October 29, Ruel will celebrate his 17th birthday by playing a show in Atlanta; he was performing in London on his 16th. He estimates that the three or four weeks he spent in Sydney prior to a recent trip to America were the longest he’d been home for a year or two.

The title of his new EP is, you may have guessed, ironic. It also speaks of a teenager coming to terms with his new life. “The weird thing is I’m always away from home, but I still get free time. I always have a designated day off and I’m like, ‘OK, now what the hell do I do?’ That’s where [the title] came from – going from all this craziness to absolutely nothing and not really knowing what to do.”

In the past, Ruel has said his songwriting involves an element of exaggeration. When he wrote his first songs, he didn’t have enough life experiences on which to draw. While he still has to rely on fiction occasionally – the track Real Thing off his new EP is inspired by the scene in High Fidelity when John Cusack’s Rob proposes to Iben Hjejle’s Laura – the massive changes he’s experienced over the past 18 months means he’s no longer short of real-life inspiration. Although that has provided Ruel with another issue. “I feel like it’s harder to write relatable songs with the life I’m living now," he says. "It’s a pretty weird lifestyle, and I’m still kind of grabbing onto the things I was doing at school and trying to look back [to find events people could relate to].”

Amongst the soul and R&B-inflected pop on Free Time is a gospel-tinged piano ballad called Hard Sometimes. An astonishingly frank account of the downside of his sudden ascent to fame, it features lines such as “I try to be happy but it’s hard sometimes” and “I’ve been on the road, I’ve been missing home, see it on my phone that the world back there keeps spinning round without me.”

“I had my first experience touring overseas and really missing home,” he explains of the lyric. “I was always the centre of attention onstage or doing meet and greets, but as soon as I got to my hotel room it was just [clicks fingers] nothing, and I’m all by myself with my thoughts. It’s definitely unhealthy, those extreme opposites.”

He says he’s prone to over-thinking, and those moments of sudden solitude can set his mind racing. “If you’re alone with your thoughts for too long, bad things can happen. I start to think about something and make something out of nothing. And I just focus on one thing and think of all the terrible things that could happen from that.”

He’s been developing coping mechanisms, such as leaning on the company of his team a little more. “Just asking, ‘Do you want to come over to my room and play some FIFA? You wanna do something?’ I just try to spend as little time completely in dead silence as possible.”

The song also demonstrates Ruel’s knowing self-awareness that his life is no longer that of your average teen. A few months ago he was near Kanye West as the rapper delivered his Sunday Service at Coachella; last November he was invited to play alongside Lauryn Hill and Post Malone at the Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival festival, which is curated by one of his idols, US hip-hop star Tyler, The Creator. The lyric “But life just seems to happen right before my eyes” sums up that idea that these abnormal events have become the everyday. “It’s weird to think that it is normal, even though I know it isn’t,” he offers. “I’m definitely weirdly trying to get used to it.”

He admits to feeling bouts of intense pressure when he sees his schedule “on an e-mail or piece of paper”, and says he’s still trying to work out how to maintain perspective as the world around him is changing. “I try and maintain it by talking to people who’ve been there from the start – friends, family, people in my team, my manager. I don’t feel like I’ve changed at all since I was a kid. I’m just living a different life to most people.”

On the rare occasions he’s home long enough to catch-up with friends, it’s a life he prefers to avoid talking about in favour of hearing what his mates have been up to. “I really just want to know what they’ve been doing,” he says. “And I guess that kind of helps me stay grounded. [When I’m working] I’m always talking about what I’m doing. So I prefer to throw it over to my friends when I come back and just want to know…”

He smiles.

“…who got with who on the weekend and shit like that. Stupid stuff.”

Free Time is out now. Ruel plays the Fortitude Music Hall, Brisbane, on September 19; Festival Hall, Melbourne, on September 24; the Hordern Pavilion, Sydney, on October 3; and Wollongong’s Yours & Owls Festival on October 5. For a full run of dates go to

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Freddie Mercury heartbreaking revelations: He only did THIS at home where he felt safe

Freestone says: “The moments that always stood out for me were when he was at home laughing. 

“I know this sounds quite ordinary, but whenever you see Freddie smiling or laughing during an interview, he always uses his top lip to cover his teeth, or else he brings up his hand to cover his mouth.

The reason for this was that he hated his teeth and always tried to cover them up.

“When he was at home he wasn’t self-conscious surrounded by friends, and he would just throw his head back and laugh out loud with his mouth wide open. 


“Those were the times when the warm, funny and relaxed man was able to appear, without having to be wary of strangers seeing him without the Freddie Mercury – the Rock Star persona.”

Contrary to popular belief, Freddie’s home was never a major party palace. It really was simply his sanctuary.

Freestone says: “Freddie’s Garden Lodge generally had a quiet atmosphere. It was his home, so while he had quite a few wonderful parties for anything up to 200 people, it was a place he felt secure in and a place where he didn’t have to guard anything he said or did.

“He could get up in the morning and put on a mismatching tracksuit, he could be silent if he wanted to, or come downstairs from his bedroom, full of life.

“Freddie loved laughing, so was almost always with people who could make him laugh.”

Freestone, like all thos lucky enough to be in Freddie’s mansion, confirms just how beautiful the decorations and furnishings were. 

“While Freddie was alive, it was the warmest, most welcoming home that I could wish for.

“It was decorated most beautifully, it was filled with great furniture and as Freddie said, it wasn’t a museum; it was a house to be lived in and enjoyed.”

Freddie left the house in his will to ex-girlfriend Mary Austin, the “love of my life”, who kept much of the interior exactly how Freddie had created it.


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Tulisa pens an open letter to Jesy Nelson after Odd One Out documentary

Tulisa Contostavlos has penned an open letter to Little Mix star Jesy Nelson after the singer bravely opened up about a secret suicide attempt in her BBC documentary Odd One Out.

Tulisa was Jesy and Little Mix's mentor during their time on The X Factor in 2011.

Posting the message on Twitter, the Young singer said: "Dear Jesy.

"What a brave, beautiful, talented and loved girl you are.

  • Little Mix's Jesy Nelson admits cruel online trolls labelled her 'deformed' and 'repulsive'

"Knowing you were going through all of this in silence breaks my heart but to see the person you have become, rise above the dark times and now be in a place to help others shows the world just how strong you have always been."

She signed off the post: "I love you Jesy."

During the documentary, the Essex gal revealed how she was left a broken woman from vile online trolls abusing her on social media.

Jesy, 28, said: "I just remember thinking, 'I just need this to go away, I’m going to end this'.

"I remember going to the kitchen and just took as many tablets as I could.

"Then I laid in bed for ages and kept thinking, 'Let it happen. Hurry up'."

She heartbreakingly added: "I just remember thinking this is never going to go.

"I’m going to constantly wake up and feel sad for the rest of my life.

"So what is the point in being here? I physically couldn’t tolerate the pain any more."

  • BBC
  • Twitter
  • X Factor
  • Jesy Nelson
  • Little Mix

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At 2019 Americana Honors and Awards, the Genre Looks to a More Diverse Future

“We gotta change around here,” Mavis Staples sang toward the very end of Wednesday night’s 18th annual Americana Honors & Awards Ceremony at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium. Having been presented the evening’s Inspiration Award by pioneering Civil Rights activist and Freedom Rider Ernest Patton earlier in the evening, Staples’ song was a powerful reminder that change-inspiring music-makers are, like Staples put it herself during her acceptance speech, “still carrying on.”

But during a show that at once gestured at the future of the Americana genre while still firmly upholding its rigid past, Staples’ “Change” also served as a commentary on the state of Americana music in 2019. The Americana Honors, hosted by Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale of the Milk Carton Kids, celebrated big names like Elvis Costello and John Prine while highlighting a multiplicity of new voices and sounds from the genre’s wide cast of up-and-comers. 

The biggest winner was Prine, who took home both Song of the Year (“Summer’s End”) and Album of the Year for his 2018 standout The Tree of Forgiveness. And yet, despite some predictability from the 300-odd Americana Association voters, the show also gently pointed toward a new era, one helmed by artists like Brandi Carlile (who quoted Lizzo during her Artist of the Year acceptance speech), the War and Treaty, and I’m With Her, who won awards for Best Emerging Artist and Duo/Group, respectively.  

Carlile’s Artist of the Year win, in particular, felt long overdue, the singer’s first-ever official award from the Americana community (a year after her Grammy accolades) that served as a victory-lap recognition of her 2018 classic By The Way, I Forgive You. Having performed the deeply personal “The Mother” earlier in the evening, Carlile spent much of her acceptance speech offering praise to the other three Artist of the Year nominees: Mavis Staples, Kacey Musgraves, and Rhiannon Giddens.

Many of the most compelling moments and subsequent standing ovations from the nearly four-hour show came early on, delivered by relatively new acts like Yola, Ruston Kelly, Erin Rae, J.S. Ondara, and Our Native Daughters. From Yola’s sultry roots-pop to Kelly’s self-professed “dirt emo” to Ondara’s left-field coffeehouse folk, the first half of the show offered a broader, more flexible roadmap for the next generation of Americana songwriters, instrumentalists, and singers. When Amythyst Kiah, singing lead with the all-star banjo supergroup Our Native Daughters, sang “I go anywhere that I wanna go” during the group’s “Black Myself” it sounded like a provocation as much as an aspiration.

Amanda Shires at the 2019 Americana Honors & Awards (Photo: Wade Payne/AP/Shutterstock)

 Amanda Shires provided the evening’s most musically daring number with the deconstructed folk-pop intro to “Parking Lot Pirouette.” Meanwhile, Rhiannon Giddens, accepting the first annual Legacy of Americana honor alongside the long-forgotten 19th-century string-band pioneer Frank Johnson, ran through a note-perfect rendition of the age-old standard “Wayfaring Stranger” not once but twice, due to technical difficulties that forced her to repeat the song. (The awards are taped to air on PBS.)

Apart from Giddens and Johnson, this year’s lifetime achievement recipients included Delbert McClinton, Staples, Costello (“he roamed freely around our country for 40 years,” T Bone Burnett said when presenting him the award), and Maria Muldaur. After Muldaur was presented her award by Bonnie Raitt, the 76-year-old folk pioneer delivered a tribute to her inspirations that served as a survey course in American roots music: Ralph Stanley, Victoria Spivey, Kitty Wells, Sippie Wallace, and Hank Williams.

There were a few semi-random moments, including Rodney Crowell and Joe Henry’s tender recreation of Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash’s arrangement of “Girl From the North Country” and Mumford & Sons’ acoustic performance of their 2018 song “Do It for Yourself,” which was aided by the Milk Carton Kids. (“Last time I was here, I vomited on Jerry Douglas,” Marcus Mumford told the crowd at the Ryman.)

Later, the audience was hushed when Raitt and Prine came out by themselves with guitars. “You know this one, Bonnie?” Prine joked before the two went into a finely-aged rendition of their duet on “Angel From Montgomery.” Not long after, Staples traded verses with Carlile and the War and Treaty’s Michael Trotter during a rousing ensemble encore performance of “I’ll Fly Away.

Michael and Tanya Trotter had one of the evening’s biggest nights, mesmerizing the crowd with their a cappella take on “Love Like There’s No Tomorrow” before giving a moving speech about their project of “exposing togetherness” when accepting their award for Best Emerging Artist. 

On a night that showed how much more vital and exciting the larger Americana musical world can be when it embraces new sounds and styles, the War and Treaty seemed to exemplify Staples’ call when, a few hours after they won their award, Staples recast the refrain in her song “Change” in a slightly more hopeful light:

“Get it straight/Be sure that you hear,” Staples sang, “things gonna change around here.”

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Flashback: Pearl Jam Cover Daniel Johnston’s ‘Walking the Cow’

The sad news arrived on Wednesday that Daniel Johnston, an outsider folk musician who created incredible art throughout his life despite a debilitating mental illness, died of natural causes at his home in Houston, Texas.

“Daniel was a singer, songwriter, an artist, and a friend to all,” he family said in a statement. “Although he struggled with mental health issues for much of his adult life, Daniel triumphed over his illness through his prolific output of art and songs. He inspired countless fans, artists, and songwriters with his message that no matter how dark the day, ‘the sun shines down on me’ and ‘true love will find you in the end.’”

Many of his most enduring songs were recorded in the early 1980s on a cheap boombox in his childhood bedroom and basement. They managed to go viral the pre-Internet way by fans copying them on cassette and passing them along to friends. Interest in his work grew exponentially in 1993 when Kurt Cobain wore a T-shirt displaying the cover of his 1983 album Hi, How Are You. Johnston was in a mental hospital at the time, but that didn’t stop a bidding war from erupting over the rights to release his next album that was eventually won by Atlantic.


His 1994 album Fun didn’t sell and Atlantic quickly dropped him, but his increased profile did cause many to go back and discover his early, more innocent recordings. Everyone from Tom Waits to TV on the Radio, Beck, Bright Eyes, Death Cab for Cutie, and M. Ward would go on to cover his songs. On his last tour in 2017, he was backed by a rotating crop of musicians that included members of Wilco, Built to Spill, and Fugazi.

One of his most beloved songs is “Walking the Cow” from Hi, How Are You. Here is video of Pearl Jam performing it at the 1994 Bridge School Benefit. The band played it just two more times over the years, but Eddie Vedder opened every night of his 2008 tour with it and did it as recently as March 2018 during a show in São Paulo, Brazil. Johnston himself played the song throughout his final tour in 2017, and you can watch one of those performances below.

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Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello Post Video of How They ‘Really Kiss’ — Watch

Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello have a message for their PDA critics.

The pair has played coy about their romance over the last several months, even as they’ve been spotted kissing in public on multiple occasions —  including over coffee in San Francisco, in the ocean in Miami, during a date night in Montreal and in his hometown of Toronto.

“So we saw on Twitter and stuff you guys saying stuff about the way were kissing and how it looks weird like we kiss like fish,” Mendes, 21, explains in an Instagram video posted late Wednesday night.

“Yeah, it really hurt our feelings,” Cabello, 22, chimes in.

“We just want to show you how we really kiss,” Mendes says as the couple leans in for a seemingly romantic kiss, but things quickly take a comedic turn as Cabello sticks her tongue in Mendes’ mouth and the two jokingly have an over-the-top makeout session.

As they pull away, the pair laughs before turning off the video.

Mendes and Cabello’s famous friends couldn’t get enough of the hilarious video.

Singer Charlie Puth commented, “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHHAHAHAHAH,” while former One Direction star Niall Horan added a row of laughing and crying emojis.

The PDA video comes days after Cabello made a surprise appearance at Mendes’ concert in Toronto, Canada, on Friday night to perform their steamy duet “Señorita.” As the lights faded at the end of the song, Mendes appeared to give Cabello a sweet kiss on the cheek.

On Aug. 26, they sang “Señorita” at the 2019 MTV Music Video Awards, their first time performing the duet on stage. Though they didn’t deliver an onstage smooch, the performance was full of romantic lighting and sultry dancing. The pair was also seen cuddling and getting cozy in the audience during the show.

Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello

Mendes and Cabello have known each other for more than five years and first collaborated on the song “I Know What You Did Last Summer” in 2015.

In a recent interview with ELLE, Cabello opened up about why she’s keeping their coupling private, as she put it, to a “maddening degree.”

“Love is the most sacred, precious thing to me,” the “Havana” singer explained. “I want to always feel like my love is between me and that person, and never belonging to anyone else. As much as I love my fans, and as much as I love people, I like to live my life as normally as possible. In a relationship, it makes me feel uncomfortable to invite everyone in on that.”

The star continued, “People can say whatever they want to say. They can speculate, but at the same time, we are going to live our own lives, enjoy it, and fall for each other like nobody is watching. That is how I want to live. I never want to open the door for people to feel like they are involved. Like I said, I want it to be mine and [his]. That’s why I’m so tight-lipped about it: because I want to protect it.”

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Watch the Hold Steady Play Rousing ‘Denver Haircut’ on ‘Seth Meyers’

The Hold Steady played a rousing version of their single “Denver Haircut” on Tuesday’s Late Night With Seth Meyers.

The Brooklyn sextet captured a faithful version of the track, a trademark blast of crunching guitars, clattering cymbals and frontman Craig Finn’s clever lyrics about a “cesspool” town. “He shaved his head at the airport/In a bar at the end of the concourse,” he deadpanned over the din. “He said, ‘You’re kind of catching me at a transitional time/I’m a bright light burning into a dark horse.’”

“Denver Haircut” appears on the band’s recently issued seventh LP, Thrashing Thru the Passion, which also features four other new songs (“Epaulets,” “You Did Good Kid,” “Traditional Village,” “Blackout Sam”) and five others released digitally over the previous three years (“Entitlement Crew,” “Confusion in the Marketplace,” “T-Shirt Tux,” “Star 18” and “The Stove & the Toaster”).

The Hold Steady recently launched a run of multi-night residencies in several cities across the U.S. Their next takes place September 12th through the 15th in Boston, Massachusetts, followed by stint in Brooklyn, New York from December 4th through the 7th.

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