I pulled up to the Mercy Lounge not long before show time. I did not want to pay for parking at the venue, so I dropped my girlfriend off and then drove across the street and found a spot near Third Man Records, the laboratory of mad scientist and rock titan Jack White. By the time I got back there was no line at all. I grabbed our tickets and we walked upstairs to The High Watt – a new addition to the Mercy Lounge venue complex – to hear Andrew Combs, a transplanted Texan with good pipes and even better writing skills.
The crowd upstairs was decently-sized and littered with musicians and Nashville industry types. The blond girl who plays Scarlett on the ABC drama Nashville walked by at one point. Later I ran into musician and photographer Joshua Black Wilkins. “I’ll be the guy in the front row singing every word,” he said.
I ponied up to the bar and ordered two glasses of George Dickel, No. 12, the crème de la crème of Tennessee whisky, in my opinion. (The bar was out of Dickel so we had to settle for Jack Daniels, alas.) A band from New Orleans called Sam Doors & The Tumbleweeds kicked off the night. They were good but we were anxious to hear Combs, one of several young country-folk artists on the scene that excite us (Caitlin Rose, Jonny Fritz, Robert Ellis and Daniel Romano are others). The songwriting of these young guns is rooted in tradition but remains fresh and inventive. They have studied the craft of their heroes – Combs worships Guy Clark and Fritz bows to Billy Joe Shaver – and applied those lessons to their own songs. Combs delivered a great show. His band was tight and the songs he played had a maturity about them that belies his young age. In fact we were so impressed that we asked Combs and his guitarist, Jeremy Fetzer, to join us that week for a visit to Gruhn Guitars, a world-renowned shop in Nashville that boasts a wide array of vintage instruments as well as new models from boutique American guitar makers. There we picked on several “legendary” guitars, including a 1939 Martin D-45 that goes for a princely $185,000.
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We like to the connect the dots between young and old at American Songwriter, and John Fogerty is the perfect subject for that theme. This month he releases an album of classic CCR hits that he re-recorded with younger artists like Brad Paisley, Miranda Lambert, and Foo Fighters, among others. Fogerty says he is not a “legend” but assigns that tag to Dylan and Springsteen in our interview. He talks at length about his musical education and discusses the genesis of writing rock staples like “Born On The Bayou” and “Green River.”
Later in this issue, Jonny Fritz – who else? – interviews Billy Joe Shaver. Shaver tells the strange and twisted tale about how he got his songs to Waylon Jennings, an event that ended up changing the way Nashville made albums in the ’70s. Elsewhere, Gregg Allman talks about his songwriting achievements, something he says he has not always been acknowledged for. And Crosby, Stills & Nash discuss their storied career, one that is still going despite the occupational hazards of playing in a rock band for more than three decades.
As we close out 2012, the print edition of American Songwriter is still strong, contrary to industry trends. During the past few months we’ve put a lot of work into the “Legends” issue. We even gave the magazine a shot in the arm, in the form of a larger-sized book and better-grade paper. We will publish the magazine in this new format going forward. We hope you like it. And thanks to all the songwriters and music junkies out there who read this magazine and remain part of our tribe. We enjoy reading your lyrics, engaging with you on Facebook, and picking tunes with you in late-night hotel rooms in Austin and around midnight campfires in the sticks of North Carolina. 2013 is sure to be a banner year for us and we’re excited to have you aboard.