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What do you get when you take ’50s-style rock ’n’ roll and meld it with folk-music songwriting?

The answer: You get Don McLean.

The man—best known, of course, for his wildly successful 1971 single “American Pie”—last year released his first new studio album in nine years, Botanical Gardens. McLean will be stopping by Fantasy Springs Resort Casino on Saturday, July 13.

McLean—a Palm Desert resident—has called Botanical Gardens his “most reflective” album, saying the title uses gardens as a metaphor for heaven, in the context of life and death. During a recent phone interview, McLean said Botanical Gardens may be his final original album.

“I may do one more, but I don’t know,” McLean said. “I’m at the end of the road as far as writing and recording. I think I have fairly interesting songwriting ideas that other people can use.”

The material on Botanical Gardens is beautiful, and it doesn’t stray too far from his past recordings.

“I don’t really pay attention to what the times are like—and that’s part of my problem,” McLean said. “I’m sort of an unreconstructed ’50s man. I live in my own world and try to tell the truth, but also try to realize what people are going through. I keep one eye on where people are at, but most of the time, I invent song ideas that I think are wonderful. I have fun trying to make those things happen. What I do is I fuse old-fashioned popular music and rock ’n’ roll, like Elvis Presley and Gene Vincent, and folk music. I try to find a feeling that I want to get, an emotion of some sort, and then I try to get it so when I hear a song, the emotion comes back to me.”

McLean returned to Nashville to record Botanical Gardens.

“I started (recording in Nashville) in 1978, and I immediately had hit records,” McLean said. “I worked with a guy named Larry Butler, and he was brilliant. Unfortunately, he passed away. I didn’t want to go to Nashville, because I was more into Los Angeles or New York, where there was a whole different music scene. The Nashville thing seemed to be pretty cookie-cutter, and I didn’t want that sound. What I found when I got there was they were all so happy to do new things—anything but country. They were just excited about doing Chain Lightning,” McLean’s 1978 album.

“In the studios (in Nashville), I have it together. Everyone knows what’s going on, and they’re swinging with it. In New York, they have a lot of attitude, and the studio musicians have their heads up their asses sometimes thinking they know everything. But these guys in Nashville do know everything and act as if they heard this idea for the first time when you tell them. I ended up recording there for the past 35 years, and it had everything I wanted.”

At a benefit show in 2018 for UCLA Health and Teen Cancer America, McLean performed a cover of his hit song “Vincent” with Ed Sheeran.

“(Ed) is really a remarkable fellow, because he seems impervious to his success, his ego and the pressures that are all around him; he’s like a Cheshire cat,” McLean said. “He’s very mellow and asked me if we could do this. It took two seconds of rehearsal and worked out perfectly. He’s done it his own way, and I applaud him.”

“American Pie” has been covered and parodied many, many times. However, McLean said one of his favorite covers of his music was actually of “The Grave,” done by another legendary artist back in 2003.

“I want songs to be useful for people. That’s the folk side of things. ‘American Pie’ has had so many brilliant parodies, and it’s unbelievable,” McLean said. “I sit there and read these things, (wondering) how people make these things up; it’s terrific! I’m always interested in hearing those. I think one of my proudest moments was when George Michael did ‘The Grave’ to protest the war in Iraq, because no one else had the balls to stand up and say, ‘No! This is wrong!’ But he did, and he sang that song. I was so proud of him and the fact he used my song.”

While McLean is at an age when many people are pondering retirement, he said he still loves the thrill of a tour, even if his show at Fantasy Springs is just a short drive from home.

“I love to get set for the next gig, the next plane flight, and I don’t do well sitting around for too long,” he said. “I get too antsy. For me to do what I did as a kid—playing for a whole week in a nightclub—I think I’d have to hang myself, and I couldn’t do it now. I can’t go to the same place every night and do it again. But I can say that I’m in very good shape; I have a great band; and we’re going to kick some ass.”

Don McLean will perform at 8 p.m., Saturday, July 13, at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, in Indio. Tickets are $29 to $59. For tickets or more information, call 760-342-5000, or visit www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Published in Previews

Singer-songwriter Don McLean is best known for his 1971 hit single “American Pie”—but he’s enjoyed a string of other hits throughout his career.

After appearing at Stagecoach last year and stopping in Riverside last summer for a show, he’ll be returning to the area—specifically, the McCallum Theatre—on Tuesday, March 17.

During a recent phone interview, McLean was quick to answer my questions; in fact, he often started answering before I finished asking—hinting that after 45 years in the music industry, he feels like he’s heard it all.

McLean has been open about the fact that he suffers from asthma.

“If you have asthma, you’re always an asthmatic,” McLean said. “Some people have bronchial asthma when they’re young. In my case, I had bronchial tubes that were not the proper size. When they spasm, you have terrible attacks, and it leads to pneumonia, and sometimes, you can die. I’ve had that happen many of times, and a few times, I was close to death. When you get to puberty, if you’re lucky, the bronchial tubes enlarge to the proper size, and you can outgrow the asthma. You still get spasms, but it doesn’t close everything off.”

McLean said that despite his asthma, he was involved with a swim team. That led, indirectly, to an interest in singing.

“I was on this swimming team at a beach club we belonged to for a few years. I had these very difficult workouts, and I learned to suffer doing these workouts,” he said. “… It changed the whole breathing situation, and I also gravitated toward opera and singers like Roy Orbison, Elvis Presley, Marty Robbins and people who could really sing. I wasn’t interested in the singing of Bob Dylan and people who talked lyrics. I loved the breathing, and it all sort of came together.”

While McLean was at Villanova University, he met the singer-songwriter Jim Croce, and the two became close friends before they entered the music industry.

“I think about him sometimes,” McLean said. “Two guys who I knew pretty well were Jim Croce and Harry Chapin. Harry Chapin, and I never want to disparage the dead, but he was not a great artist; he was a very aggressive, hard-working person who wanted success very much. He was very image-conscious. He did very well, and he had a good heart. Jim Croce was a real star. He was very humorous, and he knew what a hit record was. In my guess, if he would have lived as long as I have, he would be bigger than most people—he would have 30 to 40 hit records. A hit record is a special thing, and he knew what it was.”

McLean emphasized that Croce was a unique and kind person.

“He was still in Philadelphia when I was No. 1 on the charts,” McLean said. “… He was a very nice person, and he was also a very humane individual. He actually had a degree in psychology, and maybe even a master’s in psychology. He wanted to work with troubled children, and he had such a big heart. It was a big loss.”

Croce died in a plane crash in 1973 at the age of 30.

On the subject of “American Pie,” McLean has probably heard every conceivable question about the famous song. I brought up the subject of the song’s manuscript heading to the Christie’s auction block in April, with an estimated price of $1.5 million, and I mentioned the song has references to topics beyond Buddy Holly and “the day the music died.” McLean stopped me right there.

“I’ll just tell you this: All these years, people have made ‘American Pie’ like a parlor game: ‘Who is this and who is that?’ And if you see the manuscript … you’ll see that I’m just writing this image and this stream. I don’t have anything like, ‘This is this person, and that is that person.’ It’s poetry. … Romance and poetry are under attack in the world by technology. It’s happening very fast. The beautiful English language—words, subtlety and also the dramatic things we use these days, they’re all being destroyed by this Pac-Man of technology, aided and abetted by rap music, which is a cultural virus of some kind. That’s where we are now. We’re in a very dark place, and it will in the future put us in a dark age that can last for a very long time, artistically.”

Another one of McLean’s well-known songs is “Jerusalem,” a 1981 work about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“I sing it every night,” he said. “You might say Jerusalem is the blasting cap for the end of the world. Whatever goes on there will eventually determine what happens to the human race, which is interesting, because it’s biblical, and it gives the Bible a lot more power than you might think it has. When I was there, and when I was singing around there for a few years, I realized every type of religion has a home there. The Israelis try to make it theirs, and it isn’t really theirs; it belongs to every religion.”

McLean is not a “one-hit wonder,” as many people call him—and he wanted to make it clear he’s thrived artistically in the years since “American Pie.”

“I want to clarify that I’ve had other albums that went gold, and albums that have went gold around the world. In Australia, for example, my first 10 albums were gold,” he said. “The Best of Don McLean also went gold. The reason I bring that up is because that allows a lot of people to hear many songs that are on that record. They go to the concert when they see my name. I don’t sell out stadiums, but I do lovely theaters where it’s 1,000 to 2,000 seats, sometimes more than that. … (My fans) listen to all the songs on the record. They want to hear songs like ‘Sister Fatima,’ ‘Babylon,’ ‘Winterwood,’ ‘Dreidel,’ ‘Mountains o’ Mourne’ and so on. If I didn’t have that, I wouldn’t have a career. Just because everybody loves a certain song doesn’t really mean anything, and it never really meant anything to me. I never liked the Beatles’ ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand’—I hated it, actually, but I loved some of the other songs, and I loved them.”

McLean said he enjoys touring and performing in front of audiences.

“I’m going to be 70 this year, and I’m going to keep going,” he said. “I sing hard, and I have hard songs to sing; I don’t sing easy songs. I have to keep in shape, but I’m enjoying every minute of it, and I enjoy bringing music to young people and having them hear songs I’ve written and the songs I sing.”

Don McLean will perform at 8 p.m., Tuesday, March 17, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert. Tickets are $25 to $65. For tickets or more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Published in Previews

It’s March … so we all know what’s comin’, weather-wise. We strongly recommend getting out and enjoying some fantastic events before the broiler gets turned on.

The McCallum Theatre’s schedule is full of music events in March. While Johnny Mathis’ March 7 and 8 performances are sold out, here are some other shows to consider: At 8 p.m., Tuesday, March 17, singer-songwriter Don McLean will be stopping by. McLean wrote the 1971 hit single “American Pie,” for which he’s widely known; however, he’s written many other great songs, too. After catching his performance at Stagecoach last year, I can say he’s worth seeing. Tickets are $25 to $65. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 27, Chinese classical pianist Lang Lang will be performing. Tickets are $65 to $125. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has some great stuff going on in March. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 7, Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge will play. Etheridge won an Academy Award for her song “I Need to Wake Up,” for Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Tickets are $29 to $59. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 14, R&B superstar Ne-Yo will be stopping by. Ne-Yo has won multiple Grammy Awards; this is one you don’t want to miss. Tickets are $49 to $109. I was very excited when I heard about the next event … but there’s a twist: At 8 p.m., Friday, March 27, ’60s pop group The Monkees will perform. Here’s the twist: The show is slated to include only Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork. Michael Nesmith, with whom Tork and Dolenz reunited with after the death of Davy Jones in 2012, will for some reason not be taking part in this show, barring a change in plans. Tickets are $29 to $59. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has a couple can’t-miss shows scheduled, too. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 7, comedian Kathy Griffin will be returning to The Show for what should be a very funny performance. After a successful run with her reality show Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List, Griffin is still going strong. Tickets are $65 to $85. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 28, the ’90s-swing-revival band Big Bad Voodoo Daddy will take the stage. If you don’t remember, swing music enjoyed a very brief comeback in the decade thanks to acts such as the Brian Setzer Orchestra and the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies. Big Bad Voodoo Daddy has continued on successfully since then. Tickets are $40 to $70. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 had a strong February—and that strength continues into March. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 7, you’ll be happy to find a night of “country music without prejudice” with Big and Rich and special guest Cowboy Troy (pictured above right). During the ‘MERICA! years of the previous decade, Kenny Alphin and John Rich rode the charts, and also had several successful collaborations with Cowboy Troy, an African-American artist who does rap country music. Tickets are $80 to $100. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 28, plus-size comedian Ralphie May will be performing. May was the runner up on the first season of Last Comic Standing. He was also a contestant on Celebrity Fit Club. Tickets are $25 to $35. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has one event in March that leads to this question: Are you ready to rock? OK, just joking: At 9 p.m., Friday, March 13, Kenny G (pictured below) will be stopping by. That’s right: The smooth-jazz sax man will be performing here! Despite harsh criticism from some of bop-jazz’ notable musicians, Kenny G has captivated audiences while selling millions of records around the world. Haters gonna hate! Tickets are $60 to $70. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace will host some amazing musicians in March. At 8:30 p.m., Saturday, March 14, Dave Catching and Rancho de la Luna will be taking over Pappy’s with performances by Earthlings?, Dinola and Rancho de la Lunatics. Tickets are $10. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 27, there will be a much-anticipated performance by Gang of Four. The English post-punk outfit just released a new album. Tickets are $25. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; pappyandharriets.com.

Copa has several interesting events booked for March. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 6 and Saturday, March 7, Copa will be hosting performances by actress Molly Ringwald. Actually, she’s more than just an actress: Ringwald is also a decent vocal jazz singer! Her 2013 album Except Sometimes included a jazz-style cover of the Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” from her ’80s film The Breakfast Club. Tickets are $45 to $75. Copa, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 760-322-3554; www.coparoomps.com.

Be sure to watch the websites and social-media presences of venues not listed here for newly announced events. Have a great March, everyone!

Published in Previews

The winds were up and the temps were down during Day 2 of Stagecoach 2014—but the music was spectacular.

Former Old Crow Medicine Show member Willie Watson kicked off the day on the Mustang Stage. Watson’s set was a prime example of the diversity offered at Stagecoach when attendees get away from the Mane Stage area. Watson offered a traditional sound, switching between banjo and guitar. His one-man folk act was impressive.

The Spirit Family Reunion appeared on the Mustang Stage mid-afternoon. The America band has appeared on NPR and has earned write-ups from various Americana-related publications—and the group is certainly worthy. With a sound similar to that of the Felice Brothers (minus the accordion), Spirit Family Reunion had crowd members dancing and clapping along. “Mainstream” country music is becoming more diverse with bands such as this gaining an audience, and the modern sound—mixed with a traditional, rustic approach—of Spirit Family Reunion was a real delight for those who caught the band.

Former Drive-By Truckers guitarist Jason Isbell appeared on the Palomino Stage late in the afternoon. He’s spoken in detail about his drug battles and the fact that he does not remember much about portions of his tenure with Drive-By Truckers, but his songwriting skills and sound were very similar to the work turned in by Drive-By Truckers—if not better. He questioned whether or not he was “country” during his performance; he certainly had a heavy Southern-rock sound, and he gained quite an audience.

Don McLean’s early-evening show on the Palomino Stage was not to be missed. The “American Pie” songwriter started off with a cover of Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue Got Married,” and followed with his song about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, “Jerusalem.” McLean had about half of the Palomino tent full, with multiple generations of festival-goers enjoying the show. One of the more interesting moments of his set was his cover of Johnny Cash’s “Cocaine Blues,” which was given a country tinge thanks in part to piano. McLean explained to the audience he was an “accidental hit songwriter,” and was more of a performer who liked to interpret other people’s songs—a fact he showed by performing Roy Orbison’s “Crying” and the Everly Brothers’ “Love Hurts.” Of course, when he began to perform the opening lines of  “American Pie,” more and more people ran into the Palomino Stage and began to cheer. While McLean’s performance was awesome, it was a shame that the crowd he gained while performing “American Pie” wasn’t there to hear him sing “Cocaine Blues.”

Crystal Gayle followed Don McLean with a set featuring hints of Leonard Cohen, Dionne Warwick, Sade and, of course, her traditional country sound. Her covers of Mary Hopkins’ “Those Were the Days” and “Lean on Me,” and her performance of “Why Have You Left the One You Left Me For” were all exciting and beautifully performed.

If there was a spectacle to be seen during Stagecoach’s Day 2, it was in the photo pit during Trampled by Turtles’ show. Independent contributor Kevin Fitzgerald told me that Ashton Kutcher was in the photo pit drinking, dancing and partying with some girls. As for Trampled by Turtles, the band's sound—complete with violin, cello and mandolin played at a fast pace—came across as true bluegrass with a modern spin; much of the crowd was into it from the very first note. The band gave a solid performance to close out the day’s proceedings on the Mustage Stage.

Back in the Palomino, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band closed out the night. Early in their set, the band played “Tulsa Sounds Like Trouble to Me” and “My Walking Shoes.” Before playing one of the band's biggest hits, “Dance Little Jean,” frontman Jeff Hanna explained that the four members had been married 10 times between them, and that they “worked hard for their divorces.” Also mentioned was how the band wrote “Working Man (Nowhere to Go)”: It was inspired by their friend Willie Nelson and Farm Aid.

Despite being from Southern California, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band is one of country music’s ongoing gems. The band’s performance—which took place before Hunter Hayes and Jason Aldean had the entire festival to themselves on the Mane Stage—was the day’s highlight for many.

A Note on Handicap Access

Last year, I wrote about the fantastic experience I had with Goldenvoice and its ADA Access Center, which helps handicapped people enjoy the Coachella and Stagecoach festivals.

Unfortunately, my experience this year has been nowhere near fantastic. In fact, it’s been quite bad.

ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) ramps in the Mustang and Palomino tents were left without security on Friday and Saturday. As a result, many of the chairs were removed from the ADA platforms by festival-goers and left scattered through both tents. Therefore, many of those who were in need of seating, as well as companions assisting people in wheelchairs, were left without chairs on Friday night during shows by Katey Sagal and the Forest Rangers, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

There were also numerous people on the platforms who did not have an ADA wristband.

When I raised these issues with the ADA department on Friday evening, the people there seemed unaware that the platforms were without security, and said they would look into the issue. However, the situation was the same on Saturday.

As for the attitude of some of the festivalgoers who took chairs from the platforms for themselves? I questioned one such person on Saturday afternoon.

The response I received: “Who gives a shit? They’re handicapped!” 

Published in Reviews

At Stagecoach, attendees never quite know what to expect. Big Nashville stars mix with folk singers, alt-country rebels, old-time country acts and rock stars performing solo sets.

Of course, many of the most-intriguing acts won’t be gracing, as it’s called at Stagecoach, the “Mane Stage.” Here are some bands and musicians we think attendees should consider checking out.

Friday, April 25

The Howlin’ Brothers: If you like old-time, traditional country, The Howlin’ Brothers have you covered. Their old-time sound is quite an experience, as demonstrated on their debut album, Howl; check out songs “Hermitage Hotstep” and “Tennessee Blues.” They’ll definitely offer an enjoyable experience.

The Wailin’ Jennys: The all-female trio from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, is known for beautiful harmonies that leave listeners wanting more. Listen to their tracks “Swing Low Sail High” and “The Parting Glass,” and you’ll definitely want to add this group to your list of acts to see. Does the name sound familiar? Perhaps you’ve heard one of their appearances on A Prairie Home Companion.

Katey Sagal and the Forest Rangers: Sagal—best known as the actress who played Peg on Married With Children, and who now plays Gemma on Sons of Anarchy—is back at Stagecoach with the Forest Rangers for the second year in a row. I mentioned them in last year’s list of Stagecoach acts not to miss, and I was not disappointed. When the Forest Rangers took the stage last year, they played a few songs without Sagal—leaving those in the crowd wondering if she would even appear. However, appear, she did—and it was unbelievable how beautifully she sang Leonard Cohen’s “Bird on the Wire.” When Curtis Stigers showed up to sing “John the Revelator,” it was equally spectacular. Hopefully, the group will have a longer set than they did last year.

Eric Paslay: Eric Paslay is an up-and-coming star with a big Nashville sound. The native Texan has had a lot of success in the last couple of years. After performing on Amy Grant’s How Mercy Looks From Here—with Grant and Sheryl Crow on the track “Deep as It Is Wide”—he released his self-titled debut album in February, and it shot to No. 4 on the Billboard country chart. Country fans love his track “Friday Night.”

Lynyrd Skynyrd: Lynyrd Skynyrd? At Stagecoach?! Why not? The renowned Southern-rock band was one of the biggest bands of ’70s, sharing stages with the Rolling Stones and The Who. However, tragedy struck in 1977, when the band’s plane crashed, killing original frontman Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and backing vocalist Cassie Gaines, as well as several others. The surviving members, all of whom were injured, decided to dissolve the group afterward. In the late ’80s, the band resurfaced, with Van Zant’s brother Johnny taking the lead. Since then, the band has lost original members Allen Collins, Leon Wilkeson and Billy Powell after each of them passed away. The band is best known for rocking out tunes such as “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Gimmie Three Steps,” “Simple Man” and, of course, “Freebird,” but in recent years, the band has alienated many fans by recording anti-left songs and performing with the likes of Ted Nugent, Kid Rock and Hank Williams Jr. Still, their classics are worth sitting through the new material; just flick your Bic and scream “FREEBIRD!!!” when you find yourself annoyed.

Saturday, April 26

Whiskey Shivers: Whiskey Shivers is a bluegrass style band from Austin, Texas, with all of the traditional instruments represented—yes, even the washboard. Some of their bluegrass tunes are funny; others have punk-rock-style lyrics; yet others may leave you wanting to square dance (or whatever it is you do to bluegrass music). In any case, they’re an entertaining addition to the Stagecoach lineup.

Seldom Scene: On the other hand, if you like your bluegrass more on the sentimental side, the Seldom Scene is worth checking out. Since forming in 1971, the band has paid its dues—although the members received some criticism for adding an electric bass at one point. Ben Eldridge is apparently the only original member of the band left, but the band’s credentials are nonetheless impressive: The Seldom Scene was invited to a White House dinner in 2008 and was nominated for a Grammy Award not too long ago.

Trampled by Turtles: If you’re a fan of Old Crow Medicine Show, you’ll love Trampled by Turtles (right). This alt-country/bluegrass band from Duluth, Minn., played Coachella in 2012; they played Stagecoach once before, too, in 2010. While they haven’t achieved the popularity that some other alt-country bands have, take it from me: They are still one of the best live acts in America.

Don McLean: While many people think “American Pie” is about the death of American values, it’s really about the day the Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens and Buddy Holly’s plane crashed in Clear Lake, Iowa, on Feb. 3, 1959. Don McLean, a folk icon of the late ’60s/early ’70s, has written other great tunes, but is unfortunately most remembered for “American Pie.” If you get tired of country and bluegrass, McLean’s act should offer a nice retreat.

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band: The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band formed in the 1960s group and developed a great combination of rock and country music—and they’re not from Texas or Tennessee, but Long Beach! They started as a traditional country band, playing the acoustic instruments you’d hear in folk music, but eventually transitioned to electric instruments. They’ve done everything from opening for Bill Cosby to jamming with Dizzy Gillespie, and they recently re-recorded their hit “Mr. Bojangles” with Keith Urban and Dierks Bentley. They’re a great live band—and three of their original members are still part of the group.

Sunday, April 27

I See Hawks in L.A.: I See Hawks in L.A. is a great alternative-country band from—you guessed it—Los Angeles that has been around since 2000. The band has a bit of that Bakersfield sound combined with cosmic country, with great songs such as “Stop Driving Like an Asshole,” “The Beauty of the Better States” and “Hallowed Ground.” While they’d sound fantastic up at Pappy’s and Harriet’s, they’re sure to sound fantastic at Stagecoach, too.

Shovels and Rope: I had never heard of this group until I saw them on the Stagecoach lineup; the name alone made me want to learn more. The info I gathered on this band is that they’re a folk duo—and they rock. There are some gospel influences in there with some old-time folk, but there are also electric guitars and some old-time percussion instruments in the background. This is one performance I’m personally looking forward to.

Michael Nesmith: The Monkees frontman seemingly disappeared off the face of the Earth for a while after a 1990s Monkees reunion. While Nesmith is primarily known for the Monkees, he has written country music in the past, and has even released some country songs; you can find some recordings on YouTube, including some recent live performances. This was definitely one of the more surprising names to appear on the Stagecoach lineup; in any case, it should be interesting when Nesmith takes the stage.

John Prine: Not even cancer in the neck could stop this prolific folk songwriter (below). While he doesn’t sing like he once did, he’s still writing great songs about love, life and humor. He also hasn’t been afraid to write songs with social commentary. Many of today’s biggest songwriters, such as Conor Oberst and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, have been influenced by Prine; they even appeared on an album made in tribute to Prine. In late 2013, he was diagnosed with cancer again—this time, in the lungs—and underwent successful surgery. Despite the recent illness, he remains on the lineup and plans to make the show.

Published in Previews