Tommy Ash's Yodeling Country Rock Is Pure Phoenix

Eric Fairchild
Authenticity is a loaded word when it comes to country music.

Nearly every modern country act likes to shout out "real country fans" in arenas, even the ones pumping out bombastic party anthems about red Solo cups, shaking asses, and jacked-up pickup trucks. Then there's the historical struggle of standard honky tonk heroes Willie Nelson, Hank Williams Jr., and Dwight Yoakam, guys who notoriously sparred with the country establishment, on the outs for coming across too hippie, too hardcore, or even too twangy.

But even if "real country music" is hard to define, it's hard to argue against the western credentials of Phoenix singer Tommy Ash. She started yodeling as a child, was playing weekends at the old Cheyenne Saloon by age 14, and even played Mr. Lucky's, Phoenix's most legendary honky tonk, which hosted Waylon Jennings, Charley Pride, Marty Robbins, Glen Campbell, and Wanda Jackson (see her fantastic live album In Person) before the nightclub shuttered its doors.

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Buddy Holly's Motorcycle, Willie Nelson's Braids Part of Giant Waylon Jennings Auction

Waylon Jennings with Jessi Colter

Waylon Jennings sure collected a lot of strange items during his life. Now, several hundred of them are going on auction at the Musical Instrument Museum, including a motorcycle once owned by Buddy Holly, a pair of Hank Williams' boots, Willie Nelson's braids, and a whole lot of clothing, jewelery, and other memorabilia.

The late Jennings was one of the Valley's all-time most famous residents, but let's back up a minute. Jennings is one of the most important and influential country singers of all time, a decorated and venerated member of the outlaw country movement, and the singer on five platinum records and 15 songs that topped the U.S. country charts. And he did almost all of it all after moving to Arizona.

Check out the highlights from the auction below.

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Blake Shelton, The Band Perry and Neal McCoy - Ak-Chin Pavilion - 9/5/14

All photos by Maria Vassett. Full slideshow here.
Blake Shelton

Blake Shelton, The Band Perry and Neal McCoy
Ak-Chin Pavilion

It's the beginning of September, and it's still more than 100 degrees after dark. Everyone within a seven-row radius is fanning themselves or buying water bottles to roll on themselves. All musicians, by the end of their sets, looked as if they had just gone pool-hopping. No one seemed to give a damn, because this is a country show, and when you go to see Blake Shelton, The Band Perry and Neal McCoy, you hitch up your bootstraps, stop complaining and strap in.

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Drag the River Shows There's More Similarities Between Country and Punk Than You'd Think

Imelda Michalczyk
Drag the River

Though not obvious, the connection is strong between punk and country music. Both genres can be rough around the edges, feature bad-boy frontmen, and contain songs about societal woes. Hank Williams III has turned his country music into a thrashing, moshing affair.

Less outwardly abrasive, but no less fun, is Drag the River, a revolving group of players that grew out of the ashes of two punk bands, All and Armchair Martian. To be fair, both punk bands -- the former featuring Chad Price, the latter Jon Snodgrass -- were in full swing as Drag the River slowly came into existence. Busy with their own bands but looking for outlets, the pair took advantage of an opportunity to record free demos in the then-newly christened Blasting Room recording studio.

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Billy Joe Shaver, the Misunderstood Outlaw Who Shoots Bullies in the Face

Courtesy of Jim McGuire/Conqueroo
Billy Joe Shaver slides out of his battered white Ford Econoline van with surprisingly agility for a man celebrating his 75th birthday tonight. There's already a small crowd gathered around the outside of The Satellite in Los Angeles, an unlikely venue for such an act and such an evening, but everyone here knows who Shaver is.

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Bart Crow's Country Music Comes Straight from the Heart

Courtesy of Bart Crow
Bart Crow

The old joke is to say one likes both types of music: country and Western. That's not easy anymore. There still are two types, only now it's run-of-the-mill, generic pop country, or cliché-free, from-the-heart-because-the-song-matters country. Texas singer-songwriter Bart Crow falls into the latter category.

"I feel like I've got my own style and don't feel like I fall into a certain stereotype," Crow says from his Austin home. "I just write songs. I've tried my hardest to write Texas country songs or just country songs, and it just doesn't work for me. . . I don't set out to ignore clichés, but I set out to challenge myself to write something fresh and new, so I just think it works out that way."

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Remembering Chris Gaines, Garth Brooks' Alter Ego

Alter-ego Chris Gaines on the left, original persona Garth Brooks on the right.

By Jaime Lees

Inspired by Garth Brooks' recent announcement of his world tour, we thought we'd take a minute to look back on our favorite era of Garth-ness: the invention of Brooks' alter-ego, Chris Gaines.

Alter-egos help an artist feel free to express sides of their persona that might make their fans uncomfortable otherwise. When we see an artist as just a ballad singer or just a rapper or just a pretty pop star, the artist often feels the need to rebel in the form of an alter-ego.

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Local Songwriter Christie Huff's Music Video Makes It Into G.I. Film Festival

Joe Hardwick
Mesa's Christie Huff made a music video that will be shown at a film festival in Washington, D.C.

Being a local singer/songwriter is never easy, especially at the age when one needs to decide whether to attend college or focus full-time on music. However, 19-year-old Christie Huff has found motivation to move ahead with music. A music video for one of her songs made it into a film festival in the nation's capital.

Huff's "Soldier Song" will appear May 24 during the "Heroes From Each Generation" film block at the G.I. Film Festival in Washington. Mark Fletcher, with whom Huff has collaborated on her other music videos, produced the video and found director Jacob Lees Johnson to work with them as well.

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When It Comes to Country Music, Southern California Will Never Be Arizona

K.C. Libman
Part of why Arizona reigns supreme: Country Thunder.
Summers in Northern Arizona are some kind of magical. I spent my childhood helping my dad load our battered red farm truck up with alfalfa bails, unloading them under building monsoon clouds, racing from the barn to the house as the rain fell, hay hooks in hand. As idyllic a scene as that is, that's not the magical part.

The magical part came with Garth Brooks' "Friends In Low Places" as we drove from Olsen's Grain to our property. Anyone from Sierra Vista to Chandler to Prescott can attest to the feeling of a big truck, a warm afternoon and the twang of country music. It's the stuff of pop country hits themselves -- Kenny Chesney's "Summertime," Jason Aldean's "Take A Little Ride" and the entire lyrical makeup of Cole Swindell's "Chillin' It." For those in the know, it's a bliss that's not to be trifled with, hardly understood by people raised in the city.

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Buckeye's Katryna Eastwood Is a Teenage Country Music Wunderkind

Katryna Eastwood
Listen to "Wounded," a new track by Buckeye country singer Katryna Eastwood, and it's easy to think the singer is far older than her 16 years. The haunting acoustic melody is layered with poignant lyrics of a heartbreaking man, collecting loves without a care before throwing them to the wayside.

The current single off Eastwood's debut album, Small Town Roads, off local label Skywalk Records, is a somber departure from Eastwood's previously released material, which have been more country rock than acoustic ballad - and that's exactly how Eastwood likes it.

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