THE KODY NORRIS SHOW “Otto Wood” – with Web-Exclusive Interview


Video:  “Otto Wood”



by Rodeo Hanson and Merlin David

A ten-gallon Stetson hat perched above Kody Norris accentuates his cherubic face, sideburns, beaming smile and youthful exuberance. Arrayed in flamboyant suits adorned with embroidered pink flamingos, butterflies, flowers, rhinestones, fringes and ornate cowboy boots, the singer-songwriter and musician invokes Porter Wagoner and the early days of The Grand Ole Opry. He is the frontman of the eponymous bluegrass quartet The Kody Norris Show. Since 2015, Norris’ music has delivered new devotees into the fold of the Appalachian-rooted American genre. The Kody Norris Show is now perfectly poised to bring a piece of Johnson County, Tennessee honky-tonk to the world with their 2023 sophomore release Rhinestone Revival, which is filled to the brim with a dozen new tracks worthy of a belletrist.

Rhinestone Revival transports the listener to the mountains of East Tennessee. With the accuracy of an inspired auteur, The Kody Norris Show frames each musical vignette with banjo picking and fiddle playing virtuosity.

Kody Norris’ backstory begins in Johnson County, Tennessee home to musicians like Clint Howard, Fred Price and Clarence “Tom” Ashley. As of the 2020 census, Johnson County reported a population of 17,948 people. Virginia and North Carolina are the community’s neighbors, but the area has broadened its geographical borders by crossing over and into pop culture. Steve Earle’s song “Copperhead Road,” a dark moonshine and bootlegging cautionary tale is set in Johnson County. In April 2023, The Tennessee General Assembly ratified an act acknowledging the composition as the state’s eleventh official state song. Joan Van Ark played a character named Valene Ewing on the CBS prime time television soap Dallas. Ewing’s childhood home in the script was Johnson County.

Norris grew up in the mountains of East Tennessee, and those cordilleras are part of his DNA, both personally and musically. The creative spark for Norris was ignited when he was 10 years old in the form of a used mandolin, a gift from his parents. East Tennessee’s music flavor is bluegrass, which led to Norris expanding his resume of music instrument proclivity to include guitar, banjo and bass. At 15, Kody sought out opportunities to be part of the music business. He played many roles: sideman, studio musician, music instructor and emcee. It was Norris’ talents as a multi-instrumentalist and singer which resulted in stints playing with bluegrass artists Ralph Stanley, Ralph Stanley II and Joe Isaacs.

Sharing a birthday with bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs, it is almost as if fate has ordained Norris as the artist responsible for carrying the torch for early American music in the 21st century. A fortuitous encounter with Campbell Mercer, executive producer of the Cumberland Highlanders Show on the RFD-TV network, resulted in a nine-year spell for Norris playing guitar on the program. In 2006, Norris formed his own band, Kody Norris and the Watauga Mountain Boys, drawing upon his early creative influences: Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, Jimmy Martin, Jim and Jesse, and others. In 2015, the band was denominated The Kody Norris Show, a moniker fitting its engineer.

Accolades followed The Kody Norris Show two years after its inception. “When I Get The Money Made” released in 2017, secured Bluegrass Album of the Year from the National Traditional Country Music Association (NTCMA). In 2018, Kody Norris earned the slot of Rising Legend Recipient from the NTCMA. That same year, the Society for Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America (SPBGMA) recognized the ensemble with six nominations for the SPBGMA Awards: Male Vocalist of the Year, Fiddle Performer of the Year, Guitar Performer of the Year, Banjo Performer of the Year, Bass Performer of the Year, and Best Overall Bluegrass Group. Rebel Records based in Charlottesville, VA has been a home for renowned bluegrass artists since the 1960s. In 2019, the label signed The Kody Norris Show, and three years later All Suited Up was released. The album debuted at #7 on the Billboard Music Charts. The International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) tapped the troupe as Momentum Band of the Year Finalist.

Rhinestone Revival transports the listener to the mountains of East Tennessee. With the accuracy of an inspired auteur, The Kody Norris Show frames each musical vignette with banjo picking and fiddle playing virtuosity. Kody Norris lovingly caresses guitar strings. Norris’ “little sweetie,” and wife Mary Rachel Nalley-Norris provides the rich fiddle sound for the group. Before joining The Kody Norris Show, Rachel was a member of Larry Sparks and the Lonesome Ramblers. Josiah Tyree on banjo, and ‘Cousin’ Charlie Lowman on bass complete the lineup and complement the band’s musical identity.

The album hits the ground running with upbeat tempos more energizing than the caffeine in a double shot of espresso. “Mountain Rosalie,” is a definitive ditty celebrating the virtues of mountain sweethearts, hillbilly babies and pistol-packing mamas. It served as the album’s first single in October 2022, along with a lyric video.

“Baltimore I’m Leaving” is an ode of a country boy who tries to adjust to bright lights and big city life. The women he encounters have ulterior motives and aren’t the marrying kind. He is subsequently disillusioned by the Metropolitan’s thin facade and superficial values, longing to return to his farm in Tennessee. Norris amplifies the autobiographical sentiment of the composition, “Growing up in the mountains of East Tennessee, most people would tell you—if you want a good job, head to a northern city and try your luck. Well, me being in the music business and Baltimore being a hub for bluegrass music, I headed that way. I found the money and also found out in a hurry that the city life wasn’t my cup of tea.”

“Fiddler’s Rock” just squeaked by making the final cut for the album. Mary Rachel pushed Norris for years to record the song, but he always pushed it to the side. Once they got into the studio with a fresh arrangement, Norris feels it’s probably one of the strongest cuts on the album, “I love history, and this is definitely a song about that! I’m excited to take a piece of history to the masses about my home county in Tennessee—Johnson County.”

“Looking at the World through a Windshield” is a straight forward story as the title implies of a truck driver’s perspective on life.

“Please Tell Me Why” explores in painful detail hearts associated with dwindling flames of a dying romance. The lyrical content displays tear-jerking honesty. This is the perfect song for a couple’s last dance as they sway back and forth in each other’s arms before calling it quits.

“Gotta Get My Baby Back” has an alternate take on rocky romances. The story’s narrator is more optimistic about restoring the relationship and winning his baby back, and a more positive resolution is delivered.

“Endless Highway” is another entry for the lovelorn, told from the woman’s point of view, and the object of her affection resides like all good things on the album in Tennessee. Mary Rachel Nalley-Norris takes center stage, lending a lead vocal to the song which was popularized by Alison Krauss in 1990.

“Otto Wood” is a true-crime slice of Americana—a thief who challenges society’s rules and a sheriff. It showcases a rip-roaring acoustic intro featuring guitar and harmonica. It’s an old murder ballad that reflects the influence of Jimmy Martin, in particular. Otto Wood was a man who went into a pawn shop and after an altercation, he handled the situation in an unfortunate way—resulting with life in prison. As the song story delivers, Otto refused to accept his fate—making an escape from prison his only option. Although the ending for Otto didn’t work out, his story has been around for years, and The Kody Norris Show has managed to tell the story—as only they can. The track has a history with Norris. He learned the song from his good friend Clint Howard, who played with Doc Watson in the 60s. Norris played banjo with Clint’s band when he (Norris) was younger and they did this song often. Norris adds, “We experimented around with this song and found a different feel. Josiah plays the harmonica and I love to play drop D tuning on the guitar. This song was the perfect one to add those touches to, and happy we recorded it.” is featuring “Otto Wood.” Norris loves story songs and this is one of his favorites. Kody Norris says, “It goes into detail about his life and his ultimate demise—offering the listener a true story of a man who may have made some bad decisions. But this many years later, he is still remembered. I sure hope you like it!”

“I Call Her Sunshine” a romantic metaphor floods the album’s canvas with bright colors needed to balance the other romance-based narratives with a lead vocal by banjo picker Josiah Tyree.

“Let All the Girls Know You’re a Cowboy” and “My Home in Virginia” signal the end of the journey. Both tracks are unapologetic, self- assured and have the potential to become bluegrass anthems.

Rhinestone Revival is produced by Darin Aldridge, who also contributes mandolin to several tracks. The album highlights additional guests’ talents: Brooke Aldridge (Darin’s wife) furnishing  harmony vocals, Jason Barie (from Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers) contributing  second fiddle to several songs, percussionist Tony Creasman, and David Johnson, whose passionate harmonica playing on “Otto Wood” bestows a distinct country flavor to the song.

Kody Norris was the scribe for four of the compositions: “Baltimore I’m Leaving,” “Fiddler’s Rock,” “Please Tell Me Why,” and “Gotta Get My Baby Back.” “We are so excited to share the news of our brand-new album available today for pre-order on your favorite streaming platforms,” shares Kody Norris.

The Kody Norris Show tours consistently. In 2019, the group played more than 110 dates. They are scheduled for several dates throughout North America this summer.

Rhinestone Revival is a virtual road trip of our musical expression and has something to offer every listener. Recording this project was a blast and we certainly hope you enjoy it!”

M Music & Musicians magazine talked with Kody Norris about his eclectic musical influences, the importance of a good song, highlights in his career so far, and what inspires him to keep making music.


What one main thing did you learn about yourself after recording the new album Rhinestone Revival?
One thing I can honestly say that I learned about myself through the recording process is perseverance. Some days in the studio, and even some days live, you don’t feel you’re up to 100 percent, but you have to have the mindset to keep going. During the recording process, I was battling some sinus problems. However, I stuck it out. And I’m so happy I did. The album turned out to be one of my favorites this far.

How did this album evolve? Did one song inspire the rest of the album?
I think sometimes when I’m going into recording an album, there’s no rhyme or reason to what I’m going to do. I usually just let the music lead the way. Rhinestone Revival is definitely a roller coaster of emotions from “Gotta Get My Baby Back” barn burner to the sad broken-hearted man in “Please Tell Me Why.” We are big fans of letting the album tell us what we need to play.

Which 5 songwriters continue to influence you?
Joe Isaacs, Carter Stanley, Gordon Lightfoot, Loretta Lynn and Albert E. Brumley.

Is there a songwriting tip you’d like to offer?
If you feel it and it moves you—write about it.

Which song of yours do you continue to include in almost every live show?
A song of mine that we continue to incorporate in the show is definitely “Love Bug.” That song relaunched the Kody Norris Show as it was our first single released from Rebel Records to radio.

Tell us 5 albums you listened to the most.
16 Greatest Hits — The Stanley Brothers
Tarheel Country — The Bluegrass Tarheels
Bill Monroe at His Best — Bill Monroe
Greatest Hits — Porter Wagoner
Ballad of Finley Preston — Clint Howard & Fred Price (with their sons Clarence Howard & Kenny Price)

Tell us about a moment in your musical journey so far—that you are really proud of—and that continues to inspire you to keep making music.
One of my special moments by far was in February of 2022. We were so fortunate to bring home the Entertainer of the Year Award from the Society for Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America (SPBGMA). I’ve dedicated my entire life to bluegrass music and I always try to present it in a classy manner in which I think fans will enjoy. So receiving this award nominated by the fans made everything come full circle.

Where can new fans get more info and stay updated?

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