Posts Tagged ‘music’

Monday music musings, 20.10.14

October 20, 2014

Kix Brooks, peddling a revisionist history of sorts:

We’ve got Luke [Bryan] and Jason [Aldean] and Zac [Brown Band] selling stadiums! Hell, Ronnie and I never did that. Now we have four or five artists legitimately that can sell stadiums damn near anywhere.

Sigh. Why is this revisionist history, you ask? Because it’s quite clear what he’s getting at, and he’s wrong. Back when Brooks and Dunn were actually a thing, in fact one of the hottest acts in country music, country music had at least two acts who could pack stadiums — Garth Brooks and George Strait. In fact, Strait was selling out stadiums, or pretty close to it, 20 years into his career — about the same length of time Brooks and Dunn were at it before they called it quits. Think about that, in the context of what Brooks is saying here and what Strait has said (or, rather, not said) about modern country music.

Of course, all of this is assuming that “numbers of acts selling out stadiums” is a valid indicator of the artistic health of any given genre. Which it isn’t.

===

Apologies to David Cantwell,  but “I Hope You Dance” is still the most overrated thing Lee Ann Womack has ever recorded. I remember seeing a recent Texas Monthly Lee Ann Womack feature that summed it up quite nicely:

“If all you know about Lee Ann Womack is the schmaltzy megahit ‘I Hope You Dance,’ then you probably don’t understand her at all.”

===

Somebody ought to ask Cortez Bryant if he knows how the U2 album Songs of Innocence was received as it was put on every iTunes account and if that’s something he really wants to emulate. Or, on second thought, maybe not. The faster these interlopers with no respect for the genre go down in flames, the better.

(h/t Country California)

“This sounds like hipster mischief to me.”

October 17, 2014

Such was one reaction at Saving Country Music to alt-country pioneer Ryan Adams’ admission that he “(does) not like fucking country music” and “only (liked) country music as an irony.” Sounds about right to me. Trigger’s own reaction:

I feel like I’ve been stabbed in the back.

If I were a bigger Ryan Adams fan, I’d feel that way too. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen an artist so gratuitously insult the genre of music and the fans of that genre that brought him fame and fortune, but it’s incredibly distasteful all the same. I can separate the artist from the art a lot of the time, but it’s not so easy when the artist insults his own art — especially as he says out of the other side of his mouth that it has a “certain amount of honesty.”

So, in other words, what we have here is Ryan Adams making a certain kind of music, acknowledging its honesty, and then saying that he hates that kind of music and that he only liked it ironically. One can only presume that he’s trying to be his true self as he admits his true feelings, but in the process he shows himself to be a total fraud.

Oh, the irony!

“…if country means ‘whatever,’ it really means nothing at all.”

September 22, 2014

…or, Heyyy, time for more ragging on Jason Aldean!

From Buzzfeed:

For some listeners, “Burnin’ It Down” is more “pop” than “country.” Aldean has heard the criticism, and he is unfazed. “If somebody can put a definition on what country music is, please tell me,” he said.

“I’m pretty knowledgeable in country music, and I’ve never once seen where it says, ‘Country music doesn’t have a drum loop,’” he said.

Definition of country music? Steel guitar, fiddle, three-quarter time. Add some electric guitar in there every so often. You might be able to get away with more avant-garde stuff like putting your vocals through a vocoder a la George Strait and “Stars on the Water” if you know what you’re doing. Granted, that’s only a start, and country music is more than just that, but some instruments work better than others. And some things just don’t work at all. The things you find in “Burnin’ it Down” are perfect examples of what doesn’t work. It seems that Aldean thinks that “country music” pretty much has no definition, that it’s whatever people who record music in Nashville says it is. I saw something at Saving Country Music yesterday about Country Roads, a new European-produced documentary on country music, featuring this quote from Justin Townes Earle as he was narrating it:

This is one of our few untouched things in Nashville—RCA Studio ‘B’…But then you just look around at all the crap that has been built around it. This is like the belly of the beast right here. This is where all the bad ideas are thought up. This is where all the bad country songs come from. This is where they’re all recorded. In all these buildings, this is where all the ‘geniuses’ that are thinking all the crap up and what they’re gonna do … It’s amazing to me that the people that work here now can hold their heads up, that they can walk these streets and think that if Hank Williams wasn’t here right now he wouldn’t whip their fucking ass.

Aldean was also stung by his failure to get an Entertainer of the Year nomination:

Obviously it’s disappointing. We’re still out there selling out shows. With maybe the exception of Luke [Bryan], I don’t think there is anybody else out there that is doing the kind of touring numbers that we’re doing.

Now, on the surface, that gripe might be legitimate. After all, he’s “entertaining” a lot of people, right? Well, when you look at the actual criteria for the award, the snub makes a lot more sense:

“This award is for the act displaying the greatest competence in all aspects of the entertainment field. Voter should give consideration not only to recorded performance, but also to the in-person performance, staging, public acceptance, attitude, leadership, and overall contribution to the Country Music image.”

I see at least three strikes against Aldean here:

A. Attitude: his semi-literate Twitter attack on Zac Brown and his general cavalier attitude on the anything-goes direction;

B. Leadership: With apologies to Trigger, “Is ‘Burnin’ It Down’ the ‘leadership’ from the man these people think should be the Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year? Because I’d rather shit a knife than listen to this.”

C. Overall Contribution to the Country Music Image: Well, I think A and B, combined with the perception that “Burnin’ It Down” is a window into his affair, pretty much knocks that one out.

And it’s just so…disappointing. For all I rag on Aldean, he’s actually a pretty decent singer. I was expecting to be quite disappointed, for example, with his duet with George Strait on “Fool Hearted Memory” on the cd of Strait’s last live show from Dallas, but I gotta give the dude credit — he nailed his part. I don’t know if he’d ever be on that level, but he could be at least not bad if he’d record better songs.

Thursday musical observations, 4.9.14

September 4, 2014

Seen at Rolling Stone Country:

ELI YOUNG BAND VIEW CMA NOMINATION AS VALIDATION FOR TEXAS ARTISTS

“For so long we were that regional band down in Texas,” Eli tells Rolling Stone Country. “We were all kind of lumped together. I think a lot of times maybe we were misunderstood, or discounted. It took some time to convince everyone that we had something to offer nationally and commercially.”

Eli also hopes it gives a little validation to other Texas-bred artists looking to gain recognition on Music Row. “Hopefully what we’re doing will open some doors for them,” Eli says.

Oh, boy. Where does one even start with this?

You longtime readers all know my feelings on awards like this, but for those of you that don’t:

Being a fan of a lot of non-mainstream artists, I’ll admit I’ve gotten to the point that I don’t really put much if any stock in awards shows anymore. Not that I ever really did, but there was a time that I got a little ticked if my favorites didn’t win. That changed after I started getting into the Texas music scene and discovered a lot of great music from artists who in all likelihood won’t ever make it to the stage at the CMAs, ACMs, Grammys or what-have-you. Since then I’ve pretty much gotten to the point that I go, “another awards show, yawn, that’s nice…” I’d run into people here and there who would point to those awards as some sort of justification for liking the artists who won them — as if those awards made said artists better than all the others — and I’d just have to roll my eyes.

Now, with that said…

There is so much I could say to that Rolling Stone bit, but here’s what my answer boils down to:

To the extent a CMA award nomination would serve as a “validation” of Texas and Red Dirt music, it would do much, MUCH more so if it went to, say, the Jason Boland and the Stragglers album Dark and Dirty Mile or the Josh Abbott Band song “I’ll Sing About Mine.” (Or, hell, even the Brian Keane recording of that song.) It strikes me that the Eli Young Band anymore is about as good a representative of Texas music as Shania Twain was for mainstream country music circa 2002 — that is to say, not a very good one. I know that might sound harsh, but one of the raisons d’être of this music was and is to give fans an alternative to the bland pop Nashville turns out. I don’t know if I’d categorize the Eli Young Band as having sold out, as I am not sure they ever really “bought in” in the first place, but they more or less fit right in with what’s going on in mainstream country anymore. I don’t know if I’d fully commit to this next observation, but I’d just about call Kacey Musgraves as a better representative of Texas country anymore than the EYB; even if she is signed to a big Nashville label and is considered a mainstream artist, she seems to ride the line between Nashville and Texas better than anyone since probably Steve Earle.

As for this…

Next year, he’s hoping to see Texas acts like Lubbock troubadours Josh Abbott Band and traditional honky-tonker Cody Johnson crack the list…

It’d be nice, but I am not optimistic about the chances of that happening. And if anyone’s gonna be on the CMA Awards from Texas without any kind of artistic compromise, I’d much rather it be Jason Boland than Cody Johnson. I remember commenting on Reddit that JB had the best voice in Texas music, and some dude replied to me that was because I hadn’t heard Cody Johnson. I did, not long after that, and was kinda underwhelmed. He’s a good singer, don’t get me wrong, but he’s no Boland.

===

Quote of the week, from Trigger at Saving Country Music, on Clear Channel deejay Bobby Bones’ whining about not getting a CMA nomination (emphasis mine — ed.):

Bobby Bones continued,

“its not an ‘injustice’. I simply don’t play the political games the format is known for. Also Jason Aldean got screwed too! Id like to thank the almost 500 radio stations Im on & you the listener for the millions of $$$ we’ve raised for charity this year,”

This charity card is another indolent, insulting, and misrepresenting card Bobby Bones overplays predictably. Just because you give to charity doesn’t absolve you of all your sins. Why doesn’t Bobby Bones set up a charity for the hundreds of local DJ’s he’s put out of work, or the thousands of people laid off by Clear Channel in the most historic and sweeping homogenization and nationalization of a cultural institution since the dawn of American media? Give all the money to charity you want. It will never make up for the damage of poisoning people with the cultural filth broadcast on the Bobby Bones Show to millions every morning.

That pretty much sums it up, if you ask me. I also saw that George Strait was up for yet another Entertainer of the Year nod at the CMAs. It would be quite worth it to see him win, just to see Luke Bryan fans’ heads explode like they did when he won at the ACMs earlier this year…

Speaking of Saving Country Music, via that site I also saw that the new single from Garth Brooks made its debut earlier this week. Saw it described in comments as “‘We Shall Be Free’ with a touch of ‘Right Now’ by Van Halen.”

Man. If that doesn’t make you run away in shrieking, gibbering terror, I don’t know what would…

Whoa, dude, get over yourself.

September 2, 2014

My gut reaction to this:

“Wow, Brad Paisley is a whiny little bitch.”

My more thoughtful reaction:

This is really quite unbecoming of…well, anyone in Paisley’s position. It’s as if he thinks he has the right to make shit music but no one has the right to call him out on it. Three things, before I go any further:

A. I realize this sort of thing (shit music vs. good music) is highly subjective.

B. I don’t have any particular love for critics on any level, as I’ve said before, and

C. Paisley may be right that “the fans know better,” as ultimately they’re the ones who decide whether the artists get to keep making records.

All of that so stipulated, what Brad Paisley is saying here is not really something one should want to say out loud, because it makes one look very, very petty and insecure. And it really doesn’t say much about Paisley’s position — or at least what he perceives as his position — in country music right now. It just comes off as him thinking the time is at hand for his career and that he’s lashing out because of that. But no matter his reasoning, did it ever occur to him that he’s held to a higher standard because critics and fans alike (but to a large extent anymore I am repeating myself — see below for more on that) perceive him as capable of better than what he’s doing anymore? I mean, he was no George Strait even on his best day, but he had at least a decent ear for good songs (“Who Needs Pictures,” “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive,” “Whiskey Lullaby,” “Too Country”) even if said songs seemed to get fewer and further between as his career progressed. But it all went to shit between his increasing penchant for joke songs, his taking himself so seriously, and trying to be “progressive,” “pushing the boundaries,” etc., etc., etc. His chickens are coming home to roost.

And here’s what I am talking about when I allude to the critics and fans more and more becoming one and the same: I find it…interesting…that Paisley chose to tweet a review from a blog as opposed to a review from a newspaper or magazine critic. All of this is my completely uninformed observation, but this suggests quite an interesting shift in perceptions — if only in the music world. Once upon a time it seemed that the only opinions people deemed worth taking seriously were those of the Authorized Critics from “official” media sources as opposed to bloggers offering their observations as fans of particular artists and genres.

Such may well be another part of Paisley’s frustration — a few of these so-called “critics” are actually fans of his who are disappointed with the direction he’s chosen to take since…well….I don’t know. That depends on who you ask. 2003’s Mud on the Tires had its moments, but I wasn’t big on the albums I heard after that. Looking back I don’t even remember why I bought that album, to be honest. It wasn’t as good as I thought Part II was then, to be sure. I used to think Paisley was decent, but his shtick has been tiresome for some time.

At any rate, it’d be interesting to see how at least the blog reviews correlate to the album sales, and why, if the reviews don’t matter, Paisley is so up in arms about them — other than his anxiety over being on the backside of his career. It certainly goes to show that he’s not the A-level artist that he thought he was. I mean, I thought Tracy Lawrence’s and Clay Walker’s respective takes on their artistry in relation to their continued relevance left a lot to be desired, but Paisley is making them look like dignified elder statesmen of the genre in comparison.

Another couple of observations…

“I control the presentation,” Paisley told Billboard’s Country Update.

Really. And this is a good thing? Whether it is or not doesn’t really matter, because what he’s ultimately pissed off about is the fact that he can’t control the reaction to his presentation. I don’t know if he said that to make himself feel better about his inability to do that, but it certainly sounds like it.

And although it’s a slightly different situation, I am reminded of the reaction to Lee Ann Womack’s Something Worth Leaving Behind. From what I understand, that album was pretty roundly panned as a poor attempt to cross over to the pop charts and recreate the success of I Hope You Dance. In other words, it was received by critics about as well as Paisley’s latest, at best. But did you see Lee Ann Womack bitching about critics? Hell no you didn’t. She went back to what she was good at and in the process made the best album of her career. There’s a lesson there for Mr. Paisley, if he’ll just pull his nose down out of the air long enough to learn it.

Tuesday music musings, 26.8.14

August 26, 2014

Blake Shelton, on his new single:

The song, the melody, the chorus is so George Jones or George Strait. It really is. Of course, I’m always going to have the haters and critics out there that say it’s not. But then, kiss my ass! I know more about those records than a lot of people.

No, Blake. How about you come to Texas and kiss my ass, you arrogant motherfucker?

As I said at Saving Country Music, after about a minute and a half of the song…

I really don’t give a shit what Blake Shelton likes to make everyone think he knows about George Strait, or Jones, for that matter. Can’t really speak as to the Possum, although I have heard a ton of his music, but I have George Strait’s entire catalogue. And I can tell you that if this song showed up on a George Strait album it would rank at or toward the bottom if I ranked my favorite songs on said album. I would also be incredibly disappointed in him for more or less completely giving in to the trends of the moment. I’ll admit I like Strait’s earlier stuff better, but even as of late he’s still miles above this sort of thing. “Neon Light” doesn’t even sound like something George Strait would do even on his most adventurous day. And there’s not enough Shiner Bock in the Spoetzl brewery to make that pablum sound anything like George Jones.

And yes, it is better than the likes of “Boys ‘Round Here” and “Doin’ What She Likes,” but that’s an incredibly low bar.

On another note, as I’ve put it here before, Marty Stuart has probably forgotten more about country music than Blake Shelton will ever know, but you don’t see him being a cocky asshole to his detractors, assuming he even has any. So who’s the better representative of country music? I know my answer. I bet you do too.

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Chase Rice:

I think the reason women are looked at in that way — and it’s not in a negative way at all — I don’t think it’s degrading to tell a girl to get in my truck and let’s drive around. I think that’s just what we’re doing. I’ve got an ’85 Chevy Silverado, and I have a bench seat where the girl can sit right next to me. She can slide on over. That’s literally why we’re singing about it.

I suppose I could just repost most of what I said here, but really, this is the perfect rebuttal to that:

The replacement of traditional narrative songs in favor of “lifestyle songs,” once characteristic of commercial hip hop rather than country, made the objectification of the opposite sex in country songs inevitable.

Narrative songs feature characters with desires and intentions. “Lifestyle” songs list artifacts: bonfires, jeans, moonshine, country mixtape, girl, ecetera. Yes, the “girl” in the bro-country song is literally just another artifact.

On the other hand, when one is writing narrative songs about relationships, it is difficult to avoid alluding to the fact that the opposite sex are human beings that posses individual thoughts and feelings and the agency to make decisions. In fact, the existence of both love songs and heartbreak songs are completely contingent upon the fact that it takes two to tango. Even Hank Williams could never have been so lonesome he could cry if his woman hadn’t had the freedom of choice to dump his ass in the first place. The woman in a bro-country song doesn’t seem to have much of a choice at all.

“Git yer little fine ass over here, girl.”

I mean, sure, Rice might act like the girl in a bro-country song might have the choice not to “get (her) little fine ass on the step shimmy up inside,” but it’s certainly never come off like that. I mean, really…

“Slide that little sugar shaker over here!”

“Waiting on you to look my way and scoot your little hot self over here. Girl hand me another beer, yeah!”

“You’re shakin’ that money maker, like a heartbreaker! Yeah, gotta get me some of that!”

I mean, it’s like the alpha and the omega of objectification. And that’s far from the only thing wrong with this particular strain of virus “country” “music.” Not that I’d expect the likes of Chase Rice to grasp that, what with his limited brain wattage, but there you go.

(h/t Country California)

Wow, they’re not wasting any time.

August 21, 2014

From the San Antonio Express-News:

Even if you weren’t one of the 105,000 or so George Strait fans packed into the AT&T Stadium in Arlington in June for the final stop of the “Cowboy Rides Away” tour, you can still grab a souvenir of that landmark concert.

On Sept. 16, Strait will release a 20-track live album, “The Cowboy Rides Away: Live from AT&T Stadium,” featuring almost a dozen of the country stars who joined him onstage that day.

For those of you not keeping track, that’s barely more than three months after the actual concert. That’s probably the fastest turnaround on a live album that I’ve ever seen, and definitely the fastest for a live George Strait collection; For The Last Time: Live from the Astrodome came out a little more than a year after the actual concert, and Live At Texas Stadium (from the show with Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett on Memorial Day weekend in 2004) came out almost three years after that show.

Not that I think that’s a bad thing, mind you. I remember not long after the Texas Stadium show hearing rumors that a live recording of that show was going to be made available at some point and waiting with bated breath. Got an email in June ’06 about it, but it was a false alarm; it finally hit the stores the first week of April 2007. As far as this recording goes, it looks pretty cool. I am not sure about some of the guests, but I bet it’ll still be more than worth the money. It’d take a LOT to sour me on anything with George.

(I do still long for the video to be released from the 1999 tour that CMT aired as An Evening with George Strait. Of all the Strait tours I saw, I think that one was probably my favorite between getting to see the Dixie Chicks and Asleep at the Wheel with their then-new fiddler Jason Roberts. And George’s SET LIST. “There Stands the Glass,” “Cherokee Maiden,” and “Linda On My Mind,” along with all the great Strait originals up to that point….)

That doesn’t sound quite right.

August 15, 2014

From a comment at Saving Country Music:

I can’t tell you how many people discount the opinions of younger listeners just because they had the misfortune of being born after everything supposedly went to hell for music. This, I’d say, is the crux of the “country music must evolve” argument from the mainstream: acting like the only “real” country music available stopped getting made 30 years ago in the mainstream is what causes people to backpedal the other way.

Do those younger people’s opinions get dismissed just because of their age? Or do they get dismissed because they think that everything before Garth and Shania is just “tired old stuff” (as one Hot New Country station in Houston put it back in the late 1990s) and thus no good? Based on what I’ve seen, I can’t help but think it’s the latter; you can look at Farce the Music’s recurring “Country Twitterfail” feature for perfect examples of this.

And why should these people be taken seriously? One of the defining features of country music is its reverence for its roots and heritage — respect for those who came before, if you want to put it like that. You listen to the likes of Florida-Georgia Line and Luke Bryan and none of that reverence is evident in their music; country’s just a label to them, not a genre with a history that commands and deserves respect.

And sure, country music has to evolve. If it didn’t it would become more or less a historical artifact of American culture, much like, say, jazz music. But how does that argument justify, for example, Jason Aldean being the mainstream star and getting the radio airplay instead of Jason Boland? Which song is the better representation of country music — “Burnin’ it Down” or “Ludlow”? I know my answer, and I bet you know my answer too.

And here we are, ten years later….

August 5, 2014

The musical protest song has a long and storied history in country music, as the traditional-pop cycles have gone on through the years, going back at least to 1975 and “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way.” They come about every few years still, even now as new duo Maddie and Tae are making a splash with their debut single “Girl In A Country Song.” While songs like “Girl…” have their place (and make no mistake, lyrically speaking, the tune is absolutely brilliant), I’ve always thought a protest song works a lot better when it decries what seem to be longer-term trends. “Murder on Music Row” was one, and the song featured below is another.

“Hank Williams Wouldn’t Make It Now In Nashville, Tennessee” was written by Aaron Wynne, steel guitar player for Texas country band Eleven Hundred Springs, and originally recorded by that band on their 2004 album Bandwagon:

“What happened to the music I loved so long ago? It seems it’s been forgotten on our country radio, where steel guitar and fiddle have become a novelty. What I’d give to make things like the way they used to be.”

The song also showed up later that year as the opening song on Jason Boland and the Stragglers’ Somewhere in the Middle; it was Boland’s version that I first heard, but both of them are great:

To hear that song, you’d never guess that it had been recorded when it was. Seems even more timely and relevant now, and that really is a damned shame.

Sometimes the jokes just write themselves.

July 28, 2014

This is one of those times:

A total of 55 arrests and 46 medical incidents, including 22 people transported to hospitals, marred a Keith Urban concert event in Mansfield, Massachusetts Saturday (7-26) night at the Xfinity Center as part of his “Raise ‘Em Up” tour….

The Mansfield Police Department said many individuals became ill at the Keith Urban concert due to excessive alcohol consumption.

Like I said elsewhere, somehow it fits, because under the influence is just about the only way one could possibly enjoy Urban’s special brand of elevator music. On the other hand, I could probably go to a Keith Urban show blasted out of my mind on 200 proof pure grain alcohol and still find myriad things wrong with it.

Of course, the Urban fans showed up in the comments to defend their hero as, among other things, “an exceptional guitar player and singer-songwriter.”

And I’m like, y’know, what the hell ever. Maybe I am biased because of the fact that what I’ve heard from Keith Urban is pretty much the musical equivalent of mystery meat casserole — it’s a little bit of everything, which translates to a whole lot of nothing, or elevator music if you like — but it strikes me that, just as the case is with Brad Paisley, whatever talent Urban allegedly possesses is blown up all out of proportion to justify his place in country music.  It seems like that’s always the direction the conversation goes:

“Keith Urban sucks.”

“Nuh-uh! He’s a great guitar player!”

You know who else is a great guitar player? Eddie Van Halen. Does that make him country?

In all seriousness, Keith Urban’s guitar skills would actually mean something if he was just playing guitar as opposed to trying to be a star in his own right. But that’s not what he’s doing, so here we are. And I’m just not seeing it. He’s an at-best competent vocalist and songwriter who doesn’t give a shit about country music beyond his ability to make money marketing his music as that, which more or less renders the whole guitar thing moot. It’s just the strangest thing. Country music has no shortage of talented instrumentalists — Jerry Reed, Steve Wariner, Ricky Skaggs, Marty Stuart, Keith Whitley, and the list goes on.

And none of them ever had to have their place in country music justified by their instrumental talents. There’s a reason for that.


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