FFS, dude, just play with your thirty pieces of silver and keep your mouth shut.

July 16, 2016

Granger Smith:

“I’m very, very, very blessed to have had the Texas music scene as a testing ground,” Smith recently told The Boot and other reporters. “I had singles — on-the-radio singles — I had a radio tour a couple times … [We] had been running in the minor leagues; that’s really what it is.”

Well then.

I guess we should just consider the source and think of what Smith said as a compliment given such, but it’s still bullshit, and rather inaccurate bullshit to, uh, boot. Such a statement would seem to imply that Texas is the farm team for Nashville, and that in turn would seem to imply that what’s done in Nashville and what’s done in Texas somewhat resemble one another. And we all should know by now that such is far from the case. But no matter what, it strikes me as more than a little bit insulting. Like this scene and all that it stands for wasn’t good enough for him. And beyond that, what does that say about his opinion of all the Texas guys who went to Nashville before and came back to Texas later, like Wade Bowen, Pat Green, Cross Canadian Ragweed, and the Randy Rogers Band? That they weren’t good enough to make it in the so-called major leagues? That is every bit as offensive as “if you’re not on country radio, you don’t exist.”

Also, along the lines of my previous comment, if Smith’s analogy was anywhere near accurate, Aaron Watson would have been made a mainstream star with The Underdog and “Rodeo Queen” would have been the closing track on it. To paraphrase a commenter at Galleywinter’s FB page, Smith’s commentary is going to serve him quite well when he comes slinking back to Texas after his stint in Nashville.

And mark my words, he’ll be back at some point. And he will deserve every bit of the ridicule that he gets.

Well, that’s news to me.

July 13, 2016

President Barack Obama:

“It’s easier for a teenager to get his hands on a Glock than a computer…or even a book!”

Really? Because I remember when I bought my last computer off the Internet:

• I did have it shipped to the Apple Store, but I could have had it shipped straight to my home had I not been concerned about theft. I didn’t have to have it shipped to a Federal Computer License holder, because of course that is not a thing.

• I did not have to be at least 21 to order it. If I remember correctly, the minimum age to order was 18, but that was a matter of Apple policy — not a matter of federal law.

• I did not have to fill out a Bureau of Computers, Tablets, and Smartphones Form 4473 at the Apple Store when I picked up that computer, because just like the Federal Computer License holder, the  Bureau of Computers, Tablets, and Smartphones is not a thing, nor is the Form 4473 for it.

Beyond all that, of course, unlike with gun stores, more “progressive” municipalities aren’t trying to drive the electronics stores out of town under the twisted guise of “social justice,” they’re not proposing to tax electronics or peripherals…

I could certainly go on, but such would be belaboring the point.

Tuesday music musings, 21.6.16

June 21, 2016

Brad Paisley’s “Without a Fight” feat. Demi Lovato, eh?

Sigh. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I miss the Brad Paisley who did songs “feat. George Jones and Bill Anderson” or “feat. Alison Krauss.” No doubt he’d tell us all that country music in general and he in particular have “evolved beyond that.” And that is…well, it’s not fine, for sure. It sucks. But it is what it is. Personally, I’d make the observation that not a few of us who had any modicum of respect for him have evolved beyond that, too.

As for the song itself, the best that can be said for it is that it isn’t bad. At least it’s not bad on the level of Florida-Georgia Line or Sam Hunt. My expectations were pretty low, though, as I was expecting some overblown pop ballad a la Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson’s “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” as opposed to a mid-tempo sort of rockish song. But, yet again, it’s not something I’d turn off Jason Boland or Reckless Kelly for. It’s just…there, as Brad Paisley even at his best seems to be anymore.

Beyond that, though, it’ll be interesting to see what those beating the drum about the lack of airplay on country radio for females will have to say about this, if indeed they have anything to say at all. Yet again, all the females in country music getting ignored, and Brad chooses to sing a song with…a pop star? OK then.

(A not-Beyoncé pop star, at that! No doubt Amy McCarthy at the Houston Press will be all over that pretty soon….)

===

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a Hank Thompson box set with his version of “Dance With Me Molly,” which took me to Keith Whitley’s version, which took me down the rabbit hole…

It strikes me that, like many other artists in myriad genres, Keith Whitley’s greatness was to be truly found beyond the singles that were released for radio airplay. I suppose that this might be blasphemy to admit, but I never was really keen on any his stuff that was played on the radio beyond maybe “Homecoming ’63.”

But songs like, “Honky Tonk Heart,” “Talk To Me Texas,” “Brother Jukebox,” “I Never Go Around Mirrors”…man, that’s the good stuff, right there. I was screwing around on Spotify this weekend and decided to dig into that, and I’m pretty glad I did. Come to find out Whitley actually recorded “I Never Go Around Mirrors” twice. The older version originally appeared on 1982’s Somewhere Between as a mid-tempo shuffle, and it’s great — but there was another version that appeared on 1988’s Don’t Close Your Eyes that more approximates the Lefty Frizzell original, and it’s absolutely stunning. If Wikipedia is to be believed, that later version was supposed to have been released as a single but the chairman of the record company wanted something more upbeat, which resulted in the recording of the song “I Wonder Do You Think Of Me” (which, like “I Never Go…,” was also written by Sanger D. “Whitey” Shafer). The more things change…

===

And now I know what you’re thinking: “Spotify? What kind of music fan are you?”

Weeeell….I’ll own it. According to Saving Country Music, none other than Aaron Lewis has gotten into the protest song game with a song called “That Ain’t Country,” and the only way to hear the whole thing was via Spotify. I liked the snippet of it I heard, and as it turns out the whole thing was pretty good — a nice little country shuffle sonically reminiscent of Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen’s “Standards.”

Was it lyrically as good as that song? Well…no. Just one thing really spoiled it for me, though, and that was all the name-drops. Yes, we know that Willie, Merle and all the rest are country. Not really sure that particular bit needed to be pointed out. But other than that they nailed it, with both the instrumentation and his voice. I’d be interested to hear what the rest of the album sounds like, though I doubt he’ll be able to top either Bruce Robison’s or the Dixie Chicks’ versions of “Travelin’ Soldier.”

(I did like what I heard from Lewis’ previous album The Road, though. I probably should have bought that instead of the Chris Stapleton album with my birthday Amazon credit last year…)

Random political musings, 18.6.16

June 18, 2016

Kermit1A2A

===

Rosanne Cash, in Billboard:

We can…prevent the sale and possession of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Prevent the possession. So, in other words, “Mr. and Mrs. America, come and get them.”

Of course, it’s not like Rosanne Cash is going to be leading those SWAT confiscation raids. She’ll be perfectly content to send other people’s sons and daughters (and mothers and fathers) to do it for her. Which makes her “for the children” mewling ever so hollow and hypocritical.

But then, on the other hand, let her and those like her talk like this, and let us all bring as much attention to it as we can, because it exposes the anti-gunners’ assurance that “no one wants to take your guns” as the foul and malicious lie that it has always been.

Sunday morning commentary: Orlando.

June 12, 2016

I hear there are people saying on the wake of this morning’s Orlando shootings, “More gun control! How many more have to die?”

Well, that’s a perfectly legitimate question, but for the fact that it presupposes yet more laws are going to stop this sort of thing. Registration, licensing, and all that.

Yeah, no.

Even if we ignore the historical fact of registration leading to confiscation EACH AND EVERY SINGLE TIME, there is the fact that these laws face massive noncompliance right here in the United States. According to the New York Daily News, hardly a bastion of pro-gun sentiment, fewer than 44,000 semiautomatic rifles were registered with the state after the SAFE Act introduced such a requirement into law after the Sandy Hook shootings. Not only that, but several New York county sheriffs have gone on record as saying they won’t help enforce the laws in the SAFE legislation. And New York is one of the bluest states in the country. The same played out in another blue state, Colorado, after that state’s passing laws outlawing normal-capacity magazines, according to a report from the CBS affiliate in Denver. Also, in Connecticut itself, according to the Hartford Courant, some 50,000 semiautomatic rifles were registered after Sandy Hook, but with as many as 350,000 semi auto rifles in civilian hands in Connecticut…well, there you go.

How do they think such is going to play out in Alabama, or Oklahoma, or Texas?

And how are these laws not going to stop such?

Well, in case you forgot, even if we stopped making and selling new ones, the guns are already out there. A whole fucking lot of them. While it’s hard to nail down an exact number, there are probably enough semiautomatic rifles in American civilian hands and ammunition to feed them to outfit the armies of several small countries. And that number has only increased in recent years as after every shooting just like the one in Orlando, control freaks like Hillary Clinton never fail to rush to the mikes and scream to the rooftops for more laws punishing the people who didn’t shoot anyone.

So the guns are already out there, and there are more going out the doors of gun shops in this fair land every single day. Are you going to go door-to-door, or rather, send other people’s sons and daughters to go door-to-door? (Because let’s be frank, very few if any of the people actually screaming for more gun control are actually going to put their own skin in the game here.) If that’s what you’re suggesting, perhaps you should google “4th generation warfare” sometime, or perhaps give Mike Vanderboegh’s essay “Kill All They Send” a read:

“And it would be a WAR, make no mistake, not the sanitary “police action”…. And how would the big bad boys of the ATF and FBI fare against committed freedom fighters? Even well-paid federal police bureaucrats just want to live until retirement. How long do you think they would last when team after team of them are shot down like dogs in the street, garroted in their sleep, poisoned in their mess halls, or found with their throats slit in guardposts, restrooms and bordellos?”

And even if we did manage to pull it off, in the complete vacuum of moral issues, logistics and all that…there’s still the matter of that porous southern border. I think it’s probably safe to say that narcotics aren’t the only thing coming across them. If you know what I mean. And I think you do.

In short: the guns are here. And they are not going away, no matter how you might wish they would. So what now?

Something to remember today.

May 30, 2016

Back in 2009, I remember going to the big Memorial Day celebration in Orange. The Patriot Guard Riders didn’t get to make their grand entrance as planned because of the torrential rains, but they still came. I remember that I just about lost it  when Beaumont PGR chapter president Sandra Womack told everyone why they still came. She said of the fallen soldiers, “They didn’t get an opportunity to choose the weather they fought in, or to choose whether or not to go.”

 

 

We should remember that, today and every day.

Speaking of blowing your credibility all to hell…

May 23, 2016

…we have this, from the Houston Press:

At the end of 2015, one thing was abundantly clear – country music is and has been undergoing a seismic shift in terms of what listeners want and the mainstream has to offer. The unsigned, unpromoted successes of artists like Aaron Watson, Turnpike Troubadours and a host of country newcomers like Cody Johnson have officially proven that the country-music machine has long been broken.

A fine declaration indeed, one full of undiluted, sad truth. So how does the Houston Press blow its credibility?

They spend the next 1,039 words of the piece advocating that Beyoncé get played on country radio, that’s how. Not the Turnpike Troubadours, not Aaron Watson, not Jason Boland. Because racism, apparently, and country music needs Beyoncé lest it slide back into a niche genre, and country music “barely moves the critical needle.” It’s like the rave reviews of the work of Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton, and Sturgill Simpson aren’t a thing, or as if Charley Pride isn’t a beloved country music legend, or like Merle Haggard didn’t write at least a couple of songs decrying society’s intolerance of interracial love, or like Ray Charles never recorded songs with both Willie Nelson and George Jones.

Look. I really don’t give one single solitary shit about Beyoncé. Her music just isn’t my thing, honestly, but other than that I don’t give it any thought. But there’s a metric shit-ton of music that should be played, should have been played for a long time now, on the radio long before anything from Beyonce. Hell, George Strait is still making great music, at least as good as anything he’s ever done, and radio won’t give him the time of day anymore. Why Beyoncé and not George Strait, or for that matter any of the other above-mentioned artists? Or, for that matter again, why not Kacey Musgraves, Brandy Clark, Courtney Patton, Maren Morris, Maddie and Tae, or any of the other female artists making good music but being ignored by country radio?

And while I stand behind no one in my admiration of the Dixie Chicks, let’s be honest here — characterizing them as “torchbearers of classic authenticity in modern country” might be a bit much. Between that, the nonchalant accusations of racism, and the thrust of the piece itself…well, I never was much on characterizing anything directly as PC social-justice-warrior bullshit, but that’s certainly what this whole thing smacks of to me.

Sunday music musings, 22.5.16

May 22, 2016

Lots of shade being thrown Kelsea Ballerini’s way this week for this:

Despite complaints that female artists aren’t getting enough country radio airtime, Ballerini is beating those odds.

“I think it’s more just people saying women are not being played on the radio because right now there are a ton of us and it’s awesome,” she shared. “’Peter Pan’ broke Top 30 and it’s my favorite song on the record. And radio has been so good to me and good to [fellow female singers] Maren [Morris], Cam, Maddie and Tae.”

From Saving Country Music:

So good? Maddie & Tae’s last single “Shut Up and Fish” flopped. Maren Morris and Cam’s radio traction has yet to be proven beyond one lead single. And meanwhile dozens of females artists, new and established, are receiving no attention from radio whatsoever. It was only a couple of years ago when Kacey Musgraves was the new big rising female country star, and her singles are institutionally ignored by radio. Even Miranda Lambert’s last two singles failed to crack the Top 15 and Top 30 on radio respectively.

Country Universe:

…(Ballerini) ignores the facts that Morris’ single “My Church” has outsold her own “Dibs” (491K to 390K) but has stalled at #9 at radio instead of racing to #1, Cam’s “Mayday” is struggling to move up on the current charts (where it sits at #37 in its 14th week), and each of Maddie & Tae’s singles has peaked lower than its predecessor since “Girl A Country Song” became their sole top 5 hit. Or that the whole of this week’s top 40 singles list contains just 6 solo women, plus 2 duet partners, and that looking to the full top 60 singles list expands that number to a whopping 8 solo women. But clearly, it’s just a matter of people saying there’s a problem with women not being played on the radio.

But what gets me is this:

I think that every time a country artist steps outside of the country boundary, it just brings more ears to us. When Florida Georgia Line and Nelly put out the ‘Cruise’ remix, it brought so many more people to country music.

Again with the whole “gateway drug” thing. As I have noted before, that only works when the “gateway drug” in question bears some resemblance to the real thing. So I guess I might as well just come right out and say it, yet again: I don’t think Florida-Georgia Line singing a song with Nelly or Thomas Rhett aping Bruno Mars is a good thing if it makes people come to the genre wanting more of that crap. And I find it difficult if not impossible to believe that fans of those artists are going to come to “country music” and become fans of even George Strait, let alone Jason Boland or Randy Rogers. These people talk about these duets like they’re anything close to “Seven Spanish Angels,” and they’re just not.

I’ve come to the conclusion that it’d never work for me to be a country singer, because every time somebody stuck a mike or a camera in my face I’d be saying stuff like this:

“I hear all this crap on the radio that bears absolutely no resemblance to country music, and the dancing chickens peddling that bastardized mystery meat music trying to justify it by talking about how they listen to all different kinds of music and they’re influenced by those different kinds of music. Well, fuck that. If you’re gonna call yourself a country singer, then be a damn country singer. Don’t get me wrong. Personally, I don’t listen to just country. I like a lot of classic rock from the ‘60s and ‘70s, ‘80s traditional metal, and more modern power and progressive metal. Symphony X, Kamelot, stuff like that. I’ve gotten to dig a lot of Motown too. I mean, you should hear some of the stuff I listen to on the bus. But that’s just it — the rock and metal stay on the bus. I’m a country music singer, and that’s what I sing. You’re not going to hear any synthesizers, screaming guitars or anything like that on my records. I love that stuff, but I owe it to myself and country music fans to be honest with what I’m trying to sell them. I could make more with doing that other stuff and selling it as country, but that’s just not who I am.”

Now, Luke Bryan might say he doesn’t get people that are into only one genre of music, but he’s never come off as really bright anyway. After all, there’s only so much time in the day, certainly not enough time to get into all the genres of music out there. And the more genres you get into, the less time you have to concentrate on them, and the more good stuff you’re going to miss. I used to try to sell myself as a music generalist, but honestly, it only comes down to a couple of different kinds of music for me — country music and metal, with that smattering of classic rock and Motown thrown in.

But perhaps there is a silver lining to Kelsea Ballerini showing her ignorance in regards to the situation with today’s country music — she pretty much blew her credibility all to pieces with that, so it might be a safe bet nobody’s going to give any credence to anything else she said in that interview either.

In memory of Guy Clark….

May 17, 2016

…who caught the train west today.

 

 

Dammit, 2016, this shit has gotten out of hand.

15 bucks an hour or bust!

May 12, 2016

amirite?

Wendy’s (WEN) said that self-service ordering kiosks will be made available across its 6,000-plus restaurants in the second half of the year as minimum wage hikes and a tight labor market push up wages.

It will be up to franchisees whether to deploy the labor-saving technology, but Wendy’s President Todd Penegor did note that some franchise locations have been raising prices to offset wage hikes.

Now, this led to a really interesting Facebook discussion. Me in plain text, my friend in italics:

But if the wage really isn’t liveable to begin with, does it matter if it is $9 or $0?

A perfectly legitimate question, but just the same, you (generally speaking, not you in particular) still have to look at it from the employer’s perspective. I am sure you already do, but whether he cannot get workers at $9 per hour or cannot afford them at $15, the results are the same.

And from the perspective of the employee, would it really be that presumptuous of me to suggest they better their situation by acquiring more marketable skills, or honing or taking better advantage of the skills they already have?

But what about the long-term view that employers are missing. If they keep finding ways to not pay people because they are too focused on the short-term bump that comes with downsizing, automation and off-shore outsourcing, all they are doing is shooting themselves in the foot. Because eventually, all they are doing is raising unemployment and then there will be no one to buy their products. It is in the interest of them to actually keep people in their communities hired and working.

The thing is, though, that this affects certain industries more than others, so I don’t think that what you’re saying is necessarily going to be the case. That unemployment is going to affect those industries more. To illustrate, even if it got to the point that my friendly local Whataburger was entirely automated, I would still have my own job helping the more affluent among us troubleshoot their high-dollar smartphones, tablets, and computers. As for how the affluent got that way…well, they might have started at Whataburger, but they worked their way up the wage ladder gaining those more lucrative skills. It’s complicated, I know. So complicated that I just think it’s a bit simplistic to think a government-mandated minimum wage is going to make poverty disappear in this country.

It’s not. But considering a lot of government trade practices have enabled an environment where it makes financial sense to move entire factories off shore and otherwise outsource instead of hire in-house, leaving towns devasted and people scrambling for anything they can get, then there needs to be some kind of banalce. And a blanket $15 isn’t the answer because it is not necessary in areas where the cost of living is significantly less. But there will always be a need for these types of jobs and there will always be people who, by choice or other determining factor are unable to take advantage of certain higher educational opportunities and training. Should they be denied the ability to have some kind of basic quality of life that goes beyond the struggles of living paycheck to paycheck?

Now, that’s a tricky question. Such seems to imply that they have the right to such basic quality of life. And if you have a right to something like that, such necessarily implies that someone else has the obligation to provide you the means for it. I remember Senator Rand Paul riled up quite a few progressives a while back when he compared such to slavery:

“With regard to the idea of whether you have a right to health care, you have realize what that implies. It’s not an abstraction. I’m a physician. That means you have a right to come to my house and conscript me. It means you believe in slavery.”

It might sound extreme, but I do see what he was getting at.

But you know what? I AM a small-L libertarian, but I am also a pragmatist. I realize that there’s going to be only so little that people can live on and that taxes are always going to be a thing to some extent. To that end, if the government came along and told businesses, “you pay X amount of money to your employees and we give you X amount of tax credits” to the point that the businesses came out at least a bit ahead, I might not have a big problem with that. Would that be ideal? No, but it would certainly be far preferable to the government saying, as it does now, “you pay X amount of money to your people or we send men with guns to your door, and we’re not going to help you meet that mandate, you’re just gonna have to suck it up.”

And sure, maybe Yelp should be paying more in San Francisco, but I think even that line of argument obscures a critical fact — that some, nay, MANY jobs are not meant to be and should not be construed to be jobs to raise families on.

Agreed on that point, but how much of that is the direct result of corporate downsizing, outsourcing and other not-so-employee-friendly corporate strategies that are forcing people to look at these jobs not as something to merely help fill in the blanks but as things necessary to sustain life?

That’s a good question. I will say that some companies are particularly disingenuous about this. Walmart will still sell itself as a career, but I can tell you from firsthand experience that’s been a load of crap for at least a few years. Part-time positions only, barely above minimum wage, with little to no hope of advancing to a full-time position. I worked there when I first came to San Antonio and lived by the skin of my teeth for about 15 months till I found better.

I know that drill. At least a place like McDonalds if you put your effort in will train you and give you marketable skills. My four years there in HS/college gave me an early boost to my resume. And their management training program can actually earn you masters degree credits. I can’t speak for the rest of the fast food world, but there can be career opportunity for those that want it.

Thoughts?


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