Something to remember today.

May 25, 2015

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.

Wednesday music musings, 20.5.15

May 20, 2015

With apologies to Natalie Maines, I am ashamed that Haley Georgia is from Texas.

In all seriousness, as I am wont to do anymore, I listened to that song just to, y’know, give it a fair shake. Just to see if it’s as bad as it sounds…

…yeah. That’s three minutes of my life that I’ll never get back. The whole thing can perhaps best be described as pasty white suburban girl affecting a valley girl accent as she raps over a drum machine and a token banjo, but even that doesn’t fully convey just how pathetic it is. I went and listened to George Strait covering Webb Pierce’s “There Stands the Glass” to heal my poor ears. Haley Georgia said in Billboard that genres weren’t really a thing for her generation. Which is all fine and good, but then why even bother categorizing this as “country”? I mean, you can’t have it both ways. Or at least you shouldn’t be able to.

As for country music needing a Ke$ha…in a way you could call that astoundingly ignorant, because if what I’ve read is right, the real Ke$ha has at least some modicum of respect for country music and ostensibly would never take such a steaming shit on it as Haley Georgia has with this…this…thing.

Now, I could be wrong. I mean, once upon a time (some years ago) I thought Bret Michaels might have at least a good country song in him — yes, I know, how naive of me — but my reaction upon hearing “Girls On Bars” was pretty similar to Trigger’s. But there’s got to be a bottom to this hole somewhere. At this point I shudder to think of where it might be, though.

===

Oh, Clay Walker

I don’t think the fan base has changed at all. When I was growing up in the late ’80s and early ’90s everyone loved hip-hop. That’s not new. There’s no secret there. But I do blame our format a little bit for feeling like we needed to add that element to our format….I can’t stand to see outdated rock-and-rollers coming in to play country music. That really pissed me off…We have great singers, great country musicians. There’s no reason we have to dilute it by letting people in the format that don’t have any business being in the format.

Huh. NOW he has a problem? Wasn’t that long ago that Clay Walker was singing an entirely different tune:

I think it’s the perfect evolution and it’s the way it should be. It’s time. It’s time for that change. And, albeit rough at the moment, it’s a beautiful rough.

Now, the title of that Taste of Country interview just might hold the key to his change of tune: “Man With a View: Clay Walker on Why He’s in a Great Place to Have a Big Year in 2014.”

Big year, eh? The cynic in me says he’s just bitter because that “big year” he was supposed to have fizzled like a firecracker in the rain, partly because of that evolution in the genre that he was touting. Most of it was probably because of him being 45 years old, but Walker was a B-lister at best even back in his heyday. I don’t know what he thought he was going to do to get himself back to the top of the heap, but I can only hope that it wasn’t as embarrassing as Tracy Lawrence’s last gasp at relevance. Whatever the case may be, I find it a little off-putting that he’s changed his opinion now given the fact that nothing of significance has changed in the genre between then and now; the whole thing just reeks of sour grapes to me.

Musings on free speech, 7.5.15

May 7, 2015

Quote of the day, from Tamara:

It used to be that if there was one thing you could at least count on liberals for, it was a vigorous defense of free speech; it’s a cause that has found the ACLU in bed with the NRA on at least one occasion I can think of. This new turn is… chilling.

Pretty much. Not much I can say in addition to that, but I do have a couple of observations:

That road that gets you to saying that certain groups of people deserve to have their First Amendment rights violated because they choose to ah, engage in interstate commerce (see: Hobby Lobby)? You go down that road further and it gets you to where that intrepid emailer sits of which Tamara speaks. The slippery slope is real, kids, and it isn’t just for the Second Amendment.

===

Unfortunately, such an attitude isn’t isolated, as you’ll see in today’s LTE in the Houston Chronicle:

We poke them in the eye; they retaliate; we poke them in the eye; they retaliate and so on. Is this really how we want to use our wonderful gift of free speech?

Uh, bloody fucking right it is. If people get a pass on shooting at and/or killing you because you offended their delicate religious sensibilities, you don’t really have the “wonderful gift of free speech” then, do you? No, you do not. Maybe I’m just fondly remembering things from the mists of time, but strangely enough, I don’t remember us having this conversation after “Piss Christ.” Which should tell you all you need to know, really.

So…much…fail…

April 27, 2015

Tyler Farr, via Country California:

I don’t want to be Vern Gosdin…Music, it evolves. People thought when Garth came along, or Shania, ‘This isn’t country.’ You play “Any Man of Mine” now, and it sounds countrier than a squirrel turd.

Hokay, three things here:

1. Yet again, why is it that every time certain people talk about country music “evolving,” it’s always in the context of the music sounding…less country?

2. Tyler Farr doesn’t want to be Vern Gosdin, eh? Well, that’s good, because he isn’t fit to lick the squirrel turds off Vern Gosdin’s shoes.

3. “Any Man of Mine” sucks just as much now as it did 20 years ago, and for the same reasons that it did 20 years ago. And that’s WITH my “evolved” musical tastes.

Oh, and…

“Redneck Crazy” was “not (him),” eh? Well, he sure as shit didn’t have any trouble defending that song back when it was out, so he must have identified with it on some level. Dude needs to at least try to keep his freaking stories straight.

Monday music musings, 20.4.15

April 20, 2015

A lot of times the Dallas Observer has good musical commentary, but this is not one of those times:

It doesn’t make sense to bring dozens of up-and-coming artists to a state that is practically overflowing with them. Between Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and Austin, you could put on a solid slate of country artists — William Clark Green, Madison King, Daphne Willis and Chris King come to mind — that would demonstrate all of the great music in Texas and help these bands make the case that they deserve national attention. Undoubtedly, some of the tens of thousands of fans that will stream through Arlington this weekend will be from out-of-state. It’s also likely that many of these fans are disappointed in the current state of country music, and would appreciate the refreshing authenticity of Texas country. This could have been a rare opportunity for these artists to get their music out to an audience that is practically begging for something better.

Ehhh, what? Showcase Texas artists at a Nashville award ceremony? Not sure they thought this through, because those things have always been a sad spectacle even at their best. And when you have the likes of Florida-Georgia Line and Luke Bryan bringing home the hardware, and Miranda Lambert winning awards for winning awards (oh my, a meta circle-jerk!), well, we’ve gone from sad to downright pathetic. As far as this Texan is concerned Nashville can have all that business. Folks down here seem to be doing all right all on their own and have been doing so for a good long while, though it’d still be nice if radio would play the new Aaron Watson album.

===

I…I just don’t get the whole fascination with Chris Stapleton. Everyone on the blogs seems to rave about him as a great artist as well as songwriter, but much like Shane McAnally, he seems intent on blowing his trad-country cred to shit with all this slick pop country that he’s putting his name to. Seriously, ripping off Sam Cooke?!) Honestly, I’ve been suspicious of that guy since I first heard “Love’s Gonna Make It Alright,” my least favorite cut from George Strait’s Here For A Good Time. And that’s one of the better songs that has his name on it.

===

Speaking of the Texas scene, Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen’s Hold My Beer, Vol. 1 comes out today, and if this song is any indication, it’s gonna be really, really good:

And a cover of Willie and Merle’s “Reasons to Quit”? YES, PLEASE.

Wow, that’s quite the cop-out.

March 28, 2015

Apparently 96.3 KSCS has been catching a bit of flak on their Facebook page over the whole mixing pop-hits-in-with-country thing, and they responded thusly:

Here’s what we’re doing…Pop selectively waits for something to explode on country and then benefits from the all the exposure and relevance that the country format has built for it (Taylor Swift, for example). If the audience that loves Taylor is forced to go to pop exclusively to find her, we’re hurting our chance of growing our radio station.

Weeeeell, here’s a crazy thought: Maybe they shouldn’t have been catering to Taylor Swift’s audience in the first place, or at least catered to it less and less as she went more pop. I would venture to say that many if not most Taylor Swift fans aren’t so much fans of country music as they are fans of Taylor Swift, i.e., “I don’t like country music but I like Taylor Swift.” I mean, like it or not, genres and radio formats are still a thing to a lot of people for perfectly legitimate reasons, and frankly, if you’re going to call your radio station a “country” station as you give airtime to the likes of Ed Sheeran and Kanye West instead of Sturgill Simpson and Aaron Watson, then you deserve to freeze in the dark with the buggy whip makers.

Surely it’s not as if any of that underground music would drive people away. KSCS never went as deep as 95.9 the Ranch or even 99.5 the Wolf when it came to the Texas music as that scene was on the rise back in the day, but I remember when they’d play folks like Pat Green and Robert Earl Keen every so often along with the classic country. (The old stuff was their thing, while 99.5 was more about the Texas music.) I really don’t know what would have changed, except for the demographic Cumulus is targeting with it.

Speaking of Cumulus, they own both KSCS and KPLX now. Which might explain the whole thing, I suppose, in that they want to differentiate one station from the other, but why not do it with actual country music that’s being left on the table as it is, as opposed to playing pop hits that everyone else is playing? Another friend of mine said it best:

“It blows my mind that there are actual executives in 2015 that are this dumb and short-sighted. In the digital age, this one-size-fits-all crap doesn’t fly in ANY market. It’s a niche world. If someone really wants to listen to Taylor or any other pop music, they don’t need you for that. They’re going to be able to do it on their own.

“The best thing you can do is find your own distinct and unique sound and then continue to build that brand with repetition and consistency. Spoiler alert: if you’re known as a country station, your best chance to succeed there is probably with country music and not trying to take well-established brands from elsewhere and somehow incorporate into some all-encompassing hybrid nonsense.

“Of course, all of that requires actual forward-thinking, and we know Corporate Country would rather chase the tails of whimsical teenyboppers. So… yeah.”

Wednesday music musings, 25.3.15

March 25, 2015

Well, this is depressing:

It’s not often that radio stations do something distinctive enough to get other radio people talking, but at least two reached out to me within a few minutes of each other on Monday and all it took was the addition of a few pop titles to two different country stations. For country KSCS Dallas, it was playing Ed Sheeran’s “Don’t” and “Thinking Out Loud’ as well as Rihanna, Kanye West and Paul McCartney’s “FourFive Seconds.”

Man, talk about a radio station going to shit. I remember when those guys were playing Pat Green and Merle Haggard at 4:30 in the afternoon, and obscure George Strait album cuts here and there. I mean, I thought that whole 100.3 the Bull thing in Houston was a crock of shit, but this just blows that right out of the water. All the great new music they could be playing from the likes of Sturgill Simpson and Aaron Watson, and this is what they play? Ugh. I got nothin’.

===

Speaking of Aaron Watson and his new album, there was this a little while back at Saving Country Music:

You said you receive no mainstream radio play, and a few days ago the CEO of Sony Music Nashville was quoted saying, “If you’re not on country radio, you don’t exist.” As someone on the outside looking in to radio play, what do you think about that statement, especially sitting on the perch of your #1 album?

I think that’s A: It’s a very inaccurate statement. And B: I think Gary Overton is saying that because this week is the big CRS week in Nashville, so maybe he was saying that because every country radio show has shown up in Nashville this week. But I would also say, “My name is Aaron Watson. I’m not played on country radio. And I have the #1 record in country music this week. I do exist. And I also run a multi-million dollar business that employs up to 20 people.” And I would also say that for a little family in Abilene, TX, they think their daddy is the best country singer since Hank Williams. So I do exist. I just think that’s a very narrow-minded way of looking at things.

It really is. There’s a whole world of music out there that isn’t played on country radio, and people do buy it — as evidenced by, among other things, The Underdog hitting No. 1 on the charts and Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music selling 100,000 copies, both without the benefit of country radio airplay.

===

We went and bought that AW album not long after it came out, by the way, and even with its more mainstream sensibilities it’s still very, very good. Some of it does lean more towards the bro-country side (see: “Getaway Truck”), and there’s what sounds like a drum machine on “Rodeo Queen” along with some rather annoying high notes, but those moments are more than redeemed with “The Prayer,” “Fence Post,” Freight Train,” and “Bluebonnets (Julia’s Song).”

That last song…that last song just tears me all to pieces.

How is there even a question here?

March 8, 2015

Yesterday, from MetalSucks:

The Criterion Contention: Metallica’s Master of Puppets Vs. The Black Album

Welcome to the inaugural edition of The Criterion Contention! In our new monthly series, two writers (be they members of the MetalSucks staff or guest bloggers) will debate the superiority of two albums which will somehow be thematically connected — they may be by the same band, or from the same part of the world, or just in the same genre. Then, at the end of the debate, YOU will vote for which one you think is ACTUALLY the more important record. The winning album will be announced one week after the initial debate, and that album will then be inaugurated into The MetalSucks Criterion Collection as a canonical work that every metal fan should know. Then the process will repeat a month later!

We begin the series with MetalSucks co-founded/co-editor-in-chief Axl Rosenberg squaring off against “Overground” columnist Angus Jung as to which Metallica album is the greatest of all time: 1986’s Master of Puppets, or 1991’s self-titled “Black Album.”

I suppose I should say that I do appreciate the Black Album. It was my gateway to pretty much all things Metallica and heavy metal in general, even though it took me a few years to move beyond just them. I’m sure I’m not the only one, as songs like “The Struggle Within” and “Holier Than Thou” were at least pretty close to some of the songs on the older albums. I read an Amazon review years ago that summed it all up pretty well:

This is the album – the one longtime fans often bemoan as the beginning of the end. Metallica sells out. Metallica loses their edge.

There’s no arguing that this is the one that brought Metallica to the mainstream. This was the first Metallica album I bought – not because it was the best, just because it was the first to get radio play where I lived. Imagine if you had never heard Metallica before and this was the first experience you ever had with them. It was incredible.

And through this album I worked backward. AND JUSTICE FOR ALL, MASTER OF PUPPETS, and so on. Perfect or imperfect, this album opened the door to what longtime fans consider vintage Metallica….

Now, with all that being said…

Was TBA “not as Metallica”? Upon hearing the four albums that preceded it, I certainly thought as much. It was slower, softer, and not as complex. I’ve said before that I thought it was ironic that the self-titled Metallica album was my introduction to that band, considering that I liked their old stuff so much better. But that album does deserve its due as a gateway to metal for a lot of people, for whatever that may be worth. (A hell of a lot more than Taylor Swift serving as a gateway to Real Country Music.) And it’s a pretty fantastic hard rock album on its own merits. Still, though, there’s a reason so many people put Master of Puppets at the top of their list of greatest albums of all time – well, eight of them, actually.

If you wanted to get specific about it, though, while not getting into the nitty-gritty, here you go: Master of Puppets is Metallica’s seminal work, their magnum opus. It shows them all at the peak of their powers, as musicians and as songwriters. The Black Album might have introduced a lot of people to Master of Puppets and it does deserve honorable mention because of that, but if you’re going to stick a Metallica album on any list of essential metal albums worthy of the adjectives, there is absolutely no question as to what it needs to be.

In honor of Texas Independence Day.

March 2, 2015

I could think of few better written tributes to our state than this; I first saw it around 2006. It was attributed to Orange native Bum Phillips, but I don’t know if he really wrote it; I’ve seen it around the Web and don’t know where it originated. But no matter the author, no matter if it was written in honor of Texas Independence Day, it rings true today, and every day of the year. Every time I read it, the room always gets a bit dusty…

God bless Texas and everyone who lives here, or wishes that they did.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TEXAS — FROM BUM PHILLIPS

Being Texan by Bum Phillips

Dear Friends,

Last year, I wrote a small piece about what it means to me to be a Texan. My friends know it means about damned near everything. Anyway, this fella asked me to reprint what I’d wrote and I didn’t have it. So I set out to think about rewriting something. I considered writing about all the great things I love about Texas. There are way too many things to list. I can’t even begin to do it justice. Lemme let you in on my short list.

It starts with The Window at Big Bend, which in and of itself is proof of God. It goes to Lake Sam Rayburn where my Granddad taught me more about life than fishin, and enough about fishin to last a lifetime. I can talk about Tyler, and Longview, and Odessa and Cisco, and Abilene and Poteet and every place in between. Every little part of Texas feels special. Every person who ever flew over the Lone Star thinks of Bandera or Victoria or Manor or wherever they call “home” as the best little part of the best state.

So I got to thinkin about it, and here’s what I really want to say. Last year, I talked about all the great places and great heroes who make Texas what it is. I talked about Willie and Waylon and Michael Dell and Michael DeBakey and my Dad and LBJ and Denton Cooley. I talked about everybody that came to mind. It took me sitting here tonight reading this stack of emails and thinkin’ about where I’ve been and what I’ve done since the last time I wrote on this occasion to remind me what it is about Texas that is really great.

You see, this last month or so I finally went to Europe for the first time. I hadn’t ever been, and didn’t too much want to. But you know all my damned friends are always talking about “the time they went to Europe.” So, I finally went. It was a hell of a trip to be sure. All they did when they saw me was say the same thing, before they’d ever met me. “Hey cowboy, we love Texas.” I guess the hat tipped em off. But let me tell you what, they all came up with a smile on their faces. You know why? They knew for damned sure that I was gonna be nice to em. They knew it cause they knew I was from Texas. They knew something that hadn’t even hit me. They knew Texans, even though they’d never met one.

That’s when it occurred to me. Do you know what is great about Texas? Do you know why when my friend Beverly and I were trekking across country to see 15 baseball games we got sick and had to come home after 8? Do you know why every time I cross the border I say, “Lord, please don’t let me die in _____”?

Do you know why children in Japan can look at a picture of the great State and know exactly what it is about the same time they can tell a rhombus from a trapezoid? I can tell you that right quick. You. The same spirit that made 186 men cross that line in the sand in San Antonio damned near 165 years ago is still in you today. Why else would my friend send me William Barrett Travis’ plea for help in an email just a week ago, or why would Charles Stenciled ask me to reprint a Texas Independence column from a year ago?

What would make my friend Elizabeth say, “I don’t know if I can marry a man who doesn’t love Texas like I do?” Why in the hell are 1,000 people coming to my house this weekend to celebrate a holiday for what used to be a nation that is now a state? Because the spirit that made that nation is the spirit that burned in every person who founded this great place we call Texas, and they passed it on through blood or sweat to every one of us.

You see, that spirit that made Texas what it is, is alive in all of us, even if we can’t stand next to a cannon to prove it, and it’s our responsibility to keep that fire burning. Every person who ever put a “Native Texan” or an “I wasn’t born in Texas but I got here as fast a could” sticker on his car understands. Anyone who ever hung a map of Texas on their wall or flew a Lone Star flag on their porch knows what I mean.

My Dad’s buddy Bill has an old saying. He says that some people were forged of a hotter fire. Well, that’s what it is to be Texan. To be forged of a hotter fire.

To know that part of Colorado was Texas. That part of New Mexico was Texas. That part of Oklahoma was Texas. Yep. Talk all you want. Part of what you got was what we gave you. To look at a picture of Idaho or Istanbul and say, “what the Hell is that?” when you know that anyone in Idaho or Istanbul who sees a picture of Texas knows damned good and well what it is. It isn’t the shape, it isn’t the state, it’s the state of mind. You’re what makes Texas.

The fact that you would take 15 minutes out of your day to read this, because that’s what Texas means to you, that’s what makes Texas what it is. The fact that when you see the guy in front of you litter you honk and think, “Sonofabitch. Littering on MY highway.”

When was the last time you went to a person’s house in New York and you saw a big map of New York on their wall? That was never. When did you ever drive through Oklahoma and see their flag waving on four businesses in a row? Can you even tell me what the flag in Louisiana looks like? I damned sure can’t.

But I bet my ass you can’t drive 20 minutes from your house and not see a business that has a big Texas flag as part of its logo. If you haven’t done business with someone called All Tex something or Lone Star somebody or other, or Texas such and such, you hadn’t lived here for too long.

When you ask a man from New York what he is, he’ll say a stockbroker, or an accountant, or an ad exec. When you ask a woman from California what she is, she’ll tell you her last name or her major. Hell either of em might say “I’m a republican,” or they might be a democrat. When you ask a Texan what they are, before they say, “I’m a Methodist,” or “I’m a lawyer,” or “I’m a Smith,” they tell you they’re a Texan. I got nothin’ against all those other places, and Lord knows they’ve probably got some fine folks, but in your gut you know it just like I do, Texas is just a little different.

So tomorrow when you drive down the road and you see a person broken down on the side of the road, stop and help. When you are in a bar in California, buy a Californian a drink and tell him it’s for Texas Independence Day. Remind the person in the cube next to you that he wouldn’t be here enjoying this if it weren’t for Sam Houston, and if he or she doesn’t know the story, tell them.

When William Barrett Travis wrote in 1836 that he would never surrender and he would have Victory or Death, what he was really saying was that he and his men were forged of a hotter fire. They weren’t your average every day men.

Well, that is what it means to be a Texan. It meant it then, and that’s why it means it today. It means just what all those people North of the Red River accuse us of thinking it means. It means there’s no mountain that we can’t climb. It means that we can swim the Gulf in the winter. It means that Earl Campbell ran harder and Houston is bigger and Dallas is richer and Alpine is hotter and Stevie Ray was smoother and God vacations in Texas.

It means that come Hell or high water, when the chips are down and the Good Lord is watching, we’re Texans by damned, and just like in 1836, that counts for something. So for today at least, when your chance comes around, go out and prove it. It’s true because we believe it’s true. If you are sitting wondering what the Hell I’m talking about, this ain’t for you.

But if the first thing you are going to do when the Good Lord calls your number is find the men who sat in that tiny mission in San Antonio and shake their hands, then you’re the reason I wrote this tonight, and this is for you. So until next time you hear from me, God Bless and Happy Texas Independence Day.

May you be poor in misfortune, rich in blessings, slow to make enemies and quick to make friends. But, rich or poor, quick or slow, may you know nothing but happiness from this day forward.

Regards From Texas

Tuesday music musings, 23.2.15

February 23, 2015

From the Tennessean via Country California, Sony Nashville CEO Gary Overton:

You can ask people in the building, and I can be quoted several times a day, “If you’re not on country radio, you don’t exist.” Again I can’t think of one star, much less superstar in country music, who wasn’t broken by country radio.

You know what that is? It’s trying to define an entity into relevancy. I don’t know how Overton would define “star” or “superstar,” but there are a lot of artists out there who are doing all right without country radio. Besides all the folks on the Texas scene, of course, there’s Sturgill Simpson, who has sold 100,000 copies of his latest album (and has been basically forced to go from clubs to theaters for his live shows because of the demand) with virtually zero airplay from country radio. Now, that might not exactly be “making it big” or “becoming a star” by Overton’s standards, but in this musical environment, album sales of 100,000 from even one of those big stars would still be pretty good. And none of that really matters in the end anyway as long as enough people buy the music and/or go to the shows that the artists don’t have to go fill out apps for the greeter positions at Walmart.

Or, the tl/dr, if you like: Indie country is totally still a thing, even if it doesn’t have as big of an audience.

In other news, I scored $150 in Amazon credit last week and went shopping yesterday. Among the albums I bought so far: the Dixie Chicks’ Home and Lee Ann Womack’s I Hope You Dance. I can hear the gasps now with the latter.

I remember being skeptical back then about that album precisely because of the horrendously overrated title track, and “Ashes By Now” didn’t exactly inspire confidence even though it wasn’t a bad song. But beyond those two songs, I Hope You Dance is a pretty typical Lee Ann Womack album (in other words, worth the money if you’re a fan of what she’s known for), with some great songs from the likes of Whitey Shafer and Dean Dillion (“Thinkin’ with My Heart Again”), Bruce Robison (“Lonely Too”), and Buddy and Julie Miller (“Does My Ring Burn Your Finger”), and a beautiful cover of the old Don Williams chestnut “Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good” closing it out.

And politics be damned, the Dixie Chicks’ Home is just as gorgeous a piece of Real Country Music as it was back in 2002. Well, it was more of a straight-ahead bluegrass album than honky-tonk, swing or what-have-you, but all those subgenres are pretty much the essence of country music. And when you look at how mainstream country music has changed in the years since it was released, and think about how it would be received if it came out now versus how it was received when it did come out (two Top 2 hits on country radio, one No. 1, and 6 million-plus copies of the album sold), it’s just downright depressing.


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