Friday music musings, 19.8.16

August 19, 2016

From the Houston Chronicle:

 “It’s interesting to see the diversity of what young people will buy…Obviously, things like Led Zeppelin or (Jimi) Hendrix. But Nat King Cole records sell really well to 20-somethings.”

Well, that’s something. People keep saying, “the kids don’t buy their grandpa’s music!” but as it turns out they do like it quite a bit. Not that it was a big surprise, but that’s still a really neat thing to see. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens with that in the coming years, as “grandpa’s music” gets to be, say, Florida-Georgia Line. I mean, I like to think the people who like that crap will grow out of it and won’t be playing it for their grandkids, which means that it wouldn’t really be “grandpa’s music,” but one never knows…

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I heard somebody say that Chris Lane was a great singer. We might just have to agree to disagree on that one. He sounds to me like a Tim McGraw knockoff, only without the good songs, at least if “Fix” is any indication. Tim’s voice never was all that, but at least he’s had the sense to pick good, even GREAT, songs to record. But “Fix” is just hot garbage any way it’s sliced, and there’s little if any reason to expect anything else from him to be better — especially with him saying to Rolling Stone in a recent interview that “country music has room for a little bit of everything.”

And he follows that up with mentions of FGL, Sam Hunt…and Chris Stapleton.

HELLO! One of those things is not like the other, on a couple of different levels! Sam Hunt and FGL are just two different kinds of bad yet they score hits left and right, and country radio barely gives Stapleton the time of day! I mean, that’s not quite as ignorant as Kelsea Ballerini’s commentary on the state of country radio in relation to female artists, but it’s more than close enough for government work.

Also, I will say that it is rather gratifying to see Lane’s low album sales in relation to his radio airplay. I know album sales are getting to be less and less of a thing, but it’s good to see that people won’t give that dude their hard-earned money no matter how much “country” radio tries to force him down their throats. He sold 6,000 copies of his album in its first week in the stores, with “Fix” hitting No. 1 the week before its release. 6,000 copies…Jason Boland and the Stragglers’ latest album, Squelch, sold 2/3 of that in its first week, and they’ve never had a radio hit outside of certain regions in Texas and Oklahoma. And then, of course, there are the successes of the likes of Aaron Watson, Alan Jackson, and Jason Isbell, who all had Top 2 chart debuts with their latest albums as opposed to Lane’s No. 8, selling 26,000, 46,000, and 46,000 copies their first weeks on the charts respectively. And then back in September, the newest albums from Don Henley and George Strait came in at No. 1 and No. 2 as they both sold more than 80,000 copies each…yet again, with scant if any country radio airplay.

But “if you’re not on country radio, you don’t exist!” All righty then…

(Also…a cover of Mario’s “Let Me Love You”? Really?! WHAT THE…? The original version of that song sucked! We didn’t need a cover of it! I mean, yeah, Aaron Watson covered John Mayer on his last album, but at least it it was a decent song that sounded country, which is more than can be said of the Chris Lane monstrosity!)

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Oh hey, new Metallica…

Not bad, not bad at all. Pretty badass, in fact. It sounds a lot like …And Justice for All meets Death Magnetic — with much better production than either of those albums. I had heard Lars Ulrich quoted as saying Metallica’s forthcoming album would be “less frenetic” than Death Magnetic, and to be brutally honest, I did not find such encouraging at all; it’s not as if Death Magnetic was on the level of Kill ‘Em All in terms of speed and intensity. If this is what they’re going to define as “less frenetic,” I’m perfectly okay with that. According to other reports it’s going to be a double album with about 80 minutes of music. I am quite interested to see what the rest of it sounds like.

Thursday tech musings,11.8.16: BACK UP!

August 11, 2016

Hey you. Yeah, you. Got a few minutes? Well, take a couple of those minutes and go read these posts from Borepatch and ASM826, then come back here.

All right. Back? Good. Listen up.

They pretty much spelled everything out, but I cannot emphasize this enough: As the owner of your electronic gadgets:

YOU ARE YOUR OWN IT/SYSTEM ADMINISTRATOR.

Here’s what that means in a practical sense, in more layman’s terms:

To put what ASM826 and Borepatch said in slightly different terms, every single electronic device you have is going to fail at some point. When this happens, unless you have the data backed up, there is a very real possibility of losing your data. Different backup options are available for you for whatever electronic gadgets you own, whether they be computers, phones, or tablets or some combination thereof. And if you call your gadget’s manufacturer, most likely they will be more than willing to tell you about those different backup options and even help you set them up.

But the gadgets DO NOT set themselves to back up on their own. You as your own IT/system administrator, AND YOU ALONE, are responsible for setting that up and making sure it is working correctly. Not your gadget manufacturer, not the salesman at the electronics store who sold you said gadget, and certainly not the tech support rep on the other end of the line when you call because you have a problem with your gadget.

Me? I have my phone (HTC One M7) backing up to remote servers (aka the ever-so-nebulous “cloud”) via a third-party app called Lookout. Every so often I import my photos taken on the phone to my MacBook Pro. The MacBook Pro, in turn, I back up a couple of different ways: via the built-in Time Machine application to an external drive that I plug in periodically, as well as an online backup service called CrashPlan. $5.99 a month, set up your subscription, install the client on your computer, sign in with your username & password and as long as the computer is turned on and connected to the Internet, all your data is backed up to remote servers without you even having to think about it.

Now, in the interests of full disclosure, I will say this: I have had three Macs, and I have been very lucky with the first two in that I was able to yank the hard drive from the first one and manually transfer everything from it to the second computer via a USB-to-Serial ATA adapter. I did the same thing from the second to the third when the second machine shit the bed. Went off without a hitch both times. But that is absolutely not something I was counting on being able to do. I remember pulling the HD out of that first computer and connecting it to that replacement machine and thinking, “Man, I hope this works.” If it had not worked, if it had been the hard drive instead of the logic board that had crapped out on me, I would have lost, among other things, about 130 albums worth of music — most of which was ripped from cds that I had since lost, and thus would have been very difficult if not impossible to recover.Bu the time the second computer croaked, I had both my Time Machine backup and CrashPlan configured so I wouldn’t have to bank on it again.

Yes, I know. Data recovery is a thing. But it is a very expensive thing, whose prices often start in the mid three figures and often go into four and even five figures, and for that money you don’t even get a guarantee that your data will even be fully recovered (though, to be fair, you do get a money back minus diagnostic fee or something similar if they’re unsuccessful). Makes that $60 for an external backup drive and $5.99/month cloud service backup sound like a screaming good deal, doesn’t it? I see people asking in certain places, “My hard drive shit the bed, can anyone recommend to me some cheap, good, and fast data recovery software?”

And it drives me up the wall.

NO.

If it was important before you lost it you’d have spent the comparative pittance to back it up, and if it’s that important now, you’ll pony up for the recovery or write it off and take the damn consequences.

Thursday music musings, 11.8.16

August 11, 2016

So the Dixie Chicks sold out the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion this last weekend on their first United States tour in ten years, eh?

Bully for them, and for country music too. I sure as hell hope that’s at least some kind of indication that the mainstream country audience is ready for some semblance of real, substantive, actually COUNTRY music to return to the mainstream, because what we’re having to deal with as far as the mainstream goes these days makes me sick unto death. The late 1990s and early 2000s were far from any kind of golden age for country, but they were a damned sight better than what we have now. At least back then we still had George Strait and Alan Jackson; even with the decline in quality of Jackson’s output after 2002’s Drive, it was still miles ahead of any of today’s A-list stars.

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Speaking of George Strait, I thought it was a neat little surprise to see his sophomore album, Strait From the Heart, reviewed at Saving Country Music — and even more so to see it get a top grade. Now, I did (and do) think it’s a very enjoyable listen, but at least a couple of those songs did not age so well, particularly “The Steal of the Night” and “Lover In Disguise.” I thought he’d be a lot harsher on that album than he was, especially considering that the aforementioned songs were likely there due to the influence of producer Blake Mevis, who was pushing Strait in a more pop direction. Strait actually parted ways with Mevis as the next album was being put together and started over with a new producer. It was probably better for all involved, though, because I think that album, 1983’s Right or Wrong, was where Strait really hit his stride. “Let’s Fall to Pieces Together” is my all-time favorite George Strait song and has been such ever since I’ve been a fan.

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On another George Strait-related note, I’m pretty sure he’s mostly responsible for this:

Aaron Barker, the San Antonio native behind some of George Strait’s big hits, has been named to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

In the interests of full disclosure, I must admit that most of the non-Strait songs with Barker’s name on them were meh at best, but the songs that Strait recorded rank among the best of his career, particularly “I Know She Still Loves Me” and “I Can Still Make Cheyenne.” I’ve always thought the former was an underrated gem, and the latter would make my top ten of not just singles, but songs he’s recorded, period.

(And I don’t think I ever mentioned it till now, but I always thought “I Can Still Make Cheyenne” worked very well as a prequel of sorts to “The Cowboy Rides Away,” which in turn works quite well as a prequel to “Amarillo By Morning”…)

Wednesday music musings, 4.8.16

August 4, 2016

Brad Beheler at Galleywinter posts a fine tribute to Hastings, the Amarillo-based music store chain that’s on the verge of closing.

I certainly hated to hear it, myself. God knows I love the convenience of Amazon, but I have some quite fond memories of that place. I bought my first Texas music cds — from Pat Green, Cory Morrow, Owen Temple, and Roger Creager — at the Hastings in College Station. That was the beginning of my 15-plus years of digging this music. Spent a good deal more on OKOM in the next year and a half at that store, and later the one in Greenville. I’m sorry to see them go.

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I don’t know who was responsible for this, but it was well done, indeed.

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Aaron Watson exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame. Not bad for a guy who doesn’t exist.

Still, though, I keep thinking now of…

• The Band Perry, who seem to have gotten themselves a new major-label record deal in spite of making complete fools of themselves as artists; and

• Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler, who got his own deal through Dot Records, a joint venture between Big Machine and the Republic Records unit of Universal Music Group…

…and how Watson told Saving Country Music that he shopped The Underdog to every label in Nashville, and as he put it, the album “wasn’t their cup of tea.”

I know that TBP is a known quantity, as is Steven Tyler even if he did make his mark in a different genre. And Aaron Watson, God bless him, has been ever-magnanimous and the consummate gentleman about his own situation, and it’s not like he’s in a bad place.

Still, though, I think all of this is a thoroughly damning commentary on the Nashville music establishment. And with Grady Smith leaving The Guardian, almost no one in the mainstream music press is calling any of this out for the BS that it is. Worse than that, even, to the extent that anyone is calling it out, they still don’t get it, as evidenced by the Washington Post calling Sam Hunt “progressive” and “forward thinking” and the Houston Press advocating that Beyonce be played on country radio when there’s so much other worthy country music from actual country artists being left on the table.

And it all makes me wonder if things are really going to get any better for the mainstream…

Tech musings, 30.7.16

July 30, 2016

So, I recently went to the dark side…

I bought a Kindle Fire.

Yeah. I had never been too keen on the idea of e-books before, but it’s really neat. I use the Fire a lot as a tablet as opposed to an e-reader, which has saved my phone battery the workout it’s gotten up to now. There are a lot of really cool games available for it too.

I did finally take the plunge and downloaded my first e-book on it a couple of weeks ago. Only fitting, I suppose, that it was a Tom Clancy book, 1989’s Clear and Present Danger. I have bought at least two or three copies of that book over the years, with the first one being in 1992. It’s even better than I remember it. I remember really enjoying the movie, too.

And with that, here is my favorite scene from it.

Man, that was Harrison Ford’s Jack Ryan at his absolute best, right there.

Yup, he’s exactly right.

July 26, 2016

Ruben Navarrette, in today’s San Antonio Express-News:

Don’t get it twisted, Cruz haters. The Texas senator is a straight-up hero.

Yep. There are quite a few things I do not agree with Navarrette on, as you know if you’re a longtime reader — but he’s pretty much dead-on here. I know well what a lot of people are saying about Ted Cruz keeping his word, but it deserves to be asked what good his word is if he’s keeping it to a slimy creature like Donald Trump? It’s almost literally like casting pearls before swine — even more so considering how Trump attacked Ted Cruz’s family.

Speaking of that:

“I mean give me a break Ted, go ahead and endorse the man,” Robertson said on FOX & Friends following Cruz’s Wednesday night speech at the Republican National Convention where he failed to endorse Trump. “I mean, you lost, he won.”

The Robertson patriarch continued, “I love that dude [Cruz] but all the guys who lost and gals, they all need to swallow their pride and say the people [and] the Republican Party has said Donald Trump is the man we want in the White House.”

Is that right?

“…you husbands must give honor to your wives…”

“…honor thy father and they mother…”

..Yeeeeah. Tell me more about what a fine, upstanding Christian mayyyyun Phil Robertson is.

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….)

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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…

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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

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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.


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