What happened to…what, now?

June 23, 2017

The proper question is, “What happened to honest music journalism?” Or “Who are the people quoted here and why in the hell do their opinions on Texas Music matter?” There’s so much bullshit here that it practically fisks itself, but what the hell.

A New York guy killed Texas Music. Yes, friends, the disintegration of this state’s edgy brand of country rock can be traced back to New York-born Texas-transplant Jerry Jeff Walker.

Uh…come again? There wouldn’t BE a Texas music to speak of if it wasn’t for Jerry Jeff Walker. But even so, whatever the objective state of Texas Music circa 2017, it strikes me as not quite fair, and more than a bit simplistic, to blame just him for it, because practically everyone in Texas Music 2.0, from Roger Creager to William Clark Green, was influenced by him. And all of that is assuming that we take the article’s central premise is true, and it just isn’t. Not by a long shot.

Robert Earl Keen Jr. followed in the 1980s, tapping into Walker’s party anthem vibe but with deeper writing (“Swerving in My Lane,” “The Road Goes on Forever”). The rowdies were inflamed.

Really. I’m going to guess these people have never heard “Mariano,” “Jesse with the Long Hair,” or “Shades of Gray,” or, hell, even the original version of “The Road Goes On Forever.” I remember hearing the latter and thinking it was anything but a party song; the one line in the song with the title is practically the only upbeat thing about it.

Then along from Oklahoma came Red Dirt, a similar type of rowdy country but with an even more Neanderthal approach.

Wait, what? Are we even listening to the same artists? Stoney LaRue, Jason Boland, Ragweed? These people don’t have a freaking clue.

And the bit about Maren Morris’ talent getting her noticed is utterly laughable. That’s not really a commentary on said talent, but rather…well…let’s just put it like this: If Maren Morris sounded like Lee Ann Womack or Courtney Patton, who are both every single bit as talented as she is, we all know that Nashville and country radio never would have given her the time of day.

I think my biggest problem with this article, though, is the fact that none of these people bother to actually call anyone out. Are there acts in Texas music who don’t measure up? Sure there are. And we all know who they are, more or less. But if you’re going to call the scene out for its quality or lack thereof, it’s incumbent upon you to point fingers and name names. Nobody hesitates to do that for Nashville, and we ought not to hesitate to do it for Texas/Red Dirt or any other scene. Not only should that be done to make the scene better, but also to differentiate between the good and the bad. Just like it’s wrong to say ’80s metal sucks because of Poison, it’s just as wrong to modern Texas music sucks because of Sam Riggs.

And, again, who the hell are any of these people quoted in this stupid article? If it was Ray Wylie Hubbard or Billy Joe Shaver or any of those guys saying all this that’d be one thing, but it’s just a bitter gaggle of nobodies with nothing more than axes to grind for reasons that only God Himself knows.

Well, all righty then.

June 21, 2017

So, on one hand we have mainstream Nashville artists doing a tribute to Motley Crue, and on the other hand, we have this:

What started out to be the idea for a heavy metal album of Outlaw country covers by DevilDriver frontman Dez Fafara has apparently turned into a monster project that may include dozens of songs and as many as 25 guest appearances. A project long rumored from the band, Dez Fafara says he started reaching out to folks in the metal world who may want to contribute, and he received such an overwhelming reception, the project has taken on a life of its own.

Randy Blythe from Lamb of God, Lee Ving from the band Fear, and Chuck Billy from Testament are some of the names said to be involved with the project, with many other contributors being kept under wraps at the moment. Though the album was originally due to be released this fall, it won’t likely be released until next year due to the amount of contributions.

It might sound surprising at first glance that we’d see something like this, but it’s really not. You could call it the flip side of Jason Boland being a fan of Iron Maiden. There’s at least a little bit of precedent for metal covers of country songs, with — among others —Iced Earth covering “Highwayman” and Adrenaline Mob covering “The Devil Went Down To Georgia.” And there were quite a few metal artists who paid verbal tribute to Merle Haggard when he passed away last year.

At the end of the day it’s really about liking honest, real music more than anything else, and I’ve always thought that real country music and most heavy metal had that in common if nothing else. I remember when Don Henley released Cass County a couple of years ago, I thought it was pretty sad that an aging rocker made a better country album than most if not all of the popular “country” artists of the day, and I could make a similar observation here — that is, that it’s pretty sad that it’s left to artists from another genre to pay tribute to country greats while “country” artists are paying tribute to middle-of-the-pack ’80s glam metal bands. I know that a mainstream country tribute to country legends these days would be every bit as insincere and inauthentic as the ever-popular country/hip-hop mixtape, but that inauthenticity is just yet another symptom of the problem with mainstream country music.

At any rate, I must admit I’m pretty interested to hear this tribute. I wouldn’t be too keen on hearing the Cookie Monster vocals on any of those songs, as I’ve never been a fan of that style to begin with — I much prefer metal with clean vocals — but I can definitely respect the metal guys doing something like this, at least. Considering that the album is going to have at least a few country artists collaborating, I bet it’ll have at least a few good if not great moments. We’ll see.

Something to remember today.

May 29, 2017

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.

Well, damn. Another one gone.

May 27, 2017

Really, 2017?

Music legend Gregg Allman, whose bluesy vocals and soulful touch on the Hammond B-3 organ helped propel The Allman Brothers Band to superstardom and spawn Southern rock, died Saturday, his manager said. He was 69.

I have said before that the Eagles were the first classic rock band that I got into; it could probably be safely said that the Allman Brothers were the second. My favorite ABB song, “Ramblin’ Man,” had Dickey Betts on lead, but those guys just didn’t do a bad song; my favorite with Gregg on lead vocals was always “Statesboro Blues,” with “Whipping Post” a close second.

Of course, with my love for classic country, it wouldn’t have been a far trip to ABB fandom, as Southern rock and outlaw country are close cousins, if not brothers, as a more than cursory listen to either of them would reveal. In fact, both Waylon and Willie covered “Midnight Rider”…

 

…and “Ramblin’ Man,” according to ABB drummer Butch Trucks, was meant for none other than Merle Haggard himself:

“After Duane died, for one thing there was only one guitar player, but then Dickey kind of took over and we quit playing so much in that jazz genre that we were playing in and started heading more toward country stuff,” Butch Trucks explained. “And then out came ‘Ramblin’ Man,’ and if I never hear that song again it’ll be too soon … [laughs]. We actually went to the studio to make a demo of that to send to Merle Haggard. Even Dickey figured it was much too country for the Allman Brothers.”

We’re all mortal, but just, damn. Won’t ever be another like him.

8 days. — ***UPDATED***

May 24, 2017

UPDATE, 24 May, 9:30 AM Central: WE HAVE POWER! FINALLY!

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What’s the significance of that number, you ask?

That’s the number of days that we’ve been without power. But it hasn’t been for lack of trying.

Tuesday morning, May 16 — the day after the fire — I took off work and made calls. — to SAWS (water), Time Warner/Spectrum (Internet), and CPS Energy (power). The first two are taken care of. The third, well…

…if everything was good there, you wouldn’t be seeing this blog post.

The power was scheduled to be turned on at the new place on Thursday, May 18. They said they would contact me if any problems arose. I didn’t get any calls or emails, so I thought everything would be fine. But I decided to be proactive and call CPS Energy on Thursday.

Guess what?

It got delayed because they had to do an investigation into the request due to power being stolen at the new location. I could either wait for the investigation to take its course, staying in the hotel all the while, or pay the over $1000 for the power that was stolen and have them turn it on immediately. Because, of course, I just have that laying around after losing all that stuff in the fire and having to restock, right? They need a lease, and ALSO, I find out that there are repairs that need to be made.

I provide a lease.

They can’t read the lease.

I call the electrician, he comes out and says everything is fine.

I give them a better copy of the lease.

And then I find out I have to call the engineering department to get a line and meter put in.

I call the engineering department, I tell them what’s going on, and they transfer me to customer service to get things set up as a new move-in.

All the while, here we are, paying out every bodily orifice for a hotel and food (mostly with donations, and all of you who have donated have my eternal thanks for that).

Did I mention that I had to be the one to reach out to CPS Energy for this, every step of the way? Yes. They NEVER ONCE contacted me about any delays in the process.

(But they’ll for damn sure send me a bill and call me when my payment’s late, won’t they?)

Supposedly everything’s going to be on by the end of the day…

…but if we get to the weekend, we’re probably going to need to go back into a hotel. I am not sure, but I do know it’s going to get very hot, and I can’t just have my family out in that. So, and I hate hate, HATE to do this, but anything you could spare for donations for the emergency fund would be greatly appreciated. You can either donate to the fund I talked about here, or send donations to Sabra’s PayPal at the following email address:

sabramorse at gmail dot com

Again, thank you all so much for your help in this trying time.

A few words on Chris Cornell…

May 18, 2017

Chris Cornell died, huh?

Well that sucks. I can’t lie and say I was always a fan, as I was more into country music than anything else in the ’90s, but once I started exploring other genres more I really took a liking to both Soundgarden and Audioslave. In fact, Soundgarden got to be one of the few ’90s rock bands I really liked. I once said that pretty much the only bands from the ’90s that I thought were worth a damn were the Offspring and Stone Temple Pilots, but you could definitely add Soundgarden to that short list.

And then there was this, from Cody Canada:

I feel like my childhood is dying.
Over the last couple of years the ones who taught me are leaving this place. I know this happens with every generation but I’m not ready.
I’m just not sure who our kids and our kids kids will listen to.
I was jolted back in time this morning looking at my crying boys.
Keith Whitley died when I was Willy’s age. I couldn’t stop crying because he moved me so much. My sweet parents let me stay home and play guitar that day.
Everyday the boys play Cornells voice in one form or another.
Doesn’t matter the bands name. It’s him man. It’s his demon. It’s his love. It’s his voice that we all gravitated towards.
The older I get the more I realize what’s important. Not the band name or the jaded ex member or the record label or what you wear. It’s the point of that one song in that right moment that made you cry or say I’m going to play music and change people’s day.
I’m going to carry on what this person spoke to me.
People have been trying to tell me how to do it and who they think I am for years now.
I know who I am and I know the people that made me believe in who I am and where I’m going. I catch myself telling my boys “no not like that” I’m wrong. Do it boys.
Don’t waste time listening to people tell you you’re not doing it right. How do they know?
I’ve been doing it since I was a child. Am I doing it right? Damn right I am. My way. Because that’s how they did it.
How you gonna stand out if you fit in.
Godspeed Mr. Cornell.
You paved a way for three generations of Canada’s. I hope you know what you did to music.

And you know, even if I didn’t like Soundgarden, I would at least respect them, for stuff like this. If there hadn’t been a Soundgarden, for all we know there wouldn’t have been a Cross Canadian Ragweed, and Red Dirt music would have been poorer for that.

And yes, that goes for all those other ’90s bands that I will freely admit to *not* liking.

I would say something about all those yahoos coming out of the woodwork crowing about the demise of “hair metal” at the hands of Cornell and his contemporaries…but, well, fuck them. They’re full of crap, they’ve always been full of crap, and they’ll always be full of crap.

I wouldn’t normally do this, but…

May 16, 2017

Gonna make this quick & dirty.

I got a text from Sabra yesterday afternoon saying a fire had started in the kitchen. The fire was contained to there, and everyone’s OK. We were able to secure another place from our landlord, and Sabra got all our electronics out and items of sentimental value…

…but there was a lot of smoke damage and the house is uninhabitable right now. Because of the smoke damage, all of our clothes are lost, as are all of the kids’ stuffed toys and other things, as well as all our furniture — beds, everything. The lovely and gracious Erin Palette has set up a fundraiser for us. Anything you can spare would be greatly appreciated.

Sunday music musings, 14.5.17

May 14, 2017

New Chris Stapleton, huh? OK.

I mean, good for him for bringing people’s attention to another country classic with his cover of Willie Nelson’s “Last Thing I Needed, First Thing This Morning,” and I realize what he’s doing in the context of mainstream country music is borderline revolutionary, and that he’s arguably reminded a lot of people that it used to be more than songs about tailgate parties and whatnot, but, well…as far as I can tell, From A Room, Vol. 1 is just more of what didn’t click with me with Traveller. Will it sell? I am sure it will, but as we all know seemingly no one gives a damn about album sales anymore, as evidenced by — among other things — an increasing number of albums topping the charts with virtually no airplay on country radio, most recently Willie Nelson’s latest just this week. And I am sure it will be just about as successful on radio as Traveller was. Yes, I know. Radio’s not what it once was, and big changes may be on the horizon. But while radio is an increasingly smaller medium of delivery for new music, it is still the dominant thing, and that’s presented as country music is country music to a lot of people. So between all of that, and the return of Sam Hunt with his horrible smash hit “Body Like A Back Road,” it looks like we’re not going to be making any progress when it comes to having mainstream country music sound, well, country.

Now, I could be wrong. This album may very well do for him, and for country radio, what Traveller couldn’t. But I don’t think that’s going to happen. It strikes me that Traveller, in the context of late-2010s mainstream country, was an extreme outlier; in fact, the only thing that keeps it from being the definition of a black swan event is the fact that it didn’t have much impact in that arena as far as changing the direction of mainstream country.

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Speaking of radio, I thought this was highly amusing:

“It’s Monday, so the clock resets,” WGH-FM Virginia Beach, Va., PD Mark McKay recently wrote in a sarcastic post on Facebook. “I can’t remember, whose turn is it this week [to have a No. 1 single]?

Sarcasm aside, McKay touched on a very real — and growing — frustration among country radio programmers who say labels often push records up and off the charts much faster than their listeners can get familiar with them. …

“It’s this constant push to have a new No. 1 song every week that is stalling this format out,” says KPLX Dallas assistant PD Smokey Rivers, who advises his fellow programmers to “tap the brakes and hold on to bulletproof hits longer.”

Bulletproof hits, huh? Is there such a thing in country music anymore, as far as country radio is concerned? Beyond that, how much have things really changed music-wise in the mainstream since three years ago, when we had program directors saying things like “If we do not have a solid library of gold from this era, we will pay the price in a few years”? There’s a ton of good music that’s just going ignored as people buy it, as evidenced by, yet again, the growing list of albums that hit No. 1 without any representation on country radio — among them, again, Chris Stapleton’s Traveller. The music’s there, guys; you just have to take a chance. The fuck have you got to lose at this point, especially considering the dire straits you’re in anymore?

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On first listen, the new albums from Jason Eady and Rodney Crowell are really damn good. Which is such a relief, after the disappointment that was Aaron Watson’s latest. I was starting to think that this year was really going to suck on the new music front.

I almost included Deryl Dodd’s new album in the disappointment category…

…but while the jury’s still out on that one, so far it’s looking good. I wasn’t wowed on the first listen like I thought I’d be, but it is getting better with each listen. “Love Letters and Cigarettes” with Cody Jinks is absolutely spectacular, and I am also liking “Let Me Be” with William Clark Green, “A Bitter End” with Randy Rogers, “Drinkin’ ‘bout You” with Matt Hillyer, and “That’s How I Got to Memphis” with the great Radney Foster.

Now, let’s just hope we get a new Jason Boland and the Stragglers album this year…

Tuesday music musings, 2.5.17

May 2, 2017

Good for Sam Riggs for apologizing for that bullshit stunt at the Larry Joe Taylor Music Festival

…but even if there’s no danger to the audience, I have always thought that sort of thing was completely unnecessary, to the point that I will say this:

If you feel like destroying musical instruments should be part of your live show for any reason, really, perhaps you shouldn’t be playing music for a living. The true test of a musical entertainer is (or at least ought to be) whether they can entertain a crowd when said crowd is blindfolded. No matter if you’re Jimi Hendrix, Garth Brooks, or Sam Riggs. And you can call me an old fart, a jackass, or whatever…but if I am that now, then I was one at the ripe old age of 15 watching Garth Brooks smash those guitars on the stage at Texas Stadium on national TV. I have said it before, but I always thought it rather telling that George Strait got the same reaction to his live shows that Garth Brooks did, when all George does — all he has ever done — is “just stand there and sing,” as some people so derisively put it. And I hear people say, “if I just wanted music I’d sit at home and listen to the cd,” but there’s a reason all those live albums I mentioned in that William Clark Green review are so highly regarded by fans of OKOM. There are more where those came from. Maybe more entertainers in Texas and everywhere else should strive for that level of artistry.

(Why do I ramble on about all this? Because I don’t have Trailer’s mad meme skills.)

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I finally got William Michael Morgan’s album Vinyl. I’ll have more to say on it at some point…

…but I will say off the bat that it’s the first album from a new mainstream country star that I’ve enjoyed in many years. Not that I’ve bought that many, but then again, one of the side effects of hearing crappy music on mainstream radio is not going out and buying new mainstream music. But if we had more stuff like what’s on this album, country music would be in a lot better shape than it is.

This right here is the best of the bunch, though.

Radio musings, 29.4.17

April 29, 2017

Well then.

The shares of radio and billboard giant iHeartMedia Inc. have tumbled 27.3 percent since the company warned investors last Thursday that it may not survive over the next 10 months.

So this is what it’s come to in April 2017, for one of the biggest media companies in the United States. Why?

Well, honestly, I don’t know. All I know is my own story. I haven’t bothered with terrestrial radio in a few years now. And that’s a huge change from the way I used to be as recently as a decade ago. And even more so before that…before I got satellite radio, I used to be with certain radio stations like a lot of people are with their sports teams. But they fired the deejays, changed the format, and all that good stuff. Sure, the music sucks, but really that’s just part of it. As I’ve put it before, those deejays become a part of your life, in a way the voices of your day, like co-workers, or — dare I say it — friends. You get rid of them and you get rid of a big part of your audience’s connection to your radio station, and when you’re already behind the eight-ball of having to play the same crappy music over and over, well it makes things that much worse. Is syndicated talent good? Sure it is, but there gets to be a point that there’s too much of it. What possible way (beyond financial) does it benefit Texas listeners to have a morning show on their local radio station that’s based in North Carolina? Between that and, for example, your modern rock stations not playing any actual modern rock, and all the No. 1 albums that don’t actually get any airplay on country radio, it’s small if any wonder that we are where we are now.

More great thoughts from Trigger at Saving Country Music here.