More Musical Musings For Your Sunday Morning: Stark Contrast and Numbers

So I’ve been thinking for a couple of days, well, since late Friday night as I went on an ice cream run to Walmart and Rascal Flatts was on the radio (WARNING: Bubble-gum-pop-masquerading-as-country-alert). Last night, one of the selections in the player was Cross Canadian Ragweed’s Live And Loud at Cain’s Ballroom, and on that set is an absolutely chilling acoustic cover of Neil Young’s “The Needle and the Damage Done.” And I couldn’t help but think of the stark contrast between those two songs, and the two bands that recorded them. I’ll be the first to say that CCR isn’t exactly country in the same way that George Strait and Alan Jackson are, but if one of the definitions of country music is something that is real, raw and edgy — and yes, you can wager your donkey it is — then Cody Canada and the boys are just about as country as country can be. Contrast that to something like Rascal Flatts, something that’s just had the edge and the soul focus-grouped right out of it for the sake of appealing to the most people, and it’s just sickening. I know that — taking CCR and certain songs in their repertoire as an example — songs about getting strung out and killing cheating lovers aren’t going to appeal to everyone, but is that necessarily a bad thing? And taking yesterday’s commentary as an example, just because somebody rakes in the cash when they go out on tour, why do so many people take that as an indicator of how good their product is? And make no mistake about it, that’s exactly what Shania Twain and Rascal Flatts make — a product, seemingly tailored to do nothing more than make money. I know the folks down here on the Texas music scene don’t rake in that kind of cash, but even so they all still make some damned fine music. And if it came down to picking between that limited appeal and the rest of the country taking notice of what’s going on here, I for one would just as soon take that limited appeal. Otherwise there’s the chance of the music getting more bland and watered-down for the bigger market, as happened with Pat Green — can anybody tell me why people dump on folks like George Strait and Alan Jackson but give Pat a pass? Nashville does indeed suck, but there are some diamonds in that particular lump of coal, even if they aren’t so easy to find these days.
And then there’s the whole live-show element of it — when I went to see Ragweed a couple of weeks ago, that $15 ticket got me less than ten feet from the stage. I could almost have reached up and shaken Cody Canada’s hand. On the other hand, the closest I’ve been to George Strait is the fourth row from the stage at Austin’s Frank Erwin Center, and only then because of tickets from a broker at a price about 3 or 4 times the face value. They were more than worth it, but I couldn’t shell out that kind of cash every time I went to see George or I’d be going to see him a lot less. You can’t even buy the kind of up-close-and-personal for the big names that you can get with the artists on the Texas scene for the price of a cd. There’s a lot to be said for that, I think. It’s good to be a Texan, yes it is…

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