This isn’t a fun thing to think about…

…but even so, here it is:

It’s easy to wonder if, after more than two decades of populating country airwaves with quality material well-sung and tastefully produced, the hits may finally be drying up for Alan Jackson.

They could be. I don’t think even Freight Train produced any  Top 10s, much less a No. 1, and I know this sort of thing happens with every generation — but it’s still a sad thing to watch the folks you grew up listening to on the radio be cast off for the next new thing, especially when they’re still making good music. As of yet I don’t have Alan’s latest (I plan to rectify that soon), but from what I’ve heard about the album it stands right up there with everything else he’s done as a shining example of how country music is supposed to sound.

I do have George Strait’s Here For A Good Time, though, and I can definitely say that of it; in fact, that album was one of my two favorite GS albums from everything he’s released after the 1995 box set, and I have everything he’s ever done. As of yet the album has yielded two top-10 hits, but I remember it was not so long ago that Strait was reeling off multiple No. 1 hits with each album.

I don’t suppose it matters so much in Strait’s case, as I would guess Here For A Good Time has sold a good 400,000 copies so far since its September 2011 release. And he can still pack the arenas pretty much everywhere he goes with the fan base he’s built up over the years, a fair bit of whom were probably not even born when he had his first hit record. Sure makes me feel old, though, even if KKYX (a San Antonio institution that was among the first stations, if not the first station, to play George Strait) is the only terrestrial country station I listen to anymore….

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2 Responses to “This isn’t a fun thing to think about…”

  1. AeroDillo Says:

    That singers come and go is just one of those things that we have to accept as fans. Alan Jackson has been consistently good since I first heard him (I’m guessing sometime in the late ’80s) and he’s yet to disappoint. I can’t really say the same for George Strait, sadly – I think for me he started slipping in the late ’90s and has been coasting on his earlier work since. Blasphemy, I know, but I listen to his newer stuff and while some of it’s not bad it just doesn’t have the cachet of his songs twenty years ago.

    Not saying it should. Stagnation in art is tantamount to suicide, but I’m not a great fan of the way Strait has gone in the past decade or so.

    What concerns me more is the question of who we’re left with once the genre stalwarts are gone. The artists I knew who brought in the newer sounds of country in the ’90s are fading, gone from the radio, or changing styles sufficient that they no longer really place in the genre. The heavies from the era preceding are all but gone, and most of them don’t make the news unless it’s a medical emergency.

    The present generation can’t craft music for shit, but boy howdy they’d love to tell you about their dog, their truck, their Jesus-loving girlfriend, and how hard they partied after they won the big game, and if you don’t like it, I’m sure they’ll be glad to spit tobacco at your feet (taking care not to hit their $300 ripped designer jeans and $400 boots) while telling you to get your ass back to New York City. The other half, presumably, wants you to sit there and nod while they talk about high school.

    Honestly, if Taylor Swift and Jason Aldean made a Pace picante sauce commercial (do they even still have those?) you’d get a pretty accurate view of what country music radio has to offer lately.

    We’re getting away from people who can put universal truth to music and into the territory of the ‘in crowd’. County music doesn’t have an in-crowd. In fact, this my-turf/your-turf wannabe homeboy bullshit is the antithesis of country music, which is largely populist at heart. Good country speaks to the common rather than the exceptional, and that’s the kind of thing where Alan Jackson excels. Yes, he writes from viewpoint that’s buried way below the Mason-Dixon. Yes, a lot of his work centers around small towns and making a living in rural America. Yes, he does have an accent.

    But Alan Jackson isn’t hitting you upside the head to establish his hick cred. His songs touch on things we’ve all felt at some point – heartbreak, loss, tragedy, hope, joy, happiness, fond nostalgia – that are unique enough to carry their own story but also plug into a greater experience. It’s his song – but you get share in it. The man does art. Maybe not high art (as some of his critics suggest) but he’s miles ahead the standard, which seems to be a Warhol-esque series of the talentless and tone-deaf making cheap copies of each other until they’ve distilled their subjects down to noise and cliche.

    Musical barbarians, the whole sorry bunch of them.

    • southtexaspistolero Says:

      What concerns me more is the question of who we’re left with once the genre stalwarts are gone.

      Same here. To be honest, I think that’s where much of my angst about this comes from. When Merle Haggard & George Jones were exiled from radio at least we had good people to carry on the tradition they set. And you can’t say that we have that now that people like Alan & George are getting played less and less, at least as far as mainstream country goes. I think quite often about how the question George Jones posed back in 1985 gets more and more urgent as time goes on.

      I might agree that George has been coasting on his ’80s glory for the last decade or so, but It Just Comes Natural and Here For A Good Time ranked right up there with his ’80s stuff for me. None of what he’s released this decade has been flat-out disappointing, but there were a few of his albums from the double-aughts that left me saying, “meh.” But he’s actually been writing a fair bit of his own stuff as of late and making some pretty ballsy choices as to what he covers (ex.: “Delbert McClinton’s “Lone Star Blues” and the old Jesse Winchester gem “A Showman’s Life,” previously recorded by Gary Allan), so I am interested to see what he comes up with next. I might make the argument stronger about Alan Jackson that you made about Strait — that while much of what Jackson’s recorded in the last decade isn’t bad, it’s not as good as what he did in the ’90s. I’d heard it said that he was relying too much on his own songs and his creative well was running dry, and that sounds about right. But like Strait, I am not ready to give up on Jackson just yet. I know what he’s capable of, and I think he’s still got it.

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