Archive for February, 2015

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.

Advertisements

Tuesday music musings, 17.2.14

February 17, 2015

Via Country California, it sounds like we have another budding Keith Urban on our hands, as if the original wasn’t obnoxious enough…

Country music has always been diverse. With all the pop country happening now, people are worried it’s not country. But I go back to a time in the 1980s with Eddie Rabbitt and Conway Twitty singing songs that were very pop. At that time people were saying the same kind of thing. Now we look back and think of those guys as pure country.

Sigh. As I’ve said before, the latter simply isn’t true, at least not for any country fan with any kind of perspective or knowledge of the genre. And this “country music has always been diverse” seems to imply that it still is — which of course is another filthy freaking lie, considering it all seems to be about girls, trucks and beer, lather, rinse, repeat.

===

And as if everything going on up to now in country music wasn’t bad enough, now we have this. Honestly, I must say the whole thing leaves me aghast. I have to wonder if there’s ever been a time in country music where two hot and very rapidly burning fads have been chased consecutively like this. The landscape’s different now, what with the Texas, red dirt, and general alternative country scenes more thriving and vibrant than they were the last time Nashville was chasing bullshit trends so hard. So there is at least more of an alternative to the mainstream crap, but even so it’d still be pretty nice to turn on country radio and actually hear country music.

===

Speaking of Texas music, with a few exceptions this is a really good primer on the best of it. Of course, it does have its flaws — Miranda Lambert is here but Billy Joe Shaver isn’t, really? “Georgia On A Fast Train” belongs on pretty much any best-of list of Texas music worthy of the name. Hell, I’d have been happy if Jason Boland’s version of “Thunderbird Wine” had been on there as opposed to Miranda Lambert’s “Me And Charlie Talkin’,” even if that would have been the second song with that particular bum wine in the title….

Also, Kevin Fowler but no Gary P. Nunn? FAIL.

But at least they had Stoney LaRue’s version of “Down in Flames.” I had heard Brandon Jenkins recorded that same song at some point and listened to it one day…and, well, as I put it then, I like pretty much everything I’ve heard from BJ, but Stoney’s version of “Down in Flames” beats his like a rented mule.

Also, Adam Hood’s “I’ll Sing About Mine” should have ranked higher than No. 44, if only for its significance as a protest song. I know I’ve said before that I like protest songs better that decry longer-term trends, but at the same time that song cut right to the heart with what’s so wrong with this bro-country crap and it did so in a way that has yet to be equaled:

When you talk about the Dairy Queen, pickup trucks and Springsteen, you make the place I love sound like a bad cartoon

If that line isn’t the best single song lyric of the last ten years at least, it’s still pretty high up there.

Random musings, 11.2.15

February 11, 2015

I’ve been seeing pretty much everywhere, people going apeshit about Kanye West being Kanye West at the Grammys the other night. Lots of funny memes and whatnot going around in the aftermath, including a tweet talking about how Mr. West told a musician who plays 14 instruments that he needs to respect the artistry of someone who needs four people to write one song. I laughed, and the point is well-taken, but then on the other hand, if the song in question (“Run the World (Girls)”) was actually any good it really wouldn’t matter how many writers it had (see, for example, most of the songs on Metallica’s first three albums).

But I’ll admit that I don’t really have a dog in the fight as neither Beyonce nor Beck are my thing, although that doesn’t make Kanye West any less of a jackass. If I was going to be rolling my eyes at the Grammys it’d be for completely different reasons, namely that Sturgill Simpson was nominated in a category that shouldn’t even exist (Americana — you know, for all the stuff that’s “too country,” as Dale Watson once put it) AND lost, to boot. And then there’s the fact that Tenacious D has now won more Grammys for a Ronnie James Dio song than Dio himself won for singing his own songs.

But to revise and extend my own remarks from the other day, the fact that there wasn’t a category for Best Country Album between 1967 and 1995 and the category for Best Metal Performance didn’t even exist before 1990 should tell you all you know about NARAS’ attitude towards those two genres. And in the end, it’s okay. Like I’ve said before, every single one of those award ceremonies, from the American Country Countdown Awards all the way up to the Grammys, is nothing more than a big circle jerk designed to sell albums. It’s not about artistic excellence and really never has been, even if they get it right every so often.