Archive for March, 2015

Wow, that’s quite the cop-out.

March 28, 2015

Apparently 96.3 KSCS has been catching a bit of flak on their Facebook page over the whole mixing pop-hits-in-with-country thing, and they responded thusly:

Here’s what we’re doing…Pop selectively waits for something to explode on country and then benefits from the all the exposure and relevance that the country format has built for it (Taylor Swift, for example). If the audience that loves Taylor is forced to go to pop exclusively to find her, we’re hurting our chance of growing our radio station.

Weeeeell, here’s a crazy thought: Maybe they shouldn’t have been catering to Taylor Swift’s audience in the first place, or at least catered to it less and less as she went more pop. I would venture to say that many if not most Taylor Swift fans aren’t so much fans of country music as they are fans of Taylor Swift, i.e., “I don’t like country music but I like Taylor Swift.” I mean, like it or not, genres and radio formats are still a thing to a lot of people for perfectly legitimate reasons, and frankly, if you’re going to call your radio station a “country” station as you give airtime to the likes of Ed Sheeran and Kanye West instead of Sturgill Simpson and Aaron Watson, then you deserve to freeze in the dark with the buggy whip makers.

Surely it’s not as if any of that underground music would drive people away. KSCS never went as deep as 95.9 the Ranch or even 99.5 the Wolf when it came to the Texas music as that scene was on the rise back in the day, but I remember when they’d play folks like Pat Green and Robert Earl Keen every so often along with the classic country. (The old stuff was their thing, while 99.5 was more about the Texas music.) I really don’t know what would have changed, except for the demographic Cumulus is targeting with it.

Speaking of Cumulus, they own both KSCS and KPLX now. Which might explain the whole thing, I suppose, in that they want to differentiate one station from the other, but why not do it with actual country music that’s being left on the table as it is, as opposed to playing pop hits that everyone else is playing? Another friend of mine said it best:

“It blows my mind that there are actual executives in 2015 that are this dumb and short-sighted. In the digital age, this one-size-fits-all crap doesn’t fly in ANY market. It’s a niche world. If someone really wants to listen to Taylor or any other pop music, they don’t need you for that. They’re going to be able to do it on their own.

“The best thing you can do is find your own distinct and unique sound and then continue to build that brand with repetition and consistency. Spoiler alert: if you’re known as a country station, your best chance to succeed there is probably with country music and not trying to take well-established brands from elsewhere and somehow incorporate into some all-encompassing hybrid nonsense.

“Of course, all of that requires actual forward-thinking, and we know Corporate Country would rather chase the tails of whimsical teenyboppers. So… yeah.”

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Wednesday music musings, 25.3.15

March 25, 2015

Well, this is depressing:

It’s not often that radio stations do something distinctive enough to get other radio people talking, but at least two reached out to me within a few minutes of each other on Monday and all it took was the addition of a few pop titles to two different country stations. For country KSCS Dallas, it was playing Ed Sheeran’s “Don’t” and “Thinking Out Loud’ as well as Rihanna, Kanye West and Paul McCartney’s “FourFive Seconds.”

Man, talk about a radio station going to shit. I remember when those guys were playing Pat Green and Merle Haggard at 4:30 in the afternoon, and obscure George Strait album cuts here and there. I mean, I thought that whole 100.3 the Bull thing in Houston was a crock of shit, but this just blows that right out of the water. All the great new music they could be playing from the likes of Sturgill Simpson and Aaron Watson, and this is what they play? Ugh. I got nothin’.

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Speaking of Aaron Watson and his new album, there was this a little while back at Saving Country Music:

You said you receive no mainstream radio play, and a few days ago the CEO of Sony Music Nashville was quoted saying, “If you’re not on country radio, you don’t exist.” As someone on the outside looking in to radio play, what do you think about that statement, especially sitting on the perch of your #1 album?

I think that’s A: It’s a very inaccurate statement. And B: I think Gary Overton is saying that because this week is the big CRS week in Nashville, so maybe he was saying that because every country radio show has shown up in Nashville this week. But I would also say, “My name is Aaron Watson. I’m not played on country radio. And I have the #1 record in country music this week. I do exist. And I also run a multi-million dollar business that employs up to 20 people.” And I would also say that for a little family in Abilene, TX, they think their daddy is the best country singer since Hank Williams. So I do exist. I just think that’s a very narrow-minded way of looking at things.

It really is. There’s a whole world of music out there that isn’t played on country radio, and people do buy it — as evidenced by, among other things, The Underdog hitting No. 1 on the charts and Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music selling 100,000 copies, both without the benefit of country radio airplay.

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We went and bought that AW album not long after it came out, by the way, and even with its more mainstream sensibilities it’s still very, very good. Some of it does lean more towards the bro-country side (see: “Getaway Truck”), and there’s what sounds like a drum machine on “Rodeo Queen” along with some rather annoying high notes, but those moments are more than redeemed with “The Prayer,” “Fence Post,” Freight Train,” and “Bluebonnets (Julia’s Song).”

That last song…that last song just tears me all to pieces.

How is there even a question here?

March 8, 2015

Yesterday, from MetalSucks:

The Criterion Contention: Metallica’s Master of Puppets Vs. The Black Album

Welcome to the inaugural edition of The Criterion Contention! In our new monthly series, two writers (be they members of the MetalSucks staff or guest bloggers) will debate the superiority of two albums which will somehow be thematically connected — they may be by the same band, or from the same part of the world, or just in the same genre. Then, at the end of the debate, YOU will vote for which one you think is ACTUALLY the more important record. The winning album will be announced one week after the initial debate, and that album will then be inaugurated into The MetalSucks Criterion Collection as a canonical work that every metal fan should know. Then the process will repeat a month later!

We begin the series with MetalSucks co-founded/co-editor-in-chief Axl Rosenberg squaring off against “Overground” columnist Angus Jung as to which Metallica album is the greatest of all time: 1986’s Master of Puppets, or 1991’s self-titled “Black Album.”

I suppose I should say that I do appreciate the Black Album. It was my gateway to pretty much all things Metallica and heavy metal in general, even though it took me a few years to move beyond just them. I’m sure I’m not the only one, as songs like “The Struggle Within” and “Holier Than Thou” were at least pretty close to some of the songs on the older albums. I read an Amazon review years ago that summed it all up pretty well:

This is the album – the one longtime fans often bemoan as the beginning of the end. Metallica sells out. Metallica loses their edge.

There’s no arguing that this is the one that brought Metallica to the mainstream. This was the first Metallica album I bought – not because it was the best, just because it was the first to get radio play where I lived. Imagine if you had never heard Metallica before and this was the first experience you ever had with them. It was incredible.

And through this album I worked backward. AND JUSTICE FOR ALL, MASTER OF PUPPETS, and so on. Perfect or imperfect, this album opened the door to what longtime fans consider vintage Metallica….

Now, with all that being said…

Was TBA “not as Metallica”? Upon hearing the four albums that preceded it, I certainly thought as much. It was slower, softer, and not as complex. I’ve said before that I thought it was ironic that the self-titled Metallica album was my introduction to that band, considering that I liked their old stuff so much better. But that album does deserve its due as a gateway to metal for a lot of people, for whatever that may be worth. (A hell of a lot more than Taylor Swift serving as a gateway to Real Country Music.) And it’s a pretty fantastic hard rock album on its own merits. Still, though, there’s a reason so many people put Master of Puppets at the top of their list of greatest albums of all time – well, eight of them, actually.

If you wanted to get specific about it, though, while not getting into the nitty-gritty, here you go: Master of Puppets is Metallica’s seminal work, their magnum opus. It shows them all at the peak of their powers, as musicians and as songwriters. The Black Album might have introduced a lot of people to Master of Puppets and it does deserve honorable mention because of that, but if you’re going to stick a Metallica album on any list of essential metal albums worthy of the adjectives, there is absolutely no question as to what it needs to be.

In honor of Texas Independence Day.

March 2, 2015

I could think of few better written tributes to our state than this; I first saw it around 2006. It was attributed to Orange native Bum Phillips, but I don’t know if he really wrote it; I’ve seen it around the Web and don’t know where it originated. But no matter the author, no matter if it was written in honor of Texas Independence Day, it rings true today, and every day of the year. Every time I read it, the room always gets a bit dusty…

God bless Texas and everyone who lives here, or wishes that they did.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TEXAS — FROM BUM PHILLIPS

Being Texan by Bum Phillips

Dear Friends,

Last year, I wrote a small piece about what it means to me to be a Texan. My friends know it means about damned near everything. Anyway, this fella asked me to reprint what I’d wrote and I didn’t have it. So I set out to think about rewriting something. I considered writing about all the great things I love about Texas. There are way too many things to list. I can’t even begin to do it justice. Lemme let you in on my short list.

It starts with The Window at Big Bend, which in and of itself is proof of God. It goes to Lake Sam Rayburn where my Granddad taught me more about life than fishin, and enough about fishin to last a lifetime. I can talk about Tyler, and Longview, and Odessa and Cisco, and Abilene and Poteet and every place in between. Every little part of Texas feels special. Every person who ever flew over the Lone Star thinks of Bandera or Victoria or Manor or wherever they call “home” as the best little part of the best state.

So I got to thinkin about it, and here’s what I really want to say. Last year, I talked about all the great places and great heroes who make Texas what it is. I talked about Willie and Waylon and Michael Dell and Michael DeBakey and my Dad and LBJ and Denton Cooley. I talked about everybody that came to mind. It took me sitting here tonight reading this stack of emails and thinkin’ about where I’ve been and what I’ve done since the last time I wrote on this occasion to remind me what it is about Texas that is really great.

You see, this last month or so I finally went to Europe for the first time. I hadn’t ever been, and didn’t too much want to. But you know all my damned friends are always talking about “the time they went to Europe.” So, I finally went. It was a hell of a trip to be sure. All they did when they saw me was say the same thing, before they’d ever met me. “Hey cowboy, we love Texas.” I guess the hat tipped em off. But let me tell you what, they all came up with a smile on their faces. You know why? They knew for damned sure that I was gonna be nice to em. They knew it cause they knew I was from Texas. They knew something that hadn’t even hit me. They knew Texans, even though they’d never met one.

That’s when it occurred to me. Do you know what is great about Texas? Do you know why when my friend Beverly and I were trekking across country to see 15 baseball games we got sick and had to come home after 8? Do you know why every time I cross the border I say, “Lord, please don’t let me die in _____”?

Do you know why children in Japan can look at a picture of the great State and know exactly what it is about the same time they can tell a rhombus from a trapezoid? I can tell you that right quick. You. The same spirit that made 186 men cross that line in the sand in San Antonio damned near 165 years ago is still in you today. Why else would my friend send me William Barrett Travis’ plea for help in an email just a week ago, or why would Charles Stenciled ask me to reprint a Texas Independence column from a year ago?

What would make my friend Elizabeth say, “I don’t know if I can marry a man who doesn’t love Texas like I do?” Why in the hell are 1,000 people coming to my house this weekend to celebrate a holiday for what used to be a nation that is now a state? Because the spirit that made that nation is the spirit that burned in every person who founded this great place we call Texas, and they passed it on through blood or sweat to every one of us.

You see, that spirit that made Texas what it is, is alive in all of us, even if we can’t stand next to a cannon to prove it, and it’s our responsibility to keep that fire burning. Every person who ever put a “Native Texan” or an “I wasn’t born in Texas but I got here as fast a could” sticker on his car understands. Anyone who ever hung a map of Texas on their wall or flew a Lone Star flag on their porch knows what I mean.

My Dad’s buddy Bill has an old saying. He says that some people were forged of a hotter fire. Well, that’s what it is to be Texan. To be forged of a hotter fire.

To know that part of Colorado was Texas. That part of New Mexico was Texas. That part of Oklahoma was Texas. Yep. Talk all you want. Part of what you got was what we gave you. To look at a picture of Idaho or Istanbul and say, “what the Hell is that?” when you know that anyone in Idaho or Istanbul who sees a picture of Texas knows damned good and well what it is. It isn’t the shape, it isn’t the state, it’s the state of mind. You’re what makes Texas.

The fact that you would take 15 minutes out of your day to read this, because that’s what Texas means to you, that’s what makes Texas what it is. The fact that when you see the guy in front of you litter you honk and think, “Sonofabitch. Littering on MY highway.”

When was the last time you went to a person’s house in New York and you saw a big map of New York on their wall? That was never. When did you ever drive through Oklahoma and see their flag waving on four businesses in a row? Can you even tell me what the flag in Louisiana looks like? I damned sure can’t.

But I bet my ass you can’t drive 20 minutes from your house and not see a business that has a big Texas flag as part of its logo. If you haven’t done business with someone called All Tex something or Lone Star somebody or other, or Texas such and such, you hadn’t lived here for too long.

When you ask a man from New York what he is, he’ll say a stockbroker, or an accountant, or an ad exec. When you ask a woman from California what she is, she’ll tell you her last name or her major. Hell either of em might say “I’m a republican,” or they might be a democrat. When you ask a Texan what they are, before they say, “I’m a Methodist,” or “I’m a lawyer,” or “I’m a Smith,” they tell you they’re a Texan. I got nothin’ against all those other places, and Lord knows they’ve probably got some fine folks, but in your gut you know it just like I do, Texas is just a little different.

So tomorrow when you drive down the road and you see a person broken down on the side of the road, stop and help. When you are in a bar in California, buy a Californian a drink and tell him it’s for Texas Independence Day. Remind the person in the cube next to you that he wouldn’t be here enjoying this if it weren’t for Sam Houston, and if he or she doesn’t know the story, tell them.

When William Barrett Travis wrote in 1836 that he would never surrender and he would have Victory or Death, what he was really saying was that he and his men were forged of a hotter fire. They weren’t your average every day men.

Well, that is what it means to be a Texan. It meant it then, and that’s why it means it today. It means just what all those people North of the Red River accuse us of thinking it means. It means there’s no mountain that we can’t climb. It means that we can swim the Gulf in the winter. It means that Earl Campbell ran harder and Houston is bigger and Dallas is richer and Alpine is hotter and Stevie Ray was smoother and God vacations in Texas.

It means that come Hell or high water, when the chips are down and the Good Lord is watching, we’re Texans by damned, and just like in 1836, that counts for something. So for today at least, when your chance comes around, go out and prove it. It’s true because we believe it’s true. If you are sitting wondering what the Hell I’m talking about, this ain’t for you.

But if the first thing you are going to do when the Good Lord calls your number is find the men who sat in that tiny mission in San Antonio and shake their hands, then you’re the reason I wrote this tonight, and this is for you. So until next time you hear from me, God Bless and Happy Texas Independence Day.

May you be poor in misfortune, rich in blessings, slow to make enemies and quick to make friends. But, rich or poor, quick or slow, may you know nothing but happiness from this day forward.

Regards From Texas