Archive for September, 2015

Does one take it seriously, or not?

September 27, 2015

Ryan Adams covering Taylor Swift’s 1989, that is. There seem to be some people saying that it shouldn’t be, but there’s just one small problem with that:

With where he has positioned himself, Ryan Adams has automatically set certain expectations and is going to be judged by a certain standard by a lot of people, i.e., that no matter what he releases (hipster bullshit or not) it’s going to be a big deal and it will perceived as genius by those people solely because of where he has positioned himself on the musical spectrum. It may not be entirely fair — to an extent it’s unmitigated bullshit — but it is what it is, and the standard has to be kept up somehow.

To put it a different way — what if this had been done by Jason Isbell? Or Aaron Watson, or the Turnpike Troubadours? Would anyone be singing its praises then? Would we be saying to not take it so seriously? Or would we be saying, “WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT? YOU ARE BETTER THAN THIS, GUY!”

If it is the latter — and don’t bullshit, we all know it damned well is — then why should we give Ryan Adams any leeway?

None of this is to say that such cannot be done. I’m not against one artist covering an album by another artist per se. But this isn’t Merle Haggard making an entire album of Bob Wills songs, or Dream Theater covering Metallica’s Master of Puppets. This whole thing strikes me as Ryan Adams being what seems to be his insufferable artiste hipster self, and undermining an entire musical movement — the very movement that he helped create — in the process. I know Ryan Adams doesn’t give a shit about that movement, but there are a lot of people who do, and I can sympathize with them feeling stabbed in the back because of this — not to mention because of Adams’ saying, repeatedly, that he does not like country music.

And then there’s stuff like this:

Only a few hours after Adams’ release, Father John Misty’s Joshua Tillman released his own cover—of Adams’s 1989 cover….Maybe Tillman realized that his attempt at trolling ended up elevating the game of 1989 covers to a whole new, impossibly meta, level: a cover of a cover in the style of classic band, where can it even go from there?

Straight to hell, that’s where. Indie music “artists” covering big pop albums everywhere you look, and their hipster fans chuckling at teh irony of it all. And I’m not the first to point this out, but who’s to say that Ryan Adams isn’t gonna come out down the road and call this project another thing he did just because he appreciated the irony of it? You know, just like he did with his country stuff?

I swear, there’s just so much wrongness here, it’s like it’s fractally wrong. And shit like this doesn’t help matters:

Why Doesn’t Pitchfork Review Artists Like Taylor Swift (Unless They’re Covered by Ryan Adams)?

…And this is where, I fear, gender may play a role. Of the most popular genres, the ones they’re most likely to ignore—pop and mainstream country—are also the genres where you’re likely to see as many women in the audience as men.

TL/DR: Slate sees no problem with Pitchfork reviewing Ryan Adams’ cover of this, just a problem with the Taylor Swift original not being reviewed, because of course SEXISM.

Look. I don’t mean to say that gender discrimination is not a thing anymore or even that it isn’t important, but if there’s a problem with the music itself, then maybe the music should be the main focus as opposed to the artists’ genitalia. Maybe that’s too much to ask from Slate, considering the fact that Slate is a slightly-less-deranged version of Salon, but it’s still something to strive for if we’re going to get anywhere with saving country music, or with retaining any shred of integrity with music in general.

My favorite take on it, though, was back in the comments at SCM:

That’s the problem with him. He’s a hipster and hipsters only take themselves seriously. Nothing else and no one else. I just don’t trust him. He makes country albums and then turns around and says he “fucking hates country music.” And notice how that happens after the underground country world started to gain more followers. Hipsters are always doing shit like that. Find either the least popular thing or the most popular thing and run with it.. Ironically of course. Fuck that arrogant mop headed son of a bitch. Even if he did do this album for fun, how could he in good conscience record something that’s gonna bring in revenue for people responsible for the decline of real talent in the industry?

Well, isn’t THAT the $64,000 question? Sure, people could say not to take it seriously, but maybe they should be telling that to the people in the music press who are taking it seriously and treating it like the indie equivalent of Ropin’ the Wind.

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Monday music musings, 21.9.15

September 21, 2015

In one corner, Randy Owen, lead singer of Alabama:

I think that’s what Nashville still offers. They’ve got great songs and these great artists that can sing the phonebook, and that’s why they’re selling out stadiums.

In the other, Don Henley, lead singer of the Eagles:

What passes for country music, it’s formulaic. Where’s the insight? Where’s the reflection? Where’s the depth?

That’s quite an…interesting contrast. It’s certainly not in a good way, mind you. I more or less said my piece on Alabama last week, and all of it is just as applicable here. To add to that, I’m sure former Alabama drummer Mark Herndon is thanking his lucky stars that the other three guys don’t want to have anything to do with him after the way they’re crapping all over their legacy as of late.

All of it is to say in relation to this, though, that Randy Owen might have been legitimately considered an authority on good songs once upon a time, but now? Not so much. The Don Henley quote makes for an interesting counterpoint. How sad that an old classic rocker can see modern country music for exactly what it is but one of the biggest country stars of his day can believe — and try to tell the rest of us, to boot! — that the urine running down his leg is rain.

(I’ve been a bit more leery of Henley’s upcoming country album after the Steven Tyler and Bret Michaels turds, but if his and Dolly Parton’s cover of the old Louvin Brothers chestnut “When I Stop Dreaming” is any indication, that album might actually be very good as opposed to even just passable. We shall see.)

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Scott Hendricks might say that “Real Men Love Jesus is “not a Jesus song,” but either way, it’s still pretty stupid, as most if not all songs based on insipid bumper sticker slogans are. I don’t love football, and I never did the Saturday night bar thing. So by Scott Hendricks’ standards I’m not a real man. Which doesn’t particularly bother me, but it’s still one more reason I tell people now, “I like country music, not the crap Nashville passes off as such anymore.”

And the less said about Michael Ray, the better. I saw Ray defended on another site as follows:

“Ray could give you a three hour concert of Merle Haggard and George Jones songs and do it convincingly….Unfortunately, doing that would not get him on the radio and would have not landed him a recording contract.”

Which may be true of course, but the same could probably be said of Darius Rucker and his foray into country music has been one disappointment after another too.

As for Ray doing what he had to do to get on the radio and whatnot…perhaps that may be true, but then I go back to what I say a lot about the mainstream game being rigged with a bunch of crappy rules that don’t benefit the artists or the longtime fans who give a damn about the genre. You might say he has no choice but to play the game, but as for me I beg to differ. The Red Dirt and Americana scenes are full of people who are playing an entirely different game by an entirely different set of rules, and I’m going to take a shot in the dark here and say that they’re doing pretty well for themselves, at least well enough not to have to apply for jobs keeping the shopping carts off the Walmart parking lot.

Ray seems to have made his choice, and that is fine. But if songs like this are what comes of it, then he deserves every bit of criticism that comes his way.

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Speaking of Red Dirt, the long awaited new album from the Turnpike Troubadours came out Friday, and it’s very good. So far I’d have to say my favorite songs from it are “The Mercury,” the remake of “Easton and Main,” and the cover of the Old 97s’ “Doreen.”

Monday music musings, 14.9.15

September 14, 2015

…wait, what? People still care what Darryl Worley thinks?

I still catch myself breaking out in a sweat when I sing that song. I was so angered. I was just so angered by the coward of the attacks.

Oh, wait, Taste of Country. Never mind.

In all seriousness, when you talk of complete wastes of potential in 2000s country music, Darryl Worley’s pretty high up on the list of people who blew their potential all to hell between bad songs and/or career choices. I bought his first two albums — Hard Rain Don’t Last and I Miss My Friend — and they were both pretty good. But with Have You Forgotten, I was like, nope, no more of that shit — even if only because the album was mostly a compilation of songs from those first two albums riding on the success of a song that never should have been written in the first place. Sucks, too, because Worley had a solid voice quite evocative of Keith Whitley and was a pretty good songwriter too, at least if the credits on his albums didn’t fall victim to the whole “third for a word” phenomenon. But he put himself in the position of putting out poorly-written propaganda, and, well, you see how well that’s worked out for him.

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Man, Dale Watson just nails it

The best songwriters and best musicians in the world live in Nashville, Tennessee. Unfortunately, that whole thing is a business plan. Music is made, but it’s like a sweatshop.

…as does William Clark Green:

It’s kind of like gentrification. What happens is you have neighborhoods in every town that you consider it poor. People live there forever and then somebody builds a Starbucks and it ruins the neighborhood. Rich people move in and make these sidewalk diners, and tax values go up. And we can’t afford to be there anymore.

Those are some really interesting analogies, and ones that put the whole “it’s just evolution of the music” argument into perspective. It’s certainly not a flattering perspective, either. You could very well argue that what’s going on isn’t evolution of the music, but consolidation of the music — consolidation into that big mono-genre that Trigger’s always talking about at Saving Country Music. And the same arguments against sweatshops and gentrification apply here, also, because there’s no long-term benefit to the music with what’s going on here. It’s just the artificial shift of the music from targeting an older demographic to targeting a younger, allegedly hipper one with the cheap mass-produced product, and we’re going to see the same thing happen to the music that happened to Suzette Kelo’s neighborhood. That’s where this is all gonna end up. Bet on it.

(h/t Country California)

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Quote of the day, from a Redditor on Judas Priest, discussing the 25th anniversary of the release of Painkiller:

They’re absolutely not dad rock…unless your dad is metal as fuck.

Yep, that’s pretty much it, although I thought they were kinda meh for a long time. While they weren’t as banal and uninteresting as, say, Fleetwood Mac or U2, all the Judas Priest songs I heard on the radio got to be pretty boring after a while. I had heard so much about how Priest were one of the baddest-ass of the metal bands out there, and I heard songs like “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming,” “Turbo Lover,” and “Breaking the Law,” and I thought, really? That’s all there is?

And then I heard this.

Metal as fuck, indeed. And the entire album is just as great. I had much the same reaction to this as I did to Queensryche when I heard the Operation: Mindcrime songs for the first time, i.e., “Holy spitballs, this is the same band?” I have heard that not all of JP’s stuff was quite as hard and fast as the stuff on Painkiller, but I am definitely interested in exploring their back catalog….

Tuesday music musings, 12.9.15

September 12, 2015

Oh, huh, more defensiveness from Luke Bryan:

For people to call me the father of it (bro-country), well, whatever. It just seems like a term that was invented to cheapen me as an artist.

Sounds like all the criticism is getting to him.

Well, tough shit. Like I’ve said before, if Mr. Bryan doesn’t wanna get called out for making crap music, there’s a reeeeeaaaaaally easy way to make that happen. And as for the term “bro-country” cheapening him as an artist…well, it seems to me he’s doing a bang-up job of that all on his lonesome, whatever term one might use to characterize his “music.”

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Aaaaaand, more of the same from Thomas Rhett:

I love my dad with all my heart. But that’s one of the main questions I’ve been asked since I became an artist. To this day, every phoner I do for a radio station, one of the first things is, “I played your daddy’s songs back in 1995.”

Well, that’s kinda apropos, considering that if it weren’t for Thomas Rhett’s dad’s connections he’d probably be sweeping the floors at Walmart.

And as I’ve said before, that in itself is a meta-commentary of sorts on how bad things have gotten in mainstream country, because Rhett Akins’ record even before the Peach Pickers was nothing to write home about. He had a serviceable voice but never released anything particularly memorable. Truth be told I kinda liked “Not On Your Love.”

Or was it “She Said Yes”?

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How bad can a song called “Southern Drawl” be? Pretty damn bad.

The title of this song was bad enough, to be sure. I shut it off about 55 seconds in.

They had some clunkers, to be sure, but I was a big Alabama fan back in the day. I say every now and then that pop-country isn’t necessarily bad by default; it’s just that it used to be a whole lot better. Acts like Glen Campbell, Earl Thomas Conley, and Alabama are usually the examples I use to support that observation. I don’t know why they feel like they have to cheapen their legacy with this any more than they already have with songs like the *NSYNC duet and “When It All Goes South.” You’d think they’d have been set for life after their ’80s success….