Archive for October, 2015

A couple of questions…

October 31, 2015

…for O. Ricardo Pimentel:

Let’s just say you got the ban on selling everything but hunting guns that you agitate for. And let’s just say that banning them did nothing to reduce crime (just as the last “assault weapons” ban did), and no one took advantage of your mythical buy-back program. And let’s just say that Congress AND the President of the United States, in some alternate universe, authorized and mandated door-to-door gun confiscation and that such passed constitutional muster as per the United States Supreme Court.

Would you sign up for one of those confiscation teams? You know, put your own skin in the game? Or send your son and/or daughter to do it? Or would you send other people’s sons and daughters to do it, as you sit in your air-conditioned office and exult our collective ostensible reason and wisdom while they get massacred? Because whether you want to admit or not, that’s what all these policies you advocate are going to come down to.

Assuming, again, that we lived in said alternate universe (and thank God that we do not).

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A few words on Granger Smith…

October 17, 2015

…or, Why should we give people a pass just because they made good music once?

From the comments to the review from Country Perspective of Granger Smith’s “Backroad Song”:

Not every song has to be deep….Not every song has to be a deep, depressing Jason Isbell ballad.

This is the second-most-worn out argument behind “country music must evolve.” It’s one that’s trotted out damn near every time yet another dumb party-in-the-country song comes out, and it’s bullshit. Not every song has to be a dumb party-in-the-country song either, but that’s sure as hell what we’re getting, and I for one am fucking sick and tired of it. It was worn out two years ago, and now it’s just rank and rotting.

And then there was this:

His entire repertoire of music proves at least one thing: He deserves better.

I don’t see how Granger Smith should get a pass on the crap he makes now just because he allegedly used to make good music. That’s like saying Pat Green should get a pass for “College” and “Country Star” because of “Nightmare” and “Take Me Out to a Dancehall.” If anything, he should be held to a higher standard because of it.

But even if he did get a pass just for the music he once made, it still deserves to be pointed out that with this song and his career moves, Granger Smith is shitting on the entire Texas and Red Dirt country movement. We’re going to be pointing to Texas and Red Dirt as a better alternative to the Nashville crap and they’re going to point to Granger Smith and”Backroad Song” and ask us what the hell is the difference between Texas and Nashville. It’s not fair and it’s not accurate, but perception is reality, and to be honest we have every right to expect better than crap like this stupid song out of Nashville in the first place, let alone Texas. Hell, the biggest reason Texas and Red Dirt music has gotten so damn big in the first place is because of the crap like this! Do we really want people to think of Granger Smith instead of the Turnpike Troubadours whenever Red Dirt is mentioned? I sure as shit don’t.

I mean, really. Like I said back at Saving Country Music when Trigger reviewed “Backroad Song,” I know people bitch about Josh Abbott, and I can sort of understand why, but that shit makes Abbott sound like Rollercoaster-era Randy Rogers, or Jason Boland and the Stragglers. And if we don’t call these people out when they pull stunts like this just because they’re from Texas, then Texas really is no better than Nashville.

Saturday music musings, 10.10.15

October 10, 2015

Well, this is interesting:

There was another big battle at the top of the country albums charts last week, and once again the good guys won….In the end it was The Eagles drummer, singer, and songwriter Don Henley coming in at #1 with 87,500 albums sold of his traditional country effort Cass County….Running up was George Strait‘s Cold Beer Conversation, which came in with sales of 82,700, despite limited availability through Wal-Mart and Apple Music only, and was announced less than a week before its release….Thomas Rhett‘s Tangled Up ended up selling 62,900 copies…

I’m sure Rhett’s defenders would say, “But buying albums isn’t really a thing anymore!” And it’s been noted elsewhere that the younger generation is streaming more, which would explain at least part of it.

However, it has also been noted elsewhere that the artists get paid peanuts (figuratively speaking) for streaming compared to downloading albums or buying them physically, as we’re not yet to where that particular model is that profitable. And we all know that money is ultimately what keeps things rolling. So from that perspective, it looks like Real Country Music has won quite a victory here.

You could say — as some people have — that this is meaningless with streaming on the rise, but then on the other hand it isn’t; it makes for a handy reminder that traditional country music fans can make a difference, as we are willing to spend the cash for those full-length albums as opposed to streaming them and the artists barely getting paid for that.

Now, whether Nashville or radio pays attention to that is anyone’s guess, but there you go.

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Chris Lucas, of LoCash (h/t Country California):

‘Bro country’ has changed country music for the better. I don’t know why people call it bro country, maybe because it has a beat behind it. Country music has been singing about trucks, drinks, and girls for years. Merle Haggard, Hank Williams, ‘There’s a Tear in my Beer.’ It’s always been there, and I just think when something gets so popular, people tend to be negative.

What Chris Lucas seems to miss, as does everyone else making his “argument,” is that folks like Merle Haggard sang about a lot of other things too, whereas these new people all sing (almost literally) the same song over and over. But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at that, coming as it does from one of the folks who brought us “Truck Yeah.”

Also, regarding “(There’s A) Tear In My Beer”, as Sabra said, “More to the point, he’s using a song about self-destruction in the wake of heartbreak to make a point about drinking and partying songs, which makes it painfully obvious he’s never so much as listened to the chorus of it.”

I said not long ago that Thomas Rhett was the very personification of the song “Gone Country.” I should amend that statement to include Chris Lucas also.

“…I hear down there, it’s changed, you see, well they’re not as backward as they used to be…”

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Speaking of Thomas Rhett

As weird as it may sound coming out of my mouth, I’m probably the biggest country music fan that is such a fan of Justin Timberlake and of Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift.

One hears Rhett talk over and over again about the pop artists he likes, but never anything about the country artists he likes other than all his contemporaries. I wonder why that is? It could never be because he’s not really a fan of country music beyond the extent that he can get filthy rich doing whatever and calling it that, could it? Naaaaaaahhhh…

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Back on a more positive note: Jason Boland’s latest album, Squelch, came out yesterday, but we pre-ordered it and got it last Friday. Condition Hüman, the second Queensryche album with Todd La Torre, was released Friday a week ago also.

I’ll have to listen to the Jason Boland album more to get a better bead on it…

…but I can say that new Queensryche album is really damn good. That first album was anything but a fluke. I’ll probably have more in-depth observations on it at some point, but for right now I can say this: If you look at the first five albums of the original QR lineup and how the music progressed from the self-titled EP to Promised Land, and compared the self-titled EP to the first album with La Torre, Condition Hüman would be right about where Rage for Order was as far as the refinement of the sound goes. And you can hear influences from all of that era all the way up to the Promised Land album. Ever since Geoff Tate was fired, I’ve seen here and there that while there were all-new songs written by the current lineup on the self-titled album, Michael Wilton and Scott Rockenfield had written and demoed for the last few albums with Tate a number of songs that Tate had rejected, which would be included on this album. If that is indeed true, it’s a real shame, because there’re some damn fine songs here that compare very favorably with the band’s best work. So far my favorite songs on it — in chronological order — are “Arrow of Time,” “Guardian,” “Eye9,” “Bulletproof,” “Just Us,” and “All There Was.”

I tell you what, I was surprised as shit that Michael Wilton didn’t have a hand in writing that last song, because it has a freaking awesome twin-guitar bit that sounds like it came straight off the EP or The Warning

First impressions: George Strait, Cold Beer Conversation

October 4, 2015

19th straight year of buying George Strait albums on release day, and to sum it all up, he’s still got it.

I wasn’t terribly impressed with ‘It Was Love” the first couple of listens, but that song has started to grow on me. A bit too pop-county-ish for my tastes with what sounds like a drum machine, but it is still a nice little song that would fit in well on country radio —that is, if country radio was still the least bit interested in anything remotely resembling actual country music.

“Let it Go” and “Wish You Well” both channel the Jimmy Buffett-ish island very well without actually aping the sonics of such. I think I like the latter better, as I’ve never really been that big on the timpani as an instrument in country. Also, “Wish You Well” does lean more to the more polished yet still solidly traditional country that Strait music has become over the years, with the steel guitar occupying a very prominent place in the song, but “Let it Go” is still not a bad song by any means. Also, the title track is much, much better than the title might imply. Not that we should have been scared that George would “go bro,” but with what country music has become with ostensibly reliable artists selling out left and right this year, being skittish is somewhat understandable. As it turned out, it’s just two old dudes shooting the bull:

We could sit here all night trying to make it make sense. A little buzz is probably all we’re gonna get. But that’s alright…

Arguably the centerpiece of the album is “Everything I See,” written by George and Bubba with Dean Dillon and Keith Gattis, a tribute to the elder Strait’s father who died at 91 a couple of years ago. Strait really poured his heart into this performance, and you can tell. I got the idea that even in the recording of the song that made it to the album, he had a hard time getting through it. And though it is a very personal song, the most personal that the man has dared to get at least since 1988’s “Baby Blue,” it is certainly widely if not universally relatable to those of us who still miss loved ones long passed.

And all I could think when I heard “Something Going Down” was Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan, take note, this is how you do a sultry love song. Between the swelling strings and Strait singing about a fever burning him up, it’s a bona-fide knockout.

There are some really fun songs on the album too. George doing Western swing a la “It Takes All Kinds” is a treat, though I don’t think I’ll ever be at least a bit unnerved by the King singing about liking a dip in his top lip. And the theme of “Goin’, Goin’, Gone” — Friday afternoon drinking after the work day’s through — is one as old as time, but Strait sounds so damn good doing it that it really doesn’t matter, and it’s yet another solidly country song, and the bar singalong at the end really contributes to the mood. Strait’s vocals through the entire album are really second to none. He’s never been a bad singer, but he sounds exceptional here. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, but he really nailed it.

I am still trying to figure out where this album stands in the GS catalog as far as best and all the runners-up, but it’s way up there. If you’re a longtime Strait fan like I am, you’ll love it. I love it more with every listen.