Archive for December, 2015

Wednesday music musings, 30.12.15

December 30, 2015

Sabra,  night before last at Bill Miller’s, as we were being subjected to Kelsea Ballerini’s “Dibs” on Y100:

“Tell me again why I should accept this as country music?”

Me: “Evolution of the genre. Or something.”

And now that I think about it, there’s also the fact that Ballerini has the right set of naughty bits. “Dibs” is the perfect encapsulation of what I was talking about when I voiced my skepticism about people’s approach to the gender imbalance on country radio. That song, and Kelsea Ballerini’s “artistry” in general, is the musical equivalent of cotton candy or frosting. It’s a waste of time, bandwidth, and hard drive space. As Trigger said at Saving Country Music, it’s not even worth the effort to steal. There is more soul and substance in any one lyric sung by Lee Ann Womack than in the entirety of Kelsea Ballerini’s musical output.

And yeah, I know. Not every song has to be deep and substantive. (Never mind the fact that were not getting anything deep and/or substantive on country radio in the first place anymore…)

Beyond even that, though, why does this have to be country instead of, say, progressive metal? It bears about as much resemblance to Dream Theater as it does to actual country music.

I’ll tell you why it can’t be progressive metal, or jazz rock, or whatever — because no self-respecting fan of any of those genres would stand for their genre being sullied like that.

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Speaking of evolution of the genre, I thought of something this morning that put that whole thing into even starker relief, courtesy of a certain song.

16 years ago, mainstream country music was Alan Jackson covering Jim Ed Brown and Charley Pride and talking about how much he loved George Strait and Merle Haggard.

Today, mainstream “country” “music” is Thomas Rhett ripping off Sam Cooke and War (on the same damn album, even!) and talking about how much he loves Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake.

“Murder On Music Row,” indeed.

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Boy, I’m just full of sunshine and rainbows today, aren’t I? Here, have some Turnpike Troubadours.

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If you needed another reason to vote for Ted Cruz…

December 21, 2015

here you go:

On MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” Tuesday, the veteran anchor sat down with former Senate majority leader and 1996 Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole to talk, ostensibly, about the current state of his party and the rise of Donald Trump. But the Kansas Republican had something else on his mind. And that something else was how much he dislikes Texas Sen. Ted Cruz….

Dole doesn’t like people — especially Republicans — poking fun at his 1996 loss at the hands of Bill Clinton.

Yeah, well, I’m sure a lot of Republicans don’t like milquetoast also-rans from 20 years ago bashing the candidates that are running now, but them’s the breaks. Bill Clinton had three strikes against him — HillaryCare, the massively unpopular assault weapons ban that  the Democrats lost both houses of Congress over, and his reneging on his campaign promise of tax cuts — and Bob Dole STILL couldn’t beat him. And, of course, Dole endorsed John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. Losers, one and all.

Harsh? Sure it is. But that’s just the way it is. I respect and applaud Bob Dole’s service as a member of the Greatest Generation, but his go-along-to-get-along mentality as a politician is exactly what’s gotten the country in the shape it’s in. Whether Ted Cruz will be the one to change things is debatable, but here’s something that isn’t: The Republican establishment has run their so-called “sensible, pragmatic moderates” for two elections in a row and they have lost both times. They had the same results with Dole back in 1996. Had it not been for the 2000 Florida debacle, we may well have had ourselves a President Al Gore, and it was most likely George W. Bush’s popularity as a wartime president that swung the election for him in 2004.

So with all of that in mind, why, exactly, should anyone care about what Bob Dole thinks?

Oh, God, Authorized Journalism everywhere…

December 16, 2015

not just when it comes to guns!

(Chris) Stapleton’s sweep didn’t leave much room for Sam Hunt to shine on CMA night, and that’s a shame. He’s far and away country’s most forward-thinking stylist, and he deserves to be recognized as such.

Huh, so that’s what they’re calling it now. Forward thinking. And, of course, more mentions of the same old mainstream “country” artists that everyone else has been talking about.

Maybe that isn’t quite fair. Maybe Eric Church’s surprise album ended up being good. But there was so much other good stuff that came out this year that was just as worthy of being talked about as Eric Church’s album, a hell of a lot more worthy of discussion than Sam Hunt’s album that wasn’t even released this year. I suppose I could give Chris Richards credit for pointing out Stapleton’s questionable mainstream oeuvre, but for the fact that Richards didn’t think that was of any use beyond pointing out the ostensible hypocrisy and double standards of CMA voters. And that’s something that does deserve to be commented on, but not for the benefit of somebody like Sam Hunt, not least of all because at the end of the day — in the context of country music — Hunt’s music is little more than a different flavor of crap than what the bros are serving up. Sam Hunt’s music is not progressive. It’s not forward thinking. It’s out and out fraud and deserves to be called out as such, loudly and repeatedly.

Of course, this little tidbit from one of Richards’ earlier columns provides quite the insight:

Hunt didn’t really listen to a lot of music growing up. “I had a couple CDs,” he confesses. “But I never had that first concert experience, that first record thing.”…

A career in professional football started to seem like an actual possibility for Hunt after a strong season his senior year, and after graduation, he was invited to a free-agent training camp hosted by the Kansas City Chiefs. But he didn’t make it past the first week. So he settled on an even more far-fetched career path. He packed up his car for Nashville.

So, in other words, music was Sam Hunt’s Plan B. That explains, so, so much, at least as far as why his music is so boring and soulless….

Tuesday music musings, 8.12.15

December 8, 2015

I was all ready to give Rolling Stone Country credit for their 40 Best Country Albums of 2015…

…but Taylor Swift knockoff Kelsea Ballerini AND Bruno Mars wannabe Thomas Rhett ahead of George Strait, the Turnpike Troubadours, and Jason Boland? You have got to be fucking kidding me. As disappointing as Boland’s album was, at least it was, you know, country.

What’s that, you say? A Jason Boland album disappointing?

Comparatively speaking, yeah. In fact, and it pains me to say this, Squelch was, for us, the year’s biggest disappointment, hands down. Sabra described it as Jason Boland’s “old man yelling at the clouds” album, and that’s as good a description as any. He had been damned good up to that point, and even a subpar Boland album beats many other artists’ magnum opuses, but there’s not a song on there to my ears that measures up to “Devil Pays in Gold,” “Shot Full of Holes,” “Mary,” “Sons and Daughters of Dixie,” “False Accuser’s Lament,” or “Ludlow.”

I mean, I get the acerbic commentary, but I think there’s a right and wrong way to do that. For example, I mean, I loved “Sons and Daughters…,” “Farmer’s Luck,” “They Took It Away,” and “Christmas in Huntsville,” but “It’s Alright to be an Asshole” and “Fuck, Fight & Rodeo,” not so much. That talk-singing bit on the latter annoys the living shit out of me, and that may well be my least favorite Jason Boland song ever for just that reason. It’s a fun little country jam instrumentally, though. I don’t know. Maybe the whole thing will grow on me with repeated listens. We shall see.

It’s still better than the Chris Stapleton album though. No offense, but Traveller has to be the most overhyped country album at least since Garth Brooks’ Ropin’ the Wind. It would’ve been one thing if that album had lived up to the hype, but it didn’t. And that comparison is apt on a couple of different levels to me, because (as I have said elsewhere)  the fawning over this guy in some circles is frighteningly reminiscent of the fawning over Garth Brooks in mainstream circles in the early 1990s, even if that’s as far as the similarities go.

I’ve heard some gripes about the Turnpike Troubadours album that I can’t say I get, namely that they re-recorded a couple of songs from Bossier City, their first album (“Easton and Main” and the title track), and covered a song from another band (the Old 97s’ “Doreen”) as opposed to giving us an album of all-new self-penned songs. But even if you take out those songs that leaves 9 all-new self-penned songs, and Diamonds and Gasoline had only 10 songs. And as great as all those new songs are, the new recording of “Easton and Main” is arguably the best song on the album.

Can’t really argue with their No. 1 pick, though, which was Jason Isbell’s Something More Than Free. I still find his voice kinda meh, especially compared to the other two Jasons we find ourselves listening to on a regular basis (Eady & Boland), but there’s some really top-notch songwriting on that album. “Children of Children,” “Speed Trap Town,” “Palmetto Rose,” “To A Band That I Loved,” all of those are great, great songs. It took a while for Southeastern to grow on me, but I took to Something More Than Free right awayI can hardly wait to see where he goes next.

Also, quite possibly a literal civil war.

December 5, 2015

From Reason Magazine, via Facebook:

New York Times Calls for Immense Expense and Political Civil War To Maybe Possibly Hopefully Reduce Gun Violence by a Tiny Amount

…when they get to concrete (sort of) proposals after expressing their dismay with murders and tools that can be used to murder, they declare that “Certain kinds of weapons, like the slightly modified combat rifles used in California, must be outlawed for civilian ownership. It is possible to define those guns in a clear and effective way and, yes, it would require Americans who own those kinds of weapons to give them up for the good of their fellow citizens.”

Fascinating. It’s not quite “WE WANT TO TAKE YOUR GUNS,” but it’s likely as close as we’ll get from a mainstream media outlet.

Left unsaid, of course, is exactly how they propose this sort of thing is to be enforced. As I have put it elsewhere, this is a very important thing to ponder, because there are a lot of people out there with guns (AND ammunition for them) who are not going to give them up just because government deems it necessary for the greater good. As has also been pointed out elsewhere, in the months running up to the Clinton “Assault Weapons Ban,” more SKS and AK/AR-type rifles were purchased than had been purchased in the preceding 20 years. And we saw more of this type of thing after Virginia Tech, before and after the 2008 election, after Sandy Hook, after Isla Vista, and even on Black Friday this year. Are the people buying these guns doing so to so easily turn them in later? If not, just how far are they willing to go to keep them? Do we really want to find that out?