I hear some people try to rebut the assertions voiced here by saying that people have always said, in every era, that the music is worse than it’s ever been, or that it was better in some previous era. To an extent such is right, and it has always been about the money to an extent, but on the other hand the people saying the music is worse than it’s ever been are going to be right at some point. And I honestly can’t see how it can be argued that mainstream country is at least as good now as it has ever been, or better than it has ever been, or that it is not any more about money now than it has ever been. I have said it before and will say it again: there is a market out there for music with substance. If there wasn’t, folks like Sturgill Simpson and Aaron Watson would be stocking the shelves at Walmart. I have a very, very difficult time believing their music would not resonate in the mainstream on some level. They might not sell 10 million copies per album, but country music has always been a niche genre to an extent anyway. In that respect, I think folks like Garth Brooks and Shania Twain were arguably the worst things ever to happen to mainstream country music, because the record labels saw that kind of success and started chasing after it as hard as they could, identity of the genre be damned.
Of course, there’s the whole Dixie Chicks thing to contend with also; had they not been blacklisted back in 2003, they could have been a counterweight to the more pop influences that came along in the later half of the 2000s. Their first three albums combined sold 25 million copies, and there’s no doubt they had years of great music left in them. We probably wouldn’t be having this discussion if they were still around. For all anyone knows, Watson and Isbell might even be mainstream stars.
Sigh. I have said it before, but I will say it again:
I don’t know what happened to Dierks Bentley. I completely agree with the bit about the stupid singles for the last few years, but then his first couple of albums were solid all the way through — all killer, no filler, even the singles. Long Trip Alone was where he started to lose me; not that it was bad, just meh, for reasons I can’t quite explain. I thought at the time, well, it’s just the delayed sophomore slump. He’ll get his mojo back next go-round.
And then came the first two singles from Feel That Fire. I don’t know which one was worse, the title track or “Sideways.” That was about the time I jumped off the Dierks Bentley wagon. I heard his bluegrass album was pretty good, but I never got around to picking it up; that was about the time I stopped paying attention to the mainstream for the most part. I know dude’s gotta play the game, but it’s quite disappointing just the same. For all I know all his albums since Long Trip Alone are plagued by the same thing that dragged down Lee Ann Womack’s I Hope You Dance — the radio singles were the weakest of the bunch, while the album cuts held up the standard for greatness — but I just can’t be arsed to find out anymore, especially since there’s so much other good stuff out there.
Seeing this gives me quite the feeling of schadenfreude. Why?
Because unless I’m missing something, Infinity blowing up KILT hasn’t been working out too well for them. Hell, maybe there is something to what folks are saying this bro-country thing starting to run out of steam. I talked to one of my college buddies who lives in Houston not long ago and he said that KKBQ 92.9, the other modern country station in Houston, was actually the better of the two as far as the music they played. Talk about things being ass-backwards….
Sure is nice to see Country Legends 97.1 still going after so long. 2016 is its 13th year on the air, after six format changes on that frequency since it came on the air in the Houston area in 1991. I never would have thought that station would last that long. Here’s hoping for another 13 years.