Archive for February, 2016

Oh, hi there!

February 29, 2016



Mr. Duncan-Mark Thomas made his grand entry into the world at 1:15 this afternoon. 8 pounds and 9 ounces, and baby and mother are both doing just fine. 😀

Saturday music musings, 27.2.16

February 27, 2016

Well now, isn’t this something

While the opening of ticket sales for RodeoHouston’s lineup of concerts always leads to an online scrum for the best seats, plenty of tickets are still available for 20 of this season’s 21 concerts as of the weekend before the rodeo.

The 2016 RodeoHouston concert lineup includes The Band Perry, Chris Young, Jason Aldean, Jason Derulo, Cole Swindell, Shawn Mendes, Miranda Lambert, Pitbull, Brett Eldredge, Luke Bryan, Darius Rucker, Los Huracanes Del Norte, Banda Los Recoditos, Kenny Chesney, Kid Rock, Jake Owen, Florida Georgia Line, Little Big Town, Brad Paisley and Keith Urban.

Like I said before elsewhere, that’s just a real dumpster fire all the way around. And it’s looking like the potential rodeo attendees agree. I told a college buddy who lives in Houston that you’d probably be better off going to the Hideout if you’re a fan of real music. Trigger at Saving Country Music had the best response to this:

“Look, I understand you’ve got to have some mainstream names to put butts in seats. This is all about busine$$. But are you really going to try and tell me that Cole Swindell and Billy Currington are going to draw better than if you put Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers on the same night, especially after they just name dropped your event in their last record together? This lineup sucks ass. They might as well just project a rebroadcast of the CMA Fan Fest on the side of the Astrodome and save the talent budget, or just loop the latest Now That’s What I Call Country CD over the loud speakers. All the great work artists like Aaron Watson have done on the rodeo circuit, and this is the lineup we get? Ever heard of Chris Stapleton? He’s like the hottest country music artist on the planet right now. Maybe look into it.”

Would Rogers, Bowen, Watson, Stapleton, and the like have sold better than The Band Perry, Jake Owen, and Brett Eldredge? I don’t know, but given the popularity of the first three here in Texas it certainly couldn’t have hurt to find out. (The San Antonio rodeo organizers certainly weren’t afraid to book Stapleton; he’s playing the rodeo here tonight.) It’d be interesting to find out what was behind those sales figures — especially those of The Band Perry, who have reportedly been catching a ton of flak from fans and others for taking a more pop direction with their latest music. It’s probably not a big stretch to conclude the two are related, especially considering their latest album was supposed to have been released last November but has been repeatedly delayed and in fact has yet to see the light of day.

At any rate, I just can’t help but point and laugh, because I don’t remember the numbers of unsold tickets being quite so high. Evolution of the genre, huh? Yeah, okay.


Speaking of SCM, Trigger pretty much nailed Granger Smith to the wall:

Despite some declaring the #1 for “Backroad Song” as a victory for Texas country, it is anything but. It was Granger’s abandonment of Texas country and the values of that scene, and walking away from the decent songwriting evidenced earlier in his career that finally got him the commercial success he has clearly craved over the last few years.

In getting to #1, Granger ditched Thirty Tigers—the label/distribution company for many other Texas country artists including Randy Rogers Band, Jason Boland and the Stragglers, Aaron Watson, The Josh Abbott Band, and the Turnpike Troubadours—and went with the newly-minted imprint of Broken Bow Records (Jason Aldean, Randy Houser) called Wheelhouse Records. There’s nothing Texas about Granger Smith’s #1 except that Texas was the scene he left behind to get there. It’s a shallow victory, if a victory at all; like proclaiming Kelsea Ballerini’s #1’s for purely pop songs at the top of the country charts as a victory for female artists.

Yep. All the great artists that come out of this scene, and Granger Smith is the one they choose to propel to mainstream stardom? It boggles the mind. I remember bitching about Pat Green’s Nashville output back in the day, but this business makes even “Country Star” sound like the second coming of Jason Boland and the Stragglers. In the comments it was suggested that Smith made the moves he did to provide for his family. Which is perfectly legit, but at the same time I think yet again of Aaron Watson. He has a wife and kids too, and I’m sure he’d like to provide for them just like Granger Smith wants to provide for his family. And you see how radically different their respective approaches were. They yielded different results, to be sure, but I think Aaron Watson’s approach probably worked out better when everything is taken into consideration.


And speaking of Mr. Boland, you know why he’s awesome? Because instead of singing about tailgates and bonfires, he sings about “re-gentrify(ing) the shitty part of town.”

I gotta say, Squelch is really growing on me. I figured it might; after all, it’s Jason Boland, and how can you go wrong with that? This probably my favorite song on it right now, along with “Fuck, Fight, and Rodeo.” But I never saw that last one coming.

Still can’t be arsed to spin Traveller anymore, though. When I get my new Mac next week and get everything moved over from the dead one, it’s probably gonna go off the ‘pod…

Wow, such naive faith in humanity.

February 24, 2016

Froma Harrop, on the U.S. government attempting to force Apple to hack the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone:

…the decrypting could be done on Apple property by Apple people — and the tool kept in Apple’s famously secure vault.

Yeah, sure. That’s exactly how it’s going to work. What’s the old saying? Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead?

Beyond that, as has been pointed out before, if the federal government wins this, the implications of such are quite staggering, especially if the compromised iOS (and let’s be frank, that’s exactly what this is) finds its way out into the wild. Even if it doesn’t, information security on Apple’s iOS devices will effectively cease to exist. Even if the feds let this tool stay securely in Apple’s possession, even if by some miracle of nature the backdoor to iOS was never found by bad actors, there’s still the matter of the NSA and its massive surveillance of real-time communications to deal with, and the concomitant potential of wholesale Fourth Amendment violations. If you’ll remember, that was what got the whole encryption ball rolling to start with. Harrop might well say that “the job of setting national security priorities has not been outsourced to Silicon Valley boardrooms” and that “(it) is a matter for our federal government,”but as I have said before, if the feds weren’t so gung-ho on spying on everyone in the first place, Apple might well not have been so gung-ho on making near-unbreakable encryption as a response to it.

And Harrop shows her cavalier attitude to privacy yet again:

U.S. tech companies and civil libertarians are supporting Apple’s stance. Nuala O’Connor of the Center for Democracy and Technology expressed some of the fears. Cellphones “have become effectively a part of our bodies,” she wrote. Hers has contacts, medical records, kids’ report cards, pictures and so forth. All the more reason not to carry all that around in one’s handbag, we might say.

So how far does one go with that line of reasoning? What of our possessions gets to have a reasonable expectation of security? And even that’s giving Harrop’s stupid analogy more credit than it deserves. The proper analogy would be having a locked handbag and anyone being able to get into that handbag, which defeats the purpose of having a lock. If one’s going to take Harrop’s approach to this, what the hell is the point of the Fourth Amendment in the first place? Are we really supposed to just place blind faith in the government to do the right thing?

Apparently Froma Harrop’s answer is, “Yes, we should.”

Grammy musings

February 16, 2016

Well, to the extent the Grammy Awards mean anything anyway…

Jason Isbell winning Best Americana Album for Something More Than Free and Best Americana Roots Song for “24 Frames” was great, but it would have been even better to see those awards presented during the prime time telecast. SMTF was absolutely one of the best albums of the year in any genre, and Isbell more than deserves the primetime exposure.

Also, SMTF should have had Sam Hunt’s slot in the nominees for Best Country Album, at least. Or hell, pretty much any of the albums I listed here should have had that slot, and any of them would be worthy of recognition as the best of the year. But at least Sam Hunt went home completely empty-handed yet again, and that in itself is a victory.

What’s that? Why is it a victory if, as I so often proclaim, all of these award shows are one big circle-jerk?

Well, I’m not being willfully blind here. These awards are recognition by one’s peers, and said recognition does often go hand-in-hand with sales success and in part determining the direction of at least the mainstream component of the genre. And frankly, the less recognition that the likes of Sam Hunt and Thomas Rhett get, especially at the higher levels like the Grammys, the better. This metro-country thing needs to die a horrible screaming death, and the sooner the better, even if it means Chris Stapleton gets overhyped at least a little bit longer.

Yeah, okay, screw this guy.

February 9, 2016

Chris Stapleton:

I don’t think country music needs saving from anything. Whether you like modern incarnations of what country radio hits are, or you like what I’m doing, or you like something really off in folk, poetry Americana land, it’s all just music, man. If you like one of them, great, go buy it….I’m connected to all kinds of things in that way, and I like all kinds of music. But I would rather people stop caring about lines. Nothing gets on my nerves more than somebody else spending all their energy and time talking about something that they don’t like, and trying to convince you [that] you shouldn’t like it, and this thing over here is better. … I don’t like sushi. In fact, I kind of loathe sushi. But I don’t go around trying to convince my wife or any of my friends, “Oh, you shouldn’t eat sushi, it’s terrible.” It’s the dumbest thing ever. It doesn’t make sense to me why we do that with music.

Well, he’s not too smart then, is he?

I’ve already been over the utility of genres, so we won’t go over that again, but you know what this sounds like? It sounds suspiciously like, “If you don’t like what they play on the radio, don’t listen to it.”

Which in most cases I’d do. I’m not a fan of hip-hop, so I don’t listen to the hip-hop station. I’m not a fan of most of the stuff that the Contemporary Hit Radio stations ran into the ground 20-30 years ago, so I don’t listen to JACK-FM. But I do like country music. You see the problem there?

I don’t necessarily mind having to look elsewhere to find Real Country Music or at least some approximation of it, but it’d be nice if we could turn on the radio and actually hear country music, or at least a better representation of it than the likes of Sam Hunt or Luke Bryan. His stupid analogy doesn’t even hold up. The issue is not that sushi haters are going around telling people they shouldn’t like it; it’s that sushi lovers object to, say, chicken spaghetti being marketed as sushi. I am reminded of the old question asked of gun people, slightly rephrased:

“Why don’t you traditional country fans go off and start your own genre?”

“We did. Who let you in?”

Seriously, I’ve tried to be objective and pragmatic about the whole thing. I’m not a fan of Stapleton’s own music and definitely not a fan of all the dreck on the radio with his name on it. But I thought, better that he win the awards and get the recognition than all the hacks that have taken over the mainstream. Theoretically, that may well be true. But none of this takes place in a vacuum. Here we are, with so many fans of Real Country Music pinning their hopes on this guy for getting substance and identity back into mainstream country, and here he is prominently and publicly taking the side of all the people who have turned the mainstream component of the genre into the shithole that it is. Maybe such should have been expected — after all, we all know who butters his bread, no matter how people try to rationalize that all away — but it’s still quite disappointing just the same.

What about Mom & Dad? Where were they?

February 6, 2016

From today’s Houston Chronicle:

The world’s most fashionable pair of basketball shoes-Air Jordans-cost $185 and Joshua Woods had bought two pair for himself and a pair for his sister.

For less than $600 of plastic and leather, four Houstonians followed him home from Willowbrook Mall just before Christmas 2012 and gunned him down in the middle of the day.

On Friday, the first of the four suspects was sentenced to life in prison without parole. A Harris County jury deliberated just two hours before convicting Neal Bland of capital murder over Air Jordan sneakers….

Dazie Williams…responded to her son’s death by trying to convince Nike and Michael Jordan to stop the live-release of limited editions of the shoes. The family wants the company to either sell them online only or make enough to avoid violence when they go on sale.

But that wasn’t really the worst of it. This was:

“Nike isn’t here, because they don’t care,” [community activist Deric] Muhammad said. “Michael Jordan isn’t here, because he cares even less.”

Oh for fuck’s sake. What about Neal Bland’s mother and father, or the people who otherwise raised him? Where the hell were they? And why wasn’t Deric Muhammad calling them out? Neal Bland was a hell of a lot more their responsibility than Michael Jordan’s or Nike’s.