Oh, God. This crap again?
I think sometimes we can get into a place where music gets so serious that it becomes unreal too. And it seems like sometimes the more people stick a knife in your gut and make feel this thing, “It hurts so bad” is almost as unrealistic as anything [else] I’ve heard.
So I think that there’s a lot of criticism out there that’s over the top. Just lighten up a little bit. It’s music. With the technology we have today, you can find what music you’re looking for; quit shitting on the people who are making their own kind of music.
I realize that I’ve talked at length before about this, and there’s really not a whole lot I can say beyond what I’ve already said. But there was something I saw not long ago that made Randy Houser’s remarks here especially offensive to me as a country music fan, in the context of how mainstream “country” radio has changed in the last few years.
As everyone paying attention knows, Aaron Watson’s 2015 album The Underdog was arguably his biggest album yet, making a No. 1 debut on the Billboard country album chart and selling more than 60,000 copies to date, all without the benefit of radio airplay. But songs from that album have still been released for radio airplay — “That Look, “Freight Train,” and “Getaway Truck.”
Of these, only the first has charted, and it only made it as high as No. 41. The next single on deck is “Bluebonnets (Julia’s Song),” and — let’s not kid ourselves here — it’s likely going to meet the very same fate. What’s so bad about this, you ask?
Well, once upon a time that song would have had a decent shot at being a radio hit, but with all the bro-country and now this metro-country shit on the radio anymore, that’s pretty much gone out the window. Put another way, Aaron Watson writes about his own experiences just like those idiot bros do, and his efforts go ignored. I think that country music is the worse off for that, and you’re damned right I’m gonna crap on the people that are responsible for it. What makes Aaron Watson’s writing about what he knows any less worthy of radio airplay than the aforementioned idiot bros writing about what they know? That it’s about something meatier than another night on a tailgate in front of a bonfire?
I think that’s probably the flip side of what I said a bit ago about Aaron Watson and Jason Isbell possibly being mainstream stars had it not been for the implosion of the genre in the early-to-mid 2000s in the wake of the Dixie Chicks incident — that is, the likes of Florida-Georgia Line, Sam Hunt, and Thomas Rhett would never have been given the time of day in Nashville, and we’d still have quality music on the radio that at least bore some resemblance to country.
I seem to be all about old multi-artist tribute albums anymore…
Back in 2006, Palo Duro Records released Viva Terlingua! Nuevo! (later renamed Luckenbach! Compadres! after a lawsuit by Jerry Jeff Walker). This album was a tribute of sorts to Jerry Jeff Walker’s legendary Viva Terlingua!, featuring various artists from the Texas and Red Dirt country scenes covering the songs from the album — albeit in a different order — and a few other songs from Walker and sideman Gary P. Nunn. I’d been meaning to check it out for the last few years, but for some strange and unknown reason it slipped my mind till last weekend. I had said before that the lineup of artists on that album looked really promising — Cory Morrow, Tommy Alverson, Brian Burns, Ed Burleson, and the Derailers, among others.
Did they deliver?
Why yes, yes they did. I had not heard all the songs from the original album, but of the ones I have heard — “Desperadoes Waiting for a Train,” “Sangria Wine,” “Up Against The Wall Redneck,” and “London Homesick Blues” — the covers of them here are all as good as or even better than the originals. Most of them were covered in their original style, but Two Tons of Steel turned “Sangria Wine” into a shuffle that was a lot of fun. Brian Burns is probably only behind Jason Boland when it comes to the best singers on the Texas and Red Dirt scenes, and his version of “Desperadoes” is absolutely exquisite, as I knew it would be. And there couldn’t have been a better closer to the album than the Lost Gonzo Band doing “Gonzo Compadres”; that and Cory Morrow’s “Up Against the Wall Redneck” never fail to make me grin. Pretty much the only song I didn’t really care for was Morrison-Williams’ “What I Like About Texas,” because, let’s face it, that song belongs to Gary P. Nunn.
And that brings me back to the whole “music doesn’t have to be heavy all the time” thing. If I had to describe this album in one word, it would be fun. Luckenbach! Compadres! is probably one of the most fun albums I have ever bought, and yet there isn’t a tailgate or bonfire to be found on it. It’s almost as if Randy Houser and the rest of those idiot bros don’t have any idea of what they’re talking about.