Archive for May, 2016

Something to remember today.

May 30, 2016

Back in 2009, I remember going to the big Memorial Day celebration in Orange. The Patriot Guard Riders didn’t get to make their grand entrance as planned because of the torrential rains, but they still came. I remember that I just about lost it  when Beaumont PGR chapter president Sandra Womack told everyone why they still came. She said of the fallen soldiers, “They didn’t get an opportunity to choose the weather they fought in, or to choose whether or not to go.”

 

 

We should remember that, today and every day.

Speaking of blowing your credibility all to hell…

May 23, 2016

…we have this, from the Houston Press:

At the end of 2015, one thing was abundantly clear – country music is and has been undergoing a seismic shift in terms of what listeners want and the mainstream has to offer. The unsigned, unpromoted successes of artists like Aaron Watson, Turnpike Troubadours and a host of country newcomers like Cody Johnson have officially proven that the country-music machine has long been broken.

A fine declaration indeed, one full of undiluted, sad truth. So how does the Houston Press blow its credibility?

They spend the next 1,039 words of the piece advocating that Beyoncé get played on country radio, that’s how. Not the Turnpike Troubadours, not Aaron Watson, not Jason Boland. Because racism, apparently, and country music needs Beyoncé lest it slide back into a niche genre, and country music “barely moves the critical needle.” It’s like the rave reviews of the work of Jason Isbell, Chris Stapleton, and Sturgill Simpson aren’t a thing, or as if Charley Pride isn’t a beloved country music legend, or like Merle Haggard didn’t write at least a couple of songs decrying society’s intolerance of interracial love, or like Ray Charles never recorded songs with both Willie Nelson and George Jones.

Look. I really don’t give one single solitary shit about Beyoncé. Her music just isn’t my thing, honestly, but other than that I don’t give it any thought. But there’s a metric shit-ton of music that should be played, should have been played for a long time now, on the radio long before anything from Beyonce. Hell, George Strait is still making great music, at least as good as anything he’s ever done, and radio won’t give him the time of day anymore. Why Beyoncé and not George Strait, or for that matter any of the other above-mentioned artists? Or, for that matter again, why not Kacey Musgraves, Brandy Clark, Courtney Patton, Maren Morris, Maddie and Tae, or any of the other female artists making good music but being ignored by country radio?

And while I stand behind no one in my admiration of the Dixie Chicks, let’s be honest here — characterizing them as “torchbearers of classic authenticity in modern country” might be a bit much. Between that, the nonchalant accusations of racism, and the thrust of the piece itself…well, I never was much on characterizing anything directly as PC social-justice-warrior bullshit, but that’s certainly what this whole thing smacks of to me.

Sunday music musings, 22.5.16

May 22, 2016

Lots of shade being thrown Kelsea Ballerini’s way this week for this:

Despite complaints that female artists aren’t getting enough country radio airtime, Ballerini is beating those odds.

“I think it’s more just people saying women are not being played on the radio because right now there are a ton of us and it’s awesome,” she shared. “’Peter Pan’ broke Top 30 and it’s my favorite song on the record. And radio has been so good to me and good to [fellow female singers] Maren [Morris], Cam, Maddie and Tae.”

From Saving Country Music:

So good? Maddie & Tae’s last single “Shut Up and Fish” flopped. Maren Morris and Cam’s radio traction has yet to be proven beyond one lead single. And meanwhile dozens of females artists, new and established, are receiving no attention from radio whatsoever. It was only a couple of years ago when Kacey Musgraves was the new big rising female country star, and her singles are institutionally ignored by radio. Even Miranda Lambert’s last two singles failed to crack the Top 15 and Top 30 on radio respectively.

Country Universe:

…(Ballerini) ignores the facts that Morris’ single “My Church” has outsold her own “Dibs” (491K to 390K) but has stalled at #9 at radio instead of racing to #1, Cam’s “Mayday” is struggling to move up on the current charts (where it sits at #37 in its 14th week), and each of Maddie & Tae’s singles has peaked lower than its predecessor since “Girl A Country Song” became their sole top 5 hit. Or that the whole of this week’s top 40 singles list contains just 6 solo women, plus 2 duet partners, and that looking to the full top 60 singles list expands that number to a whopping 8 solo women. But clearly, it’s just a matter of people saying there’s a problem with women not being played on the radio.

But what gets me is this:

I think that every time a country artist steps outside of the country boundary, it just brings more ears to us. When Florida Georgia Line and Nelly put out the ‘Cruise’ remix, it brought so many more people to country music.

Again with the whole “gateway drug” thing. As I have noted before, that only works when the “gateway drug” in question bears some resemblance to the real thing. So I guess I might as well just come right out and say it, yet again: I don’t think Florida-Georgia Line singing a song with Nelly or Thomas Rhett aping Bruno Mars is a good thing if it makes people come to the genre wanting more of that crap. And I find it difficult if not impossible to believe that fans of those artists are going to come to “country music” and become fans of even George Strait, let alone Jason Boland or Randy Rogers. These people talk about these duets like they’re anything close to “Seven Spanish Angels,” and they’re just not.

I’ve come to the conclusion that it’d never work for me to be a country singer, because every time somebody stuck a mike or a camera in my face I’d be saying stuff like this:

“I hear all this crap on the radio that bears absolutely no resemblance to country music, and the dancing chickens peddling that bastardized mystery meat music trying to justify it by talking about how they listen to all different kinds of music and they’re influenced by those different kinds of music. Well, fuck that. If you’re gonna call yourself a country singer, then be a damn country singer. Don’t get me wrong. Personally, I don’t listen to just country. I like a lot of classic rock from the ‘60s and ‘70s, ‘80s traditional metal, and more modern power and progressive metal. Symphony X, Kamelot, stuff like that. I’ve gotten to dig a lot of Motown too. I mean, you should hear some of the stuff I listen to on the bus. But that’s just it — the rock and metal stay on the bus. I’m a country music singer, and that’s what I sing. You’re not going to hear any synthesizers, screaming guitars or anything like that on my records. I love that stuff, but I owe it to myself and country music fans to be honest with what I’m trying to sell them. I could make more with doing that other stuff and selling it as country, but that’s just not who I am.”

Now, Luke Bryan might say he doesn’t get people that are into only one genre of music, but he’s never come off as really bright anyway. After all, there’s only so much time in the day, certainly not enough time to get into all the genres of music out there. And the more genres you get into, the less time you have to concentrate on them, and the more good stuff you’re going to miss. I used to try to sell myself as a music generalist, but honestly, it only comes down to a couple of different kinds of music for me — country music and metal, with that smattering of classic rock and Motown thrown in.

But perhaps there is a silver lining to Kelsea Ballerini showing her ignorance in regards to the situation with today’s country music — she pretty much blew her credibility all to pieces with that, so it might be a safe bet nobody’s going to give any credence to anything else she said in that interview either.

In memory of Guy Clark….

May 17, 2016

…who caught the train west today.

 

 

Dammit, 2016, this shit has gotten out of hand.

15 bucks an hour or bust!

May 12, 2016

amirite?

Wendy’s (WEN) said that self-service ordering kiosks will be made available across its 6,000-plus restaurants in the second half of the year as minimum wage hikes and a tight labor market push up wages.

It will be up to franchisees whether to deploy the labor-saving technology, but Wendy’s President Todd Penegor did note that some franchise locations have been raising prices to offset wage hikes.

Now, this led to a really interesting Facebook discussion. Me in plain text, my friend in italics:

But if the wage really isn’t liveable to begin with, does it matter if it is $9 or $0?

A perfectly legitimate question, but just the same, you (generally speaking, not you in particular) still have to look at it from the employer’s perspective. I am sure you already do, but whether he cannot get workers at $9 per hour or cannot afford them at $15, the results are the same.

And from the perspective of the employee, would it really be that presumptuous of me to suggest they better their situation by acquiring more marketable skills, or honing or taking better advantage of the skills they already have?

But what about the long-term view that employers are missing. If they keep finding ways to not pay people because they are too focused on the short-term bump that comes with downsizing, automation and off-shore outsourcing, all they are doing is shooting themselves in the foot. Because eventually, all they are doing is raising unemployment and then there will be no one to buy their products. It is in the interest of them to actually keep people in their communities hired and working.

The thing is, though, that this affects certain industries more than others, so I don’t think that what you’re saying is necessarily going to be the case. That unemployment is going to affect those industries more. To illustrate, even if it got to the point that my friendly local Whataburger was entirely automated, I would still have my own job helping the more affluent among us troubleshoot their high-dollar smartphones, tablets, and computers. As for how the affluent got that way…well, they might have started at Whataburger, but they worked their way up the wage ladder gaining those more lucrative skills. It’s complicated, I know. So complicated that I just think it’s a bit simplistic to think a government-mandated minimum wage is going to make poverty disappear in this country.

It’s not. But considering a lot of government trade practices have enabled an environment where it makes financial sense to move entire factories off shore and otherwise outsource instead of hire in-house, leaving towns devasted and people scrambling for anything they can get, then there needs to be some kind of banalce. And a blanket $15 isn’t the answer because it is not necessary in areas where the cost of living is significantly less. But there will always be a need for these types of jobs and there will always be people who, by choice or other determining factor are unable to take advantage of certain higher educational opportunities and training. Should they be denied the ability to have some kind of basic quality of life that goes beyond the struggles of living paycheck to paycheck?

Now, that’s a tricky question. Such seems to imply that they have the right to such basic quality of life. And if you have a right to something like that, such necessarily implies that someone else has the obligation to provide you the means for it. I remember Senator Rand Paul riled up quite a few progressives a while back when he compared such to slavery:

“With regard to the idea of whether you have a right to health care, you have realize what that implies. It’s not an abstraction. I’m a physician. That means you have a right to come to my house and conscript me. It means you believe in slavery.”

It might sound extreme, but I do see what he was getting at.

But you know what? I AM a small-L libertarian, but I am also a pragmatist. I realize that there’s going to be only so little that people can live on and that taxes are always going to be a thing to some extent. To that end, if the government came along and told businesses, “you pay X amount of money to your employees and we give you X amount of tax credits” to the point that the businesses came out at least a bit ahead, I might not have a big problem with that. Would that be ideal? No, but it would certainly be far preferable to the government saying, as it does now, “you pay X amount of money to your people or we send men with guns to your door, and we’re not going to help you meet that mandate, you’re just gonna have to suck it up.”

And sure, maybe Yelp should be paying more in San Francisco, but I think even that line of argument obscures a critical fact — that some, nay, MANY jobs are not meant to be and should not be construed to be jobs to raise families on.

Agreed on that point, but how much of that is the direct result of corporate downsizing, outsourcing and other not-so-employee-friendly corporate strategies that are forcing people to look at these jobs not as something to merely help fill in the blanks but as things necessary to sustain life?

That’s a good question. I will say that some companies are particularly disingenuous about this. Walmart will still sell itself as a career, but I can tell you from firsthand experience that’s been a load of crap for at least a few years. Part-time positions only, barely above minimum wage, with little to no hope of advancing to a full-time position. I worked there when I first came to San Antonio and lived by the skin of my teeth for about 15 months till I found better.

I know that drill. At least a place like McDonalds if you put your effort in will train you and give you marketable skills. My four years there in HS/college gave me an early boost to my resume. And their management training program can actually earn you masters degree credits. I can’t speak for the rest of the fast food world, but there can be career opportunity for those that want it.

Thoughts?

Sunday music musings, 1.5.16

May 1, 2016

You know, it’s funny. I’ve long sung the praises of Metallica in this space. I’ve always thought, even as I branched out and discovered more metal bands, that they were one of the greatest, for those first five releases alone. But not long ago, something happened that made me wonder about some things.

What was that?

Well, I went and bought the new Megadeth album, Dystopia. And quite simply, it freaking destroys. With the umpteenth lineup change, to boot, as drummer Shawn Drover was replaced with Lamb of God’s Chris Adler, and guitarist Chris Broderick was replaced with Angra guitarist Kiko Loureiro after the former members’ respective resignations from the band.

 

 

 

Now, I don’t know how good or bad the albums were that Megadeth made between the ones with the classic lineup (Dave Mustaine, Nick Menza, David Ellefson, and Marty Friedman) and 2009’s Endgame. But I have heard various songs from those albums and liked them all, but I know that a lot of the time one or two songs might not be enough to judge the whole album. But I can tell you that two of the three albums released at least since 2009 — Endgame and Thir13en — were pretty damn good. (I wasn’t terribly keen on what I heard from Super Collider.)

Meanwhile, Metallica has released one album in the last 7 1/2 years, and as good as it was, we haven’t gotten anything from them since other than an EP of unreleased songs from the Death Magnetic sessions. Not just that, but also, if we’re gonna be quite honest about it, Metallica effectively delivered only one album of original music worth listening to between the Black Album and now. And it makes me wonder what the hell’s going on. I heard a friend say that James Hetfield has been burned out since The Black Album, and quite frankly, it’s the only thing that makes sense. (Sure, Cracked might try to tell you that Reload was okay because the band still plays “Fuel” live, but as I’ve put it before, while that song was okay, it’s certainly no “Creeping Death.”) They say that the best revenge is living well, and I gotta say, if you define “living well” as “making good music for a much longer period of time than the band you got fired from,” Dave Mustaine has most certainly gotten his.

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I was at Whataburger one day last week, having my customary morning coffee, as my ears were being assaulted by Florida-Georgia Line’s “Sun Daze,” with the line, “rock a little bit of hip-hop and Haggard and Jagger.” I’ve said before that that whole country/hip-hop mixtape/cd/playlist is one of the more inauthentic tropes, as you’re not gonna get me to believe for a minute that Tyler Hubbard is going to be spinning Merle Haggard beside N.W.A or that Luke Bryan plays Conway Twitty followed by T-Pain. But you know what it made me think of? This:

“If you like Lynyrd Skynyrd on the radio, let me know and I’ll sing you ‘Free Bird’. I like Johnny Cash, Grandmaster Flash, I’m name droppin’ like you never heard.”

And then there was this comment from Saving Country Music on the Triggerman’s review of the duo’s new single:

this Florida Georgia line song is exhibit A of why you leave the religious songwriting to Jews like Bob Dylan (gotta serve somebody; slow train coming), Leonard Cohen (hallelujah), Irving Berlin (White Christmas), and Kinky Friedman (they don’t make Jews like Jesus anymore), and to Muslims like Yusef Islam / Cat Stevens (peace train) and Richard Thompson (don’t renege on our love).

So we can add to the list of FGL’s myriad sins the fact that they make an unknown number of alleged real music fans forget about the existence of Billy Joe Shaver. “You Just Can’t Beat Jesus Christ”? “Live Forever”? Sheesh…

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Sabra and I both follow Jason Boland on Facebook, but she beat me to the mention of this, but apparently Mr. Boland named his dog Gary Stewart, after Mr. “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles)” himself. A couple of days later it occurred to me to go looking on Amazon, and what do I find but his landmark 1975 album Out of Hand available for download.

Worth the money?

You bet it was, for the three singles alone. I’ve long thought that if I never heard “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Doubles)” again I wouldn’t miss it a bit. Much like Marty Robbins and “El Paso,” it seems like radio thinks that is the only song he ever did. But much like “El Paso,” it works a lot better in the context of the album. His version of “Backsliders Wine” was the first one I ever heard, and still the best. (As a bit of an aside, it’s amusing to think that song and “Wildfire” were both written by the same person.)

But still, after all these years, my favorite Gary Stewart song ever has to be this album’s title track.

(Fun fact about that song: one of its writers, Jeff Barry, was a co-writer of some of the biggest pop hits of the 1960s, among them The Crystals’ “Then He Kissed Me,” the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” the Dixie Cups’ “Chapel of Love,” the Shangri-Las’ “Leader of the Pack,” and the Archies’ “Sugar, Sugar,” which was later recorded by Wilson Pickett.)