Sunday music musings, 14.5.17

New Chris Stapleton, huh? OK.

I mean, good for him for bringing people’s attention to another country classic with his cover of Willie Nelson’s “Last Thing I Needed, First Thing This Morning,” and I realize what he’s doing in the context of mainstream country music is borderline revolutionary, and that he’s arguably reminded a lot of people that it used to be more than songs about tailgate parties and whatnot, but, well…as far as I can tell, From A Room, Vol. 1 is just more of what didn’t click with me with Traveller. Will it sell? I am sure it will, but as we all know seemingly no one gives a damn about album sales anymore, as evidenced by — among other things — an increasing number of albums topping the charts with virtually no airplay on country radio, most recently Willie Nelson’s latest just this week. And I am sure it will be just about as successful on radio as Traveller was. Yes, I know. Radio’s not what it once was, and big changes may be on the horizon. But while radio is an increasingly smaller medium of delivery for new music, it is still the dominant thing, and that’s presented as country music is country music to a lot of people. So between all of that, and the return of Sam Hunt with his horrible smash hit “Body Like A Back Road,” it looks like we’re not going to be making any progress when it comes to having mainstream country music sound, well, country.

Now, I could be wrong. This album may very well do for him, and for country radio, what Traveller couldn’t. But I don’t think that’s going to happen. It strikes me that Traveller, in the context of late-2010s mainstream country, was an extreme outlier; in fact, the only thing that keeps it from being the definition of a black swan event is the fact that it didn’t have much impact in that arena as far as changing the direction of mainstream country.

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Speaking of radio, I thought this was highly amusing:

“It’s Monday, so the clock resets,” WGH-FM Virginia Beach, Va., PD Mark McKay recently wrote in a sarcastic post on Facebook. “I can’t remember, whose turn is it this week [to have a No. 1 single]?

Sarcasm aside, McKay touched on a very real — and growing — frustration among country radio programmers who say labels often push records up and off the charts much faster than their listeners can get familiar with them. …

“It’s this constant push to have a new No. 1 song every week that is stalling this format out,” says KPLX Dallas assistant PD Smokey Rivers, who advises his fellow programmers to “tap the brakes and hold on to bulletproof hits longer.”

Bulletproof hits, huh? Is there such a thing in country music anymore, as far as country radio is concerned? Beyond that, how much have things really changed music-wise in the mainstream since three years ago, when we had program directors saying things like “If we do not have a solid library of gold from this era, we will pay the price in a few years”? There’s a ton of good music that’s just going ignored as people buy it, as evidenced by, yet again, the growing list of albums that hit No. 1 without any representation on country radio — among them, again, Chris Stapleton’s Traveller. The music’s there, guys; you just have to take a chance. The fuck have you got to lose at this point, especially considering the dire straits you’re in anymore?

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On first listen, the new albums from Jason Eady and Rodney Crowell are really damn good. Which is such a relief, after the disappointment that was Aaron Watson’s latest. I was starting to think that this year was really going to suck on the new music front.

I almost included Deryl Dodd’s new album in the disappointment category…

…but while the jury’s still out on that one, so far it’s looking good. I wasn’t wowed on the first listen like I thought I’d be, but it is getting better with each listen. “Love Letters and Cigarettes” with Cody Jinks is absolutely spectacular, and I am also liking “Let Me Be” with William Clark Green, “A Bitter End” with Randy Rogers, “Drinkin’ ‘bout You” with Matt Hillyer, and “That’s How I Got to Memphis” with the great Radney Foster.

Now, let’s just hope we get a new Jason Boland and the Stragglers album this year…

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