Sunday music musings, 17.12.17

OK, so this piece started out great, but then it went all to shit.

We’ve seen time-and-time again that artists like Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson want nothing to do with the mainstream country music community. Isbell especially has been outspoken about not appearing on stage at places like the CMA Music Festival. This just confuses me. Why would he not want the opportunity to expose his music to a larger amount of people? If Isbell and Simpson truly care about the genre, than they should care about carrying on its legacy.

I am absolutely sure that Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson do care about country music, but I fail to see why they should waste their time catering to the mainstream to do their part, whatever it might be, to carry on its legacy. Even if you could divest it of the (admittedly subjective) quality of being good or bad, the fact remains that the mainstream country music establishment is now catering to people who don’t give a shit about anything before about 2010. You can try to talk about the writers Crowell mentions in that song, or people like Gram Parsons or Billy Joe Shaver, and their place in country music to these people, but you might as well be talking in Portuguese for all they’ll understand or care. Beyond that, mainstream country is arguably broken beyond repair and has been for quite some time, and furthermore, it is less relevant than it has ever been, as evidenced by all those artists and bands in the last few years who have had No. 1 albums and sold hundreds of thousands of copies of said albums all without the benefit of mainstream country radio airplay — among them Isbell and Simpson themselves. They’re all doing their part; they’re just doing it on their own terms outside the mainstream.

Also, history lesson? Waylon, Willie and the boys having to leave Nashville to get the outlaw movement rolling?

But the most delicious irony is this: The author of this piece puts this song on this pedestal, and it IS a fine song…but other than a few mainstream artists having recorded his songs, Rodney Crowell has had nothing to do with mainstream country since 1995. His last top-10 hit on country radio was in 1992. And the albums he recorded after his exit from the mainstream are widely considered to be his finest work.

Really, I should have just stopped at “medium.com”.

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One of the things I thought was pretty neat as I dug into older country music way back in the late ’90s and early aughts was how the same songs were recorded by a bunch of different artists. And today I found more…

Screwing around on Wikipedia earlier today, I found that on 1973’s What’s Your Mama’s Name, Tanya Tucker recorded four songs that were previously recorded and released by other artists:

“The Chokin’ Kind,” a Top 10 hit for Waylon Jennings in 1968;

“California Cottonfields,” previously recorded by Merle Haggard, an album cut on 1971’s Someday We’ll Look Back;

“Teddy Bear Song,” a No. 1 hit for Barbara Fairchild earlier that year;

“Pass Me By (If You’re Only Passing Through),” a Top 10 hit for Johnny Rodriguez, also from earlier that year.

I think I might like to hear those.

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Speaking of Johnny Rodriguez — and songs that have been recorded by more than one artist — as blasphemous as it may be, I think he did the better version of “That’s The Way Love Goes,” as much as I love Merle Haggard….

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