Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Wow, that’s quite the cop-out.

March 28, 2015

Apparently 96.3 KSCS has been catching a bit of flak on their Facebook page over the whole mixing pop-hits-in-with-country thing, and they responded thusly:

Here’s what we’re doing…Pop selectively waits for something to explode on country and then benefits from the all the exposure and relevance that the country format has built for it (Taylor Swift, for example). If the audience that loves Taylor is forced to go to pop exclusively to find her, we’re hurting our chance of growing our radio station.

Weeeeell, here’s a crazy thought: Maybe they shouldn’t have been catering to Taylor Swift’s audience in the first place, or at least catered to it less and less as she went more pop. I would venture to say that many if not most Taylor Swift fans aren’t so much fans of country music as they are fans of Taylor Swift, i.e., “I don’t like country music but I like Taylor Swift.” I mean, like it or not, genres and radio formats are still a thing to a lot of people for perfectly legitimate reasons, and frankly, if you’re going to call your radio station a “country” station as you give airtime to the likes of Ed Sheeran and Kanye West instead of Sturgill Simpson and Aaron Watson, then you deserve to freeze in the dark with the buggy whip makers.

Surely it’s not as if any of that underground music would drive people away. KSCS never went as deep as 95.9 the Ranch or even 99.5 the Wolf when it came to the Texas music as that scene was on the rise back in the day, but I remember when they’d play folks like Pat Green and Robert Earl Keen every so often along with the classic country. (The old stuff was their thing, while 99.5 was more about the Texas music.) I really don’t know what would have changed, except for the demographic Cumulus is targeting with it.

Speaking of Cumulus, they own both KSCS and KPLX now. Which might explain the whole thing, I suppose, in that they want to differentiate one station from the other, but why not do it with actual country music that’s being left on the table as it is, as opposed to playing pop hits that everyone else is playing? Another friend of mine said it best:

“It blows my mind that there are actual executives in 2015 that are this dumb and short-sighted. In the digital age, this one-size-fits-all crap doesn’t fly in ANY market. It’s a niche world. If someone really wants to listen to Taylor or any other pop music, they don’t need you for that. They’re going to be able to do it on their own.

“The best thing you can do is find your own distinct and unique sound and then continue to build that brand with repetition and consistency. Spoiler alert: if you’re known as a country station, your best chance to succeed there is probably with country music and not trying to take well-established brands from elsewhere and somehow incorporate into some all-encompassing hybrid nonsense.

“Of course, all of that requires actual forward-thinking, and we know Corporate Country would rather chase the tails of whimsical teenyboppers. So… yeah.”

Wednesday music musings, 25.3.15

March 25, 2015

Well, this is depressing:

It’s not often that radio stations do something distinctive enough to get other radio people talking, but at least two reached out to me within a few minutes of each other on Monday and all it took was the addition of a few pop titles to two different country stations. For country KSCS Dallas, it was playing Ed Sheeran’s “Don’t” and “Thinking Out Loud’ as well as Rihanna, Kanye West and Paul McCartney’s “FourFive Seconds.”

Man, talk about a radio station going to shit. I remember when those guys were playing Pat Green and Merle Haggard at 4:30 in the afternoon, and obscure George Strait album cuts here and there. I mean, I thought that whole 100.3 the Bull thing in Houston was a crock of shit, but this just blows that right out of the water. All the great new music they could be playing from the likes of Sturgill Simpson and Aaron Watson, and this is what they play? Ugh. I got nothin’.

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Speaking of Aaron Watson and his new album, there was this a little while back at Saving Country Music:

You said you receive no mainstream radio play, and a few days ago the CEO of Sony Music Nashville was quoted saying, “If you’re not on country radio, you don’t exist.” As someone on the outside looking in to radio play, what do you think about that statement, especially sitting on the perch of your #1 album?

I think that’s A: It’s a very inaccurate statement. And B: I think Gary Overton is saying that because this week is the big CRS week in Nashville, so maybe he was saying that because every country radio show has shown up in Nashville this week. But I would also say, “My name is Aaron Watson. I’m not played on country radio. And I have the #1 record in country music this week. I do exist. And I also run a multi-million dollar business that employs up to 20 people.” And I would also say that for a little family in Abilene, TX, they think their daddy is the best country singer since Hank Williams. So I do exist. I just think that’s a very narrow-minded way of looking at things.

It really is. There’s a whole world of music out there that isn’t played on country radio, and people do buy it — as evidenced by, among other things, The Underdog hitting No. 1 on the charts and Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music selling 100,000 copies, both without the benefit of country radio airplay.

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We went and bought that AW album not long after it came out, by the way, and even with its more mainstream sensibilities it’s still very, very good. Some of it does lean more towards the bro-country side (see: “Getaway Truck”), and there’s what sounds like a drum machine on “Rodeo Queen” along with some rather annoying high notes, but those moments are more than redeemed with “The Prayer,” “Fence Post,” Freight Train,” and “Bluebonnets (Julia’s Song).”

That last song…that last song just tears me all to pieces.

How is there even a question here?

March 8, 2015

Yesterday, from MetalSucks:

The Criterion Contention: Metallica’s Master of Puppets Vs. The Black Album

Welcome to the inaugural edition of The Criterion Contention! In our new monthly series, two writers (be they members of the MetalSucks staff or guest bloggers) will debate the superiority of two albums which will somehow be thematically connected — they may be by the same band, or from the same part of the world, or just in the same genre. Then, at the end of the debate, YOU will vote for which one you think is ACTUALLY the more important record. The winning album will be announced one week after the initial debate, and that album will then be inaugurated into The MetalSucks Criterion Collection as a canonical work that every metal fan should know. Then the process will repeat a month later!

We begin the series with MetalSucks co-founded/co-editor-in-chief Axl Rosenberg squaring off against “Overground” columnist Angus Jung as to which Metallica album is the greatest of all time: 1986’s Master of Puppets, or 1991’s self-titled “Black Album.”

I suppose I should say that I do appreciate the Black Album. It was my gateway to pretty much all things Metallica and heavy metal in general, even though it took me a few years to move beyond just them. I’m sure I’m not the only one, as songs like “The Struggle Within” and “Holier Than Thou” were at least pretty close to some of the songs on the older albums. I read an Amazon review years ago that summed it all up pretty well:

This is the album – the one longtime fans often bemoan as the beginning of the end. Metallica sells out. Metallica loses their edge.

There’s no arguing that this is the one that brought Metallica to the mainstream. This was the first Metallica album I bought – not because it was the best, just because it was the first to get radio play where I lived. Imagine if you had never heard Metallica before and this was the first experience you ever had with them. It was incredible.

And through this album I worked backward. AND JUSTICE FOR ALL, MASTER OF PUPPETS, and so on. Perfect or imperfect, this album opened the door to what longtime fans consider vintage Metallica….

Now, with all that being said…

Was TBA “not as Metallica”? Upon hearing the four albums that preceded it, I certainly thought as much. It was slower, softer, and not as complex. I’ve said before that I thought it was ironic that the self-titled Metallica album was my introduction to that band, considering that I liked their old stuff so much better. But that album does deserve its due as a gateway to metal for a lot of people, for whatever that may be worth. (A hell of a lot more than Taylor Swift serving as a gateway to Real Country Music.) And it’s a pretty fantastic hard rock album on its own merits. Still, though, there’s a reason so many people put Master of Puppets at the top of their list of greatest albums of all time – well, eight of them, actually.

If you wanted to get specific about it, though, while not getting into the nitty-gritty, here you go: Master of Puppets is Metallica’s seminal work, their magnum opus. It shows them all at the peak of their powers, as musicians and as songwriters. The Black Album might have introduced a lot of people to Master of Puppets and it does deserve honorable mention because of that, but if you’re going to stick a Metallica album on any list of essential metal albums worthy of the adjectives, there is absolutely no question as to what it needs to be.

Tuesday music musings, 23.2.15

February 23, 2015

From the Tennessean via Country California, Sony Nashville CEO Gary Overton:

You can ask people in the building, and I can be quoted several times a day, “If you’re not on country radio, you don’t exist.” Again I can’t think of one star, much less superstar in country music, who wasn’t broken by country radio.

You know what that is? It’s trying to define an entity into relevancy. I don’t know how Overton would define “star” or “superstar,” but there are a lot of artists out there who are doing all right without country radio. Besides all the folks on the Texas scene, of course, there’s Sturgill Simpson, who has sold 100,000 copies of his latest album (and has been basically forced to go from clubs to theaters for his live shows because of the demand) with virtually zero airplay from country radio. Now, that might not exactly be “making it big” or “becoming a star” by Overton’s standards, but in this musical environment, album sales of 100,000 from even one of those big stars would still be pretty good. And none of that really matters in the end anyway as long as enough people buy the music and/or go to the shows that the artists don’t have to go fill out apps for the greeter positions at Walmart.

Or, the tl/dr, if you like: Indie country is totally still a thing, even if it doesn’t have as big of an audience.

In other news, I scored $150 in Amazon credit last week and went shopping yesterday. Among the albums I bought so far: the Dixie Chicks’ Home and Lee Ann Womack’s I Hope You Dance. I can hear the gasps now with the latter.

I remember being skeptical back then about that album precisely because of the horrendously overrated title track, and “Ashes By Now” didn’t exactly inspire confidence even though it wasn’t a bad song. But beyond those two songs, I Hope You Dance is a pretty typical Lee Ann Womack album (in other words, worth the money if you’re a fan of what she’s known for), with some great songs from the likes of Whitey Shafer and Dean Dillion (“Thinkin’ with My Heart Again”), Bruce Robison (“Lonely Too”), and Buddy and Julie Miller (“Does My Ring Burn Your Finger”), and a beautiful cover of the old Don Williams chestnut “Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good” closing it out.

And politics be damned, the Dixie Chicks’ Home is just as gorgeous a piece of Real Country Music as it was back in 2002. Well, it was more of a straight-ahead bluegrass album than honky-tonk, swing or what-have-you, but all those subgenres are pretty much the essence of country music. And when you look at how mainstream country music has changed in the years since it was released, and think about how it would be received if it came out now versus how it was received when it did come out (two Top 2 hits on country radio, one No. 1, and 6 million-plus copies of the album sold), it’s just downright depressing.

Tuesday music musings, 17.2.14

February 17, 2015

Via Country California, it sounds like we have another budding Keith Urban on our hands, as if the original wasn’t obnoxious enough…

Country music has always been diverse. With all the pop country happening now, people are worried it’s not country. But I go back to a time in the 1980s with Eddie Rabbitt and Conway Twitty singing songs that were very pop. At that time people were saying the same kind of thing. Now we look back and think of those guys as pure country.

Sigh. As I’ve said before, the latter simply isn’t true, at least not for any country fan with any kind of perspective or knowledge of the genre. And this “country music has always been diverse” seems to imply that it still is — which of course is another filthy freaking lie, considering it all seems to be about girls, trucks and beer, lather, rinse, repeat.

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And as if everything going on up to now in country music wasn’t bad enough, now we have this. Honestly, I must say the whole thing leaves me aghast. I have to wonder if there’s ever been a time in country music where two hot and very rapidly burning fads have been chased consecutively like this. The landscape’s different now, what with the Texas, red dirt, and general alternative country scenes more thriving and vibrant than they were the last time Nashville was chasing bullshit trends so hard. So there is at least more of an alternative to the mainstream crap, but even so it’d still be pretty nice to turn on country radio and actually hear country music.

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Speaking of Texas music, with a few exceptions this is a really good primer on the best of it. Of course, it does have its flaws — Miranda Lambert is here but Billy Joe Shaver isn’t, really? “Georgia On A Fast Train” belongs on pretty much any best-of list of Texas music worthy of the name. Hell, I’d have been happy if Jason Boland’s version of “Thunderbird Wine” had been on there as opposed to Miranda Lambert’s “Me And Charlie Talkin’,” even if that would have been the second song with that particular bum wine in the title….

Also, Kevin Fowler but no Gary P. Nunn? FAIL.

But at least they had Stoney LaRue’s version of “Down in Flames.” I had heard Brandon Jenkins recorded that same song at some point and listened to it one day…and, well, as I put it then, I like pretty much everything I’ve heard from BJ, but Stoney’s version of “Down in Flames” beats his like a rented mule.

Also, Adam Hood’s “I’ll Sing About Mine” should have ranked higher than No. 44, if only for its significance as a protest song. I know I’ve said before that I like protest songs better that decry longer-term trends, but at the same time that song cut right to the heart with what’s so wrong with this bro-country crap and it did so in a way that has yet to be equaled:

When you talk about the Dairy Queen, pickup trucks and Springsteen, you make the place I love sound like a bad cartoon

If that line isn’t the best single song lyric of the last ten years at least, it’s still pretty high up there.

Random musings, 11.2.15

February 11, 2015

I’ve been seeing pretty much everywhere, people going apeshit about Kanye West being Kanye West at the Grammys the other night. Lots of funny memes and whatnot going around in the aftermath, including a tweet talking about how Mr. West told a musician who plays 14 instruments that he needs to respect the artistry of someone who needs four people to write one song. I laughed, and the point is well-taken, but then on the other hand, if the song in question (“Run the World (Girls)”) was actually any good it really wouldn’t matter how many writers it had (see, for example, most of the songs on Metallica’s first three albums).

But I’ll admit that I don’t really have a dog in the fight as neither Beyonce nor Beck are my thing, although that doesn’t make Kanye West any less of a jackass. If I was going to be rolling my eyes at the Grammys it’d be for completely different reasons, namely that Sturgill Simpson was nominated in a category that shouldn’t even exist (Americana — you know, for all the stuff that’s “too country,” as Dale Watson once put it) AND lost, to boot. And then there’s the fact that Tenacious D has now won more Grammys for a Ronnie James Dio song than Dio himself won for singing his own songs.

But to revise and extend my own remarks from the other day, the fact that there wasn’t a category for Best Country Album between 1967 and 1995 and the category for Best Metal Performance didn’t even exist before 1990 should tell you all you know about NARAS’ attitude towards those two genres. And in the end, it’s okay. Like I’ve said before, every single one of those award ceremonies, from the American Country Countdown Awards all the way up to the Grammys, is nothing more than a big circle jerk designed to sell albums. It’s not about artistic excellence and really never has been, even if they get it right every so often.

Monday music musings, 26.1.15

January 26, 2015

I get that not everyone’s going to get Sturgill Simpson, but at the same time I’d like to hear what, if anything, Lynne Margolis thinks was groundbreaking or at least worth paying attention to in country music last year:

I’m puzzled by the Sturgill Simpson thing. That album has appeared on zillions of Top 10 lists, and he’s been lauded repeatedly as the savior of country. I don’t hear anything resoundingly new or different on it myself.

Truth be told, I didn’t either, but I did get High Top Mountain and Metamodern Sounds in Country Music and really enjoyed both of them. Is what Sturgill Simpson doing new? Not really, that much I will stipulate, but it is certainly different than anything else that’s gotten any kind of mainstream attention. And that in itself is a win anymore, what with seemingly every new mainstream hack singing what amounts to the same song re-written for the umpteenth time. (And if this bit from Farce the Music is any indication, more of the same is on deck for 2015.) And really, it was quite good even on its own merits. It strikes me that sitting there pooh-poohing what Simpson’s doing isn’t really helpful in the context of reviewing what was good and bad about country music in 2014, if only because what he’s been doing the last couple of years is rather rebellious in relation to what everyone else has been doing.

And they wonder why critics are viewed so harshly by people!

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Oh, Amazon, you so craaaaazy!

I bought a Josh Abbott Band cd, and based on that Amazon recommended I buy the new Garth Brooks album.

I bought an old George Strait album, and based on that Amazon recommended I buy the new albums from Brad Paisley and Blake Shelton.

Yesterday I bought an Ozzy Osbourne album and a Pantera album. (No More Tears and Vulgar Display of Power, for the curious.) I patiently await the recommendations to buy albums from Coldplay and Sam Hunt….

Random musings, 12.1.15

January 12, 2015

Well, of course Wendy Davis would come out AFTER the election and say she wasn’t in support of open carry. I am not the least bit surprised, but I surely didn’t expect her to be so brutally honest about it:

There is one thing that I would do differently in that campaign, and it relates to the position that I took on open carry. I made a quick decision on that with a very short conversation with my team and it wasn’t really in keeping with what I think is the correct position on that issue.

In a way you gotta admire that, I guess, but it’s worth asking if we would ever really want a governor who would so blatantly pander to a certain demographic to get elected, especially since it arguably wouldn’t have helped her to any significant degree considering her ignominious defeat. I realize I do speak with the benefit of hindsight here, but it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see there were so many issues with Wendy Davis running that she never could have won.

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Comment from Saving Country Music, about Garth Brooks taking a fall on stage as he brought back his elaborate stage shows from the 1990s:

Have modern American audiences become so accustomed to spectacle and gimmick that an evening of good music performed with passion isn’t enough?

I often asked myself the same question back in the 1990s when everyone was raving about the same spectacle. I always found it quite telling that George Strait was pretty much the polar opposite of Garth Brooks on stage yet got more or less the identical reaction. I don’t know how much overlap there was between Brooks’ and Strait’s fanbases back then, but I am sure there was quite a bit. I never quite understood not just letting the music speak for itself…

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I bet you never thought you’d see the day I’d agree with Eric Church on anything (Lord knows I didn’t), but he’s pretty much right on here:

I’m so focused on making an album. I don’t care that technology tells us that albums are a thing of the past. That is b.s. They are more valuable now than they’ve ever been to the future of music, to the health of music. Because going forward, there’s no way we end up having artists unless we go back to the album format, the entire body of work.

I liken it to when you sit down to read a book. You don’t read one chapter. You read the whole book. It’s about every chapter. That’s how you understand what the book’s about, that’s how you become a fan of the book.
Same thing with music. You can’t hear one song, you can’t get a 99-second sound bite, and understand the artist, or be a fan of the artist, other than for just for that moment. That frenetic way of what we’ve turned music into, with digital technology, I’m so against that.

While I do agree that iTunes and the like are convenient as hell, I do think there’s been something lost as we’ve shifted towards singles as opposed to full-length albums. I’ve probably made the observation before, but inevitably in discussions of favorite artists, such will go to “Favorite Album Cuts” or something like that. And there’s something to be said for an artist who can deliver 10 or 12 quality songs at one whack as opposed to one or two songs every so often. Of course, on the other hand, I think the talking point about artists loading their albums with filler material around the singles is a legitimate one as well. But I think we would be better-served to demand better albums from artists as opposed to downloading a single. Come to think of it, the artists would be better off, too…

Not-so-random hits, 16.12.13

December 16, 2014

Yes, I am still here! Been working 45-50 hours a week for the last couple of weeks, with just iPad and smartphone access, but I hope to be back to a more frequent blogging schedule soon. In the meantime…

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Man alive, the butthurt from the Cody Johnson fanboys here is something to behold. From what I’d heard of him I didn’t think he was that bad, just overrated. But if that review is to be believed…damn.

Don’t quite understand the hate for Josh Abbott and Casey Donahew, though. I know the concept of the “gateway drug” has been made a mockery of in recent years with the promotion of Taylor Swift and the like as such, but I think folks like Abbott do make a good gateway drug of sorts to Texas music, especially with songs like “I’ll Sing About Mine.”

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Speaking of the latter song, I picked up Adam Hood’s The Shape of Things a few weeks back, as his version of that song is my favorite. The whole thing is great, though. “Flame and Gasoline” has always been a favorite, and “Hard Times in the Land of Plenty,” “New Deep Ellum Blues,” and “Once They’re Gone” are some real gems, too. Need to get his new album soon…

Wrong answer, Sammy. Thanks for playing, though!

December 2, 2014

…or, If I keep rolling my eyes like this, one of these days they’re going to stick.

Sam Hunt, via Country California:

I don’t know if the phrase originally was meant to be derogatory but it’s turned into that. It’s sort of a snobby thing to say. You know, I think some people enjoy being above whatever “bro-country” is.

Good grief, talk about missing the target by a mile. It’s a good thing he never flew B-52s or he’d have been thrown out of the Air Force. — Enjoy being above bro-country? I only speak for myself here, but I don’t so much “enjoy being above” bro-country as pride myself on it. Why?

Because, as I’ve probably said before, it’s all so shallow and insincere. Fake, even. What the hell did Sam Hunt think “I’ll Sing About Mine” was really about?  Does he think Adam Hood and Brian Keane just pulled that song out of their asses? I mean, you could probably paint it as some kind of elite vs. proletariat thing if you wanted to — Hunt may or may not be alluding to that here — but when you have songwriters who grew up in those small towns calling out bro-country for the bullshit that it is, that lends a certain level of, shall we say, credibility to what they’re saying.

Oh, who am I kidding? Hunt is just in his own way disparaging all the longtime country music fans who don’t like the direction the genre has been taking the last few years. That’s what it sounds like to me, honestly. And I can see why he’d be a little cloudy on the concept of standards, considering he markets himself as a country singer when he’s nothing of the sort, but that doesn’t make him any less off-base.


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