Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Saturday music musings, 11.11.17

November 11, 2017

Apparently Washington Post music critic Chris Richards is hellbound and determined to throw every bit of his credibility away. First it was “Sam Hunt…(is) far and away country’s most forward-thinking stylist, and he deserves to be recognized as such,” and then it was, “Maren Morris…is a straight-talking, forward-thinking fountain of dash, and she’s funneling it into some great country music.”

And now, there’s this, via Saving Country Music:

not one artist found the courage to say a single word about gun control after 58 fans were shot dead at a country music festival in Las Vegas last month….today’s country stars are singing about an apolitical no-place that doesn’t actually exist.

Apolitical no place that doesn’t actually exist. Apparently this dude has never heard, for example, anything from Jason Boland’s latest album, or the Turnpike Troubadours’ “1968” or “Southeastern Son,” or Corb Lund’s “Gettin’ Down on the Mountain,” the title track to the Jason Eady album When The Money’s All Gone, or…you get the idea. Now, you could very well make the argument that what Chris Richards says is true, but we all know that he’s making this argument for entirely the wrong reasons. Anyone who’s been paying attention knows that 2010s country music (the mainstream component of it, at least) is a near-total wasteland, from the whole bro-country business to Kelsea Ballerini, Thomas Rhett, Jerrod Niemann, Chris Lane, Walker Hayes, and, yes, Sam Hunt and Maren Morris. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that someone like Chris Richards would say something like this under these circumstances, but it just rings so incredibly hollow and hypocritical. Small wonder so many people have lost faith in the media, with people like him writing for ostensibly credible and respected outlets.

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Well, this was rather disappointing…

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Aaron Watson’s a good, good guy from everything I can tell, but to be frank, as an artist, to see him associate with somebody like Granger Smith is rather unsettling. I mean, Watson’s no Jason Boland even on his best day, but he’s still way the hell ahead of Granger Smith for the most part.

But with this latest album, I gotta admit, I wonder…

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Trigger posted a fine review of my favorite Lee Ann Womack album. I heard the first single, “I May Hate Myself In the Morning,” and knew I had to have the album; it was a Day One buy for me, and when I heard the twin-fiddle opening of the title track, I knew I was in for something really special. Killer album from start to finish. If I had to pick a least favorite track it’d probably be “What I Miss About Heaven,” but I still don’t ever skip it. I also really liked her covers of “Waitin’ for the Sun to Shine”…

and “Just Someone I Used To Know.”

The latter, of course, was a hidden track; I remember hearing the end of “Psalm 151” and the cd still going, wondering what was next, and BAM! More twin fiddles. “Oh, I know this song!” Gorgeous, gorgeous ending to a gorgeous album. Lee Ann has done great stuff since, but There’s More Where That Came From remains her masterpiece.

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Friday music musings, 3.11.17

November 3, 2017

When Lee Ann Womack is right…she is right:

“I’m a country singer,” Womack said proudly when discussing her new music with Chris Shifflett recently on his Walking The Floor podcast. “There’s no doubt about that, and that’s what I always aspired to be. It’s odd for me, because real country has sort of been pushed out. . .What I call myself is a real country singer, and [most of] what you hear on country radio right now is NOT real country.

Not really much can be said in addition to that…well, maybe for this.

I saw some of the commenters at SCM bashing Womack for this statement, saying that it was hypocritical of her to bash pop country after having made her money playing it for so long. Which I might agree with, but for the fact that’s predicated on the assumption that pop country has always sucked, and quite frankly that’s a load of shit. I mean, I know there are people who think it has, and they’re entitled to that opinion, but I’ll never understand it. I have heard people, straight-faced and stone sober, compare FGL to the Dixie Chicks, and I was like, “really?” I have said it before and will say it again: Pop country isn’t bad by default; it just used to be a whole lot better, even good.

What I thought really interesting, though, were Lee Ann’s comments on The Song That Shall Not Be Named:

“I was the girl who was writing and singing ‘Am I the Only Thing That You’ve Done Wrong’ and ‘Never Again, Again’ – these really hardcore country songs,” she told Chris Shifflett. “Then all of a sudden, I had this positive message, and I had my kids in the video, and I think that people just thought that I was something that maybe I wasn’t….

Well then. I mean, it’s one thing when a no-name blowhard like me says that song was not the best representation of who LAW is as an artist, but when she all but comes out and says it outright herself (albeit in not so many words), that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. I am well aware that we are almost 20 years removed from that, but I was thinking the same thing back then too, especially after I heard “Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good” and “Does My Ring Burn Your Finger.” One never knows, but I like to think she was thinking it back then, too.

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I saw this come off the wires earlier today…

The media guidelines were clear: Don’t ask questions about the Las Vegas massacre, gun rights, politics or “topics of the like” at the CMAs next week.

The backlash was swift: Seriously?

The Country Music Association apologized on Friday and said it lifted those restrictions for its awards show next Wednesday.

…and hand to God, the first thing I thought was, “Ohhh, PLEASE let Florida-Georgia Line, Luke Bryan, or Thomas Rhett be interviewed on the red carpet at the CMAs on national TV and talk about how we need more gun control laws. That would be like manna from heaven. Absolute best late birthday present EVER.”

(I turn 40 on Sunday.)

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Sabra and I went to see Corb Lund a couple of weeks ago at Sam’s Burger Joint…

…and WOW, was it great. It was an acoustic show, and I was a bit skittish about it at first, because I am not normally that big on just acoustic performances as opposed to full band shows, but pretty much all of Corb Lund’s stuff lends itself very well to that. Of course it helps that he can actually play the guitar and does songs about more than just parties on tailgates and whatnot. (I mean, really, can you picture Luke Bryan taking his dancing chicken act into that environment?) It is one of the true tests of an artist, to see if they can pull off their craft with just a guitar, and Corb Lund passed it with flying colors.

He didn’t play “Student Visas,” my favorite song from him, but he did play “Horse Soldier! Horse Soldier!” and that was more than good enough. “Time To Switch to Whiskey” was a lot of fun too. Funny story he told about that: he was playing Odessa one time, and he sang that song, and somebody came up and told him what a great cover of the Kyle Bennett Band song he did. (Lund was the one who wrote and originally recorded the song; the Kyle Bennett Band recorded it a few years later.)

We shall HAPPILY go see him if and when he comes back, full band or not.

Damn it.

September 10, 2017

I can’t explain exactly why, but this one hurts, worse than I thought it would, almost as bad as losing George Jones.

Country Music Hall of Famer Don Williams died Friday after a short illness. He was 78 years old.

Standing over 6 feet tall, with a smooth baritone and soft-spoken nature, Williams was known as the “Gentle Giant” of country music. He was a staple of country radio in the 1970s and ’80s, releasing 16 No. 1 songs between 1974 and 1985.

Don Williams once sang, “what’ll you do, with good ole boys like me?”

As I put it elsewhere, the more pressing question now is — what will we do without good ole boys like him?

Maybe that’s why it hits so hard: he was a simple and honest man, without an ounce of arrogance or pretension, if not the last of a dying breed, pretty close to it.

Random hits, 28.8.17

August 28, 2017

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My first thought on seeing this was “Singer of watered-down ‘country’ music shills for watered-down beer. Seems legit.”

Now that I think about it, though, that’s rather an unfair insult to Bud, because Bud is closer to actual beer than Thomas Rhett is to actual country music.

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Just so everyone knows, we’re fine over here in San Antonio. Just got a little bit of wind and rain, and the power was out for about 45 minutes Saturday, but that was about it. I have friends down towards Rockport and Corpus, as well as over in Houston and the Golden Triangle, who of course aren’t faring so well, so keep them in your thoughts.

That’s pretty effed up.

August 12, 2017

Also, as if we needed a reminder of how, shall we say, out of whack things are…

On one hand we have supposed “country” act Florida Georgia Line doing a duet with the Backstreet Boys, and on the other hand, on her album that just dropped yesterday, we have pop star Kesha doing a duet with Dolly Parton on “Old Flames (Can’t Hold A Candle To You)” (a No. 1 country hit for Dolly back in 1980) — and a surprisingly good version of it, even.

Granted, Kesha actually has a somewhat personal connection to that song, as her mother co-wrote it, but even so, this is a disappointingly rare thing, and a pretty damning commentary on the state of affairs in Nashville. You hear people talking about country having to appeal to pop fans, and maybe that’s true to an extent, but I for one think this is a much better way of doing it — that is, pop stars putting their own spin on gems from country music just like this one. People are gonna hear this, and they’ll go hunting for the Dolly recording of it…

…and if they’re half as inquisitive as I am they’ll find the Merle Haggard version of that song…

…and from there, who knows? They might even come away fans of those artists in general. And there are a lot more great songs where that one came from, from dozens of artists.

You laugh, but do you think FGL and Luke Bryan doing their thing with their non-existent country/hip-hop mixtape is gonna get people turned on to George Strait, even?

In memory of Glen Campbell…

August 8, 2017

who died today at 81, and who showed us that pop country did not have to suck, and could, in fact, be very good, very good indeed…

Oh, this is nifty.

July 16, 2017

I’ve ranted in this space before about how so many people forgot about Rodney Crowell after Diamonds & Dirt

…but it deserves to be mentioned that he did some good stuff before that album, too. He recorded great versions of some of the songs he made his name with as a songwriter, including “Leavin’ Louisiana in the Broad Daylight” and “Stars on the Water.”

And then there was this, which I never knew existed before yesterday…

…which was originally recorded by Crowell’s fellow Texan Moon Mullican some years earlier.

What happened to…what, now?

June 23, 2017

The proper question is, “What happened to honest music journalism?” Or “Who are the people quoted here and why in the hell do their opinions on Texas Music matter?” There’s so much bullshit here that it practically fisks itself, but what the hell.

A New York guy killed Texas Music. Yes, friends, the disintegration of this state’s edgy brand of country rock can be traced back to New York-born Texas-transplant Jerry Jeff Walker.

Uh…come again? There wouldn’t BE a Texas music to speak of if it wasn’t for Jerry Jeff Walker. But even so, whatever the objective state of Texas Music circa 2017, it strikes me as not quite fair, and more than a bit simplistic, to blame just him for it, because practically everyone in Texas Music 2.0, from Roger Creager to William Clark Green, was influenced by him. And all of that is assuming that we take the article’s central premise is true, and it just isn’t. Not by a long shot.

Robert Earl Keen Jr. followed in the 1980s, tapping into Walker’s party anthem vibe but with deeper writing (“Swerving in My Lane,” “The Road Goes on Forever”). The rowdies were inflamed.

Really. I’m going to guess these people have never heard “Mariano,” “Jesse with the Long Hair,” or “Shades of Gray,” or, hell, even the original version of “The Road Goes On Forever.” I remember hearing the latter and thinking it was anything but a party song; the one line in the song with the title is practically the only upbeat thing about it.

Then along from Oklahoma came Red Dirt, a similar type of rowdy country but with an even more Neanderthal approach.

Wait, what? Are we even listening to the same artists? Stoney LaRue, Jason Boland, Ragweed? These people don’t have a freaking clue.

And the bit about Maren Morris’ talent getting her noticed is utterly laughable. That’s not really a commentary on said talent, but rather…well…let’s just put it like this: If Maren Morris sounded like Lee Ann Womack or Courtney Patton, who are both every single bit as talented as she is, we all know that Nashville and country radio never would have given her the time of day.

I think my biggest problem with this article, though, is the fact that none of these people bother to actually call anyone out. Are there acts in Texas music who don’t measure up? Sure there are. And we all know who they are, more or less. But if you’re going to call the scene out for its quality or lack thereof, it’s incumbent upon you to point fingers and name names. Nobody hesitates to do that for Nashville, and we ought not to hesitate to do it for Texas/Red Dirt or any other scene. Not only should that be done to make the scene better, but also to differentiate between the good and the bad. Just like it’s wrong to say ’80s metal sucks because of Poison, it’s just as wrong to modern Texas music sucks because of Sam Riggs.

And, again, who the hell are any of these people quoted in this stupid article? If it was Ray Wylie Hubbard or Billy Joe Shaver or any of those guys saying all this that’d be one thing, but it’s just a bitter gaggle of nobodies with nothing more than axes to grind for reasons that only God Himself knows.

Well, all righty then.

June 21, 2017

So, on one hand we have mainstream Nashville artists doing a tribute to Motley Crue, and on the other hand, we have this:

What started out to be the idea for a heavy metal album of Outlaw country covers by DevilDriver frontman Dez Fafara has apparently turned into a monster project that may include dozens of songs and as many as 25 guest appearances. A project long rumored from the band, Dez Fafara says he started reaching out to folks in the metal world who may want to contribute, and he received such an overwhelming reception, the project has taken on a life of its own.

Randy Blythe from Lamb of God, Lee Ving from the band Fear, and Chuck Billy from Testament are some of the names said to be involved with the project, with many other contributors being kept under wraps at the moment. Though the album was originally due to be released this fall, it won’t likely be released until next year due to the amount of contributions.

It might sound surprising at first glance that we’d see something like this, but it’s really not. You could call it the flip side of Jason Boland being a fan of Iron Maiden. There’s at least a little bit of precedent for metal covers of country songs, with — among others —Iced Earth covering “Highwayman” and Adrenaline Mob covering “The Devil Went Down To Georgia.” And there were quite a few metal artists who paid verbal tribute to Merle Haggard when he passed away last year.

At the end of the day it’s really about liking honest, real music more than anything else, and I’ve always thought that real country music and most heavy metal had that in common if nothing else. I remember when Don Henley released Cass County a couple of years ago, I thought it was pretty sad that an aging rocker made a better country album than most if not all of the popular “country” artists of the day, and I could make a similar observation here — that is, that it’s pretty sad that it’s left to artists from another genre to pay tribute to country greats while “country” artists are paying tribute to middle-of-the-pack ’80s glam metal bands. I know that a mainstream country tribute to country legends these days would be every bit as insincere and inauthentic as the ever-popular country/hip-hop mixtape, but that inauthenticity is just yet another symptom of the problem with mainstream country music.

At any rate, I must admit I’m pretty interested to hear this tribute. I wouldn’t be too keen on hearing the Cookie Monster vocals on any of those songs, as I’ve never been a fan of that style to begin with — I much prefer metal with clean vocals — but I can definitely respect the metal guys doing something like this, at least. Considering that the album is going to have at least a few country artists collaborating, I bet it’ll have at least a few good if not great moments. We’ll see.

Well, damn. Another one gone.

May 27, 2017

Really, 2017?

Music legend Gregg Allman, whose bluesy vocals and soulful touch on the Hammond B-3 organ helped propel The Allman Brothers Band to superstardom and spawn Southern rock, died Saturday, his manager said. He was 69.

I have said before that the Eagles were the first classic rock band that I got into; it could probably be safely said that the Allman Brothers were the second. My favorite ABB song, “Ramblin’ Man,” had Dickey Betts on lead, but those guys just didn’t do a bad song; my favorite with Gregg on lead vocals was always “Statesboro Blues,” with “Whipping Post” a close second.

Of course, with my love for classic country, it wouldn’t have been a far trip to ABB fandom, as Southern rock and outlaw country are close cousins, if not brothers, as a more than cursory listen to either of them would reveal. In fact, both Waylon and Willie covered “Midnight Rider”…

 

…and “Ramblin’ Man,” according to ABB drummer Butch Trucks, was meant for none other than Merle Haggard himself:

“After Duane died, for one thing there was only one guitar player, but then Dickey kind of took over and we quit playing so much in that jazz genre that we were playing in and started heading more toward country stuff,” Butch Trucks explained. “And then out came ‘Ramblin’ Man,’ and if I never hear that song again it’ll be too soon … [laughs]. We actually went to the studio to make a demo of that to send to Merle Haggard. Even Dickey figured it was much too country for the Allman Brothers.”

We’re all mortal, but just, damn. Won’t ever be another like him.