Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Sunday music musings, 14.5.17

May 14, 2017

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…

Thursday music musings, 11.8.16

August 11, 2016

So the Dixie Chicks sold out the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion this last weekend on their first United States tour in ten years, eh?

Bully for them, and for country music too. I sure as hell hope that’s at least some kind of indication that the mainstream country audience is ready for some semblance of real, substantive, actually COUNTRY music to return to the mainstream, because what we’re having to deal with as far as the mainstream goes these days makes me sick unto death. The late 1990s and early 2000s were far from any kind of golden age for country, but they were a damned sight better than what we have now. At least back then we still had George Strait and Alan Jackson; even with the decline in quality of Jackson’s output after 2002’s Drive, it was still miles ahead of any of today’s A-list stars.

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Speaking of George Strait, I thought it was a neat little surprise to see his sophomore album, Strait From the Heart, reviewed at Saving Country Music — and even more so to see it get a top grade. Now, I did (and do) think it’s a very enjoyable listen, but at least a couple of those songs did not age so well, particularly “The Steal of the Night” and “Lover In Disguise.” I thought he’d be a lot harsher on that album than he was, especially considering that the aforementioned songs were likely there due to the influence of producer Blake Mevis, who was pushing Strait in a more pop direction. Strait actually parted ways with Mevis as the next album was being put together and started over with a new producer. It was probably better for all involved, though, because I think that album, 1983’s Right or Wrong, was where Strait really hit his stride. “Let’s Fall to Pieces Together” is my all-time favorite George Strait song and has been such ever since I’ve been a fan.

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On another George Strait-related note, I’m pretty sure he’s mostly responsible for this:

Aaron Barker, the San Antonio native behind some of George Strait’s big hits, has been named to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

In the interests of full disclosure, I must admit that most of the non-Strait songs with Barker’s name on them were meh at best, but the songs that Strait recorded rank among the best of his career, particularly “I Know She Still Loves Me” and “I Can Still Make Cheyenne.” I’ve always thought the former was an underrated gem, and the latter would make my top ten of not just singles, but songs he’s recorded, period.

(And I don’t think I ever mentioned it till now, but I always thought “I Can Still Make Cheyenne” worked very well as a prequel of sorts to “The Cowboy Rides Away,” which in turn works quite well as a prequel to “Amarillo By Morning”…)

Tech musings, 30.7.16

July 30, 2016

So, I recently went to the dark side…

I bought a Kindle Fire.

Yeah. I had never been too keen on the idea of e-books before, but it’s really neat. I use the Fire a lot as a tablet as opposed to an e-reader, which has saved my phone battery the workout it’s gotten up to now. There are a lot of really cool games available for it too.

I did finally take the plunge and downloaded my first e-book on it a couple of weeks ago. Only fitting, I suppose, that it was a Tom Clancy book, 1989’s Clear and Present Danger. I have bought at least two or three copies of that book over the years, with the first one being in 1992. It’s even better than I remember it. I remember really enjoying the movie, too.

And with that, here is my favorite scene from it.

Man, that was Harrison Ford’s Jack Ryan at his absolute best, right there.

Sunday morning commentary: Orlando.

June 12, 2016

I hear there are people saying on the wake of this morning’s Orlando shootings, “More gun control! How many more have to die?”

Well, that’s a perfectly legitimate question, but for the fact that it presupposes yet more laws are going to stop this sort of thing. Registration, licensing, and all that.

Yeah, no.

Even if we ignore the historical fact of registration leading to confiscation EACH AND EVERY SINGLE TIME, there is the fact that these laws face massive noncompliance right here in the United States. According to the New York Daily News, hardly a bastion of pro-gun sentiment, fewer than 44,000 semiautomatic rifles were registered with the state after the SAFE Act introduced such a requirement into law after the Sandy Hook shootings. Not only that, but several New York county sheriffs have gone on record as saying they won’t help enforce the laws in the SAFE legislation. And New York is one of the bluest states in the country. The same played out in another blue state, Colorado, after that state’s passing laws outlawing normal-capacity magazines, according to a report from the CBS affiliate in Denver. Also, in Connecticut itself, according to the Hartford Courant, some 50,000 semiautomatic rifles were registered after Sandy Hook, but with as many as 350,000 semi auto rifles in civilian hands in Connecticut…well, there you go.

How do they think such is going to play out in Alabama, or Oklahoma, or Texas?

And how are these laws not going to stop such?

Well, in case you forgot, even if we stopped making and selling new ones, the guns are already out there. A whole fucking lot of them. While it’s hard to nail down an exact number, there are probably enough semiautomatic rifles in American civilian hands and ammunition to feed them to outfit the armies of several small countries. And that number has only increased in recent years as after every shooting just like the one in Orlando, control freaks like Hillary Clinton never fail to rush to the mikes and scream to the rooftops for more laws punishing the people who didn’t shoot anyone.

So the guns are already out there, and there are more going out the doors of gun shops in this fair land every single day. Are you going to go door-to-door, or rather, send other people’s sons and daughters to go door-to-door? (Because let’s be frank, very few if any of the people actually screaming for more gun control are actually going to put their own skin in the game here.) If that’s what you’re suggesting, perhaps you should google “4th generation warfare” sometime, or perhaps give Mike Vanderboegh’s essay “Kill All They Send” a read:

“And it would be a WAR, make no mistake, not the sanitary “police action”…. And how would the big bad boys of the ATF and FBI fare against committed freedom fighters? Even well-paid federal police bureaucrats just want to live until retirement. How long do you think they would last when team after team of them are shot down like dogs in the street, garroted in their sleep, poisoned in their mess halls, or found with their throats slit in guardposts, restrooms and bordellos?”

And even if we did manage to pull it off, in the complete vacuum of moral issues, logistics and all that…there’s still the matter of that porous southern border. I think it’s probably safe to say that narcotics aren’t the only thing coming across them. If you know what I mean. And I think you do.

In short: the guns are here. And they are not going away, no matter how you might wish they would. So what now?

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.

Gasoline licensing and registration NOW!

April 26, 2016

Well, all righty then….

An Adkins man who was convicted of leading area law enforcement officers on a high-speed chase after dousing his girlfriend with gasoline and trying to set her on fire last year has been sentenced to 90 years in prison….

“…(John Brennan) Duncan’s punishment range was 25 years to life in prison because his criminal history classified him as a habitual offender,” according to (a Bexar County DA press) release. It said Duncan previously served time in prison for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and felony charge of driving while intoxicated.

During the punishment hearing, another former girlfriend of Duncan’s testified that he had shot at her eight times when she was trying to get away from him during a previous assault, the release stated.

Why was John Brennan Duncan not under the jail already?

Wednesday music musings, 9.3.16

March 9, 2016

Well, I certainly was not expecting this.

Blake Shelton to Adam Levine, on The Voice:

“Country’s not always about exactly what you sound like, but it’s about what you want to represent with your music,” he told the contestant. “It’s guys like you that get me so excited about the future of Nashville. Dude, you’re country.”

Then Adam Levine breaks in, “No, no! What does country and its many counterparts get to have its own club. Music reaches millions and millions of people all over the world. It’s not supposed to be in a box.”

Judge Christina Aguilera weighed in with, “I think that’s a great speech Adam.”

And then Blake Shelton responded.

“I’m not sick of the fact that [country] is this exclusive club. And it’s up to us as country artists to protect who’s in that club. Otherwise, it gets too far away of what the heart and soul is of country music. If you don’t know where it comes from, how in the hell are you gonna know where it should go? That’s why we protect it.”

Gotta say, just like Trigger did, that is quite the about-face from the “old farts and jackasses” line Shelton was spouting a little mote than three years ago. I don’t know how sincere it was, but good for him for saying it. Now, if he follows this up with a change in his own music, so much the better.

And note, if you will, how similar Adam Levine’s take on country music is to that of Chris Stapleton:

“Music reaches millions and millions of people all over the world. It’s not supposed to be in a box.”

“…it’s all just music, man. If you like one of them, great, go buy it….I would rather people stop caring about lines.”

Now, they have the right to their opinion, but it’s rather disconcerting just the same, considering Adam Levine in all likelihood couldn’t tell you the difference between Bob Wills and Mark Wills. I eagerly await Mr. Levine’s eventual country album…or, you know, not.

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Still, though, Cindy Lauper recording a country music covers album looks…intriguing, reservations be damned. The whole “people from other genres going country” thing has a rather spotty track record as of late, to be sure, but that track listing is damn near flawless. Somehow I doubt Bret Michaels and Steven Tyler even know who Patsy Montana is. And I probably could do without ever hearing any version of “Hard Candy Christmas” again, but I would venture to guess that with the songs she’s choosing to record here, she’s probably going to be fairly true to the originals. We’ll see.

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Speaking of covers, I recently picked up Tulare Dust: A Songwriters’ Tribute to Merle Haggard, from 1994. I had heard a couple of songs from this album — Billy Joe Shaver’s “Ramblin’ Fever” and Robert Earl Keen’s “Daddy Frank (the Guitar Man)” — in a couple of different places. If I remember correctly it was on Sirius and 95.9 the Ranch. I really enjoyed those two songs but had not heard any of the other songs, but a glance at the list of guests on that album was quite promising — among others Iris Dement, Dwight Yoakam, Joe Ely, and Lucinda Williams.

Yeah.

Let me tell you, a tribute album is not always going to be a sure thing in execution even if it looks good on paper. I remember sometime last year, we picked up Lucky, which was Suzy Bogguss’ Merle Haggard tribute album. Suzy Bogguss  doing Merle Haggard, with her love of Real Country, can’t go wrong with that right?

Not so much. The best way to put my own disappointment in that album is like this: her renditions of Haggard’s classics, while sung quite beautifully, were done in a style not suited to them at all. It was the type of music that you’d drink White Zinfandel with as opposed to Jack Daniels or even Shiner Bock.

This album, though? Well, all of the above-mentioned artists’ cuts are my favorites — with Shaver’s rendition of “Ramblin’ Fever,” my very favorite Merle Haggard tune at the top of the list — but every single artist here did Hag proud, even though they’re not all note-for-note originals.

But don’t take my word for it:

 

 

I see he has learned nothing.

January 29, 2016

David Petzal, of Field & Stream:

Range Day is the Monday prior to the Show’s opening when manufacturers demonstrate their wares. People like me are bussed out to handle the goodies. This year, Range Day sounded like the Battle of Dak To, or perhaps Fallujah, with the distinctive pop-pop-pop of full-auto fire, which was extremely popular amongst all the SEAL wannabes. Indeed, this was symbolic of the whole show, which has now become so heavily militarized that you have to look fairly hard for something designed to kill animals instead of people.

Wow. I mean, what do you say to that? Well, that is, other than everything that was said after Jim Zumbo lost his gig at Outdoor Life, or everything that was said after Dick Metcalf lost his gig at Shooting Times.

…but it deserves to be noted that somehow, David Petzal still has his platform to sell out and demonize everyone whose firearm of choice looks different than his. That speaks volumes about the readership of Field & Stream, and absolutely none of it is good, especially considering this is far from the first time Petzal has done such.

The era of the rip-off…

January 12, 2016

So I walked into Whataburger yesterday, and what should I hear but Luke Bryan warbling “Strip it Down.”

I thought, This song was much better ten years ago when it was sung by Dierks Bentley and titled “Come A Little Closer.” What are they gonna play next, Carrie Underwood’s ripoff of “Travelin’ Soldier”?

And damned if they didn’t do just that. I was unimpressed, to say the least.

Seems like we’re living in an age of musical ripoffs anymore. In addition to the above, there’s Chris Lane’s “Fix,” which itself is more or less a re-write of the Old Dominion song “Break Up With Him.” You’re probably wondering how I know this. Well, all I can say is that sometimes when I read a review of a song, my curiosity manages to get the best of me. Terrible. At least Luke Bryan and his co-writers of “Strip it Down” waited a few years to rip off a decent Dierks Bentley song. Chris Lane is doing a rip-off of a crappy current song that wasn’t worth ripping off in the first place.

But some of the comments are at least as bad as the songs themselves…

Just seems like you’ve taken to bashing mainstream music that doesn’t fit your mold of what country should be….at least judge the music you’ve chosen to review in the context it’s provided.

Suffice it to say, I disagree. STRONGLY. Much like Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers, the people calling this crap out have standards. Pretty lofty ones. Considering the history of this genre that’s the way it ought to be. And what context IS “Fix” supposed to be taken as? Evolution of the genre? Mainstream country music circa 2015? And it shouldn’t be called out as crap solely because of that? Sorry, but I don’t agree. Why can’t mainstream country sound more like Jason Isbell, Randy Rogers, Wade Bowen, or the Turnpike Troubadours? It’s not like all those acts and their non-mainstream contemporaries are all pushing a throwback sound. They honor the core sounds of the genre while putting their own modern spin on it, and you simply can’t say that of Sam Hunt, Thomas Rhett, or Chris Lane. You can call it comical, bashing, or whatever you want. I call it telling it like it is. And we need more of that.

Oh, God, Authorized Journalism everywhere…

December 16, 2015

not just when it comes to guns!

(Chris) Stapleton’s sweep didn’t leave much room for Sam Hunt to shine on CMA night, and that’s a shame. He’s far and away country’s most forward-thinking stylist, and he deserves to be recognized as such.

Huh, so that’s what they’re calling it now. Forward thinking. And, of course, more mentions of the same old mainstream “country” artists that everyone else has been talking about.

Maybe that isn’t quite fair. Maybe Eric Church’s surprise album ended up being good. But there was so much other good stuff that came out this year that was just as worthy of being talked about as Eric Church’s album, a hell of a lot more worthy of discussion than Sam Hunt’s album that wasn’t even released this year. I suppose I could give Chris Richards credit for pointing out Stapleton’s questionable mainstream oeuvre, but for the fact that Richards didn’t think that was of any use beyond pointing out the ostensible hypocrisy and double standards of CMA voters. And that’s something that does deserve to be commented on, but not for the benefit of somebody like Sam Hunt, not least of all because at the end of the day — in the context of country music — Hunt’s music is little more than a different flavor of crap than what the bros are serving up. Sam Hunt’s music is not progressive. It’s not forward thinking. It’s out and out fraud and deserves to be called out as such, loudly and repeatedly.

Of course, this little tidbit from one of Richards’ earlier columns provides quite the insight:

Hunt didn’t really listen to a lot of music growing up. “I had a couple CDs,” he confesses. “But I never had that first concert experience, that first record thing.”…

A career in professional football started to seem like an actual possibility for Hunt after a strong season his senior year, and after graduation, he was invited to a free-agent training camp hosted by the Kansas City Chiefs. But he didn’t make it past the first week. So he settled on an even more far-fetched career path. He packed up his car for Nashville.

So, in other words, music was Sam Hunt’s Plan B. That explains, so, so much, at least as far as why his music is so boring and soulless….