Posts Tagged ‘music’

Friday music musings, 19.1.17

January 19, 2018

You know, this shit is really getting old:

…people hate Walker Hayes because Walker Hayes sounds different. That’s all it is.

Now, granted, Wide Open Country is correct. They’re just not correct in the way they think they are. People indeed do not like Walker Hayes because he does sound different…as in, not the slightest bit country. As in, if there is such a thing as “less country than Sam Hunt,” Walker Hayes would be IT. I mean, they can call us closed-minded and say we like our music predictable, but that doesn’t make it true. I don’t just listen to country music. Hell, the last album I bought was Savatage’s Hall of the Mountain King.

And even if you’re not one who likes all kinds of music, there’s not really anything wrong with that either. There’s only so much time in the day. If you don’t like deep house music or grindcore and don’t care to go explore them, and you wouldn’t cotton to those types of music being marketed as country, that doesn’t make you closed-minded. It makes you someone who has preferences, and that’s OK. I don’t see why these people find such to be so objectionable.

And as I’ve said before elsewhere, albeit with different phrasing, I find it odd that country music seems to be the only genre whose fans are basically told to open their minds when they object to something like Walker Hayes. If he was marketed as, say, a progressive metal artist, or a Texas blues artist, or a salsa artist, fans of those genres would be just as up in arms as we are, and no one would bat an eye. It’s as if country music is the only genre that is not allowed to have an identity. I have yet to figure out why this is the case.

Also, what is this “progressive country” bullshit? That term has a meaning, and a history completely at odds with what outlets like Wide Open Country are trying to redefine it as:

Progressive Country developed in the late ’60s as a reaction to the increasingly polished and pop-oriented sound of mainstream, Nashville-based country. Inspired equally by the spare, twangy, hard-driving sound of Bakersfield country, the singer/songwriter introspection of Bob Dylan, classic honky tonk, and rock & roll, progressive country was the first anti-Nashville movement to emerge since the dawn of rock & roll. Progressive country was rootsier and more intellectual than many of its contemporary genres; it was more concerned with breaking boundaries than with scoring hits. The genre was also songwriter-based. Many of its key artists — Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Billy Joe Shaver, Tom T. Hall, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock — were not “good” singers by conventional standards, yet they wrote distinctive, individual songs and had compelling voices. By the early ’70s, such artists had developed a sizable cult following, and progressive country began to inch its way into the mainstream, usually in the form of cover versions (Sammi Smith took Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make It Through the Night” to the country Top Ten). Progressive country also provided the basis for outlaw country, a harder-edged genre that shook country-pop (briefly) off the top of the charts in the mid-’70s. Even after Outlaw’s five-year reign in the late ’70s, progressive country continued to exist, until it eventually metamorphosed into alternative country in the ’80s.

Put another way, progressive country was OG Texas Country, and Americana and alternative country before those terms came into the American musical lexicon. And it was a reaction to the ’70s equivalent of what people like Walker Hayes are doing now. What was progressive country? It was this…

…this…

and this.

It is most assuredly not this:

(Be forewarned, if you click that link, by the conclusion of that 3 minutes and 20 seconds, it will have taken more out of your life than it will ever give back.)

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Speaking of Savatage, that album is really good. I’ve been meaning to pick it up ever since I heard the title track on Sirius years ago. My favorites from it are that title track, “White Witch,” and this song right here…

I don’t know if that’s Eddie Van Halen-style two-handed tapping going on in the background with that guitar, but it’s pretty badass. Good stuff, Maynard.

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Sunday music musings, 17.12.17

December 17, 2017

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….

Wednesday music musings, 6.12.17

December 6, 2017

Browsing the Billboard country albums chart yesterday, and what do I see but this…

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Wait, what? No. 5, really?

Yes, I know. I have said before that the Eagles, at least their first couple of albums, were more country than a lot of what passes for such in the mainstream anymore, as damning with faint praise as that might be. And make no mistake, Hotel California is a fine rock album, with several of my favorite Eagles songs on it. But Hotel California is not a country music record. It was not a country music record in 1975, and it is not a country music record now. And Don Henley himself would likely tell you as much, considering that he went on record 15 years ago as apologizing for the Eagles’ influence on country music:

“What they call ‘young country,’ unfortunately, is an offshoot of what we used to do. It’s our fault. I’m so sorry. I apologize to the entire universe.”

Still more country than Sam Hunt, though…

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Speaking of genres, there was this via Farce the Music, from carpetbagger piece of shit Robert Estell, better known as Bobby Bones:

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Really now? Those are some big words coming from a dude who might well not have a job, or at least might well have a much smaller bully pulpit, this time next year. (Google “iHeartRadio going concern” for some interesting light reading.)

And even if he does still have a job by this time next year, that’s still not going to make “country” radio any more relevant to a lot of people. Sure, it’s still the only game in town for a lot of people, but there’s still the matter of all those folks discussed in this space before who have No. 1 debuts on the album sales charts and have sold hundreds of thousands of copies of said albums, all without the benefit of country radio airplay. OF course, there’s the matter of the charts being compromised all to hell as in the item above, but the sales are what they are.

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For the life of me I can’t find it now, but there was this graphic going round with a text message with the following text:

“Hey, you wanna go see Florida-Georgia Line?”

“You spelled George Strait wrong.”

And there was this comment in response:

“I’ll take Florida Georgia Line. They at least do concerts for ‘the little people’. I can’t afford to fly somewhere and pay for a ticket for George Strait.”

Yup, because George Strait totally didn’t burn up the road for almost 40 years “do(ing) concerts for ‘the little people.'” I mean, really, if you didn’t go see Strait during that time I feel pretty comfortable saying it’s your own fault.

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…

IMG_2063

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.

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

FullSizeRender.jpg

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.