Posts Tagged ‘music’

Yeah, okay, screw this guy.

February 9, 2016

Chris Stapleton:

I don’t think country music needs saving from anything. Whether you like modern incarnations of what country radio hits are, or you like what I’m doing, or you like something really off in folk, poetry Americana land, it’s all just music, man. If you like one of them, great, go buy it….I’m connected to all kinds of things in that way, and I like all kinds of music. But I would rather people stop caring about lines. Nothing gets on my nerves more than somebody else spending all their energy and time talking about something that they don’t like, and trying to convince you [that] you shouldn’t like it, and this thing over here is better. … I don’t like sushi. In fact, I kind of loathe sushi. But I don’t go around trying to convince my wife or any of my friends, “Oh, you shouldn’t eat sushi, it’s terrible.” It’s the dumbest thing ever. It doesn’t make sense to me why we do that with music.

Well, he’s not too smart then, is he?

I’ve already been over the utility of genres, so we won’t go over that again, but you know what this sounds like? It sounds suspiciously like, “If you don’t like what they play on the radio, don’t listen to it.”

Which in most cases I’d do. I’m not a fan of hip-hop, so I don’t listen to the hip-hop station. I’m not a fan of most of the stuff that the Contemporary Hit Radio stations ran into the ground 20-30 years ago, so I don’t listen to JACK-FM. But I do like country music. You see the problem there?

I don’t necessarily mind having to look elsewhere to find Real Country Music or at least some approximation of it, but it’d be nice if we could turn on the radio and actually hear country music, or at least a better representation of it than the likes of Sam Hunt or Luke Bryan. His stupid analogy doesn’t even hold up. The issue is not that sushi haters are going around telling people they shouldn’t like it; it’s that sushi lovers object to, say, chicken spaghetti being marketed as sushi. I am reminded of the old question asked of gun people, slightly rephrased:

“Why don’t you traditional country fans go off and start your own genre?”

“We did. Who let you in?”

Seriously, I’ve tried to be objective and pragmatic about the whole thing. I’m not a fan of Stapleton’s own music and definitely not a fan of all the dreck on the radio with his name on it. But I thought, better that he win the awards and get the recognition than all the hacks that have taken over the mainstream. Theoretically, that may well be true. But none of this takes place in a vacuum. Here we are, with so many fans of Real Country Music pinning their hopes on this guy for getting substance and identity back into mainstream country, and here he is prominently and publicly taking the side of all the people who have turned the mainstream component of the genre into the shithole that it is. Maybe such should have been expected — after all, we all know who butters his bread, no matter how people try to rationalize that all away — but it’s still quite disappointing just the same.

On rockers going country…again.

January 28, 2016

I remember a few months back, Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler dropped a “country” single titled “Love Is Your Name.” Didn’t really think too much about it, other than it was kinda meh. Not outright FGL/Luke Bryan bad, but not really anything to write home about either. I did think at the time, though, that one of two things was going to happen:

• Tyler would be one and done, the song would flame out and we wouldn’t hear anything from him again; or

• We would get something like this.

After all, it’s not as if, like Don Henley, Steven Tyler had a respect and love for Real Country Music instilled into the fiber of his being as he grew up in East Texas listening to one of the greatest country music stations of all-time (KWKH out of Shreveport, Louisiana, the 50,000-watt powerhouse that was the home of the Louisiana Hayride). But it’s still embarrassing just the same. The lyrics are bad enough, but instrumentally it’s pure fluff. You strip the lyrics away and it sounds almost like something Kelsea Ballerini would have recorded, or Taylor Swift back when she was still marketing herself as a country music artist. And in a way, that’s the most damning thing of all, especially when you compare it to everything Aerosmith recorded up until about 1982 or so. If this is anything to go by, Steven Tyler as a musician doesn’t have a shred of self-respect left.

And there’s more than one bitter irony in that song’s mention of Tom Petty and “Free Fallin’.” What’s that, you ask?

Well, in addition to the fact that Tom Petty himself has made no secret of his disdain for the type of “music” Steven Tyler is subjecting us all to once again….Petty’s drummer, Stan Lynch, co-produced — and co-wrote every song on —  Don Henley’s Cass County, widely (and quite justifiably, IMO) praised as one of the best country albums of 2015. You compare the two and it’s like night and day. On one hand you have Steven Tyler trying to keep up with the bros when that sound is more or less on the way out already, and on the other hand you have Henley singing duets with folks like Merle Haggard and Dolly Parton (the latter of which is a cover of a Louvin Brothers song from 1958). I’ll admit Cass County wasn’t quite as in my wheelhouse as all the Texas music we bought last year or the new George Strait album, but it was still quite good.

I’ve heard a lot of folks talking crap about Megadeth over the last few years because of the direction Dave Mustaine has gone with the band, and to an extent I can understand, especially with some of the stuff I heard off Super Collider. But even that was miles ahead of this whole Steven Tyler embarrassment. I suppose if there’s any consolation to the whole thing, it’ll be that everybody else is going to see Steven Tyler’s country experiment as the embarrassment that it is. Of course, a lot of these people will be Sam Hunt/Luke Bryan/FGL fans, but hey, any chair in a bar fight, I suppose…

Monday music musings, 26.1.16

January 26, 2016

I hear some people try to rebut the assertions voiced here by saying that people have always said, in every era, that the music is worse than it’s ever been, or that it was better in some previous era. To an extent such is right, and it has always been about the money to an extent, but on the other hand the people saying the music is worse than it’s ever been are going to be right at some point. And I honestly can’t see how it can be argued that mainstream country is at least as good now as it has ever been, or better than it has ever been, or that it is not any more about money now than it has ever been. I have said it before and will say it again: there is a market out there for music with substance. If there wasn’t, folks like Sturgill Simpson and Aaron Watson would be stocking the shelves at Walmart. I have a very, very difficult time believing their music would not resonate in the mainstream on some level. They might not sell 10 million copies per album, but country music has always been a niche genre to an extent anyway. In that respect, I think folks like Garth Brooks and Shania Twain were arguably the worst things ever to happen to mainstream country music, because the record labels saw that kind of success and started chasing after it as hard as they could, identity of the genre be damned.

Of course, there’s the whole Dixie Chicks thing to contend with also; had they not been blacklisted back in 2003, they could have been a counterweight to the more pop influences that came along in the later half of the 2000s. Their first three albums combined sold 25 million copies, and there’s no doubt they had years of great music left in them. We probably wouldn’t be having this discussion if they were still around. For all anyone knows, Watson and Isbell might even be mainstream stars.

===

Sigh. I have said it before, but I will say it again:

I don’t know what happened to Dierks Bentley. I completely agree with the bit about the stupid singles for the last few years, but then his first couple of albums were solid all the way through — all killer, no filler, even the singles. Long Trip Alone was where he started to lose me; not that it was bad, just meh, for reasons I can’t quite explain. I thought at the time, well, it’s just the delayed sophomore slump. He’ll get his mojo back next go-round.

And then came the first two singles from Feel That Fire. I don’t know which one was worse, the title track or “Sideways.” That was about the time I jumped off the Dierks Bentley wagon. I heard his bluegrass album was pretty good, but I never got around to picking it up; that was about the time I stopped paying attention to the mainstream for the most part. I know dude’s gotta play the game, but it’s quite disappointing just the same. For all I know all his albums since Long Trip Alone are plagued by the same thing that dragged down Lee Ann Womack’s I Hope You Dance — the radio singles were the weakest of the bunch, while the album cuts held up the standard for greatness — but I just can’t be arsed to find out anymore, especially since there’s so much other good stuff out there.

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Seeing this gives me quite the feeling of schadenfreude. Why?

Because unless I’m missing something, Infinity blowing up KILT hasn’t been working out too well for them. Hell, maybe there is something to what folks are saying this bro-country thing starting to run out of steam. I talked to one of my college buddies who lives in Houston not long ago and he said that KKBQ 92.9, the other modern country station in Houston, was actually the better of the two as far as the music they played. Talk about things being ass-backwards….

Sure is nice to see Country Legends 97.1 still going after so long. 2016 is its 13th year on the air, after six format changes on that frequency since it came on the air in the Houston area in 1991. I never would have thought that station would last that long. Here’s hoping for another 13 years.

Wow, I didn’t even know he was sick.

January 19, 2016

…or, as one Redditor said, “Who’s next?’ was rhetorical. WE weren’t asking for another death.”

Glenn Frey, a rock ‘n’ roll rebel from Detroit who journeyed West, co-founded the Eagles and with Don Henley formed one of history’s most successful songwriting teams with such hits as “Hotel California” and “Life in the Fast Lane,” has died.

Frey, 67, died of complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia, the band said on its website. He died Monday in New York. He had fought the ailments for the past several weeks, the band said.

The Eagles were probably the first classic rock band that I ever got into, thanks to my folks. Whenever I talk about the cultural pervasiveness of music and how that plays a part in the fact that so many of us like music that came out before we were born or when we were very young, the Eagles are one of the first bands that always come to mind. Now, if I never heard “Hotel California” again I wouldn’t mind it a bit, but the rest of their stuff was great.

As great a team of songwriters as Don Henley and Glenn Frey were, though, this right here has always been my favorite song they recorded.

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.

Wednesday music musings, 30.12.15

December 30, 2015

Sabra,  night before last at Bill Miller’s, as we were being subjected to Kelsea Ballerini’s “Dibs” on Y100:

“Tell me again why I should accept this as country music?”

Me: “Evolution of the genre. Or something.”

And now that I think about it, there’s also the fact that Ballerini has the right set of naughty bits. “Dibs” is the perfect encapsulation of what I was talking about when I voiced my skepticism about people’s approach to the gender imbalance on country radio. That song, and Kelsea Ballerini’s “artistry” in general, is the musical equivalent of cotton candy or frosting. It’s a waste of time, bandwidth, and hard drive space. As Trigger said at Saving Country Music, it’s not even worth the effort to steal. There is more soul and substance in any one lyric sung by Lee Ann Womack than in the entirety of Kelsea Ballerini’s musical output.

And yeah, I know. Not every song has to be deep and substantive. (Never mind the fact that were not getting anything deep and/or substantive on country radio in the first place anymore…)

Beyond even that, though, why does this have to be country instead of, say, progressive metal? It bears about as much resemblance to Dream Theater as it does to actual country music.

I’ll tell you why it can’t be progressive metal, or jazz rock, or whatever — because no self-respecting fan of any of those genres would stand for their genre being sullied like that.

===

Speaking of evolution of the genre, I thought of something this morning that put that whole thing into even starker relief, courtesy of a certain song.

16 years ago, mainstream country music was Alan Jackson covering Jim Ed Brown and Charley Pride and talking about how much he loved George Strait and Merle Haggard.

Today, mainstream “country” “music” is Thomas Rhett ripping off Sam Cooke and War (on the same damn album, even!) and talking about how much he loves Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake.

“Murder On Music Row,” indeed.

===

Boy, I’m just full of sunshine and rainbows today, aren’t I? Here, have some Turnpike Troubadours.

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….

Tuesday music musings, 8.12.15

December 8, 2015

I was all ready to give Rolling Stone Country credit for their 40 Best Country Albums of 2015…

…but Taylor Swift knockoff Kelsea Ballerini AND Bruno Mars wannabe Thomas Rhett ahead of George Strait, the Turnpike Troubadours, and Jason Boland? You have got to be fucking kidding me. As disappointing as Boland’s album was, at least it was, you know, country.

What’s that, you say? A Jason Boland album disappointing?

Comparatively speaking, yeah. In fact, and it pains me to say this, Squelch was, for us, the year’s biggest disappointment, hands down. Sabra described it as Jason Boland’s “old man yelling at the clouds” album, and that’s as good a description as any. He had been damned good up to that point, and even a subpar Boland album beats many other artists’ magnum opuses, but there’s not a song on there to my ears that measures up to “Devil Pays in Gold,” “Shot Full of Holes,” “Mary,” “Sons and Daughters of Dixie,” “False Accuser’s Lament,” or “Ludlow.”

I mean, I get the acerbic commentary, but I think there’s a right and wrong way to do that. For example, I mean, I loved “Sons and Daughters…,” “Farmer’s Luck,” “They Took It Away,” and “Christmas in Huntsville,” but “It’s Alright to be an Asshole” and “Fuck, Fight & Rodeo,” not so much. That talk-singing bit on the latter annoys the living shit out of me, and that may well be my least favorite Jason Boland song ever for just that reason. It’s a fun little country jam instrumentally, though. I don’t know. Maybe the whole thing will grow on me with repeated listens. We shall see.

It’s still better than the Chris Stapleton album though. No offense, but Traveller has to be the most overhyped country album at least since Garth Brooks’ Ropin’ the Wind. It would’ve been one thing if that album had lived up to the hype, but it didn’t. And that comparison is apt on a couple of different levels to me, because (as I have said elsewhere)  the fawning over this guy in some circles is frighteningly reminiscent of the fawning over Garth Brooks in mainstream circles in the early 1990s, even if that’s as far as the similarities go.

I’ve heard some gripes about the Turnpike Troubadours album that I can’t say I get, namely that they re-recorded a couple of songs from Bossier City, their first album (“Easton and Main” and the title track), and covered a song from another band (the Old 97s’ “Doreen”) as opposed to giving us an album of all-new self-penned songs. But even if you take out those songs that leaves 9 all-new self-penned songs, and Diamonds and Gasoline had only 10 songs. And as great as all those new songs are, the new recording of “Easton and Main” is arguably the best song on the album.

Can’t really argue with their No. 1 pick, though, which was Jason Isbell’s Something More Than Free. I still find his voice kinda meh, especially compared to the other two Jasons we find ourselves listening to on a regular basis (Eady & Boland), but there’s some really top-notch songwriting on that album. “Children of Children,” “Speed Trap Town,” “Palmetto Rose,” “To A Band That I Loved,” all of those are great, great songs. It took a while for Southeastern to grow on me, but I took to Something More Than Free right awayI can hardly wait to see where he goes next.

I…I just don’t get it.

November 7, 2015

Sigh. Everyone’s been raving about Chris Stapleton, so I guess I’m just gonna have to be the odd man out here.

I don’t get the hype. He respects the greats, and he writes good songs for himself, but with all the absolute shit on radio that has his name on it, I just don’t think he’s all everyone is touting him as. I realize the same thing could be said of Jamey Johnson, but Johnson’s own music was, shall we say, a lot better than Stapleton’s. More country, at any rate, to my ears. I’m not against Stapleton’s own recordings per se; the stuff on Traveller is a shit-ton better than what’s played on radio, but it’s just not really my thing, at least upon first listen. Too much blues & Southern rock & not enough honky-tonk a la Aaron Watson and Wade Bowen/Randy Rogers. I was telling Sabra the other night that the Allman Brothers did the Southern rock thing better in the 1970s and Stevie Ray Vaughan did the blues better in the ’80s than Stapleton is doing them now. (That cover of Charlie Daniels’ “Was It 26” is pretty good, though.)

Maybe it’ll get better with repeated listens, but I don’t know. He’s better than FGL, Thomas Rhett, and the like, to be sure, but he’s no Sturgill Simpson or Randy Rogers. And his album was okay, but I can name a bunch of other country albums that we bought this year that were better:

• Aaron Watson, The Underdog

• Wade Bowen & Randy Rogers, Hold My Beer Vol. 1

• Corb Lund, Things That Can’t Be Undone

• George Strait, Cold Beer Conversation

• Jason Isbell, Something More Than Free

• Turnpike Troubadours, self-titled

• William Clark Green, Ringling Road

• Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard, Django & Jimmie

(Best one of the above? Probably a toss up between the Strait man and Bowen/Rogers….)

I will say, though, that at the very least Stapleton’s win was something else that put the lie to Gary Overton’s “if you’re not played on country radio, you don’t exist” bullshit, and that is a victory in and of itself — not to mention the fact that it enraged so many fans of the shit music people are trying to pass off as “country” anymore.

A few words on Granger Smith…

October 17, 2015

…or, Why should we give people a pass just because they made good music once?

From the comments to the review from Country Perspective of Granger Smith’s “Backroad Song”:

Not every song has to be deep….Not every song has to be a deep, depressing Jason Isbell ballad.

This is the second-most-worn out argument behind “country music must evolve.” It’s one that’s trotted out damn near every time yet another dumb party-in-the-country song comes out, and it’s bullshit. Not every song has to be a dumb party-in-the-country song either, but that’s sure as hell what we’re getting, and I for one am fucking sick and tired of it. It was worn out two years ago, and now it’s just rank and rotting.

And then there was this:

His entire repertoire of music proves at least one thing: He deserves better.

I don’t see how Granger Smith should get a pass on the crap he makes now just because he allegedly used to make good music. That’s like saying Pat Green should get a pass for “College” and “Country Star” because of “Nightmare” and “Take Me Out to a Dancehall.” If anything, he should be held to a higher standard because of it.

But even if he did get a pass just for the music he once made, it still deserves to be pointed out that with this song and his career moves, Granger Smith is shitting on the entire Texas and Red Dirt country movement. We’re going to be pointing to Texas and Red Dirt as a better alternative to the Nashville crap and they’re going to point to Granger Smith and”Backroad Song” and ask us what the hell is the difference between Texas and Nashville. It’s not fair and it’s not accurate, but perception is reality, and to be honest we have every right to expect better than crap like this stupid song out of Nashville in the first place, let alone Texas. Hell, the biggest reason Texas and Red Dirt music has gotten so damn big in the first place is because of the crap like this! Do we really want people to think of Granger Smith instead of the Turnpike Troubadours whenever Red Dirt is mentioned? I sure as shit don’t.

I mean, really. Like I said back at Saving Country Music when Trigger reviewed “Backroad Song,” I know people bitch about Josh Abbott, and I can sort of understand why, but that shit makes Abbott sound like Rollercoaster-era Randy Rogers, or Jason Boland and the Stragglers. And if we don’t call these people out when they pull stunts like this just because they’re from Texas, then Texas really is no better than Nashville.


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