Posts Tagged ‘music’

Monday music musings, 18.11.19

December 2, 2019

Not really too much I can say about the recent CMA Awards. They mirror the decline of mainstream country still. But I will say this:

Maren Morris winning Album of the Year was not any kind of win for Texas or Red Dirt music. Way too many people who ought to know better give her a pass because of her being from here. And they defend her by saying, “red dirt didn’t give her a chance, do you blame her for going to Nashville?” Well, no, but none of that makes the music suck any less. I will say that I thought the Highwomen album was surprisingly good and would be happy to see it win next year.

Watch it not even be nominated though.

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Recently on Reddit, some random made the argument that Johnny Cash was better than George Strait, and they cited the number of songs Cash had that crossed over to the pop chart. Which, frankly, I don’t understand in the least, because the number of crossover songs or albums for any artist in any genre is essentially not really worth that much when it comes to assessing said artist’s greatness because crossover success for any particular work isn’t worth that much when assessing said work’s greatness.

To use an example from another genre, Metallica crossed over like nobody’s business with the self-titled Black Album and the singles from it. We probably won’t see anything like that ever again. But was it the best thing they ever did? Nope. Was it among the best metal albums ever made? Not really. It was a fine hard rock album, one I will gladly admit to liking, but I could name a ton of metal albums from my iTunes library alone that were better (including all the albums Metallica recorded before that), from Black Sabbath’s Paranoid right on up to Sabaton’s The Art of War.

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Speaking of Sabaton…good Lord. I had heard of them some time ago and knew what they did, but it just didn’t appeal to me at first for some reason. I think it was Joakim Broden’s gruff vocals. But then I heard “Fields of Verdun” on one of my Spotify mixes last summer…

…and it…just…clicked. In a really, REALLY big way. They are now one of my absolute favorite bands.

Just when you think you’ve heard everything…

October 31, 2019

…something new comes along and makes you rethink that.

I have long thought that real country music and heavy metal have a lot in common despite the radical difference in sound. They’re both gritty, real explorations of the human condition at their best. A buddy of mine made the observation that country & metal are like estranged cousins who meet at a family reunion & discover they have a lot in common. Which is an excellent way of putting it, if you really think about it.

You’ll remember some time ago that DevilDriver frontman Dez Fafara did a project with a lot of other metal guys where they recorded a lot of classic country songs. I listened to some of it here and there, and while it wasn’t quite my thing, I rather appreciated what they were trying to do. I thought it was the first of its kind…

…but apparently I was mistaken.

Screwing around on Spotify today, I saw a 2006 album from a dude named Jeff Walker called Welcome to Carcass Cuntry — Carcass, as in the English death metal band (Walker is that band’s bass player). Actually, what I saw was a song from that album on one of my Spotify daily mixes, a song called “You’re Still On My Mind.”

Wait, is that the song I think it is?

It sure as fuck was.

An old George Jones weeper that hardly anyone remembers anymore! Gotta admit, I thought that was pretty damn impressive. But that was far from the only thing. There were also a couple of Hank Sr. covers (“I Can’t Help It If I’m Still In Love With You” and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”) and Connie Smith’s “Once A Day.” (Connie freaking Smith! I NEVER would have seen that coming.) Gotta admit, those choices kinda blew my fuses. Seems like so many metalheads have more respect for country music than a lot of the people who allegedly sing it. Between Florida-Georgia Line name-dropping Hank and Jeff Walker singing actual Hank songs, I will take the latter any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

Sunday music musings, 27.10.2019

October 27, 2019

Many years ago, when I was young and stupid, I would be nonplussed when my favorite artists, songs, albums, whatever, didn’t win certain awards. Then I discovered the Texas music scene and all the artists who wouldn’t ever win any of those awards, and I left that attitude behind and never looked back.

That being said, if you needed yet more proof that mainstream country music in the ’10s has been a shitshow without equal, here you go:

Luke Bryan Wins Inaugural ACM Album Of The Decade Award For ‘Crash My Party’

I suppose it could have been worse — after all, 2013 was also the year of FGL’s debut — but in a decade that brought us George Strait’s Here For A Good Time, Jason Isbell’s Something More Than Free, and Randy Rogers’ and Wade Bowen’s Hold My Beer, Vol. 1….well, frankly, I got nothin’.

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And then to top the ’10s off, there’s this:

But all of a sudden Hootie & the Blowfish—not just Darius Rucker—is signed to Universal Music Group’s country imprint in Nashville, is planning to release a new record on November 1st called Imperfect Circle, and just released a straight up pop rock Hootie & the Blowfish single called “Hold On” that has just become the “most added” song on COUNTRY radio, rocketing all the way to #30 on the charts upon its debut. That’s right, as we were all jamming out to the new Cody Jinks records, Hootie & the Blowfish has officially become a country music group with a major label deal, full support from country radio, and all the other rights and privileges of a mainstream country music act thereof.

Look, I know that Reba McEntire said a few years ago that ’70s rock was country now, and that she was at best neutral about it, but frankly, I think Dale Watson’s take on it was a lot more accurate. And that phenomenon kinda scares me, really. What’s ’20s country going to sound like? If the progression holds, it’s gonna be fucking Poison and Motley Crue. (Not Metallica or Iron Maiden, because that stuff’s too songwriterly.) And in the ’30s…well, the less said the better.

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For longer than I am willing to admit, I thought Free was “that band that did ‘All Right Now,’ that band that Paul Rodgers fronted before Bad Company.”

They had more songs than that — six albums’ worth, even. A lot of those songs were really good, too. I don’t know what I’d count as the bigger crime against music, the fact that Free is mainly known for that one song or the fact that so few people know Fleetwood Mac as it existed before Lindsey Buckingham & Stevie Nicks.

Come on, Jason, really?

September 10, 2019

I do love Jason Isbell, but this is just next-level stupid, and considering all his Twitter rantings on gun control, that’s really saying something:

“Women are practically ghosts on country radio too, so it’s not hard to understand why female artists like (Maren) Morris, who had massive crossover success with the Zedd collaboration ‘The Middle,’ might pull away from the genre and gravitate to more welcoming formats like pop and Americana. ‘The country purists online, they’re the worst,’ Isbell says shortly after rolling up a pant leg to show off his ‘Highwomen’ tattoo, as well as some swell printed socks. ‘If you look at the country radio charts, and there is one woman every three weeks in the Top 20, what’s going to encourage women to try to make music in that direction?’

Wow, dude, way to make fans of more traditional country music fans not want to give the Highwomen album a chance. I mean, it’s not the revolutionary, world-beating stuff some people are claiming it to be, but this online country purist heard it and thought it was actually pretty good. I don’t intend to get it just yet, because I have other stuff I’d like to get first, but I do hope it does well so as to encourage more music like it.

Also, Willie Nelson would like a word with those of you who think “If She Ever Leaves Me” was the first gay country song.

Tuesday music musings, 20.08.19

August 20, 2019

I am not really big on the whole streaming music bit. I much prefer to own music as opposed to just renting it or whatever. I also believe that artists should be fairly compensated for their work, and the streaming model in general presents some huge issues with that.

That said, I got a cool new job, one that allows us to listen to Spotify while we work. Most of my burgeoning library comprises stuff I’ve already bought, because I am weird like that, but I have been sampling a pretty good bit of stuff that I have ended up buying.

We’ll talk about the other stuff later, but right now let’s talk about Gary P. Nunn. We went and bought What I Like About Texas: Greatest Hits a few years back and have played it a LOT since then…

…but, of course, you see exactly where I’m going with this.

That album featured five songs from 1993’s Totally Guacamole. The other day I was browsing the GPN albums one day and clicked on that album, and what caught my eye right away was one of the other seven songs, a tune called “You Can’t Get the Hell out of Texas.” I thought, huh, that title sounds familiar. I knew that song from way back, sort of. Back when 99.5 the Wolf in Dallas was a pretty good station and had Justin Frazell doing the traffic reports in a chopper in the skies over D-FW, they’d play a George Jones song with that title every Friday afternoon at 5:00.

I saw that title on the Gary P. Nunn album and thought, huh, I wonder if that’s the same song. Suuuurrrre enough….

Gotta say, I take a backseat to no one when it comes to my love for George Jones, but with that doghouse bass and Floyd Domino cutting loose on the piano…Lord, but that is top-shelf stuff.

I do have to say this next song kinda rubbed me the wrong way at first. Lord knows I don’t subscribe to the “’90s country is best country” thing, but I did and do think most of the folks that were called out in that song were legit, especially Rodney Crowell (I mean, shit, anyone who’s an actual country fan KNOWS that man was SO MUCH MORE than Diamonds & Dirt)….

…but then I realized it does come off as tongue-in-cheek, and taken in that context it is actually pretty funny.

And then there was “I Don’t Live Here Anymore.” For years, I only knew this version…

…and thought, “Huh, I wonder if this is the same song. Sure enough…

I really, really loved the Todd Fritsch version of this song back in the late 2000s, and it’s still pretty good, but I gotta go with Gary P. here, too. He has this tear in his voice that just makes the whole thing. I did not know that song was written by Brian Burns! Not that that surprises me; I have always thought he was a fine songwriter in addition to a great singer.

But this next song….oh my dear sweet Lord, I think this is my new favorite Gary P. Nunn song.

Look, just admit it. You heard that and got the big ole stupid grin on your face, didn’t you? (Credit Flaco Jimenez on the accordion for that.) TELL ME that is not the coolest, most South Texas thing you have ever heard in your life. Good, good stuff.

Thursday music musings, 15.08.19

August 15, 2019

I am by no means just now figuring this out…

…but Sabaton takes Iron Maiden’s game and runs with it very, very well. Swedish power metal songs all about war? I mean, how can you not love that?

This song is particularly great, about this incident from World War II:

I bought Adam Makos’ book A Higher Call some time ago but have yet to read it. That’s gonna be rectified this weekend…

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I had this meme cross my Facebook feed earlier today…

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…and really, all I could say was, Yep.

I’ve said all this before, albeit in different words, but it bears repeating: People may dismiss it as old farts bitching, but it ought to be obvious to anyone with functioning brain cells that Nashville for some time has been targeting people who think country music didn’t exist before 2010. They barely know George Strait, let alone the people who influenced him, and never mind the likes of, say, Gram Parsons, Guy Clark, or Billy Joe Shaver.

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I am not just now figuring this out either, but damn. I remember hearing Rascal Flatts back in the day and thinking they were pretty awful…but Dan + Shay make Rascal Flatts sound like Hank Thompson in comparison.

(That’s not to say that RF actually sounds good now, mind you. Think of it as stomach virus vs. stomach cancer. They both suck. One just sucks a whole lot less, comparatively speaking.)

Random hit, 08.07.2019

July 8, 2019

It bugs the shit out of me that they’re making such a big deal out of Lil Nas X when we have folks like Charley Crockett singing actual country music. God damn but this is gorgeous.

Tuesday music musings, 07.05.2019

May 7, 2019

Lil Nas X and “Old Town Road” country, huh?

Negative, Ghostrider.

It may well be more country than (insert mainstream country song or artist here), but that’s more of a commentary on the toxic waste dump mainstream country has become than the actual merit of this as a country song. I listened to it, and sonically speaking it’s just your standard hip-hop song, which is fine if that’s your thing. But the arguments I have seen for this being a country song are absolutely insane.

“He sings about horses! And cheating on his girlfriend!”

Well hey, bully for him. But that doesn’t make “Old Town Road” a country song. I have mentioned this before, but some years ago, I heard someone make the observation that Metallica’s “Wherever I May Roam” was as good a loner song as anything Merle Haggard ever wrote. And they were right. That song and “Ramblin’ Fever,” thematically speaking, were identical to each other:

Rover, wanderer, nomad, vagabond, call me what you will…anywhere I roam, where I lay my head is home…

…and I don’t leave the highway long enough, to bog down in the mud, ’cause I’ve got ramblin’ fever in my blood….

So is Merle the metal titan? Is Metallica the revered country legend? These are the questions we have to ask these days, I guess, just to show how thoroughly fucked up things are with country music anymore.

And then there was this, roughly paraphrased from a random Redditor:

“George Strait’s ‘You Look So Good In Love’ was co-written by the dude who co-produced and co-wrote all the songs on Alanis Morrissette’s Jagged Little Pill!!”

(Glen Ballard, for the record.)

Yes, and Gary Stewart’s “Out Of Hand” — one of the greatest hard-country songs of the 1970s — was co-written by Jeff Barry, whose discography includes some of the most iconic pop songs of the 1960s, including Manfred Mann’s “Do Way Diddy Diddy,” the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” and the Dixie Cups’ “Chapel of Love.” So that argument doesn’t work either.

“B-b-b-but, Sam Hunt! And Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan!”

Yes, we know. We went over them when Beyonce’s “Daddy Lessons” not being a country song was the outrage du jour, if not before.

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And then we have this from Galleywinter, in response to a certain piece from Trigger:

Maren Morris and any other artist can do whatever he/she damn well pleases. It’s not their job to fit into a genre. It’s their calling to produce what speaks to them & follow the muse wherever it leads. It is the audience that determines boundaries & it really doesn’t matter.

Whenever someone doesn’t produce what the Texas audience feels is true we are quick to cry sellout and move on. The same goes for national acts and pop. It really doesn’t and shouldn’t matter.

Listen to what you want and ignore the rest. Some stuff is bad and some people still like it. Genre “restrictions” be damned.

Play something unrestricted today. And do it loudly.

Willie Nelson ignored and blasted “restrictions” in the 70s and it ended up creating just about all that has followed.

One final note. Maren Morris has been a badass since she was a teenager playing 4 hour basement gigs in The Stockyards alongside the likes of Josh Weathers and Cody Jinks. She’s paid her dues and can make whatever she wants. Listen or don’t.

I don’t necessarily want to get bogged down in the debate about Maren Morris in particular, but I will say that I doubt Trigger or anyone else carping about her would be so het up had Nashville “country” in general not turned into the flaming pile of shit that it’s been since about 2010 or so.

I will say that we can talk about alleged genre “restrictions” until the sun burns out, and that’s all fine and good, but, well, let’s just put it like this:

What would we say if, God forbid, George Strait started making music that sounded like Sam Hunt? Or if Jason Boland started doing songs like “That’s My Kind of Night”? I would bet the cost of my house that we’d all be raising hell. Because when you say those names, there are certain standards that are expected to be met. You might even call them “boundaries” if you like.

The same thing applies more generally to country music as a genre. When the term “country music” is uttered, there are a lot of us who have certain expectations and hold certain standards as to what that term means. And frankly, I don’t see anything wrong with that.

More than all of that, whether anyone wants to admit it, country music has always been the bastard stepchild of American popular music genres. A perfect example of such I saw recently, when some tabloid music webzine said George Strait was paying homage to Elvis Presley with “Milk Cow Blues,” when Strait said he actually got that song off an old Bob Wills album that came out when Elvis was all of six years old. Furthermore, you don’t ever hear rap fans talking about how a song is “too rap.” You don’t ever hear metal fans say a song is “too metal.” But you do hear alleged country fans say a song is “too country,” and you hear people apologizing for what it was, i.e., “this isn’t your grandfather’s country music.” There are a lot of us who are highly cognizant of that phenomenon, and it pisses us off. Sure, Maren Morris has the right to make the music she wants. But I don’t see anything wrong with calling her out for calling it country music when it’s nothing of the sort.

Perhaps that’s the worst part of Trigger’s rant here, is that it causes people to come out and defend Maren’s music when it doesn’t deserve a shred of such. 

On nostalgia, etc.

January 11, 2019

Sometimes I wonder how many folks don’t have any particular fondness, nostalgic or otherwise, for the music of their formative years.

I don’t know exactly how it could be defined, but for purposes of the discussion we’ll define it as what came out when you were between 12 and 25 years old. So for me it was between 1989 and 2002. So we’ll just say ’90s country, grunge, that sort of thing. It’s funny…I listened to and bought a ton of ’90s country and did like it back then, but I eventually left most of it behind in favor of classic country and all the stuff coming out of the Texas & Oklahoma scenes. Beyond George Strait and Alan Jackson, I could take or leave most ’90s and early-2000s country anymore. I never liked the grunge thing, and I still don’t; even way back before I actually discovered the classic metal beyond all the glam stuff I was rather bewildered at how many people talked about the grunge bands killing metal like it was a good thing, and the more classic metal I hear, the more that baffles me. Nostalgia is a very powerful motivator, and a big, big seller; it’s how we still have classic rock stations playing music from more than 50 years ago. Of course a lot of that music still holds up, but I don’t necessarily mean to talk about the quality of it. I hear people waxing nostalgic about say, ’90s country, and I just think, “meh, OK” when I jammed to it just as much as anyone. I often think I really took the road less traveled as far as evolution of music tastes go…

(As an aside, it seems like way, WAY too many of my generation remember that stuff a bit too fondly. It’s like no one remembers Bryan White or Neal McCoy, or Tracy Byrd’s great voice being wasted on shit like “Watermelon Crawl.”)

Well, that’s special.

January 7, 2019

From MetalSucks, via Facebook:

I’m not sure whether I’ve ever listened to The Amity Affliction before (if I did, their music didn’t stick with me). But vocalist Joel Birch’s latest Twitter thread has inspired me to give them another shot.

Birch spotted a fan wearing a Trump jersey at the band’s show at Brooklyn Bowl in Las Vegas, NV on January 5th and decided to call him out from the stage. Video of the incident doesn’t exist (or hasn’t surfaced yet)…

Well then. Allow me to translate Mr. Birch’s outburst:

“So here we are, trying to make a living playing music in a world where people increasingly think music isn’t worth paying for. And here we have one of that dwindling number of people who not only is willing to part with his money but also his time to come see me and the rest of the band do what we love to do (and, again, PAY US).

“But I don’t like his political beliefs, so I’m going to embarrass and alienate him and all our other fans who share his beliefs, because we have more than enough fans already.”

And for all that, I don’t even care for Donald Trump! Stop making me sound like I am defending him!