Alan Jackson Keeps It Solid & Steady in “30 Miles West”

June 5, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  44 Comments

Unlike some aging country music talents, like I don’t know…maybe the one with a “Jr.” suffix in his name combing in Just For Men every other day and calling up Kid Rock’s manager to check for availability for the next video shoot to try and stay relevant, Alan Jackson’s career has been marked by stability and class. Was Alan any more country than Garth Brooks when he first came up in the early 90′s? No, not really. (Well then again, there was that stint where Garth put on eyeliner and changed his first name to Chris.) But as Nashville’s Music Row has steadily moved towards pop and the awful counter balance of “new Outlaw” laundry list songs, Alan has remained on the accessible, radio-friendly side of traditional, honky-tonk country without chasing the trends.

I’d hate to be the record label representative walking into the studio saying, “Hey Alan, we’ve got this brand new song about ice cold beer and pickup trucks we’d like for you to consider. Or how about this country rap opportunity with Colt Ford?” Because let’s face it, Alan Jackson’s mustache could kick all of our asses with one hand ,while restraining Chuck Norris’s mustache in a panty hold with the other. You may not count yourself an Alan Jackson fan, but it’s hard to call Alan Jackson anything else but country. If country music is the audio equivalent of wrestling, Alan Jackson is the good guy you can’t help rooting for.

And if 90% of the stuff they play on country radio these days is crap, then Alan represents the 10%. He’s the one respite when the Mrs. or kiddos flip over to 98.1 you don’t want to reach for a 9mm and point it at either your audio interface or your own pie hole. And unlike George Strait, Alan has the skins on the wall of writing a lot of his own material. He also has accomplished many memorable achievements for real country fans, like his song “Midnight in Montgomery,” standing up for George Jones and the song “Choices” at the CMA’s in 1999, and the duet with the aforementioned Strait on the song “Murder on Music Row.”

Yet Jackson lacks the umpf that the true hard country, deep traditionalists, or neo-traditionalists are looking for, and is still too corn pone or mainstream country for the NPR or Americana roots crowds to cross over to. I thought the timing was really good for Alan to come out with this album and really make some sort of statement, to be bold, kind of like what Marty Stuart is doing these days. But we can’t be surprised what we got was the same steady hand, the same solid songs and performances that have marked his 20+ year career that benefit from the balance between being traditional and accessible.

I don’t hear any of the mega-hits or even moderate hits that marked Alan’s early career here, but I’m not sure that is what Alan is after any more. The first three songs ” Gonna Come Back as a Country Song,” “You Go Your Way,” and the self-penned “Everything but the Wings” employ country wit in the classic way that makes us smile. The anthemic 7 1/2-minute “Dixie Highway” co-starring Zac Brown is the fun portion of the album that by the end you want to keep going.

The song that really struck me was “Her Life’s A Song.” It’s an A&R person’s dream in this age where middle-aged women driving the litter back and forth make up country’s most lucrative listener. You would think it was concocted by a team of pro songwriters in a Music Row cubicle farm, but Jackson came up with this one all by himself. As commercial as it comes across on the surface, Jackson shows his wit and wisdom through a different avenue–understanding appeal–and does the job any songwriter yearns for by creating a character we all can believe, see, and relate to.

No land speed records are broken with 30 Miles West, nor are any attempted. It is safe, steady, and solid. It will keep all the hardcore Jackson fans fat and sassy, and hopefully flirt with some radio play to offer intelligent music ears that one refreshing moment in a 40-minute radio segment where they can smile and know not all hope is lost.

1 1/2 of 2 guns up.

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Preview & Purchase Tracks from 30 Miles West


Did Taylor Swift’s Dad Buy Her Career?

June 5, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  32 Comments

The short answer is, no. But you wouldn’t believe that from listening to Taylor Swift detractors or reading the comment threads on Swift articles. Quick to discount the young songstress, this is the first accusation you will see of why Taylor Swift’s success is a sham.

It sounds like such a sexy, plausible idea. The problem is it really is impossible for anybody to buy the massive public appeal Taylor Swift enjoys. Sure, money can set the wheels in motion, and make no mistake Taylor’s dad did offer material support to her career in its early stages. But Taylor’s success and meteoric rise depended way more on smart moves, her savviness with social networking, the appeal of her music (however good or bad you may think it is personally), the fact that her audience is the last bastion of the music buying public (little girls and their moms), and possibly most importantly, timing. In truth, Eric Church may have had just as much to do with Taylor Swift’s success as Swift Sr (see below).

Does Taylor Swift’s dad own Swift Trucking?

No, this is an urban myth.

Was Taylor Swift’s dad/family rich?

Scott Swift is a financial adviser for Merrill Lynch. Taylor’s mom is a homemaker. By most accounts, the Swift’s were wealthy, but not rich, living on an 11-acre tree farm before moving to the semi-affluent Wyomissing, Pennsylvania when Swift was 9, summering in a home in Stone Harbor, New Jersey. Swift’s family was solidly upper middle class, but in no way super-affluent to the tune of being able to shell out millions of dollars to make their daughter’s music career a reality. In fact Taylor was the one shelling out millions for her parents when she bought them a $2.5 million mansion in Nashville in August 2011.

What Swift’s parents did do is support her no different than most families might support a child pursuing their interests. Taylor’s music career was not foisted upon her by her parents. They gave Taylor her gender-neutral name in hopes she would be big in the business world. Once she showed interest in showbiz and music, they paid for lessons, sent her to camps, chauffeured her to various songwriting sessions and coffee shop/club gigs, and eventually moved to Nashville as her career began to take off. The support of Taylor’s dad helped her career, but saying it was “bought” seems like a reduction of her family’s efforts, including the efforts of Taylor’s mother who remains a major part of her management team.

Did Taylor Swift’s dad buy a mass quantity of her first album to drive sales numbers?

Another common accusation. If he did, no smoking gun has ever surfaced to prove so. However this practice to artificially bloat sales numbers to increase visibility and attention through chart rankings is not uncommon, especially for inaugural albums. And let’s remember, Taylor’s first album was also the inaugural album for Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine record label, creating multiple reasons to show successful sales numbers. How might we know if this tactic was used in Taylor’s case? It could come out in litigation, which leads to the one possible unscrupulous event in Taylor Swift’s rise.

Taylor Swift’s Dad vs. Dan Dymtrow

Dan Dymtrow was Taylor Swift’s first real manager; a big, New York-based talent representative that also represented Britney Spears for a period. He was hired in April of 2004 when Taylor was 14, and was fired by the family right before Taylor signed with Scott Borchetta and Big Machine in July of 2005. Dymtrow was the one responsible for introducing Taylor to Borchetta and the booking agency CAA. After allegedly being “strung out” by the Swift family, Dymtrow was dumped, allegedly at the behest of Scott Borchetta.

Dymtrow was only paid $10,000 for, as he claims, helping launch Taylor Swift’s career, and in response filed a lawsuit in 2007, demanding the 5%-10% of Taylor’s earnings his contract with her stipulated. Certain provisions of the lawsuit were initially thrown out, but the one claiming “unjust-enrichment” remained in tact.

The most damming piece of evidence from the lawsuit was an email Taylor’s dad supposedly sent to Scott Borchetta showing a prearranged agreement to dump Dymtrow before Big Machine would sign Taylor. “Enough with the Dymtrow,” Scott Swift allegedly wrote to Scott Borchetta. “You asked me to break both his legs, wrap him in chains and throw him in the lake. I did.”

The defense for the lawsuit was a technicality. Taylor Swift was under 18 when she signed the contract with Dymtrow, and since the contract did not have court approval, which is law in New York for a minor, Swift and Borchetta’s lawyers claim the contract is null and void. The Swift’s and Borchetta did not attack the merits of the contract itself, though they did say Dymtrow is grossly exaggerating his impact on Taylor’s career.

The other interesting part about this lawsuit is how secretive it has been. It was started in 2007, but was not made public until October of 2010. Since then, there has been no word on the progress or outcome of the suit, and numerous calls and emails by Saving Country Music to the various parties rendered only “no comment” replies.  The hushed nature of this lawsuit is what has led to some of the suspicions, misconceptions and urban myths about Taylor’s meteoric rise.

But even if all of Dymtrow’s accusations are true, does this somehow frame Taylor’s dad as the Daddy Warbucks of her career? No. If anything, it proves that the well-connected Dymtrow was the one responsible for Taylor’s rise, not her dad.

How Eric Church Helped Taylor Swift

In October of 2006, Eric Church was on a major arena tour opening for Rascal Flatts. Church continuously played too long, and too loud, defying the wishes of Rascal Flatts until he was asked to leave the tour. Who was Eric Church’s replacement? Taylor Swift, sitting in the cat bird’s seat because of her relationship with live promoter CAA who former manager Dan Dymtrow introduced Swift to. This was her first major concert tour break and significantly helped propel her career because it paralleled the rise of her first single, “Tim McGraw”.

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But whether it is crediting Eric Church, Dan Dymtrow, Taylor’s dad, or Scott Borchetta, discounting all of Taylor Swift’s own hard work, and the right time/right place appeal for her songs and image seems to be misunderstanding of what has led to Taylor Swift’s success.

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