- Ralph Stanley and Grandson Making Gospel Album
- George Jones' widow wants fans to see tribute (video: autoplay)
- Funny: Honest Billboard Country Airplay Chart
- Scott Biram Announces New Album, Releases New Song
- Watch Loretta Lynn Being Awarded Medal of Freedom
- Good Read - Shopping for Hits: A Look at Music Row's 'Pitch Lists'
- Download Free Sample from Sturgill Simpson on NoiseTrade
- Stream "Foreverly" Norah Jones and Billy Joe Tribute
- Galleywinter Reviews Cody Canada's New Live Acoustic Album
- Bottle Rockets Reissue First Album and "Brooklyn Side"
- John Prine has operable form of lung cancer
- Shovels and Rope Documentary Captures the Life of an Americana Couple
- Loretta Lynn: 5 reasons why she earned Presidential Medal of Freedom
- If You Missed It: Nikki Bluhm on Conan
- Kellie Pickler Debuts in Top Five On Top Country Albums Chart
- Shovels and Rope to Reissue First Album. Listen to Revamped Song
- Ricky Skaggs Revisits Country Hits During Hall of Fame Performance
- The World's Highest-Paid Musicians 2013
- Justin Timberlake's Dreams of Country Music Stardom 'Still Alive'
- Ry Cooder Featured In The New Yorker, New Live Album
- Jello Biafra Likes Larry and His Flask!
Yesterday morning, Outlaw country music artist Wayne Mills was shot and killed at a bar in Nashville by the bar’s owner Chris Ferrell at 5 AM in an incident reportedly started when Wayne was smoking in a non-smoking portion of the bar. Since then the sadness and shock for some Wayne Mills fans and friends has turned to anger, and understandably so.
No matter what the circumstances were that surrounded, or led up to the shooting, whether Wayne Mills was drunk, Chris Ferrell was drunk, whether Wayne was smoking a cigarette somewhere where he shouldn’t have been, regardless, this was a colossal, colossal tragedy that resulted in the loss of a father and a husband. And no specifics on the scenario that led to his death as they trickle out from authorities or get by speculated upon by friends and fans will change that whatsoever. Whether it was an aggressive altercation, and misunderstanding between friends, or simply an accident—a man is dead, and for what? Because he was smoking in a non-smoking section 2 hours after closing time? That is what makes the death of Wayne Mills so hard to swallow.
I’ve seen many people full of vitriol for Chris Ferrell. The first thing you have to understand about the circumstances surrounding the shooting is that Chris Ferrell and Wayne Mills were friends. They were at the bar at 5 AM, together, as part of an after-hours gathering. That doesn’t mean either man or both did not act inappropriately at some point, but they weren’t strangers in a bar brawl that went too far. They were buds.
The second thing to note is that no charges have been filed, and no arrests have been made up to this point, and the investigation is ongoing. Now that Wayne Mills has passed away, it will be an imperative by investigators to dig even deeper into this case to try and determine if the shooting was truly in self-defense, or if something else was involved.
I’ve seen a lot of chatter about how Wayne Mills was shot in the back of the head, and how this would be impossible for anyone to do acting in self-defense. Let’s let the facts come out before we jump to any conclusions. It could very well be that Chris Ferrell is a monster and deserves to be sentenced for Wayne’s death, but the police didn’t feel they had the probable cause to even detain him after their initial investigation.
As we very well know though, the police make mistakes all the time. The initial misidentification of Wayne speaks to that. We don’t know a lot about this case, but we do know that with a proper ID on his person, and a cooperative shooter, the police still misidentified Wayne for many hours after the investigation started. This brings many questions up about the thoroughness and accuracy of the investigation. But Ferrell made no attempt to flee, was cooperative with authorities, and deserves the presumed innocence until guilt is proven that we all would wish to be dealt with if we were ever found ourselves in a similar scenario.
At the same time, the innocence of Wayne Mills should also be assumed. If Wayne was killed in self-defense, what did he do to provoke a life-threatening scenario beyond lighting up a smoke in a smoke-free zone? Was Wayne Mills armed? Would a shot to a non-lethal part of the body have been more appropriate? Despite having a concealed license, did Chris Ferrell still have the right to carry that gun in bar, or while potentially inebriated? There’s a reason why many bars are labeled gun-free zones where fines and charges are higher, and it’s for similar reasons why bars have government-mandated closing times. The worst part about this case as it stands at the moment is that Wayne Mills is not only the victim, he’s also the perpetrator that Chris Ferrell was defending himself from.
In the end, the facts will come out and speculation will fall to the side, and people should be careful about appointing blame too quickly, or floating Facebook conspiracy theories. At the same time, it is an imperative on all of us to demand the facts and solid explanations to assure that if justice needs to be served, that it is, and in a swift, equitable manner. But fans can’t let their music preferences perforate their clarity of judgement. This isn’t about music, this is about a man who we lost way too soon, regardless of the circumstances.
This story has just begun. Let it be told before we rush to give our conclusions. We owe this to Wayne Mills, Chris Ferrell, and their families.
Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the George Jones Playin’ Possum – The Final No Show LIVE Blog. Since tonight’s festivities will not be televised, we’re going to try to do our best to make folks that could not be in attendance for this historic event feel a part of it by providing a place to listen along, share thoughts, and hopefully post pictures as they come in from attendees. Over 100 performers are scheduled to make an appearance. So get your refresh fingers ready and please feel free to chime in below in the comments section.
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -
11/23 12:30 PM: Here’s some bootleg video from last night. Good, multi-camera quality for final Alan Jackson song, Martina McBride & George Strait right before the finale, and though there’s a few Gremlins in the audio, you can catch the vibe of the Jamey Johnson / Megadeth song. You can also see Big & Rich on their riding lawnmowers singing “Love Bug,” and Jamey Johnson singing “Tennessee Whiskey.”
11:32 - Thanks everyone for stopping by! Thanks to the George Jones Twitter Page, Country Weekly, and other random attendees for the pictures! Thanks to The Tennessean, and other folks on the scene for filling us in on all the songs and performers and other information. Make sure you also check out the Tennessean’s Live Blog for more coverage, and their photo gallery of the event (apparently, Big & Rich did their song on riding lawnmowers).
And remember, music always sounds better when it’s shared!
11:30 - From The Tennessean about the end of the concert:
A tribute concert to George Jones would not be complete without “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” Alan Jackson does the honors.
Then he invites Nancy Jones on stage and invites the audience to sing along.
“This is the greatest country song by the greatest country singer, Mr. George Jones,” Jackson says, as he again launches into the chorus of “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”
“Thank you all so much,” he says, “George we love you.”
Leaving the stage, his arm around Nancy Jones’ waist, he stops to set the rocking chair on stage in motion. As the chair meant for Jones rocks slowly back and forth, the crowd claps and cheers begging for more.
But it is, indeed, the end.
George Jones’ tribute is complete.
The audience has made it clear that, like his chair, it truly rocked.
11:26 - Apparently the whole arena was singing along to “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” led by Alan Jackson.
11:24 - Well folks, that may be all she wrote. 4 hours! We’ll do one last scan for some cool pictures, quotes, or info we missed!
11:19 - Let’s see if we have people come on stage for a finale.
11:18 - And of course, as it should be, Alan Jackson comes out to close the show out by performing “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”
11:15 - Apparently Reba lost her voice, and was unable to perform. As you can see from the lineup picture below, she was sceduled to play before George Strait. Here’s Reba’s post from Instagram.
11:12 - So about the joke Bill Anderson told earlier, and the performance afterwards, here’s the account from The Tennessean:
Tied up on Old Hickory Lake boats owned by Anderson, Jones, record producer Billy Sherrill and others. Jones’ was the only one that had a small dinghy boat tied to the back.
One day, Anderson said, he was trying to dock his boat and the wind blew his boat into Jones’.
From that day on he was known as “the man who put the dent in George Jones’ dinghy,” Anderson said with a laugh.
After groans and chuckles, Anderson is joined on stage for another historical group number with Bobby Bare, Jim Ed Brown, Jimmy C. Newman, John Conlee, Larry Gatlin, Ray Stevens, and Stonewall Jackson. Pioneers who paved the way for so many, the group sings “When the Last Curtain Falls,” and “Still Doin’ Time.”
The boys still clearly have a few good jokes in them. “I fell down but I’m good,” Jackson said from his seat on the stage, before their final number “Some Day My Day Will Come.”
11:09 – Martina McBride joins George Strait on stage to sing “Golden Ring.”
11:05 – Reigning Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year George Strait takes the stage to sing “The Grand Tour.”
11:01 - Suzy Bogguss and Miranda Lambert backstage. SEE PICTURE
11:00 - Vince Gill takes the stage to perform “Slipping Away.”
10:56 - Dierks Bentley apparently called tonight the Country Music Awards meets the Field of Dreams.
10:52 - Patty Loveless takes the stage to sing “Blue Must Be The Color of the Blues.” No picture of Jessi and Shooter yet, I’m not being bias . The biggest names of the tribute are coming up!
10:48 - Mike Huckabee has the coolest quote of the night so far: “You’re going to remember where you were Nov. 22, 1963.” Because you were at the George Jones tribute. Yep, 1963.”
10:45 - We’ll try to get the names of the others who joined Thompson Square. Meanwhile Shooter Jennings has taken the stage.
10:42 - Thompson Square & others play “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes”
10:40 - Former Arkansas Governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee introduces Thompson Square to the stage.
10:37 - Another interesting quote from Dave Mustaine of Megadeth: “Heavy metal is all about rebellion and George was definitely a rebel. Thank you for welcoming us into this beautiful family.”
10:33 - Stacy McCloud who is the entertainment reporter for Nashville’s Fox 17 is the new emcee. According to the Tennessean, she was the last reporter to interview Jones. “I will never forget he walked out and said, ‘Hey there, young lady. I think I’ve been dreaming about you.’”
10:32 - Montgomery Gentry takes the stage to do “The Race Is On.”
10:26 - Rodney Atkins has taken the stage.
10:22 - “Country music transcends barriers, it has come into my world and so many other worlds.” – Dave Mustaine
10: 19 - Jamey Johnson leaves Megadeth backstage to trash the dressing room, and performs a solo acoustic performance of “Tennessee Whiskey.”
10:14 - By the way, the Jamey Johnson / Megadeth collaboration was on “Wild Irish Rose.”
10:11 - Bill Anderson on stage right now telling a “funny story.” (Wish we could hear it!) SEE PICTURE
10:09 - Cool picture of Charlie Daniels warming up backstage during Act 1.
10:07 - Jim Lauderdale & The Roys playing “Why Baby Why” on stage right now. SEE PICTURE
10:03 - Jamey Johnson. Megadeth. George Jones. Rawk.
10:01 - Cool Picture of Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert from earlier. Working on getting a Megadeth / Johnson photo.
9:59 - Social network channels exploding with disbelief as Megadeth takes the George Jones tribute stage with Jamey Johnson. But remember, for better or worse, Dave Mustaine recently put out a “bluegrass” song.
9:53 - Travis Tritt delivers an “incredible” performance of “Closing Of The Door” to open the 2nd act. Brad Paisley on stage now playing “Corvette Song.” SEE PICTURE.
9:48 - According to George’s wife Nancy, he knew he would not make this tribute that was originally scheduled to be the final show of his final tour. “I said, ‘Why are you agreeing to everything?’ ” Nancy Jones remembers. “He said, ‘’Cause I’m not going to be here. I’m going to agree to anything they ask. Promise me you’ll make a tribute show out of it, and I’ll see it from heaven.’ ”
9:44 - The emcee for Act 2 has changed from Ralph Emery to Keith Bilbrey, the weatherman on the Ralph Emery show for 21 years.
9:39 - As you can see from the list below, we missed bluegrass group Dailey & Vincent playing with Baillie & The Boys. But unlike the list, we remembered the additional ‘I’ in Baillie. Megadeth with Jamey Johnson should be quite entertaining.
9:35 - From The Tennessean: “Wow what a show,” Ralph Emery says. “Back stage we’ve got a movie star and we’ve got a former governor, and we have all kinds of entertainment here as we salute George Jones.”
9:28 - Well look what I found. Apparently Act 2 is about to commence. From Little Rebellion’s Music Photos on Facebook.
9:21 - Apparently there is a short intermission going on right now, and more music is coming up in mere moments. Here is Little Jimmy Dickens sitting in the George Jones rocking chair from Country Weekly’s Twitter feed.
9:17 - It’s not much to look at, but you can hear the tribute in the background, and see the scene on lower broadway from the Tootsies Orchid Lounge Live webcam.
9:14 - Apparently Little Jimmy Dickens has made an appearance on stage to sit in the empty George Jones rocker. He’s about the only one who could pull off such shenanigans.
9:10 - Also part of the Tracy Lawrence, Suzy Bogguss, Colin Ray, T Graham Brown, and TG Sheppard group from earlier was Jett Williams. THey performed the songs “The Love in Your Eyes” and “Wine Colored Roses.”
9:05 - Craig Morgan plays the deep George Jones cut “Finally Friday,” and then hops off the stage to hug Nancy Jones afterwards.
9:02 - Josh Turner now on stage singing “One Woman Man.” Picture of Blake Shelton & Miranda Lambert.
8:59 - Power couple Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton now on stage singing “These Days I Barely Get By.”
8:55 - People watching the tribute show outside of the Bridgestone Arena. It is also being broadcast at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge down the street.
8:54 - Our second group of the night is now on the stage, made up of Tracy Lawrence, Suzy Bogguss, Colin Ray, T Graham Brown, and TG Sheppard.
8:52 - There are also emcees as part of the event that are working in shifts. The first was Larry Black. Right now it is Ralph Emery.
8:46 - Gatlin sang “Good Year For Roses.”
8:45 - Larry Gatlin on stage now!
8:41 - Dierks Bentley singing “Always Get Lucky With You.” Now the Oak Ridge Boys are on stage singing “Same Ole Me.”
8:38 - There is a lot of buzz about Eric Church’s cover of “Choices” as well. Dierks Bentley on stage now.
8:37 - More on the Sam Moore rendition of “The Blues Man” from The Tennessean: “The crowd clearly connected with this performance, throwing up cheers mid-performance. It is easily the most emotion-filled of the night so far.”
Sam Moore received a standing ovation.
8:35 - Well we know there will be video for this for the future, because they are broadcasting the event outside of the Bridgestone Arena on big screens, and Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge right done the street is also broadcasting it.
8:32 - Tommy Shaw of Styx is now on stage performing “She Thinks I Still Care.”
8:28 - Eric Church on stage now playing “Choices.” Here is Kathy Mattea performing “I’m A Long Gone Daddy.”
8:25 - Kathy Mattea played “I’m A Long Gone Daddy.” Up on stage right now is Clay Walker playing “Things Have Gone To Pieces.” For those of you counting, that is the 13th performance tonight in under and hour!
8:21 - Kathy Mattea on stage now!
8:18 - Sam Moore is on stage right now singing “Blues Man,” and from the web chatter from the stadium, it is a stirring, heartfelt performance, one of the best of the night so far. SEE PICTURE
8:15 - The Kentucky Headhunters keeping it classy and playing “High Tech Redneck.”
8:12 - Baillie and the Boys on stage right now singing “I’m Ragged But I’m Right.”
8:10 - For those of you wondering who all was in the “Ladies of Country Music,” it was Leona Williams, Emmylou Harris, Jan Howard, Jeanne Pruett, Janie Fricke, and Jeannie Seely. They sang “I Am What I Am,” “Tender Years,” and “I’m Not Ready Yet.”
8:07 - With 112 performers and how quickly they are going to have to run through them, I hope there is time to make each performance count. It’s great to see so many legendary faces, but nothing beats that one special moment music can bring to a tribute. And someone better be recording.
8:03 - Charlie Daniels playing “Me & Jesus.”
8:02 - Lee Ann Womack just played “Once You Had The Best,” and Charlie Daniels is now on stage!
7:57 - Big & Rich opened with “Love Bug.” Garth and Trisha sang “Take Me,” and the Ladies of Country sang “If My Heart Had Windows.”
7:54 - On stage moments ago “The Ladies of Country Music” with Emmylou Harris singing.
7:51 – Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood on Stage. SEE PICTURE
7:48 - So it’s not looking good for even an audio feed of tonight’s event folks! We’ll do our best to try and make you feel a part of it nonetheless!
7:46 - Big & Rich were the opening act for the tribute, and now Kid Rock is singing “White Lightning.”
7:44 - George Jones’ rocking chair on stage:
7:40 - Nancy Jones in her seat, ready to take in in the tribute.
7:38 - Word is Megadeth. Yes, Megadeth is on site and will be performing tonight.
7:32 - Folks, on the WSM website, it says they are broadcasting the NO Show tribute, but right now I’m listening to the Friday night Opry. We’ll keep monitoring and see if we can at least find an audio feed.
7:30 - They have George Jones’ rocking chair set up on stage so he can be there in spirit for this historic concert. SEE PICTURE
7:29 - Here is what the inside of Bridgestone Arena looks like for the tribute. SEE PICTURE
7:28 – Folks filing into the Bridgestone Arena. Photo by Colby Peel on Twitter.
7:24 - The fact that tonight’s show is not being televised has been a source of much talk. It is not out of the question that it will be televised in the future, and certainly camera will be there. George’s widow Nancy Jones has said she wishes that every George Jones fan could participate. The event was sold out months ago, and was originally supposed to be a part of George’s final tour. They have set up screens outside of the Bridgestone Arena so fans can watch along. They also made an additional 500 tickets available at the box office last minute.
7:20 - The list of performers has swelled to 112 at last count, including some “surprises”. Here is the latest list we can tally:
Alabama, Alan Jackson, Baillie & the Boys, Big & Rich, Bill Anderson, Blake Shelton, Bobby Bare, Brad Paisley, Brenda Lee, Chad Warrix (Halfway to Hazzard), Charlie Daniels, Collin Raye, Craig Morgan, Dailey & Vincent, Daryle Singletary, Dierks Bentley, Eddy Raven, Emmylou Harris, Eric Church, Eric Lee Beddingfield, Gary Morris, George Strait, Greg Bates, Gretchen Wilson, Jamey Johnson, Janie Fricke, Jeanne Pruett, Jeannie Seely, Jessi Colter, Jett Williams, Jim Ed Brown, Jim Lauderdale, Jimmy C. Newman, Jimmy Wayne, John Conlee, John Michael Montgomery, Josh Turner, Kathy Mattea, Kentucky Headhunters, Kid Rock, Larry Gatlin, Lee Ann Womack, Lee Greenwood, Leona Williams, Lisa Matassa, Little Jimmy Dickens, Lorrie Morgan, Lynn Anderson, Mandy Barnett, Mark Collie, Martina McBride, Megadeth, Miranda Lambert, Montgomery Gentry, The Oak Ridge Boys, Pam Tillis, Patty Loveless, Ray Stevens, Reba McEntire, Rodney Atkins, Ronnie McDowell, The Roys, Sam Moore, Shooter Jennings, Stonewall Jackson, Suzy Bogguss, T. Graham Brown, Tanya Tucker, Teea Goans, TG Sheppard, Thompson Square, Tracy Lawrence, Travis Tritt, and Vince Gill.
Earlier this week American Songwriter posted a feature on Brandy Clark—yet another female songwriter who has seen her big break come in 2013. What’s remarkable about Brandy’s story is that she’s not a shooting starlet riding a popularity wave on some reality show success or some similar and predictable fate, she’s a 35-year-old veteran of songwriting circles who proved her worth writing songs that balanced appeal and substance until she shattered the glass ceiling and secured her spot as a solo artist. Brandy’s story offers inspiration for other aspiring songwriters and performers who don’t fit country music’s ultra-young and male-dominated mold.
When speaking to American Songwriter, Brandy said, “It is hard for me to give up on things, especially things I believe in. And I believe in country music. I always thought, ‘It’ll come back around to a more traditional country sound.’ I don’t necessarily think it’s fully swung back to that, but there are shades of that.”
Brandy speaks about two separate phenomenon that are setting the dynamic for country music in 2013 and how it’s being perceived by it’s independent and traditional fan base.
Where it once looked bleak for any positive news to come out of country music’s mainstream channels, now there’s hope. Regardless of how awful the trends of country rap and tailgate songs might be, there are little chutes of life and vitality springing through the scorched country music earth, with female songwriters like Brandy Clark being just one example.
In September Saving Country Music published 12 Reasons to be Positive About Country Music in 2013, highlighting how women are leading the way in returning both roots and substance to the genre, how artists are speaking out about the direction of country like never before, how many independent artists are finally finding their break, and how outlets like ABC’s Nashville and Letterman are letting artists get exposure to a national audience.
Since then there has been even more positive news, not limited to George Strait being named the CMA Entertainer of the Year; the first time that’s happened for a traditional country artist in a decade. The UK’s Country Music Magazine is finally bringing widespread print coverage to worthy music, and there’s been even more success stories for artists, including Brandy Clark and Texas singer songwriter Possessed by Paul James.
But Brandy’s comments also alluded to another phenomenon facing country music: give up. As hope and outlets and success stories seem to be springing up everywhere for sincere, heartfelt music, there is still a stodgy contingent of country fans and artists unwilling to acknowledge or participate in what could be a potential turning of the tide for the genre, however small that turnaround might be. They’ve taken their ball and gone home, swearing off anything successful as simply an illusionist tool of the industry, refusing to be counted in the groundswell of fans demanding change in the country format, selling their opportunity both to be a part of the rebirth process, and to find the joy in the positivity of what is transpiring.
These fans will tell you George Strait is pop country, and his win is irrelevant because it was simply a parting gift, and next year Entertainer of the Year will go back to Blake Shelton. All of that might be true, but it doesn’t mean that the George Strait win, or any of the other positive signs in country music don’t speak to a greater awakening and renewed desire for substance in the country realm.
How can we expect to influence the fate of country music when we eliminate ourselves from the process, and are so bitter that we almost get enraged at the positive signs out of spite, or dispel them as marketing? As much as certain issues facing country music call for a hardline stance, others call for pragmatism and engagement. This is my concern for certain movements like Dale Watson’s Ameripolitan, or the new Outlaw Music Hall of Fame and their parallel Outlaw Music Association that wants to be set up as a counter to the CMA. As much as I appreciate their support of artists, their separatist ideology is alarming.
Handing over the term “country” to the enemy speaks to a deeper hopelessness. It’s also what the people that only want to use the term “country” for marketing ultimately want—a clear, unobstructed path. The whole business of genre building always seems to fall back on a narrow perspective based on “scene,” and this is what we have seen from the Americana Music Association and others. “Country” is the only term that has ever been able to unite roots music en masse under a big tent. Creating new ways to support worthy artists should always be fostered, and Americana, Ameripolitan, and Outlaw are helping to do that. But ultimately it is not a new term that is needed, it is the next breakout song, artist, or album that will help stem the tide and right the ship.
And that’s why we should never give up on country, the term or the music, and our plans to save it should not involve separatist ideologies that history has shown are rarely effective. We should insist that country music is for the people, and by the people, and it is us who choose it’s fate, and the type of music it describes.
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -
“Damn it, the fight isn’t in Austin and it isn’t in Los Angeles. It’s right here in Nashville, right here two blocks from Music Row, and if we win–and if our winning is ever going to amount to anything in the long run–we’ve got to beat them on their own turf.” –Tompall Glaser
So Eric Church, you think that genres are dead? Well then why don’t you turn in your Country Music Association Album of the Year trophy, your Academy of Country Music Album of the Year trophy, your Academy of Country Music award for Best New Solo Vocalist from 2011, and your Academy of Country Music award for Vocal Event of the Year that you won with your country-rapping douche buddies Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan as you march your aviators-wearing ass straight out of the non-existent country genre that has made you millions upon millions of fucking dollars and see if the rock world will embrace your “Outsiders” Bon Jovi rehash and bestow awards, coast to coast radio play, and industry support to your ungrateful, arrogant ass.
You’re right Eric, genres are dead, and it’s because assholes like you have killed them by making murky, soulless, rootless pap to appeal to the wide masses while the roots of music wither, and there’s no better evidence of that than your latest rock opera being rammed down the throats of what are supposed to be country consumers, throwing the homogenization of the American culture into hyper drive so that you can hold on to your mainstream relevancy and make even more money stained with the blood of what country music once was.
If you want to play rock music because you think that country is too restrictive, then by all means Eric, do your worst. Play the music you want. But then stay the hell off of country radio, don’t perform at the country awards shows, and forfeit your trophies to the runners up if the country genre is meaningless to you or meaningless in general. Who do you think laid the groundwork for people like you to have untold success? Did you not notice the names as you were trouncing on the way to the top? You can’t use the legacy of country music to make it to the top of the hill, and then disregard it once you’re there.
Eric Church is a hypocrite ladies and gentlemen. From saying he’d never call himself an Outlaw while simultaneously selling Outlaw merch, to now saying genres are dead while shamelessly reaping the rewards of one. Remember the Eric Church song “Lotta Boot Left To Fill”? Remember the lines “I don’t think Waylon done it that way. And if he was here he’d say Hoss, neither did Hank,” and “You sing about Johnny Cash. The man in black would’ve whipped your ass”? What would Hank, Hoss, and Cash have to say to someone claiming the genre they worked their entire lives in and shed their blood for didn’t matter? I know what they’d say. “Eric who?”
And the sad part is yes, when talking about the very top of mainstream country males, Eric Church outpaces his peers as far as quality and innovation, his latest “The Outsiders” single rocketing up the charts notwithstanding. But that may say just as much about the lack of quality in his peers as it says about Eric. It’s his damn attitude, the arrogance bordering on downright hubris, and the uncaring if he completely tears down the country genre, or really anything on his way to the top as long as he gets his.
The death of genres in mainstream music means the death of contrast, and this is something that shouldn’t be regarded flippantly, something that shouldn’t be celebrated just because it secures the financial success of mono-genre artists like Eric Church for the future. It means that music will have that much less color and diversity moving forward and be much more about commercial success than making an artistic mark.
And that’s a sad commentary.
It has been just over six months since we lost one of country music’s most singular and influential voices in George Jones, and though nothing will ever fill the void left in the heart of country music by the George Jones passing, our memories of his music just got a little easier to recall and share.
Reserve Records, an imprint of Secret Stash Records, has just reissued one of the most timeless and treasured pieces of country music history on vinyl: George Jones’ very first LP from Starday Records. The album has never been reissued in its entirety until now, making original copies of the album one of the most collectible records in history. 14 songs capturing George Jones in his most pure form come to life on this treasured new release that is also accompanied by a 45 of “Thumper Jones,” which was George Jones’ early rockabilly alter ego.
Starday Records was located in Beaumont, TX, and its name was taken from the two last names of its primary proprietors, Jack Starnes and Pappy Daily. Pappy was George’s first producer and mentor, and they originally cut records in Jack Sterns’ living room. George Jones had his first big hit with “Why Baby Why” in 1955, and wanting to capitalize off the interest, Starday issued George’s first LP in early 1957, which incidentally was Starday’s first record that wasn’t a single. “Thumper Jones” came about when Jones tried the rockabilly route in response to the popularity of Elvis Presley in 1956. Jones subsequently went on to become one of the biggest names in the history of country music, but it all started with Starday.
In conjunction with this vinyl reissue, and the historic tribute “Playing Possum, The Final No Show” set to transpire on Nov. 22nd at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena with 70+ performers, Saving Country music is giving away a set of the George Jones first album reissue and “Thumper Jones” single. All you have to do to enter is to leave your favorite George Jones song in a comment below. “But I can’t pick just ONE George Jones song!” That’s okay, list all your favorites! Just make sure to leave your real email address when prompted by the comment forum so we can contact you if you’re the winner. The winner will be announced on Nov. 22nd when the George Jones Tribute transpires.
And if you can’t wait to partake in all of this classic country goodness, you can order yourself up a copy right now!
Tonight in New York City at the Lexington Avenue Armory, Taylor Swift will be the musical headliner for the Victoria’s Secret annual fashion show, set to air on CBS December 10th. No, it’s not likely Swift will be strutting around in any lingerie herself, though she has been known to sample their wares in the past, and previous performer Rihanna did get somewhat risque in her performance last year. But the decision still seems quite curious from Swift who has worked diligently to maintain her squeaky clean, girl next door image throughout her career.
As Yahoo Music points out while calling the Victoria’s Secret fashion show out of Taylor Swift’s “general zone”:
Love or hate her, nobody can deny Swift’s built an image around being a PG-rated role model…A lingerie show doesn’t really seem to jibe with the Swift we know, even the one who gets caught allegedly spending the night at Harry Styles’s hotel. It just seems too risqué for this particular American Sweetheart, whose skimpiest costume of late was a retro polka-dot two-piece worn on vacation with the Kennedys…definitely not the kind of thing you see on the VS runway.
Then Yahoo points out what really seems to be at the heart of Taylor Swift’s Victoria’s Secret performance, saying, “Her appearance at the show, whether fans approve or not, seems to be yet another carefully considered move in her career and personal evolution.”
And this is what really seems to strike at the heart of the matter. It’s not necessarily how much skin will be on display at the show that is so alarming as much as the appearance seems like such a calculated assessment of Swift’s public perception and an attempt to recalculate it towards where they want it to be, instead of where it is. The “girl next door” archetype is not just one of not being flashy or provocative, but also one of being unassuming, honest, and uncaring of popularity or public perception.
The stereotype of pop music is that it wants to appeal to adolescents and teenagers, because they are the drivers of popularity and commercial success for pop music stars. Old people don’t buy albums, as Blake Shelton once famously said. But everywhere you look in the pop world, from Miley Cyrus and her recent VMA Awards antics, to Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Katy Perry, to now Taylor Swift, you see artists wanting to break away from their adolescent audience, and being willing to deal with a public backlash to do so. Is this because they want to grow as artists, or because in the end the adolescent/teenage demographic, however lucrative initially, also enacts a ceiling on an artist’s commercial success because it fulfills such a narrow niche of the market?
The next question is, what artists are replacing Miley Cyrus as she struts around with a foam finger, Justin Bieber as he gets busted from smoking pot, or Swift as she performs for Victoria’s Secret? Is there a new generation of pop stars that are appropriate for adolescents, or are adolescents following their favorite artists into the adult world prematurely? You have to give Taylor Swift credit for subtly at least. Where Miley Cyrus is swinging around naked on a wrecking ball, at least Taylor Swift, like Victoria’s Secret, leaves something to the imagination.
Taylor Swift struck such a nerve with the American public and filled a very underutilized niche in the pop music world by simply being herself. This approach was so refreshing, however calculated it was at the time, and adolescents, teenagers, and their thankful parents flocked to the Taylor Swift camp in droves, seeing her as just a well-meaning girl writing songs in her bedroom with her guitar.
Every woman should have a right, especially when they’re about to turn 24 like Taylor Swift, to explore their sexuality and image without fear of backlash or judgement from an uptight world. But there’s little justification or excuse for not being yourself. And whether it’s enlisting super producers from the pop realm to manufacture her mega hits, or playing the Victoria’s Secret fashion show to reshape her public perception, the continued evolution of Taylor Swift from that girl in her bedroom with a guitar to a mega entertainment franchise where every public move is calculated, is unfortunate.
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -
**UPDATE (11-16-13): Apparently Saving Country Music and Yahoo Music weren’t the only ones who thought Taylor Swift was like a fish out of water performing at the Victoria’s Secret fashion show. Australian supermodel Jessica Hart let it be known during the show’s afterparty in New York that Taylor Swift “just didn’t fit.” Swift wore a sparkly silver dress and another outfit made out of the British Flag during two performances during the show.
WWD reports that at Tao Downtown in Manhattan, Jessica Hart said, “I think, you know what, God bless her heart. I think she’s great, but I don’t know, to me, she didn’t fit. I don’t know if I should say that.”
Later it was reported that Victoria’s Secret chief marketing officer Edward Razek said Jessica Hart was “wildly misrepresented,” but didn’t offer any clarifications on what she meant, or what she said.
Back in March, country music Outlaw David Allan Coe was in a horrific accident where his black Suburban was broadsided by a semi truck in Ocala, Fl. Coe suffered cracked ribs and bruised kidneys in the accident, but was able to recover to perform again.
In the aftermath of the accident, there was a shakeup in David Allan Coe’s band and inner circle. As Saving Country Music reported after attending David Allan Coe’s first show back as part of Willie Nelson’s 40th Annual 4th of July picnic, David was quoted as saying, “…everybody quit me, except my wife. She’s the only one that didn’t quit. My road manager of 35 years, he quit me. My band quit me. This is a brand new band, this is a brand new me.”
On November 8th, David Allan Coe’s son, Tyler Mahan Coe, who played guitar for his father, posted an in-depth letter describing his side of the story, saying in part, “The implication is that every person in his life, except his wife, abandoned him after his recent auto accident. Certainly, it doesn’t make sense to me that every person in someone’s life would take a hike because that person had a little accident. Must be something else going on there.” In short, Tyler blames David Allan Coe’s wife Kimberly for manipulating his father, leading to him and others being forced out of his father’s music business. Tyler also spelled out and addressed numerous concerns and grievances he and many David Allan Coe fans have had about his father’s live performances in recent years.
David Allan Coe’s accident, the subsequent fallout, and Tyler Coe’s letter have stimulated a discussion about David Allan Coe, his ethics and character, his contributions to the music world, and have many fans finally speaking out about a lackluster live show that they we’re unwilling to speak about previously out of respect for the performer.
- – - – - – - – - – -
Look, this is the deal with David Allan Coe. David Allan Coe is a piece of garbage human being. As Al Goldstein once said straight to David’s face enlisting a cackle from David, “You’re a fucking degenerate.” He’s a sexist, racist, scary, weird, train wreck of a man; one of these people we all knew growing up in school or in the neighborhood that was always in someone’s face and that could twist off at any moment.
As Waylon Jennings once pointed out, David Allan Coe will stab you in the back and then ride off your name like he’s your best friend. He wears a stupid, waist-length golden-haired wig on stage as if he’s fooling anyone. He bashes anybody and everybody for getting in his way, abandoning him, or otherwise keeping him down, when he is clearly an arrogant, disrespectful, down-talking asshole who has little regard for anybody but himself, has bashed his Outlaw contemporaries while praising people like Kid Rock and Toby Keith, and once bragged about standing on top of the desk of a record executive, dropping his pants, and ordering him to perform oral sex on him.
At the same time, and for some of the same reasons, David Allan Coe is an American treasure, and a country music legend. Hank Williams Jr. may have sung about being a “Dinosaur,” but David Allan Coe truly is one. In a world where we’re all so whipped and so trained to not speak our minds, or to say what we think, and respect authority that is many times much more immoral, unfair, and corrupt than we could ever be, an individual like David Allan Coe is a breath of fresh air, and in a strange way, an inspiration in the way he is blatantly obvious about who he is, what he wants, and what he believes.
Anyone who wants to diminish David Allan Coe’s importance to country music, whether it’s because he’s put out some bad songs, bad albums, has a bad live show, or because he’s is a bad person, isn’t paying attention to the full breadth of his contributions, including some of the most indelible, important, and influential works of the country music canon. Forget “Longhaired Redneck,” go listen to “Jody Like A Melody” or “River” and then tell me David Allan Coe has nothing to offer.
And to simply call him “sexist” or “racist” really doesn’t do justice to the complex and tragic history of David Allan Coe’s life and upbringing, or the true nature of his opinions. David Allan Coe is one of the truest products and examples of the American experience because there is no bullshit from him, however ugly it is to behold. His attitudes and actions are a reflection our own sins and flaws as an American society, personified in a man who has zero respect for phony custom, or plastic courtesy. At the same time, it’s embarrassing that some choose to use him as their phony idol or icon for racist or sexist platitudes or principles, only reveling in the bad parts about David Allan Coe, and missing the complete panorama of his message and musical contributions.
I do not know Tyler Mahan Coe personally, though I have seen him perform with his father before. Having read many things he’s written over the years, including his latest letter clearing the air about what happen with his father, Tyler comes across as an intelligent and thoughtful individual, and I tend to take what he says as being the truth, and find his honesty and candor refreshing. Tyler Coe is right. Seeing David Allan Coe on any given night can be an exercise in disappointment, from his poor stage presence to his stupid vocal effects. But there is nothing that I read in Tyler’s letter, or anything else that gives me reason to respect David Allan Coe any less. The grim reality with any performer is that as time goes on, they will lose grip with their talent and abilities, especially when they live the type of self-destructive life fans expect, if not demand from certain artists.
When I saw David Allan Coe perform this summer at Willie Nelson’s 40th Annual 4th of July picnic, it was the most God awful performance of “country” music I had ever seen in my life. His band setup included two keyboards flanking him on the left and right, some weird percussionist guy, and struck the vibe of an underfunded and unrehearsed amateur church band that had set up in the food court of a mini mall in some forgotten region of scary, small-town USA preaching to inbreeds and introverts circa 1987. At the same time, I was super glad to be there to catch it, and to be able to see David Allan Coe still alive and performing after his accident.
Why? Because when David Allan Coe is gone forever, what he symbolizes and embodies will be gone forever too. And country music, and the rest of the world, will be a lot less of a colorful place. Because whether you like him, respect him, or hate him, there will never be another person or performer in country music or the American culture like David Allan Coe.
Some musical performers entertain, while others stun. With instincts for blending harmony normally only reserved for siblings, the stunning female vocal duo of Copper & Coal from Portland, Oregon breathe new life into an old-style of honky tonk music with their sultry original compositions of lost and found love, and wild adventures of the heart. Their name derived from the raven and red hair that crown these nearly six-foot beauties and the eternal rural themes of culling the earth of its resources that have lend so many stories and so much inspiration to the country music canon over the years, Copper & Coal’s Leslie Beia and Carra Stasney are something to behold, commanding attention with their Siren-like countenance, crafty lyrics, and seamless delivery.
Matched with these girls to lend both his wisdom and talent to their first, self-titled release is the incomparable Caleb Klauder cast as producer, assembling an impressive group of side players and offering his impressive breadth of knowledge about the modes of American roots music to the process. It all combines to make an album that is engaging, classic, and refreshing all at the same time, and something that once again reinforces that it is women at the forefront of saving country music.
Copper & Coal have graciously offered us all a free listen of their new album, but if you find it is something that speaks to you, you are encouraged to support this music by purchasing it for your very own.
Since Texas-based singer-songwriter Possessed by Paul James released his latest album There Will Be Nights When I’m Lonely out into the big scary world on October 29th, it has been on quite the tear, especially for an artist that up to this point was thought to only be known by a small, but dedicated sect of fans. The album held steady at #2 on Amazon’s Alt-Country/Americana MP3 chart for well over a week after the release, touched the #1 spot Friday night, and has remained in the top 10 since the release. Then this week, he received an email from Billboard informing him that his little independently-released album on Hillgrass Bluebilly Records had made it all the way onto the Americana/Bluegrass chart at #12, in between the latest albums from Old Crow Medicine Show and Noam Pikelny.
“I went over to our neighbors and we were just laughing our asses off in the driveway that it’s being that well-received,” says Possessed by Paul James, who lives in the small Texas Hill Country town of Boerne. “This is the first interaction with industry if you will—that level of industry with Billboard. We’re blown away, we’re amazed. I think what that tells us is that even though there’s been minimal opportunities, we obviously have done a very nice job making sure people see how sincere it is, and the quality and sentiment behind the music really reaches people in a powerful way. I think that’s the one recurring theme that keeps us in it, because people keep responding so positively. Otherwise, I don’t know how in the world we would be even in the situation to have this type of interest right now.”
It’s not as if Possessed By Paul James spends his days on the phone doing interviews with radio stations and newspapers, or is out touring non-stop behind the album like many full-time musicians. Leading up to the release and in the weeks after, Possessed by Paul James, whose real name is Konrad Wert, has been busy running a classroom of developmentally-disadvantaged elementary-aged children as a full-time special education teacher—an occupation that has awarded him similar accolades to what he’s receiving in the musical world. Last year, Konrad Wert was named Teacher of the Year for his school, and was awarded a “Golden Apple” award in September as a regional distinction for teachers who excel at their discipline.
While in the classroom, Konrad’s attention is clearly focused on the children, far away from the dimly-lit bars and clubs he plays when he can during vacations and long weekends. “Teaching feels like that first line of focus and defense when families are struggling in our country. It is in the trenches of social change. It is investing in children, and if you’re investing in children, you’re investing in what society is going to develop into.”
Even though his music is a part-time pursuit, it receives full-time love when Teacher of the Year Konrad Wert morphs into Billboard-charting Possessed by Paul James.
“The biggest difference with this album is we’re at a very unique time in our lives as a family,” says Konrad. “I think foremost that was the biggest difference with where the material was coming from. The writing style, the approach with what we wanted to record, and how we wanted to record was very different. I think that in itself opens up another channel for listeners. And for me as a musician, I wanted to get to another element within the music, another way to hear the music, sing the music, and write the music because that the whole reason we do it to begin with because it’s fun that way. And it’s going to keep developing in a different way. Our next record is going to be different than how we put this one out. It’s going to be a different style. It’s just bound to be the case.”
“In starting, the only goal an artist should have is what can you write, and what can you share. That should be the only goal. Nothing else. But when that feels solid, when you feel confident in what you’re writing and sharing, then the other pieces—the tools and the management of it—how to manage that and share it with a wider audience come into play. We didn’t have the intention of contacting NPR or Billboard necessarily. They were ideas, but all of a sudden, they’re contacting us. That in itself I think is an amazing accomplishment and a coincidence all happening at the same time around this release.”
Possessed by Paul James usually performs as a one man band, but There Will Be Nights When I’m Lonely features a full band sound on many tracks, while still respecting his live performance with many stripped-down songs as well. Appearing on the album with Konrad were world-renown steel-guitar player Lloyd Maines, Texas music Hall of Famer and harmonica player Walter Daniels, Cary Ozanian and Darren Sluyter from The Weary Boys, and members of Austin-based band East Cameron Folkcore. Watler Daniels, and Cary and Darren from The Weary Boys joined Possessed by Paul James on stage November 2nd during the CD release party at Antone’s in Austin, TX.
The black eye of the 2013 CMA Awards may not have been an over-the-top performance by some pop country stud or maven, but the choice by ABC to censor a line from the Kacey Musgraves song “Follow Your Arrow” that goes “roll up a joint.” As Kacey performed her latest single, the clearly-edited audio did little to shield the ears of impressionable listeners, and did more to pique the curiosity of viewers, while eroding the message of the song itself.
According to the USA Today’s Nashville correspondent Brian Mansfield, the decision was not the fault of the CMA’s, but of the broadcaster ABC. “A former CMA executive director calls the bleeping of ‘joint’ in Kacey Musgraves’ ‘Follow Your Arrow’ ‘a bad decision by the ABC censor,” Mansfield tweeted out during the presentation.
Many viewers and fans are calling the decision a double standard, and so is Kacey Musgraves herself who after the presentation said, “I guess for some reason people feel the need to censor that word, but they leave ‘crack’ in.” Seeing how the “crack” line is delivered with a derogatory tone, and the “roll up a joint” line isn’t, this is likely the reason the censor decided to leave it in the song. The “joint” line of the song is also being edited by many country radio stations playing the single.
Where the true double standard may lie is with other country songs that infer much more heavy language, but get past censors because they don’t actually say the words. For example, Tim McGraw’s recent single “Truck Yeah” clearly swaps the word “fuck” for “truck,” and this can be clearly understood as the implication by adolescents and adults alike.
Though we may have reached a point where pot references in popular music are more about marketing than message, in Musgraves’ “Follow Your Arrow,” the message is to be yourself, and the “joint” line is chased in the first two choruses with “or not,” meaning she’s not necessarily endorsing pot use, but encouraging individuals to be themselves.
And in the end, curious viewers took to the internet in droves and “Follow Your Arrow” saw one of the biggest surges for songs on the night. The song sat outside of the iTunes Top 100 before the performance, and then surged to #29 after, making it one of the biggest gainers of the night.
Kacey Musgraves went on to win the CMA for “New Artist of the Year.”
Yes, it was still 2013, and it was still a modern country music awards show, and so traditional and independent-minded country music fans still had plenty to look sideways at if they were brave enough to watch. But that doesn’t mean that the 47th Annual Country Music Association Awards wasn’t a retrenching of the roots and substance in the genre’s most important institution, and a sign of hope for country fans who’ve simply been asking for years for balance to be reinstated into the mainstream country format.
Luke Bryan, who was the big winner at the ACM Awards in April, was completely shut out. So was Jason Aldean. Florida Georgia Line wasn’t, but this was understandable because of the historic success of their song “Cruise,” but they were bested by Kacey Musgraves in the New Artist of the Year category. And in the end, George Strait, King George, bested everyone by taking home the most coveted trophy in country music, the CMA for Entertainer of the Year.
Was it a parting gift for Strait after announcing his final tour? Of course it was. But it doesn’t mean it wasn’t deserved, and it doesn’t mean it isn’t sweet, both for George, and for traditional country fans, even the ones who may not mark themselves as big George Strait supporters. Strait’s win marks the first time in a decade a true country artist has won the trophy. Alan Jackson, George Strait’s duet partner for “He Stopped Loving Her Today” during a stirring George Jones tribute, was arguably the last traditional-leaning artist to win the award in 2003.
Which leads us to the performances of the 47th Annual CMA Awards. Along with the somewhat abridged, but heartfelt George Jones tribute, there was a tribute to Kenny Rogers, who was presented with this year’s Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award—an award that was founded last year. Lo and behold, a steel guitar made an appearance early in the presentation during Kacey Musgraves’ set, despite the disappointment of the lyric “roll up a joint” in her song “Follow Your Arrow” being censored out. Taylor Swift of all people, offered a stripped down acoustic set that featured Vince Gill, bluegrass maestro Sam Bush, Alison Krauss, and not just as backing musicians. Both Gill and Krauss took turns on verses, no doubt stimulating not a few younger fans to take to Google to figure out who these artists were, facilitating that important initial spark of discovery.
Even Luke Bryan, whose performance of “Country Girl (Shake It For Me) on the 2011 CMA Awards seemed like the pinnacle of indecency for a country awards show at the time, offered a somewhat stripped down, heartfelt performance that featured songwriter Chris Stapleton. In fact, there wasn’t really any performances that seemed gratuitously over-the-top. Apparently there was a moratorium on choreographed backup dancers for the 2013 CMA’s, and about the only pyrotechnics aside from Eric Church’s over-the-top performance of “The Outsiders” were some sparks streaming from beneath the wheels of a simulated boxcar during Jason Aldean’s song “Night Train.” Even the cross-genre moment was when the well-beloved Dave Grohl joined the Zac Brown Band on drums—a stark contrast from the rappers and Kid Rock’s of the world that have somehow become regular fixtures of country award shows recently.
What does this all mean? For one, it means there is a reason to be positive. Whether it is because of the collective crying out about the disenfranchising of country music’s traditional and independent fans through events like Blake Shelton labeling them “Old Farts and Jackasses,” or whether it is the tangible demographic data that shows that country fans as a whole want more traditional country in the country format, someone, somewhere is listening, and some of the change fans have been clamoring for in recent years is finally being enacted.
All that has been asked for is balance—a place at the table for alternatives to pop country—and though the ratio may still be somewhat out-of-whack, some balance was reinstated during the 2013 CMA Awards. If there was another winner during the event beyond the award winners, it might be CMA producer Robert Deaton. Deaton told the Tennessean on Nov. 1st, ““I think the biggest thing I want to strive for is balance. I’m talking about balance of who we are as a music and a genre because we are a lot of different things, you want to be current but you also want to pay tribute to the shoulders that we stand on.” And Robert Deaton backed up those words in the presentation. As much as the censoring of Kacey Musgraves may be a black eye of the 2013 CMA’s, it was done to make sure families and traditional viewers were not offended.
Furthermore, the proof that balance works is in the ratings pudding. The ratings for the CMA Awards was up by 21 percent over last year’s telecast in viewers and 24 percent in the key demographic. The growth was particularly big among young males, with ABC touting a nine-year high among men 18-34.
In September, Saving Country Music published 12 Reasons To Be Positive About Country Music in 2013, and the 47th CMA Awards was yet another one to add to the list. However slowly, however incrementally, and however offset by the continuing lows of some of country music’s mainstream males, things are changing. It had been years since true country fans felt a reason to stand up and cheer and had a reason to feel represented at the CMA Awards. But the 47th installment offered a few of them, and one very big one.
Here we go folks, our annual gathering of old souls and independent-minded country fans to collectively commiserate and contemplate what the hell has happened to our fair genre known as country music as the pomp and circumstance of the CMA Awards transpires right before our shocked and disgruntled eyes. Be forewarned that all sense of decorum and courtesy will be tossed aside in lieu of admittedly immature and reactionary snark delivered with little or no governor. This is a night to get small and speak our minds, while at the same time being willing to give credit to any glimmers of true talent or hope.
So get your refresh fingers ready, and feel free to chime in yourself below in the comments.
Touch gloves and let’s go!
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -
Recap of the Winners:
- Entertainer of the Year – George Strait
- Male Vocalist of the Year – Blake Shelton
- Female Vocalist of the Year – Miranda Lambert
- Album of the Year – Blake Shelton’s Based On A True Story
- Song of the Year – “I Drive Your Truck”
- Single of the Year – “Cruise”
- Vocal Duo of the Year – Florida Georgia Line
- Vocal Group of the Year – Little Big Town
- New Artist of the Year – Kacey Musgraves
- Musical Event of the Year – Tim McGraw with Taylor Swift and Keith Urban for “Highway Don’t Care.”
- Music Video of the Year – Tim McGraw with Taylor Swift and Keith Urban for “Highway Don’t Care.”
- Musician of the Year – Mac McAnally (Guitar)
- Lifetime Achievement Award – Kenny Rogers
- Pinnacle Award – Taylor Swift
10:13 - Will probably elaborate more on this later, but I honestly felt like this year’s CMA Awards was a retrenching of sorts to the roots of the music. Yes, of course, some of the performances and outfits and such were over-the-top, which is to be expected, but with the massive with for George Strait for Entertainer of the Year, the tributes to George Jones and Kenny Rogers, and even Taylor Swift’s performance that showcased Alison Krauss, Sam Bush, and Vice gill, there was more face time for traditional country artists on tonight’s show than in recent memory.
And not to gloat , but out of my CMA predictions, I was a perfect 7 for 7 on the big awards, though a few of them I’d picked multiple possibilities, so…
Some notable losers: Luke Bryan got completely shut out. Jason Aldean got shut out. Taylor Swift only won with her collaboration with Tim McGraw (though she did receive the Pinnacle Award). And Kacey Musgraves, despite her 6 nominations, only won for New Artist of the Year.
10:06 - Not that George Strait needs an alternative winner, but since I had it prepared, here’s your INDEPENDENT alternative to the CMA Entertainer of the Year.
10:04 - Thanks so much to everyone for stopping by! Thanks to everyone that left comments, retweeted, reposeted, or just participated with your eyes! I am going to compose one last post as a summation, and then say goodnight!
10:02 - George Strait’s win for Entertainer of the Year is HUGE folks!
9:59 - The 2013 CMA for Entertainer of the Year goes to George Strait.
9:57 - Yyyyyyyeeeeessssssss!!!
9:55 - And why is a talking head from some morning show presenting what is supposed to be the most prestigious award in country music? Wouldn’t it be a good time to shine the spotlight on someone else?
9:53 – Your Saving Country Music alternative for Male Vocalist of the Year: Sturgill Simpson
9:52 - The CMA for Male Vocalist of the Year goes to Blake Shelton.
9:51 - NNNoooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
9:49 - I know this song might be very personal to Luke Bryan, but seeing how Chris Stapleton wrote it and not him, and it ends with such a cliche lyrical hook, I just can’t buy into it. Good for Stapleton though to get this exposure.
9:46 - That is Chris Stapleton on stage with Luke Bryan.
9:42 - Your Saving Country Music alternative for Female Vocalist of the Year: Caitlin Rose
9:41 - Safe, unsexy pick for Female Vocalist, but hard to get too worked up about.
9:40 - The CMA for Female Vocalist of the Year goes to Miranda Lambert.
9:37 - Kenny Rogers is presented with the CMA Lifetime Achievement Award.
9:36 - Serviceable Kenny Rogers tribute, but how about including some of his contemporaries?
9:34 - I swear, I’ve seen more shimmery Disco pants tonight than in a swanky downtown cocaine bar. I guess silvery silk is the new denim.
9:32 - SOURCE: Darius Rucker had to receive an emergency tetanus shot after being impaled in the abdomen by a particularly sharp shard of Gary LeVox’s bleached hair during rehearsal.
9:29 - The big awards coming up! Male and Female Vocalist, and Entertainer of the Year. 30 more minutes. Hang in there!
9:25 - Fun Fact: The first CMA Awards taping was televised in 1968, and the first live broadcast was in 1969.
9:22 - Audio for Zac Brown Band sounded fine. Brad Paisley’s performance sounds completely washed out. These performers deserve better.
9:20 - See Eric Church, this is how you blend country and rock influences without being gimmicky, trite, and overreaching.
9:18 - I would have liked this Zac Brown performance more if he hadn’t made nice with Luke Bryan and the beginning of the show
9:16 - Dave Grohl has to watch that whole “as ubiquitous as Sheryl Crow” label, but he’s really hard not to like.
9:13 - A little abridged, but a worthy tribute to George Jones. Wouldn’t have mind seeing a video montage like they did for Taylor Swift’s Pinnacle Award or a little more effort. But it was more than the 30 seconds passed greats usually get stuck with.
9:09 - George Strait and Alan Jackson delivering a stirring tribute on George Jones by singing “He Stopped Loving Her Today” with a backdrop indicative of the Grand Ole Opry.
9:08 - Your Saving Country Music alternative to Blake Shelton’s Album of the Year win is The Mavericks In Time
9:06 - The CMA For Vocal Group of the Year goes to Little Big Town.
9:05 – Kellie Pickler finally gets some face time on the CMA’s….and it’s with Puff Daddy.
9:02 - Man, Carrie Underwood can sing, but I’m not sure why she decided to wear workout shorts to the performance.
8:59 - I was about to say, wasn’t that Carrie Underwood “Good Girl” song an old one to sing here, but it appears we’re getting the ‘ol song medley.
8:55 - Fun Fact: George Strait is the most nominated artist in CMA history with 82 nominations. He’s also won the most CMA Awards, with a total of 16 wins…
…and he never received the “Pinnacle Award”
8:53 - How thrilled did George Strait look to be on that stage for Taylor’s Pinnacle Award?
8:52 - Yes folks, it was Eric Church pissing off Rascal Flatts that gave Taylor Swift her big break.
8:51 - Taylor is presented the Pinnacle Award by Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts, George Strait, Faith Hill, Keith Urban, and Brad Paisley, with video accolades Justin Timberlake, Reese Whiterspoon, Mick Jagger, Julia Roberts, and Ellen Degeneres.
8:46 - Taylor Swift receives the Pinnacle Award, “given to an artist who has achieved worldwide success and recognition that’s unique to country music.” The award was created in 2005, and has only been awarded one other time to Garth Brooks.
8:44 - Sorry, I’m boycotting Blake Shelton’s performance. It’s probably some sappy, overproduced song written by someone else.
8:38 - However, Blake Shelton’s win does keep my prediction winning streak going. 5 for 5.
8:37 - Back to the Blake Shelton win for Album of the Year, this was really the worst of all possibilities in my opinion. Just about anybody else deserved it more no matter if you’re basing the winner on creative or commercial success.
8:34 - Tim McGraw’s performance is completely flat. The crowd looks bored. Yawn.
8:33 - Every day Tim McGraw’s body more resembles that of a female 40-something Venice Beach body builder with melanoma.
8:32 - Time to schedule that anorexic intervention for Tim McGraw. Christ.
8:29 - The CMA for Album of the Year goes to Blake Shelton for Based on a True Story.
8:28 - Noooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
8:27 - Insert snarky comment here about how The Band Perry brothers have hairdo like hobbits.
8:26 - Kimberly Perry is a good singer, but her live performances always come across as breathy.
8:24 - This washed out sound, especially at the very beginning of performances is whipping my audiophile ass. It’s a music show folks, let’s at least get that part right!
8:22 - 4 for 4 on my predictions so far (though I did split my New Artists prediction between Musgraves and FGL).
8:21 - Fun Fact: The first CMA Awards taping was televised in 1968, and the first live broadcast was in 1969.
8:19 - I’m sorry, I’m seeing some inconsistencies in this performance. Some of that ending part at least looked pre-recorded.
8:17 - HELL YEAH!!! This is the best Bon Jovi song I’ve heard in years!!!
8:15 - Kacey Muasgraves beats out Florida Georgia Line for New Artist. Chalk it up as a victory.
8:14 - The CMA for New Artist of the Year goes to Kacey Musgraves.
8:13 - Which one is Hunter Hayes, and which is Ellen DeGeneres? Yes! (via Farce The Music)
8:12 - SOURCE: Hunter Hayes has been warned by his label Atlantic Records that if he ever goes through puberty, they will drop him from their roster.
8:10 - Back to the Taylor Swift performance, it was with Vince Gill, Alison Krauss, mandolin player Sam Bush, bassist Edger Meyer, and percussionist Eric Darden.
8:08 - The CMA for Musician of the Year went to Mac McAnally (Guitar).
8:05 – If you’re wondering what Brian Kelley (the Doogie Houser looking dude) from Florida-Georgia Line actually does:
- 1. Hold back Tyler Hubbard’s hair when he vomits his designer drugs into the toilet.
- __ 2. Check ID’s of groupies to make sure they’re older than 18, but younger than 18 1/2.
- __ 3. Issue fake ID’s to groupies younger than 18.
- __ 4.Look really, really pretty at all times.
- __ 5. Make sure Tyler Hubbard’s penis pump is securely fashioned in its dedicated stowaway compartment on the tour bus before the bus departs.
- __ 6. Measure Tyler Hubbard’s penis.
- __ 7. Make sure Antares Auto-Tune software in concert sound system is updated, backed-up, and virus scanned before each performance.
- __ 8. De-shell 50 M&M’s, put them in Tyler Hubbard’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers cup, and place beside his bed in the bus.
- __ 9. Never talk to the media about your unhealthy obsession with My Little Pony.
- __ 10. Never actually sing or play guitar.
8:02 - Heard no pitch issues from Taylor (always a concern), she looked beautiful, and delivered a solid performance. Just wish the audio wasn’t so washed out.
8:00 - Sorry Taylor Swift haters, but this is a really substantive moment for the CMA’s, showcasing some really cool artists to a wider audience. And this song, that Taylor Swift wrote, and Nathan Chapman produced, is not bad.
7:58 - Wow, crowd of 12,000 went completely silent for Taylor Swift’s performance.
7:54 - Your Saving Country Music alternative for Vocal Duo of the Year: First Aid Kit
7:53 - This song is a song is a leaving me flat. So is the performance. Too manic.
7:51 - Is it me, or is the audio of all the performances a little washed out?
7:50 - For those of you counting at home, I’m 3 for 3 on my predictions. Here’s the predictions.
7:48 - CMA for Vocal Duo of the Year goes to Florida Georgia Line.
7:47 - Vocal duo of the year will go to Florida Georgia Line.
7:43 - Not terrible, Little Big Town. Don’t know why more artists don’t go for the stripped-down acoustic setup that highlights their stregnths and talents instead of the big production. Good 4 part harmonies.
7:40 - Fun fact: The very first Entertainer of the Year was Eddy Arnold in 1967.
7:38 - I’ll take “I Drive Your Truck.” It’s a good, heartfelt song, regardless of maybe being pandering a little bit.
7:36 - The CMA for Song of the Year goes to “I Drive Your Truck.”
7:34 - Wow! Didn’t know The Lumineers were performing tonight. Cool!
7:32 - Really purturbed about this Kacey Musgraves editing. I’m pretty much over all the pot references in music, but let the girl do her thing!
7:28 - Okay, they’re bleeping out the “roll up a joint” completely against the spirit of the song. Not cool. Not cool at all. Let the girl sing her song! Booo!
7:26 - And Kacey self-edits “roll up a joint.” This is somewhat disappointing. At least there’s a steel guitar.
7:24 - Oh great, they put Kacey Musgraves, the girl that is nominated for the most CMA’s, on the “other” stage.
7:22 – Jason Aldean wouldn’t be caught dead in a box car unless it was fitted with a manscapping attendant and a bidet.
7:21 - Fun fact: There are about 12,000 people in attendance at the Bridgestone Arena.
7:20 - And just if you thought my previous line about Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan hanging out in the bathroom together, here’s a pic of them rehearsing their routine earlier today:
7:16 – Your Saving Country Music alternative for Single of the Year: Josh Abbott Band “I’ll Sing About Mine”
7:15 - Scout’s honor, I wrote that following line before they announced it. Pretty obvious here.
7:14 - The CMA for Single of the Year goes to Florida Georgia Line for “Cruise.”
7:12 - Leave them wanting more Carrie and Brad. I’m starting to yawn and fumble with my phone.
7:10 – Seriously, Luke Bryan. That shirt. Someone should have intervened.
7:07 - Okay, this feuding bit is kind of funny. Though I couldn’t tell you who the hell Julianna Hough is.
7:06 - Zac Brown and Luke Bryan hug on the front row while hosts Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley sing “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” Anyone know how to get vomit out of the nooks and crannies of a computer keyboard?
7:04 - After this, Luke Bryan & Florida Georgia Line will all go to the bathroom together like sorority sisters out on a Saturday night.
7:03 - Seriously folks, quite being so mean. I think Luke Bryan’s shimmer blouse is quite handsome.
7:00 - Yeah, here’s Luke Bryan’s “big black jacked up truck—the one with the catfish sucking up Frito crumbs off the floorboards:
6:58 - Presented without commentary:
6:55 - A fun fact to get us started: The original CMA Award was made out of walnut wood, and was designed to resemble a radio chart bullet. The current trophy weighs 7½ pounds. Here’s a picture of the CMA trophies over the years from Ricky Skaggs:
6:54 - Some awards have already been given out. On Good Morning America today, both the CMA “Musical Event of the Year” and “Music Video of the Year” was awarded to Tim McGraw with Taylor Swift and Keith Urban for “Highway Don’t Care.” Also, Scott Borchetta beat out Mike Curb for “Country Cretin of the Year” by the measure of one dead Zimbabwean orphan.
THE 47th ANNUAL CMA AWARDS
• When: 7 PM Central, 8 PM Eastern on ABC. Time delayed for the West Coat.
• Where: The Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, TN.
• Hosts: Brad Paisley & Carrie Underwood (6th consecutive year)
THINGS TO WATCH FOR
More Traditional Country Than One Might Expect
The pop and glitz of the CMA Awards go without saying, but we may see more classic and traditional country represented than in recent years, principally a full-blown tribute from George Jones who passed away earlier this year. George Jones was famously wronged by the CMA’s in 1999 when they told him he could only sing part of his song “Choices,” and again earlier this year when the CMT Awards only spent 30 seconds on their tribute to the Possum. Expect dues to be paid here when Alan Jackson and George Strait perform the tribute, however much it makes the producers wince that they’re losing their younger demographic.
Kenny Rogers will also be given a tribute with the recently-established Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award.
And last but not least, Taylor Swift‘s performance of her song “Red” with an All-Star cast that includes Vince Gill, Sam Bush, and Alison Krauss may be one of the surprisingly substantive moments of the night.
CMA producer Robert Deaton told the Tennessean, “I think the biggest thing I want to strive for is balance. I’m talking about balance of who we are as a music and a genre because we are a lot of different things, you want to be current but you also want to pay tribute to the shoulders that we stand on.”
Kacey Musgraves To Push Boundaries
Nominated for as many CMA’s as anyone on the night with 6, Kacey Musgraves is slated to perform her progressive single “Follow Your Arrow” that mentions both rolling up joints, and kissing girls. You can mark these down as significant moments on the great country music timeline when the lyrical content of the traditionally-conservative format were pushed once again.
There will be on rappers, no Lil’ Wayne, no Kid Rock this year, unless the CMA’s are hiding something up their sleeve. Instead we get Dave Grohl collaborating with the Zac Brown Band, Kelly Clarkson, and the rather innocuous Jason Mraz working with Hunter Hayes.
Artists confirmed to present awards include Kellie Pickler, Jake Owen, Lee Brice, Kelly Clarkson, Brett Eldredge, Eli Young Band, Kip Moore, and Sheryl Crow. Thompson Square will announce the pre-telecast awards for Musical Event, Music Video and Musician that were announced on ABC’s Good Morning America.
Non performers confirmed to be presenting awards include Connie Britton, and Charles Esten from ABC’s drama Nashville, Jase and Missy Robertson from Duck Dynasty, and Lucy Hale from Pretty Little Liars.
Special Performances & Collaborations
• Taylor Swift is scheduled to perform her song “Red” with help from Vince Gill, Alison Krauss, mandolin player Sam Bush, bassist Edger Meyer, and percussionist Eric Darden.
• George Strait and Alan Jackson will perform a tribute to George Jones.
•Zac Brown Band will perform with Dave Grohl who is rumored to be producing the band’s new album.
• Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan will perform together to open the show.
• Rascal Flatts, Jennifer Nettles, and Darius Rucker will perform a tribute to new Country Hall of Fame inductee Kenny Rogers.
• Miranda Lambert and Keith Urban will perform “We Were Us” together.
• Sisters Lennon and Maisy Stella from the ABC drama Nashville will perform.
- Jason Aldean
- Eric Church – “The Outsiders”
- Hunter Hayes w. Jason Mraz
- Lady Antebeullum
- Little Big Town
- Tim McGraw
- Kacey Musgraves – “Follow Your Arrow”
- Brad Paisley
- Blake Shelton
- The Band Perry
- Carrie Underwood
• Taylor Swift will receive the Pinnacle Award. It is “given to an artist who has achieved worldwide success and recognition that’s unique to country music.” The award was created in 2005, and has only been awarded one other time to Garth Brooks.
• Kenny Rogers will receive the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award. The award was created last year to recognize artists that have “achieved both national and international prominence and stature through concert performances, humanitarian efforts, philanthropy, record sales, and public representation at the highest level.” Willie Nelson was the inaugural recipient.
•Already Awarded: On Good Morning America, both the CMA “Musical Event of the Year” and “Music Video of the Year” was awarded to Tim McGraw with Taylor Swift and Keith Urban for “Highway Don’t Care.”
Entertainer of the Year
- Blake Shelton
- Jason Aldean
- Taylor Swift
- George Strait
- Luke Bryan
Male Vocalist of the Year
- Jason Aldean
- Luke Bryan
- Blake Shelton
- Keith Urban
- Eric Church
Female Vocalist of the Year
- Kelly Clarkson
- Miranda Lambert
- Kacey Musgraves
- Taylor Swift
- Carrie Underwood
Single of the Year
- “Cruise”; Florida Georgia Line; Produced by Joey Moi; Republic Nashville
- “Highway Don’t Care”; Tim McGraw with Taylor Swift and Keith Urban; Produced by Byron Gallimore and Tim McGraw; Big Machine Records
- “Mama’s Broken Heart”; Miranda Lambert; Produced by Frank Liddell, Glenn Worf, and Chuck Ainlay; RCA Nashville
- “Merry Go ‘Round”; Kacey Musgraves; Produced by Luke Laird, Shane McAnally, and Kacey Musgraves; Mercury Records
- “Wagon Wheel”; Darius Rucker; Produced by Frank Rogers; Capitol Records Nashville
Album of the Year
- Based on a True Story: Blake Shelton; Produced by Scott Hendricks; Warner Bros. Records
- Blown Away: Carrie Underwood; Produced by Mark Bright; 19 Recordings/Arista Nashville
- Red: Taylor Swift; Produced by Jeff Bhasker, Scott Borchetta, Nathan Chapman, Dann Huff, Jacknife Lee, Max Martin, Shellback, Taylor Swift, Butch Walker, and Dan Wilson; Big Machine Records
- Same Trailer Different Park: Kacey Musgraves; Produced by Luke Laird, Shane McAnally, and Kacey Musgraves; Mercury Records
- Tornado: Little Big Town; Produced by Jay Joyce; Capitol Records Nashville
Song of the Year
- “I Drive Your Truck,” Jessi Alexander, Connie Harrington, and Jimmy Yeary
- “Mama’s Broken Heart,” Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally, and Kacey Musgraves
- “Merry Go ‘Round,” Kacey Musgraves, Josh Osborne, and Shane McAnally
- “Pontoon,” Natalie Hemby, Luke Laird, and Barry Dean
- “Wagon Wheel,” Bob Dylan and Ketch Secor
New Artist of the Year
- Brett Eldredge
- Florida Georgia Line
- Kip Moore
- Kacey Musgraves
Vocal Duo of the Year
- Big & Rich
- Florida Georgia Line
- Love and Theft
- The Civil Wars
- Thompson Square
Vocal Group of the Year
- Eli Young Band
- Lady Antebellum – Other Potential Winner
- Little Big Town
- The Band Perry – Winner
- Zac Brown Band
Musical Event of the Year
- “Boys ‘Round Here”: Blake Shelton (featuring Pistol Annies); Warner Bros. Records
- “Cruise”: Florida Georgia Line (with Nelly); Republic Nashville
- “Highway Don’t Care”; Tim McGraw (with Taylor Swift and Keith Urban); Big Machine Records - Winner
- “The Only Way I Know”; Jason Aldean with Luke Bryan and Eric Church; Broken Bow Records
- “Don’t Rush”: Kelly Clarkson (featuring Vince Gill) 19 Recordings/RCA Nashville
Music Video of the Year
- “Blown Away,” Carrie Underwood; Directed by Randee St. Nicholas
- “Boys ‘Round Here,” Blake Shelton featuring Pistol Annies; Directed by Trey Fanjoy
- “Downtown,” Lady Antebellum; Directed by Peter Zavadil
- “Highway Don’t Care,” Tim McGraw with Taylor Swift and Keith Urban; Directed by Shane Drake - Winner
- “Mama’s Broken Heart,” Miranda Lambert; Directed by Trey Fanjoy
- “Tornado,” Little Big Town; Directed by Shane Drake
Musician of the Year
- Sam Bush (Mandolin)
- Paul Franklin (Steel Guitar)
- Dann Huff (Guitar)
- Brent Mason (Guitar)
- Mac McAnally (Guitar)
This is a guest post from Austin-based singer-songwriter Slaid Cleaves. Slaid recently was featured on Saving Country Music after making some critical comments about modern country music in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, and he wanted an opportunity to elaborate on his statements. Slaid’s latest album, the critically-acclaimed “Still Fighting The War” was released in June.
- – - – - – - – - – -
I’m a lucky bastard. Driving out of Austin to my home in Wimberley on a Friday afternoon, I don’t curse the horrendous traffic, because this is what I hear on the radio on my way home: It starts on KDRP with some 1990s Steve Earle, new music from local writer Nathan Hamilton, and then Virginia’s Scott Miller, followed by the latest Mark Knopfler (Privateering – coolest six and half minute song I’ve heard in a long time) and then Hank Williams’ Honky Tonk Blues (which sounded clear and punchy and vital, like it was recorded yesterday down at Gruene Hall). As the signal fades out in the low water crossings of Driftwood I switch over to KNBT coming up out of New Braunfels and catch the intro to my own Still Fighting the War (which I had help in writing from my friend and neighbor, Wranglin’ Ron Coy) followed by the (real, live) DJ back-announcing Lyle Lovett, John Prine and Kevin Fowler. Coming up after the break: Sonny Landreth, Tift Merritt and Adam Hood. Pulling into my driveway I was tempted to sit in the car and listen, but dinner was waiting. (BTW, even the commercial breaks on stations like KNBT tend to be pretty easy to take. They are mostly locally produced ads for local businesses, relevant to the community and tastefully done.)
I’m not exposed to Nashville country music very often. But when I come across it I have a visceral negative reaction to it. It seems like a false picture of life. It doesn’t resonate with me at all. I don’t know, maybe there are places where there are dudes in $100 designer jeans driving brand new $40,000 pickup trucks, constantly surrounded by partying swimsuit models, all trying to out-redneck each other. But that’s not a world I’m familiar with, and when I see it on TV it just seems fake to me. The vocals and music itself are so overproduced and smoothed over and glossy, like it’s been run through a bunch of computers and focus groups. I predict someday Chinese engineers will discover the algorithm for Nashville country music and begin mass producing hits from a computer in Shinzen.
Sorry, I’m ranting. Judging from the comments following the posting of a portion of my recent Chicago Sun Times interview, I’m preaching to the converted. But in the end, what’s the use in talking about music we don’t like? The fact is: lots of people like this stuff. Lots of people go to Kenny Chesney shows. I don’t understand why. And those people probably don’t see what I see in Adam Carroll. It’s like two different tribes, and each is seeking a different experience. I wouldn’t pay a dollar to see Kenny Chesney or any other Nashville star. Likewise, a Kenny Chesney fan would have no fun at all at one of my “listening room” gigs.
And no, it doesn’t matter that Clear Channel plays Chesney and not me. My music doesn’t translate in a mass market situation. Can you picture me singing in a hockey arena? My kind of music works in the little local music club and on the community radio station where people present only the music they are passionate about, and the audience fits into a room that’s smaller than Keith Urban’s drum riser. My music works for people who want a more intimate connection to music, and are more interested in the subtleties of songwriting and the depth of storytelling you can find only in the “artisanal” country music being made today.
There’s no reason to despair. There’s an embarrassment of riches to be found on the edges of commercial music today. And even if you live in a “food desert,” where there’s nothing but Piggly Wiggly and Clearchannel radio, you have no excuse. Because dozens of great, locally programmed radio stations across the country are available online and even via smartphone apps. Sure it takes a little extra effort, just like ordering a chicken breast sandwich (which is not boneless) at Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack in Nashville takes a bit more effort that ordering a dozen McNuggets at the drive-thru. If you like Nashville country music, all you gotta do is spin the radio dial till you hear people hitting the “redneck” buzzwords of the day. But if you want to hear a song you’d actually care to hear more than once, one that will sound as good 10 years from now as it does today, a song made by independent artists working hard to make a decent living, artists making music for the people of their community, you need to put a little extra effort into it. Download an app. Sign up for a mailing list. Share your new find with friends. Go to a show at the local club. Stop talking about the music you don’t like, and talk about the music that does make your heart race or your throat choke up or makes you want to sit in the car and keep listening in the driveway.
If you haven’t done so lately, put a Kitty Wells LP on the turntable, or a Hank Williams 78 on the old Victrola. Or seek out Robbie Fulks’ brand new release, Gone Away Backward. It’s worth the extra effort. You’ll hear a fellow human voice, imperfect and glorious, singing in a room, accompanied by the sounds of wood and gut string and enhanced only by some little coils of copper wire. You might hear a story that resonates with your very own. And that’s what it’s all about.
The following story is a guest post by Mike Fiedler, proprietor of the Shore Road Tavern in northeast Philadelphia.
- – - – - – - – - -
Back in October of 2012, Leroy Virgil and the boys from Hellbound Glory flew into New York City for a handful of East Coast shows including one at The Shore Road Tavern. We run the place like a true roadhouse by maintaining a third floor apartment above the bar, which is reserved strictly for the touring musicians that play our venue. It has become a welcome stop on the road as it allows musicians a chance to relax after their set, hang out with the crowd, or chill in the apartment, and to not have to worry about loading out until the next day. This was to be our third time hosting the ‘scumbags’ and, needless to say, we were really looking forward to their company as always. But this trip held a special purpose for Leroy.
Jimmy Lloyd, host of NBC’s The Jimmy Lloyd Songwriter Showcase, had chosen Leroy Virgil, along with singer songwriter Sean Walsh, to participate in the inaugural episode of his “Live Songwriter-in-the-Round Series” at Hill Country BBQ, located near 26th and Broadway in New York City. The event was being taped by NBC Digital Networks for a future broadcast, and immediately after the hour long taping, Hellbound Glory was to play a full-band set.
Leroy invited us to come up for the Thursday night show. Since it was going to be such a big night for the band, and we live a very convenient 90 miles from Manhattan, we didn’t hesitate to say yes. Plus we had a large case of Hellbound Glory shirts that were shipped to the bar, in advance of their upcoming Philly show that Saturday, so I figured they’d come in handy.
The “Songwriter Showcase” followed a format that saw each songwriter perform one of their songs, one after another, followed by a discussion about the meaning of the song and how it evolved. Throughout the evening, Leroy was the clear standout.
After Hellbound Glory finished playing at Hill Country, the guys opted to ride back to Philly with us that night instead of taking a train the next day, but they had a 1am show to do somewhere in the East Village first. We started to load their gear into our SUV, and as Leroy was putting his guitar case in the back, he muttered “I’m tired of dragging this thing around” “I’m gonna’ leave it in Philly”. “Yeah, yeah, right Leroy”, I said. With a camera crew in tow, that had apparently been following Leroy around New York City all day, we squeezed in to a few vehicles and set out for the East Village.
After a late show, and an uneventful ride back to Philly, we pulled up to the bar and started to unload the truck. As Leroy pulled his guitar case out of the back, he reiterated, “I am, I’m leaving this thing here, I’m tired of dragging this thing around”. “Yeah, yeah, right Leroy”, I said. We dropped them off at the apartment and went home to crash. We returned to the bar later that afternoon because, as willing as they were to rely on Amtrak for this handful of shows, they were equally willing to accept the offer of my truck to run down to DC for a show that night. As they loaded up the truck, Leroy again repeated how he was leaving his guitar “here at the apartment in Philly”.
By now, knowing how mischievous Leroy can be, and how much he loves fucking with people, I am pretty much dismissing him outright as ‘Leroy just being Leroy’.
They came back from DC Saturday afternoon and pretty much laid low in the apartment until showtime. The boys once again played to a packed house, throwing down another raucous three hour show that we’ve become accustomed to whenever they play Philadelphia. We hung out until well after closing and, since they really had no place to be until they flew back to Reno on Monday, they decided to stick around for another night. We surely didn’t care as long as they didn’t mind sharing the apartment with the acts scheduled to play that Sunday night, James Hunnicutt and Filthy Still (which, at the time, featured Jared McGovern and Liz Sloan as touring members). Of course they didn’t mind.
With a lighter turnout on Sunday night, and so many musicians milling about, the night broke out into some spontaneous music, both in the bar after Filthy Still’s set, and well into the night as James Hunnicutt, Jared McGovern, and Liz Sloan continued to work on some things in the empty floor above the bar. At one point, I walked in to see Leroy sitting in the corner, leaning back in a chair, watching them play with that shit eatin’ grin of his. I pulled up the chair next to him, sat down, and said “yo, that’s Django Reinhardt they’re doing”. He just grinned even wider as he slowly nodded his head. We just sat there for the next 5-10 minutes or so, watching these three virtuosos without saying a word.
The night wound down shortly after that and, as we were socially preparing for the inevitable parting of our separate ways, Leroy once again reinforced his desire to leave his guitar at the apartment as the “house guitar” and to “let everybody play it”. By this point, I was a bit worn down by his dogged persistence and single-mindedness, and for the twelfth time that weekend I said, “yeah, yeah, right Leroy, OK”. We hugged, offered our salutations and well wishes, and went our separate ways until our paths would, inevitably, cross again.
Everybody had left the apartment by Monday afternoon and I didn’t have a chance to get down there and clean until Tuesday morning. As I walked up to the third floor apartment, sure as shit, there it was just like he said. Sitting at the top of the staircase, leaning against the wall with the case open was Leroy Virgil’s beat up old Esteban guitar. I shook my head and thought to myself ‘that’s Leroy being Leroy’ and, with a slight smirk on my face, I picked her up and then just let out a sigh as I placed it into one of the closets. As I was cleaning up the apartment, processing all the events of the last couple days, I kept thinking about one thing in particular that Leroy had said, “let everybody play it”. I then thought about how he had left me in stewardship of his old guitar, an instrument that, from my perspective, already has provenance and should rightly wind up in a museum one day. I decided that, to honor that trust he had in me, I would continue to add to the instrument’s already storied life by doing a running portrait series of every musician that plays his old guitar.
In November of 1994, then President Bill Clinton and his Democrat Party suffered a historic and debilitating defeat to Republicans in the mid-term elections that would later be known as The Republican Revolution. Led by Newt Gingrich, Republicans picked up 54 seats in the House of Representatives and 8 in the Senate, gaining solid control of both houses of Congress in an election that was seen as a wholesale rebuke of Bill Clinton and his policies.
Bill Clinton, reeling from the election, did something unprecedented to recover politically. Behind the back of his long-time aids, most importantly his Communication’s Director and Senior Adviser George Stephanopoulos who’d been with Clinton since his early days in Arkansas, Clinton hired a Republican pollster named Dick Morris to secretly regain his political footing. Clinton was initially so embarrassed of hiring Dick Morris, he had a code name, “Charlie,” and while the rest of Clinton’s staff worked on writing Clinton’s 1995 State of the Union speech in the conventional manner after the big midterm defeat, Clinton himself was hiding out with Dick Morris in the residential portion of the White House writing the speech that he would ultimately deliver.
Dick Morris was the mastermind of “triangulation,” which was a way to appeal to as many voters as possible while giving little regard to political ideology. It was all about winning. Soon Dick became one of Clinton’s chief advisers, and was Clinton’s campaign manager for the election in 1996. According to George Stephanopoulos, over the first nine months of 1995, nobody had more power over the President than Dick Morris. Stephanopoulos also said he “despised” Dick Morris. Despite Stephanopoulos being considered one of the key figures behind Bill Clinton’s success, he was marginalized in the Administration by Morris. In 1996, Stephanopoulos quit the Clinton White House.
If there was a parallel in the music world, about the only difference between what George Stephanopoulos was to Bill Clinton, and what producer Nathan Chapman was to Taylor Swift is that when Nathan Chapman began to be pushed aside, Taylor Swift wasn’t in the midst of defeat, she was riding an overwhelming wave of financial and industry success.
Nathan Chapman is a session musician, songwriter, and record producer. If you wanted to point to one individual behind the sonic success of Taylor Swift, it would be him. The first record Chapman ever produced was Taylor Swift’s first, self-titled release in 2006. Swift picked Chapman because he produced her first demos when Swift was only 14. He believed in her when nobody else did. Since then Chapman has been the primary producer on every one of Swift’s albums. He also plays much of the music that makes it onto Taylor Swift records: drums, acoustic and electric guitars, piano and keyboards and synthesizers. Nathan has won 2 Grammy’s, a CMA, and ACM Award as Taylor’s producer, and been nominated for several more. If you hear a Taylor Swift song, you’re hearing just as much of Nathan Chapman as you are Taylor Swift….except to when it comes to Taylor’s last album Red.
Despite the partnership of Nathan Chapman and Taylor Swift creating arguably the most successful modern country artist, with sales beating every other country star and winning Taylor two CMA Entertainer of the Year awards, apparently this was not enough to appease Taylor’s label owner, Scott Borchetta. During the recording process of the Red album, Scott Borchetta inserted himself into the production—something he’d previously prided himself in staying out of aside from his role as an executive. Borchetta suggested that Taylor Swift needed help beyond Nathan Chapman.
“I said, ‘You know, this song isn’t working yet.’ They both looked at me (Swift and Nathan Chapman) with a blank stare. “The chorus isn’t elevating like it needs to. Where you’re wanting to take the song, it’s not going there. It needs a Max Martin type of lift.”… At that point Borchetta called Martin. Both Borchetta and Swift agree that it was a turning point for “Red”.
It was the Dick Morris moment in Taylor Swift’s career. Borchetta, feeling that Taylor’s success could even be greater than her already world-beating status, reached out to two Swedish producers from the pop world—Max Martin and Shellback—renown for cutting mega hits that appeal to the widest possible audience for bands like the Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync. They were the parallel in the music world to Dick Morris and the “triangulation” theorem.
Max Martin and Shellback were not just brought in as producers, but co-writers for Taylor Swift’s songs. Though the partnership only resulted in three tracks for the album Red, it included the album’s two biggest singles by far, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” and “I Knew You Were Trouble.” The Max Martin/Shellback material made up three of the album’s first four singles, while many of Swift’s original Red songs that she penned solo stayed shelved.
“I see myself as kind of this girl who writes songs in her bedroom,” Taylor recently told the Associated Press. “You can kind of dress it up all you want…but I’m always going to be a girl who writes songs in her bedroom in my own personal perception of myself.”
This type of simplicity in approach was what built tremendous loyalty among Taylor Swift’s fans. She wasn’t an artist on a pedestal. She was real; someone they could relate to. But the Max Martin/Shellback material was completely counter-intuitive to Taylor’s “writing songs in her bedroom” image, both in style and approach. The songs also pushed the boundaries of what music sold as “country” sounded like, with “We Are Never…” being a decidedly bubblegum pop song, and “I Knew You Were Trouble” featuring a dubstep beat.
Taylor Swift also told the AP about her next album, “It’s too early to tell who are going to be my predominant collaborators, but I do know that my absolute dream collaborators were Shellback and Max Martin on the last project.” By all accounts, Max Martin and Shellback came into the album-making process near the end of Red, when Scott Borchetta was not hearing the type of radio singles he wanted. With Swift’s next album, Max Martin/Shellback collaborations, or rough equivalents from other well-known pop producers could be the predominant direction of the material, with most of the vestiges of the adolescent Swift as songwriter and co-producer falling away.
Meanwhile Nathan Chapman must be wondering what else could he have done. It is very likely he will still be involved in Swift’s album making process for her new record in some capacity, but his role as the man behind Taylor Swift’s sound, and her initial success through making music that was simple, yet substantive, appear to be over. Just like George Stephanopoulos, Nathan Chapman has been left in a lurch when the thirst for wide appeal overruns principle.
Oh the irony that the man whose name is on the tip of many people’s tongues as the one who brought country music to its knees and made it more about money than music, could also be the man in the best position to ultimately help save it.
Yes ladies and gentlemen, I’m talking about Garth Brooks.
Over the past few weeks and months, Garth has been dropping hints to fans that the future will hold some big announcements, and big events. Last week he released the cryptic message, “The sevens have aligned. It has begun… Thank you for believing… love, g.” He also announced recently that he will be ending his Las Vegas residence, and that his last show on November 29th will be televised on CBS. Rumors and conjecture are swirling, but so far there has been little information that is either concrete or confirmed about Garth’s future.
In truth there’s a lot less mystery here than some would like you to believe. What’s going to happen is that here very soon, either on his November 29th TV special or shortly before or after, Garth will announce a new album, and plans for a subsequent arena/stadium tour in support, and it will all transpire in 2014. As much as Garth may want to get everybody buzzing with speculation and anticipation, this is exactly what he said he was going to do when he quote “retired” from country music in 2000. He said then that he wanted to take more time to be with his family, and that once his kiddos were done with school, he’d ponder a return. And lo and behold, his youngest daughter Allie is now 17, and scheduled to graduate High School this year. So yes, 7′s are aligning, or whatever.
This is 2013, and everything surrounding the name “Garth Brooks” has changed. If you’re taking to some social network channel to beam, “Hey you know what? With the crap that’s out there today in country music, Garth Brooks doesn’t even sound half that bad,” then you are already a couple of years behind the relevant opinion curve. Whatever Waylon Jennings said or didn’t say about Garth, pantyhose, and a certain element of foreplay that Garth was the equivalent to, it’s all virtually irrelevant at this point. The simple fact is Garth Brooks, despite a nearly 15-year absence from the full-time music hustle, is as poised as any to make major waves in the country music world, and to do so his way.
In many ways the 7′s have aligned for Garth, and not just because of the particulars of his personal life. Last year George Strait announced he would end full-time touring, and he’s making his final rounds on the arena/stadium circuit as we speak. Both Alan Jackson and Vince Gill have recently accepted their fate that they’re no longer top tier concert draws, and have gone in a more rootsy direction and taken their places as country music legacy acts. Even Kenny Chesney said recently he’s going to take a break from touring. All of this leaves a massive void in the country music touring realm for a big-drawing, well-established artist.
But just what shape will Garth’s triumphant return take? That is really the only question left to answer. We really don’t have much intel or insight into this subject this early in his phase of returning, but what I do feel confident in going on the record as saying is that I don’t see Garth getting involved in either the country rap or laundry list lyric craze, or any other current pop country trend. As much as Garth’s detractors hate to admit it, one of the reasons he retired, and one of the reasons his regrettable Chris Gains era reared its ugly head is because Garth was bored, and didn’t want to chase trends. Garth wanted to make his own trends, and his own music. Whatever Garth does, it will be true to Garth.
And Garth also won’t do anything unless he knows it’s going to be successful, both with its reception and its financial reward. He’s already voiced concerns about how the digital age will effect his ability to release music. If/when he does release music and go on tour, he will have all bets hedged, and it will be huge.
And even if Garth gets out on stage and acts like a jukebox of his Greatest Hits with some new material mixed in, this will offer such a stark contrast to country music’s current flavors, it will immediately constitute a positive counter-balance, swinging the scales in whatever degree back to the true sound of country music. Look at what Garth has been doing at his Vegas shows. He’s been stripping them back, just him and his acoustic guitar, playing songs from Merle Haggard and George Jones. I don’t expect to see this specifically from his reboot, but I do expect it to be traditional and substantive in nature compared to the current country mainstream. Garth isn’t going to be able to fool anyone. He can’t fit in Luke Bryan’s skinny jeans. He’s going to get out there and be Garth, and by the sheer draw of a man who’s bested only by Elvis in album sales in music history will create a dramatic amount of interest, and assert a tremendous amount of influence.
Founder, president, and CEO of Big Machine Records Scott Borchetta, affectionately known around Saving Country Music as the Country Music Anti-Christ, and arguably the most powerful man in Nashville, continues to reign in on the freedom and creative control of his performers, and significantly influence their musical decisions—something that is in stark contrast to one of the benchmarks that made Big Machine one of the most sought after destinations for artists as one of the few Nashville-based major labels that generally allowed their roster to do what they wanted.
During the writing and recording phase of Taylor Swift’s last album Red is when Borchetta first notably inserted himself into the creative process, suggesting to Taylor that her songs were not good enough, and that she solicit the help of Swedish pop producers Max Martin and Shellback to help write, record, and produce songs, resulting in Swift’s most pop-oriented material to date.
Now according to Swift, she had to go against the wishes of Scott Borchetta and strong arm Big Machine Records to release her latest song “Sweeter Than Fiction” as part of the upcoming film One Chance. “I had to fight to do this,” Swift told the BBC, “I had to go around and ask people, ‘Can I please, please put something out?’ even though we’re supposed to be going quiet. My management, my label were like, ‘No new music until the next album comes out.’“
Eventually Taylor Swift did get her way and the song was released, but the song has received little push from Big Machine.
Scott Borchetta was initially bestowed the nickname “Country Music Anti-Christ” because he was the principle man behind-the-scenes slowly eroding the integrity of the term “country” by using country channels to push pop music, cross-genre music, and manufactured “Outlaws” to take advantage of marketing angles.
One such example is Justin Moore from Big Machine’s Valory Music imprint. Arguably the most audacious of the “new Outlaws” looking to capitalize commercially on growing anti-Nashville sentiment, Moore released an album in 2011 entitled Outlaws Like Me. His latest effort Off The Beaten Path just released in September includes a song called “I’d Want It To Be Yours;” an awful, immature example of both the tasteless direction of mainstream country, and the country rap trend. The song includes hip-hop elements, a small bout of rapping, and references to pop celebrities like Snoop Dog and Kim Kardashian—all from a guy that claims to be too country for Nashville.
In the eyes of Justin Moore’s critics, “I’d Want It To Be Yours” is the worst offering from Justin Moore’s new album, and one of the worst songs of 2013. But according to Justin, he didn’t want to record or release the song. It was at the insistence of Scott Borchetta that “I’d Want It To Be Yours” made the final cut.
“‘I’d Want It To Be Yours’ is ridiculous,” says Justin in the EPK for the song. “It’s just me being a perverted idiot in all honesty…I never thought it would end up on an album. We wrote it just kind of as a joke.”
The song seemed to take a very similar life to the infamous track “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” that even lends a lyric to “I’d Want It To Be Yours.” It was written sarcastically between a few songwriter buddies looking to blow off steam. But Scott Borchetta saw something different. ”When we were playing stuff for the label, Scott Borchetta said, ‘You have to put this on the album.’” Justin Moore explains. “And I’m going, ‘Really?’”
As Scott Borchetta and Big Machine Records continue to win market share and talent from its rival labels on the Music Row campus, his propensity to inject himself more and more into the creative process could become a bigger problem. Excessive control of artists is the classic sin of Nashville’s big music labels, and as Big Machine gets bigger, so could the artistic control dilemma, and the dilemma of maintaining control over the quality and purity of the term “country.”
Yeah, I remember the first time I heard marijuana referenced in a song and thought it was cool. It was a song by the New Riders of the Purple Sage called “Henry” from their 1971 self-titled album. More of a smuggling song than a drug song, the story and the suspense of the song is what made it intriguing, with the marijuana more of just a backdrop. This inspired me to try and discover similar songs which led me to the Arlo Guthrie smuggler’s song “Coming Into Los Angeles.”
Gram Parsons somewhat challenged the stuffiness of the country establishment when he sported a Nudie suit with marijuana leaves embroidered on it in the late 60′s, but at the time he was considered more of a product of the rock world. And then of course there’s Kris Kristofferson’s iconic “Sunday Morning Coming Down” whose somewhat veiled reference to marijuana is given credit for stretching lyrical boundaries in country music on its way to being named Song of the Year by the CMA in 1970.
But 2013 very well may go down as the year when referencing marijuana and other drugs in your songs is no longer cool as much as it is conformist—a lyrical hook, a well-recognized buzz word made for marketing an artist or song just as much as anything else. When a former Disney star like Miley Cyrus is out there talking about “Dancing with ‘Molly’” and “Trying to get a line in the bathroom,” and the 80-year-old Willie Nelson is singing a duet with the 42-year-old Snoop Dogg called “Roll Me Up And Smoke Me When I Die,” there ceases to be either the generational gap, or the exclusivity of drug references in music to make them “cool.”
Where the current trend of mentioning cannabis in your country song seems to be cropping up is in the unlikely place of country music’s songwriting females. This dynamic and inspiring group of women who are regularly referenced as the last bastion of substance in country music’s mainstream seems to be the epicenter of country music’s marijuana bloom: Kacey Musgraves with the songs “Merry Go ‘Round,” “Blowin’ Smoke,” and “Follow Your Arrow.” Ashley Monroe with the song “Weed Instead of Roses.” Brandy Clark and the song “Get High.” And The Pistol Annies with songs like “Takin’ Pills” and “Hush Hush.”
The differences between these song’s marijuana and drug references and the trends on the male side of country music to reference pickups, tailgates, ice cold beer, and dirt roads, are very subtle. Sure, many of the pot references come within the context of a more in-depth story. But just like pickup truck references, they’re used to grab the attention of demographics and sell music to listeners.
Just look at the graphics below taken from Amazon’s MP3 popularity ratings. For a marijuana song like Ashley Monroe’s “Weed Instead of Roses,” it positively dominates the popularity contest compared to her other songs. Same goes with Kacey Musgraves’ three most popular songs (though in fairness, “Blowin’ Smoke doesn’t reference pot directly). One might argue though that these songs are more popular because they are also the artist’s radio singles. But this speaks even deeper to the current marijuana trend. If you want to be a mainstream female songwriter and have the A&R folks pay attention to your music, you may want to include a song with marijuana references.
Ashley Monroe’s Tracks from the album Like A Rose:
Kacey Musgraves Tracks from the album Same Trailer, Different Park:
Just like with the country rap trend or the pickup truck trend, when a lyrical theme works, it almost becomes a requirement for mainstream artists. And just like the male tailgate songs that sound so cliche to distinguishing music listeners, marijuana references appeal to bored suburban types who listen to country music as a form of escapism.
Back in the 90′s marijuana references and imagery became popularized by big music acts like Cypress Hill, Pantera, Snoop Dogg, and Green Day. But then the trend became sort of passé amongst bands on the fringes of the mainstream when marijuana references began to work themselves into the content of Top 40 pop songs. It was no longer cool.
Country music was a late bloomer to the marijuana marketing trend because it’s traditionally conservative-leaning audience. Artists like Hank Williams Jr. and Charlie Daniels referenced pot in the 70′s and 80′s, but this was far from the mainstream. Waylon Jennings’ “Don’t You Think This Outlaw Bit’s Done Got Out of Hand,” Hank Jr’s, “O.D’d in Denver,” take it a step further into the cocaine realm. But as modern mainstream country artists step into the marijuana and drug realm, independent and cutting-edge artists seem to step away. For example Hank Williams III started his career in country music with heavy marijuana imagery and references, but has veered away from it in recent years.
Women are not the only ones referencing marijuana in the current mainstream country market. Eric Church sells T-shirts with pot leaves on them and had a hit song in “Smoke A Little Smoke.” Luke Bryan’s mega-hit “That’s My Kind Of Night” says “I got that real good feel good stuff up under the seat of my big black jacked up truck.”
The political environment surrounding marijuana also plays into the pot music debate. The stigma around the drug has been significantly diluted by the passing of laws decriminalizing the plant, making it legal for medicinal purposes, or legalizing it in full which has happened in some states. Marijuana is a very commonly-used substance throughout American society, and as the stigma around the plant subsides, so does the potency of the references to it in popular culture.
There’s nothing naughty or cutting edge about a pot reference in a song anymore. It’s conformist. It’s marketing. It’s mainstream. Not all the time of course; sometimes it comes up naturally in the context of a song. But just like many so many other musical elements, marijuana and drug references have been co-oped by the mainstream, spoiled, and exploited.
Austin, TX-based performer Slaid Cleaves is regarded as one of folk/Americana’s premier songwriters, and he’s also regarded amongst his peers as one of music’s most sharpest minds. Cleaves graduated from the prestigious Tufts University as a philosophy and English major, and recently when touring through Chicago in support of his 2013 release Still Fighting The War, Slaid had some critical things to say about mainstream country to the Chicago Sun Times.
“I guess I just can’t stand that bigger-than-life, good ol’ boy kind of country music.” says Cleaves. “It’s all pretty cheesy if you ask me. Whenever I accidentally come across any nationally-recognized music, it turns my stomach pretty much. All the videos are sexed up with people just trying to push buttons and get people all riled up. I have a friend who writes for a living in Nashville, and he tells me that last season it was all about banjos and now it’s all about tailgates and trucks. He tells me you got to hit those notes if you ever want to get your song cut. I mean, c’mon.”
Cleaves continues, ”I mean, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the craft, and sometimes you can just tell that if a particular song had been done acoustically, it could have worked. There are well-crafted songs out there. I don’t know. Let’s just say I am very comfortable being on the tiniest little fringe of country music these days.”
Slaid’s comments touch on an important point that is sometimes lost in the back and forths of country music’s culture war. As mainstream country continues its flight from substance, it pushes away potential talent that doesn’t want to be considered “country” because of the stigma surrounding the term. Artists whose primary goal is not commercial but creative would much rather be labeled an independent artist, folk, or Americana than be lumped in with what is called country today. In turn, saying that mainstream country songwriters and performers have no talent becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.
- Karl on Circumstances of Wayne Mills’ Death Leave Many Questions
- Will on Circumstances of Wayne Mills’ Death Leave Many Questions
- That Guy on Wayne Mills of the Wayne Mills Band Shot Fatally in Nashville
- That Guy on Wayne Mills of the Wayne Mills Band Shot Fatally in Nashville
- Michael Burkhalter, San Diego on Destroying The Dixie Chicks – Ten Years After