- The Darrell Brothers Offer a Dramatic Reading of Luke Bryan
- Engine 145: Ronnie Milsap Looks Back on New Album
- Music festivals see big opportunity in country music
- 'True Detective' music: 10 other great songs by the Handsome Family
- Dierks Bentley: 'I don't want to talk about fluff'
- Rolling Stone Reviews Beck's "Morning Phase"
- Pop Matters Features Lydia Loveless
- Oklahoma Gazette Features Hellbound Glory
- New York Times: Trying to Save Merle Haggard's Boxcar Home
- Bill Monroe and Tammy Wynette May Get New Postage Stamps
- How Thirty Tigers Is Beating Competition with Only a 30 Percent Cut
- Roger Alan Wade Bears His Soul
- Album premiere: Chuck Mead's 'Free State Serenade'
- Clinch Mountain Boy Celebrates 20 Years with Ralph Stanley
- "Push and Shove" Video from My Graveyard Jaw
- Get an exclusive first look at Jolie Holland's new record, "Wine Dark Sea"
- Live review: Lucinda Williams remains unmatched at Echoplex
- Country's Super Sized Stars Downsize for European Success
- Bobby Bare Jr.'s Swaggering 'North of Alabama by Mornin''
- Interview with Rachael Price of Lake Street Dive
- Stream New Drive By Truckers Album "English Oceans"
On February 11th, Billy Ray Cyrus and rapper Buck 22 released a hip-hop version of Billy Ray’s long-lampooned country hit “Achy Breaky Heart” accompanied by a video complete with twerking space aliens and an introduction by Larry King of all people. Whether the point was to be purposefully-stupid and trashy to get people’s attention or not, that was the general result, and the video has received nearly 7.5 million hits and counting since its release.
“Achy Breaky 2″ allows us once again to face the new music dilemma of whether a song is successful despite being bad, or because of it, and what this could mean for the future of music. In October of 2012 when Billboard modernized their chart rules, concerns were raised that including certain aspects of new media into the chart mix might make gauging the intent of listeners difficult. This was the question asked when the Brad Paisley / LL Cool J collaboration “Accidental Racist” appeared on Billboard’s country charts in the wake of an embrolio about the song in the media, including the lampooning of the track in skits by Saturday Night Live and by Stephen Colbert. Even though the song was never released as a single, the curiosity and car crash factor led to a successful chart performance, outperforming Paisley’s current single at the time.
Troubled about where this trend might lead, Saving Country Music pointed out,
One problem with Billboard’s new system, and many digital metrics we use to gauge popularity these days, is their ability to measure intent….People seeking to hear ["Accidental Racist'] for themselves downloaded it, or took to their music subscription service of choice to see what all the fuss was about, driving the metrics of the song up for the wrong reasons. Along with the trappings this paradigm presents currently, the next question is will there be artists who create songs simply because they know they will be either controversial or considered bad?
That concern was taken one step further when in February of 2013, Billboard changed their rules again to reflect YouTube data. This later rule is what has specifically allowed “Achy Breaky 2″ to register on multiple Billboard charts, without selling a significant amount of downloads, and without receiving any sizable radio play. “Accidental Racist” wasn’t accompanied by a video, and wasn’t released purposely to be lampooned and draw attention to itself; it was simply an album cut that became the subject of interest and ridicule naturally.
Because of the amount of YouTube views “Achy Breaky 2″ achieved, the song debuted at #11 on Billboard’s Hot Rap songs chart, and #16 on the Streaming Songs chart. But is this a fair chart assessment for a song that the majority of listeners/viewers consumed simply to point and laugh at it?”
As Saving Country Music said at the time of Billboard’s YouTube rule change,
What Billboard’s YouTube data does not consider is quality, and the curiosity factor. Whereas songs on the radio, or songs that people purchase are being consumed because the public has deemed them appealing, music on YouTube can sometimes go viral for how bad or polarizing or offensive it is. Take for example Rebecca Black’s “Friday.” The song would have rocketed to #1 on the charts under this rule, yet the majority of the viewers of the video drew an unfavorable reaction to it. It was the car wreck factor that forced the song viral. This means that songs could chart because the public vehemently hates them instead of liking them.
And this is exactly what has happened with “Achy Breaky 2″, resulting in the edging out more relevant and appealing material on the charts.
How do we know “Achy Breaky 2″ was bolstered by curiosity and dislike? Because just like Rebecca Black’s “Friday,” the favorable to unfavorable ratio on YouTube’s rating feature shows that by an almost 3 to 1 margin, viewers of “Achy Breaky 2″ do not like the video.
Billboard editor Bill Werde has addressed this issue before, saying that he sees how this could be a problem, but none of Billboard’s protocols prevented “Achy Breaky 2″ from charting. Could the reporting for Billboard’s charts from YouTube include a caveat based on YouTube’s like and dislike feature to filter out songs that clearly are not meeting the approval of watchers or listeners, or is this a slippery slope itself where music would begin to be judged on taste instead of impact by lay listeners?
But this isn’t where the controversy for “Achy Breaky 2″ ends. Similar to how many country music fans have been angered by Billboard’s new chart rules and how they benefit artists that have “crossover” or pop appeal by including plays in pop radio for artists originating in country, so to has rap seen an infiltration of its charts by outside forces, effecting the autonomy of the genre and aiding the formation of a mono-genre. Though Billy Ray Cyrus is a country star and “Achy Breaky 2″ is based off a country song, it was the rap charts that were forced to claim it, causing quite a clamor in the rap community.
Sean Fennessey writing for Grantland calls the song symptomatic of rap being pulled down by influences from outside the genre. Does this sound familiar country music fans?
Last week, the fastest-rising addition to Billboard’s Hot Rap Songs chart was neither a rap song, nor a hot song. It had been released just a week prior, and there was rapping. But Buck 22’s “Achy Breaky 2” … bears none of the hallmarks of the genre. It is, however, remarkable in that it is remarkably bad… [It] is emblematic of a genre in disrepair. It is an abomination, or, at least, a practical joke inflicted upon an unwitting public.
Buck 22 has arrived at a time when rap is more vulnerable than ever to interlopers and synthesists eager to run their sound through the Vitamix of popular music with such speed and force it’s impossible to determine the ingredients. “Achy Breaky 2” is a copy of a copy of a Xerox of a guy’s ass. It’s juvenile, and we’ve seen it before. But the quickness with which it grew makes me wonder whether it’s more than a novelty song.
But “Achy Breaky 2″ was successful because it was a novelty song, bolstered by the new protocols governing Billboard’s charts that can’t measure intent. And if either the song, the collaboration, the video, or all of them were purposely made to be awful to take advantage of the viral curiosity they forecasted would ensue and the favorable metric environment that allowed it to be recognized on industry-leading charts, who’s to say it won’t happen again, or become prevalent or common in the music marketplace?
On second thought, “Achy Breaky 2″ could be more than a novelty song. Much more. It could be the first song that was successful for being bad, and recognized by the industry for it.
In 2011, when Jason Aldean’s country rap song “Dirt Road Anthem” became the best selling song in all of country music, the genre’s impending dalliance with rap was ordained. Though the sub genre had been brewing under the surface for many years, and quite successfully for some acts, it had now hit it big, and it was only a matter of time before you would see country music’s top performers experiment with the genre bending style.
When “Dirt Road Anthem” hit, artists like Cowboy Troy and “Dirt Road Anthem” co-writer Colt Ford had already made successful careers out of country rap for years, despite not being able to rise to the level of mainstream radio acceptance. There were many other acts doing very well at the club level with country rap, like The Moonshine Bandits, Bubba Sparxxx, and The Lacs. Country rap even had much of its own infrastructure, and despite the suspicion it was eyed with from the mainstream, most country rap acts were able to post videos and get views in the millions, Wal-Mart was stocking hick hop on their shelves, while labels like Average Joes, started by Colt Ford, offered material support to some of the bigger country rap acts.
When Music Row decided rap was its future and a potential vehicle to drive the genre out of the malaise it suffered with the rest of music in the decade of the oughts, there were a number of ways the influence could be integrated into the genre. Major labels could sign or otherwise champion already-established country rap acts like Colt Ford and The Moonshine Bandits. Or they could try to impose the new style with already-established mainstream stars who had proven they were palatable with the American public. The latter is the path country rap eventually took. Despite the success of “Dirt Road Anthem,” the song had fought an uphill battle on radio itself. Programmers were suspicious of country rap, and artists like Tim McGraw and Blake Shelton who would later release their own country rap songs, were a known quantity and already under contract compared to unproven talent like Bubba Sparxxx or The Lacs.
But 2012 came, and it was mostly quiet on the country rap front from a mainstream standpoint. As Saving Country Music pointed out in the story Mono-Genre Watch: 2012 End-Of-Year Sales,
2012 did not see either a dominant country-rap single, album, or artist. Rap is still asserting itself as an influence in country, but may not be finding the commercial strength it needs to stick. 2012 mono-genre songs like Tim McGraw’s “Truck Yeah” underperformed to expectations, never cracking Billboard’s Top 10 on the country chart.
But Music Row is notoriously 18 months behind the relevancy cycle. “Dirt Road Anthem” had taken the industry by surprise, and it took over a year for country’s major labels to retool to the new country rap reality. Then by 2013, country rap came out in full force, with virtually all of mainstream country’s big male stars releasing rap/country songs. Reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year Blake Shelton released “Boys ‘Round Here” to a #2 chart showing and double platinum sales. ACM Entertainer of the Year Luke Bryan released country rap “That’s My Kind of Night” that spent a whopping twelve weeks at #1, and was the song to finally depose another country rap-inspired single “Cruise” by upstart Florida Georgia Line that became the longest-running #1 song in the history of country music.
But 2014 has been a different story already. Whereas 2013 seemed to be dominated by country rap singles, 2014 has so far been the story of EDM, or Electronic Dance Music. Though EDM and hip hop can sometimes be mistaken for each other, especially to the country consumer’s ear and because the two disciplines have numerous similarities (use of electronic beats, sampling, and rapping instead of singing in some instances), there are also many clear differences between the two disciplines.
When Jerrod Niemann released his single “Drink To That All Night” in the second half of 2013, country music’s EDM cherry had been popped, and it seemed to be a harbinger for things to come in the country format. Interestingly the single underperformed in most of 2013, but has been creeping up the charts in early 2014, reaching its highest chart ranking in the last week of February. Though the argument can be made that Jerrod Niemann is still rapping instead of singing, “Drink To That All Night” is full of EDM earmarks: the heavily Auto-tuned electronic-sounding vocals, the digitized beats, and most-importantly the emphasis on perfectitude in the music as opposed to the fallibility of a live, traditional band lineup playing real instruments, reinforced in the video of the song that heavily refers to the EDM/dance club culture instead of the country honky tonk.
Many of the lead singles from country music’s big 2014 album releases from male artists lean heavily towards EDM influences, most notably Tim McGraw’s “Lookin’ For That Girl” with it’s heavily-digitized vocal track and electronic beat bed. Rascal Flatt’s “Rewind” incorporates many EDM elements. And Brantley Gilbert, one of the other co-writers of “Dirt Road Anthem,” his latest single “Bottoms Up” sounds much less like a country rap, and more like a country/EDM effort with more melody to the vocals, and the signature electronic drum bed and digitization of instrumentation.
First, don’t count country rap out. There are certainly more country rap singles from big, mainstream country artists in the pipeline that we’re likely to hear in 2014, if they ever go away completely in the more global trend of the formation of a mono-genre. And in the independent realm, acts like The Lacs and Moonshine Bandits are likely to remain sustainable commodities.
But despite a few lucrative singles, country rap was very hit and miss in the mainstream. The aforementioned “Truck Yeah” by Tim McGraw seemed like an unfortunate career move. Jason Aldean’s “Dirt Road Anthem” followup called “1994″ was a general flop in comparison, stalling in the charts despite a heavy push behind the song. Brad Paisley’s much-ridiculed “Accidental Racist” with LL Cool J wasn’t even released as a single. In the end, mainstream country stars just didn’t make good rappers. Country music is for crooners and twang, and even though these elements are generally lacking in present-day country music anyway, this was the foundation of these singer’s discipline, and rapping never stopped feeling foreign to them, their audience, and most importantly, radio programmers.
EDM on the other hand is a “no experience required” format when it comes to singing. The purposefully heavy Auto-tuned environment allows the performer to simply hit close approximations of the melody the song is built around, and then the studio hands take over from there.
However just like with rap, country music is horrifically late when it comes to the EDM game. The argument that was made during the integration of rap into country is that country music had to evolve. What the people making that argument failed to realize is that rap was already a 30-year-old art form when it made its appearance in country’s mainstream. Similarly, many of the EDM elements we’re seeing in country—especially Auto-tuned lyrics—are already considered outmoded in most other mainstream music.
Similarly, the relevancy arch has moved on in many ways from the heavy electronic sound. An EDM act in Daft Punk dominated the Grammy Awards held in January, and they did so with a live sound. Instead of starting with electronic beats and synthesized hooks, Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories featured live, human instrumentation and vocals with minimal electronic treatment. This was the formula that won them 5 Grammy Awards, including Best Album and Best Record. In the end it is not the EDM elements in country music that make it bad, just like rapping in a country song isn’t something that can be completely ruled out as a valid form of expression if it is done in a fresh, artistic way. It is the poor implementation—the awkwardness of the integration of the two influences, and the submissive pose country takes towards EDM and rap—that makes it so polarizing.
Whether it was country rap in 2013, or EDM influences in 2014, it speaks to a systemic problem with country music that the format deems itself inadequate and feels the need integrate influences from other genres to stay relevant, following instead of leading, and making excuses of why it can still be cool instead of educating the public on country music’s inherent virtues.
RIP Flipping Off The Camera to be Cool
Born February 24th, 1969 San Quentin, CA — Died February 19th, 2014 Nashville, TN
Yes ladies and gentlemen, we have the death of yet another great American institution to lay at the feet of The Country Music Anti-Christ, Big Machine Records President and CEO Scott Borchetta.
The offense occurred when Scott Borchetta flashed the double bird at a camera as part of a Country Radio Seminar function in Nashville on Wednesday night, November 19th while in the presence of Mötley Crüe members Vince Neil and Nikki Sixx, and Big Machine artist Brantley Gilbert. The photo was later posted on Nikki Sixx’s Twitter feed, with the even more unfortunate caption proclaiming the group “NASHVILLE OUTLAWS.”
Flipping the bird to the camera first became cool when Johnny Cash famously showed his middle finger to photographer Jim Marshall at San Quentin before his 1969 concert at the legendary lockdown in response to Jim Marshall’s request, “John, let’s do a shot for the warden.” But the picture remained relatively obscure until 1998 when Cash was working with Rick Rubin, and country radio refused to play Johnny’s new music. So Rubin took out a $20,000 ad in Billboard with the famous photograph thanking country radio for its support (Read full story behind Johnny Cash’s famous middle finger). Since then the bird flipping had taken on a special significance in country music, coming to symbolize a rebellion against country music’s status quo….until the status quo co-opted it for their own purposes.
But truth be told, flipping the camera off had gone from being cool to being horrifically cliché many moons ago, and was going through a long-suffering and unnecessarily-protracted death leading up to Borchetta finally putting it out of its misery by removing any and all cool factor that might be left in the indecent maneuver. It makes it one measure worse that it comes from a moment of celebrity crotch-sniffing from Scott. His label Big Machine bartered with Mötley Crüe to put out a country-flavored tribute album to the retiring band; a pursuit of vanity for Borchetta who once had his own hair metal aspirations.
So bye bye birdie. It was cool while it lasted, but like so many other things related to country music, it was ruined by posers.
Like my grandpa always said, you haven’t made it until another man has thoughtfully perused an assemblage of weapons and pondered your demise. And I know what ol’ grandpa Trigger would say if he were here today: “Who the hell is Eric Church?”
There’s been a few interesting opportunities bestowed to Saving Country Music over the years: Interviews by by The New York Times and the BBC, quotes by CNN and Fox News just to name a few, and then there was that time when I was cited in a Playboy Magazine article about Eric Church …. though it was actually in reference to Luke Bryan having a vagina. It’s a long story.
While I’ve never thought of being quoted in Men’s Journal as being a crowning achievement, the idea by writer Erik Hedegaard to read inflammatory quotes from Saving Country Music to Eric Church and then capture his reaction is a pretty clever one. Of course, Men’s Journal couldn’t have quoted the many positive things I’ve said over the years about the Sunglassed One. It would’ve been no fun to read to Eric Church how he “… deserves tremendous credit for creating an album that is this far off Music Row’s well beaten path, and goes beyond the simple back and forth between love ballads and braggadocios laundry list songs.”
So instead Men’s Journal pulled some snippets from the only “Über Rant” I’ve ever written. It’s fair game though; I wouldn’t have written it if I wasn’t willing to stand behind it, or at the least, take responsibility for it. Eric Church, or at least his marketing peeps, had crossed a line releasing a video that showed somewhat psychotic imagery in reference to Taylor Swift while the ink was still drying on numerous creepy stalking stories involving the young starlet. I don’t have any particular love for how Taylor Swift’s been at the forefront of eroding the integrity of the term “country” with her pop songs. But wrong is wrong, and it seemed like a pretty dim bulb move to release that type of imagery rife for misunderstanding about a young woman, despite whatever the intentions were behind it.
And apparently Eric Church’s peeps agreed, and pulled the video mere hours after my expletive-fueled rant demanded they do so, and then posted an explanation to head any press drama off at the pass. Now that’s an accomplishment this sweet, innocent little independent country music writer can hang his hat on.
In fact if the Eric Church teaser video that was taken down by my demand was so harmless, I encourage them to post it back up and let the people decide. Eric Church Inc. should probably thank me for pulling their bacon out of the fire before the video spurned a media frenzy, which probably should have happened anyway, and was on the very brink of happening before they pulled it. In hindsight, maybe instead of demanding they take it down, I should’ve given them more rope by saying nothing and leaving them a clear path to leave it up. But I digress.
So Erik Hedegaard of Men’s Journal reads Eric Church this quote from the Saving Country Music über rant:
Eric Church isn’t an ‘Outsider’; he’s a fucking conformist. He’s a marketeer . . . who has Svengalied a bunch of disenfranchised country fans into believing he’s offering any type of alternative to pop country, when in truth he is more of a tool of the mainstream pop-country industrial complex than anyone.
“Wow, that’s a rough one,” says Church, hearing this for the first time. He’s in a trailer parked on his property, where he’s building his dream house. Resting on a table in front of him is the Gerber knife, the pistol, and the .25-06 Remington with a sweet Leupold scope. Scratching his neck, he looks seriously irritated for a moment, like he’s about to grab one of those nearby tools of destruction and go after the messenger. Then he seems merely at a loss for words. Finally, he gets his small-town North Carolina twang working again and says, “Have we done it our own way? Yeah. How we are is popular now, but it wasn’t when we first did it, so what am I supposed to do?” He puts his hands on the table. “I mean, it’s a possibility that we’re marketing it now. But we’ve been that person the whole time.”
Grandpa would be proud …. Actually Grandpa told me no such thing. He just told me to mind my mother and slipped me $10 bills when she wasn’t looking.
We’ve known for a while that Eric Church is a reader of Saving Country Music, or at least that he’s read the site before. There was the time back in 2010 or 2011 when Church read an article on the site, misinterpreted it, and wrote the song “Country Music Jesus” (See Eric Church talk about writing “Country Music Jesus”). But he seemed genuinely shocked that even I would go that far this time. Then again, there’s a good chance he never saw that teaser video with Taylor Swift as the (seeming) target, either.
Eric Church goes on in the Men’s Journal article to paint a pretty sinister picture of himself.
I have a pretty good understanding of how I am. I’ve always been pretty laid-back and easygoing, until I’m not. When I get going, you’re never going to stop me. When it gets going, I’ll destroy everything.
Eric explains his nickname on the road is “Chief.”
It’s a real thing. I’m a different guy. I’m a different hang. Some people are intimidated by it and cut me a wide berth. I’ve noticed it.
But if I saw Church walking towards me, in Chief mode or not, I’d stop to shake his hand. After all, it’s just music, and musical opinions aside, he deserves respect just like anyone. Unless he’s doing something that could potentially result in the harm of others. Then I might stand in his way, whether that meant my detriment, or demise. And that’s just the way of things.
Thanks for the ink Men’s Journal.
Tuesday, February 18th was the inaugural Ameripolitan Music Awards at the Wyndham Garden Hotel in Austin, TX. To see a complete list of winners, a play by play account of the night, and more pictures, please check out the 2014 Ameripolitan Awards LIVE Blog.
Below are some photographs of the night from photographer C. C. Ekström of the excellent website Almost Out Of Gas. You can also see the video presentation (without the full narration) that was presented at different times during the event below.
Apologies to artists that attended that were not featured, including Peewee Moore, Eric Strickland, Dallas Moore, and others. Because of the breakneck nature of the event, we did the best we could, but didn’t have time to catch up with everyone.
Welcome to Saving Country Music’s LIVE blog of the inaugural Ameripolitan Awards transpiring at the Wyndham Garden Hotel and Woodward Conference Center in Austin, TX! The event is completely sold out (in fact, oversold I’m being told), and there will be no live stream or audio broadcast of the event. So I’ll be feverishly working to bring you photos and keep you up-to-date on winners, and do my best to put you in the spirit of the moment with the idea that music is best when it’s shared.
Please feel free to follow along and keep your refresh button handy. I’ll be flying by the seat of my pants, so be patient if updates take some time to populate, and feel free to pipe up below in the comments section with your own thoughts or observances.
Announcer: Dallas Wayne
Presenters and Performers Include: James Hand, Dawn Sears, Whitey Morgan, Rosie Flores, Ray Benson, James Intveld, Wayne Hancock, Elizabeth Cook, Johnny Bush, W.S. Holland, Heybale, Roger Alan Wade, and Johnny Knoxville.
- Western Swing Female – Dawn Sears
- Western Swing Group – Asleep At The Wheel
- Western Swing Male – Ray Benson
- Honky Tonk Group – Heybale
- Honky Tonk Male – Wayne Hancock
- Honky Tonk Female – Rosie Flores
- Ralph Mooney Musician’s Award – Earl Poole Ball
- Venue Award – The Broken Spoke
- Festival Award – Muddy Roots
- Rockabilly Band – Reverend Horton Heat
- Rockabilly Female – Rosie Flores
- Rockabilly Male – Big Sandy
- DJ Award – Dallas Wayne
- Outlaw Female – Elizabeth Cook
- Outlaw Group – Whitey Morgan & The 78′s
- Outlaw Male – Unknown Hinson
- Master Award – Ray Price
- Founder of the Sound – Johnny Bush
- Founder of the Sound – W.S. Fluke Holland
11: 51 - So overall, it was an amazing night, amazing production, top-notch. As some people have pointed out, all the people who performed were also the winners. My stupid little blog could in no way do the night justice. In the coming days I might write a proper review, include some of the quotes and stories from the stage (I do have audio of the whole thing, at least), But by golly, they pulled off, and can’t grade it any less than two guns up. Congratulations to Dale Watson and the whole Ameripolitan team.
11:46 - Thanks everyone for reading! I’m going to compose some final thoughts, recap the winners, and call it a night…
11:45 - That’s it folks! Mojo Nixon screams “Ameripolitan lives!” as the Ameripolitan band plays Dale Watson off the stage.
11:43 - Dale Watson is quite drunk. This is about a 7-minute version of “Old Farts” as he pours his heart out.
11:42 - Elizabeth Cook, Dale Watson, and Ray Benson playing “T For Texas”.
11:40 - Elizabeth Cook accepting her Ameripolitan Award.
11:38 - Dale Watson gives another impassioned speech about Blake Shelton and the “Old Farts & Jackasses” incident before launching into “Old Fart”.
11:33 – Whitey Morgan performing, and accepting his Outlaw award.
11:28 - Elizabeth Cook now on stage singing “T For Texas”.
11:24 - Johnny Knoxville and Ray Benson present the Ameripolitan Outlaw Female Award to Elizabeth Cook. “We are creating our own fucking game, so don’t hate, participate,” says Elizabeth in between making jokes about the “other” things she can do with the award.
11:18 - Chris and Taylor Malpass present the Ameripolitan Outlaw Male Award to Unknown Hinson. Unfortunately Unknown could not make it to accept the award because of a family emergency.
11:17 - Luther Jackson and Izzy Cox present the Ameripolitan Outlaw Group Award to Whitey Morgan & The 78′s.
11:10 - Ahead of the last group of awards for Outlaw, Whitey Morgan take the stage and perform “Bad News.”
11:09 - Dallas Wayne accepting his Ameripolitan DJ Award.
11:06 - The Ameripolitan DJ Award presented by Steve Wertiemer and Reggie Dobson goes to Sirius XM DJ Dallas Wayne.
11:04 - Dale Watson, W.S. Holland, and Jim Heath all playing on stage together.
10:57 - The Reverend Horton Heat (or Jim Heath), Dale Watson, and W.S. Holland on the stage playing “Blue Suede Shoes,” …and now they are playing “Ring of Fire,” a song W.S. played on originally.
10:54 - Big Sandy from earlier accepting his award for rockabilly male.
10:52 - Dale Watson sets the record straight that W.S. never smoked or drank like he was portrayed in the movie “Walk The Line”.
10:50 - W.S. “Fluke” Holland just told the best story of the awards about a Cadillac car and Carl Perkins. I’ll have to transcribe it later. Amazing. Here he is accepting his award.
10:42 - Everyone standing and clapping as Fluke makes his way to the stage. For those of you that don’t know, he played drums for Johnny Cash forever. “I didn’t even know people knew I was there.”
10:40 - “Founder of the Sound Award” is presented to drummer W.S. “Fluke” Holland.
10:37 - The Reverend Horton Heat receiving his Ameripolitan award earlier.
10:35 - Big Sandy: “This means a whole lot more coming from two people who don’t know who the hell I am.” It was presented Woody Adkins and Elizabeth Cook. Elizabeth Cook is giving Mojo Nixon a run for his money as the craziest, most overcussing person tonight.
10:32 - The Ameripolitan Award for Rockabilly Male goes to Big Sandy.
10:30 - Rosie Flores: “Holy shit!” “It’s almost like we’re on this mission to keep women alive in rockabilly.”
10:28 - Roger Alan Wade and Johnny Knoxville present the Ameripolitan Rockabilly Female award to Rosie Flores. The crowd erupts again. Rosie is clearly a crowd favorite.
10:26 - The Reverend Horton Heat wins the Ameripolitan Rockabilly Group Award.
10:24 - Brett and Silvia Neal comes out to present the Rockabilly Group Award. Dale comes out on stage and says it was 99% Brett and Silvia that made Ameripolitan happen, and 1% him.
10:21 - Tonya Watts and Johnny Knoxville presenting the Ameripolitan Festival Award.
10:19 - Ameripolitan Award winner Rosie Flores on the stage earlier.
10:17 - Big Sandy gets up to perform after a video presentation of the importance of rockabilly music.
10:11 - The Ameripolitan Festival Award presented by Tonya Watts and Johnny Knoxville goes to The Muddy Roots Festival.
10:08 - Ralph Mooney’s wife and daughter presenting the Ralph Mooney Award for Musicians.
10:05 - Ameripolitan DJ nominee Big ‘G’ and his wife during the intermission.
10:04 - Mojo Nixon presents “The Chick with the Pick!” Rosie Flores to the stage for a performance.
10:00 - Cornell Hurd presenting the “Founder of the Sound” Award to Johnny Bush earlier.
9:58 - The Ameripolitan Venue Award goes to The Broken Spoke, Austin, TX.
9:53 - Forgot to mention earlier, Dale Watson had delivered the Ameripolitan “Master Award” to Ray Price before he passed away. Cool story.
9:51 – James Intveld comes out to perform ahead of the upcoming Rockabilly Awards.
9:49 - Cindy Cashdollar wins the Ralph Mooney Ameripolitan Award for Musicians. She is not on site (she had a gig in California), so a video of her accepting the award plays.
9:47 - We are back from intermission. They are getting ready to present the Ameripolitan Ralph Mooney Award for Musician. It is being presented by Mrs. Ralph Mooney.
9:45 - Rosie Flores accepting her Honky Tonk Female Award earlier. That is Amber Rockwell in the shot as well who has been walking the awards to the stage.
9:40 - The amount of stars around this place is stupid. I was shaking hands with Bobby Flores, then bumped into Redd Volkaert, and then almost got ran over by Elizabeth Cook. Let me tell you folks, Elizabeth is a little firecracker.
9:32 - Earlier when Johnny Knoxville and Roger Alan Wade were presenting, they made fun of Dale’s dud’s as being made out of their “Grandmother’s curtains” stimulating Dale to come out and confront them on stage. They also announced the female Honky Tonk Award winner was Blake Shelton, which stimulated a chorus of boos and laughs (it was really Rosie Flores.
9:25 - While I have the time, I just want to say here that this thing could not be more professional. Every last detail was thought through. The video presentations, the house bands playing the presenters on and off stage. It’s quite the production, with only a few very very minor glitches. The room is positively packed. This venue could have been twice as big, and it would still be too small. They will have to at least double the size next year.
9:21 - We go to a 15 minute “intermission” about 20 minutes late. This will give me time to catch up on pictures and some other stuff. Thanks for reading y’all!
9:20 - Johnny Bush: “I think Willie Nelson has recorded ‘Whiskey River’ about 29 times. He asked me, ‘Do you think I’ll ever get it right?’ I said, ‘I hope not.’
9:16 - Ameripolitan winner Wayne “The Train” Hancock performing earlier. (with Zach Sweeny, whose dad is following out there in Internet land)
9:15 - Standing ovation for Johnny Bush. During his acceptance speech, “My doctors are here. My preacher’s here, just in case. And my lawyer would be here, but he’s in jail.” Then Johnny Bush takes the stage to play “Whiskey River.”
9:11 - Two-time Ameripolitan winner Ray Benson performing earlier.
9:08 – Cornell Hurd presents the “Founder of the Sound” Award to Johnny Bush. Cornell gives an excellent, touching speech. “They called him the country Caruso.”
9:04 - Ameripolitan winner Dawn Sears performing earlier.
9:02 - Wayne simply says, “Gosh, I wasn’t expecting this. Thank you.” Mojo Nixon says, “Give it up for the loquacious Wayne Hancock!” Then Heybale takes the stage.
9:00 - The Ameripolitan Honky Tonk Male Award goes to Wayne “The Train” Hancock.
8:55 - Johnny Knoxville and Roger Alan Wade present the Ameripolitan Award for Honky Tonk Female to Rosie Flores.
8:54 - Johnny Bush accepting Ray Price’s “Master Award”.
8:53 - The Ameripolitan Award for Honky Tonk Band goes to Heybale.
8:51 – Wayne Hancock gets a standing ovation.
8:46 - Another well-produced video presentation ahead of the presentation of the honky tonk awards, and then Wayne “The Train” Hancock comes out to perform “Home With My Baby.”
8:45 - Shout out to Rockabilly Deluxe Magazine that just stopped by to say hi.
8:43 - Ray Benson performs “Miles and Miles of Texas”. Dale Watson helped him put his guitar on and Ray says, “The best dressed roadie in the business!”
8:40 - A better picture of Dale Watson’s duds, and the pantless Mojo Nixon. Mojo says, “This things going pretty good, and everyone said Mojo was going to fuck it up!”
8:36 - Ameripolitan Award for Western Swing Male goes to Ray Benson. Presented by Big Sandy and Abbey Road from Luckenbach.
8:35 - Dawn Sears gets very emotional on stage. “This is my very first award. Thank you.”
8:33 – The Ameripolitan Award for Western Swing Female goes to Dawn Sears!
8:32 - Dale Watson at the introduction, and the Ameripolitan band.
8:31 - Ray Benson and other members of Asleep At The Wheel on stage accepting the award. “44 years with this band, 100 members, half the members of this audience, I think.”
8:30 - The Ameripolitan Western Swing Group of the Year is Asleep At The Wheel!
8:25 - Have tons of photos coming up folks! Stuff is happening so fast, just trying to keep up!
8:23 - In between live presentations are video taped presentations. This is very slick. Mojo Nixion, “They told me not to drink on stage. Fuck it!” And Dawn Sears takes the stage.
8:21 - Johnny Bush remembers his time in the Cherokee Cowboys. “You we’re like an uncle to me,” Johnny recalls saying to Ray. Ray responded “You’re no kin to me!” (crowd laughs)
8:19 - Ray Price is awarded the Master Award. Johnny Bush accepts the award for Ray to a standing ovation.
8:17 - The video presentation continues, with the explanation of how Ameripolitan got started. Ray Price’s letter he wrote to Blake Shelton after the “Old Farts & Jackasses” episode was read aloud, and the crowd erupts.
8:15 - James Hand gets a standing ovation from the Ameripolitan crowd. By the way, I forgot to mention, Mojo Nixon has no pants on (but boxers, luckily).
8:13 - Mojo Nixon hands it off to James Hand who performers “In The Corner, At My Table, By the Jukebox.”
8:12 - Some more photos of artists filing in: Tonya Watts, and Whitey Morgan with Elizabeth Cook.
8:08 - Dale hands it over to Mojo Nixon who screams into the microphone, “I’m hotter than two foxes fucking in a forest fire!” Then a video presentation starts to play on the screens flanking the stage.
8:07 - “This is your music, this is your artists, this is your genre!” — Dale Watson
8:02 - The Ameripolitan Awards have started! Dale Watson is welcoming everyone, and introducing the band.
7:58 - The show is scheduled to start off with an explanation of what Ameripolitan is, and a performance by James Hand.
7:56 - Heads up, Unknown Hinson did NOT make it. But Elizabeth Cook did!
7:55 - Have a bunch more photos coming folks! Everywhere I turn there’s a hand to shake. I tell people I’m working and they don’t believe me.
7:45 - Some various choices for Ameripolitan garb. Just saw Hillbilly Casino pass by, and radio personality Big G.
7:36 - James “Slim” Hand taking advantage of the Ameripolitan photo op.
7:30 – Dale Watson a while ago double checking on everything before getting dudded up. Notice the “Staff” on the back of his shirt.
7:22 - The house band tonight will be Redd Volkaert – Guitar, Jason Roberts – Fiddle, Chris Crepps – Bass, Mike Bernal – Drums, Earl Poole Ball – Piano, Don Pawlak – Pedal Steel.
7:18 - On the front tables there is “Table Pop Art” of famous country music greats done by Harmony High School Art Class #3 from Big Sandy, TX.
7:15 - Here’s some pictures of the Lake Austin Room at the hotel where the festivities will transpire. At the very front are circular tables for all of the nominees and big donors, then smaller, rectangular tables for other nominees and donors, and then rows of chairs for everyone else.
7:07 - Here’s some pictures of where the Ameripolitan Awards are transpiring for the people who like a little more perspective. I’ve been wondering why they decided to do it hare as opposed to a more traditional venue, but tthe lobby is filled with pictures of Austin musicians, guitars, etc. and is known for supporting functions like this. We’re still 50 minutes or so from the start of the presentation, so posts may be sparse until the start of the awards.
7:05 - Walked into the door of the hotel, and the star power just in the lobby was incredible: Reverend Horton Heat, Dale Watson, Eric Strickland, Wayne Hancock, Redd Volkaert, James Hand, and the list goes on. A lot of talent has trekked here for tonight. I also have met journalists from as far as Italy who are here to cover the event. I will be posting pictures all night, but because of the poor light in here, the quality may not be the best. However, I have Charlie from Almost Out Of Gas here taking better photos that will be posted after the event.
7:00 - Alright folks, I’m going to make this disclaimer real quick, and then there’s going to be no more word about this the rest of the night: Per the numerous emails and comments elsewhere, I am very aware that some folks have issues with Ameripolitan. I have issues with Ameripolitan. However this is their night, Dale and many others have worked very hard on this, and in the end the idea is to support music. There’s a lot of great artists that will be honored and showcased tonight, so let’s focus on the music and the artists and be thankful for the fellowship.
Sometimes it’s the unscripted moments when you get to see the true character of individuals that your primary interaction with is either through their music or watching them on stage. Case in point is Saving Country Music’s reigning Artist of the Year Jason Isbell, who at a show at the Barrymore Theatre in Madison, Wisconsin on February 7th was confronted with a few brawling fans near the front rows and had to stop the show down.
In stark contrast to the culture surrounding many of mainstream country’s male stars who seem to condone and even promote fighting, including Eric Church who once bragged to Playboy Magazine about the fighting culture that permeates his concerts which was then evidenced a few weeks later in the massive melees, multiple arrests, and colossal mess left in the wake of one of his concerts with Kenny Chesney in Pittsburgh last summer, Jason Isbell stopped down the concert to deal civilly with the fracas.
But the best part was Isbell’s mix of swear words to let the offending parties know he meant business, and the “aw shucks” authenticity of a guy originally from Muscle Shoals, Alabama that made a rather common concert occurrence into an endearing display of character.
It’s that time of year again when we’re on the verge of hearing who the next class of inductees to the Country Music Hall of Fame will be. Though the date seems to be getting later and later each year (last year it stretched all the way to April 10th—2012 was announced on March 6th), as soon as spring starts to break, you can be assured an announcement is coming soon.
It must be said whenever broaching the subject of the Country Music Hall of Fame that it has been The Hall’s desire over the years to have it be an exclusive institutions when it comes to inductees. Where the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and certain sports seem to throw the barn doors wide and accept all comers, the Country Music Hall of Fame would rather take gruff for who is not in the The Hall as opposed to who shouldn’t be, but is. You can always induct someone in the future, but it’s nearly impossible to throw someone out.
The Country Music Hall of Fame inductees are selected through a committee process appointed by the Country Music Association, or CMA. Since 2010, the selection process has been split up into three categories. 1) Modern Era (eligible for induction 20 years after they first achieve “national prominence”). 2) Veterans Era (eligible for induction 45 years after they first achieve “national prominence”). 3) Non-Performer, Songwriter, and Recording and/or Touring Musician active prior to 1980 (rotates every 3 years). With a musician, Hargus “Pig” Robbins selected in 2012, and a non-performer in “Cowboy” Jack Clement selected last year (though he was a performer and songwriter, it was more for his producer role), it would a songwriter’s turn up to bat this year.
Since 2001, anywhere from 2 to 4 names have been added to the Hall of Fame each year. Usually one name from the above mentioned categories makes it per year, but if no name gets enough of a majority vote, a category may not be represented in a given year. Or, if two names get enough votes from a category, then both may come from that category.
Potential Modern Era Inductees
Last year’s inductee – Kenny Rogers
Ricky Skaggs – Ricky Skaggs is the artist that has felt like he’s been right on the bubble of being inducted over the last couple of years. Skaggs has bookened his career as a mandolin maestro, studied under Bill Monroe, and is now firmly ensconcing himself as a country music elder. In between then, he had tremendous commercial success in the 80′s when country was searching for its next superstar. Few could argue with this pick and Skaggs is very well liked across country music. He was also announced recently as the Country Music Hall of Fame’s “Artist in Residence.” Though there is no official correlation between being named an Artist in Residence and being inducted the next year, that coincidence has happened numerous times, including for last year’s modern era inductee, Kenny Rogers. Skaggs has to be considered a frontrunner.
Ronnie Milsap - Milsap is a name that has probably been on final ballots for the Hall of Fame for going on two decades, and in a couple of years will cycle over to a veteran’s era candidate, if he hasn’t already depending on where you want to start the clock on him. Though his commercial success is unquestionable, the fact that he started outside the genre and found a lot of his success as a crossover star might make him a hard name for voters to pull the trigger on. Having said that, seeing another name who started outside of country and had a lot of his success in the crossover world get inducted last year in Kenny Rogers, might move Milsap one step closer.
Alan Jackson – 2013 was Jackson’s first year of eligibility, and there was a sense he just missed out on being a first year Modern Era inductee like Garth Brooks and Reba McEntire. A huge commercial success in his day who always payed homage to the roots of the genre and the artists who came before him, Jackson is a shoe-in for The Hall eventually, and should be a very strong candidate this year. He’s well-liked, with little to no baggage (there was that whole George Jones “Choices” thing back in 1999 at the CMA Awards, but hey, that was a long time ago). Alan Jackson is a strong contender.
Randy Travis – At this time last year, despite Randy’s fresh eligibility and unquestionable credentials for the Hall, he was facing a string of drunk driving charges, and spinning the unsavory story of trying to bum a cigarette at a gas station naked. In such a crowded field, it was easy to give Travis a pass. But this year the story is much different. After suffering from a heart condition and stroke while in the midst of a strong recovery from his personal issues, Randy Travis has to be considered the sympathy favorite for the distinction. Will it be enough? Maybe not, but Randy will be a frontrunner in the Modern Era until he’s inducted.
Brooks & Dunn – A commercial powerhouse whose career was somewhat overshadowed by the success of Garth and their strange place as a non-familial country duo, their first album Brand New Man sold 6 million copies, and they won the CMA for Vocal Duo of the Year every year but one between 1992 and 2006. Their success is not debatable, but did they have the type of influence it takes to be Hall of Famers this early in their eligibility window, and with this crowded of a field? And does the fact that they’re no longer a functioning act hurt them, or is Kix with his radio work and Dunn with his brewing country revolution still visible enough? A few more names may have to tick off the list before their turn, but they have to be considered contenders.
Other Possible Modern Era Inductees:
- The Oak Ridge Boys – Another Strong Contender
- The Judds
- Dwight Yoakam – You’d think with 25 million records sold, his name would be more associated with this distinction. Maybe in the coming years.
- Keith Whitley – Garth Brooks a couple of years ago said he deserved induction before him.
- Clint Black – If it wasn’t for his career’s disappearing act, his name would be right up there with Travis, Jackson, and Brooks & Dunn
- Toby Keith – Officially eligible because he had his first success in 1993, but probably on the outside-looking-in for the next few years
- Charlie Daniels
- Tayna Tucker
- Crystal Gayle
- Gene Watson
- Mickey Gilley
Potential Veterans Era Inductees
Last year’s inductee – Bobby Bare
Predicting the Veterans Era nominees is notoriously foolhardy because they pull from such a wide field of potential inductees. It’s made one measure harder by a general lack of chatter out there surrounding potential nominees compared to previous years. But here’s a few educated guesses.
Jerry Lee Lewis – He’s a definite possibility for induction, and with the lack of a clear front runner, this might be his year. He may be held back some since he came from rock & roll, and his antics on The Grand Ole Opry and other places over the years. But his contributions as one of country music’s preeminent piano players cannot be denied. If Elvis is in the Country Hall (and he is), his old Sun Studios buddy can’t be counted out.
Jerry Reed – Such a great ambassador over the years for country music from his work with Smokey & The Bandit to Scooby-Doo, but Jerry Reed should be inducted for his stellar and influential work as both a performer, songwriter, and a musician. There weren’t many better guitar pickers back in the day than Jerry Reed. And his work as a session musician with so many of country music’s big names made him a well-known and likable character throughout the genre.
Hank Williams Jr. – It’s somewhat hard to know if Hank Jr. should be considered a Veteran or Modern Era candidate because of the double-era aspect of his career, but he’s a contender either way. However despite his two CMA Entertainer of the Year awards and millions of albums sold, you don’t get the sense it’s his time just yet. Only playing around 18 shows a year these days, and generally being once removed from the moving and shaking of the country genre while he pursues a quasi political career, Hank Jr. could be passed over this year others pushing harder for the distinction.
Lynn Anderson & Dottie West – Lynn and Dottie are the two ladies that likely lead the field for female veteran inductees. Both of these ladies are right on the bubble, as they have probably been for many years. Since there wasn’t a woman inductee last year and there’s no strong female contenders in the Modern Era category, the pressure to include a woman from the veteran field in 2014 might be greater.
The Maddox Brothers & Rose – The Maddox Brothers & Rose was a name that probably wasn’t on many people’s radar until the last couple of years. With their prominent place at the very beginning of the Hall of Fame’s current Bakersfield Sound exhibit, it is hard not to see how important their influence was on country, especially West Coast country, and the flashy dress of country performers that still influences the genre today. It may be a long shot, but if groups like The Jordanaires and The Sons of the Pioneers are in The Hall, certainly The Maddox Brothers & Rose should be. And it would be great to see happen while the final member, the 91-year-old Don Maddox, is still around.
Gram Parsons – Gram’s inclusion here is always a topic of great discussion. In 2013 there was a greater push than ever to induct him, with influential Country Music writer Chet Flippo personally making the case for him, and other chatter that 2013 might be his year. But it wasn’t, and it may be years before it is, but his name is always in the field for this accolade, and looking at the influence Gram had showing millions of rock and roll fans the beauty of country music, it should be.
John Hartford – This is a long shot pick, but he deserves induction. As I said in my prognostications from a couple of year ago, “The Country Music Hall of Fame works like a timeline as you walk through the displays that weave around the massive archive in the center of the building. As you start from the beginning, each artist and their impact is displayed on a plaque that includes their Hall of Fame induction date. When I came to the John Hartford display on my last visit to The Hall this summer, he was the first to have a display, but no Hall of Fame induction date.”
Tompall Glaser & The Glaser Brothers – Probably another long shot, but one that has to be considered a more legitimate contender in 2014 with the passing of Tompall last year. It probably helps that his brothers-in-Outlaw-country-arms Bobby Bare and “Cowboy” Jack Clement were inducted last year, moving folks like Tompall and other Outlaw-esque country music personalities one step closer in the process.
Johnny Paycheck and David Allan Coe – These names come up every year from hard country fans, and are names regularly held up as evidence of the Hall of Fame’s illegitimacy. The simple truth is that with these two performer’s shady pasts, Hall of Fame induction is going to be difficult. Johnny Paycheck has a more distinct possibility than David Allan Coe, because Coe could create a public relations nightmare for the Hall of Fame from people (correct or not) who label Coe a racist, sexist, etc. etc. Patience mixed with persistence is what Coe and Paycheck fans need to see their heroes inducted, as time heals all wounds. One positive sign for them is the induction of Bobby Bare and “Cowboy” Jack Clement last year. This means the CMA committee is willing to pick Outlaw artists and personalities for the Hall, and those two inductions move Paycheck and Coe two steps closer.
Randomly, I also think there’s a strong chance that the next major rotating exhibit at The Hall could be a feature on the Outlaw era of country, which might also give people like Paycheck, Coe, Tompall, and others a chance to be featured at the Hall of Fame beyond induction.
Other Possible Veterans Era Inductees:
- Jimmy Martin
- Vern Gosdin
- Ralph Stanley
- Johnny Horton
- The Browns
- June Carter Cash
- Wynn Stewart
- Jim Ed Brown
Potential Songwriter Inductees
Last songwriter inducted – Bobby Braddock in 2011
The 3rd category rotates between a musician, a non-performer (executive, producer, journalist, etc.), or songwriter on different years. 2014 would be a songwriter year.
Though there may be some artists that would technically qualify for induction under this category like Keith Whitley, Townes Van Zandt, Billy Joe Shaver, or any number of other artists that have extensive songwriting credits, this category is meant for behind-the-scenes songwriters who would never be inducted if not for this category. Though the award might go to someone with a little more modern success as a songwriter to go along with their storied history, here’s two interesting names that deserve strong consideration.
Hank Cochran – Hank would be a worthy inductee, and it just might happen for him as a songwriter of both critical acclaim and commercial success. It can’t hurt that Jamey Johnson also recently release a tribute to Cochran, making him front-of-mind when voters are thinking of songwriters who deserve this distinction. Cochran should be considered a front runner.
John D. Loudermilk – A cousin to The Louvin Brothers that had great commercial success as a songwriter in the 60′s and 70′s, he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1976, and certainly deserves consideration for this distinction. Nonetheless, it’s probably a long shot.
Shel Silverstein would be another interesting name.
Picks and Predictions
Who I Think Will Be Inducted
- Ricky Skaggs or Alan Jackson – Modern Era
- Jerry Lee Lewis, Vern Gosdin, or Jerry Reed – Veterans Era
- Hank Cochran – Songwriter
Who I Think Should Be Inducted
- Ricky Skaggs – Modern Era
- Maddox Brothers & Rose / Tompall & The Glaser Brothers – Veterans Era
- Hank Cochran – Songwriter
When populating a list of the most polarizing personalities in the greater country music world, right near the top would be Eric Church, who has made a career of not shying away from controversy, but careening straight into it, and Shooter Jennings, the son of Waylon whose unusual approach both on and off the stage has won him devout followers and fierce critics.
Though the two artists don’t have any direct affiliations and have never really crossed paths in any significant manner, over the past year, the way their music has been promoted to the public from their respective albums has been very, very similar.
It was the very first thought that entered my head in mid October of 2013 when seeing Eric Church’s first teaser video for his album The Outsiders, set for release on Feb. 11th. The use of a teaser video itself was the initial tipoff. Not that Shooter Jennings was the very first to use teaser videos like he did in the run up to the release of his album The Other Life in early 2013, but the practice has been quite rare, especially in country music. And that was just the very beginning. So many other things that have transpired in Eric Church’s The Outsiders release that so closely parallel the release of Shooter’s The Other Life, that even if it is not purposeful or a “ripoff”, it is remarkable enough to point out nonetheless.
In fairness, even though Eric Church is the man whose name is on The Outsiders publicity material, it is not him alone, if him at all, but filmmakers and other production crew members that are helping him put The Outsiders roll out together, just as Shooter Jennings had a filmmaker named Blake Judd helping him with his project. But the similarities can’t be denied. Let’s take a look at them:
1. The Video Concept
The roll out for Shooter’s The Other Life album was supported by a short film by filmmaker Blake Judd of Judd Films. Teaser videos for the album, and full music videos for some of the songs were pulled from The Other Life film for promotional purposes.
As Shooter Jennings explained to baeblemusic.com, his label Entertainment One was willing to give him a video budget for the album “because they felt like it was more effective to create content … which I totally agree with … [rather than] you know, promoting stuff by just throwing money at radio or whatever.” So instead of making specific videos for individual songs from the album, Shooter and his team decided to make a short film that videos for the songs could be taken from.
The story and film snippets from The Other Life were purposely vague to create attention and intrigue in the project, and hinted to a deeper storyline that would eventually resolve when the full movie and a comic book was revealed. “…so we’re looking at it and we’re like ‘This thing is weird, but it’s cool,’” said Shooter at the time. “We’re sort of unveiling each part of it in a way, but it ends up tying all together very nicely…I think that when you see the whole thing it’s gonna make a little more sense.”
When it came to the roll out of Eric Church’s The Outsiders eight months later, almost the same exact video concept was employed to promote the album, with vague, ambiguous plot lines to create intrigue and hint to a larger narrative, which would eventually resolve once all the videos and the album were released.
“We’ve conceived and conceptualized what these videos are gonna be,” Eric Church told The Boot on January 29th, 2014. “There’s a storyline, so basically everybody you see…all the characters, they each have a story line and they all relate to each other… And we wanted it to be this big mystery, level of intrigue, that just was fun for fans that we could have this thing of trying to figure it out and looking at where clues were.”
2. The Teaser Videos
Both album roll outs used “teaser” videos ahead of the release—short, purposely-incomplete content meant to create interest in the project. Check out the first two teaser videos from the two respective projects: Shooter’s that was released on Jan 1st, 2013, and Eric Church’s that was released on October 13, 2013. Notice the primary elements of both teasers is a vague, disconnected story hinting to a larger narrative, with a dark, surreal vibe. Also notice that the coloring of both videos is very similar—darker, grayscale and sepia tones—and how both teaser videos conclude in a hard cut to black.
3. The Music Videos
After the first round of teaser videos, both Eric Church and Shooter Jennings released full-length music videos ahead of their albums. Shooter released his first video on March 9th, 2013, and Eric released his first on November 1st, 2013. In the two videos below, notice once again how they both have vague, disconnected story lines hinting to a larger narrative to be resolved in the future.
“The eerie resemblance to what Shooter and I created for ‘The Other Life’ campaign is most definitely there,” says filmmaker Blake Judd. “The idea of the teaser trailer and a short film/continual music video series we proudly worked on does seem to have a lot of parallels to what Church is doing. Maybe someone in his camp had this vision and they ran with it or maybe it was Church himself. And maybe they tried to emulate what we did and maybe not. Regardless of it all, the idea of a cross platform campaign; record, film, comic, print, VHS and digital release was something we’d never seen before, and Shooter and I are very proud of it.”
For Eric Church’s part, he told The Boot about the vagueness in his videos, “I don’t understand it either.”
4. The Name “The Outsiders”
The similarities with the video campaigns is one thing, and could be open to many different points-of-view and interpretations, especially depending on how one’s allegiances fall with the two artists. But the naming of the two albums is where the similarity between The Outsiders and The Other Life gets especially strange.
“The Outsiders” is not just the album title and the name of Eric’s lead single, it’s the cohesive theme of the entire Eric Church record and roll out. Interestingly enough, on Shooter’s album The Other Life, there is also a song called “The Outsider.” But it goes even deeper than that.
Originally, Shooter’s The Other Life album was going to be called The Outsider.
In an interview with The Boot on March 19th, 2013, Shooter said, “At first we were going to call [the album] ‘The Outsider’, but once we got into the film we thought, ‘Well, it’s like a mirror, a dark mirror of what ‘Family Man’ was.’” An interview with Shooter Jennings three days later with Rolling Stone starts off with the sentence, “Shooter Jennings may be known for his status spearheading all things outsider in the music world…”
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -
It is also important to note that previously Eric Church has been accused of mimicking the T-shirt designs and concepts from another independent country music artist, Hank Williams III or Hank3. Interestingly enough, Hank3 once accused Shooter Jennings of stealing his concept and persona when Shooter came out with his first album Put The ‘O’ Back in Country that was very similar to the lyrics of the Hank3 song “Dick In Dixie”.
Also, in August of 2011, Shooter Jennings released a song called “Outlaw You,” calling out the new Outlaws of country, of which Eric Church is considered a part of. Though Shooter Jennings has never said directly that the song was written about Eric Church, he alluded this to Saving Country Music around the release of “Outlaw You.” Even though the song was first released in 2011, it wasn’t until 2013 on Shooter’s album The Other Life that the song was released on an record.
Should Eric Church be accused of ripping off Shooter Jennings? That may be a little harsh. As stated above, Church’s involvement in the video aspect of his album may be limited, and it isn’t as if Shooter Jennings is the first to use a linear video campaign. But what is for sure is that Eric Church’s “The Outsiders” concept is certainly not as novel and original as they would like to have you believe.
The grandson of Hank Williams and the son of Hank Jr. falls in line with the other country artists covered in Saving Country Music “10 Badass Moments” series by being a rough and tumble character both on and off the stage, but also in showing great character by giving back and using his famous name for good.
Here’s 10 Badass Moments from Shelton Hank Williams III, or Hank3.
1. Playing Charity Concerts for Homes For Our Troops
When you heard that The Marines had been called to the Hank3 concert at The Meridian in Houston, TX in March of 2010, you could only expect the worst. After all, the son of Hank has been known to throw some pretty rowdy shows. But the occasion that called for a military dispatch including a Marine Color Guard was not an unruly crowd. It was meant to honor Hank3 for donating all the proceeds from the concert to the charity Homes For Our Troops that provides housing to wounded veterans. And this wouldn’t be the last time. Hank3 has also done other charity shows for Homes For Our Troops, as well as animal rescue organizations (see below).
Pretty cool moment before The Meridian show:
2. Playing For 5 Straight Hours at The Valarium in Knoxville
Hank3 is known for his long, sometimes 3-hour+ shows with only a 5 to 10 minute break between his country and his punk/metal lineups, but this particular set was one for the record books.
Exactly what happened at The Valarium in Knoxville, TN on July 15th, 2009 that stimulated Hank3′s marathon, 5-hour set depends on who you talk to. But when Hank’s manager, assistant manager, and five other people were arrested for “disorderly conduct,” Hank3 felt the best way to protest the injustice was by playing one of the longest sets in the history of country music. Without any break, Hank3 held forth with his “Damn Band” staring at 10:00 PM Wednesday night, and the music didn’t stop until almost 3 AM Thursday morning. When Hank3 ran out of material with his band, he switched to an acoustic show and kept on going.
The show went so long, an after party at the adjacent Cider House featuring the local band J.C. and the Dirty Smokers didn’t start until 2 AM, and nobody was there. “Basically, I said, ‘Since we’re already set up and already have a stage, we might as well work on a couple of originals,” Dirty Smokers frontman J.C. Haun said at the time. “So we ended up having a rehearsal, basically.”
And as if Hank3 hadn’t already done enough, he called Valarium owner Gary Mitchell after the show to apologize for not playing the Assjack metal portion of the show. “He felt like he’d stiffed his hardcore fans,” Mitchell told the Metro Pulse.
3. Playing Charity Concerts for Animal Rescue
For years Hank3 has been playing charity concerts to benefit animal shelters in his home of middle Tennessee. “We are thrilled that Hank3 would support our mission,” says Kat Hitchcock, who has worked with numerous animal shelters in the area. “He doesn’t just support it, he lives it. He is a genuine advocate for animal welfare. We are extremely fortunate. We can’t thank him enough.”
The 4th show Hank3 played to benefit Happy Tails Humane in Franklin, TN was on August 3rd, 2012 at the Marathon Music Works in Nashville, and raised a whopping $18,000 for the organization. A DVD was also made of the event, and you can watch the entire footage of the concert below:
4. Taking In Stray / Abandoned Animals
Beyond throwing benefit concerts over the years for animal rescue, Hank3 has been known to pull his tour bus over to check on stray animals, and take them in if the proper owner can’t be found, or use his famous name to help find the furry friends a new home. Hank3 goes beyond the call for animals, and over the years it has become his pet issue (arf arf). Check out this PSA he made a couple of years back.
5. The “Fuck Curb” Campaign
Hank3′s entire 14-year career with Curb Records was filled with turmoil. The first major conflict arose over an album called This Ain’t Country. Hank3 turned it into Curb, just to have Mike Curb deem it was not fit for release. Curb shelved the album, and then released it after Shelton left the label and after he’d fulfilled his contractual obligation for the number of releases. It was a way for Curb to squeeze another album out of Hank3′s contract.
Hank3′s 3rd album Thrown Out of the Bar was slated to be released in late 2004, but Curb refused to issue it. This prompted Hank3 to start a “Fuck Curb” campaign that included T-Shirts, stickers, and the words “Fuck Curb” written prominently on Hank3′s guitar. Hank3 also took Curb to court, and like so many other artists with Mike Curb grievances, the court found in favor of Hank3 and made Curb issue the album that was later reworked into the album Straight to Hell. Curb also delayed the release of Hank3′s 4th album Damn Right, Rebel Proud for undetermined reasons, and since Hank had signed a non-defamation clause to his contract to get Straight to Hell released, he couldn’t even speak out against Curb’s actions.
At the time Hank3 was seen as a foul-mouthed yob. But since then, public issues arising with Curb Records and many of its artists, especially Tim McGraw, shows that Hank3 was ahead of his time, and that his salty language was warranted.
6. Including Three Songs by Wayne “The Train” Hancock On His First Record
On Hank3′s first solo record Risin’ Outlaw from 1999, he included 3 songs from one of his early mentors and heroes, Texas singer-songwriter and the King of Juke Joint Swing, Wayne “The Train” Hancock. By including “87 Southbound,” “Thunderstorms & Neon Signs,” and “Why Don’t You Leave Me Alone,” it introduced Wayne Hancock to a whole new generation, and a whole new segment of fans. It also would help Wayne with what songwriters call “mailbox money”—royalties from song credits—for years to come.
7. Calling Out Kid Rock
In his song “Not Everybody Likes Us” from the album Straight to Hell, Hank3 calls out Kid Rock, saying:And just so you know, so it’s set in stone, Kid Rock don’t come from where I come from. Yeah it’s true he’s a Yank, he ain’t no son of Hank, and if you though so goddamn you’re fuckin’ dumb.
The anger was stimulated when Hank3′s father, Hank William Jr., began to refer to Kid Rock as his “Rebel Son” around 2002. At the time, Kid Rock and Hank Jr. were collaborating together on music. The “Rebel Son” talk stimulated rumors that Kid Rock truly was another son of Hank Jr., and Hank3 got tired of answering the rumors. It all boiled over one night at a show in Kid Rock’s home of Detroit when Kid Rock and his fling at the time Pamela Anderson tried to board Hank3′s bus to patch things up between Hank3 and Hank Jr.
Hank3 told Blender Magazine in 2006:
…he kept trying to come on the bus—you know, him and Pam [Anderson] and all that shit —and I said, “Tell that motherfucker I got nothing to say to him,” and then he finally gets his way back in there and tells me how I need to be treating my father and I’m like, “All right, you just crossed the line motherfucker.” And I don’t know how many times I have to say it: “No, he’s not my fucking brother…
8. Recording The Album Straight to Hell DIY Style
Considered Hank3′s opus, Straight to Hell released in February of 2006 was recorded on a $400 consumer-grade Korg D-1600 machine in Hank3′s steel guitar player’s house. It was the first true DIY recording made outside of the conventional studio setting to ever be released through a country music major label and the Country Music Association. It was also the first album to be put out through the CMA with a Parental Advisory sticker.
The point was not just for Hank3 to gain control of his own music, but to inspire a generation of new artists to do the same thing, to see that they didn’t need to sign big deals and have lots of money to make and release music. And that’s exactly what it did.
9. Standing Up to the Grand Ole Opry
For years Hank3 has been trying to get The Grand Ole Opry to show respects to his grandfather by reinstating him into the institution he loved so dearly. Hank Williams was kicked out of the Opry for drunkenness and missing rehearsals with the idea that once he sobered up, he could be reinstated. Unfortunately Hank Williams never got that opportunity. He died on New Years Day, 1953 as an ostracized member of the institution he helped bring to prominence. All Hank3 is asking is a symbolic gesture be made to the legacy of Hank Williams by reinstating him to the Grand Ole Opry, also known as Reinstate Hank. The issue has also come to symbolize the fight to keep the purity of The Grand Ole Opry institution alive.
10. Shaking Every Hand And Signing Every Album After Shows
This may not sound like some altruistic task for some artists whose shows stretch to top 75 attendees, but when you’re constantly selling out concerts with hundreds of tickets sold, and every one of those people wants to meet you, this simple gesture has become one of Hank3 signature symbols of showing how he’s willing to go the extra mile for his fans, sometimes patiently spending many hours after two and three hour performances to shake hands, sign autographs, and take pictures.
BONUS – 11. Playing Bass for Phil Anselmo’s Superjoint Ritual
Showing that the show didn’t need to be all about him, while Hank3 was fighting with Curb Records and trying to get his album This Ain’t Country released, he took his friend Phil Anselmo—the former lead singer of Pantera—up on the offer to join his band Superjoint Ritual on bass. Between 2002 and 2004, Hank3 could be seen banging his head on stage as a side man in concerts across the country. When Superjoint Ritual shut down around 2004 and Hank3 returned to the country world and released the album Straight to Hell, he showed legions of punk and heavy metal fans the virtues of traditional country music and created many country music converts.
We recently learned though the announcement of glam rock band Mötley Crüe’s farewell tour that the band had signed a deal to release a Mötley Crüe country music tribute album with Scott Borchetta, the big cheese at Big Machine Records—home of Taylor Swift, Florida Georgia Line and other such ilk—and affectionately known around these parts as the Country Music Anti-Christ. In the announcement, Scott Borchetta revealed that he was a “not-so-secret” fan of Mötley Crüe, saying, “Our album will highlight just how great the Mötley Crüe song catalog is.”
For folks who know some of the history of Scott Borchetta, this profession of love for The Crüe may have come as no shock. Scott Borchetta grew up in the Los Angeles area where Mötley Crüe is from, and was around the LA area playing in his own hair metal bands about the time Mötley Crüe was getting big. Borchetta’s father was in the music business too, and in the early 80′s a young Borchetta dropped out of school and moved to Nashville to be closer to his father.
While in Nashville, Borchetta helped form a band called Burning Hearts. Complete with rototoms, screaming eagle guitar solos, and spandex and leather pants, the Burning Hearts epitomized everything 80′s bad bubblegum glam metal hairspray rock. “Sherry’s Eyes” was their big “hit” that could be found on a local radio station compilation at the time, as the band slummed around Nashville playing to half-empty venues and milking Scott’s father for studio time. Of course Borchetta’s Burning Hearts never really took off and he eventually gave up his headbanging gigs for the family business.
A young Scott Borchetta clad in canary yellow pants, Colombian cocaine white blazer ala Miami Vice’s Don Johnson, and hugged by a super bitchin’ handcuff belt, can be seen below hogging all the face time for the Burning Hearts even though he’s just the bass player, in a cable access TV program.
Watching the guy who would eventually become the most powerful man in country music shill for his 80′s glam metal project, it’s not hard to see why so much of country music today is saddled with bad rock guitar solos, worst taste, phony glitz, and rock star attitude.
Mötley Crüe, eat your heart out.
Thanks to SCM commenter “MH” for the tip on this video.
So we haven’t even had time since the 56th Grammy Awards to sort out if Madonna had the authority to preside over a mass wedding, or if Pharrell’s hat was indeed copyright infringement against the Arby’s logo, and here only a few days later we’re asked to crunch a fresh batch of data dealing with the nominees for the 2014 ACM Awards on April 6th. There really should be some sort of mandate that the bad taste in your mouth and the horror of one awards show should have long subsided before you have to interface in any way with the next one, but apparently this would have been the case if The Grammys hadn’t been moved up this year because of the Winter Olympics.
Already the ACM nominees have many rolling their eyes and crying foul for various reasons. But folks, don’t ingratiate the Academy of Country Music beyond its value by acting like these awards matter to a greater degree than they actually do. Sure, the presence of the CMT Awards, and now FOX’s ACA Awards have somewhat risen the ACM’s out of the country music award show basement, but they will always be the baby brother of the CMA’s, and will be beset by ridiculous backroom label politics resulting in the anomalies to downright ridiculous notions that some of this year’s nominees represent. Nonetheless, a nomination and win will mean more attention and revenue for a respective label and artist, so it is not fair to discount the matter completely.
Tim McGraw and Miranda Lambert landed the most nominations with 7, and this is where the sideways glances begin. Miranda, though undoubtedly enjoying great success, hasn’t even release an album in over two years. Tim, undoubtedly doing everything he can aside from posing nude or releasing a sex tape to get the public’s attention after years of being saddled by Curb Records, certainly deserves some attention, but like Miranda, is likely being padded behind-the-scenes by a powerful label.
Once again George Strait is up for Entertainer of the Year, gut-checking the ACM constituency into potentially registering a sympathy vote and certainly making this category a subject of great intrigue instead of a forgone conclusion. And the laugh out loud moment is the nomination of Sheryl Crow for Female Vocalist of the Year—the same 5th slot the ACM’s have been stretching to fill for a few years now, with Kelly Clarkson, and Kacey Musgraves before she had even released an album being the other recent anomalies.
Things can change, news can break, and artists can have big months between here and now, but here are some early picks and observations.
Entertainer of the Year
Two horse race between last year’s winner Luke Bryan that had yet another very commercially-successful year, and the sympathy vote for King George. Miranda’s inclusion here is somewhat interesting, and there may be a sentiment out there that at some point Miranda deserves an Entertainer of the Year from somewhere, but it’s hard to see that happening this year. Taylor Swift has no chance, and may not even attend the awards.
- Luke Bryan – Other Potential Winner
- Blake Shelton
- George Strait - Winner
- Taylor Swift
- Miranda Lambert
Male Vocalist of the Year
This comes down to the two hosts of the ACM Awards, Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton. Interesting to see Curb Records really pushing Lee Brice in this year’s cycle, but he doesn’t have the cred yet for this distinction. Keith Urban’s influence died off years ago, and Average Joe’s cash cow Jason Aldean’s Night Train just didn’t have the kind of wide impact My Kinda Party did.
- Jason Aldean
- Lee Brice
- Luke Bryan – Winner
- Blake Shelton – Other Potential Winner
- Keith Urban
Female Vocalist of the Year
This is a hard one. Of course Sheryl Crow has no chance, and Taylor likely doesn’t either. Carrie seems like a long shot, and always seems to be underdogged by the ACM’s. Kacey Musgraves has received love from the ACM’s early and often, and if she can make a splash between here and now on the radio, she might have an outside chance. But it’s all setting up to be Miranda’s night.
- Sheryl Crow
- Miranda Lambert – Winner
- Kacey Musgraves
- Taylor Swift
- Carrie Underwood
Single Record of the Year
- Florida Georgia Line – “Cruise” – Winner
- Lee Brice – “I Drive Your Truck”
- Miranda Lambert – “Mama’s Broken Heart”
- Darius Rucker – “Wagon Wheel”
Album of the Year
Man. This is a completely wide open field, and I have no confidence picking any one of these over the others. Obviously Kacey Musgraves would be the critical favorite. Blake Shelton also has to be considered a favorite since he won the CMA in the same category. It might be a little early for Florida Georgia Line to win an award like this, but it’s hard to argue with that album’s performance. And the ACM’s seem to love Luke, so he can’t be ruled out. Tim McGraw is about the only long shot.
- “Based On A True Story…” – Blake Shelton
- “Crash My Party” – Luke Bryan
- “Here’s To The Good Times” – Florida Georgia Line
- “Same Trailer Different Park” – Kacey Musgraves
- “Two Lanes Of Freedom” – Tim McGraw
Song of the Year
We’ve seen “Mama’s Broken Heart” listed in the category for many of the year’s awards, but does it really have the kind of depth of a typical Song of the Year? “Wagon Wheel” doesn’t really either, but can’t be ruled out. Interesting to see Gary Allan get a mention here.
- “Every Storm (Runs Out Of Rain)” – Gary Allan Songwriters: Gary Allan, Hillary Lindsey, Matthew Warren
- “I Drive Your Truck” – Lee Brice Songwriters: Jessi Alexander, Connie Harrington, Jimmy Yeary – Winner
- “Mama’s Broken Heart” – Miranda Lambert Songwriters: Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally, Kacey Musgraves
- “Mine Would Be You” – Blake Shelton Songwriters: Jessi Alexander, Connie Harrington, Deric Ruttan
- “Wagon Wheel” – Darius Rucker Featuring Lady Antebellum Songwriters: Bob Dylan, Ketch Secor – Other Potential Winner
Vocal Event of the Year
Were the contributions of Lady Antebellum to “Wagon Wheel” and The Pistol Annies to “Boys ‘Round Here” significant enough to consider them true vocal events? “Cruise” is the obvious commercial winner, but voters may shy away from the cross-genre collaboration.
- “Boys ‘Round Here” – Blake Shelton Featuring The Pistol Annies
- “Cruise” (Remix) – Florida Georgia Line Featuring Nelly
- “Highway Don’t Care: – Tim McGraw Featuring Taylor Swift & Keith Urban – Winner
- “Wagon Wheel” – Darius Rucker Featuring Lady Antebellum
- “We Were Us” – Keith Urban And Miranda Lambert
Vocal Duo of the Year
I write about country music for a living, and this is the very first time I have ever heard of “Dan + Shay”. Previewing their music, hopefully I never have to hear from them again. Joey + Rory would have been the better pick.
- Big & Rich
- Dan + Shay
- Florida Georgia Line – Winner
- Love and Theft
- Thompson Square
Songwriter of the Year
Shane McAnally is who deserves it. Rhett Atkins would be the commercial pick. Luke Laird also likely has an outside chance.
- Rhett Atkins – Other Potential Winner
- Rodney Clawson
- Ashley Gorley
- Luke Laird
- Shane McAnally – Winner
Vocal Group of the Year
- Eli Young Band
- Lady Antebellum
- Little Big Town
- The Band Perry
- Zac Brown Band
Video of the Year
- “Better Dig Two” – The Band Perry Producer
- “Blowin’ Smoke” – Kacey Musgraves Producer
- “Highway Don’t Care” – Tim McGraw Featuring Taylor Swift & Keith Urban
- “I Drive Your Truck” – Lee Brice Producer: Karen Martin Director: Eric Welch
- “Mama’s Broken Heart” – Miranda Lambert
- “Two Black Cadillacs” – Carrie Underwood
I say it all the time. There are so many of these little organizations, so many labels, and festivals, websites, and Facebook groups, and individuals all working to somehow change the direction of country music, when none of these things are going to be the ultimate solution. Though anyone that takes up the charge for country music should be commended, and these things can help in their own way, the solution is not going to be delivered by an organization. It is going to be delivered by a song.
One song, one artist, can completely change the country music paradigm all on its own. And then another song can help take it even further, exposing the frailty and failings of bad art without the need of rhetoric, leading country music in a more substantive, sustainable direction, and one that shows deference to the roots of the music and leads by example. Then the organization and infrastructure will follow.
Kacey Musgraves’ song “Merry Go ‘Round” was one of those songs. Sure, the argument can be made that her Grammy win Sunday night for Best Album was a bigger accolade than the Best Country Song award “Merry Go ‘Round” received, if for no other reason than the Best Album presentation made it onto the televised portion of the event. But Same Trailer, Different Park would have never won without “Merry Go ‘Round”. It was the door opener, the game changer. And at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards, it changed Kacey Musgraves’ life forever.
As Kacey Musgraves’ success has grown, so has her criticism, and it is stronger now than it has ever been with her Grammy wins. There are many people who will tell you she’s just simply an alternative version of Taylor Swift—pure pop and no type of positive gain for country music whatsoever. Ignore the steel guitar and banjo in her music, or the fact that Same Trailer, Different Park has sold 300,000 copies, while Taylor Swift’s last album has sold over 4 million. At some point, it’s unfair to both artists to compare their contributions, accomplishments, and impact.
But I’ve been critical of Kacey Musgraves myself. Despite the overwhelming success of “Merry Go ‘Round”, in my original review of the song I said it had its moments of immaturity and judgmentalism, just like some of her others songs. Some of the Kacey Musgraves hatred is rooted in political displeasure at some of her lyrics, and artists who go in a political direction run that risk and can’t be surprised when they’re rued for it.
When it came to selecting the songs for Same Trailer, Different Park, some songs that were better than the ones that made it on the album were left off. After “Merry Go ‘Round,” the single selection from the album has been questionable to poor, both in presenting Kacey Musgraves’ style fairly, and for creating commercial success. Her singles are also behind much of the criticisms that Kacey is nothing more than a pop star.
Beyond song selection, there was something else under the surface troubling me about Kacey Musgraves. There was an unsureness, and unsteadiness that had allowed self-doubt to creep in and mistakes to be made: “The look” that Kacey was caught making at the CMA’s when Miranda Lambert won, the conflict with Clear Channel DJ Bobby Bones. Kacey Musgraves came across as almost aloof, beaten down by how things were going, hating the hoops she had to jump through, like the weight of the world was on her shoulders to deliver, and maybe trying to determine if her music was in the right forum.
Yet my sense of Kacey Musgraves the person was that we had yet to see what she was completely capable of. She had yet to come into full bloom. We forget she’s still a young woman, 25-years-old. Looking through her music, I saw even more potential. I saw a compass; a person defined by her pursuit.
Compared to many artists, Kacey was enjoying overwhelming success. But Kacey didn’t want to just be another name in the country music gaggle, she wanted to lead. She believed in her music, and that it could have a wide impact if it only found the right audience.
Listen to some of the things Kacey Musgraves had to say backstage at The Grammys after her wins:
I literally can’t put into words how excited I am to represent the country music genre with the music I’ve gotten to make. I made a record that was inspired by real life and everything I was going through at the time, but also all of the traditional country music elements that I’m in love with. If there’s a way that I can be a part of preserving that, but also making it my own, I feel like I’ve done my job.
Everyone, all the writers on the record, like I’m just super huge fans of. Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne, Luke Laird, they’re amazing in their own right, and I’m just so glad their work is getting to shine and I’m just a small part of what they’re going to do to change music.
I would love to be an ambassador for country music. Sometimes when someone gives me a compliment it makes me feel very awkward but one of my favorite compliments ever is when someone says, ‘You know, I don’t really like country music, but I really like yours.’ In that way, I’d love to bring country music to people who don’t know much about it.
Don’t write what you think SHOULD be on the radio, write what you like and hopefully it will end up there. Just live life and to be inspired by it.
These aren’t quotes from a artist that wants to make a big splash in the industry, they’re quotes from an artist that wants to change country music, that wants to broaden its reach, and not by instilling it with sensibilities, but by expanding the appeal for its inherent and classic beauty. Her music is still the same at it was before the Grammy Awards. But now it has been validated. Now she can move forward with confidence that her goals and her efforts are in lock step, and heading in the right direction. Kacey Musgraves and her music are leading, but most importantly, the industry is following.
Kacey Musgraves was the big winner of the 56th Annual Grammy Awards, but her success does not exist in a bubble. You put this next to George Strait’s win for Entertainer of the Year at the CMA Awards in November, and so many of the other positive signs for country music that have been transpiring recently, and you begin to understand that things are changing. Saving country music is no longer theoretical, and the downtrodden and depressed traditional country music fan has to stop identifying themselves with being the losers, and quit buying into the idea the anything successful must mean it is pop, or otherwise compromised artistically.
There were better artists, better albums, and better songs in country music in the last year than Kacey Musgraves, Same Trailer, Different Park, and “Merry Go ‘Round”. But guess what, they never had a chance. But Kacey did, and she delivered.
Unfortunately for Taylor Swift, she didn’t walk away with any hardware at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards held on Sunday night (1-26) in Los Angeles, but for the night’s top prize, the coveted Best Album award, Taylor Swift was very, very close. So close in fact when the award winner was announced, it had Taylor Swift and her entourage leaping out of their shorts.
The infamous divided screen that award shows use to put nominees on-the-spot hoping to capture some reaction magic had Taylor Swift in its crosshairs, and when the announcement was read for the Best Album winner, the ‘R’ had Taylor and Co. half way to the ceiling … until they realized that it wasn’t for her latest album Red, it was for the actual winner, Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories.
Swift is actually the most sedated of the crew, with the person sitting to her right looking like he got tazed, and the suit behind her looking like he just had a snake scurry up his pant leg. This is not Taylor Swift’s first time at the rodeo, and despite her initial confusion, the multi-Grammy winner looked gracious in defeat. The guy to the right however seemed to run through the FCC’s dictionary of censored words, as Taylor’s mom (sitting at the far right) gives him an ear full.
So close, Taylor. So close.
Here we are once again ladies and gentlemen, joined together as disenfranchised music fans to commiserate, contemplate, and at times, downright mock the spectacle that will transpire in front of our very eyes at the 56th Grammy Awards. So instead of hard cussing our televisions all alone, let’s unite together and let our voices be one in dissent in another LIVE blog, and not let ourselves lose touch if there actually happens to be a touching or rewarding moment.
So get your refreshing fingers ready, feel free to pipe up in the comments section below if you feel so inclined, and let’s have a fair fight.
- Kacey Musgraves wins Best Country Album for Same Trailer, Different Park
- Kacey Musgraves wins Best Country Song for “Merry Go ‘Round“
- The Grammy for Best Country Solo Performance went to Darius Rucker for “Wagon Wheel“.
- The Grammy for Best Country Duo/Group Performance went to “From This Valley” from The Civil Wars
- The Grammy for Best American Roots Song went to Edie Brickell and Steve Martin for “Love Has Come For You“.
- The Grammy for Best Americana Album went to Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell for “Old Yellow Moon“.
- The Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album went to Streets of Baltimore from the Del McCoury Band.
- And the Grammy for Best Folk Album went to My Favorite Picture of You by Guy Clark.
11:00 - Without question, when it comes to the country perspective, the night belonged to Kacey Musgraves. Winning the two big awards for Song and Album is a career moment for her. Will it result in huge sales? She’ll see the customary Grammy bump, but more importantly it has to instill a confidence in her that she’s on the right path. I have a lot of concerns for Kacey, but one thing I’m not concerned about is her talent, and her compass. I think she needs to work harder at refining that talent and making better decisions when it comes to her music, but a night like tonight might instill the confidence she needs to do so.
Once again Taylor Swift gets locked out, similar to how she was locked out of the CMA Awards. Where Kacey Musgraves was the critical favorite, Taylor went in a different direction with “Red” and now the critical acclaim is not there.
On the Grammy Awards themselves, just like last year, they felt consistently flat. They didn’t deliver any “moments” when you were wondered by an artists talent, except for maybe the Pink performance, but this was more based on her physical choreography. But cutting songs short, but doing medleys, by having forced collaborations, they’re failing to create those water cooler moments that stick with you after the show is over. Two year ago in the aftermath of the death of Whitney Houston, it was like every performer elevated their game. The Grammy Awards need to try to get back to that, stop trying to put on a good show, and understand they are the key to building artist legacies and singular moments.
10:46 - Thanks so much for everyone for stopping by! Thanks for commenting, or just lending your eyes to the cause! I am going to compose some final thoughts, recap the country winners, and be done!
10:45 - And half the crowd files out and the cameras cut away halfway through the final performance.
10:43 - As much as I love Dave Grohl, it’s a little annoying to see the cameras favor him. The drummer is not supposed to be the focus. It should be the song and the front man.
10:40 - Random Access Memories was my pick for Best Album, and is probably deserving considering the field. It was the work that defined 2013. They led, everyone else followed.
10:39 - So Taylor Swift is pretty much shut out for major industry awards for this cycle, aside from some American Music Awards that have questionable legitimacy. This has got to be a disappointment for Camp Swift.
10:36 - And yes, I did see Taylor Swift and her peeps jump when they heard “R” that morphed into Random Access Memories.
10:35 - The Grammy for Best Album goes to Random Access Memories by Daft Punk.
10:29 - Really solid performance by Miranda Lambert and Billie Joe Armstrong playing “When Will I Be Loved” in tribute to Phil Everly. The Billie Joe Everly tribute “Foreverly” is worth checking out.
10:26 - The Grammy Awards do their annual “In Memoriam” segment, and after a tribute to Van Cliburn, the first artists featured are George Jones and Ray Price. Also featured are Jody Payne, “Cowboy” Jack Clement, Steve Fromholz, Mindy McCready, Slim Whitman, and Tompall Glaser. Really surprised to see such deep names included. Almost was expecting to see Wayne Mills.
10:21 - The Grammy pay tribute to a music educator as part of a new award and music educational program. This is the thing that sets the Grammy Awards apart. The do a lot of stuff behind-the-scenes to help support the development of music.
10:14 - So a bunch of people some straight, some gay, just got married by a bad-facelifted Madonna. The Everly tribute can’t get here fast enough.
10:11 - I really have no idea what is going on right now. But Madonna looks in rough shape.
10:07 - Rapper Macklemore performs a politically-charged pro gay song in front of a church backdrop. And no, I’m not touching this.
10:05 - Funny Tweet from Hillgrass Bluebilly: “Only you can prevent Smokey Robinson and a Smokey the Bear hat on stage at the same time.”
10:01 - So wait, this thing isn’t ending at 10 PM? Isn’t it past Hunter Hayes’ bedtime?
9:59 - Right now, Daft Punk’s helmets are inspiring George Lucas to figure out how to screw up their narrative concept with bad CGI, undeveloped storylines, and questionable edits of previous content.
9:57 - The Grammy winner for Record of the Year goes to Daft Punk for “Get Lucky.”
9:56 - …though it got a little weird at the end.
9:55 - Not a huge Metallica fan, but this performance shows the virtues of true collaboration, and letting a performance breathe and develop. Also helps that James Hetfield looks so much like The Reverend Horton Heat these days.
9:52 - This Metallica performance could be one worth waiting for, if they don’t cut it super short like they’ve been doing with most of the performances tonight.
9:50 - No offense to Lou Reed. Good he’s getting this poignant tribute. But why couldn’t we get the same for George Jones and Ray Price? A few extra seconds goes a long way.
9:48 - Interesting. Apparently the backdrop for the Willie, Merle, Kris, Shelton performance was Willie’s town “Luck, TX” that he built during the production of the movie “Red Headed Stranger” and still hosts events.
9:45 - With the win for both the Country Best Song and Album, you have to put Kacey Musgraves up there with Lorde as the two biggest winners so far tonight.
9:41 - The Grammy for Song of the Year goes to Lorde and the songwriters for “Royals”.
9:37 - I watched the entire pre-telecast event that was hosted by Cindi Lauper. She was sloppy as hell then too. It was kind of sad.
9:33 - Still trying to process this Kacey Musgraves win for Best Album. I knew it was a real possibility and had it in my predictions, but the weight it means for that particular artist is more than it would have meant for any other nominee. Taylor Swift must be praying right now she wins for the all genre Best Album. She’s had an anemic awards season, possibly a symptom of going so pop.
9:29 - The whole EDM thing is not my flavor, but I’ve always thought Daft Punk did a good job referring to the past in thier music, and integrating real singing and instrumentation to where they distinguish themselves from the unclean masses and hacks of the electronic music business.
9:26 - Going back to the Merle, Willie, Kris, Shelton performance, as I was worried about, it felt unreheased, disjointed, and didn’t represent either of the men’s contributions to music accurately. Yes, cool to see them, but in the end, that’s the cold hard truth of the performance. I wish they would have focused on just one song. Still glad to see them here, and would have rather had that than nothing.
9:24 - Massive moment for Kacey Musgraves. This was the face time she deserved. Her career may have truly started tonight.
9:23 - Kacey Musgraves wins the Grammy for Best Country Album for Same Trailer, Different Park.
9:22 - Zac Brown and Martina McBride give some very quick, but thoughtful love to George Jones and Ray Price before giving away award for Best Country Album.
9:21 - Kris Kristofferson told Blake Shelton backstage to never look him in the eye or he’d fly a helicopter up his country-rapping, reality show-judging ass.
9:19 - “Who the shit is Blake Shelton?” –Merle Haggard 5 minutes before this performance.
9:18 - Before Willie, Merle, and Kristofferson would agree to perform with Blake Shelton, they all initiated him by each giving him a swirly. Then Merle gave Blake an atomic wedgie so fierce, it ripped Blake’s Jockeys and Willie Nelson ran them up the Staples Center flagpole.
9:17 - Kris Kristofferson wearing a winged necklace, likely for the absent Waylon Jennings.
9:15 - Nice to see Kris Kristofferson at least get some face time coming out of the break for his Lifetime Achievement Award.
9:12 - It will be cool to see Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard, and Willie Nelson on the Grammys, but I’m not expecting much from this performance. It’s just too limiting of a forum. But who knows.
9:10 - Apparently the piano Paul McCartney was playing was the actual piano from The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour. My apologies to the the piano and its family and fans.
9:07 - The Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album “Unorthodox Jukebox” by Bruno Mars. Not bothered by Bruno.
9:03 - Notice Ringo is barely playing. It’s the other drummer doing the heavy lifting.
9:00 - The paint job on Paul McCartney’s piano looks like it should be yard art in a hipster’s organic garden.
8:59 - Jim Marshall that they just honored was the guy that shot Johnny Cash’s famous middle finger photo, and a lot of other iconic Johnny Cash, and music photos. Good to see him get some love here.
8:57 - I really questioned the wisdom of Kacey Musgraves singing “Follow Your Arrow” at the CMA Awards if they were going to censor it, so it’s good to see it was accepted here. Even if you hate the line, the song, or Kacey, music should be expressed the way it was meant.
8:54 - Really liked Kacey Musgraves’ dress too, even though it looked like it was made from my grandmother’s drapes from 1974 that reek of Pall Malls.
8:52 - Yes! No censorship for Kacey Musgraves! Good job Grammy Awards and CBS! Let the girl sing her song!
8:49 - Where’s the melody, where’s the composition? We’ll just replace it by dressing all in white and playing big drums really really awesomely. What music wankoffedness.
8:47 - Imagine Dragons have so much nothing. It’s all gesticulations and stage props.
8:45 - Yes T-Swizzle getting down to this Imagine Dragons wank off! About as graceful as a Gran Mal.
8:42 - I’m not feeling any energy from The Grammys. I noticed this lat year too. The whole thing seems to be meadering, delivering no real memorable performances. Even the Pink theatrics, though impressive, seemed to descend into theories if she’s singing or not. Where’s the big songs, the big voices, the big performances? This is supposed to be music’s biggest night? I remember a couple of years ago, I was wowed left and right by inspired performances, regardless of genre. The last two years I’ve been fighting off yawns. There’s not really even much to make fun of.
8:39 - Many Pink fans insisting she sang her performance live, and if you say otherwise, apparently you suck. So there’s that.
8:36 - The Grammy for Best Rap / Sung Collaboration goes to Jay Z with Justin Timberlake for “Holy Grail.”
8:34 - Love ya Ringo, but I’ve got my head on my desk. What is the point of this performance.
8:30 - It would be cool to see Black Sabbath at The Grammys, if it wasn’t so uncool to be seen at The Grammys.
8:26 - Lots of questions on the interwebs if Pink was truly singing live. I think you would have had to hear more breath in the mic if that was the case. At the very end of her first song, you all of a sudden heard her breathing heavy. I have no proof, but I find it very hard to believe it was live.
8:24 - The Grammy for Best Pop Solo Performance goes to Lorde for “Royals”.
8:23 - Wow, that was downright painful.
8:22 - If that’s the guy from Fun in the ironic mustache, he’s out of tune.
8:18 - Do we really believe Pink is singing while all of this is going on? Seriously, I’m asking.
8:17 - 7 seconds into this Pink performance, and I was already dizzy to the point of nausea.
8:15 - From Drew Magary on Twitter: ” I bet Taylor steals all her lyrics from the Missed Connections part of Craigslist.”
8:13 - Funny from JJ Akin on Twitter: “They should cutaway to Taylor Swift in the audience dancing to this Taylor Swift performance.”
8:10 - Yawn. Oh wait, pictures of Willie and Merle going to break! For the love of God Grammys, give us SOMETHING!
8:08 - Yeah, the hair whipping seems so unbelievably contrived. Isn’t a band performance, but this song doesn’t go anywhere.
8:04 - “All Too Well” was one of the critic’s favorites from Taylor Swift’s album “Red”. It has some depth, but kind of meanders.
8:04 - The Grammy for Best Rock Song goes to Dave Grohl, Paul McCartney, and some other dudes for a song I’ve never heard before, and nobody will remember after tonight.
8:00 - Ha! Chicks in the crowd playing in the shadows behind this lame guy playing piano. They’re bored too.
7:58 - Man, these awards have been a snoozer so far.
7:50 - Gary Clark Jr. is the real deal folks! Austin-grown good songwriter, and great guitar player. Glad to see him here. Folks should check him out.
7:48 - When did Keith Urban cut his mop like a 14-year-old tank-booted punk girl from 1997?
7:46 - Robin Thicke could use a crane kick to the kisser about right now. Sweep the leg.
7:45 - Never had a big problem with Chicago, until Peter Cetera whored the band for Karate Kid soundtracks.
7:45 - Why does this Chicago performance remind me of a Cialis commercial? I feel like a voice over is about to come on asking me if I’ve checked my testosterone level.
7:37 - About the only thing impressive with Katy Perry’s performance is how she hid the 9V battery to her blouse.
7:33 - Interesting note: Kacey Musgraves made time to both make out with Katy Perry, and smoke pot with Willie Nelson before the show. She called it the “Buzzword round the world”.
7:30 - Daft Punk won something. I was too busy being a bully on Twitter to pay attention to what.
7:29 - If you go for the climactic moment, you better nail it. Hunter didn’t. That not bullying, that’s just truth.
7:28 - Funny how an anti-bullying song just wants me to bully Hunter even more. It’s okay Hunter, someday my words will be invisible.
7:26 - Grammy or not, Hunter Hayes is already a winner today after finding his very first pubic hair. Congrats Hunter!
7:24 - If you haven’t heard yet, Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, and Blake Shelton will all perform a medley of songs together (which one of these things is not like the others?). The performance will begin with Willie and Kris singing the Jimmy Webb-penned song “The Highwayman.” Then all the men will sing a version of “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys,” and end with Haggard’s “Okie From Muskogee.”
7:20 - Lorde = innocuous. Is it time for Kris, Willie, and Merle yet?
7:16 - My pop friends tell me Lorde is the real deal. Much better than your average pop star. Hit me with your best shot Lorde.
7:15 - Two white rappers win an award. This is more like the CMA Awards than I expected.
7:14 - The Grammy for Best New Artist goes to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Kacey Musgraves looks gracious in defeat (because apparently, these things matter).
7:12 - “Who’s this asshat in my hat?” — Smokey the Bear.
7:09 - Can’t LL Cool J take some of that Primetime TV Show money to gets duds not cobbled out of Crown Royal covers?
7:07 - Me stubbing my toe in the dark at 3 AM hungover is more graceful than Taylor Swift impromptu dancing.
7:05 PM – Beyonce’s butt is getting more face time than her face.
7:03 PM - Am I’m supposed to know who this chick is? And if she was leading off The Grammys, could she at least make sure her hair was dry after taking a shower? Someone get this woman a towel.
7:00 PM You can see all the performances you can expect on the SCM Preview http://www.savingcountrymusic.com/jason-isbell-got-screwed-a-56th-grammy-awards-preview
6:58 PM - It’s a real shame that they couldn’t have handed out the Grammy for Country Song of the Year to Kacey Musgraves during the televised portion of the broadcast. Seems like a big enough award to deserve that distinction, and it would have meant the world for Kacey’s career. She’s still up for Best Album and New Artist.
6:52 PM - Picture of Willie, Merle, and Kris on the red carpet from earlier today
6:50 PM - Some of the major country awards were given out pre-telecast.
Kacey Musgraves, Shane McAnally & Josh Osborne won the Grammy for Best Country Song for “Merry Go ‘Round“.
The Grammy for Best Country Solo Performance went to Darius Rucker for “Wagon Wheel“.
The Grammy for Best Country Duo/Group Performance went to “From This Valley” from The Civil Wars
6:47 PM - A bunch of awards were given out pre-telecast, including all of the bluegrass, folk, and Americana awards.
The Grammy for Best American Roots Song went to Edie Brickell and Steve Martin for “Love Has Come For You“.
The Grammy for Best Americana Album went to Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell for “Old Yellow Moon“.
The Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album went to Streets of Baltimore from the Del McCoury Band.
And the Grammy for Best Folk Album went to My Favorite Picture of You by Guy Clark.
6:45 PM - The main Grammy presentation happens tonight, but there are events all throughout the week. Earlier in the week, Dolly Parton’s song “Jolene” was officially inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. So was Kris Kristofferson’s first, self-titled album. Kris Kristofferson also received a lifetime achievement award. Below is video of the presentation.
Just last week, Saving Country Music showcased some quotes from Staind frontman and country artist Aaron Lewis who had some disparaging things to say about some of the current trends in pop country to the Marion Star newspaper in Ohio.
“I think there’s enough beer on the beach, partying on the tailgate, driving around in a pickup truck, moonshine songs,” Lewis said in part. “I think that everything has been pretty well beaten to death … There’s a song out right now that’s a big single for a big act, and at the very end of the song you can hear a banjo come up in the mix for four measures. And you’re like, ‘Oh, there’s the country aspect of it. Now I get it.’ But that is not country music, I’m sorry.”
On Friday, Jan. 24th, Aaron Lewis was playing a show at the Thirsty Cowboy in Medina, Ohio, and during his set he decided to take the recent #1 song “Redneck Crazy” by Tyler Farr to task. The controversial tune portrays a jilted male stalking his ex-girlfriend, including driving up onto her lawn and throwing beer cans at her, and was accompanyied by a ridiculous video featuring Duck Dynasty stars and Colt Ford. The song solicited a scathing rant from Saving Country Music in October.
“I fucking hate this song,” Aaron Lewis told the Thirsty Cowboy crowd. “I just always thought the message of this song was pretty fucked up. But obviously, a lot of people related to it ’cause it went to #1, go figure.”
Lewis continues, “So last weekend I was at my buddy’s house watching the Patriots game, and my buddy Zach started playing this song and I was like, ‘Ah fuck, don’t play that fucking song.’ And then I started listening to the lyrics and he’d re-written the entire song in kind of an answer to the original song.”
The alternative version called “Redneck Crazy Revisited” was written by a songwriter named Zach Woods. “There’s a lack of character reflected in a lot of what you hear in popular country today,” says Zach. “And no matter which way you spin it, ‘…the kind of man that shows up at your house at 3 AM’ is not the kind of man anyone would want their daughters or sons hanging around with.”
THE 56th ANNUAL GRAMMY AWARDS
• When: 7 PM Central, 8 PM Eastern, 5 PM Pacific on CBS.
• Where: The Stapes Center, Los Angeles, CA.
• Host: LL Cool J
THINGS TO WATCH FOR
More Traditional Country Than One Might Expect
• Though the Grammy Awards are all-encompassing, there will be quite a bit of country, including classic country on the night with Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson scheduled to perform. Just like we saw with the CMA Awards in November, there is a renewed push to at least include something for classic country’s often-overlooked fans. There will also be a tribute to the recently-passed Phil Everly. See a complete list of the country performances below.
Kacey Musgraves To Push Boundaries…again.
• Similar to the CMA Awards, Kacey Musgraves will be performing her song “Follow Your Arrow.” At the CMA’s, the line “roll up a joint” was censored by ABC. We’ll see if CBS follows suit. She is also up for Best Country Album, Best Country Song for “Merry Go ‘Round,” and the all-genre Best New Artist. With her status as a critic’s favorite, and the propensity for the Grammy Awards to traditionally be more about artistic appeal than commercial success, Kacey should at least be considered a strong nominee, at least for the country awards. The 56th Grammy Awards could be where the Kacey Musgraves experiment sticks if she walks away with the top prizes.
THE COUNTRY PERFORMANCES
• Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, and Blake Shelton will all perform a medley of songs together (which one of these things is not like the others?). The performance will begin with Willie and Kris singing the Jimmy Webb-penned song “The Highwayman.” Then all the men will sing a version of “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys,” and end with Haggard’s “Okie From Muskogee.”
• Miranda Lambert & Billie Joe Armstrong will perform a Everly Brothers tribute. Phil Everly recently passed away, and Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day recently released a tribute album to the brother duo with Norah Jones. No word why Miranda is the duet partner and not Norah.
• Kacey Musgraves will reportedly be performing her current single “Follow Your Arrow” that had the “roll up a joint” line censored by ABC during the CMA Awards in November.
• Hunter Hayes will be performing a brand new anti-bullying single called “Invisible.”
• Taylor Swift is rumored to be performing “All Too Well.”
• Keith Urban will be performing with John Legend in a salute to the Beatles.
• Hunter Hayes, Zac Brown, and Martina McBride will be award presenters.
• See the list of the non-country performances below.
These awards have already been given out as part of The Grammy Award’s per-televised events.
• Kris Kristofferson was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
• Kris Kristofferson‘s first, self-titled album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
• Dolly Parton‘s song “Jolene” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
COUNTRY AWARD NOMINEES & PREDICTIONS
The most shocking story of this Grammy Awards season was the snub of Jason Isbell from even being nominated for the Americana Album of the Year. This is a perfect example that the Grammy community is very much on the outside looking in when it comes to country music, especially the sub-genres like Americana and bluegrass.
At the same time, The Grammy Awards have a better history of picking artists based on their artistic merit as opposed to their commercial success. Remember it was the Grammy Awards that recognized Johnny Cash’s comeback during his American Recordings years when the country music industry was still ignoring him. Similarly the Grammy Awards tend to vote more down political lines, like when they recognized The Dixie Chicks after their blackballing from country music. This all sets up well for an artist like Kacey Musgraves.
The Grammy Awards are notoriously hard to predict, but I’ll do my best.
Best Country Album
I see this as a two horse race. Though the women of country are such underdogs these days, Kacey Musgraves as the critical favorite, and Taylor Swift as the commercial favorite, have to be considered the likely winners. There’s an outside chance for Blake Shelton because of his high profile from The Voice, but he would be an upset. Aldean & McGraw have no chance. In the end I think Swift will take it, but don’t rule out Kacey.
- Jason Aldean, Night Train
- Tim McGraw, Two Lanes of Freedom
- Kacey Musgraves, Same Trailer Different Park – Other Potential Winner
- Blake Shelton, Based on a True Story…
- Taylor Swift, Red – Winner
Best Country Solo Performance
Probably a race between ‘I Drive Your Truck” that won the CMA, or Darius Rucker’s version of ‘Wagon Wheel.’ Outside chance again for Blake Shelton because he’s so well-known, and there will be pressure to give him something. Understand this award is mainly for the performance, not the song. But if ‘Mama’s Broken Heart’ wins, it would be a noteworthy win for songwriters Kacey Musgraves and Brandy Clark, and if ‘Wagon Wheel’ wins, for Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show, and Bob Dylan. Remember when Darius Rucker said he better be nominated or “Country Music’s Screwed“?
- Lee Brice, ‘I Drive Your Truck’ – Winner
- Hunter Hayes, ‘I Want Crazy’
- Miranda Lambert, ‘Mama’s Broken Heart’
- Darius Rucker, ‘Wagon Wheel’ – Other potential Winner
- Blake Shelton, ‘Mine Would Be You’
Best Country Duo/Group Performance
The Civil Wars have been Grammy darlings in the past, and may still win despite the band dissolving last year. Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton would be the sentimental vote, but they should be considered a long shot. We may see Scott Borchetta assert his power here and have ‘Highway Don’t Care’ walk away with the hardware. It is cool to see a lot of good country names in this category, including Vince Gill. This is a very hard one to pick.
- The Civil Wars, ‘From This Valley’ – Other potential Winner
- Kelly Clarkson feat. Vince Gill, ‘Don’t Rush’
- Little Big Town, ‘Your Side of the Bed’
- Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift & Keith Urban, ‘Highway Don’t Care’ – Winner
- Kenny Rogers with Dolly Parton, ‘You Can’t Make Old Friends’ – Other potential Winner
Best Country Song
Another wide open field. Lee Brice once again has to be thought of as a front runner, but this very well may be Kacey Musgraves’ moment. This win would arguably mean more to her than any other nominee. And remember, Kacey and Brandy Clark also win if Mama’s Broken Heart’ is ultimately selected. I don’t really see Taylor Swift or Blake Shelton having a chance with this one.
- Taylor Swift, ‘Begin Again’
- Lee Brice, ‘I Drive Your Truck’ – Other potential Winner
- Miranda Lambert, ‘Mama’s Broken Heart’
- Kacey Musgraves, ‘Merry Go ‘Round’ – Winner
- Blake Shelton, ‘Mine Would Be You’
All Genre Awards
- Taylor Swift’s Red is the sole country album up for Album of the Year, and it is my pick for the winner. The other strong contender would be Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories.
- Kacey Musgraves is up for Best New Artist, but it is hard to see her outlasting Macklemore + Ryan Lewis, Kendrick Lamar, or Ed Sheeran.
AMERICANA & BLUEGRASS NOMINEES
Once again the Americana genre is saddled by its very narrow perspective in nominees. And except for Sarah Jarosz, they are all older artists this year. Compare this with last year when John Fullbright, The Avett Brothers, Mumford & Sons, and The Lumineers were all nominees. The Americana nominees really show how much the Mumford backlash took root, and how that was very much last year’s trend. Jason Isbell got completely screwed, and so did many other deserving artists.
Not going to make any predictions for these awards because they are all wide open fields. Anybody could win here. These awards will be given away before the televised portion of the awards, so check the Saving Country Music LIVE blog for winners.
***UPDATE – In the pre-televised Grammy presentation….
- The Grammy for Best American Roots Song went to Edie Brickell and Steve Martin for “Love Has Come For You“.
- The Grammy for Best Americana Album went to Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell for “Old Yellow Moon“.
- The Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album went to Streets of Baltimore from the Del McCoury Band.
- And the Grammy for Best Folk Album went to My Favorite Picture of You by Guy Clark.
Best Americana Album
- Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell — Old Yellow Moon
- Steve Martin & Edie Brickell — Love Has Come For You
- Buddy Miller And Jim Lauderdale — Buddy And Jim
- Mavis Staples — One True Vine
- Allen Toussaint — Songbook
Best Bluegrass Album
- The Boxcars — It’s Just A Road
- Dailey & Vincent — Brothers Of The Highway
- Della Mae — This World Oft Can Be
- James King — Three Chords And The Truth
- Del McCoury Band — The Streets Of Baltimore
Best Folk Album
- Guy Clark — My Favorite Picture Of You
- The Greencards — Sweetheart Of The Sun
- Sarah Jarosz — Build Me Up From Bones
- The Milk Carton Kids — The Ash & Clay
- Various Artists; Chris Strachwitz, producer — They All Played For Us: Arhoolie Records 50th Anniversary Celebration
Best American Roots Song
- “Build Me Up From Bones”
- Sarah Jarosz, songwriter (Sarah Jarosz)
- Steve Earle, songwriter (Steve Earle & The Dukes (& Duchesses))
- “Keep Your Dirty Lights On”
- Tim O’Brien & Darrell Scott, songwriters (Tim O’Brien And Darrell Scott)
- “Love Has Come For You”
- Edie Brickell & Steve Martin, songwriters (Steve Martin & Edie Brickell)
- “Shrimp Po-Boy, Dressed”
- Allen Toussaint, songwriter (Allen Toussaint)
OTHER GRAMMY PERFORMERS
- Beyonce and Jay Z will open the show with “Drunk In Love.”
- Gary Clark, Jr.
- Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue
- Sara Bareilles featuring Carole King
- Daft Punk featuring Nile Rodgers, Stevie Wonder and Pharrell Williams
- Kendrick Lamar and Imagine Dragons
- Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
- Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr
- Metallica featuring Lang Lang
- Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age, Dave Grohl and Lindsey Buckingham
- Katy Perry featuring Juicy J
- Pink featuring Nate Ruess
- Robin Thicke featuring Chicago
One year ago, after receiving numerous tips from readers that in a previously-aired GAC special about country artist Blake Shelton, the reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year had some disparaging things to say about classic country music fans, Saving Country Music found the quotes, cued up an article and posted Shelton’s comments verbatim.
Blake Shelton said,
If I am “Male Vocalist of the Year” that must mean that I’m one of those people now that gets to decide if it moves forward and if it moves on. Country music has to evolve in order to survive. Nobody wants to listen to their grandpa’s music. And I don’t care how many of these old farts around Nashville going, “My God, that ain’t country!” Well that’s because you don’t buy records anymore, jackass. The kids do, and they don’t want to buy the music you were buying.
What happened next was one of the biggest awakenings of classic country fans in recent memory.
The original “Old Farts & Jackasses” article was posted fairly late in the afternoon on January 23rd, 2013, and slowly but surely it started making the rounds on social networks channels as the evening progressed. But it was the next morning when the story caught like wildfire and began to circulate far and wide. The outrage was taken to the next level when the now deceased Ray Price took to his Facebook page to post a scathing comeback to Blake Shelton’s comments:
It’s a shame that I have spend 63 years in this business trying to introduce music to a larger audience and to make it easier for the younger artists who are coming behind me. Every now and then some young artist will record a rock and roll type song , have a hit first time out with kids only. This is why you see stars come with a few hits only and then just fade away believing they are God’s answer to the world. This guy sounds like in his own mind that his head is so large no hat ever made will fit him. Stupidity Reigns Supreme!!!!!!! Ray Price (CHIEF “OLD FART” & JACKASS”) ” P.S. YOU SHOULD BE SO LUCKY AS US OLD-TIMERS. CHECK BACK IN 63 YEARS (THE YEAR 2075) AND LET US KNOW HOW YOUR NAME AND YOUR MUSIC WILL BE REMEMBERED. – Ray Price
But it didn’t stop there. The original “Old Farts & Jackasses” article posted on Saving Country Music was shared and liked on Facebook over 25,000 times. Country DJ’s across the country were talking about it, every major country music news outlet ran a story about it, and some ran two or three as the controversy stretched out for days, creating a massive viral event across multiple media channels. Blake Shelton was forced to make a public apology to Ray Price (though he never officially apologized to the Old Farts & Jackasses themselves). Artists both big and small, traditional and new, independent and mainstream came out to publicly defend or distance from Blake Shelton.
One of the most notable responses was when Willie Nelson re-named the tour he was currently on to the “Old Farts & Jackasses Tour“. The announcement was complete with a sarcasm-filled press release. An excerpt:
The Old Farts and Jackass tour began in Durham, NC on January 18th at the Durham Performing Arts Center. But now it’s January 20th, excitement is in the air, and Inauguration Day is finally here….After much anticipation Willie Nelson finally emerged. Dressed in an all black ensemble by American designer Levi Strauss, the co-leader of the Old Fart Party mesmerized the crowd with the first dance, Whiskey River.
The lip synching controversy would take over the headlines later, but the official answer from Nelson’s camp remained no. No Willie Vanillie here ladies and gentlemen, no tricky audio antics. Willie sang it all live. What we have elected to see is just a man, his band, his family and his guitar. The audience in Atlanta will testify before any congress; country is in good hands.
Tom T. Hall and Chuck Redden teamed up to cut “Old Farts, Jackasses, Steel Guitars & Rhyme“:
And Dale Watson wrote the song “Old Fart (A Song For Blake)“:
The effects of Blake Shelton’s Old Farts & Jackasses comments continue even today. Here are some of them:
“Old Farts & Jackasses” An Embraced Term for Classic Country Fans
Blake Shelton may have meant it as an insult, but classic country fans now wear the “Old Farts & Jackasses” moniker with pride, and embrace it as a term of endearment, proudly using it to refer to themselves and other classic and traditional country music fans.
“Old Farts & Jackasses” on Facebook
In the aftermath of Blake Shelton’s comments, a Facebook page was set up for “Old Farts & Jackasses” that has subsequently collected over 97,000 “likes” (Ironically, the Saving Country Music “like” page only has 2,400). The Old Farts & Jackasses page continues to remain active and vibrant, and continues to grow every day.
Dale Watson Launches The “Ameripolitan” Genre
Beyond Dale Watson’s “Old Fart (A Song For Blake)” tune, the Old Farts & Jackasses incident inspired Dale to start the “Ameripolitan” genre, according to the classic country singer. Though Dale had been throwing the term Ameripolitan around for a years, Old Farts & Jackasses is what motivated Dale to get organized behind it.
The National Traditional Country Music Association
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -
Though Blake Shelton’s comments we’re initially uncalled for and angering, in the end it let the world know that there are plenty of fans of traditional and classic country music that are willing to stand up, be accounted for, and fight for the music they believe in.
Yes ladies and gentlemen, just like the great American eagle and the mighty Soviet bear staring each other down and belligerently stockpiling armaments to intimidate one another, the two titans of American radio, Clear Channel and Cumulus Media, have entered a no-holds-barred arms race with country music as the platform, acquiring assets and cutting deals, fueled by deregulation, with the ultimate prize being you, the sweet and innocent little country music consumer.
In December, word came down that Clear Channel had cut a deal with CMT to create nationally-focused country music programming to be distributed across the 125 country radio stations owned by the company, as well as some digital and television platforms. This move was in response to Cumulus, the 2nd-largest radio station owner in the United States behind Clear Channel, which had created its own national syndicated format earlier in 2013 under the NASH-FM brand, serving 70 separate radio markets.
Now Cumulus is matching Clear Channel’s cross-media move by partnering with the long-running magazine Country Weekly to migrate the NASH-FM brand into print and online media. Announced this week, Country Weekly in the next couple of quarters will become NASH Weekly. Cumulus has also registered nashweekly.com, and is expected to make an online presence for the NASH brand a focus.
Two Different Companies and Philosophies
Though many consider Cumulus and Clear Channel as 1 and 1A in the move to consolidate radio ownership and nationalize programming at the expense of local radio talent and regional flavor, the two companies operate from two distinctly different philosophies. For example, Clear Channel is the company most notorious for firing local talent and implementing national syndicated programming at local stations whether the stations or markets want it or not. Cumulus on the other hand insists its local stations choose how much of the nationally-syndicated NASH-FM programming they carry during a given day, though many times these stations eventually choose the syndicated shows because of increased ratings and lower labor costs.
Clear Channel is betting big on its national personalities. DJ Bobby Bones is seen as a rising star in country radio, his syndicated country show based out of Nashville is now the #1 show in the home of country music, and is broadcast to over 50 of Clear Channel’s member stations and growing. Bones has already begun to branch out into online and television formats, and he’s seen as a personality that could become the face of Clear Channel’s country network. Cody Alan is another human asset that started at CMT, but now hosts the Clear Channel’s syndicated nightly show “After MidNite” and Clear Channel sees a lot of potential in.
Cumulus meanwhile is betting more on its physical assets. The Cumulus / NASH heavy hitter is it’s New York flagship station, 94.7 Nash FM. Before Cumulus launched the station, New York had been devoid of a country music station for two decades. Now 94.7 is pulling in almost 1 million listeners, and is expected to grow to 1.5 million in the next year to 18 months. Cumulus is also looking to expand the NASH brand into the restaurant business, with a potential fleet of bistros to be opened in the future. Why restaurants? Because the brick and mortar aspect of a restaurant chain is the type of substantial asset a business looking to build a substantial brand desires.
Don’t Forget About Rolling Stone Country
Meanwhile there’s a 3rd big player in the country music media race that brings one of the most trusted and well-recognized brands in American music to the table: Rolling Stone. Wenner Media announced in early December that in the 2nd quarter of 2014 they would be launching a million-dollar website dedicated to country music, with a Nashville office housing an editorial staff of 10 to 15 writers, a strong stable of sponsors, and a long-term commitment and outlook. With the ability to branch out into video and streaming radio through the online format, and the power of the Rolling Stone brand, Rolling Stone Country will be a formidable new country music media participant vying for many of the same country fans as Clear Channel and Cumulus.
2014 could see the biggest restructuring and realignment of the business of covering and distributing country music through radio the genre has ever seen, with millions of dollars in capital being infused into the marketplace as big media companies build their country media empires. It also means that just like radio station ownership and the genres those radio stations play, the business of covering country music is likely to consolidate into the hands of a few very big entities, while smaller outlets and radio stations must resort to niche programming to grow a grassroots following, having to deal with slim budgets in the shadows of the big boys.
And with that said, I would like to formally submit myself for consideration from one of these big media outlets looking for a scrappy, industrious, and experienced country music writer. Just set up the interview and I’ll dazzle, trust me. Here’s my resume: www.savingcountrymusic.com.
…or at least let me wash dishes at one of the new NASH Grill locations. It’s hard out here for us independent writers.
Aaron Lewis may know a little something about what country isn’t. He spent the first 16 years of his music career as the emotionally-distraught and misanthropic frontman of the alternative rock band Staind before deciding in 2010 to record a “country” EP. The project was released in 2011, and included the single “Country Boy” that despite the participation of George Jones and Charlie Daniels, still felt like what Aaron Lewis had been doing with his acoustic shows for over a decade, except for trying to brow beat the listener into buying into how country he was.
2012 saw the release of Aaron’s second single, “Endless Summer,” which along with other misdeeds, name dropped Jason Aldean of all people. It was looking like Lewis was falling right in line with the procession of other country music outsiders fleeing to the country genre in the twilight of their careers to find commercial strength. But when his full-length album The Road was released in late 2012, it was actually a pleasant surprise to hear just how country and non-commercial it was.
While talking to The Marion Star in Ohio ahead of an upcoming show, Aaron decided to let his disdain for the direction of country music be known.
“I think there’s enough beer on the beach, partying on the tailgate, driving around in a pickup truck, moonshine songs,” Lewis said. “I think that everything has been pretty well beaten to death. And I’ll opt for my usual … making sure the song has emotion and feeling and means something… I don’t know what it is that country radio is playing these days. I’m really not quite sure. There’s a song out right now that’s a big single for a big act, and at the very end of the song you can hear a banjo come up in the mix for four measures. And you’re like, ‘Oh, there’s the country aspect of it. Now I get it.’ But that is not country music, I’m sorry.”
Lewis also says he doesn’t like to be lumped in with Kenny Chesney when he mentions he plays country.
“It’s funny because people hear Aaron Lewis and country they often think Kenny Chesney when they should have thoughts of Jamey Johnson and David Allen Coe. It’s country like Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, George Jones and Johnny Cash … I almost even like the fact that I’m having all of this success without the machine really embracing me. And I’m not sure that it would have been as valuable to me as an artist to have the very first song I ever delivered to country go straight to the top of the charts and never have to work for it, so I never had to start out in the honky-tonks and where it should start. And man, I’ve sold out every honky-tonk place in the last few years and it’s where it should start. I believe in building a foundation and then building your house on top of that.”
Maybe Aaron is bitter because the country industry didn’t embrace him, or maybe he’s come around to the side of dissent for other reasons. But despite where Aaron Lewis and country music began or where it eventually may be going, at the moment he seems to be making the effort to understand that making country music means embracing more than just the name.
- Gaahl on EDM Replacing Rap As The Scourge of Country Radio
- Seth Putnam on EDM Replacing Rap As The Scourge of Country Radio
- olajean on Josh Abbott Admits to Infidelity, Asks For Forgiveness
- Trigger on “Achy Breaky 2″ Becomes A Big Hit Because It’s So Bad
- Eli Locke on Dierks Bentley’s “Riser” (Review & Giveaway)