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Move over Jamey Johnson and Kacey Musgraves. There’s a new critical darling in country music, and he’s neither country nor worthy of critical acclaim. Yes, I’m talking about the suave-haired cocaine club EDM-fueled country music marketing colossus and Svengali of the country music public named Sam Hunt.
This isn’t hard people. Toby Keith’s song “Drunk Americans” isn’t “social commentary,” Kenny Chesney’s new album The Big Revival is not “progressive,” and Sam Hunt and his music have nothing to do with country aside from the channels it’s been chosen to be peddled under because the historically pliable country music fan won’t question as a turd sandwich is shoved down their throat and called tuna.
In country music’s big pivot from the shallowness of Bro-Country, apparently they believe you don’t have to materially improve your music, you just have to say that you are, and country music media will lap it up. Unlike the dunces in Florida Georgia Line or Brantley Gilbert who I’ve yet hear form a complete sentence, when you shove a microphone in the face of Sam Hunt, actual coherent language comes out, and apparently that feat is enough to woo country music’s literati into believing he has a legitimate place not just under the country music umbrella, but perched on the crown of it. Oh, and if you don’t see the country music merit Sam Hunt, it’s because you’re a closed-minded, shallow-listening purist who needs to remove the stick from your ass and understand that country music has evolved, yo.
In a barrage of recent press, Sam Hunt apologists pontificate how country music’s answer to the rise of EDM is not just legitimately qualified to be considered “country,” but that his music is of high quality, and is healthy for the genre. Excuse me, but can someone please ship the “quality” version of Hunt’s Montevallo to the Saving Country Music headquarters, because sweeping aside all of the arguments of what is country or not, “quality” is something that never ever crossed my mind when listening to that aggressively mind-numbing exploration of musical tropes and oft called-upon clichés machine gunned out in unmerciless succession.
It seems some of the theories of how excellent Sam Hunt’s album is are based off of the involvement of songwriter Shane McAnally—a critic’s superstar at the moment because of his work with Kacey Musgraves on many of her acclaimed songs. This was an important point made in a recent Entertainment Weekly interview with Sam Hunt, and in another piece by the great Barry Mazor (who has an excellent new book out about Ralph Peer) writing for Engine 145. “Hunt’s written the ten songs with the likes of Zach Crowell, Josh Osborne and Shane McAnally—the latter pair wrote ‘Merry Go Round’ with Kacey Musgraves, and Crowell and McAnally produced the set, keeping these particular pop country sounds tightly and appropriately tied to the songs’ meanings and levels of emotionality. Sam Hunt brings to all that the assured vocal finesse that can give ‘polished’ a good name.”
But what these taste makers are overlooking is that McAnally’s list of song credits has always been a mixed bag of semi-quality, yet still formulaic offerings for the mainstream, along with unapologetic commercial tunes. As Saving Country Music pointed out in September of 2013 in an article called Dallas Davidson & Country Music’s Narrowing Songwriting Consortium, “On the surface he seems to be a writer who works with more substance compared to Luke Laird and Dallas Davidson, but he’s also given credit for co-writing Florida Georgia Line’s ‘Party People,’ and Lady Antebellum’s ultra-saccharine ‘Downtown.’”
No offense to Shane McAnally; it’s great that he’s been able to be a part of songs that at least attempt to instill some quality in the mainstream, but that shouldn’t allow him a lifelong hall pass from hearing about it when he helps to write rubbish, like Toby Keith’s “Drunk Americans” or Sam Hunt’s “Leave The Night On.” In my opinion McAnally has burned through his critical cred long ago, and at the least is on an even keel when looking critically at any future creative output, not grading him on a curve.
And besides, the songwriting is arguably where Sam Hunt and Montevallo suffer the most. While Hunt’s defenders focus on trying to explain why it is okay to call urban club music “country,” they also lean on the songwriting as the consensus builder of the album and what ultimately makes it “country.” Sam Hunt tells Entertainment Weekly, “I feel like they’re all country songs lyrically. They’re just stories about country life.” And Barry Mazor says Sam Hunt is “potent music that reflects the lives, responses and rhythms” of low-income country folks. But aside from the lyrics of “Break Up in a Small Town” which nestles down in what has to be the one of the most overused cliché tropes of modern country, I fail to see what is so country about these songs, while some of them venture so far into urban themes they could illustrate the absolute antithesis of country from a lyrical standpoint, punctuated by urban annunciations, artifacts, behavior, and jargon.
I truly question if I’m listening to the same damn album as these other writers. I hear Sam Hunt quoting Train’s “Drops of Jupiter,” and saying lines like “It’s still early out in Cali,” “Blame it on the bikinis, party girls, and martinis,” “Tanned legs in the nights, sliding out of the sea, stilettos at the crosswalk,” and “All dolled up at the bar, with debit cards, they don’t know how pretty they are
City girls, city girls.”
Doesn’t sound very country to me.
As Saving Country Music said in the review of Montevallo, it is “an excruciatingly-typical urban dance album that does Molly-laced grinds up against every single worn out trope of the velvet-roped, indirect-lighted, $15 cocktail club scene and the music thereof. Aside from the banjo in the song “House Party,” the steel guitar in “Single for the Summer,” and the sentiment in “Break Up In A Small Town,” this ten-song LP is a product of the pop/EDM world 100%.”
Barry Mazor also says that some critics “notice only that the subject territory seems similar to that of a lot of ‘Chart Country’ guyz lately, and the record’s tone on the more pop end of the spectrum…” He also goes on to call Sam Hunt and Montevallo, “fine country music.”
The Fader goes one step further, with writer Duncan Cooper penning a piece called Why Sam Hunt is Good for Country Music. In the article he contrasts the success of Sam Hunt with the rise of Sturgill Simpson. He also talks to Mr. Hunt, and even reads him a quote from the aforementioned SCM review of Montevallo that goes, “Nice guy and good songs or not, Sam Hunt isn’t stretching the ‘country’ term, he is a downright attacking it, and represents a fulfillment of the mono-genre that should be roundly rejected by country music or face potentially dire long-term consequences.”
Sam Hunt’s response is, “My intention was not to try to convince any skeptics that my music was country. It’s hard to understand everybody’s definition of what country music is, and mine may not fit the definition of my critics, so it’s kind of pointless for me to get involved in an argument where we just have different ideas about what country music is. In an argument like that, I think two people can be right.”
Sorry Sam, but you’re wrong, and you know it, and you know this entire project was hatched as a calculated marketing angle that has paid off in spades. Now you and others are trying to justify this pursuit because it clearly doesn’t fit within the country music panorama.
The Fader‘s Duncan Cooper does make a valiant attempt in a well-written piece to say that both traditional-sounding artists like Sturgill Simpson, and EDM artists like Sam Hunt, can be called country, and we can all join hands and sing “Kumbaya” under one big cohabited tent. However the truth is country music has become the veritable ground zero for the contentious culture war by taking musical elements and members of different segments in society and trying to scrunch them all together uncomfortably in one genre for the marketing expediency of major labels. There is absolutely nothing wrong with EDM music, or hip-hop, or rock, or pop, or even combining these styles when it is done with heart and taste. If Sam Hunt wants to make urban dance music, then hey, he should do that. But he should call it what it is and push it through the appropriate channels as opposed to being a catalyst for conflict by predicating his music on sonic misnomers that breed misunderstanding.
Music as a gateway drug only works if it accurately represents where you’re trying to lead listeners.
With all respect to The Fader and Duncan Cooper, he misidentifies the concerns of country traditionalists by saying, “Large corporations have seen reason to give supercountry a boost, and in doing so, have implicitly crowded out more traditional styles that might’ve been promoted instead, derailing hypothetical futures where roots-minded artists might, with equal exposure, attain equal audiences.”
This is where people who wish to defend the integrity of the term “country” and the genre it represents are commonly misunderstood. Sturgill Simpson doesn’t want to be signed to a major label or win big awards, and neither do his fans. They’re perfectly happy seeing him in packed clubs or small theaters, and fear the day they have to squint at him on a stadium stage. Sturgill doesn’t want to be associated with what is being played on the radio. There is no envy or jealousy whatsoever. Should Sturgill Simpson be recognized by the CMA Awards or be played on the radio? Of course he should, but if it is done by Sturgill Simpson compromising who he is instead of the industry truly recognizing what they’ve missed, there’s no value in it. They would rather stick to the independent world.
There is this diseased sentiment that is currently being carried by country that you should strive to be the biggest of everything, and that is how success is measured. That is why the country industry is pushing artists like Sam Hunt so strongly. But in striving to be the biggest, you detach yourself from your roots, you don’t grow sustainably, and holes begin to populate the integrity of what you’re doing, putting you on unsure footing and the path for an eventual fall from grace. See rock music.
Diversity is what makes music both beautiful and healthy, and a vibrant tapestry for consumers to explore and find fulfillment in ways that enrich their lives in a manner that speaks to them more personally based off their predisposed tendencies and cultural upbringing. And somehow when you come to the defense of this diversity, and challenge the idea that all music should sound different and be accurately classified to aid this exploratory endeavor, it is mischaracterized as closed-minded or being unwilling to evolve.
Before there was Sam Hunt and “We Can Leave The Night On,” there was Jerrod Niemann and “I Can Drink To That All Night.” Anyone heard from Jerrod Niemann lately? Anyone even keeping up on how his last two singles have been huge failures? He stretched the boundaries too far, and though he succeeded in garnering himself some short-term attention, in the end it wasn’t only unsustainable, it was ultimately detrimental to his career. And that is the same risk country music runs by betting its future on Sam Hunt, EDM, or anything else that resides out of country’s historical fold.
Oh, and let’s not forget that Sturgill Simpson has been hinting at the possibility of collaborating with electronic elements in his future projects.
Sam Hunt seems like a great guy and a smart cookie, and good for him. And if country critics or listeners find a guilty or an non-guilty pleasure in his music, who is it for me or anyone else to step in front of the enjoyment of that music? But the simple fact is he’s not country, and the CMA, radio station programmers, label executives, critics, and even fellow country stars should stand up for the integrity of the country genre, put forward and celebrate it’s virtues instead of the virtues of other genres, and be happy playing second fiddle to pop instead of trying to take over the popular music world by incorporating it.
Let’s celebrate the diversity of music, not attempt to resolve it.
That’s right, the Curb Records madness continues, and continues to reach for comical, if not maniacal heights.
Apparently Curb Records is readying the release of a new Hank III (not ‘Hank3′ as he goes by now) album called Take As Needed For Pain, scheduled to be made available to the public on April 14th, 2015. Though the album is being credited at the moment to Hank III, early incarnations of this release had it denoted as “Assjack II.” Assjack is the name of Hank3′s early heavy metal project that released a self-titled album with Curb in 2009. The song “Take As Needed For Pain” is a cover song from the metal band Eyehategod that Hank3 turned into a 10-minute epic for the tribute album For The Sick: A Tribute to Eyehategod released in 2007 and recorded under the name “The Unholy 3″ which is the name of one of Hank3′s side projects.
Hank3 also recorded another Eyehategod song for the tribute called “Torn Between Suicide and Breakfast” that could be a pretty safe bet for making the track list of the new album, along with whatever other Assjack or metal songs Curb somehow wrangled out of Hank3 during his years at the label. Why Curb is deciding to go with the Hank III name instead of Assjack might be about marketing, or maybe some country songs will be included on the album as well. One of the issues with some of Curb’s post-contract releases from Hank3 is they haven’t warned consumers they’re buying metal albums instead of country, causing confusion and anger from some fans. It’s pretty safe to say that no matter what finds itself on the track list, it will be music released previously and/or that is already out there on YouTube or other locations. Hank3′s usual response to his fans on these post-contract Curb releases is to “Burn it, and give it away.”
Hank3 entered into a six album contract with Curb in the late 90′s. The Nashville-based label was able to stretch Hank3′s album count to seven by releasing Hillbilly Joker in 2011; a “hellbilly” album Curb initially rejected, but released after Hank3 had fulfilled his contract at the end of 2010. Then Curb released an outtakes album in 2012 called Lone Gone Daddy that brought the total of Curb releases on Hank3′s six-album contract to eight. Ramblin’ Man released in April of this year—another album of previously-released material cobbled together—made it nine. Hank3 also had agreed to the release of one heavy metal album as part of his Curb deal. Take As Needed For Pain would now bring that count to two.
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The grandson of Hank Williams is not the only artist having to shake their head as Curb continues to regurgitate material to try and squeeze as much money out of their name as possible while misleading the public. Tim McGraw has been locked in a public battle with Curb for years, and now has another reason to be angered as the record label is getting ready to release his 10th compilation/Greatest Hits album. That’s right, ten of them. That’s only one less than the total amount of studio albums Curb released during McGraw’s entire career on the label.
Tim McGraw “The Hits Live” is being prepped for release on January 27th by Curb. This goes along with Greatest Hits Volumes 1, 2, and 3, a Collector’s Edition Greatest Hits, a Limited Edition Greatest Hits, A Limited Edition Greatest Hits Volume 1, 2, 3, Number One Hits, Tim McGraw & Friends (duets), and Love Story (his biggest love songs).
In 2010, Saving Country Music published an article mocking Curb for imitating art by releasing seven Greatest Hits albums from McGraw. Subsequently, Curb has released just one studio album, and three additional Greatest Hits compilations. Tim McGraw won a protracted court battle with Curb in 2012 and was finally released from his contract. He now calls Big Machine Records home. Curb tried to delay the release of Tim’s final album under the label called Emotional Traffic to indefinitely keep him under contract.
More Greatest Hits releases are also on the way from previous and current Curb artists. LeAnn Rimes has already had two Greatest Hits releases just in 2014—an album of her Greatest Hits Remixes, and a two-CD Limited Edition Greatest Hits. Now Curb has scheduled an All-Time Greatest Hits release on February 3rd. Rodney Atkins also has a Greatest Hits release upcoming, and Hank Williams Jr. will see the release of previously-released material in a Hank Jr. Sings Hank Sr. compilation.
Curb Records continues to regurgitate material from previous artists on their label as they lose roster names left and right, and carry the reputation as one of the worst labels in town. Aside from some recent success with Lee Brice, a marketable name in Rodney Atkins, and a promising young star in Mo Pitney, the label continues to struggle to find new material to release, and instead insists on misleading consumers with repackaged albums.
The feud between country music Outlaw legend Waylon Jennings and country superstar Garth Brooks has been well-documented and talked about over the years. Though a lot of rumor and conjecture tend to cloud the conversation, we do know that Waylon’s dislike for Garth, who was coming up just as Waylon’s career was hitting a sharp decline, was very real. Whether the quote is real or not that is often attributed to Waylon about a certain type of foreplay and how Garth was the equivalent to pantyhose getting in the way of it, there was undoubtedly some animosity between the two country stars.
During an appearance late last week on Broadway’s Electric Barnyard show on Country 92.5 out of Connecticut, the DJ asked Garth point blank about the feud. One of the reason’s Broadway does such good interviews is because he asks the questions many other DJ’s are too scared to ask. But as opposed to getting angry, the artists usually find the questions refreshing after being asked about the same subjects over and over that only scratch the surface. “You know your stuff, I’m enjoying this,” Garth said to Broadway.
When Broadway asked Garth if he’d ever met Waylon or talked to him about the feud, Garth responded,
No, never met Mr. Jennings. And for some reason man, I guess I was the guy that he targeted. You know, it’s kind of weird because all the people [that are the reason] why I’m in the business, those people say the reason THEY were in the business was Waylon. So everyone loves him, he’s a legend, and I just kind of let it go. I never knew what to say.
Yeah, I was definitely the guy that he targeted (laughing). And it’s funny kinda being the non traditionalist then, and now everyone looks at [me] like, ‘Your stuff is as country as it gets.’ So that’s kind of a weird view. It was tough for me because he was a country legend and for some reason I was the guy that got the brunt of it. I never took it that personal. I just think he was addressing the different sound in country music and the changing of the guard. That’s tough for anybody to handle. The guy’s a legend and deserves nothing but respect.
The artists Garth appears to be referring to as the people who were inspired by Waylon that went on to inspire him would likely be big Garth influences Keith Whitley and Chris LeDoux.
Garth also talked about how his new single is going to be “Mom,” which he calls more traditional than some of the other singles he could pick from his new album. He also talked about up-and-coming performer/songwriter Caitlyn Smith who wrote one of the most critically-acclaimed songs on Garth’s new record, “Tacoma.”
“She’s the bomb. The thing that hurts her in town is that nobody can sing as good as she can. So it’s like, you hear her demos and you want your record to sound like that. But good luck. That girl’s talented.”
The Garth vs. Waylon debate is an ongoing one, and one of those country music discussions people love to take sides on. It will probably continue on as long as both men’s music does, but according to Garth, the feud was one sided. And then there’s the quotes from Waylon’s autobiography:
Of course, the next generation better not believe everything they hear. At this point, I’ve been accused of all manner of carousing. Mostly, it’s something that I might have done, or would have done, or couldn’t even imagine doing. Pretty soon it’s etched into stone. If I led the life that people think I did, I’d be a hundred and fifty years old and weigh about forty pounds …
The thing is, we’re in this together, the old, the new, the one-hit wonders and the lifetime achievers, the writers and the session pickers and the guy who sells the T-shirts. The folks that come to the shows, and the ones that stay at home and watch it on TNN. Those who remember Hank Williams, and those who came on board about the time of Mark Chestnut, who named his baby boy after me …
My friends. This town is big enough for the all of us.
Listen to the Garth Brooks interview:
Defendants of the adverse trends corrupting mainstream country music will give you many reasons why the trends aren’t really adverse at all, including that if you don’t like the music, you should simply exercise your right to not listen, and that the music isn’t necessarily affecting behavior so in the end it’s harmless. But part of the problem with popular country music these days is that it is so effusive throughout society. You turn on a college football game or watch a wrestling broadcast, and there Florida Georgia Line is singing the intro or taking you into a commercial break. Country is now the most popular genre of American music, meaning it’s being piped into grocery stores, being played at schools, and is ever-present in cars being driven by moms and dads all across the country as their kids sit in the back seat soaking it all up and singing along to catchy songs with simplistic rhythms and repetitive themes perfect for getting stuck in the heads of youngsters.
Compounding the problem is that just a few short years ago, country was one of the safest places on the radio dial for parents with small kids in the car. Think about the “soccer mom” effect that country music was cultivating in the late oughts, when artists like Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, and Rascal Flatts were dominating the country airwaves. Country radio was full of fluffy pop country songs that parents could feel fine, if not proud of playing in front of their kids compared to the filth pervading Top 40 radio at the time.
Now the entire radio field has been reversed, even though parent’s presets may still be on the country station. Country is where the perverse sentiments of popular culture have come to roost, and the endless droning in songs about drinking, drug use, materialism, and misogynistic views towards women are nearly required to get your music at the top of the country charts. It’s been theorized by Saving Country Music that part of the reason for this trend is a backlash from the mid-00′s when the rising sentiment became that country music was becoming woosified. That’s when you had artists like Eric Church, Jason Aldean, and then later Brantley Gilbert and Florida Georgia Line beginning their ascent, purposely focusing on many non family-friendly themes and constantly trying to prove how country they were in their lyrics.
However we got here, country music is now a haven for filth on the radio, easily giving pop and even hip-hop stations a run for their money. And as mom and dad find their own personal preference on the country station, the themes in the music get incessantly pumped into the young skulls riding in booster chairs and holding sippy cups in the back seat. It’s not that drinking themes haven’t always been present in country—you could argue they’re one of the foundations of the genre. It’s more about who they’re being played to and in front of, and how these themes are being portrayed (glamorous instead of cautionary). Even if you choose to avoid the music yourself, you can’t help but worry how it is affecting society as a whole when so many young people are being subjected to this music.
This was illustrated just about perfectly on Friday (11-21) by CBS Evening News reporter Steve Hartman when he took a deeper look into how his two young kids were computing the lyrics of country songs in their developing brains as they sat and listened to popular country music in the family motor carriage.
Steve Hartman’s conclusion? “I’ve got some sobering news — Nashville is alcohol-poisoning the minds of our young people,” he says in his report.
Hartman goes on to illustrate just how deeply popular country’s drinking themes have burrowed into his two son’s brains as they recite titles and lyrics to popular country songs effortlessly. Hartman turns his blame to Kix Brooks, the host of the syndicated American Country Countdown, where apparently the majority of the Hartman kids’ exposure to popular country music comes from as they listen to the weekly show on the way to swimming lessons. So papa Hartman took the kids to Kix Brooks’ studio and asked the man himself what he thought about the trend of drinking songs in country, and Kix initially drew a blank, illustrating the sort of “deer in headlights” moment many parents feel when faced with the reality that what their kids are listening to might affect them adversely in the future.
Reporter Steve Hartman did a good job of explaining how kids listening to popular country songs can be a good teaching opportunity for parents to explain the ideas behind responsible drinking, etc., but it may be a little too much to expect this from most busy parents who listen to popular country song’s party themes as their own form of escapism. And as Hartman says, these lessons were something he was hoping to avoid until “after 1st grade.”
And Steve Hartman can’t be painted as some modern country hater or alarmist. After all, he was voluntarily listening to the American Country Countdown himself, and many in the industry, including Big Machine Label Group CEO Scott Borchetta have seen their own dilemma with so many drinking songs, saying in December of 2013, “Everybody in Nashville must be drinking 24-7. We’re a bunch of drunks down here. There’s too much, to be honest with you. We can’t keep talking about Fireball and Coors Light and having the tailgate down, etc.”
Of course all of this is anecdotal. There’s no direct data corroborating that five-year-old’s are hitting the sauce too early because they listened to Little Big Town’s “Day Drinking.” But it does illustrate how when people show concern for the themes of country songs, even if they’re not inclined to listen themselves, they’re concerned that it could be having adverse effects on society as a whole. Like teachers in a madras, with a lack of variety, these popular country songs drive home the same themes over and over until it can be recited effortlessly by impressionable minds. It also make one wonder if the underlying reason is to make young consumers for country’s principal advertisers, like the Joe Camel effect of 2014.
Hartman’s report only deals with the drinking aspect of popular country songs, but really you could do a similar experiment dealing with sexual themes, possibly with very young female listeners. This all doesn’t mean these songs are patently evil. Music made for adults who (hypothetically) have the ability to rationalize what they’re listening to and not let it affect them adversely is fine. But just like drinking itself, the music should be consumed by an age-appropriate audience, and as with all things, in moderation. However mainstream country at the moment is on the drinking song binge of its life, even if the substance of the songs is slowly improving, and the question remains if it’s having an effect on the behavior of listeners, or if it will shape the behavior of listeners in the future.
One year ago today, Outlaw country artist and songwriter Wayne Mills was shot in the back of the head at the Pit & Barrel Bar in Nashville, TN at approximately 5:00 AM after an altercation erupted with the bar’s owner, Chris Michael Ferrell—a friend of Wayne’s who was hosting an after hours gathering following a tribute concert to George Jones earlier in the evening at the Bridgestone Arena. Mills died later that day of his wounds in a Nashville hospital, and after a protracted investigation, Chris Ferrell was indicted by a Grand Jury on 2nd Degree murder charges. Ferrell is currently out on bond and under electronic surveillance ahead of his trial set to begin on March 2nd, 2015. Meanwhile many questions continue to linger about the circumstances of Wayne’s death as fans, friends, and family remember the fallen performer on this solemn anniversary.
A year has passed, and still very little makes sense, or even is known about Wayne Mills’ death. Early reports had the altercation starting over smoking in a non-smoking section of the Pit & Barrel bar that had recently been remodeled as part of the Spike TV reality series Bar Rescue, but later Ferrell claimed in a preliminary court hearing that Mills’ had come to the bar to “rob and kill” him—something that goes completely against the character of the songwriter who was known by many as a gentle giant. When Ferrell shot Mills, he did not do it from close range according to the autopsy report, which also revealed Wayne Mills had been heavily beaten, with bruises and cuts on every sector of his body and multiple broken ribs. Still, it was Chris Ferrell who initially called 911 after the shooting, and as his attorney says, he didn’t “run for tall weeds” after the incident, but cooperated fully with police, and turned himself in immediately when the indictment was handed down, insisting on his innocence.
The investigation into the death of Wayne Mills resulted in some very curious circumstances in itself. The police initially misidentified Wayne as another Nashville songwriter, Clayton Mills, and worked under this assumption for some ten hours into the investigation. This unfortunate error resulted in Wayne Mills’ widow, Carol Mills, confined to a hospital waiting room while her husband lay fighting for life behind closed doors that the staff would not let her past because they couldn’t confirm she was family. Meanwhile Chris Ferrell was able to come and go freely, and though Wayne was subjected to a toxicology test as part of his autopsy, it is still unclear if a similar test was done on Ferrell. And even if Chris Ferrell was acting in self-defense, why was a fatal shot needed, and one that was fired at a distance and from behind, meaning Wayne at the time was likely not in a position to pose a threat to Ferrell. Two guns were presented to police when they arrived on the scene, and later a private investigator hired by Ferrell found a second bullet embedded in the Pit & Barrel’s wall.
There were no direct witnesses to the Wayne Mills killing. Country performer Shooter Jennings and his manager Jon Hensley had left shortly before, and everyone else in the bar had filed outside amidst the altercation, leaving only Chris Ferrell and evidence collected at the scene as a way to piece together what truly happened, making the upcoming trial of Chris Ferrell all the more important. Beyond the fans, family, and friends of Wayne Mills who want justice, many in the music community and Nashville at large simply want answers of why a man died seemingly so unnecessarily.
Jerald Wayne Mills was laid to rest on December 8th, 2013 after a memorial service was held for him in his hometown of Arab, Alabama. A man who had been a friend and mentor to stars as far ranging as Blake Shelton and Jamey Johnson, and had left a vibrant legacy of songs and music was gone. Wayne Mills is survived by his wife Carol, and his young son Jack, and thousands of fans who were touched by his music.
On the one year anniversary of Wayne Mills’ death, it is important to remember and celebrate Wayne’s legacy. But it is also important to remember that we still don’t have the answer to why he was killed. As citizens of the music community, it is important that we continue to ask this question, and to remain vigilant in the face of the passage of time and the distraction of daily news until this important answer is found.
In September of 2012, Blake Judd of JuddFilms brought a camera crew to the famous Cash Cabin Studio in Hendersonville, TN to shoot a pilot episode for a television series that has never been aired. Meant to be aired late at night, similar to the late-night musical variety show The Midnight Special that was broadcast on NBC from 1972 to 1981, the idea was to take well-known established artists, worthy undiscovered musicians and songwriters, and stick them all in Johnny Cash’s legendary cabin with an open bar, and set the camera’s rolling.
Developed by Shooter Jennings and JuddFilms, Shooter Jennings’ Midnight Special had little to no rules. Pickers and songwriters organically decided what they wanted to play, and people joined in if they wished. The idea was to capture collaborative magic, while using the names of larger artists to help expose smaller ones. The names assembled in the Cash Cabin include mainstream country artists like Kellie Pickler and John Anderson, Americana names like Jason Isbell and Leroy Powell, and underground artists such as Leon Virgil Bowers (formerly Leroy Virgil of Hellbound Glory), and Col. JD Wilkes of Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers.
In the below video obtained by Saving Country Music from Judd Films, it finds Leon Virgil Bowers leading the Cash Cabin in a rendition of Garth Brooks’ “Two of a Kind.” The woman blowing in Bowers’ ear in the early portion is Leon’s wife who is known to request the song whenever she sees Leon with a guitar in his hand. Joining Leon is a stupidly-dizzying amount of music talent, including Jason Isbell, Amanda Isbell (Shires), Col. JD Wilkes, Jessica Wilkes, Scott Icenogle on bass, Rico from Hellbound Glory on slide guitar, while Shooter Jennings, Sarah Gayle Meech, John Carter Cash, Leroy Powell, Joey Allcorn, some pretty girls, and who knows else sway along and offer harmony vocals. It’s a crazy roundtable of talent, while top notch video cameras and studio-quality sound capture the entire thing.
Even more interesting is there’s apparently much more from where this video came from, with footage being captured all day, and John Anderson, Kellie Pickler, and others joining in, including Kellie doing Kitty Wells’ “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” to be released on December 4th. No word on what ever happened to this series, but it is definitely interesting to see all this talent in one place.
On December 4th, Billboard will roll out new changes to their Billboard 200 album chart, and the effect will be big on some of your favorite music artists, including legends like Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton, and up-and-comers like Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell. The changes will be the first major overhaul to the album chart since 1991, and will send pop stars and artists whose fans favor streaming to much higher positions and allow them to stay there for longer, while artists whose fans prefer to buy physical, cohesive albums or downloads will be diminished.
As first explained by Saving Country Music in September, the new chart rules (dubbed initially as a ‘Consumption Chart’) take into consideration the streaming of songs when rating the overall impact of an album. 1,500 songs streams on services such as Spotify, Google Play, Beats, Rhapsody, the new YouTube Music Key, or any other streamers will count as the equivalent of one album sale, even if those streams are all for only one song. The chart change is meant to take into account the new reality of how music is consumed, and give a boost to artists whose albums get buried on Billboard album charts because of poor sales of cohesive albums.
A big differences between what was initially reported about the upcoming changes and what were highlighted in a New York Times feature on the charts posted late Wednesday (11-19) is that there won’t be an autonomous ‘Consumption Chart,’ but changes directly to the Billboard 200.
It is also left ambiguous at the moment if there will still be dedicated album charts that do not take into account streaming. Original reports had album charts remaining, but likely losing relevancy with the implementation of the new chart system. There’s also no news at the moment if the changes will also be implemented for Billboard’s genre specific album charts.
Recently we have seen older country artists such as Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, and Billy Joe Shaver set career chart records with their album releases because these artist’s older fan bases are one of the few demographics left that actually buy albums. But since these artist’s streaming footprint is significantly less, these new chart rules would see them fare significantly worse compared to the current system.
Same could be said for many independent artists like Old Crow Medicine Show, Sturgill Simpson or Jason Isbell, whose fan bases are more likely to buy physical albums to help support the artist. These artists have seen significant boosts from chart performances recently, and this will be diminished under the new system. Artists who rely heavily on vinyl sales like Jack White will also see diminishing returns from the new charting system.
Since these charts are used to gauge the importance and impact an artist has in the marketplace, a diminishing of these artists on the charts could affect their overall sales, or their acknowledgement by the industry. The new system will create even a greater discrepancy between the have’s and have not’s of music, and see more attention paid to the biggest artists, the biggest songs, and the biggest albums.
On the flip side, many artists who’ve arguably been treated poorly because their music depends mostly on streaming will benefit from the new system, and some change was probably warranted to account for consumers’ changing behavior. Also the chart will account for listening behaviors beyond the initial sale. Since streaming behavior happens for much longer after an album is released, it could give a more accurate portrayal of the importance of an album beyond the release date. But of course, there’s no way to gauge how many times a consumer who purchases a physical or downloaded copy listens after the purchase date, putting artists whose fans bases buy physical at a disadvantage, beyond getting a much bigger credit in the charts for the physical sale initially.
Some examples given of who would benefit under mock ups of the new chart system show artists such as EDM duo Disclosure and their album Settle going from #213 on the album chart based purely off of sales, all the way up to #64 based off of album equivalent streams and plays. That is a 149-spot difference just from the new reporting method. Another example is Katy Perry’s album Prism, which moved from #61 to #16 in early projections. But according to David Bakula of Nielson Soundscan—the company partnering with Billboard on the new chart formula—Taylor Swift’s new album 1989 would still be safe at #1 even though she has chosen to exit the streaming business on Spotify.
When Billboard implemented sweeping changes to their song chart configurations in October of 2012, it was predicted at the time by many that these changes would fundamentally modify the industry in historic ways, ushering in an era where popular American music would rapidly succumb to the monogenre, and distinctions of separate genres would slowly become irrelevant. Artists who did not occupy the “crossover” realm would see diminished significance, and popular music would all begin to sound the same.
Subsequently that is exactly what we have seen, and the fingerprints of Billboard 2012′s rules changes can be found all over malevolent trends in country music and beyond, including the rise of “Bro-Country,” the institution of rap and EDM elements in country in a widespread manner, and the continued struggles of the genre to support and develop female artists. The new rules have also affected Billboard’s rap charts and other genres, and have been aided by the addition of YouTube data in 2013.
Once the new charts are published on December 4th we’ll know more. But once again it is the little guy, the legend, and the up-and-comer that gets squeezed as the industry retools to face the new reality of music streaming.
UPDATE: BILLY BRAGG HAS APOLOGIZED. SEE BELOW.
Yes, Billy Bragg is is the super cool British songwriting icon with a sharp wit and a penchant for social justice that many know and love, and Taylor Swift is the American pop princess with shallow radio singles selling out stadiums and amassing more money than God in a bid for nothing short of world domination. But the shade Billy threw Taylor over her decision to pull her music from Spotify, though conveying some logic and insight, is riddled with spite, and rooted in a wild-ass conspiracy theory with absolutely no factual basis.
In short, Billy Bragg accuses Taylor Swift of pulling her music from Soptify in favor of Google and YouTube’s new Music Key streaming service as a means of making money on an undisclosed endorsement deal, thereby discrediting all of her rhetoric about standing up for the value of art and the fair compensation of songwriters. Bragg says Taylor “sold her soul” to Google.
“But she should just be honest with her fans and say ‘sorry, but Sergey Brin gave me a huge amount of money to be the headline name on the marquee for the launch of You Tube Music Key and so I’ve sold my soul to Google’,” Billy Bragg says (read full statement below). “Google are going after Spotify and Taylor Swift has just chosen sides. That’s her prerogative as a savvy businesswoman – but please don’t try to sell this corporate power play to us as some sort of altruistic gesture in solidarity with struggling music makers.”
Bragg’s accusation is that Taylor Swift has become the poster girl for YouTube’s Music Key, but no such relationship exists. A detailed combing of the entirety of Music Key’s internet properties, advertising, verbiage, images, or any other media finds not a single mention of Taylor Swift whatsoever, let alone a “headline name on a marquee” as asserted by Bragg. There’s no “Subscribe to the service Taylor Swift is still on.” There’s no pictures of Taylor Swift. Nothing. At all.
Furthermore a spokesperson for Taylor Swift has confirmed, “Taylor Swift has had absolutely no discussion or agreement of any kind with Google’s new music streaming service.”
Something else not taken into account by Billy Bragg is that Taylor Swift’s music also remains on Beats streaming service and other streaming services beyond Google and YouTube’s Music Key. If her intent was to undermine other streamers in favor of Google, why wouldn’t she pull her music from all streaming services?
The fact that Taylor Swift only pulled her music from Spotify and not other streamers has been one of the most under-reported and important notes to her Spotify decision, and Saving Country Music has been attempting to reinforce that point ever since Taylor’s Spotify decision was made. For most artists, the default in their distribution deals is for their music to appear on music streamers unless it is explicitly stated for it not to. For Taylor’s music to not appear on Google’s streaming services, she may have to serve these companies with takedown notices, meaning just because her music appears on a service doesn’t mean she explicitly decided to have it there. Taylor Swift may not even know that her music is being made available on these new streamers, or it may have to do more with the payouts Spotify gives to artists compared to other services.
Something else Billy Bragg asserts is, “You might ask yourself why Google are setting up a commercial streaming service that will ultimately have to compete with their own You Tube behemoth? My hunch is that they are following a ‘Starbucks strategy’: it doesn’t matter if your own coffee shops on every corner are competing with one another, so long as they ultimately put all of your rivals out of business.”
It is somewhat curious why Google needs to have two streaming options under their umbrella, and Bragg may have a point. But industry analysts have believed that Google’s split of their streaming services is because Google Play is meant more for use on mobile devices such as phones, while YouTube’s Music Key is more about integrating music streaming into the already-established YouTube format, which has become one of the leading places to stream music especially for PC use. There may be some overlap in the two services, but they don’t necessarily compete with each other.
Audiophiles, Billy Bragg fans, and people generally distrusting of big music stars and corporations will herald Billy Bragg as a hero for exposing Taylor Swift’s evil plan that attempts to placate music makers while in truth she is undermining them. And yes, there is no doubt that there is a financial motivation to Swift pulling her music from Spotify that music be weighed against her altruistic assertions. But in a word, Billy Bragg’s conspiracy theory is bullshit.
Billy Bragg’s full message:
What a shame that Taylor Swift’s principled stand against those who would give her music away for free has turned out to be nothing more than a corporate power play. On pulling her music from Spotify recently, she made a big issue of the fact that the majority of the streaming service’s users listen to her tracks for nothing rather than signing up to the subscription service.
“I don’t agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free” she said in a statement to Yahoo last week.
These worthy sentiments have been somewhat undermined by Swift making her new album and back catalogue available on Google’s new Music Key streaming service…..which also offers listeners a free service alongside a premium subscription tier.
Given that this year is the first to fail to produce a new million selling album, I can understand Taylor Swift wanting to maximise her opportunities with the new record – and it worked: she shifted 1.28m copies of 1989 in the first week of sale.
But she should just be honest with her fans and say “sorry, but Sergey Brin gave me a huge amount of money to be the headline name on the marquee for the launch of You Tube Music Key and so I’ve sold my soul to Google”.
If Ms Swift was truly concerned about perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free, she should be removing her material from You Tube, not cosying up to it. The de facto biggest streaming service in the world, with all the content available free, You Tube is the greatest threat to any commercially based streaming service.
You might ask yourself why Google are setting up a commercial streaming service that will ultimately have to compete with their own You Tube behemoth? My hunch is that they are following a ‘Starbucks strategy’: it doesn’t matter if your own coffee shops on every corner are competing with one another, so long as they ultimately put all of your rivals out of business.
Google are going after Spotify and Taylor Swift has just chosen sides. That’s her prerogative as a savvy businesswoman – but please don’t try to sell this corporate power play to us as some sort of altruistic gesture in solidarity with struggling music makers.
UPDATE (11-20): Billy Bragg has apologized, read full statement below.
I want to apologise to Taylor Swift for accusing her of selling her soul to Google. I have learned that her music will not now be available on the new YouTube Music Key service, which launched this week. This is despite a number of credible sources stating in the last seven days that it would be – including yesterday’s CMU newsletter.
My criticism was based on the fact that Swift’s back catalogue was the central feature of a demonstration of the Music Key services given to journalists in London last week, as outlined in the article below. In response to specific questions about Swift’s music, journalists were assured that her back catalogue would be available on the service, including the free tier. This fact was reported in the Observer article that I linked to on my first post on this subject.
Learning that Google were using Swift to promote Music Key gave me the impression that her music was going to be front and centre of their launch, the implication being that her Spotify boycott was a corporate power play, rather than an attempt by an artist to make the point that music has value.
I now realise that I was mistaken in this assumption and wish to apologise to Ms Swift for questioning her motives.
The fact that our music is widely available for free on the internet is a problem that all artists struggle with. While so much material is instantly accessible on YouTube, subscription streaming services will always find it a challenge to build enough users to make music viable for artists, who at the moment seem to be at the end of the queue for remuneration.
The time will surely come when content creators have to band together to challenge deals done between rights holders and service providers, details of which are kept from artists and their representatives. If Ms Swift is going to lead that fight for transparency, she will have my full support.
I would like to add that I will be boycotting the first media outlet to use the headline ‘Bragg makes Swift apology’
When the news began to slowly trickle out that songwriter turned performer Brandy Clark was in fact gay, it didn’t really cause the kind of stir you would assume this type of news might drum up in country music. Part of the reason is because you just sort of found out about it through osmosis. There wasn’t some big news story with a huge headline proclaiming “Brandy Clark Is Gay!” She didn’t call a press conference to officially come out of the closet. She never really was in the closet to begin with, and she wasn’t so well-known that she could be considered a household name where there may be an element of shock once the public found out.
Brandy Clark’s private matters seem to be an aside to her success, not a preface to it, and certainly not an element of adversity to it. She’s an acclaimed and awarded country music artist—that also happened to be gay. This isn’t a scandalous development, and it didn’t stimulate some debate over country music’s values. It was simply a side note that you said “huh” to when you heard about it and moved on, not really thinking about the fact much more, or allowing it to reflect negatively upon her music, or the music she’s written for others.
Saving Country Music caught on early from some buried mentions in interviews and such that Brandy Clark was gay, and that this information probably was not common knowledge to country music at large or even most of her fans who cherish her as one of country music’s best songwriters who’s actually finding some meaningful mainstream success. Immediately thoughts came to mind that this news was something that could be headline worthy and create a lot of attention. But that just didn’t seem to be appropriate for the way Brandy Clark had conducted herself about the issue. She just didn’t seem to think it mattered that much, and this is a similar stance to how most of country music has taken it.
This is in pretty stark contrast to how another openly-gay country star, Chely Wright, handled her situation. To begin with, Chely was in the closet during her heyday in country music in the mid 90′s, when she was releasing songs like “Shut Up and Drive” and “Single White Female.” Then in May of 2010, she made the big pronouncement she was gay while in the midst of releasing a new album and a new memoir. Chely made the rounds to all the major news outlets as country music’s first openly-gay star, and the whole thing seemed to be just as much about marketing as it was about Chely making a stand and bearing her soul. It looked like an artist with a dwindling career was searching for relevancy, and then almost immediately her claims of prejudice began to ring out when she wasn’t played on the radio, or represented at awards shows, even though that ship had sailed for Chely years before.
No offense to Chely Wright. She decided to take the more public route in addressing her sexuality, and that’s her right. But she was the one who decided to make it an issue by making such a big deal about it, not necessarily country music. Nearly a decade removed from the crest of her mainstream prominence, many didn’t even know who Chely Wright was. But they do now. She’s that gay country star.
Meanwhile Brandy Clark just remains a songwriter and a performer, and a revered one at that, who happens to be gay. Kacey Musgraves, a close friend to Brandy and frequent songwriting collaborator, has made much more of an issue of homosexuality in country music with her song “Follow Your Arrow” than Brandy Clark ever could, or seems to be inclined to, especially with Kacey’s “Do you know what this means for country music?” quip at the CMA Awards. Yes, Brandy co-wrote the song, but it was apparently Kacey who wrote the “kiss lots of girls” line, inspired by Brandy.
And of course when Musgraves and Clark were bestowed CMA Song of the Year awards for “Follow Your Arrow,” the leering, and left-leaning press who pay little to no attention to country music otherwise, seized on the opportunity to make a political show of the win, and to plaster Brandy Clark’s private sexual matters all across papers and the internet, as if it was some watershed moment for the stuffy and bigoted institution of country music. It played out similarly to what happened with The Dixie Chicks in the aftermath of their George W. Bush comments. Few were paying attention to The Dixie Chicks’ music outside of country before, but now the group was being played as bumper music on NPR, and in the coffee shop at the Borders bookstore.
Meanwhile inside country music, very few people care if Brandy Clark is gay or not, including in some respects, Brandy Clark herself. That is why Saving Country Music has waited to broach to subject until it was such common knowledge, it was kind of an irrelevant issue. Yes, there is no doubt that if there was a bastion in the music world for bigoted fans, it probably would be country. But to the chagrin and wonder of some outside observers, Brandy Clark being gay is a big non issue.
That is why Brandy Clark was the perfect artist to integrate country music, because she’s not looking to make a big deal about it, or figure out a way to fall on the sword for some sort of martyred glory or marketing ploy. She just wants to write and sing songs, and country fans just want to listen to them. She could have gone the Americana route where in theory she would be more openly accepted, but she didn’t have to. And sure, Brandy’s acceptance by country probably does give a greater opportunity to gay country performers in the future, but this process was happening naturally anyway, not to take away any credit Brandy deserves for gently nudging the country genre in that direction. An openly gay male performer is still, and has always been the big Rubicon that lays out there as a difficulty for country music to cross.
The fact that Brandy Clark is a songwriter who is returning substance to country music, the fact that she’s a performer who seems to have respect for the roots of the genre, and the fact that she is a woman, and that she’s penning big songs, and being put on big tours and singing for big audiences, and now is signed to a major label, these are the things that make Brandy’s contributions to country music exceptional and noteworthy, and something country music and the media beyond should be proud of, rally behind, and report on.
Brandy’s sexual preference is her business. While her music is one of those rare things in a polarized society that we can all come together and enjoy as something that enriches us with insight, depth and wit, instead of appealing to our banal and devolved tendencies.
Once again Kenny Chesney is putting Bro-Country in his crosshairs, and specifically its objectification of women. In a new cover story in the upcoming issue of Billboard, the four-time CMA Entertainer of the Year includes some bellicose language about how country is portraying the gentler sex these days.
The cover of the Billboard issue announces, “Tired of Bor-Country songs that objectify the hell out of women, Nashville’s all-time, good-time guy is retooling his message (but keeping that tiki bar).”
Chesney’s actual quotes are a bit more reflective. “Over the last several years, it seems like anytime anybody sings about a woman, she’s in cutoff jeans, drinking and on a tailgate — they objectify the hell out of them,” Chesney says to the magazine. “Twenty years ago, I might have written a song like that — I probably did. But I’m at a point where I want to say something different about women.”
This sentiment isn’t anything new from Chesney. As he’s been making the media rounds promoting his new album The Big Revival, he’s spoken specifically about how country treats women in the context of his song “Wild Child”—a duet with Grace Potter.
In September, Chesney told radio.com, “In the last several years, a lot of the songs about women have been written in kind of an objectifying way. If you didn’t wear cut-off jeans or a bikini top, or sit on a tailgate and drink, then you really weren’t worthy, you didn’t really add up. But ‘Wild Child’ is telling some girl out there that’s got dreams, that’s a free spirit, who’s smart and interesting, that she has a chance, that she is worthy…All the women that have been in my life…they all had this idea of the ‘wild child’ in them…I think it’s an important song, because it’s saying that they don’t have to be this one thing that’s been sung about over and over again recently. And I’m proud of that, that we wrote a song that lifts up a woman in that way.”
In both instances, Chesney is careful not to call out “Bro-Country” specifically. It’s more implied by the authors. But is this all marketing, and the same effort to exploit the growing anti Bro-Country backlash we’re seeing with songs like Maddie & Tae’s “Girl In A Country Song”? Many times artists will craft talking points around the release of a song or album, and this objectification point seems to be one Kenny has created for “Wild Child” and The Big Revival. It’s part and parcel with him saying that he scrapped an entire album of material that went in a more Bro-Country direction before deciding on his new approach.
Even if Cheseny’s words are more marketing than meaningful, that doesn’t mean these aren’t important points to make, or that Kenny doesn’t believe them. However when you listen to “Wild Child,” it’s hard to see where it casts the female identity in a “worthy” light.
Lyrics like “She’s Penny Lane in a Chevy van. She loves to love” seems to portray a groupie, not some great example of a proud, accomplished woman. It may be a stretch to say “Wild Child” objectifies women itself, but Chesney seems to oversell the idea that it is the antithesis of Bro-Country. Meanwhile he’s also booked a lot of Bro-Country’s worst offenders like Chase Rice and Cole Swindell on upcoming tour dates.
Nonetheless, Chesney remains one of the largest draws in country music today, and his words about the way women are portrayed in country music can’t hurt. If nothing else, Kenny’s quotes will continue the dialog surrounding country music’s female problem both in their portrayal in country songs and their absence on the charts.
iHeartMedia’s pop country über DJ and morning zoo host Bobby Bones, who currently can be heard in nearly 90 markets across the country and is the biggest DJ to ever serve the country genre, revealed yesterday that he’s launched his own television production company. That’s right, Bobby Bones is coming to a boob tube near you, though in what capacity has yet to be determined.
The Tennessean‘s Nate Rau broke the news on Thursday that Right Side Blind Productions had been launched between Bobby Bones, iHeartMedia CEO Bob Pittman (formerly known as Clear Channel), and two West Coast media companies. Both Bobby Bones and Bob Pittman are apparently blind in their right eyes, hence the name. The new production company will look to develop both scripted and unscripted content of a currently undetermined variety for broadcast and cable outlets. As for Bobby’s role, he may have ones both in front of and behind the camera with the new company. No matter how the new venture eventually takes form, Bobby’s bid for a media empire has entered its second phase.
Television has always been a part of the Bobby Bones vision. When he first came to national prominence just over a year ago as the captain of Clear Channel’s flagship syndicated country show, television was already being thrown around as a possibility. Bones almost left radio entirely in late January of 2014 when he flew to Los Angeles to meet with producers on another unnamed television venture. “Obviously it was television,” Bobby said to his fans afterwards. “I’ve decided to stay on the radio, and stay with iHeartRadio and Clear Channel instead of take this other offer that was really good, but would have taken me off the air.”
With this new deal, whatever television ventures Bobby Bones launches will not interfere with his radio workload.
“I’ve done a lot of television over the years, and I wanted to be more of a mogul,” Bones told The Tennessean. “I want to produce shows, star in shows; I had ideas for shows. It was tough trying to develop one show at a time and to pitch it. I went to (iHeartMedia) and we were deciding what to do, and this was the result.”
Bones has participated in hosting duties for iHeartMedia events, was a presenter at the CMT Awards this summer, and has even been a guest host on Regis and Kelly in the past.
Bobby Bones has also been a magnet for controversy. The Arkansas native began with Clear Channel as a regionally-syndicated pop DJ based in Austin, TX before being moved to country and transferring to Nashville’s WSIX to host their nationally-syndicated morning show. Though The Bobby Bones Show has delivered high ratings in Nashville and beyond, the edgy nature of the morning show, high profile feuds with Kacey Musgraves and Chris Young, the general un-country-ness of the entire operation, and the fact that he’s replaced dozens of beloved local DJ’s all across the country with his nationally-branded content has drawn the ire of many. In February of 2014, “Go Away Bobby Bones” billboards sprung up around Nashville.
Though Bobby Bones has looked like iHeartMedia’s golden boy, some chinks in the armor have been exposed in the last few months. Cumulus Media’s rival NASH and NASH Icon radio stations have been beating Bobby Bones in ratings in his Nashville home market and other locations recently. Bones is also in hot water after broadcasting Emergency Alert System tones over the air in October and causing problems in multiple markets when the tones were rebroadcast. He’s expected to face heavy fines in the incident, which is currently still under review. Bones also caused a stir when he publicly complained about not being nominated in the radio category for the CMA Awards.
Most of all this new production company is about power for Bobby Bones. “One of my goals is to break talent and take some of the music I’m hearing that’s not making it — simply because people aren’t picking it,” he says. “I want to be one of the people who picks what makes it.” Of course one of the problems is Bobby’s tastes and roots lay outside of country music, making him a catalyst in country music’s culture war.
Sometimes production companies such as the one formed between Bones and iHeartMedia are set up simply to placate talent that is clamoring for more exposure and opportunities while still keeping them under a company’s control. Nonetheless, it looks like Saving Country Music’s prediction of Bobby Bones becoming the Dick Clark of our generation just got a big boost.
As said by Saving Country Music in the review for Taylor Swift’s new 1989 album, “It is the most relevant, most important album released in country music in the entirety of 2014, let alone in music overall…even though it’s not country….Thinking otherwise is vanity, and ill-informed.” Now we are seeing this play out as a host of country artists have pulled their newest albums from Spotify, following Taylor Swift’s lead of leaving the streaming giant, and making country music the genre leading the Spotify exodus.
Taylor Swift’s 1989 was never released to Spotify, and this is being given credit by many in the industry for Swift putting together the best sales week for any album since 2002—in a rapidly-depreciating sales environment mind you. Now her former country music bunk mates are following suit.
On Monday, Jason Aldean pulled his latest record Old Boots, New Dirt from Spotify—a big loss for the company from one of country’s biggest stars, and one who has set streaming records. Old Boots, New Dirt set a new record for best-ever debut week for a country album with more than 3.04 million streams. Aldean and his label have yet to speak publicly about the decision.
Subsequently, Brantley Gilbert, whose 2014 release Just As I Am has been receiving surprising sales numbers, has also been pulled from Spotify. All that remains on the streaming service is his single “Bottom’s Up.” Gilbert shares the same label as Taylor Swift. They both operate under Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine Label Group.
And another Big Machine artist, Justin Moore, has also scrapped his latest album, 2013′s Off The Beaten Path from Spotify. This has put both Spotify, country music fans, and the entire industry on watch to see what country artist may be next to diss the music streamer, while there has yet to be any major names from the pop or rock worlds make similar moves.
It also should be pointed out that another big release, Garth Brooks’ Man Against Machine will not be making it to Spotify, though we’ve known for a while the superstar would be going his own route with GhostTunes. Nonetheless, it is another landmark release from a country artist that won’t be featured in the service. As country music continues to dominate the overall music marketplace, these developments can’t be good for Spotify.
One wonders however what material gain Jason Aldean, Brantley Gilbert, and Justin Moore expect to land by pulling their albums from Spotify now. Will this move stimulate higher physical and download sales like it did for Taylor Swift? That hardly seems likely, since most core country fans will have already either purchased the album, or streamed it on Spotify previously.
Something else going under-reported about the Spotify exodus is that it is not happening to music streaming overall. For example, Taylor Swift’s 1989, and all the other country albums pulled from Spotify still remain on the streaming service offered by Beats. The issue is not necessarily streaming in general, but with Spotify specifically, whose free option and minimal payouts was causing controversy way before the Taylor Swift decision.
Taylor Swift explained to Yahoo why she decided to pull her music from Spotify.
all I can say is that music is changing so quickly, and the landscape of the music industry itself is changing so quickly, that everything new, like Spotify, all feels to me a bit like a grand experiment. And I’m not willing to contribute my life’s work to an experiment that I don’t feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists, and creators of this music. And I just don’t agree with perpetuating the perception that music has no value and should be free. I wrote an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal this summer that basically portrayed my views on this. I try to stay really open-minded about things, because I do think it’s important to be a part of progress. But I think it’s really still up for debate whether this is actual progress, or whether this is taking the word “music” out of the music industry. Also, a lot of people were suggesting to me that I try putting new music on Spotify with “Shake It Off,” and so I was open-minded about it. I thought, “I will try this; I’ll see how it feels.” It didn’t feel right to me. I felt like I was saying to my fans, “If you create music someday, if you create a painting someday, someone can just walk into a museum, take it off the wall, rip off a corner off it, and it’s theirs now and they don’t have to pay for it.” I didn’t like the perception that it was putting forth. And so I decided to change the way I was doing things.
Spotify responded to Taylor Swift, saying they have paid out over $2 billion dollars to music makers.
“Taylor Swift is absolutely right: music is art, art has real value, and artists deserve to be paid for it,” says Spotify CEO Daniel Ek. “So all the talk swirling around lately about how Spotify is making money on the backs of artists upsets me big time…We’re paying an enormous amount of money to labels and publishers for distribution to artists and songwriters, and significantly more than any other streaming service.”
Spotify also says that without their service, Piracy would become an issue again. “Here’s the overwhelming, undeniable, inescapable bottom line: the vast majority of music listening is unpaid. If we want to drive people to pay for music, we have to compete with free to get their attention in the first place.”
However Taylor Swift’s rebuttal has been that there needs to be an overhaul of the cultural mindset revolving around music. When her album 1989 leaked online, her fans confronted people downloading the album illegally, asking why they would want to steal someone’s creative work. Judging from the sales of 1989, the pirated leaks did little to hurt overall sales, though this might not be the case for other artists.
Meanwhile the Spotify watch is up for country music and beyond. Who will be next to vacate the streaming service, and are we seeing a brand new era emerge in how music is bought and sold?
Fans of the hard driving, honky tonkin’ throwback country band of the new generation known as Whitey Morgan & the 78′s have been waiting a very long time to hear something new since the release of their self-titled Bloodshot Records debut in 2010, and the floodgates are about to open, beginning with the long-awaited release of Born, Raised & LIVE from Flint, a live album recorded at The Machine Shop in Whitey’s hometown of Flint, Michigan on November 25th, 2011. It will be released on December 2nd by Bloodshot.
The album finds Whitey & Co. reprising many of their signature original songs and timeless covers, including “Turn Up The Bottle,” “Buick City,” Johnny Paycheck’s “Stay Away From That Cocaine Train,” Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire,” and Dale Watson’s ‘Where Do You Want It?” (listen exclusively below).
“Twenty minutes outside of any city in Michigan could be northern Alabama,” Whitey told Saving Country Music in an interview about his hometown of Flint. “In the 70′s when my grandpa was playing music in Flint, almost a quarter of the population were transplants from the South that came to work at the factories. When you have a quarter of the population, and they start having babies, what you have is this Southern culture that is ingrained in them, even though some of them have never even been there. Like me when I was growing up, the things we ate, certain words that you said were Southern. To me it was normal. To my friends that were really Yankee’s, it was weird. They didn’t eat fried bologna sandwiches and drink sweet tea and listen to gospel and bluegrass on Sundays at their grandpa’s house. Any of the Southern food, that’s what my grandma’s house smelled like any time I went in there. My grandpa demanded that stuff.”
“I think it’s a rebellious type thing, because we come from a place that’s not known for that kind of music,” Whitey continues. “But the place that is known for that type of music isn’t fucking doing it. What can I do to not only feel real about what I’m doing, but also get some attention? And maybe knock down some doors and let people know there something wrong with the mainstream right now. There’s volumes and volumes of great music that nobody seems to give a shit about anymore.”
The blue collar, hard working, and hard living mentality of Whitey Morgan and the City of Flint is deeply etched in the 13 tracks of Born, Raised & LIVE from Flint, and so is the energy of a live Whitey Morgan show that fans will attest is one of the best and most authentic honky tonk experiences still out there. Playing upwards of 300 live shows a year has made Whitey Morgan & the 78′s one hell of a tight band.
Included on the new live record is one of Whitey’s best-known songs, “Where Do You Want It?” written by Dale Watson about the incident in 2007 when Billy Joe Shaver shot a man in the face at Papa Joe’s just south of Waco. Shaver was later released of charges when the shooting was found to be in self-defense, but the story and the song still live in infamy.
Fans of Whitey Morgan can expect even more music coming soon. Rumors have an acoustic album Whitey recorded recently being readied for release, as well as another full studio album just sent to mastering in the offing. “The plan is just to record as much as we can over the next few years,” Whitey told SCM in February. “Even if it’s not albums, put out a 7-inch here and there, digitally release two songs. Just keep it going. Never a six month stretch without new songs.”
Born, Raised & LIVE from Flint will also be released on vinyl, including a limited-edition white vinyl (for Whitey) that is currently available for pre-order.
Born, Raised & LIVE from Flint Track List:
1. Buick City
2. Cocaine Train
4. Cheatin Again
5. Bad News
6. Prove It All to You
7. Turn Up the Bottle
8. Another Round
9. I’m On Fire
10. Ain’t Drunk
11. Honky Tonk Queen
12. Where Do You Want It
13. Mind Your Own Business
Who would have thought that Vince Gill would emerge as one of the big winners in country music over the past seven days, culminating in last night’s 48th Annual CMA Awards? Who even knew that the CMA was still paying attention to Vince, who once did a stint manning the hosting duties for the show for a dozen years during his heyday. But that’s the thing about Vince Gill. His accomplishments sort of creep up on you because he’s so refreshingly understated, honest, and humble.
You may do a double take to learn that Vince once won the CMA’s Male Vocalist of the Year five years straight between 1991 and 1995, and two of those years won Entertainer of the Year. Yes, this was during the heart of Garth-mania. You might be surprised to hear he’s won 20 Grammy Awards. But over the past seven days, the recognition Vince has received might top many of his other accolades because of its personal nature.
Last Wednesday, October 29th, Vince gill was in Oklahoma City at his alma mater, Northwest Classen High School, attending an unveiling of a 9 1/2-foot statue and plaque erected to commemorate the school’s most famous graduate. What did Vince Gill have to say?
“If you’re kind, life is going to be just great. I told somebody, I was joking, I said, ‘Oh, great, they’re going to put a statue up of me, and kids are going to go out there and put cigarettes out on my face.’ Maybe it’s too tall. But more than anything, I hope that where that statue sits that it’s not too much about who’s on that statue but just that it’s a place where you go out and be nice to each other.”
Then Tuesday night, the night before the CMA Awards, Gill was honored at the BMI offices on Music Row with the BMI Icon Award. BMI’s annual ceremony honoring songwriters is the oldest in the business, and past recipients of the Icon Award include Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard, and Kris Kristofferson. “I look at the past recipients of this award, and it’s pretty heavy,” Gill said. “It’s amazing people. There are so many people who mentored me and inspired me, and it’s a little overwhelming.”
Then at Wednesday’s CMA Awards, nobody was expecting Vince Gill to be honored. Nobody knew they had put together a video package with artists paying tribute to him as far ranging as Taylor Swift and Merle Haggard, making Vince weepy when Merle referred to Vince as a “friend,” and that the CMA’s had minted an Irving Waugh Award of Excellence trophy for the guitar player, tenor singer, and songwriter. Who even knew an Irving Waugh Award existed? Johnny Cash was the only other performer to receive the award. It was the moment the CMA made good on all the hard work Vince had put in over the years for the presentation, and all the contributions he’d accumulated to country music over the years.
Vince’s 26 million albums sold have bought him a lot of butter and beans, and all those CMA’s and Grammys sure must feel nice. But to be honored at his most humble beginnings by his high school, by his distinguished peers at BMI, and then the industry at large during the genre’s biggest night of the year, sure must feel good for ol’ Vince. Hopefully it reminds him that he’s not forgotten, and that country music still needs artists like him.
The looming question heading into Wednesday’s CMA festivities was who would be the “surprise country legend” being touted by producers as the night’s big unannounced performer. “There’s going to be a surprise guest in one of our performances from one of the biggest legends of country music of all time,” said CMA Executive Producer Robert Deaton. “I’ll just leave it at that. It’s going to be a great moment when people are going to want to get out their phones.”
Lo and behold, when it was Kacey Musgraves’ turn to take the stage, the backdrop was in the form of the WSM Grand Ole Opry barn, and she wasn’t signing one of her award-winning singles like “Merry Go ‘Round” or “Follow Your Arrow,” she was singing Loretta Lynn’s “You’re Looking At Country,” with surprise guest Loretta joining her from stage left during the second verse.
But apparently Loretta’s appearance wasn’t the only surprising storyline of the performance. As the bouffant-haired Musgraves revealed afterwards, her panties “fell off” right before she was scheduled to go on stage.
“Right before I sang, my panties totally came off,” Musgraves told reporters during a backstage press conference. “They were the stick-on kind. Look at this dress, there’s not much to work with. So they were stuck on. And then they weren’t stuck on, and the curtain was about to come up, so literally I had to rip them off and throw them to the side. In case you see ‘em, they’re mine.”
But the show must go on, and did to the tune of Musgraves and Loretta receiving a standing ovation from the CMA crowd.
“Do you know what this means for country music?” Kacey Musgraves said while accepting her Song of the Year trophy for “Follow Your Arrow.” It didn’t just mean something because of the progressive slant of Kacey’s “Follow Your Arrow” song with both its accepting nature of gays and marijuana. It meant something because it was also—and maybe ironically—coming from one of the most traditional country artists in mainstream music today. Kacey Musgraves has crafted a way to make traditional country seem cool and hip again, and it’s sticking, even if her adhesive undies aren’t.
Kacey Speaking on Wardrobe Malfunction:
Kacey Musgraves & Loretta Lynn:
(Tune in Wednesday night for Saving Country Music’s LIVE Blog of the CMA Awards)
The 48th ANNUAL CMA AWARDS
• When: 7 PM Central, 8 PM Eastern Wednesday, November 5th 2014 on ABC. Time delayed for the West Coat.
• Where: The Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, TN.
• Hosts: Brad Paisley & Carrie Underwood (7th consecutive year)
THINGS TO WATCH FOR
• Special Unannounced Country Music Legend
“There’s going to be a surprise guest in one of our performances from one of the biggest legends of country music of all time,” says CMA Executive Producer Robert Deaton. “I’ll just leave it at that. It’s going to be a great moment when people are going to want to get out their phones.”
This may make up for the fact that so far, no tribute to an older artist has been announced at the moment. There has also been no announcement of the recipient of the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award just yet, established two years ago, and given to Kenny Rogers last year.
• George Strait vs. Luke Bryan for Entertainer of the Year
The biggest prize of the night will be the Entertainer of the Year. George Strait won the distinction last year in what some believe was a sympathy vote, or a going away prize for the retiring performer. However the success of his farewell tour which transpired during this year’s eligibility window makes him a strong contender again this year. Luke Bryan is also a clear front runner, and members of his camp were openly angry and disappointed when George Strait was picked over Luke for the ACM Entertainer of the Year in April. Or the votes could get split and a 3rd nominee could walk away with the prize. THere’s been some buzz about it being Miranda Lambert’s year.
• Luke Bryan and/or Miranda Lambert Could Have a Huge Night
Though Miranda Lambert has the most total nominations with nine, Luke Bryan might be poised for the biggest night of all if he walks away with the trifecta of Entertainer of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, and Album of the Year, all of which he has to be considered a top contender for. The absence of Jason Aldean nominations this year really clears the field for Luke to have a huge night. But if Miranda Lambert emerges out of the pack with Entertainer of the Year and picks up some wins for her song nominations, she could have a big night too. Miranda is considered a top contender for Female Vocalist of the Year.
Artists confirmed to present awards include Garth Brooks, Martina McBride, Brandy Clark, Brantley Gilbert, Darius Rucker, Dan + Shay, Brett Eldredge, Lee Brice, Trisha Yearwood, Kip Moore, and Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler.
Non performers confirmed to be presenting include Connie Britton from ABC’s Nashville, Lucy Hale, and football player Tim Tebow.
Special Performances & Collaborations
• There will be a special, unannounced performance by “one of the biggest legends of country music of all time.”
• Miranda Lambert and Meghan Trainor will perform a version of Trainor’s hit “All About That Bass.”
• Miranda Lambert will also perform “Smokin’ & Drinkin’” with Little Big Town.
• Little Big Town and Ariana Grande will do a performance of the song “Day Drinking,” and Ariana’s song “Bang Bang.”
• Blake Shelton and Ashley Monroe will perform their duet “Lonely Tonight”
• The Doobie Brothers will perform with Jennifer Nettles, Hunter Hayes, and Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum.
• The recently retired George Strait will also be performing.
- Dierks Bentley – “Drunk On A Plane”
- Carrie Underwood – “Something In The Water”
- Eric Church
- Florida Georgia Line
- Cole Swindell - “Chillin’ It”
- Keith Urban
- Hunter Hayes
- Kenny Chesney
- Lady Antebellum – “Bartender”
- Jason Aldean
- Luke Bryan
- Brad Paisley – “Perfect Storm”
- The Band Perry
- Thomas Rhett
- Tim McGraw
• Two awards were handed out Wednesday morning during Good Morning America. Keith Urban and Miranda Lambert won for Musical Event of the Year for “We Were Us,” and Dierks Bentley won Music Video of the Year for “Drunk On A Plane.”
• Check back as winners will be populated here as they’re announced.
Entertainer of the Year
- Luke Bryan
- Miranda Lambert
- Blake Shelton
- George Strait
- Keith Urban
Male Vocalist of the Year
- Dierks Bentley
- Luke Bryan
- Eric Church
- Blake Shelton
- Keith Urban
Female Vocalist of the Year
- Miranda Lambert
- Martina McBride
- Kacey Musgraves
- Taylor Swift
- Carrie Underwood
Single of the Year
- “Automatic,” Miranda Lambert
- “Drunk On A Plane,” Dierks Bentley
- “Give Me Back My Hometown,” Eric Church
- “Meanwhile Back At Mama’s,” Tim McGraw featuring Faith Hill
- “Mine Would Be You,” Blake Shelton
Album of the Year
- Crash My Party, Luke Bryan
- Fuse, Keith Urban
- Platinum, Miranda Lambert
- Riser, Dierks Bentley
- The Outsiders, Eric Church
Song of the Year
- “Automatic,” Nicolle Galyon, Natalie Hemby, and Miranda Lambert
- “Follow Your Arrow,” Brandy Clark, Shane McAnally, and Kacey Musgraves
- “Give Me Back My Hometown,” Eric Church & Luke Laird
- “I Don’t Dance,” Lee Brice, Dallas Davidson, & Rob Hatch
- “I Hold On,” Dierks Bentley & Brett James
New Artist of the Year
- Brandy Clark
- Brett Eldredge
- Kip Moore
- Thomas Rhett
- Cole Swindell
Vocal Duo of the Year
- Florida Georgia Line
- Love & Theft
- Swon Brothers
- Thompson Square
Vocal Group of the Year
- Eli Young Band
- Lady Antebellum
- Little Big Town
- The Band Perry
- Zac Brown Band
Musical Event of the Year
- “Bakersfield,” Vince Gill & Paul Franklin
- “Meanwhile Back At Mama’s,” Tim McGraw featuring Faith Hill
- “Somethin’ Bad,” Miranda Lambert duet with Carrie Underwood
- “We Were Us,” Keith Urban and Miranda Lambert – WINNER
- “Can’t Make Old Friends,” Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers
Music Video of the Year
- “Automatic,” Miranda Lambert, directed by Trey Fanjoy
- “Bartender,” Lady Antebellum, directed by Shane Drake
- “Drunk On A Plane,” Dierks Bentley, directed by Wes Edwards – WINNER
- “Follow Your Arrow,” Kacey Musgraves, directed by Honey & Kacey Musgraves
- “Somethin’ Bad,” Miranda Lambert & Carrie Underwood, directed by Trey Fanjoy
Musician of the Year
- Sam Bush, mandolin
- Jerry Douglas, dobro
- Paul Franklin, steel guitar
- Dann Huff, guitar
- Mac MacAnally, guitar
As a proprietor of country music, I would like to officially blame the Staind alt-rock version of Aaron Lewis for his slurred delivery and for screwing up the words to The National Anthem Sunday night before Game 5 of the World Series, and not the “Gone Country” carpetbagger/interloper solo country music performer Aaron Lewis (though in fairness, not all of his country music sucks).
Aaron Lewis only had one task Sunday Night, ONE TASK! … before the upsurging Kansas City Royals took on the San Francisco Giants. And despite the patriotism he crammed down our throats in his first country single “Country Boy,” he couldn’t even get the dern Star Spangled Banner correct when singing at AT&T Park. “What so proudly we hailed were so gallantly streaming.”
Hey, it’s a big pressure moment; we all understand. Maybe Lewis should have taken a cue from some of his new country brethren, like Luke Bryan who got caught red handed trying to hide the words written on his hand, or Wynonna Judd, who didn’t even try to hide that she couldn’t remember what most elementary kids can recite on cue.
It would be a little easier to forgive Aaron Lewis if he hadn’t bagged on Christina Aguilera and Cyndi Lauper for screwing up The National Anthem in 2011.
“Fuck, it worked for Christina,” Lewis said in Westbury, NY on 2-20-2011. “Or was that Cyndi Lauper? I guess I just don’t understand how people who sing The National Anthem can be so fucking self-absorbed that they would try to change that fucking song.”
As many people pointed out, probably not smart to sport your “Don’t Tread On Me” tattoo some prominently on your neck, and then engage in this type of mishap. Or to write words like this to your debut country single:
Now two flags fly above my land that really sum up how I feel
One is the colors that fly high and proud
The red, the white, the blue
The other ones got a rattlesnake with a simple statement made
“Don’t tread on me” is what it says and I’ll take that to my grave
Because, this is me
I’m proud to be American and strong in my beliefs
And I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again
Cause I’ve never needed government to hold my hand
And I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again
Cause my family has always fought and died to save this land
And a country boy is all I’ll ever be
I love my country, I love my guns, I love my family
I love the way it is now, and anybody that tries to change it
Has to come through me, that should be all our attitudes
’cause this is America and a country boy is good enough for me son
What do they say about glass houses?
Hey, Aaron Lewis has been a fighter for real country music, and it seems like his heart is in the right place most of the time. We all make mistakes, and so we should all forgive them. But some of us just happen to put ourselves in a position where when we do, that spotlight shines just a little more brightly.
UPDATE: Aaron Lewis has released a statement about the performance:
All I can say is I’m sorry and ask for the Nation’s forgiveness. My nerves got the best of me and I am completely torn up about what happened. America is the greatest country in the world. The Star-Spangled Banner means so much to so many, including myself. I hope everyone can understand the intensity of the situation and my true intent of this performance. I hope that the Nation, Major League Baseball and the many fans of our national pastime can forgive me.
Ever since October 1st when Reno, Nevada-based country outfit Hellbound Glory posted on their Facebook page “31 more nights… till the death of Hellbound Glory…“ speculation has run rampant about what might befall the band on All Hallows’ Eve as it fastly approaches. Subsequently Hellbound Glory has booked a concert they’re advertising by saying “Witness The Death of Hellbound Glory,” set to transpire on Oct. 31st—Halloween night, at the Buckhorn Lodge in Pioneer, California—a couple of hours from Reno.
So what’s happening? is Hellbound Glory truly dying? Is it a publicity stunt? Though Saving Country Music has reached out to Hellbound Glory just to make sure everything is okay (meaning nobody is really dying), what Hellbound Glory will look like on November 1st still remains a mystery, and may yet to be determined in full by Hellbound’s principal members themselves. What we do know is there will be a change, and it will likely be a big one.
The only permanent member of Hellbound Glory since the band’s inception in 2008 has been the frontman and songwriter that goes by the name of Leory Virgil. The band’s first two albums Scumbag Country and Old Highs & New Lows became landmarks of independent/underground country music and still remain testaments to Leroy’s prowess as a frontman and songwriter, along with his newer albums, 2011′s Damaged Goods, and the recent 2014 LP called LV.
2012 saw the band receive a huge step up when it was announced they would be opening for Kid Rock on a nationwide arena tour. This looked like the moment this much heralded independent country band had been waiting for, and they were finally getting their due. But something has happened to Hellbound subsequently. After the Kid Rock tour, Hellbound shed virtually all of its members save for Leroy Virgil and drummer Francis Valentino. Even the lineup for the Kid Rock dates was a departure from the original Hellbound Glory lineup that was featured on those first two records. Though you couldn’t ever doubt the power of a Hellbound Glory song, the band fluctuations made Hellbound Glory hard to define.
Who was Hellbound Glory? Were they a rocking power trio? An acoustic singer/songwriter outfit? Or a full five-piece country band? They’d been all three in recent memory, and it may have been a little hard for fans to keep up. And a band that many had pegged to be one that could blow up nationally, similar to what has happened recently with acts like Sturgill Simpson or Jason Isbell, stayed put in relative obscurity despite their amazing songs, some big tours, and a rich discography.
So it’s time for a change. A shake up. But what? Here’s the three major possibilities.
Hellbound Glory is Truly Going Away
That’s right, meaning no more Hellbound Glory, and no more Leroy Virgil. Gone. Kaputz. Maybe some weekend solo shows in Reno every few months just to get the devil out, but Leroy Virgil quits music as a full time pursuit. This certainly would not be out of the realm of possibility. He’s married now with a young son, gray hairs are filling in, and he isn’t getting any younger. He gave it his all, but Hellbound Glory just may be one of those bands that was too good, and too real to be successful at a sustainable level.
Hellbound Glory Is Simply Going Through A Name Change
Long-standing followers of Hellbound Glory know that this has happened with the band before, though maybe not to this significant of a degree. When Leroy Virgil was doing more of a singer/songwriter thing, sitting on a bass drum and had a band of stand up bass and slide guitar, he was calling it “The Excavators,” though the Hellbound Glory name was still being used too. As Leroy told Saving Country Music in an interview in May, “As I’ve changed lineups, I’ve always called the band something different. For a while we were the Excavators, for a while I was calling it the Damaged Good Ol’ Boys, for a while to was the Damn Seagulls, so it’s always kind of changing up for me.”
So maybe Hellbound Glory will simply be changed to something different to give it new blood and create new interest.
Leroy Virgil Will Drop “Hellbound Glory,” and Go Under His Own Name
This is something that worked very successfully for Sturgill Simpson when he dropped the Sunday Valley moniker. Sturgill’s name change is considered one of the keys to his meteoric rise. Country music is mostly a solo name business, and for some reason bands working under an individual’s name tend to do better. Remember, Hellbound Glory’s last release was called LV for Leroy’s initials. Maybe this was a hint of things to come. And interestingly enough, Leroy wrote the single for that EP called “Streets of Aberdeen” on Halloween. It is about the famous serial killer from his hometown of Aberdeen, WA, and the song was recorded in one of the spaces the serial killer used to frequent.
As Leory told Saving Country music in the same May interview about changing to his own name,
“I’ve actually considered it a lot. We’ve talked about it, but there’s so much momentum going with Hellbound Glory and I’ve got so many years of work into it. Within a week or two of moving to Reno, I’d written the song and turned it into a band name. So it’s been something I’m stuck with. Part of me would like a change. But it’s a great band name when you think about it. It’s good and evil, heaven and hell…Hellbound Glory has always been my thing. It’s always been less of a band, and more of a gang. People come and people go, and people come back.”
It’s also a possibility that Leroy decides to go under his own name, but doesn’t use “Leroy Virgil.” For example, “Sturgill” is Sturgill Simpson’s middle name, while his first name is “John.” This could mark a new era and change of scenery for Leroy.
- – - – - – - – -
Either way, as Hellbound Glory fans are getting ready to go out Friday night, gussying up the kiddos in their costumes, or painting themselves up for a night of haunting on the town, it will probably be worth giving a peek to what Hellbound Glory has to say about what the future holds. Because this band’s music has been too good to end up as a corpse. Hopefully there is life after Hellbound Glory.
Biloxi, ready your rape kits.
As if one whoring of Southern culture and abandonment of even the most basic values in the obsequious search for the almighty advertising dollar wasn’t enough, CMT has decided to double down on their already embarrassing, tasteless, and crime-riddled reality show franchise Party Down South, and launch Party Down South 2 according to a recent announcement by their willing accomplices in corporate media, Entertainment Weekly.
No, this is not just a new season of the disgusting, worm-riddled filth of a television show, this is an entirely new franchise, and an entirely new cast that will transpire parallel to the current show. Party Down South 2 taped in Biloxi, Mississippi will start airing in November, while the original Party Down South will air its 3rd season in February. Think of it like adding Chlamydia to your herpes outbreak. And to sprinkle a little Gonorrhea in the mix, CMT will also be airing both “Drunksgiving” and “Christmas Hangover” Party Down South specials, providing plenty of family entertainment for your holiday festivities.
Brought to you by the same assholes who created Jersey Shore, the Party Down South series shoves eight idiots in a house, supplies them with enough booze to kill a horse, sets the cameras rolling, and proffers it all to the public as an accurate representation of Southern living. This formula works so well, one of their cast members Taylor “Lil Bit” Wright quit after last season, saying that she “feared for her safety.” The news came down right after another cast member, Ryan “Daddy” Richards, was accused of rape by a woman who says she entered the Party Down South house, was handed an open beer, and woke up later naked in a bed with a camera in her face. The woman went to the hospital the next day, and according to medical professionals, showed signs of sexual assault. An investigation by local police that included interviewing cast and crew and reviewing footage, did not result in any charges being filed.
Other Party Down South cast members have found themselves amidst controversy and legal trouble since the beginning of the show. Louisiana native Lyle Boudreaux was arrested in Maurice, LA for burglary of a vehicle at a Mardi Gras parade after he found an unlocked car, rifled through a woman’s purse, and stole a credit card to fund the night’s drinking. Mattie Breaux of Louisiana was also served a bench warrant after she failed to appear in court for a previous arrest for driving while intoxicated. Breaux was taping Season 2 of the reality show at the time of the hearing.
Party Down South has come under heavy scrutiny for its portrayal of Southerners in the show. Season 2 was initially scheduled to be taped in Pensacola, FL, but had to move to Athens, GA when local residents and businesses did not want the show blemishing the city’s reputation. Party Down South producers also had trouble securing a location in Biloxi, and were turned down for a location in nearby D’Iberville before finally finding an appropriate house. Ben “Cooter” Jones of The Dukes of Hazzard fame has also been a vocal opponent of the show.
A mild tempest brewed last week when Saving Country Music unearthed some quotes from non-country artist Ryan Adams from a Buzzfeed feature originally published in September. Adams said that he didn’t want to be known as country, hated the music, and had only made country music with his 90′s band Whiskeytown and the early part of his solo career as an “irony.”
“There’s this wrong idea about me being identified with things that are Southern or country,” Ryan said. “I do not fucking like country music and I don’t own any of it. I watched ‘Hee-Haw’ as a kid with my grandmother, I only like country music as an irony. I liked it when I would get drunk … But me playing country music … it was a false face. It was style appropriation.”
Being a fan of Ryan Adams and his music, I expressed feelings of being a little hurt by these statements. Not angry, but hurt and conflicted as a country music fan, and one who looks favorably upon Ryan’s music, influence, and contributions.
Well apparently Ryan Adams caught wind of said concerns, and has been expressing his reaction to them at recent concerts according to numerous reports. On Monday, October 20th, Ryan played a show at the Uptown Theater in Kansas City, and spent time on stage talking about how he’d been confronted by a few people on Twitter about his recent country music statements.
And then, as is not uncommon during his set, he made up an impromptu song called “Gold’s Bar” that included the line, “Put that on your fucking country music website.”
So being the convivial, accommodating outlet that Saving Country Music is, I decided to take Ryan Adams up on his offer, and present to you his improvised song, “Gold’s Bar.” Enjoy.
“Gold’s Bar” by Ryan Adams ©I’ve been hanging out at Gold’s Bar, right next to Gold’s Gym But I never gain any muscle tone, just fishing stories, and men At Gold’s Bar, Kansas City At Gold’s Bar, Kansas City I’ve been lifting weights, for a hundred years Some people call those weights my alcoholic beers Open up doughnuts, and bong rips In the back of the bus, listening to fuckin’ KISS At Gold’s Bar, Kansas City At Gold’s Bar, Kansas City This one time, I was alone in the middle of the desert And a cactus, it looked at me, and it threw up a swarm of bees Put that on your fucking country music website At Gold’s Bar, Kansas City At Gold’s Bar, Kansas City…
A dark, disturbing, psychedelic tale marking a confluence of the present and the past, the fit and the flabby, “Gold’s Bar” finds Ryan Adams featuring both his sharp wit, and his keen sense for matching mood with music. The dark chords leave this listener with a foreboding feeling, while the humor in the lyrics creates a contrasting and vibrant experience where all the sectors of the human emotional palette are tickled. Though the offering is a bit under-developed, this would only be expected from an impromptu song, and Ryan’s propensity to work without a net shows confidence, cunning, and an overall advanced skill set in the art of song craft. Not bad.
1 1/2 of 2 Guns Up.
Video of “Gold’s Bar”:
Wait, Wrong One. Actual Video of “Gold’s Bar” Kansas City (10-20-14)
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- Brian on 2014 Saving Country Music Song of the Year Nominees
- Brian on Review – Whitey Morgan’s “Born, Raised & LIVE…”
- Jim L. on 2014 Saving Country Music Song of the Year Nominees
- Sam Jimenez on 2014 Saving Country Music Song of the Year Nominees
- hoptowntiger94 on 2014 Saving Country Music Song of the Year Nominees