They say you have your life to write your first album, and there is a lifetime’s worth of stories and experiences in the very personal ‘Too Much Is Never Enough.’ AJ isn’t just channel surfing through soap operas looking for inspiration, it’s born from his own foggy recollections of what the hell went wrong in well-written songs.
Before we even listen to a peep of the music from this new album from Josh Turner, it already serves as an incredible illustration of the sheer incompetence, and creative immorality that so often still grips elements of Nashville’s Music Row. But what of the music on ‘Deep South’ after the incessant delays leading up to this final, triumphant release?
As much as Marty Stuart is a student of country music, he’s also a teacher. And with a refreshing boldness, and frankly a little bit of guts from running the risk of being misunderstood by some of the fuddy duddy fans of traditional country, Marty Stuart encapsulates a critical time in country and all of American music when country music became cool.
There are few venues more historic than Gruene Hall in Texas, and few living country music artists more legendary than Loretta Lynn. This weekend in Gruene, TX (3-3 and 3-4), Loretta and her kin stopped in for a two-night residency at the legendary dance hall, and country music fans from around the area packed themselves into the nearly 140-year-old venue.
Shinyribs is total ridiculousness, and only “country” in fleeting moments and by accident. This goes without saying, so save your comments about what Saving Country Music should and should not be discussing. It’s madness that Shinyribs has been taken in so lovingly and held close to the bosom by the Texas music scene as it has.
Ben Dorcy is the nearly 92-year-old original roadie who started in 1950 and worked with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and June Carter, Jerry Jeff Walker, and even more modern artists like Randy Rogers and Jack Ingram. Though he may not be as well known as the artists themselves, Ben Dorcy is one of the most beloved individuals in all of Texas music.
If you’re going to make a movie based in West Texas about the destruction of the agrarian economy and the way the banks rape the poor and why so much of the American heartland has turned into a ghost town husk of what it once was, what better way to embellish the moments than to include the songs of artists like Ray Wylie Hubbard, Scott H. Biram, & Colter Wall?
If you want to appreciate just how far independent Texas country artist Aaron Watson has come with his career, take a moment to reflect that in 2017, he was asked to play the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo—the same big stage that Willie Nelson, and even big pop country names like Rascal Flatts and Dierks Bentley played this year.
Aaron Watson is an optimist, and a pragmatist. And though a swath of independent and traditional country fans tend to find themselves generally turned off by these things—only identifying with country music that breaks the heart—Aaron Watson is adhering to the very first rule of independent and traditional country: be authentic to yourself.
When you have a good song, most everything else tends to get in the way. That’s the case with “Barabbas.” Wise songwriters know that when you can put the weight of historical moments and important figures behind your song, you’re getting a vastly superior head start on your average, sappy love song.
For many of the best practitioners of country music, they don’t choose to pursue country music as a profession, country music chooses them. 2017 is still young, but the effort expended by Jaime Wyatt on ‘Felony Blues’ is impressive enough to be considered the best in the country realm so far.
“I’m a dirt road, in the headlights. I’m a mama’s boy, I’m a fist fight,” is how “Small Town Boy” starts off. What does this stuff even mean? It’s just nonsensical self-referential, self-ingratiating pap. There’s no point to it except identity politics tied to the demographic country radio is looking to serve, which is primarily people who don’t live on dirt roads.
‘Nothin’ Unexpected’ is traditional country, meaning you’ll hear fiddle and steel guitar, and many other indicators that your brain will immediately recognize as the familiar modes of country’s original and authentic sound. But it’s all done in a voice and perspective authentic to Ags himself instead of trying to stretch the truth, or do his best impression.
Fans of oldtimers such as Townes Van Zandt, Todd Snider, and Ray Wylie Hubbard know that when it comes to the best songwriters, they don’t just know how to put a good story into song, they know how to take a good story back out of a song to introduce a live performance. California-based songwriter John Craigie has perfected this art just about as good as any.
“I don’t even know you yet, but I know I love you,” Sweeney sings in such a specified honesty that its hard to handle, and hard to not believe. It’s lines like this that even if you do have kids, or find yourself on the opposite side of the gene pool from being able to bear children, you can still put yourself in those shoes.
Even taking into consideration the monstrosities from pop stars calling themselves country because they’d get their asses handed to them in pop like Sam Hunt and Chris Lane, “The Fighter” very well may be the most non-country “country” song released as a single in the history of the genre.
Andrew Combs utilizes inspired perspective, a keen falsetto, and strings indicative of the old Nashville Sound approach to production in the song “Dirty Rain” to not just decry gentrification and abandonment, but put a musical context to the feelings of nostalgia and remorse one feels when stricken by the realization of what once was will never ever be again.
Brantley Gilbert’s music may not be for you, but it’s hard to argue it’s not 100% him. He’s a roided-out, tatted-up, tribal Tap-Out truck-nutted horn-flashing Jesus-praising great American meat head who makes no apologies for himself and has built an entire army of fans that are just as hard headed and proud, and will follow Brantley over a bridge if asked.
You want to like Luke Combs. He one of us, not one of them. At least that’s what you think, or that’s what you thought, or that’s what you want to think. Let’s face it, he’s no matinee idol. He’s a big ol’ corn fed boy from North Carolina with a scruffy Amish beard and a cheap haircut tucked under a properly-aligned baseball cap.
I don’t blame Dave Simonett for wanting to take some time away from what has been his main gig for 15 years as the frontman of the bluegrass-esque Trampled By Turtles. As stellar of a collective of musicians as Trampled By Turtles is, at some point the experience of a string band is going to feel limiting to someone who is a songwriter first.