To decide that classic country music is the way you’re going to make it through life is like choosing the toughest of all paths to climb to the top of a mountain, with steep inclines and sharp drop off’s and all manner of obstacles and wild dangers besetting your course on every side, all while an inviting elevator to the top sits with open doors waiting to spirit you to the same apex.
His new album I’m Not The Devil is an ambitious, unwavering, slow and plodding volley of songwriting body blows that makes no apologies, incorporates no compromises, and gives no quarter to those with open hearts that love to listen to music that makes them swoon with one emotional onslaught after another, all served in a down home deep-fried country style.
If Cowboys Like Me was Cody Johnson selling out in an attempt to garner more national attention with a super-polished and radio-friendly product, the appropriately-titled Gotta Be Me is Johnson reeling it all back in and being truthful about who he is, where his sound lies, and what his prospects are. Gotta Be Me is Cody Johnson being Cody Johnson again.
There are bigger festivals. This is for sure. And there are bigger performers and headliners. But few festivals can boast the ability to not just support worthy music from a wide swath of the American audio palette, but truly launch major careers for artists that go on to have an international impact—artists that music needs.
Alvvays, Alynda Segarra, C.W. Stoneking, Cahalen Morrison, Caleb Klauder, Foghorn Stringband, Hurray For The Riff Raff, Jeff Tweedy, Jessica Wilkes, Kacy & Clayton, Kevin Black, Margo Price, Pickathon, Red Yarn Band, The Deslondes, The Wild Reeds, Vhol, Western Centuries
Dawn in the Distance is Justin Wells getting it just about right. With stunning insight and honesty, Wells speaks upon the disillusion of dreams, the realization of new ones, the reality of the pitfalls of the rock and roll fantasy, and does so with cutting clarity and poetic facility.
What is so striking about the album listening back to it after nearly 35 years of perspective is not just the big hits, the #1’s, and the now country standards that it contains. It’s the variety in Strait From The Heart that makes it the perfect study of where country music had been, where it was in the present tense, and where it would be going.
So wait, Kenny Chesney changed the name of his new record and delayed the release … for this? Don’t bother shaving your legs or changing out of your sweatpants for this one ladies, “Setting the World On Fire” is a non-plussing, generic, lame, cliché, afterthought of a song, not worth the paper it was written on.
I just find it a bit hard to conjure up any sympathy for The Band Perry at this point, especially if they’re the ones asking for it. So your single flopped, and then your label dropped you. You’ve still seen more success and wealth via music than what 99% of musicians could ever dream of. And now you want to play the victim, like it was someone else’s fault for the state you’re in.
Lori McKenna couldn’t have anticipated that her song “Humble and Kind,” recorded by Tim McGraw would become the first solo-written #1 song to top the country charts in four years right as she was getting ready to release an album produced by Dave Cobb—one of the hottest names in Nashville.
Can someone start up a Go Fund Me campaign to help Brantley Gilbert surgically remove the marbles out of his damn mouth? By golly I can’t understand a word this dude says. Brantley’s about the best case I’ve ever seen for someone’s self-absorbed, too-cool-for-school attitude translating into a debilitating speech impediment.
If nothing else, ‘This Old Thing’ fleshed out that Kree Harrison is not a mainstream reject, she is an Americana hopeful. Instead of starring at a future of slogging it out with mainstream execs to record the music she wants, she can build grassroots support behind quality songs and recordings on the path to a sustainable career.
Dolly Shine is a young, hungry, and adept Texas country band in the truest sense, shifting between bluesy rock and traditional country, and calling regularly on the fiddle to carry songs with the strong influences of Texas music right out front for listeners to latch onto.
Flying low over the country music masses to survey the landscape, it’s patently clear that in the 48-hour aftermath of Miranda Lambert releasing her first single in over a year, how you feel about it has a lot to do with how you feel about Miranda Lambert, or Blake Shelton. The fact that “Vice” has become so polarizing proves that music is no longer about music, but personality.
The implosion of the rock genre, especially on radio, has made country a haven for rock stars looking to keep their careers relevant, ultimately spreading the cancer of declining careers to the country format as well. If Steven Tyler’s move to country had anything to do with inspiration or influence, you won’t hear much of it on this new record.
Canada has long proven a good hunting ground for unheralded talent, and many times when the subject of Canadian country bands come up, so does the name of the Moncton, New Brunswick-based outfit The Divorcees. Around for some ten years now with multiple albums under their belt, they’re much-appreciated by the country fans of New Brunswick.
One of the big questions for country music in 2016 is if Florida Georgia Line and other Bro-Country acts will be able to extricate themselves from their destiny of being shuffled into the dustbin of history as the Nickelbacks of country, or if they will show up with some more depth to at least delay the inevitable.
Frankie Ballard is right there. On the brink. Just a few little tweaks away from being something really cool in the country space that’s missing and necessary; someone with a classic cool factor like Dwight Yoakam had when he burst onto the scene.
Calling Tradition Lives a traditional country record stops short of telling the full story. What really defines Mark Chesnutt’s first record in six years is one song of heartbreak after another. Tradition Lives is a full blown breakup album the likes we haven’t heard in country music and beyond in many years.
The only thing I hate about this book is that I didn’t write it, and I didn’t think of the idea first. Who did write it and did all the incredible research was Renae Johnson, also know as Renae the Waitress on the RFD-TV traditional country show ‘Larry’s Country Diner.’
If “Humble and Kind” had no business on country radio (yet it ended up at #1), then “How I’ll Always Be” is a downright coup d’état. It’s not the lyrics of the song that make it a marvel of modern American country radio. It’s the music of “How I’ll Always Be” that makes it so unique and welcome for mainstream country radio.