Justin Moore Jumps Shark for Outlaws & Calling Cards

July 13, 2011 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  52 Comments

Followers of Saving Country Music know that for a while now, I have been calling out the current crop of “new Outlaws” in country music. Nearly 1 1/2 years ago I said:

Since Hollywood has gone country, Nashville has gone Outlaw. Unfortunately the music hasn’t followed suit, it’s only the Nashville suits throwing around music terms to try to move more “units”. Instead of fighting against the REAL country music insurgency, Music Row is trying to incorporate it, assimilate it…

One of their tools to do so is “laundry list” or “calling card” songs. You know the songs I’m talking about, the ones that name off dirt roads, ice cold beers, pickup trucks by the lake, etc. etc. These songs have been a staple of the Music Row hit making machine for the last few years, usually comprising one or two of the songs on a a mainstream Nashville record, especially by male performers.

When self-titled “new Outlaw” Justin Moore released his latest album Outlaws Like Me, I proclaimed it “…the worst country music album I have ever heard, EVER.” And specifically about the laundry list songs, “Usually there will be 1 or 2 of these songs on any given Music Row-produced country album. But Justin Moore has the audacity, the boldness to make an entire record of them, and even worse, make them the most stultifying, stereotyping, unapologetically formulaic songs that have ever been published for mass consumption.

Of course I and Saving Country Music can be written off as polarizing, opinionated, arrogant hardliners, (or maybe should get credit for being over a year ahead of everyone else), but now the mainstream country media is coming out swinging against these calling card songs, and the new Outlaws that perpetuate them.

The first was Chet Flippo, legendary country music writer who covered the original country music Outlaws for Rolling Stone Magazine along with many other beats, and wrote the introduction to the albums Wanted: The Outlaws and Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger. He had some choice words for Justin Moore’s decision to brand himself an Outlaw . From his Nashville Skyline article:

Nowadays, country music seems to have recently gotten outlaws again. Gotten outlaws in the same way that some people have gotten ants or bedbugs or cockroaches. We have a new infestation. To be sure, they’re small outlaws, but they are insistent that they are here.

Justin is a fine new artist, but if he’s a true outlaw, then Miss Piggy is Dolly Parton. How is Moore an outlaw? Well, he’s from a small town — which is very chic in faux-Outlaw circles. Some of the songs on his new album are about rednecks and dirt roads and the like. All those are very essential elements in the faux-Outlaw trend.

Now Peter Cooper, maybe even more influential these days in the world of country music journalism as the Senior Music Writer and Columnist for Nashville’s major newspaper The Tennessean said in a recent column:

All day, you’ve been singing rock songs to me about how country you are. And even country songs about how country you are. It’s been “dirt road” this and “back road” that, and “party in the woods” this and “redneck, hillbilly” that. Then there’s been some stuff about fishing with cane poles, and skinny-dipping in the lake with some two-named girl…And I don’t believe you were on the dirt road to the barn party with your redneck, hillbilly friends. I don’t believe the story about the lake.

I’d rather be hit by a can of your favorite domestic beer than hear you name-check that beer one more time when you’re singing about the party in the woods that you know darn well the three people who wrote the song in a metropolitan Nashville office absolutely, for sure, did not attend.

There is little question now that Justin Moore and his album Outlaws Like Me is where the new Outlaw movement and the laundry list country song went too far. They jumped the shark.

But critics and fans do not always see eye to eye, as can be illustrated by another country music writer, CMT’s Allison Bonaguro. The perennial cheerleader for pop country picked up her pom pom’s and defended this culture of living a country lifestyle vicariously through corporate country music. As maddening as it might be, Allison has a good point, that however or fake or worn out as calling card songs might be, if that’s what the public wants, that’s what the public will get. From CMT:

I agree that maybe there are too many of the same old clichés living inside the lyrics, but I’m not sure what the alternative is. I was not raised with a cane pole near a fishing hole or with country boys and girls getting down on the farm. I drank no jugs of sweet tea or moonshine. There were no buckets of fried chicken or haylofts. I was raised in the suburbs, in a station wagon, going to tennis lessons. I went to parties in other suburban houses. I drank Tab when I was a teenager, Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers when I got to college. I worked at the Limited in a mall. Now, who the hell wants to hear a song about all that? I’d much rather hear the clichés. So go ahead, country singers, lie to me until you figure something else out.

I have no doubt that the country calling card/laundry list songs perpetuated by the new Outlaw movement will go down in infamy like the hair metal phase of rock. It will be shunned and mocked by future generations as an embarrassment. The critics and writers are wise to it now. Only question left is, when will the public be?

And how did we get here? When Taylor Swift won the CMA for Entertainer of the Year, we thought it couldn’t get any worse, and some surmised this would be pop country’s Waterloo, as some will call this the new Outlaw Waterloo. Now with the infiltration of country rap and the rise of the new Outlaws, pop country acts like Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood almost look like a safe haven in a dark era. I wonder if Taylor Swift’s CMA win wasn’t the impetus for this boomerang back to these overly-countrified songs in an attempt to counter-balance Taylor’s virtual country-less approach?

I don’t proclaim to know where country music will go from here, but what I do know is that Justin Moore and Outlaws Like Me has solidified its place in country music history as one of the big bullet points on the timeline that denotes a major event. And that the event it denotes is not a positive one.

And that’s not just my opinion.

52 Comments to “Justin Moore Jumps Shark for Outlaws & Calling Cards”

  • “All day, you’ve been singing rock songs to me about how country you are. And even country songs about how country you are. It’s been “dirt road” this and “back road” that, and “party in the woods” this and “redneck, hillbilly” that. Then there’s been some stuff about fishing with cane poles, and skinny-dipping in the lake with some two-named girl…And I don’t believe you were on the dirt road to the barn party with your redneck, hillbilly friends. I don’t believe the story about the lake.”

    That is dead on exactly how I feel about most of mainstream country music these days, hell that’s even how I feel about some of the mainstream country artists I actually like. It seems like every 5th song (being generous here) on the local country radio is about this kind of stuff.

  • If country music is not dead, it certainly is on life support. I believe Joe Buck mentioned that in an interview you posted on this site at least a year ago. In a struggle to make the music “relevant” they are killing it for true country music fans.

  • Maybe Nashville could take a cue from Texas and Oklahoma singer/songwriters who still write stories based on real life experiences like Nashville country music used to be. It’s not that these Texas songwriters don’t sing about Shiner beer and Lone Star, the Guadalupe or Frio rivers, and name every county, town and city in the state but to me it’s actually believable. Do i believe that Jason Aldean is driving around somewhere in an old pick up truck down a dirt road, not really, he’s probably at Starbucks ordering a non fat skinny latte. The best advice was given decades ago, write about what you know. I’m not saying that Jason or Justin have never driven down a dirt road before but if you feel the need to sing about it, do it once and move on. Nashville has a way of brainwashing people, i was stuck in it for years, country music could do no wrong until i slowly was weaned off of it enough by caring friends who introduced me to bands like Jason Boland & the Stragglers, Hank III and Cross Canadian Ragweed and i began to see just how hokey, contrived, stereotypical and cliche and formulated pop country was, and this was years before the Jason’s and Justin’s had record deals. I run into Allison once and a while at shows in Chicago and i have no doubt that she believes in the music she loves and i can sure understand the escapism she gets from those songs living in the suburbs. I get my escapism the same way living here in Michigan, the songs i listen to remind me all the time of Gruene Hall, Luckenbach, going southbound on 35 and that the road goes on forever and i don’t get tired of that at all because that’s what i can relate to. Problem is, as long as people are buying, Nashville is selling and they will milk it long after the cow has gone dry.

    • Add Stoney Larue to that. If you’ve never heard of him, check him out. Absolutely amazing.

      And I agree with everything about your post. I was fully expecting a solid, breakthrough album from Justin Moore, but what I got was much, much different. He has had potential from the get-go, but it’s dwindling very fast. He has the vocal talent, but now he’s got to find the writing skills needed to be a great.

      • I honestly was hoping for something great as well. It has nothing to do with his writing skills. He set out to record the most commercially viable album possible, and the quality of writing wasn’t even a thought.

        • I know that you aren’t the biggest fan of Eric Church, but from what I’ve heard off of his new album it seems like it may be pretty good. I’m not a fan of his arrogance either, but I can get by that if he makes a solid record. He’s the last hope for super mainstream country to be halfway decent. Well him, and Miranda IMO. I noticed you went into the Moore album with an album, so when you hear the Church record, please do the same. It should be an interesting read.

    • Amen! Nashville could certainly take a cue from some of the Texas-based acts. We have a self-sustaining music industry here with real artists who are thriving and most of them not compromising their vision one iota. To me, guys like Stoney and Jason Boland are superstars, and while they’re great, there are so many other acts that are a bit under the radar here. All of you should definitely check out my friend Mike Ethan Messick, a man who makes me want to put my guitar and pen down. Ethan seems born to write songs and his first album “Bootlegger’s Turn” is one of the best albums you’ll ever hear. “Kings of Juarez” (look it up and listen, enrich yourselves) practically closed the book on outlaw ballads for me. To me, that song is up there with “Pancho and Lefty” and Steve Earle’s “Tom Ames’ Prayer.” Plus, all the rest of the songs on that record are incredible. He’s got a new one out, “The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday” that’s catching some ears down here in Texas. In addition to Ethan, you should also check out folks like Jordan Minor, Aaron Einhouse, James Pardo, Javi Garcia, and, damn, the list goes on…

    • You should check out Pappychris songwriter singer…google or whatever…


  • Well, once again to much power given to those that don’t deserve it.

    What is the hope here? That Hank3 wins a CMA? Why, the ACM’s and CMA’s are a joke. Justin Moore can have them.

    And like Kid Rock said (which I know he is not popular here) but, “I am not worried about the 2million people that buy this stuff. There are 300million people in this country. That leaves 298million that maybe I can reach.”

    So the “public” buys this shit up. There are many more “public” left out there.

    I say keep shit about Aldean and Moore off this site. It is worthless. We just came off a great Willie’s picnic and like 10 people chimed in there. Hank3 is putting out a new 30 song country album. Lukas Nelson shouldn’t be ignored anymore. That is what to focus on.

  • Posted a link to The Tennessean article on my Facebook page and asked my listeners, “Just curious…is the dirt road/back road/bonfire/I’m from the country theme getting worn out?” Here are some of the responses…

    “Ummmmm……….dirt roads will never wear out silly!”

    “Never wear that theme out!!!”

    “Any song that has George Jones in it is f*@#*$ AWESOME!!”

    And finally, an attack on me: “And what is Sean a city boy or what?”

    So, as far as people in rural NW Oklahoma are concerned, they’re still into the “country pride” thing. And these are the same people who are blowing up my request line for Red Dirt artists Turnpike Troubadors, Jason Boland, and Stoney LaRue.

    I don’t think they care if the artists lived the life themselves or not. (Did Johnny Cash kill a man in Reno, just to watch him die?) They just see a song about their lifestyle and like it out of pride.

    • Johnny Cash was an entertainer and had a calling. He wrote songs in the vein of his spiritual journey. Much deeper than just havin’ pride in where you’re from.

    • I don’t think you can place Johnny Cash in that argument! Not even close to the same thing!

  • I saw that Peter Cooper article and thought, wow, a very mainstream – and well respected – music journalist just strapped on a pair and called Music Row to task. I am probably more “ok” with pop country than most that frequent this site but I really got a kick about Music Row’s hometown paper calling them out. Of course, we all know that this will just spur a revised cliche song approach “they wanna say that I ain’t country, ’cause I wasn’t born on a dirt road…”

  • I just wanted to throw this out there. I recently saw Elizabeth Cook perform and she was the real deal. She doesn’t get covered much here on this site or on CMT or radio. She seems to be stuck somewhere in the middle like Hayes Carll. You could tell from the minute she first spoke she was a real genuine country artist between the songs she penned and the stories she told about how she grew up. Between her parents being musicians and her father being in a prison band for serving time for running moonshine. Being the youngest of 11 she had alot to write about such as her heroine addict sister, etc.

    I just wanted to say it was so refreshing to hear a country artist who has talent and someone you can believe everything she says and lives up to “country music” name.

    • Saw her myself a few weeks ago at the Birchmere in Alexandria, VA. Second time in six months. Another great show. And that husband of hers (Tim Carroll) ripped it up pretty good on guitar.

  • I agree with everything you say here but I also just have to say we can’t totally trash every song we hear anymore that has a laundry list of country cliches. I mean Hank Jr., David Allen Coe, and many others used that same laundry list. Maybe it was more believable then than it is now I don’t know.

    I know alot of people don’t relate to the laundry list anymore like they used to but what’s it hurt to be reminded of another time or how one grew up? I know for myself I was raised on a river and knew how to drive a outboard motor on a john boat, or ride an ATV, or hunt squirrels, or even run a trotline or fish with jugs. As I’ve gotten older and my grandparents have passed away I don’t get to do those things like I once could but I like to be reminded of that because I can relate to it.

    • There has always been laundry list elements in country songs, but nothing like what is going on now, especially with Justin Moore. I don’t think we need to preclude songs from David Allan Coe and Hank Jr., because I don’t think they even belong in the discussion. Moore’s and a few others use of the laundry list formula is so ridiculously over the top to the point of being clownish. What a waste of an excellent voice.

  • I was reluctant to realize it but your right Im country have been all my life but i get tired of hearing everybody sing about it and tired of these city people try to be it. Get pissed if you want but I think yall should go preview chief by Eric Church youll be suprised theres not one laundry list song on there and i really liked country music jesus it sends a real message that the trigg has been preaching. We need someone to save us from the pop country. Just my opinion. I will no longer defend Justin at all.

    • I have reason to believe “Country Music Jesus” was inspired by Saving Country Music. Should have an article up about it soon. And yes, I’ll have a fair an honest Chief review as well.

      • I thought of SCM when i heard it. I myself like the album and i think its a true country album. Cant wait for the review though.

    • I think people will consider “Drink In My Hand” a laundry list song. It may not be as blatant as some of Justin Moore’s offerings but I did get that ‘laundry list’ feeling while listening to it. But for the most part this new Eric Church album is quite good although it certainly is not your typical country music.

      • Well it all depends on how you listen to it. I dont think it is it only says my jacked up 4×4 lol

  • And trigg id like to here what you think of Chief.

  • […] Has the laundry list country song jumped the shark? […]

  • Trigg, I stayed away from the Justin Moore review a couple weeks ago because I knew it would piss me off. Not because of what you wrote… because I knew whatever you put in it was most likely true and I couldn’t even defend an artist that I have supported since the beginning.

    I still like Justin Moore. I think he has a great voice and I also think he has some writing ability. I also think he’s a genuine artist who lives the life he sings about. But I also think (after this album anyways) that he’s just another Nashville puppet.

    I really can’t take anymore of these laundry list songs. It wasn’t so noticeable until I started listening to other types of music like Red Dirt. I can take one now and then. They can be fun and catchy but they are way over done. I mean really…. how about an ounce of effort into the song writing? It’s almost like these guys pick up a Cabela’s catalog, find words that rhyme, and make a fucking song.

    One last rant. Why do everyone one of these guys sing about Bud Light? Who the FUCK drinks Bud Light!?!?!? I would rather gargle beaver piss then drink Bud Light.

    • Or at the very least, go with regular Bud. If you’re going on about what a backwoods he-man you are, making a reference to a light beer seems a little off.

  • I don’t think Hank done it this way

    • I KNOW Hank wouldn’t do it this way. I like bud light. and PBR. And for some reason, Justin Moore has a quasi-SRV look goin’ on in that picture.

      And in further news, Hank 3 rules the country scene with 4 albums due out in September.

      Have a nice day and good night. :)

      • Leroy Virgil has something to say about this.

        • Well now! Maybe Leroy would like to answer this question:

          What do you think of the state of country music? Where’s it’s been and where it’s going?

          • I think the state of country music is just like the state of every other genre of music. Mainstream country, you have Rascal Flatts, Trace Adkins, ect. Mainstream Rock, you’ve got Nickeback, Daughtry, ect. Mainstream Rap, there’s Soulja Boy and people alike. Just like all other genres, if you dig deep enough, you can find some great music i.e., Hank III, Hellbound Glory, Allcorn, and pretty much the entire state of Texas. I think country music will come back around and begin to make good music for the mainstream again. It may not be this decade, but I think it will happen.

            I was referring to ” Hank 3 rules the country scene with 4 albums due out in September.” btw.

            Leroy is 30 times the songwriter/singer Hank 3 is. That said, Hank is my second favorite country singer alive.

    • What is everyone’s fascination with Hank 3?!? He’s NOT country!! He’s a radicalized death metal version of the AC/DC guitar lick-mainstream country!!

  • Honestly, I don’t even think the majority of people that listen to this trash even listen to the words, much less try to figure out the meanings of the songs.

    • I have always felt that pop country fans pay too much attention to vocals and no mind to the lyrics/music.

      • Exactly.

  • Logan, i love Stoney LaRue, glad he’s finally got some new music coming out soon, check out my site, some Nashville stuff on there but it’s part of the job, it’s The Texas and Oklahoma music that i love.

    • Thank you. I understand about the nashville stuff. I’m on my phone so I can’t check the site right now but if you didn’t already know lonestarmusic.com has a deal where if you preorder stoneys new album, you get an autographed copy.

  • That’s where i got my autographed album from the Departed, love that place, been to the store a few times. I have so many things signed by Stoney and all the Texas and Oklahoma bands already but i’ll probably order it soon anyway. So much great music coming out from the TX guys in the next few months, Reckless Kelly, Micky & the Motorcars, Fowler, Robert Earl, Sunny Sweeney, EYB and more, that time of year is always good. Find me on FB too if you like. Shooting photos of Jack Ingram Sunday, not many of those guys get up our way.

  • funny how waylon or willie nelson or johnny cash or kris kostaferson never sang those about those cliques yet there the epipany of country music. “what the alternative” pic up a whitey morgan cd or hellbound glory or dale watson.

  • country music has been so dumb down it aint even funny. I mean how did we go from a song like Born in Black and white which was deep and thought provoking to utter crap like “dirt road anthem”. The worst part of it is the pop country apoligized. If you mention how you dont want to here this cliqish stuff your some city slicker rap loving country music hater. NO i want some goddawm intellegence and emotion in country music.

  • I suppose it worth pointing out that where I live in Toronto, people do on occasion enjoy “ice cold beers,” so I’m not quite sure how consumption of such beverages constitutes a “country-ism.”

    • It’s more about the frequency of such references in these laundry list songs.

  • hey folks – i think sometimes we take our music too seriously. As much as i love hank 111, shooter, etc, i am enjoyiny “outlaws like me”. Its sorta like ear candy — not all the time, but once in awhile it ok. go shooter go!!!!!

  • Well i shot Jack Ingram’s show today and guess what, i got asked to shoot Justin Moore’s show on Thursday! Karma sucks!

  • Above someone stated “And in further news, Hank 3 rules the country scene with 4 albums due out in September.”

    How is he ruling the country scene by putting out 4 records, two of which are metal and have nothing to do with country. When a mainstream country artist strays into other genres they are crucified on here, but when Hank3 does it, he is ruling the scene?

    3 does country cause it paid the bills a while back, and he was lucky enough his last name is Williams to do it. His heart is with metal.

    there are several songwriters that rule true country music outside of Hank3

    • IceColdCountry,

      I couldn’t agree with you more. Anyone that disses mainstream country music then turns around and says Hank 3 is country is a hypocrite.

      • Call me what you want, I know what I am and I have no qualms about saying that Hank 3 is country through and through. Jus like his Daddy and his grand daddy. I’m sorry Joe but you are wrong. Have you even listened to Shelton’s new releases? Lovesick, Broke and Drifting? Risin’ Outlaw? I’m not sure what planet you live on, but here in this world, Hank 3 is as country as persimmon pudding. He’s as country as rodeos and field dressin’ and honky tonkin’. Country as a coon dog with one up the tree. Country as steppin’ on blue and grey field stones while crawdad fishin’ in a cool brook in the summer heat. As country as chaw in your teeth, straw in your pockets and dust on your boots. He’s country like a tailgate break waitin’ on the combine to pull up. Gravity wagons full, square balin’ and the sun just breakin’ the horizon. Then get up, smell the dirt and do it all again.

        Oh yeah. He does metal too. Sounds to me like you’re hatin’ on him, and unlike the POP country mainstream who-de-who’s, Hank 3 backs it up. Yes he’s a Williams. Call him Shelton and he’ll still bring the real country moan just like his grandfather.

      • Numerous comments were either deleted or not approved on this thread from NUMEROUS commenters for numerous rules violations. This article did not mention Hank3, he is not relevant to the discussion, and we can also not have comments descend into personal attacks.

        If you need a refresher on the rules: http://www.forum.savingcountrymusic.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=1303

    • Using that same logic, if a person says that they like to eat pizza, they should never be allowed to eat macaroni and cheese. This argument makes no sence. III clearly loves both types of music; he puts too much passion into both for it to be any other way.

  • Well i chose not to do the Justin Moore show, had to prepare to shoot a wedding and rehearsal all weekend and the venue he’s at in Grand Rapids MI tonight are a bunch of pricks anyway, better at home with a cold beer and real outlaw music.

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