I can remember it almost like it was yesterday. Granger Smith released a hilarious song and video under his pseudonym Earl Dibbles Jr. called “Country Boy Song,” and we were all falling over each other and high-fiving at how it was the perfect illustration of just what a scourge laundry list country songs had become. This was the early in the summer of 2012. The term “Bro-Country” was well over a year from being coined, and Florida Georgia Line hadn’t even signed with Big Machine Records yet. But these incessant backroad truck songs had already worn out their welcome, and were ripe for ridicule.
Not many outside of the Texas scene had ever even heard of Granger Smith, let alone Earl Dibbles Jr. at the time, but we all got a big kick out of the “Country Boy Song” to the tune of it tallying nearly 10 million views on YouTube—a tall order from a totally independent artist from Texas. But before the enthusiasm for the song and video had trailed off, Granger Smith released a single under his proper name called “We Do It In A Field” that felt not that far flung from the very music we thought Earl Dibbles was lampooning with “Country Boy Song.” So what was it? Was the “Country Boy Song” really a smart artistic statement delivered in parody form, or just a funny song, plain and simple, and Granger Smith was just another country artist willing to chase trends for commercial acceptance?
Granger recently released a new single called “Backroad Song” ahead of the arrival of a new EP called 4X4 on May 4th, and if this song had been released back in 2012, it still would have been awful, behind the times, and the perfect song to be waylaid by the commentary of Earl Dibbles’ “Country Boy Song”—if in fact that was the song’s goal.
But the simple fact is that it wasn’t the goal. It wasn’t that we were duped by Earl Dibbles Jr. as much as we read into the song what we wanted, and the song itself facilitated this, which is a sign of good art. And it isn’t like Granger didn’t have some really good songs earlier in his career that you could point back at as signs of character. But he may be revealing himself as just as much of the problem with modern day country as any character Nashville can present.
“Backroad Song” is pretty terrible, and is terrible in this sort of embarrassingly behind-the-times way that just makes you want to cringe. The lyrics are so stereotypical Bro-Country/laundry list, the EDM/hip-hop beat that begins the song is so 2013, and Granger’s vocals feel lifeless and Auto-Tuned. The song works almost like a mirror image of Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise” only emanating from Texas instead of Nashville.
If I was standing in a room full of Granger Smith fans on one side, and Luke Bryan fans on the other, I feel pretty confident which side I would drift to, and Granger seems like a nice guy who’s involved in charity and treats his fans well and does his part of as a member of the Texas scene. But the nature of “scenes” is for fans and other artists to look the other way when something unsavory crops up. Basically a scene is a level of support that allows for some wiggle room based on friendship, and even though this can be lucrative for artists in the short term, in the long term it tends to erect a low ceiling over the success of music careers. The Texas scene is special in the fact that it may be one of the biggest music scenes in all of music this side of heavy metal, and does have the ability to launch artists into higher regions. But that collusive nature that scenes can harbor remains present in the Texas scene as much as any.
Earl Dibbles Jr. could kill off Granger Smith and his career might be the better for it, but it appears Granger still sees value in carrying on his own name as to not overexpose the Earl Dibbles bit, and to keep some real life credibility tied to his music. But it’s just unfortunate that Granger’s new music couldn’t work more in concert with the Earl Dibbles concept, and that it couldn’t be more likable. Granger is never going to be a huge mainstream country star, so why continue to try when he already has a sustainable career and he could be the lovable, dual-personality country artist that makes you laugh and cry in the course of one concert? Instead “Backroad Song” presents just another bro up there belting out countryisms that you have to sit through before Earl Dibbles Jr. makes his appearance.
Two guns down.