It has once again come that time of year for reflecting back on some of the best albums released in the last 12 months or so, not to treat country music as competition per se, but as an exercise undertaken with the intent of expanding your musical knowledge in hopes the gaps that formed due to the busy lives we all live get filled in with joyous little music projects.
When Blackberry Smoke’s album ‘Holding All The Roses’ went #1 on the Billboard Country Albums chart in February 2015, it was the first time an independently-released country album had climbed to the top of the country charts in the modern era. And now Blackberry Smoke has done it again.
Blackberry Smoke isn’t just saving country music, they’re rehabilitating the status of all American music by baptizing it in the muddy waters of the all-immersive guitar riff delivered unencumbered and fully amplified, flying in the face of all notions of present-day style or trend that acquiesce to eepish tones and textures.
“It’s not an afterthought like the kind of crap that is on country radio now,” said Blackberry Smoke frontman and primary songwriter, Charlie Starr in a recent interview. “It might be some people’s thing but it’s not mine. There’s not much of a statement, there’s no emotion — it’s hollow and that’s a drag.”
In January of 2016, Saving Country Music published an article explaining how 2016 Could Be 1975 All Over Again in country music—how an upsurge in more traditional and substantive talent and music could really take hold in country, from the independent realm to the mainstream. And that is exactly what we’ve seen as 2016 has progressed.
“You have to always be conscious of the songs. I never want the songs to be too songwriterly or too clever,” Jason Aldean said in a recent interview. “I think you do have to make it, to some extent, black and white. The song has to say what it means and it means what it says. If you try to get too tricky with the lyrics, it gets confusing.
Blackberry Smoke isn’t just helping to save country music, they’re helping to save Southern rock music, rock music, American music, and music made by real humans sweating on a stage, holding real damn instruments, and testifying. In a time when we can’t agree on anything, music fans from a major swath of the population can agree on Blackberry Smoke.
After recently finishing up a tour in California, frontman Charlie Starr and the rest of the Blackberry Smoke band decided to fly back to Atlanta ahead of the tour bus. But bassist Richard Turner decided to enjoy the long bus ride back across the country, and along with the lighting guy Chris “Thumper” Hathaway and bus driver Harry Wing, they happened up a burning car upside down on Interstate 10.
Forget all the sappy relationship stuff, and how it happened and where it might lead. Miranda Lambert ditching Blake Shelton and ending up with Anderson East might be the perfect illustration of the drastic role reversal 2015 has ushered in throughout the greater country music realm, and how 2016 could be poised to completely turn everything upside down.
Aaron Watson, Adam Hood, Anderson East, Ashley Monroe, Blackberry Smoke, Brandy Clark, Chris Stapleton, Dave Cobb, David Rawlings, Fred Eaglesmith, Gillian Welch, Holly Williams, Jason Isbell, John Prine, Miranda Lambert, Patty Griffin, Steve Earle, Sturgill Simpson, Zac Brown
It was a busy year in country music, with lots of controversy, lots of legal issues, and even death surrounding country music artists. It was a tumultuous 2015 to say the least. Here are the top news stories of the year taking into consideration 1) Their importance to country music overall 2) The interest, or accumulated interest in the story if covered in multiple articles, based on traffic registered at Saving Country Music.
Aaron Watson, Blackberry Smoke, Chris Ferrell, Chris Stapleton, Garth Brooks, Gary Overton, Jason Aldean, Jason Isbell, Joey + Rory, Joey Feek, Keith Hill, Little Jimmy Dickens, Luke Bryan, Merle Haggard, Randy Howard, Stoney LaRue, Tim McGraw, Wayne Mills, Willie Nelson
The Americana Music Association has compiled their year-end list of the Top 100 albums of 2015. Unlike many of the other lists you’re bludgeoned with this time of year, this one isn’t based off on anyone’s opinion. It’s based on the reporting to the Americana Airplay Chart during the period of December 2, 2014 through November 30, 2015. The list also a good tool to see what you may have missed in 2015.
“Awards shows don’t matter.” This is the bill of goods fans of true country music, and fans of independent music have been forced to sell themselves for years as a consolation prize for continuously being overlooked, losing in bulk, and being generally embarrassed during the moments when America and the world crowds around the boob tube for the spectacle of a televised award show like the CMA’s or the Grammys.
Aaron Watson, Americiana, Ashley Monroe, Blackberry Smoke, Brandy Clark, Cam, Chris Stapleton, Grammy Awards, Jason Isbell, Kacey Musgraves, Lee Ann Womack, Leon Bridges, O Brother Where Art Thou, Ralph Stanley, Willie Nelson
“18,700”: This is the number of albums Toby Keith sold upon the debut of his new record 35 MPH Town, and it got me to thinking, which artists and bands have beat that number in a year of unprecedented ascent in independent country music? 2015 is the year it became common to see one of your favorite independent acts and aging legends compete at the top of the album charts.
That’s right, I said Hellbound Glory. And I said Leroy Virgil instead of Leon Virgil Bowers—the name Leroy Virgil decided to go with after he officially killed off Hellbound Glory and launched his solo career. If you’re sufficiently confused now, don’t worry. Just understand whatever he calls himself, he’s one of the best songwriters of our generation, and he’s still around kicking out tunes.
The idea that Jason Isbell saved country music when his latest release Something More Than Free inched out Alan Jackson for the #1 spot on Billboard’s Country Albums chart has been offered as a discussion topic by cosmic songwriter and east Nashville sage Todd Snider. Above all else, how awesome is it to have the old version of Todd Snider back in our midst?
In one corner you have the wily veteran who’s sold more than 80 million records worldwide and racked up untold awards and accolades during his quarter century career. In the other corner you have the scrappy young upstart who after years of paying dues on the club circuit can now sell out three consecutive nights at The Ryman Auditorium in 30 minutes and is on the tip of everyone’s tongue as the name of one of the best songwriters around.
Dear Luke Bryan, Thanks for taking the time to read my letter, if in fact you do so. I can only imagine the time constraints a man of your success has, and you’ve already been taking of your time over the last few days to help clear up a mess that I guess I had some part in creating.
Aaron Watson, Blackberry Smoke, Blake Shelton, Dallas Davidson, Florida Georgia Line, Gary Overton, George Strait, Kacey Musgraves, Keith Hill, Luke Bryan, Merle Haggard, Sam Hunt, Sturgill Simpson, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson
Whether you have already purchased your tickets or are planning to soon, or you’re sitting back and laughing at the idea of a bunch of “Outlaws” setting sail in a luxury liner outbound for the Cayman Islands, don’t lie to yourself and say that this isn’t something that you wouldn’t love to participate in if you could swing it. Out at sea with some of your favorite country artists surrounded by the beauty of the Caribbean?
Blackberry Smoke, Bobby Bare, Bobby Bare Jr., Elizabeth Cook, Johnny Cash, Lucinda Williams, Lukas Nelson, Mojo Nixon, Nikki Lane, Shooter Jennings, Steve Earle, The Band of Heathens, The Mavericks, Willie Nelson
Nothing is more important for an independent music artist or band than the day they release an album. Despite all the adversities independent artists face in their effort to get the attention of the listening public, the release of an album can act like a great equalizer, if the band does their job, has a good track record with their fans, and gets the word out.
It was only a matter of time before mainstream artists started plucking songs from the heralded discographies of thriving independent artists like Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson. We know these are the artists many of the mainstream acts are listening to. Then again Zac Brown has always been sort of his own animal when it comes to the establishment.