Browsing articles tagged with " country"
Dec
17

Mo Pitney Reveals Great Promise with “Country” Single

December 17, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  11 Comments

mo-pitney

If you’re looking for names to populate your most anticipated projects to be released in 2015, putting Mo Pitney at or near the top would be a savvy choice. With a one in a million country voice conveyed in a smoothness we haven’t heard since Don Williams, Mo Pitney is a chill-inducing traditional country artist with a succulent pentameter and delivery, and a songwriter’s pen engorged with cutting and resonant lines and stories. A handsome young man with nothing but a promising future in country music ahead of him, Pitney could become one of the fore bearers to making true country cool again like a modern-day Randy Travis.

Mo Pitney has been showcasing his songs and voice through traditional avenues over the past few years and has shined every time. A January 2013 episode of Pitney with mentor Bill Anderson by his side on RFD-TV’s excellent showcase Larry’s Country Diner has since become a must-see installment. From his originals like “I Didn’t Wake Up This Morning,” to his cover of Keith Whitley’s “Miami, My Amy,” the cat was out of the bag about Mo Pitney’s country music powers after the show. He was signed to Curb Records by May of this year, and made his Opry debut on June 20th care of Bill Anderson, dazzling the crowd and receiving a standing ovation for his song “Cleanup on Aisle Five.”

Ahead of his much-anticipated album, Pitney has released the first single simply called “Country” co-written with Anderson and Bobby Tomberlin. Smartly crafted to where it captures a relevant sentiment without being a party to pandering to anything or straying away from Pitney’s core, “Country” highlights Mo’s promise of being a classic-sounding artist with the ability to capture a mainstream audience. Authentic as the day is long, Pitney touches on what could be considered the listing off of countryisms, but avoids all of the obvious ones to take a more subdued and warm thematic approach to explaining what “country” really is.

For country music to extricate itself from the iron grasp of Bro-Country and the overriding influence of other genres, it’s going to need artists who don’t need to rely on gimmicks and trends to find appeal, but that can champion the virtues of country itself and illustrate its charisma to a new generation of listeners. Mo Pitney is an artist with the promise and the proper tools to do this very thing.

Sep
2

Justin Bieber Thinks It’s Cute to Mock Country

September 2, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  67 Comments

justin-bieber-cowboy-hat

Warning: Language

Once again the internet is going ape shit over another Justin Bieber arrest. Apparently he was joy riding his ATV in Canada on his father’s land when he thought he’d ram a minivan and assault the occupants on Friday as pop starlet Selena Gomez held on to his adorable little hips for dear life. Meanwhile the rest of us were working jobs. The fact that this asshole thinks he can do just about anything while hiding behind an army of bodyguards and lawyers is nauseating enough, but now he’s decided to add country music to his cultural lampoon list, along with Ann Frank, Argentina, Australian landmarks, and the rest of the world when he visited the Yasukuni Shrine in Japan dedicated to the memory of war criminals.

Last week Bieber, shirtless and bored, and joined by B-level rapping prospects—like he always seems to have hanging around him in an attempt to make it look like he has friends and any semblance of street cred—decided to take to Instagram and post a snippet of his mocking rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” With a pursed and insulting smirk indicative of a 14-year-old who’s never had his ass kicked and hasn’t gone through the most basic adult cognitive development, Bieber sings the chorus of “Ring of Fire” while strumming chords on a guitar.

Then later he posted a picture of himself wearing a cowboy hat sideways, saying “They gave me the sad cowboy hat.” (see above)

Yeah I know, let’s not give this little shit any more attention than he deserves. I just want to let him know that if he thinks it’s cute to mock country, or if he has any designs on “going country,” which he has talked about in the past, he will meet stiff and spirited resistance from this particular quadrant of the American media. Country music may be cute to you Bieber, but to some of us, it is a part of our culture and heritage. So do me a favor, and keep Johnny Cash out of your adolescent and vacuous mouth unless you’re willing to sing with respect.

Jul
12

Tommy Ramone’s Country Music Love Ran Deep

July 12, 2014 - By Trigger  //  News  //  6 Comments

There are a lot of similarities between punk and old-time music. Both are home-brewed music as opposed to schooled, and both have an earthy energy. And anybody can pick up an instrument and start playing.”

uncle-monk-1Today the punk world lost a titan when Tommy Ramone passed away after a fight with bile duct Cancer at the age of 62. Tommy was the last surviving member of the influential punk band The Ramones. Acting as the band’s drummer, he also was the producer for the band, and after leaving The Ramones after their third album, Tommy continued to produce the band’s albums, and went on to produce many other influential punk albums of the era, playing a key role in the punk movement off the stage in many different capacities.

Tommy Ramone was one of these “jack of all trades” guys that would do whatever it took to get the music out to the people. But what a lot of people didn’t know is that Tommy also had a sincere passion for old-time country and bluegrass music, and pursued it heavily later in life.

In the mid 2000′s, Tommy Ramone formed an old-time band with Claudia Tienan of the band The Simplistics called Uncle Monk. They released a self-titled album in March of 2006, and did numerous shows and tours around the country. Tommy played mandolin and some banjo, and in the old-school style, would lean into the microphone for solos instead of playing through a pickup. They would cover The Carter Family and other greats of country and bluegrass music’s past.

Uncle Monk

Uncle Monk – Photos by Dave Green

“Dee Dee always liked what we now call Americana, and Joey, too, to a lesser degree,” Tommy once told The Phoenix about his punk-playing brothers. “And Johnny was a huge fan of the early, more folk-oriented Bob Dylan. We had many different influences in our music.”

According to Tommy, the differences between punk and old-time were not as big as they are on the surface. There are a lot of similarities between punk and old-time music,” Tommy said. “Both are home-brewed music as opposed to schooled, and both have an earthy energy. And anybody can pick up an instrument and start playing.”

“They’re very similar structurally, lyrically and emotionally,” Tommy once told The Pitch about punk and bluegrass. “I used to listen to old-time music, even before I was … “

Tommy was also quick to explain that what he was doing was not true bluegrass, out of respect for the discipline. “I want to make clear is that Uncle Monk is not a traditional bluegrass act. We are an indie-acoustic duo that has been influenced by bluegrass and old-time music as well as alternative and Americana.”

Uncle Monk was working on their second album when Tommy’s Cancer sidelined him. He also worked with songwriter John Castle at the Levon Helm Studios on Castle’s 2011 album Last Bird Home. Uncle Monk also played at the legendary Bluebird Cafe in Nashville, and on Music City Roots during their run.

RIP Thomas Erdelyi, aka Tommy Ramone.

Preview Uncle Monk’s Self-Titled Old-Time Album

Jan
11

Ke$ha & Pitbull Blend A Country Vibe Into “Timber” Hit

January 11, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  41 Comments

keha-pitbull-timberBack in July of 2012, I placed my chips on the square that said that sometime in the future pop star Ke$ha would be a big player in the country music realm, and that when she did, she would be huge. Ke$ha’s mom is country songwriter Pebe Sebert that wrote the #1 hit “Old Flames (Can’t Hold a Candle To You)” for Dolly Parton amongst other notable compositions, and Ke$ha has professed her love for country music, and specifically Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, and Townes Van Zandt.

It’s hard to call “Timber”—her current collaboration with Latin rapper Pitbull—a country song, but it’s just as hard to ignore that this song is trying to capture a country/Americana vibe through its production. In many respects, “Timber” is the perfect mono-genre specimen. Take a Latin hip-hop artist, an LA pop star via Nashville, inject elements of American country culture like harmonica, the line “swing your partner, ’round and ’round,” reinforce it in the video with choreographed line dancers wearing cutoffs carousing in a honky tonk with a jug band playing in the background, and you’ve got yourself a bona fide mono-genre master work.

And the results of their attempt to touch on every element of popular American culture without pigeonholing the song into any specific genre speak for themselves. “Timber” is now the #1 song in all of music, and it’s video has received 61 million+ hits at the the time of this posting. This is the kind of results that can be garnered when your music has no limits based on traditional lines of genre, culture, race, or even geography.

The video for “Timber” was shot in two primary locales. Pitbull’s portion of the was mostly filmed in The Bahamas, while Ke$ha caught a more country vibe by filming in a honky tonk in Miami and a ranch outside of the city limits. Horses, chickens, and bikini’ed Ke$ha chopping wood (a day’s work is never done, apparently) are all featured in the video, and so is, of all things, a relatively-obscure, but worthy-of-your-ear band from Orlando called The Bloody Jug Band.

The Bloody Jug Band is a true jug band (yes, they have a jug player) that features very traditional instrumentation around an otherwise very progressive Americana sound with a dark, macabre approach. At first glance one might think this is a gimmick band, but their compositions reveal great depth in both theme and structure, constituting their debut album Coffin Up Blood to be nominated for Saving Country Music’s Album of the Year in 2012.

Cragmire Peace

Cragmire Peace

“It was just one of those opportunities that fall in your lap,” says Bloody Jug Band frontman Cragmire Peace. “I got a call on a random weekday, and one of the producers of the video got me on the phone and said, ‘This is going to be a weird conversation.’ She went on to say they were looking for a jug band type of sensibility in the video—instrumentation of some of that old-timey music—because that’s what they considered fit well with the kind of Americana vibe of the song. And when they looked up jug bands, not only did we come up, but we’re also in Florida. So they pretty much loved the ready-made package.

“Everything in the video that we wore and played, down to the stickers on the washboard, that was all us and they had no problem with us being us in the video, which was one of our stipulations up front. If we were going to show up and do this, we were going to be ourselves, and they had no problem with that. They knew what they were getting.”

The inclusion of The Bloody Jug Band in the Ke$ha/Pitbull video speaks to just how far the video’s producers were willing to go to capture a country/Americana vibe in the shoot. “They could have easily cast four assholes to be extras in this video, and it wouldn’t have been The Bloody Jug Band and it wouldn’t have meant anything,” Cragmire Peace says. But they didn’t.  Though you would definitely have to categorize “Timber” as hip-hop or hip-pop first, producers were trying to be inclusive to the rising popularity of country music, and even bands like Mumford & Sons. At the same time, the use of The Bloody Jug Band speaks to another trend in music that is helping out many independent bands.

bloody-jug-band-kesha-pitbull-timber“You hear a lot about this in TV and the licensing of music,” Cragmire explains. “They figured out it was way cheaper and way more mutually beneficial to instead of having composers you hire for the music, to actually co-opt independent bands and put them in the credits. I think it is more typical in TV right now than it is in music, or popular music, but I think it opens the door for people. It’s a window into another type of music. “Timber” has sort of the Americana vibe to it, and that’s probably a little different for Ke$ha and Pittbull to have done. So the fact that they introduced into the listener’s ear, for people to realize that there’s dynamic music in this genre going on, I think it’s a great door opener for people to hopefully step through, and they can be turned on to this other type of music. And hopefully pop culture realizes that to take a chance on an independent band, and feature them in your video, or to use these bands in some other way, it helps the band out, it opens people’s eyes, and ultimately I think it’s not bad business.”

Cragmire Peace says he’s no fan of pop music, Ke$ha, Pitbull, or “Timber” specifically. “It’s easy to beat them up. But if it means more exposure for The Bloody Jug Band or Americana music, I don’t care what door they came through. The end result is what matters, not how they got there. Even if people don’t know who they’re looking at, if they’re somehow captivated for the 5 to 8 seconds that we’re actually in the video, then that’s cool. To be exposed this way but have people respond to it like they have, I think that’s very powerful and validating for any artist, but certainly what we’re trying to do with The Blood Jug Band.”

Meanwhile the resounding success of “Timber” likely means we can expect more blending of country/roots/Americana elements into pop and hip-hop music, while rap elements in country music are now a mainstay of the genre, and Jerrod Niemann’s recent single “Drink To That All Night” adds the world of EDM and dance music into the mix. The autonomy of American music genres remains in full retreat in mainstream music, and 2014 promises to be the most brave year yet for breaking rules, blending genres, and toppling borders.

(The Bloody Jug Band have a new EP out, Murder of Crows, and a new album planned for later this year.)

Dec
20

Justin Timberlake Not Just “Blowing Smoke” About Country Move

December 20, 2013 - By Trigger  //  News  //  44 Comments

justin-timberlake-1Last month Justin Timberlake got the country music universe titillated when he said he may take a stab at country music in the future. “[I] grew up outside of Memphis, Tennessee. Listened to country music, R&B music, classic rock, you know, everything,” said Timberlake “I still got my eyes set on a Best Country Album. There is time for that.”

Well now Timberlake is doubling down, and delving even deeper into the country music conversation, and what he’s saying is hinting that his move would be a more “adult” approach to country, even more akin to the classic modes of country he grew up with, wanting to use his position in music to help guide country in a direction of more substance.

Justin Timberlake stars in the movie Inside Llewyn Davis opening today, and talked with The Tennessean about his potential, or very likely country music move.

“The next move for me is to sink some teeth in here [Nashville]. I’ve done it before. I got a taste of it,” says Timberlake, referring to the song “The Only Promise That Remains” that Timberlake wrote and produced for Reba McEntire last year. “…it reminded me of the songs that my grandfather used to make me listen to when I was a kid — in a great way. It hit me, ‘Oh I wrote this song because of my childhood.’ It ended up being this thing that country radio wouldn’t play.”

Timberlake’s comments then took an even more interesting turn, when he began to speak about Taylor Swift and how to navigate going from a “bubblegum” star to an artist entering adulthood. “There might be another calling for me out there. And it might be being a part of music in this way as a communicator and a teacher and a guide…I was in a group that was bigger than bubble gum. It’s almost like, with anything, when you do settle into adulthood is when when people respect you in a different way. But there’s no question in my mind that that’s where [Taylor Swift's] going, if she so chooses. For me I am sort of the oracle of the idea, and I’m also the communicator of it.”

Nashville seems synonymous with country music to Timberlake, and he would not want his work in the genre to be from the outside looking in.

“A good song is a good song is a good song. There’s still so much that can happen in Nashville, and I look to the future and I want to be a part of it. And I’m not just blowing smoke. I don’t say that about Los Angeles. I don’t think I would move to Nashville. I know I would move to Nashville. It’s a matter of time. And it’s what this place could offer me, to be that outlet for all these different styles.”

Nov
27

Jamie Lynn Spears Surprises w/ “How Could I Want More”

November 27, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  49 Comments

jamie-lynn-spearsThe reason an artist like Jamie Lynn Spears should be dealt with in a speculative manner when she announces she wants to pursue a country music career is because from the beginning, it will be more about her name than the music. As much as we look at country music’s very top fashion plate stars as unfairly sitting atop a pedestal without the proper dues paid, when you actually delve into many of their personal stories, it is rarely the case. The recent death of Outlaw country artist Wayne Mills illustrated this when it came out that Blake Shelton opened for Wayne while making his way up the ranks. Even Taylor Swift spent years playing radio tours and doing acoustic shows at biker bars before her big break.

But with Jamie, her name allows her to circumvent all of these impleasantries and go right to the level of opening slots on theater and arena tours, and mainstream radio consideration. If you want to draw a parallel to another recent “gone country” celebrity artist, a good one would be Jessica Simpson who shot right ahead of everyone else in line to play headline shows and be showcased on the Grand Ole Opry. But as we all know, even the historically pliable and gullible mainstream country music fan didn’t bite on Simpson, and because she had never spent time cultivating a fan base, she had no level to fall back to. If she couldn’t be playing in front of thousands of people and buy fuel for 3 tour buses, her career wasn’t feasible on any level.

Jamie Lynn Spears had two major choices she could make with what direction to go in the country realm. She could be one of these bellicose, bawdy, hard-edged, lighting-matches-off-of-shotgun-barrels-to-burn-the-trailer-of-your ex-boyfriend-down type artists, or she could join the new generation of progressive country women writing their own songs and reintegrating substance into the country genre. From the sound of her first single—though I caution very heavily that this is just one song—from the looks of things at the moment, Jamie Lynn has chosen the latter.

There still is a very long way to go here, and much more to be revealed. I still remain speculative of the platinum blonde hair and where Jamie Lynn’s heart truly lies, and how easy it would be for her to make the first single one that allows her to slide past the guard of the country music gatekeepers only to later spring a big pop surprise. But I’ll be damned if her first single “How Could I Want More” is not bad at all.

There’s really not much to add to what most people are parroting about this song already: “Not great, but hey, better than most of what you hear on radio, and definitely unexpected.” And why not make good music, and the music you want if you’re a woman in country music right now? Unless you have huge tits or your first name is Taylor, the fat cat good ol’ boys who control country radio aren’t going to play it anyway, so you might as well make something you’re proud of.

“How Could I Want More” is very on par with the Ashley Monroes and Kacey Musgraves of the moment. Tasteful, story-based, touching music with sensible roots elements like lilting steel guitar embedded in a song with a universal theme. It’s also interesting that in the video, Jamie Lynn is seen writing and musing on lyrics, illustrating that she doesn’t want to be known as just an entertainer, but an artist.

This all speaks yet again to how women right now are leading the way in country music, and how there are reasons to be positive overall about country music’s direction. Nobody saw this coming. Nobody. So I’m not the only one who needs to pick up a fork and dig deep into that can of crow, and I do so with a grin because the fact that a former Nickelodeon star turned 16-year-old teen celebrity mom has started off her “gone country” career making music that has us all nodding our heads in approval speaks to how far we have come, however awful Luke Bryan’s next tailgate single is.

Good on Jamie. Let’s just hope this is a sign of things to come, and not a Trojan Horse.

1 1/2 of 2 guns up.

Sep
2

Sheryl Crow: “Country Is More Pop Than Pop Was When I Came Up”

September 2, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  38 Comments

sheryl-crow-feels-like-homeWhen country music purists characterize pop’s intrusion into country as a recent phenomenon, they jeopardize undercutting their entire argument. Pop has always been a part of country, and asserting otherwise is a misrepresentation of history. But when pop country apologists use this same argument to say there’s no reason to be alarmed of how pop the country format has become, they aren’t taking into consideration the reduction of quality in pop over the years, or the degree in which pop has impinged on the roots of country as a per capita measure of the entire genre.

Enter Sheryl Crow, who after years of flirting with country is finally taking the big “gone country” plunge and is making a marathon tour of country radio stations ahead of releasing her first official “country” album Feels Like Home on September 10th. Sheryl—who credits Brad Paisley for finally convincing her to go country—didn’t have to augment her sound much to make the move to the country format, because as much of her pop and rock music has always been somewhat rootsy, country music has veered much more in a pop direction, allowing the two styles to virtually intersect.

“The country format is more pop than pop was when I came up two decades ago,” Sheryl explained to Reuters late last week when being interviewed about her new album, illustrating the degree of country’s move to pop in recent years. Of course Sheryl isn’t saying anything that some country fans haven’t been clamoring about for years, but as someone looking to make their way in the mainstream country world, Sheryl Crow’s perspective and honesty speaks to the degree of change in country music.

When pop or rock artists “go country,” their initial albums tend to be a tinge more country than many of their established pop country counterparts as they attempt to prove their muster in the genre. A similar observation could be made of Darius Rucker when he made the country move. Nothing Sheryl Crow or Darius Rucker have done in country so far can compare in pop caliber to Taylor Swift’s dub step-inspired “I Knew You Were Trouble” or Blake Shelton’s country rap “Boys ‘Round Here” for example. As time goes on, pop artists may not even need to declare their country allegiance to move to the genre, they may simply stand still and be involuntarily engulfed by the ever-present shift of country towards pop, and become country by proxy. Sheryl Crow may be the first example of this phenomenon.

Aug
23

Hank3 Says “Brothers of the 4×4″ is a Traditional Country Record

August 23, 2013 - By Trigger  //  News  //  30 Comments

hank-3Hank Williams III struck out today for Texas on a 2 week tour that will take him through the Midwest and parts of the South ahead of the release of 2 new albums on October 1st: the double CD Brothers of the 4×4, and the punk-infused A Fiendish Threat. Over the last few years, country fans have come to expect a mixed bag from Hank3, whose veered more towards punk and heavy metal as time has gone on. His first two albums Risin’ Outlaw and Lovesick, Broke, & Driftin’ became staples of the early 2000′s neo-traditionalist movement, while 2006′s Straight to Hell is considered his opus, and the beginning of his move to a much harder sound.

His last “country” album Ghost to a Ghost/Guttertown had a decidedly Cajun flavor to it, but ahead of the release, Hank3 was warning people not to expect a tear jerking traditionalist country effort. “I’m just saying that out of respects to my fans. Some of the Cajun stuff has a country feel. But I at least have to say that to my fans, because it’s a new line for a Hank3 country record.”

While speaking to The Dallas Observer ahead of his show at the Rail Club in Ft. Worth, Hank3 struck a much different tone about what people could expect from the upcoming Brothers of the 4×4:

hank3-brothers-of-the-4x4It’s a traditional country record. It’s got your slow country songs if you need to get some bad emotions out. It’s got a couple of, you know, the not as sad kind of songs and a couple of songs that just aren’t really country but they’re kind of folky soundin’. When I make a country record, it’s always very important for me to have a banjo, steel and acoustic guitar, fiddle and a chicken pickin’ guitar on it. Those are really the deep roots of country music for me.

Hank3 wrote, recorded, produced, and played all of the drums and acoustic guitar on the new record, while using his stable of superpicking friends for all of the lead parts, including Andy Gibson, Zach Shedd, Billy Contreras, David McElfish, Daniel Mason, and a guest appearance by banjo champion Leroy Troy.

And for those wondering what they may get from the country punk A Fiendish Threat:

It’s done on an acoustic guitar with a little bit of fuzz on it and a stand-up basss beatin’ it down. It’s a different singin’ voice for me. A lot of people who’ve known me for 10 years say, ‘Man, if you hadn’t told me it was you, I wouldn’t have guessed. It just doesn’t sound like you.’ That’s a good thing for me. That just means I’m changin’ it up. Not everybody will get it, but some people will understand the creative process that’s going on.

Hank3 Tour Dates:

8/24 Austin, TX @ The Austin Bat Fest
8/25 Ft. Worth, TX @ Rail Club
8/26 Tulsa, OK @ Cain’s Ballroom
8/27 Lawrence (KC), MO @ Granada
8/29 Sauget, IL @ Pops
8/30 Ft. Wayne, IN @ Pierre’s
8/31 Flint, MI @ Machine Shop
9/1 Indianapolis, IN @ The Vogue
9/2 Pittsburgh, PA @ Alter
9/4 Lancaster, PA @ The Chameleon
9/5 Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
9/6 Richmond, VA @ National
9/7 Charlotte, NC @ Amos Southend
9/8 Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade

May
4

Beastie Boys ‘Paul’s Boutique’ Broke Ground w/ Country Influence

May 4, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  33 Comments

Today we learned of the death of Adam Yauch, aka “MCA” from the hip-hop and hardcore punk group The Beastie Boys. You may wonder why such news would be germane on a country music website, but 25 years after the release of The Beastie Boys commercial blockbuster album License To Ill, country music is attempting to fight off an incursion of the most awful, ill-advised, and poorly-executed attempts to bridge country and hip-hop influences into something called “country rap”.

In my Survival Guide to Country Rap, I pointed out many reasons why the fusion of country and rap rarely works, and how it can be harmful to the health of both genres by killing contrast and aiding the formation of one popular mono-genre of American music. But I also left open the idea that at times, when approached with respect and understanding, the two polar genres of country and rap could be bridged successfully.

Today many people will be pouring their brass monkey’s while listening to License to Ill, but it was not The Beastie Boys 1986 blockbuster that had the most influence in music, it was their 1989 follow up Paul’s Boutique that is considered their magum opus. Along with albums such as Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger and The Sex Pistols’ Nevermind The Bullocks, I and other music critics would put Paul’s Boutique up there as one of the most influential albums in all of music, for all time.

The reason for this is because Paul’s Boutique created many of the trends that continue to be alive in popular music today, the biggest being the use of sampling in songs. Though many music listeners, especially country music listeners may see this practice as cheating, this was a completely inventive approach at the time, and a way to make old-school-sounding music in a music world The Beastie Boys had difficulty relating to. The Beastie Boys were the old-school pioneers of the late 80′s, similar to the neo-traditionalists of country today. Feeling an inferiority with present day sounds, they borrowed from the past to create feeling and nostalgia through their music. The Beastie Boys were embarrassed of being labeled one hit wonders and hacks, and wanted to assert their creative influence on the music world.

Where the country world comes in is in the heavy-handed and stark use of country and Southern influences in Paul’s Boutique. In many ways, country and Southern sounds and themes are the foundation for the album. The problem with Paul’s Boutique was that it was not very popular in its time, and was considered a flop compared to License to Ill.

The most important mark of the project on popular culture was how it interjected violent themes into rap music. At the time, “Word To Your Mother!” was about as violent as rap got, while Johnny Cash had been serenading prisons about killing a man just to watch him die for 35 years. The Beastie Boys and Paul’s Boutique took stark country and western themes and lyric modes and set them to hip hop beats built in many cases from Southern sounds and artists. Many people credit Paul’s Boutique as being the formation of “gangster rap”, and country music themes may be just as much to blame for this as The Beastie Boys and The Dust Brothers who DJ’d the album.

Paul’s Boutique’s Country & Southern Foundations

“5-Piece Chicken Dinner” is the most obvious example, a simple fiddle and banjo riff put in the album to be completely ironic, but at the same times speaks to an appeal for country music that runs like a vein through the most influential hip-hop album of all time.

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“Looking Down The Barrel of a Gun” borrows from the Southern rock anthem  “Mississippi Queen” from another from another New York band called Mountain, though most of the track is played live by Adam Yauch (MCA) and Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock). This song is the best example of the violent influences of country mingling with hip-hop beats into what would become “gangster rap”.

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“High Plains Drifter” is the best example of Paul’s Boutique taking classic country and western themes and adapting them into a modern hip-hop song, and how this allowed the violent “Wild West” storytelling element of country music to assert influence on hip-hop. Sonically the song borrows heavily from The Eagles’ “Those Shoes”.

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“Johnny Ryall” is another storytelling song about a “rockabilly Star from the days of old” who “got a platinum voice but only gold records” who now is a homeless bum living on the streets of New York. This song that also references Bob Dylan’s song “Maggie’s Farm”. The amazing thing about “Johnny Ryall” is how closely it mirrors the tragedy songs written about Nashville’s forgotten stars and songwriters, songs like “Murder On Music Row” that wasn’t released until a decade later. As much of the song seems to be centered around making fun of a homeless man, the underlying message is of a forgotten rockabilly great who never was given his due.

Whole album is below, “Johnny Ryall” starts at the 4:48.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKNmLMs7ugw

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Paul’s Boutique is an example of where country elements can be integrated with hip-hop successfully, but it also teaches us the lesson of why in the end there is no country rap, there’s only country, and hip hop. At the very beginning of the formation of hip hop, of which Paul’s Boutique is an essential element of, it became a genre of music that borrowed from other genres, like the country elements in Paul’s Boutique.

Nobody would argue that Paul’s Boutique is a country record, for the same reasons you can argue Colt Ford isn’t country either: because as soon as you integrate hip-hop elements into country music, it ceases to be country and becomes hip hop. Hip-hop elements have no history, and no place in country music, while country music, just like every other music genre, went into forming hip hop. The lessons learned from Paul’s Boutique prove this.

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Two guns up for Paul’s Boutique.

RIP Adam Yauch, aka (MCA)

(Fellow Beastie boy Mike D also has an alter ego “Country Mike”, and recorded an album “Country Mikes Greatest Hits” for friends and family in 2000).

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Preview & Purchase Tracks from Paul’s Boutique

Apr
17

Record Store Day 2012 Country Music Field Guide

April 17, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  9 Comments

This Saturday, April 21st with be the 2012 installment of Record Store Day, the annual event started in 2007 to help the struggling independent record store. As the event has grown over the years, artists and labels have stepped up to help with the event, releasing dozens of limited-edition collectible pieces of vinyl to entice the public into their local mom and pop’s.

Country I am embarrassed to say was one of the last genres to get behind Record Store Day, with last year the only country representation of note being a Justin Townes Earle 7″, and a bunch of Hank Williams III re-issues on colored vinyl. Well I’m happy to report 2012 will go down as the year when country came busting through the Record Store Day scene with full representation, with so many projects being released taking stock of it all can be dizzying. So here is your 2012 Country Music Record Store Day Field Guide.

Complete list of Record Store Day Releases

Find a Participating Record Store

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Blitzen Trapper

Hey Joe b/w Skirts on Fire

Format: 7″ 45
Label: Sub Pop

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Bonnie Prince Billy (Will Oldham)

Hummingbird

Format: 10″ LP
Label: Spiritual Pajamas

The great Leon Russell’s “Hummingbird” anchors this new 10 inch, and Bonny and his assembled cast of LA musicians render it an exercise in contrast. Using Russell’s famed Shelter Records soundboard for this one-off session–with its memories of Petty and Cale, and now owned by one Jonathan Wilson–Bonny introduces a pallet of musical soundscapes including the keys of “Farmer” Dave Scher, the porch-stomp grooves of Entrance Band rhythm section Paz and Derek and the claps of a thousand hands before letting the song “fly away” in a breeze of soulful psychedelia that stretches nearly twice the original’s length.

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Buck Owens

Colouring Book w/flexi disc

Format: Book
Label: Omnivore

Tracks:
“Act Naturally”
“Together Again”
“I’ve Got A Tiger By The Tail”
“Crying Time”

Original Buck Owens Coloring Book. Commissioned by Buck Owens in 1970, these original, uncirculated vintage coloring books include a new 4-track flexidisc and download card.

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Caitlin Rose

Piledriver Waltz

Format: 7″ 45
Label: Domino
Release type: RSD Limited Run / Regional Focus Release

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Justin Townes Earle

Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now

Format: 7″ 45
Label: Bloodshot

Tracks:
“Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now”
“Sneaky Feelings”

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Lydia Loveless

Bad Way To Go

Format: 7″ 45
Label: Bloodshot
Release type: RSD Limited Run / Regional Focus Release

Tracks:
“Bad Way To Go”
“Alison”

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Pistol Annies

Hell on Heels

Format: LP
Label: RCA Nashville

The first vinyl release of the 2011 debut from the group formed by Miranda Lambert, Angaleena Presley and Ashley Monroe.

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Ralph Stanley

Single Girl / Little Birdie

Format: LP
Label: Tompkins Square
Release type: RSD Limited Run / Regional Focus Release

Tracks:
“Single Girl”
“Little Birdie”

500 limited-edition copies.

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Ricky Skaggs & Tony Rice

Skaggs & Rice

Format: LP
Label: Sugar Hill

Tracks:
“Bury Me Beneath the Weeping Willow”
“Mansions For Me”
“More Pretty Girls Than One”
“Memories of Mother and Dad”
“Where The Soul of Man Never Dies”
“Talk About Suffering”
“Will the Roses Bloom (Where She Lies Sleeping)”
“Tennessee Blues”
“The Old Crossroads”
“Have You Someone (In Heaven Awaiting)

This heartwarming collection, featuring classic bluegrass tunes and traditional folk songs done in the close-harmony duet style, still stands as a high-water mark for both men.

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Ryan Adams

Heartbreak A Stranger / Black Sheets Of Rain

Format: 7″ 45
Label: PAXAM

Format: 7” colored vinyl

Tracks:
“Heartbreak A Stranger”
“Black Sheets Of Rain”

Two Bob Mould covers recorded at November’s “See A Little Light” Bob Mould Tribute Show at Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles, California.

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Sara Watkins w/ Fiona Apple / The Everly Brothers

You’re The One I Love

Format: 7″ 45
Label: Warner Bros

Format: 7″ olive green and black splatter

Tracks:
Everly Brothers’ “You’re The One I Love” and a cover of the same song by Sara Watkins featuring Fiona Apple

Another in the Side by Side series created exclusively for Record Store Day featuring an original track (this time The Everly Brothers’ “You’re The One I Love” backed by a cover from another artist (this time Sara Watkins featuring Fiona Apple)

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The Civil Wars

Billie Jean

Format: 7″ 45
Label: Columbia Records U.K.

Tracks:
“Billie Jean (Live)”
“Sour Times (Live)”

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Live at Amoeba

Format: CD
Label: Sensibility Music LLC

Tracks:
“Tip of My Tongue”
“Forget Me Not”
“From This Valley”
“20 Years”
“I’ve Got This Friend”
“Billie Jean”
“Dance Me to the End of Love”
“Disarm”

Limited Edition One Time Pressing EP/CD Live at Amoeba – EP by Grammy Award Winners and Indie Sensations, The Civil Wars, recorded live in Hollywood on June 14, 2011. Exclusive for Record Store Day 2012. (A Portion Of The Cost Of This Title Goes Directly To Support Record Store Day)

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Townes Van Zandt

At My Window

Format: LP
Label: Sugar Hill

Tracks:
“Snowin’ on Raton”
“Blue Wind Blew”
“At My Window”
“For the Sake of the Song”
“Ain’t Leaving For Your Love”
“Buckskin Stallion Blues”
“Little Sundance #2″
“Still Lookin’ For You”
“Gone, Gone Blues”
“The Catfish Song”

The first and best album the late Texas singer-songwriter made for Sugar Hill, this set contains classics as “Snowing on Raton” and “Buckskin Stallion Blues”.

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Uncle Tupelo

Format: 7″ Vinyl Box Set
Label: Sony

3×7″ box set

“I Got Drunk/Sin City,”

“Gun/I Wanna Destroy You,”

“Uncle Tupelo Sauget Wind/Looking For A Way Out (acoustic), :Take My Word”

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No Depression

Format: LP
Release type: ‘RSD First’ Release

180 Gram vinyl

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March 16-20, 1992

Format: LP
Release type: ‘RSD First’ Release

180 Gram Vinyl

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Still Feel Gone

Format: LP
Release type: ‘RSD First’ Release

180 gram vinyl

Oct
28

Once And For All: SPOKEN WORD IS NOT RAP!

October 28, 2011 - By Trigger  //  Down with Pop Country  //  28 Comments

Charlie Daniels’ “Devil Went Down to Georgia” was not a rap song, as Wyclef Jean and many others will tell you.

Jimmy Dean’s “Big Bad John” was not a rap song, as The Engineer of Knowledge or wkdq.com will tell you.

Woody Guthrie’s “Talking Dust Bowl Blues” was not a rap song, despite what the Pittsburg Post-Gazette will tell you.

And neither were the spoken word songs from Tex Williams, Hank Williams, Red Foley, Red Sovine, or any other old school country artists who called on the long-used tradition of talking in a song instead of singing to emphasize the storytelling aspect of the lyrics. But I’ll be damned if you will not find a surplus of high-nosed music “experts” that will preach to you that one of these particular songs or artists was either the generation of rap music, or use them to prove that rap and country are one in the same.

I call bullshit.

I first pointed this out this tactic in my Survival Guide to Country Rap, how some would attempt to explain how really, country and rap are the same thing, so what’s the big fuss?

As simply as I can put it, making the case that spoken word and rapping in music are the same thing is an insult to the artistic integrity and creativity of both spoken word and rap artists, and to the intelligence of anyone who that case is being made to.

Battling the infiltration of country rap, not as an artistic expression, but as a way to gentrify music to create a wider audience for financial gain, is hard enough without revising history. Country rap supporters have the upper ground in many ways. They can claim racism against people opposing country rap. They can call them close-minded purists, unwilling to evolve, in a misguided notion that country rap opposition is all about wanting to keep country music exactly how it was back in the 50′s.

Of course rap and spoken word have similarities on the surface. But the fact that the words are not sung is where the similarities end. The origins are different for one thing. Spoken word evolved from the cowboy culture and campfire storytelling that is one of the foundations of country music, while rapping came from tribal cadences carried over from West Africa and the chanting of field songs. Is someone going to really try to make the case that Tex Williams was trying to imbibe the rhythms of West African tribal chants with the disenfranchised themes of slave labor when talking about smoke smoke smoking cigarettes?

But unlike so many other “experts” on the subject, and there seems to be one on every corner these days, I’m not going to get into a long-winded diatribe on the exact origin of one artform or another, or try and pinpoint what the first ever country rap song was, because the origins of music are a slow-evolving, mutable, hard-to-define situation that can be clouded heavily by the perspective of the individual. How about instead celebrating the diversity in music by not letting surface similarities allow us to make shallow observances, with either the underlying motivation or the unintended consequence being the death of contrast in popular music?

And if I was a rap artist or writing for a website called Saving Rap Music, I might even be more insulted by the insinuation that some old crusty white dude was rapping back in the 40′s, because it gives no consideration to one of the most important elements of rap music: flow, or the rhythmic and rhyming approach to the metrical structure of verse that makes rap a much more technically complex art form than simply speaking, or speaking in rhyme, just like cowboy poetry can be more complex than rap from a thematic, storytelling standpoint.

Country rap is here to stay, and one can make the case country rap is on its way to dominating the country music landscape. Country rap has won. So can you do true country fans just one little favor, and not go back in time and try to make rap songs out of country songs in the past too? Is that too much to ask? Or is the guilt for allowing country rap such dominance so great, or the payoff in creating a mono-genre so excessive that we must sell out the past as well?

Aug
31

Ryan Bingham Burns Country Bridge

August 31, 2010 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  31 Comments

(Ryan Bingham’s new album Junky Star is on sale for a limited time through Amazon for $3.99. CLICK HERE.)

Hey Ryan, it’s me, Country Music. I’ve been hearing some interesting things lately, about how you’re eager to dispel that your music is country. This puts me in a weird position, because I’m used to people using my name to call things “country” that are not. But I heard your first two albums, and though I wouldn’t say they are solidly country projects, without question there some country there, more country than most that fly my flag. And how about that Oscar, for a country song in a movie about a country star? Do you really think its that perplexing that some people think your music is country? It can’t be nearly as perplexing as some of your moves lately, including this one.

I mean what’s going on here Ryan, I thought we were buds? What, are you ashamed of me? Is it a sore subject with all of your new friends out in LA? If this is about you being ashamed that country has been overrun by pop then say so, but you didn’t seem so quick to distance from country when you were living in Texas and using traditional country infrastructure to make a name for yourself.

I mean, didn’t Lone Star Music help fund your first two self-releases? Didn’t your appearance on the BBC’s Bob Harris Country help you get your name out there? How about you playing on the COUNTRY Throwdown tour this summer, with Hank Jr., Jamey Johnson, Eric Church, etc.? Didn’t you spend years on the bull riding circuit? It doesn’t get more country than that!

If you want to burn bridges, well hell man, don’t let me stand in your way, in fact I’ll light the torch myself! But I don’t want to see a Waylon Jennings album or a pearl snap shirt near your new hatless, Hollywood Heights scene, and don’t come crying back to me if Marc Ford and the rest of your LA good time buddies leave you high and dry. No country concept albums, no “reconnecting with your roots” projects in the future. You don’t want to be known as country, then fine. ITS OVER!!!

Have fun stroking your Oscar.

–Country.

May
18

Snow Patrol & REM “Go Country”

May 18, 2010 - By Trigger  //  News  //  4 Comments

Snow Patrol REM Country Gary Lightbody, Peter Buck, Tired PonyWell, at least REM guitarist Peter Buck, and Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody. And hell, throw in movie starlet Zooey Deschanel as well, why not, and you have the supergroup Tired Pony. I already have tired head thinking about this.

On July 12th the band will be putting out an album called The Place We Ran From which they are calling a “country concept album.” This doesn’t smell like the regular, almost weekly occurrence of some actress or pop personality announcing their intentions to “go country” in an attempt to sully up to that sweet, sweet pop country teat to siphon off some dough and save a sinking career. This seems more about that bastardization of the word “country.”

At least Gary Lightbody, who is from Ireland, is being honest. He told the BBC: “I can’t get away with writing pure country music because I haven’t lived that life…”. He’s calling the album a “twisted love letter to the States.”

Gary lists his influences for the album as Wilco, Calexico, Lambchop, Palace, Smog. “…these bands that look at the darkness in America.”

The superband also includes Tom Smith from rock’s “The Editors,” as well as Richard Colburn, Iain Archer, Jacknife Lee, and Scott McCaughey. The album was recorded in Portland, OR, and the group hopes to put on a concert in London shortly. I keep listing details about this project waiting to find just what is “country” about it. So far, no dice.

Maybe the EPK will help. . . Err, not so much.

Really I don’t have a problem with Wilco or Will Oldham or REM or even this supergroup making this album. I wouldn’t kick Zooey Deschanel out of bed for eating crackers either. But let’s call a spade a spade. This is a rock album with maybe “alt influences” at the most.


More info on this can be found at BBC News, and thanks to nlindsay on the Saving Country Music Message Board for sniffing this out.

Mar
19

Miley Cyrus Trashes Pop Country ?

March 19, 2010 - By Trigger  //  Down with Pop Country  //  19 Comments

Miley CyrusI love that pop country has become so contrived and transparent, that even other pop stars and people like Kid Rock can see right through the sham. Some people have been waiting for Billy Ray’s daughter to join the ranks of pop country, surmising that it’s not if, but when. But instead Miley Cyrus joined the ranks of dissenters in a recent interview in Parade Magazine, where she talked about why she’s steering clear of the country scene:

“It scares me, that’s why. It feels contrived on so many levels. Unless you’re wearing a cowboy hat and cowboy boots and singing and whining about your girlfriend or boyfriend leaving you it’s not going to sell. I think that’s why my dad finally got out of it. You have to wear those cowboy boots and be sweet as pie. It makes me nervous, the politics of it all.

When a Disney-manufactured superstar that is about as pop as bubble gum can see how contrived your music is, and even can see the the politics involved in the whole thing, it speaks of just how bad the wanton systematic flaws in the Nashville music machine have gotten.

Nov
21

Shooter Jennings New Album “Black Ribbons”

November 21, 2009 - By Trigger  //  News  //  19 Comments

Shooter Jennings On March 3rd, Shooter Jennings, son of Waylon Jennings will be releasing his fourth album, and it will be about as country as concrete fields. It is entitled Black Ribbons, and the first single “Wake Up” will premier on Dec. 22nd.

““Black Ribbons” features the debut of Shooter’s new band Hierophant, who inspired him to leave his country roots behind and embrace a ‘60s/’70s psychadelic Rock vibe”.

Here’s what Shooter has to say about the album:

“I made an album for the truth-seekers of the world. I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that I’m sick of the lies and the processed bubblegum bullshit churned out by the overlords of double-speak. You could say this album is a soundtrack for all of us. I feel like a different human being these days. . . and shining what my buddy Will O’ The Wisp calls ‘the last beacon of truth and defiance.’ The light still shines, folks.”

Some cover art from the upcoming project:

Shooter Jennings Hierophant Black Ribbons Album Wake Up

Jun
30

Not An Expert, Just a Fan.

June 30, 2009 - By Trigger  //  Down with Pop Country  //  7 Comments

When Newsweek published an article calling out pop country a while back, I declared this was an important moment: a mainstream news outlet shining a big light on the sham of Nashville. Another reason I knew it was important was because Nashville took it like a shot right across the bow and came out swinging.

CMT roasted Newsweek and the author, and long time country music writer and critic Chet Flippo wrote THIS ARTICLE, entitled Country Music as Defined by “Others”, implying that anybody who had qualms with the current state of country music was an “Other” or somehow an outsider.

The first sentence of the article read: “Isn’t it fun reading a self-styled expert expounding on what country music really is?” At first I thought Chet could be talking about me, but he was talking about Steve Tuttle over at Newsweek, though Chet did reference me indirectly when he said “articles are frequently written by supposed expert commentators who don’t seem to have quite as firm a grasp on country music as they think they do.”

I want to set the record straight that I do not consider myself a country music expert. I am a country music fan, and there are thousands, possibly millions like me, from many different walks of life, that feel that country music has completely lost its way. We cannot be explained away as a bunch of pointy-nosed, chin in the air, holier-than-thou types with incorrect facts. Sorry.

I will be the first to admit, I can’t name you the title of one Taylor Swift song. When Vern Gosdin died a few weeks back, I openly admitted I had never heard of him. When it comes to the Outlaw country scene back in the day, or the Austin scene, or the modern REAL country scene, I’d like to think I know about it more than most, but at my heart all I am is a fan. A fan. And without it’s fans, country music is nothing. Don’t attempt to marginalize me or my readers, or the thousands of disenfranchised country music fans by saying we’re a bunch of misinformed bastards with bad facts.

We are country music: the fans that is. It is amazing that no matter where you are in the country, no matter who you are with, you can always find someone in some bar or at some sporting event saying, “Man, this modern pop country SUCKS.” When Steve Tuttle wrote that article for Newsweek, he did so as a fan. At no point did he expound that he was an expert.

Since Chet Flippo wrote his rebuttal to Newsweek, I have seen this same argument against REAL country music fans popping up on the comments of other blogs and articles. They say: “Who are you to say what is REAL country and what is not?” There’s no need to get into specifics about how many fiddles there are or the twang factor, you simply just need to say “I’m a country music fan, and I know country when I hear it. And that ain’t country.”

Also in the Chet Flippo article, by attempting to explain away the transgressions of pop country, he actually spelled out the problems. In the article Chet said: “. . . it’s (country music) become the dominant American popular music. . .” and “But even as modern country replaces rock as the music of mainstream America, a true maverick like Jamey Johnson can still make his mark with genuine, baptized-in-the-blood country music.”

THAT is the problem in a nutshell my friends: Country has become the dominant, mainstream genre of American music. Instead of being a music rich and proud with great talent and tradition, it has become a duiluted umbrella term and the trash can for undefinable music played by white people, just like the term “hip hop” has become the default genre for black people. There used to be multiple major genres of music in America. Now in new music there is only country and hip hop, black and white. Everything else is backlist or underground. THIS is a textbook definition of the homogenization of culture, and this is the thing I try to fight every time I peck at the keyboard, or pick up my poison pen.

And of course Chet Flippo paraded around pop country’s lame excuse for variety, Jamey Johnson, AS I PREDICTED THEY WOULD IN THIS ARTICLE.

At first the pop country power brokers tried to ignore the REAL country music fan. Now that our voices are growing louder and our numbers are swelling, they are trying to explain us away with nonsensical arguments.

I actually have a tremendous amount of respect for Chet Flippo, though I disagree with him about as much as I agree. He is a lightning rod, always has been, and I also hold a lot of respect for him because he was one of the major Nashville writers that covered the rise of the Outlaws in the 70′s.

But as far as I am concerned, his argument holds about as much water as Hank Williams’ bucket.

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My name is the Triggerman and I am a country music fan, and there are thousands more like me who are willing to fight for the music we love and believe in.

We are not going anywhere, and we won’t be scared or explained away. We are here to stay.

Hear us roar.

Jun
20

Conclusion: Six Gun Britt & American Idol

June 20, 2009 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  1 Comment

In my last post I talked about how singer/songwriter Six Gun Britt had decided to try out for American Idol. Inspired by her residents and co-workers at the nursing home she worked at in Kentucky, Six Gun Britt went out a grueling journey to Atlanta and back, and this was the conclusion in Six Gun’s own words:


“Well… It’s Friday and I’m back in Kentucky. Yesterday I stayed in line for HOURS to try out. After singing Britney Spear’s “Oopps I did it Again” for over an hour with the crowd, I finally got to go onto the field with a couple hundred people to try out. Unlucky for me, I was sent to the executive Producer’s Stand.

“I tried out with a set of 4 people. I sang my heart out with one of my favorite songs, Jolene, and told him why I was there. (About the whole Country music thing and for my Residents) , and he just smiled. After all 4 of us sang, he asked all of us to come to the table. The girl next to me sang soooo awesome, you couldn’t possibly believe the set of pipes this girl had on her. She was AMAZING! There was a guy next to me that didn’t sing as good. BUT!!!… here’s the kicker… After calling all of us to the stand he told all the girls that we weren’t quite what he was looking for and asked us to go to the door. The guy made it. Then it hit me… there were 4 lines of people in front of us also. Every line included one guy. And every guy was asked to stay and get a golden ticket. I finally realized why we weren’t what he was looking for! lol!

“But no big deal. I really had a blast. I do think the show is biased though in many ways. I witnessed it myself. I’m not a sorry loser at all, but it was obvious that there were certain people they were looking for… whether they could sing or not. Do I think that American Idol is crippling out Country music traditions? Yes I do. It’s a factor that’s incredibly hindering it. I wish I could have done more than I did, but a try country music singer (Classic country Hank, Jones, Jennings, Cash, or even Nelson) wouldn’t have even stood a chance with these people. It’s sad to say, but it’s true. You wouldn’t see them living to the beat of a pop culture tune either. And so I am sticking to my roots. That’s all I’ve got and that makes the most sense to me!”

“So lets live loud and keep up with trying to Save Country Music. Stick to our Roots and Tradition because we’re nothing without them! Thanks so much for the support and everything yall have done for me. Seeing yall support me like that meant more than me making it onto the show or not. Thanks again and take er’ easy! I love yall!

Always,

SGB


I talked on the phone with Six Gun Britt yesterday, and she assured me that this will not break her spirits for pursuing music in the future.

Some people might think that all I do here is piss and moan about music that I hate, and overly-glorify music that I love, all according to my personal tastes. I’m not going to try to make an argument that I’m not biased, but my real desire for country music, and music in general is to see the cream rise to the top; for the most talented musicians, songwriters, and performers, to at least get the recognition they deserve.

Sure, pop country performers must have some talent, and must have done some work at some point to get where they are at. But it should be the priority of our culture to find the best and brightest of any field, whether it be music, country music, art, acting, sports, science, whatever it is, and shine the spotlight on them. Because those are the people that push the rest of us and inspire all of us to try to find and pursue and dedicate ourselves to the things that we do best; the one thing that each of us has that is unique and should be shared with the masses.

Long story short, in this instance, American Idol failed it’s viewers. Sure, it is not a surprise, but this doesn’t make it any less of a tragedy, and a tragedy that is played out virtually every day as concerns for money and fame override talent and excellence.

I have confidence that one day American Idol will have to look back and hang their head that they let Six Gun Britt slide through their fingers.

May
14

“Country” Warped Tour in the Works

May 14, 2009 - By Trigger  //  Down with Pop Country  //  5 Comments

Warped TourWhen I think about a good way to personify pop country, I think of a pig; a big, bloated, lazy, garish and gluttonous pig laying around in its own filth and slops. And this pig recently had piglets, with swollen nipples dotting its underbelly. And fighting for a chance with the sweet, sweet nectar of those nipples are a bunch of little piglets, clawing at each other, pushing each other out of the way, squealing, wiggling their curly tails in sheer greed. The pig is pop. The nipples are the least common denominators that create the widest possible audience. And the milk is money.

From American Idol, to Disney, to Darius Rucker, to Jessica Simpson and many others, everyone seems to be trying to climb over each other for a chance at that sweet pop country teat.

Though it pains me to say it, country music has somehow become the default American music genre. As far back as really the mid 1950′s, if something didn’t really fit easily in a genre, we called it “Rock.” Now country is that default term. That is why even though Taylor Swift is a pop star, they label her “country” and play her on “country” radio.

Well the newest little piglet is the Warped Tour’s founder Kevin Lyman.

(Since posting embedding has been disabled on this, so CLICK HERE to view, at least as long as they leave it up.)

Did he really say that he has been “watching” country music for 10 years? “WATCHING?” Really? Don’t you LISTEN to music? Then he goes on to say “I’m looking at the audience in country and realizing 40% of those people could be at the Warped Tour now.” That’s right country fan, you and you’re culture are now a statistic; a percentage. This guy isn’t pursuing a passion, but running numbers.

I understand people have to make money and that is fine. But this is just another example of how we are losing control of our culture, and the terms that define it. Kevin Lyman specifically named Taylor Swift, who is about as country as a New York City sewer, as one of the reasons he wants to put this tour together.

He also said “We just opened an office in Nashville this week.” And in a punkbands.com article it was reported:

“Lyman’s team visited Nashville in January and started meeting with labels, managers and agents on an exploratory trip, and interest was high. “Everyone was saying the time is right,” he says. 4fini execs Sarah Baer and Kate Truscott have relocated to Music City from Chicago, and former Clear Channel online music manager Allison Skiff has joined the Nashville team.

They might as well be saying, “We’ve just opened an office in Hell, and are having meetings with Satan.”

And trust me when I say, if there is a Satan, a top dog involved in this whole erosion of the country music culture, it is the above mentioned Clear Channel. This tour would also work through Live Nation, who is (or already has) merged with Ticketmaster in an attempt to create a monopoly in the ticket selling business.

It is amazing the bedfellows you see when reading these stories, and how they continue to be able to merge their power and influence over something that at its heart is supposed to be a few old boys sitting around a campfire picking guitars.

I have to say, though I question what the warped tour defines as “punk” as well, I do like the way that they set up a situation where bigger bands can help gain exposure for smaller bands through their multi-stage approach. And though I’m not big on corporate sponsorship, the way Warped figured out how to use sponsors to keep ticket prices at very reasonable rates I think is a smart approach that allows access to the music to more people.

Kevin Lyman also deserves mention for that O Brother Where Art Thou? tour, though that whole thing felt a little more like exploitation than exposure for my taste.

I’m sure also on this “country” tour they will have some smaller real country acts or legacy acts like Willie Nelson who was also mentioned, to try to give the thing a more legit feel. But I think overall you’re going to have pop singers parading as country artists making lots and lots of money.

It is a good idea though. I wish the REAL country acts would start banding together, putting on Festivals like The Dripping Springs Reunion back in the 70′s, or the “Outlaws” tour with Willie and Waylon back in the day.

We’ll keep our eye on this “Warped” idea, and see how country it really is. I would be happy as a pig in shit if Kevin Lyman decided to try to promote the REAL country music stars of our time, even if he just gave them an equal share, and I had to eat some of the words above.

May
11

Wake Up! Shooter Jennings Has Gone Rock.

May 11, 2009 - By Trigger  //  News  //  13 Comments

When I first asserted that Shooter Jennings was quitting country music, there were some that said good riddance, others saying “say it ain’t so,” some that outright disagreed with the premise that Shooter could do such a thing, and a few who were looking forward to this potentially new direction. There were also some hoping that I would have to eat those words.

Well as we all have been hypothesizing about where the son of Waylon Jennings is headed, the son himself has been on tour. Recently some videos surfaced of Shooter playing at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, VA.

If this doesn’t help explain which direction Shooter is headed with his new band “Hierophant,” I don’t know what will:

Early reports were that Shooter’s new sound was similar to Radiohead, and that is what this reminds me a lot of. This is how the show started, with “Wake Up!”:

If this is where Shooter’s passion lies, then I applaud his format change. Nobody should be or try to be anything they are not, regardless of the expectations fans or other people put on them. But Shooter and his fans have to understand that this opens the door to further criticism from the Shooter haters that his heart was never into country music; that it was an act. My guess is the truth lies somewhere in the middle. It is hard for me to listen to Put the O Back in Country and say there is no passion there.

This also has nothing to do with rock vs. country. I am a rock fan too, as are many REAL country fans. I’ve said before that I might have a better chance enjoying Shooter’s rock stuff than I do some of his later “country” stuff, simply because he will do it with true passion. The criticism of Shooter lies in the identity crisis he is going through and questions about his passion for country, not that somehow rock is bad, or anybody that goes from country to rock is selling out or something.

Every artist should pursue other forms of music if that is something they are passionate about. But since Shooter is pursuing rock INSTEAD of country, as opposed to just pursuing it as a side project, or even keeping the country thing going on as a side project, he has open himself up for that criticism.

Another thing that I think would serve Shooter and his fans better if he would put more info out there about what direction he’s headed.

Also for those of you wondering, apparently the lineup of Hierophant is in essence the same as the Shooter’s country band, the .357′s, just a change a lead guitar, which has been a revolving position in the band for a while now. And for whatever criticisms people have of Shooter, if you ask me, the .357′s (or now Hierophant) is one of the best backing bands out there.

Also thanks to Steve ODB for doing a good job filming this footage and posting it to help shed light of Shooters new direction.

Apr
26

Shooter Jennings Quitting Country Music?

April 26, 2009 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  24 Comments

Shooter JenningsFirst thoughts that Shooter Jennings might be calling country music quits surfaced when Shooter’s label, Universal South announced that they were releasing a Greatest Hits album, Bad Magick: The Best of Shooter Jennings & 357′s. Since it hasn’t been even five years that Shooter has been doing the country thing, this release seemed a little odd. Then small bits of information started surfacing from people like Shooter’s bass player Ted Russell Kamp that Shooter’s new album was mostly rock and had very few country influences, and that he was shopping it around to new labels.

If you go to shooterjennings.com or even his MySpace site, you can see a clock radio with the word “Heirophant” on it. Heirophant is the name of Shooter’s new band, and the clock radio is very indicative of when radio stations exercise a format change, and hint of it for some time to build interest before the actual change occurs. And similar to a radio station format change, there has been a virtual media freeze in regards to information coming out from the Shooter camp about the direction of the new album, which is apparently in the can, possibly looking for a label.

In fact the lack of information is astounding for such a big name artist. I’ve seen from a couple of sources that Shooter’s new sound is “John Lennon meets Radiohead,” but I cannot verify that this information is from anyone who has intimate knowledge of where Shooter is headed.

What is for sure is that Shooter started as a rock n’ roller, before he decided to make the change to country, and his albums have been going further in the direction of rock since his debut album, Put the O Back in Country. Shooter at times has been openly frustrated and critical of the lack of success and radio play his music has received, going as far as to write about it in his lyrics. So given his history and the direction he appears to be heading, a format change would make sense.

Shooter is also playing on the “Warped” tour this summer, a tour that has rarely if ever catered to country artists. Jennings was also asked twice to be the singer of the “Guns & Roses” spinoff “Velvet Revolver” and declined. For more on this click here.

If all the rumors about Shooter abandoning country are not true, he certainly is not doing much to distance from them. I guess we will know soon enough.

I have never been a big fan of Shooter, but I’ve tried to stay clear of being critical of his music as well. There is much more worse stuff out there without question, and at times he has been critical of the Nashville establishment, which I appreciate.

If country music just isn’t in his heart, then I support him in making the change. Nobody should be anything that they don’t want to be. But this also plays right into the hands on Shooter’s critics, who say he only changed to country in the first place for the money and exposure that he could get because of his name.

If all of this turns out to be true, then I feel bad for the Shooter Jennings fans out there. The country fans. Not that him flipping genres takes away anything from his previous music, but it certainly looks like Shooter had only one foot in the whole time, and in my opinion, you can hear that as you progress through his discography.


Long story short, I guess Shooter is asking:

shooter jennings

Apparently Shooter doesn’t have the same appreciation for Bob Wills or old school Willie Nelson that a lot of his country fans do, or that his father did.


On a side note, I think this also brings to conclusion the Shooter vs. Shelton Hank III battle. Hank III previously said: “If you wanna go down that road and rip us off, mutherfucker, I’ll see you in ten years and five thousand shows down the road.” It looks like Shooter will not make it, at least playing country.

Ironically, though we do not have an album or even a single, Shooter is going to be out touring into the summer. It will be interesting to hear about what the sound is as Shooter makes whatever transition he is making.

George Miguel
Del Maguey
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